"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Love and Unity: Part 2

Part 1 is here.

In order to understand better why love seeks union with the beloved, we first need to step back and consider what love is. I am not here addressing the theological virtue of charity. Grace builds upon and perfects nature, so to understand the theological virtue of charity, we must first understand natural love. Writing about the nature of love may not seem to have anything to do with the reunion of all Christians. But it serves as the philosophical background for the argument that if we truly love one another, then we will actively be seeking unity with each other, pursuing every attempt to be reconciled and reunited. Part of what it means to obey Christ's command to love one another, I will argue, is to seek unity with each other. If we say that we love each other, but are content with being divided, then we are deceiving ourselves. A week ago Pope Benedict said, "Is it indeed possible to be in communion with the Lord if we are not in communion with each other? How can we present ourselves divided and far from each other at God's altar?" Some of what I have written in this post is more philosophical in nature and terminology, so please bear with me.

Aquinas tells us that everything by its very nature has a natural aptitude or inclination toward its natural form, that is, its natural perfection. In things that do not have knowledge, this natural aptitude is called natural appetite (appetitus naturalis). (ST I Q.19 a.1 co.) Seedlings, for example, have a natural appetite for becoming full-grown trees, even though seedlings do not themselves have knowledge of this goal. The knowledge of their goal remains in their Designer, but the natural appetite for their goal is within the seedlings.

In addition to this natural appetite, animals and humans have something that plants do not have; we have the power to sense material things that are outside of us. Accompanying this power to sense material things is an additional appetitive power by which we can desire the things whose sensible forms we receive in our sense powers. In virtue of this appetitive power, animals and humans can desire the things that we sense insofar as we apprehend them as desirable, i.e. as suited to our natural perfection. (ST I Q.78 a.1 co.) This appetite is the sensitive appetite or "sensuality" (sensualitas). (ST I Q.81 a.1 co.)

Humans are distinguished from other animals in that we have a rational soul. This allows us to receive not just sensible forms, but also intelligible forms. In this way we are capable of understanding what a thing is, that is, its essence. But again, along with this greater power of apprehension is a greater corresponding appetitive power. This greater appetitive power is the "rational appetite", which is another term for the will. Aquinas describes this three-fold distinction in appetites in this way:

[A]ll things in their own way are inclined by appetite towards good, but in different ways. Some are inclined to good by their natural inclination, without knowledge, as plants and inanimate bodies. Such inclination towards good is called "a natural appetite." Others, again, are inclined towards good, but with some knowledge; not that they know the aspect of goodness [rationem boni], but that they apprehend some particular good; as in the sense, which knows the sweet, the white, and so on. The inclination which follows this apprehension is called "a sensitive appetite." Other things, again, have an inclination towards good, but with a knowledge whereby they perceive the aspect of goodness [boni rationem]; this belongs to the intellect. This is most perfectly inclined towards what is good; not, indeed, as if it were merely guided by another towards some particular good only, like things devoid of knowledge, nor towards some particular good only, as things which have only sensitive knowledge, but as inclined towards good in general[universale bonum]. Such inclination is termed "will." (ST I Q.59 a.1 co.)

Aquinas sums this up in his answer to the question of whether there is natural love in the angels. And here we see what appetite has to do with love. He writes:

But it is common to every nature to have some inclination; and this is its natural appetite or love. This inclination is found to exist differently in different natures; but in each according to its mode. Consequently, in the intellectual nature there is to be found a natural inclination coming from the will; in the sensitive nature, according to the sensitive appetite; but in a nature devoid of knowledge, only according to the tendency of the nature to something. (ST I Q.60 a.1 co.)

Notice that for Aquinas love is found in every existing thing. It is present in each thing as a natural inclination toward its good. For Aquinas, it is not the case that love is something had only by God, angels, and humans, and is devoid from non-rational animals, plants, and inanimate objects. For Aquinas, the primary movement of anything that moves, is love. But love is present in a thing according to the nature of the thing. In other words, things with lower natures love in only a limited way compared with things that by nature have greater apprehensive power. This correlation of love and knowledge is based on the principle from St. Augustine that nothing is loved except it be first known (nihil amatur nisi cognitum). (ST I Q.60 a.1 s.c.) Thus the greater a thing's natural capacity for knowing, the greater its natural capacity for loving.

