A Critique of
ON TRUTH 1
I am the may, the truth and the life. (John14:6) Here the very Truth says that he is the truth. Therefore it can be doubted, not without cause, whether there is any other truth or whether there is no other truth than the supreme truth itself. For if there is no other truth, then truth is unique and singular, nor does it admit of distribution or plurality that one may say all truth or many truths. – But on the other hand, one reads in the Gospel: He will teach you all truth. (John16:13)
An amazing insight into the possibility that truth may be unique and might refer only to “supreme truth” which he does not define here. Yet tragically and without good reason, he abandons the idea because he misinterprets the verse from John 16:13 as meaning the same “truth” as the word “truth” in John 14:6. If he had followed his original correct observation that when Christ says “I am the Truth”, this must be understood to mean that Christ is identifying Himself with Truth in a Special way, and if Grosseteste had contemplated the import of such a statement, then we probably would have had the correct definition of truth almost a millennium ago.
Notice that Grosseteste assumes that he knows what ‘Truth’ means. He does not try to answer the question “What is Truth?” He has given us no explicit definition, even though he had access to St. Augustine’s definition. He seems torn between an uneasiness about this lack of a clear definition and the illogical conclusions that he senses are his unavoidable destiny.
In some way he is trying to define Truth, but his approach is unfruitful. He seems to sense that he is grasping at straws, but as we will see, he will sink deeper and deeper into a morass from which there is no exit.
Again: if there is no other truth, whenever something is predicated to be true, God is predicated of it, although contiguously and denominatively and nominally. Is it, then, the same to be true and to be divine? It seems so by syllogisms on these grounds. If there is no other truth than God, to be true is to be divine, and that is a true tree because it is a divine tree, and that a true proposition because it is a divine proposition, and so of others.
He toys with the idea that a True statement might be one about God only, but qualifies it to such an extent that he does not pursue it any further.
It is insightful of him to even ask the question “Is it the same to be true and to be divine?” Yet without any justification, he refers to a tree as being a “true” tree, and abandons the search for a clear definition of “truth” by not noticing the illogical reasoning in jumping from the statement “to be true is to be divine” to “that is a true tree because it is a divine tree.” It is incomprehensible to see that a Christian would refer to a tree as a “divine” tree. He has taken a large step in the wrong direction of logic and Biblical exegesis.
Again: in future and contingent things there seems to be a corruptible truth. The truth, however, which is God, is in no way corruptible. There is, therefore, another truth than that supreme truth.
Now he is diverted in another wrong direction by introducing the concept of “corruptible truth,” leading him to conclude that there are multiple “truths.” This new concept of “corruptible truth” gives evidence that his notion of truth is of such low value that it can be described as “corruptible.” It becomes very obvious that Augustine’s “Truth is God” has made very little impression upon him.
Again: the truth of proposition is an adequation of speech and thing. God, however, is not this adequation, because this adequation was not before speech and thing were, and God and the supreme truth preceded the word and created things signified by speech. There is, therefore, some truth which is not the supreme truth.
Again: Augustine says in the book of Soliloquies2 that truth is that which is. Therefore, the entity of each thing is the truth of it. But the entity of no creature is the supreme truth, which is God. Therefore, there is another truth than the supreme truth.
In the preceding two paragraphs, Grosseteste falls into the error of accepting the Correspondence theory of truth as a correct definition of truth. Unfortunately, his authority for this is Augustine himself, who also did not fully realize what is meant by “Truth is God.” This leads Grosseteste to the incorrect conclusion that there is a truth other than the “supreme truth.”
Again: Augustine reconsiders this opinion which he expressed in the book of Soliloquies:3 Thou God who wished only the pure to know the truth, saying this,4 it can be replied that many who are not pure know many truths. Many, therefore, who are not pure see the truth by which the true, which they know, is true. But only the pure in heart see the supreme truth: for Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matt. 5:8) And according to Plato, as Augustine points out in the book on the True Religion, by the pure mind truth is seen, and clinging to it the soul is made blessed.5 Again Augustine asserts the same in the book on the Christian Combat:6 Whosoever errs thinks he knows the truth while yet he lives evilly. – There is, therefore, another truth than that supreme truth, and that other truth those who are not pure in heart see.
