Is Falsity In The Intellect?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are taking a regular plunge into the ocean of truth. We’ve been going through the doctrine of God lately and now we’re on a subset of the doctrine in discussing the idea of falsity. Our guide for this has been the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. You can read it for yourself online at Tonight, we will be asking if falsity exists in the intellect. Let’s go to the question.

We discussed last night if it exists in the senses. It does, but it is rare. For Aquinas, there are some things that we can’t not know and these are first principles. This would include some aspects of the moral law. There are some parts of the law that can be erased from our minds somehow over time. However, there are also aspects of the law that we know are right and wrong and these cannot be erased. We can deny it to ourselves and to others, but in reality, we all know these truths.

Also included are analytical statements. These are statements where the truth of the object is in the description. For instance, a bachelor is an unmarried male. Once you understand what a bachelor is, you understand that anyone that you meet that is a bachelor is an unmarried male. All enclosed three-sided figures are triangles. Once you understand the definition, you understand what it is.

There is an area however where the intellect can error and that is in the process of what we call judgment. Consider if I said this proposition about wherever you are living right now and whatever time it is. “It is raining outside.” You can open up a window and look and say “Yes. That proposition is true,” or “No. That proposition is false.”

In each case, you can understand what the proposition means but knowing the proposition does not necessarily entail the truthfulness or falsity of the proposition. “A bachelor is an unmarried male” is true by definition. “It is raining outside,” is not true by definition. You don’t need to make a judgment on the former. You need to on the latter.

It is when we get to the area of judgment that we can indeed error. We could see something wrong or have an error in our thinking that makes us believe something illogical. We do not normally disagree on what the proposition says, though we can disagree on its meaning. Once we agree on the meaning, then we can often disagree on the judgment of whether the proposition under question is true or false.

Keeping this in mind, we as Christians should be very careful about our judgments. We should watch our words to make sure that we are speaking of the things the way that they really are. We are to be people of the truth and in order to do that, we have to be in the business of making sound and informed judgments on matters of truth.

We shall continue tomorrow.

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