Are The True And Being Convertible Terms?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’re going through the doctrine of God right now and as a subset as it were of that doctrine, we are discussing the doctrine of truth. Our guide for this has been the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas which can be read at Our question tonight is if the true and being are convertible terms.

Aquinas tells us that something is true insofar as it can be known. For this reason, God is the truest of all in that he is the one who can be most known even if we cannot approach knowing all that he is. God is the one who is pure being and because of that, he is the one who is supremely knowable. However, there are reasons that true is convertible with being.

We can know something insofar as it is and since God is of course, he is most knowable, but we know other things in relation to their actuality. Our intellects come to apprehend them and while the knowledge resides in our intellect, the content of our knowledge, what it is that we have knowledge of, exists often independent of us, as a man can have knowledge of himself.

Aquinas tells us that truth and being really only differ in idea. Truth about something can only be truth insofar as has been said as the thing is. You cannot have truth about something insofar as it is not. You can know that it is truly not this, but you can only know what it truly is insofar as it, well, is.

This is also why we should be constantly seeking out knowledge. We should want to know the world as it is and there is a great joy in having knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Too often, and I have been guilty of this as well, it is easy to complain about a course in school asking “When will I ever use this?” When we do this, we are treating knowledge only as a practical means instead of viewing knowledge as an end in itself. It is good to know things simply for the sake of knowing them.

For the medievals, true was a transcendental. Wherever you had being, there you had the true. It was right alongside the good and the beautiful, which we will discuss the good in relation to the true later on. In all cases, these concepts only differed by idea. Our minds can only grasp certain things about being. We can grasp the truth of being by the intellect. We can grasp the desirability of being in that it is good and this is through the will. We can also grasp through the appetite the beauty of things.

Thus, we conclude that in Aquinas, and in reality, that the true and the being are convertible. Is this something difficult to understand? Indeed it most certainly is, but when we know something, we have to say that we know it as it is not and even if we know what it is not, this is still making some statement about what it is.

We shall continue tomorrow.

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