We see a hint of what he might mean by “supreme truth” when he associates the phrase with “seeing God.” But since such a phrase can be so easily misinterpreted, “seeing God” becomes possible for almost any one who is of “pure mind.” One of “pure mind” is also undefined, but seems to imply someone who is generally good-natured and well-behaved, a very low threshold for “seeing God.” Furthermore, his conjectures are based on the Incorrect beliefs of Augustine instead of on Scripture, and concludes that there is “another truth” than the “supreme truth.”
Again: it is written in the Gospel: But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light. (John 3:21) Man, therefore, does some truth; but no one does the supreme truth. There is, therefore, another truth from it.
The best commentators interpret “doing the truth” as living a conscientious life. The verse has no relevance to the nature of truth. Grosseteste misinterprets the verse and continues to build a philosophy of truth on a misunderstood verse.
Again: from the words of Augustine in the book on Falsehood,7 it can be gathered that truth is double: namely, one in contemplation and the other in proposition. And the former, which is in contemplation, Augustine sets above the mind, saying this: as the mind must be set above the body, so too truth must be set above the mind, since the soul desires it, not only more than the body, but even more than itself.8 – But since nothing is to be set above the mind except God, it is evident that the truth concerning which Augustine is thinking here, is God. – After that, he does not dare to prefer the truth which is in proposition above the mind, but he intimates that it is to be preferred above all temporal things, saying this:9
If any one should propose to himself so to love truth, not only truth which is in contemplation but likewise that which is in true proposition because it is true too in its genus of things, and if he should propose to bring forth opinion not otherwise by the motion of the body than it is conceived and observed in the mind, to the end that he might set the true beauty of faith above not only gold and silver and gems and pleasant estates, but above even the whole temporal life and every good of the body, I know not whether he could be said wisely to err in anything.
Grosseteste further complicates the issue by introducing the ideas of “truth in contemplation” and “truth in proposition.” It leads him to accept Augustine’s absurd conclusion that one who loves the truth above all else, becomes free of error.
In this Augustine distinguishes evidently enough two truths, the second of which he does not dare to equate to the mind, much less prefer it. But, if he did not believe, or at least if he doubted, that the truth of proposition is other than the supreme truth, he would not doubt that it is to be preferred to the soul.
It seems, however, that there is not another truth than the supreme truth according to Anselm, who in his book on Truth10 concludes finally that there is a single truth of all truths and that that is the supreme truth, even as there is one time of all things which are together in one time.
Again: it is probable that if the truth of any one statement by which the statement is true of creatures, be the supreme truth, and if the truth of all statements and all that can be stated be the same truth, nothing then lacks beginning and end except the supreme truth. But the truth of this: seven and three are ten, lacks beginning and end. Therefore, this truth is the supreme truth. – To this Augustine agrees in the book on the Free Will,11 saying this:
… seven and three are ten, and not only now, but always; nor have seven and three in any way at any time not been ten, nor will seven and three at any time not be ten. I have said, therefore, that this incorruptible truth of number is common to me and to any one at all who reasons.
The truth of such things is, therefore, eternal and, by that, is the supreme truth.
As with most philosophers writing prior to the 19th century, Grosseteste succumbs to the belief that there is truth in Mathematics. This belief is evident in Augustine, Anselm and all others who dealt with the nature of truth and thus arrived at incorrect conclusions.
The incomprehensible part here is that he defines the Supreme truth as that which is Eternal. Later we will see that he will ascribe Eternal Truthfulness to all kinds of ideas without any justification, and come to the most absurd conclusions.
In the same way, it was true without beginning that something will have been; but it was not true except by its own truth. Therefore, its truth is eternal and supreme; similarly, the truth of all conditional propositions as: if he is man, he is animal. By hypothesis, therefore, all statable truth is the supreme truth. Moreover, Augustine says in the book on the True Religion,12 that truth is that which shows that which is. Its truth, therefore, reveals the being of each thing. For since this is the definition of truth, it is proper for all truth to show that which is. But any truth will show the being of nothing other than the being of that of which it is the truth. Therefore, if nothing else shows the being of any thing to the inspection of the mind than the light of the supreme truth, there is no other truth than the supreme truth.
It seems, however, from the carefully examined statements [auctoritates] of Augustine, that the light of the supreme truth and no other shows to the eye of the mind that which is. For he says, in his book of Retractations,13 reconsidering something he had said concerning the opinion of Plato on reminiscence and correcting it with these words:
For this reason, even they who are unlearned in certain disciplines give true answers concerning them, because that is present to them, when they can grasp it in the light of eternal reason, in which they see these immutable truths.
