Is Stupidity a Sin? (St. Thomas)

II-II Q. XLVI. ART. II.

Article II.–Is stupidity a sin?

R.  Stupidity implies a dulness of perception in judging, particularly about the Highest Cause, the Last End and Sovereign Good.  This may come of natural incapacity, and that is not a sin.  Or it may come of man burying his mind so deep in earthly things as to render his perceptions unfit to grasp the things of God, according to the text:  “The sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God;” and such stupidity is a sin.

2.  Though no one wishes to be stupid, still people do wish for what leads to stupidity, by withdrawing their thoughts from things spiritual and burying them in things of the earth.  So it is also with other sins; for the lustful man wants the pleasure to which the sin is attached, though he does not absolutely wish for the sin; for he would like to enjoy the pleasure without the sin.

Descartes’ Meditations: Seeking Purity of Mind

I have been teaching Descartes’ Meditations in my Intro class.  It is the first time in many years that I have worked past the Second Meditation with any care.

Among the many things that strike me–and I am of course not claiming original insight here–is the way in which Descartes’ epistemological struggle runs parallel to spiritual struggle.  Like the acknowledged sinner, Descartes repents, and, in repenting, seeks for a true change of mind.  To do this he must, again like the sinner, conduct an agonizing examination of conscience, testing himself at every turn.  He makes but fitful progress:  lessons learnt are soon forgotten; old habits die very hard.  But he keeps at it, keeps salting his beliefs with the fire of doubt, and eventually he purifies himself.  He stands naked, vunerable–apparently alone.  The purifications of doubt, have, however, done their work–blessed are the pure in heart, in mind, for they shall see God.  And Descartes does.  He finds that he is not alone:  God is with him.  And, it turns out, God has been with him all along:  though Descartes has been wandering through a valley dark, no evil demon need he fear.  God’s shepherd’s crook comforts him.  And, so, in the end, much like Job, Descartes gets back what he had before (at least, what he really had).  God prepares a table for Descartes before the face of the evil demon, and Descartes’ epistemological cup runs over.

Psalm 36 (Mother Maria, trans.)

An oracle for the impious
Is the sin in the deep of his heart.
He regards himself
With an eye too flattering
To discover his guilt
And hate his transgression.

Perfidy and misdeed
He plots upon his bed,
He sets his steps
Upon an evil course,
Heedless of his sin.

The words of his mouth
Are fraud and deceit,
He can no more act
Wisely or well.

There, see how the wicked are fallen,
They can rise no more.

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