Friday, May 23, 2003

"Love God" is a self-evident truth

(more from the Thomist 66, John Cahalan)

Aquinas says in I-II 100,a3,ad1 that "Thou shalt love God" is a self-evident principle, something that everyone should know as soon as he understands what "God" means and what "love" is. By self-evident, Aquinas means "the predicate is included in the essence of the subject, as 'Man is an animal', for animal is contained in the essence of man.'" Note that this self-evidence is not to be confused with analyticity: it may be that we need to love in order to figure out what is contained in the essence of love. Self-evidence is a property of propositions about things, not about meanings.

So, how is the commandment to love God self-evident? We love things or people because of qualities or characteristics of these things or people. (This can be a selfish desire or a selfless will for the good of the other--either part of the nature of love works for the demonstration. since love is ordered toward being.) God is the infinite being, and therefore possesses all of these desirable qualities, and in infinite degree. Cahalan says: If failing to give the infinitely perfect being the place of our highest value does not violate the rational appetite's goal, one of these truths is not true: the infinitely perfect being is what he is; or, the objects of desire and choice are what things are. We absolutely must love God, if God is to be God and love is to be love.

Self-evident moral truth, brought to you for free!

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