The same Augustine says in the book on the Free Will:14
The supreme truth reveals all goods which are true … but just as they who choose in the light of the sun that which they look on willingly and are rejoiced by that sight; whereas if perchance there were any among them endowed with very vigorous and healthy and very strong eyes, they would look upon nothing more willingly than the sun itself, which lights up likewise all the things by which weaker eyes are pleased: so the keen and vigorous perception of the mind when it has gazed with sure reason on many and immutable things, directs itself to that truth itself by which all things are shown forth, and inhering in it, as it were, forgets other things and at once in it enjoys them all.
Again in the book of Confessions:15
And if we both see that what you say is true, and if we both see that what I say is true, where, I ask, do we see it? not I in you nor you in me, but both in that immutable truth which is above our minds?
The same Augustine in the book on the Trinity:16
When we seize by simple intelligence the ineffably beautiful art of corporeal figures above the keen vision of the mind, we see by the sight of the mind in that eternity, from which temporal things are made, the form, by which we are and according to which, whether in ourselves or in bodies, we occupy ourselves by true and right reason with anything.
The same Augustine on John in homily 14:17
No man can say that which belongs to truth unless he is illuminated by him who can not lie.
These statements affirm evidently that everything which is known to be true is observed to be true in the light of the supreme truth.
But if some one should say: since one and the same truth is shown at the same time both in the light of this truth and of that other truth, does that light of the supreme truth, then, not suffice to show what it illumines, or if it suffices, how is the other not superfluous?
Besides, if the light of the sun wipes out the other luminaries so that when it is present they reveal nothing to the sight of the body, how is it that that light, incomparably more lucid than any other spiritual light, will not all the more overcome every other, so that when it is present every other light will accomplish nothing? These shadowy clouds of contrary opinions would, perhaps, scatter and be dissipated, if the light of truth should for a short time grow clear for us. Therefore our attention must be turned for a time to understanding what truth is.
We are accustomed to speak commonly of the truth of propositional discourse. And this truth, as the Philosopher says, is no other than being in the thing signified, as the speech specifies. And this is what some say truth is, the adequation of speech and thing and the adequation of the thing to the understanding. – But since the speech is truer which is silent within than the one which sounds without, namely, the concept of the understanding through vocal speech, truth will be rather an adequation of interior speech and the thing, than of exterior speech; but if interior speech itself were an adequation of itself to the thing, it would be, not only true speech, but truth itself. – Wisdom, however, and the word, or the Speech of the Father is in the highest degree adequated by this manner of adequation to the thing which it speaks of and states. For thus each thing is most fully as this speech says, nor is it otherwise in anything than is stated in this speech; nor is it only adequated but it is itself the adequation of itself to the things it states. Therefore, the very Speech of the Father is, according to this definition of truth, in the highest degree truth. – Nor can this Speech not be spoken nor not be adequated to that which it says. Wherefore, truth cannot not be.
There is, however, in the things which are said by this eternal Speech, a conformity to the speech itself by which they are said. Moreover, the very conformity of things to this eternal speaking is the rightness of them and the obligation to be what they are. For a thing is right and is as it should be, in so far as it is in conformity to this Word. But in so far as a thing is as it should be, to that extent it is true. Therefore, the truth of things is for them to be as they should be and is their rightness and conformity to the Word by which they are said eternally. And since this rightness is perceptible to the mind alone and in this respect is distinguished from visible corporeal rightness, it is evident that truth is defined appropriately by Anselm when he says18 that it is rightness perceptible to the mind alone. And this definition embraces also the supreme truth, which is rightness rectifying as well as the truths of things which are rightnesses rectified. Rightness, however, is in none a departing from one’s self or a deviating from one’s self.
Again: each thing in so far as it falls short of that which it tends to be, to that extent that which tends or contrives to be is false. For that is false, as Augustine says in the book of Soliloquies,19 which contrives to be what it is not or in any way tends to be and is not. – Again, the same author says in the same work20 That is false which is accommodated to the likeness of anything and nevertheless is not that to which it seems like. Wherefore, everything is true which is free from defect. – Wherefore truth is the privation of defect or the plentitude of being; for a tree is a true tree when it has the plenitude of being tree and lacks the deficiency of being tree, and what is this plenitude of being except conformity to the reason of tree in the eternal Word?