This principle, quite importantly, also works the other way around: the more we love something, the more we are able to know it. We become more observant about it, more interested in every detail about it, more likely to retain it in our memory, and more intent on understanding it in its entirety and to its core. Where our heart is, there our mind operates. This is how someone like St. Thérèse de Lisieux, whose heart was bursting with love for God, and who never went to seminary or graduate school, and who died at the age of 24, could become a doctor of the Church.

So although love requires knowledge, knowledge is advanced by love. A being's capacity for love is dependent upon its appetitive capacity, which in turn is dependent on its capacity for knowing. Elsewhere Aquinas distinguishes these three appetitive powers in a similar manner. He writes:

Love is something pertaining to the appetite; since good is the object of both. Wherefore love differs according to the difference of appetites. (Unde secundum differentiam appetitus est differentia amoris.) For there is an appetite which arises from an apprehension existing, not in the subject of the appetite, but in some other: and this is called the "natural appetite." Because natural things seek what is suitable to them according to their nature, by reason of an apprehension which is not in them, but in the Author of their nature, as stated in the [ST I Q.6 a.1 ad 2; ST I Q.103 a.1 ad. 1,3]. And there is another appetite arising from an apprehension in the subject of the appetite, but from necessity and not from free-will. Such is, in irrational animals, the "sensitive appetite," which, however, in man, has a certain share of liberty, in so far as it obeys reason. Again, there is another appetite following freely from an apprehension in the subject of the appetite. And this is the rational or intellectual appetite, which is called the "will." (ST I-II Q.26 a.1 co.)

Aquinas then continues:

Now in each of these appetites, the name "love" is given to the principle movement towards the end loved (principium motus tendentis in finem amatum). In the natural appetite the principle of this movement is the appetitive subject's connaturalness with the thing to which it tends, and may be called "natural love": ... In like manner the aptitude (coaptatio) of the sensitive appetite or of the will to some good, that is to say, its very complacency (complacentia) in good is called "sensitive love," or "intellectual" or "rational love." So that sensitive love is in the sensitive appetite, just as intellectual love is in the intellectual appetite. (ST II-I Q.26 a.1 co.)

In each of the three appetitive powers, there is a principle movement towards the end loved, and this is love.

But first let us ask what Aquinas means by connaturalness, aptitude, and complacency? Connaturality shouldn't be understood as a relation of mathematical forms, devoid of teleology. For Aquinas says, "But the true is in some things wherein good is not, as, for instance, in mathematics." (ST I Q.16 a.4 s.c.) And yet connaturality is a principle of motion. But nothing moves except insofar as it moves toward a perceived good. Therefore connaturality should not be understood as the relation of abstract forms such as those of mathematics. Connaturality is a kind of sharing of the same nature, in some respect. Thus in the encounter of that which is connatural to oneself, self-love is extended outward to the other, and rests in the other as it already rests in the self. (More on that later.)

Regarding love as the principle movement toward the end loved, Aquinas says the same elsewhere when he says, "love is the first movement of the will and of every appetitive faculty" (Primus enim motus voluntatis, et cuiuslibet appetitivae virtutis, est amor.) (ST I Q.20 a.1 co.) In that same place he explains in more detail what he means in saying that love is the first movement of the will and of every appetitive faculty. He writes:

Now there are certain acts of the will and appetite that regard good under some special condition, as joy and delight regard good present and possessed; whereas desire and hope regard good not as yet possessed. Love, however, regards good universally, whether possessed or not. Hence love is naturally the first act of the will and appetite; for which reason all the other appetite movements presuppose love, as their root and origin. For nobody desires anything nor rejoices in anything, except as a good that is loved: nor is anything an object of hate except as opposed to the object of love. Similarly, it is clear that sorrow, and other things like to it, must be referred to love as to their first principle. Hence, in whomsoever there is will and appetite, there must also be love: since if the first is wanting, all that follows is also wanting. (ST I Q.20 a.1 co.)

Love then, for Aquinas, is the principle movement of the will and appetite, not in the sense of being temporally prior (even if it is temporally prior), but in the sense of being formally and teleologically prior. Every other movement of the will and appetite presupposes love, and therefore these other movements formally and teleologically depend on love.

We can see already, however vaguely, that love is unitive by its very nature. Since love is the first movement of the will and appetite toward the end loved, therefore love by its very nature aims at union of the appetitive subject (i.e. the one having the appetite) with the end loved. In the next post in this series, I intend to write about the distinction between the love of concupiscence and the love of friendship.

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