CT 39: Relation of the Word to the Father

Having defined the notion of a conception of the intellect analogously to the biological conception of offspring, Thomas now proceeds to distinguish between the two notions in Chapter 39:

But here a point of difference must be noted. What is conceived in the intellect is a likeness of the thing understood and represents its species; and so it seems to be a sort of offspring of the intellect. Therefore, when the intellect understands something other than itself, the thing understood is, so to speak, the father of the word conceived in the intellect, and the intellect itself resembles rather a mother, whose function is such that conception takes place in her.

This is more or less a repeat of what Thomas said in CT 38, though I find it interesting that the concept, the interior word, represents the species of the thing understood. That doesn’t seem entirely right to me. If I see my wife Jane, and form a concept of her in my intellect (as if I didn’t already have such a thing), that concept is very specific to her. Though perhaps that simply means that Jane is in a class by herself.

But anyway:

But when the intellect understands itself, the word conceived is related to the understanding person as offspring to father. Consequently, since we are using the term “Word” in the latter sense, that is, according as God understands Himself, the Word itself must be related to God, from whom the Word proceeds, as Son to Father.

Aha! The concept is the “child” of the object understand; and when the object understood is the intellect that is doing the understanding, then that intellect is the “father” of its own understanding of itself, of that interior word which is indeed its own understanding of itself.

So, by analogy, it is fitting to refer to the Eternal Word as the Son and to God as the Father. Neat.

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