If everything is true which is free from defect, then both Augustine and Grosseteste should immediately have concluded that there is nothing true in creation because there is nothing in it which is free from defect. But because they are unable to discard the idea that 7+3=10 must be eternally true, they destroy logic and reason and arrive at a definition of truth that is indefensible.
The being of things, however, is double: a first and a second: a thing can have full first being and lack the plenitude of second being. And because of this the same thing can be true and false, as a true man is an animal, which is composed of body and rational soul. Augustine also makes the same distinctions: if he is mendacious and vicious, he is a false man. – Similarly, the proposition is true that man is an ass, because it has full first being of discourse, but it is false because it lacks the plenitude of second being. For the second perfection of discourse is this, to signify that that which is, is, and that that which is not, is not. And when one thing is said at the same time to be true and false in this way, it is not a contrary assertion concerning the same thing, because a plenitude and deficiency of the same being is not asserted. But when falsity is spoken of, it is true falsity, and the false is truly false. Is the contrary present in its contrary and does the rule of logicians fail in these terms, as it does, according to Augustine, in the case of good and evil?21 And if it fails in true and false as it does in good and evil, are there no more contrarieties besides these two in which it fails? – And what is the difference between the contrarieties in which the rule of logicians fails, and the contrarieties in which it does not fail? Does the rule of logicians fail only in those contrarieties of which one of the contraries follows being? For every thing which is, is good; and everything which is, is true. Wherefore, they are not in the least false and evil, or they are not false and evil except in the true and the good.
Things can hardly get more absurd, because our philosopher has been cornered and he proposes the ridiculous statement that the same thing can be both true and false. Because he realizes that any created thing can be the subject of imperfection and deception, his solution to this problem is to state that every being is a duality of truth and falsehood. [These difficulties are evident in many texts. Most writers begin with an incorrect definition of Truth, which makes it impossible to come to correct conclusions.]
Instead of referencing the record of the Fall of man and subsequent curse placed upon all creation, (Gen. 3:14,17) and the fact that all of creation is lacking in perfection, and thus truth, he introduces a completely illogical idea of a duality so that he will be able to say that he can make both true and false propositions about any created thing.
At the same time, this seems to me the closest that Grosseteste comes to the idea that we need a Third Truth value to be able to deal with the facts around us. Not, as he believes, that a being is Both True and False at the same time, but that propositions about created beings are always Neither True Nor False. This, it seems to me, never occurred to this thinker.
He has begun with a fundamentally incorrect assumption at which so many philosophers, ancient and modern, are diverted. They assume that if a thing exists, even a created thing, it must be able to be ascribed a value of either true or false. Until they realize that truth or falsehood have no bearing on any created thing, they will be unable to arrive at the correct definition of Truth.
Further, the true is anything whatever whose being is conformed to its reason in the eternal Word; and the false that which contrives to be and is not conformed to its reason in the eternal Word. Since, however, everything that is, is only that and is wholly that which it is said to be in the eternal Word, everything that is, so far as it is and so much as it is, is true. – But, on the other hand, is all that which is without God, something false? For since that is false which is accommodated to the likeness of something and, nevertheless, is not that to which it is like, yet every creature has a likeness to something which it nevertheless is not, it seems that every creature is something false. But if this is true, is man, who is the likeness and image of God and still is not God, a false God, as the statue of a man is a false man? To say that seems absurd. And since at present no authority occurs which determines that, let us put off the solution of it for the time.
God, however, is in no way something false, because all likeness is of equal to equal or of inferior to superior, but God has neither equal nor superior to whose likeness he may be accommodated. The Son, moreover, who is most fully like the Father, is that which the Father is. Whence, there is no falsity in him from any part, but full truth and light, and there is no darkness in [him]. (1 John 1:5)
Since, however, as was said above, the truth of each thing is the conformity of it to its reason in the eternal Word, it is evident that every created truth is seen only in the light of the supreme truth. – But how can the conformity of something to something else be observed, except by having observed also that to which it conforms? Or, how can the rightness of the thing be recognized, since it is rightness although it is not rightness according to itself, except in the rule of that which is right according to itself and according to which the thing is rectified? This rule is nothing other than the eternal reason of the thing in the divine mind. Or, how may it be recognized that the thing is as it should he, unless the reason be seen according to which it should be so?
