Reply Obj. 1. It may well happen that what is in itself the more certain may seem to us the less certain23 on account of the weakness of our intelligence, "which is dazzled by the clearest objects of nature;24 as the owl is dazzled by the light of the sun" (Metaph. ii lect. i). Hence the fact that some happen to doubt about articles of faith is not due to the uncertain nature of the truths, but to the weakness of human intelligence; yet the slenderest knowledge that may be obtained of the highest things is more desirable than the most certain knowledge obtained of lesser things, as is said in de Animalibus xi.25
Reply Obj. 2. This science can in a sense depend upon the philosophical sciences, not as though it stood in need of them, but only in order to make its teaching clearer. For it accepts its principles not from other sciences; but immediately from God, by revelation. Therefore it does not depend upon other sciences as upon the higher, but makes use of them as of the lesser, and as handmaidens:26 even so the master sciences make use of the sciences that supply their materials, as political of military science. That it thus uses them is not due to its own defect or insufficiency, but to the
- Many students today find quite unintelligible this simple distinction because the notion of that which is "in itself more certain" presupposes an epistemological objectivism and realism which modern post-Kantian "critical" or skeptical thought has ceased to assume, to believe, or even sometimes to comprehend. Yet the notion is commonsensical, e.g., it is objectively more certain that it will not snow today in Bermuda than that it will snow today in Greenaland; yet a Greenlander who knows nothing about Bermuda feels subjectively less certain that it will not snow today in Bermuda than that it will in Greenland.
- "The clearest objects of nature" here means not physical objects that are not dark to the eye, but those objects which by their own nature are the most clear and rational, like the mind of God and angels.
- Cf. the last paragraph of n. 17.
- The medieval formula "philosophy the handmaid of theology" (philosophia ancilla theologiae) and the associated idea of theology as "the queen of the sciences" are seldom taken seriously today, even in most "Catholic" universities. Yet neither philosophy nor science have ever refuted that claim during the past seven hundred years. It has been dismissed by fashion, not by reason. If God is, and is our ultimate end, then the science of God must indeed be the queen of sciences.