Saturday, 15 February 2014

Question 101 – The Condition of Progeny with Respect to Knowledge

Why this Question Matters

We saw Aquinas argue in 1a.q99.a1 for a natural development of bodily coordination for children born in the state of innocence. Here he turns his attention to the question of their intellectual development. What would have been the state of knowledge and the ability to reason for children born before the fall?

The Thread of the Argument

A1: In Ia.q94.a3 Aquinas argued that Adam and Eve, created in their maturity, would have had full scientific knowledge (that is, knowledge of the principles of things). Would the same have applied to children born before the fall?

Aquinas claims that perfection in scientific knowledge was an individual accident of the first human beings, associated with their creation at maturity. The sources of revelation give us no information about what would have been the case with children born before the fall, so to answer this question we have to argue from the natures of things. In the case of human beings, it is natural for them (Ia.q84.a6) to accumulate knowledge through the sensible perception of things. There is no reason not to apply this fact to children who would have been born before the fall, so we should conclude that they would have had to grow in knowledge as we do; the only difference would have been that their rectitude would have meant that their growth in knowledge would have been unhindered by any of the difficulties that face us.

A2: What about the faculty of reason; would children born in the state of innocence have had the full use of their reason immediately upon their birth? Aquinas’s answer is a parallel to the answer of the first article; the use of reason depends to some extent on the sensory powers (Ia.q84.a7), so if they are not fully developed then the use of reason will remain to some extent in potentiality. Following the reasoning of Ia.q99.a1, the brain and the sensory powers are not fully developed in the new born and therefore the power of reason is not fully developed in them.

Handy Concepts

  • Children born in the prelapsarian Garden of Eden would have had to develop in knowledge and in the use of reason as this is part of human nature. Their graced existence would have made this development a lot easier than it is for us.

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