But if it be said that this is the right reason according to which the thing should be thus, it is asked again: where is this reason seen to be the right reason of this thing and such as it should be, except, in turn, in its reason? And so there will always be a regress until the thing is seen to be as it should be in its first reason which is right according to itself. And, therefore, the thing is as it should be because it conforms to that. All created truth, then, is evident in so far as the light of its eternal reason is present to the person observing, as Augustine testifies.22 Nor can any thing be known to be true in its created truth only, as a body can not be seen to be colored in its color alone without an extrinsic light spread upon it.
Created truth too, therefore, shows that which is, but not in its own illumination [lumen], but in the light [lux] of the supreme truth, as color shows body, but only in the light spread upon it. Nor is this an insufficiency of light, that it reveals body through color, since color itself is not a shining light added to a superfused light; but the power of light is this, that light does not obscure color which lights up beyond itself, but, on the other hand, it does not illumine that which lights up beyond itself. – In the same fashion is the power of the light of the supreme truth, which so illumines the created truth that, illumined itself, it reveals the true object. Consequently, the light of the supreme truth is not to other truths as the sun is to other luminaries of the sky, which it obscures in its brightness, but rather as the sun to colors which it illumines. The light alone therefore, of the supreme truth shows first and through itself that which is, as light alone shows bodies. But by this light the truth of the thing, too, shows that which is, as color shows bodies by the light of the sun. – It is true, therefore, as Augustine testifies,23 that no truth is perceived except in the light of supreme truth. But, as the weak eyes of the body do not see colored bodies, unless the light of the sun is spread upon them, but are not able to look upon the very light of the sun in itself, except only as it is spread upon colored bodies, so, too, the weak eyes of the mind do not look upon true things themselves except in the light of the supreme truth; but they are not able to look on the supreme truth itself in itself, but only in a kind of conjunction and superfusion in the true things themselves.
The analogy of the Sun shining upon objects and helping us to perceive colors does Not hold in the case of Truth. We as fallen creatures are totally incapable of “looking” at the truth (the sun), because the truth is not something evident to our senses or to our thoughts. Truth must be given to us. We are able to distinguish Truth from error only after we have been given the gift of Truth. Before that time, we are powerless to imagine it, to perceive it or to distinguish it from a myriad errors by which we are surrounded and deceived.
This erroneous assumption now leads our writer to another absurd conclusion, permitting those of impure heart to perceive truth, even though previously he had concluded that this was an impossibility.
In this manner, I think that many impure men, too, see the supreme truth and many of them do not perceive in any wise that they see it, as, if anyone should see colored bodies for the first time in the light of the sun and should never turn his gaze to the sun, nor should have learned from any one that there is a sun or any other light that illumined bodies which are seen, he would ignore wholly that he sees bodies in the light of the sun and he would ignore that he sees anything besides only colored body. The pure in heart, however, and those perfectly purified, look upon the light of truth in itself, which the impure are not able to do. – There is no one, therefore, who knows any truth, who does not also know in some manner, knowingly or ignorantly, the supreme truth itself. It is evident now, therefore, how the pure in heart alone see the supreme truth and how not even the impure are kept wholly from the vision of it.
Here is the introduction of another foolish dichotomy. “Seeing” the Supreme Truth by “looking” upon it, and “knowing” the Supreme Truth. Our writer is totally confused because he has no idea what Truth means.
There are none who can be called perfectly purified. I cannot understand how any Christian can even contemplate such a thought. Our writer and his predecessors have begun with several completely unbiblical assumptions about the nature of unregenerate and regenerated men, and thus inescapably arrive at totally unbiblical conclusions.
We think too, as Augustine intimates in the book on Falsehood,24 that the truth of things is multiplex. Otherwise the name of truth would not take on plurality and distribution. For the simple comparison of one to many does not make that one many, as the comparison of one time to many temporal things which are at the same time, does not make it many times. There are not, in fact, many times at once. In the same way, if there were no truth except the supreme truth which in itself is single because of the collation of its name to many, there could be many true things, as there are many temporal things at one time. But there would not therefore be many truths, as there are not many times at the same time. For the plural name or the distributed universal sign requires many subordinates. Wherefore, they could not be called many truths or all truth if there were not many subordinate truths. – The truths of things, therefore, which are the conformities to the reasons of things in the eternal truth, are subordinated in such expressions. But perhaps the name of truth is nowhere applied except to signify in some way, at least adjacently or obliquely, the supreme truth as form of the name. For as the truth of a thing can not be understood except in the light of the supreme truth, so perhaps it is not to be hypostasized through the name of truth except when it bears the signification of the supreme truth. Truth, therefore, signified and predicated everywhere by this name truth, is single, as Anselm insists, to wit, the supreme truth. But that one truth is called many truths in the many truths of things. Since, however, truth is consequent to all things, even to its contrary, because the false is necessarily the true false, likewise, contrary to the rule of the logicians, the affirmation of truth is consequent also to every negation, and moreover it is consequent even to the destruction of itself, because it follows: if there is no truth, it is evident that there is truth, because truth is that which is necessarily through itself. For whence, save because it is necessarily through itself, is it consequent to all things even to the destruction of itself? – Truth, therefore, is that which is necessarily through itself or at least that which is the consequent necessarily to a being necessary through itself. For otherwise it would not be consequent to every affirmation and negation. – But does the rule of the logicians truly fail here? Or does being fall outside the division of any negation, so that when being is affirmed the affirmation of truth follows from division? In whatsoever way it is, the light of truth is manifestly inextinguishable, which illumines even the extinction of itself and can not be corrupted in any way.
But it can be doubted whether any truth of things, which is the conformity of the things to their eternal reasons, be eternal and without beginning. For the truths of mathematical propositions seem to be eternal and the truths of all conditional propositions and of all negations concerning the existence of creatures seem to have had truth without beginning before the creation of things, inasmuch as the world is not was true, and true without beginning, before the creation of the world and was in conformity with its statement by which it was said in the eternal Word. Therefore, the conformity of the statable to its statement in the eternal Word is not God. Therefore, something other than God was without beginning.
Here we arrive at the logical conclusion of such warped reasoning, when we accept the idea that there is truth in created things. We have to accept the idea that something other than God was without beginning.
In the same way truths of such sayings as something will have been are without beginning, and they are different from each other. For the truth of the saying something will have been is not the same as that of sayings of this sort, seven and three are ten. For the one truth is the conformity of the former to its statement in the eternal Word, and the other the conformity of the latter. There are therefore many, indeed innumerable, truths without beginning, and they will be without end.
In the same way it can be inquired concerning propositions themselves. For it is eternal that something will have been; similarly seven and three are ten; and neither of them is the other and neither is God; therefore, they are other than God, and a great many of them are eternal.
“There are true, eternal propositions, other than God.” It is incomprehensible how a thoughtful person could come to such erroneous conclusions.
This writer does not know what Eternal means, therefore it is impossible for him to arrive at the correct definition of truth.
To reply to these contentions, however, I suggest this example: let it be asserted that there was from eternity a praising of Caesar and, similarly, a praising of Socrates. According to this assertion it is true from eternity that Caesar has been praised and Socrates has been praised, because if there is a praising of Caesar, Caesar has been praised. Let there be, then, this word A of which the definition is Caesar praised and this word B of which the definition is Socrates praised; then, it is true that A is eternal and B is eternal, so that the predication is per se and not accidentally, as it is true per se that white cannot be black. It does not, however, follow that Caesar and Socrates are eternal or that anything is eternal except the praising, because eternity is not assigned when A is said to be eternal except because of praise which is eternal in praising. Because of the eternity of this, its correlative, praise, takes on the predication of eternity. However, such correlations as praise or passion, do not require an eternal subject or being or anything or any existence outside the praising except the assertion.
Our writer is saying that neither Caesar nor Socrates have to exist eternally, as long as their praises are being sung, then those praises are eternally true. Can anyone be taken seriously at such nonsensical reasoning?
An example of the same sort is that God knows all things from eternity. Wherefore, if he knows A of which the definition is Socrates known by God and B of which the definition is Plato known by God, it will be true, speaking per se, that A is eternally, B is eternally, because clearly B itself is known eternally by God and A is not B nor conversely, and neither of them is God and, nevertheless, God alone is eternally; because, when it is said A is not B and B is not A, and neither of them is God the predication is made of corruptible subjects. But when it is said A or B are eternally, the predication is made per se thanks to the form by which these names are imposed, which obviously are called eternal because of the eternal knowledge of God. Nor does the truth of such a statement require the existence or co-eternity of anything outside of God. Similarly, therefore, when it is said this truth is eternal or this statable fact is eternal, the predication is made by the form correlative to the statement in the eternal Word; for this relation, however, nothing is required to be except God.
It becomes obvious that the god that this writer has in mind is a very small god. Not only is he not the only eternal predication, but the most inconsequential predications have the same Eternal property as him. The writer makes the fatal error of ascribing to God every proposition that comes into his own mind, a very common error.
Consequently, the objections listed above will be replied to thus, or else we shall be compelled to confess that statable facts are nothing else than the eternal reasons of things in the divine mind. It can, however, be inquired, since truth and being are the same, because truth is, as Augustine says25 that which is, whether, as there does not seem to be any truth except in the light of the supreme truth, so there does not seem to be any being, except in the supreme being.
This is seen in an example such as the following: fluid water has in itself and of itself no determined figure, but is figured always by the figure of the container. Wherefore it can not be known and observed truly by the mind that this water is square except by thinking and observing that the figure of its container is square and except by observing its shape in connection with the figure containing, figuring, and supporting in its shape the water which is fluid and which slips of itself, if it were left to itself, from that shape. In the same way, every creature of itself, if it were left to itself, as it is from nothing, it would thus slip back into nothing. – Since, therefore, it is not of itself, but considered in itself alone, it is found apt to slip into nonbeing: where or how will that which is, be seen, except in connection with that which supports it, lest it flow into non-being and except in view of the fact that it is supported by that? For any creature to be, therefore, is, as it seems, for it to be supported by the eternal Word. Concerning which Word Paul says: (Heb. 1:3) Upholding all things by the word of his power. Nor is it known truly that any thing is created, unless it seems in the mind to be supported by the eternal Word. And so, in all being, that which is to adhere to first being seems in some manner first being, although in seeing, one may even ignore that one sees first being, nor is posterior being seen except in the comparison of it to the first being which supports it. – However, we said above that the healthy eye of the mind seeing the first and supreme light in itself would see, too, all other things more clearly in it than if it examined the same things in themselves. – But, perhaps, it is not clear to some that a thing can be seen more clearly in its exemplar than in itself. But since the knowledge of a thing is double, one in itself, the other in its exemplar or likeness, when the likeness or exemplar is of more lucid essence than the thing itself of which it is the likeness, the knowledge of the thing in its likeness or exemplar is more noble and more clear and more open. But when, on the contrary, the thing is of more lucid essence than its likeness or exemplar, the knowledge itself of the thing in itself is more clear and more open to the healthy eye of the mind than the knowledge in its likeness or exemplar. And according to this, since the divine essence is the most lucid light, all knowledge of it by likenesses is more obscure than knowledge through itself, but all knowledge of a creature is more certain and more pure and more manifest in the most lucid eternal reasons of creatures in the divine mind (which are the most lucid exemplars of creatures) than in the creature itself. – The example of this thing, however, namely that a certain thing is seen more clearly in its likeness, is found obviously in corporeal sight: for when a direct ray from the eye, by which ray, clearly, the body is seen in itself, goes into a dim light, and when a ray reflected from a mirror to the same body, by which ray, obviously, that body is seen in its likeness, goes into a bright light, it will be seen obscurely in itself and perspicuously in its likeness, as happens when in the evening hours or at night trees are seen more clearly in the water than they can be seen in themselves because of the ray reflected from the water to the tree which passes to the lucid sky, while the ray direct to the tree itself passes into the obscure light of some shadowy thing opposite. On the other hand, when the ray reflected from the mirror passes into obscure light and the ray direct to the body passes into lucid light, the thing will be seen obscurely in its likeness and perspicuously in itself.
The definitions of truth given above are common to all truths. But if one descend to single things, a diversified principle [ratio] will be found for each truth. For the truths of particular things are the definitions of their first or second being, inasmuch as the truth of proposition, by which a proposition is true, is nothing other than the statement of something concerning something or the statement of something from something; and that is the definition of its first being. – The truth, however, of proposition, by which a proposition is true, is nothing other than the signification of being of that which is or of non-being of that which is not. And this is the definition of its second being. Wherefore, the intention of truth, as the intention of being, is ambiguous: from one part it is one in all truth and, nevertheless, by appropriation it is diversified in particulars.
This essay is a very good example of the illogical conclusions one is led to when he begins with incorrect assumptions about the nature of Truth. This type of illogic is present in many modern writers.
We can be thankful that such a small and concise document contains so many errors. Robert Grosseteste has helped us to be aware of many kinds of errors and thus has helped us to know where NOT to look for Truth. Unless our philosophy is firmly founded upon Biblical revelation, we are always prone to be misled by the same errors.