Our question turns on three points: First, the things that pertain to nature; second, the things that pertain to blame and grace; third, the things that pertain to punishment or glory. On the first point it was asked: First, about the things that pertain to created nature; second, about the things that pertain to uncreated nature. About uncreated nature two things were asked: First, whether the number six, according to which all creatures are said to be perfected, is the creator or a creature; second, about the ideal reasons that are in the divine mind, whether they are related more to [their] examples—that is, to creatures—by reason of their singularity or by reason of [their] specific nature.
Article 1: Whether the aforesaid [number] six is the creator.
We proceed to the first point as follows: (1) It seems that the aforesaid [number] six is the creator. For when every creature is taken away, perfection does not remain except in the creator. But when every creature made in the works of the six days is removed, there remains the perfection in the number six. Hence Augustine says in Book IV of his literal commentary on Genesis, “And so, if these did not exist,” namely, the works of the six days, “it would be perfect,” namely, [the number] six; “now unless [the number six] were perfect, these [works of the six days] would not be made perfect in accordance with it.” Therefore, the number six is the creator.
(2) But it was said that Augustine is speaking about six with respect to the idea of six that is in the divine mind. To the contrary: Just as, when all creatures are taken away, there remains the perfection in the idea of the number six, so there remains the idea of a stone in the divine mind. Therefore, the number six would not have any preeminence over a stone in this respect. But this seems to be contrary to Augustine’s intention.
(3) Moreover, that which is more permanent than every creature is not created, but rather the creator. Now the number six is more permanent than heaven and earth, which nevertheless seem to be the most permanent creatures. Hence, Augustine says in Book IV of his literal commentary on Genesis, “It is easier to cross over heaven and earth, which are made according to the number six, than to be able to bring it about that the number six is not the sum (compleatur) of its [aliquot] parts. Therefore, [the number] six is not a creature but rather the creator.
But on the contrary: The perfection of a creature does not consist of parts. Neither is there anything in it that has parts. But, as Augustine says in the same book, “We find that the number six is perfect by reason of the fact that it is the sum of its [aliquot] parts.” Therefore, the number six is not the creator, but rather a creature.
I reply: It is to be said that, according to Avicenna in his Metaphysics, there are three ways of considering any nature. First, insofar as it is considered according to the being it has in singulars. For instance, the being of “stone” in this stone and that stone. But there is another way of considering a nature, according to its intelligible being. For instance, the nature of a stone is considered insofar as it is in the intellect. The third way of considering a nature, however, is absolute, insofar as it abstracts from either being. According to this way of considering it, the nature of a stone, or of anything else, is considered with respect to only those things that belong to such a nature by itself.
Now of these three ways of considering [a nature], two always maintain uniformly the same order [with respect to one another]. For the absolute consideration of some nature is prior to its consideration according to the being it has in singulars. But the third way of considering the nature, which is according to the being it has in the intellect, does not always stand in the same order with respect to the other ways of considering [the nature]. For the consideration of a nature according to the being it has in the intellect that takes it from things is subsequent to the other ways of considering it. It is by this kind of order that the knowable precedes the knowledge [of it], and the sensible the sensation [of it], and so too the mover [precedes] the moved and the cause the caused. But the consideration of a nature according to the being it has in the intellect that causes the thing precedes the other two ways of considering it. For when the intellect of the artisan contrives some form of an artificial object, the nature or form of the artificial object, considered in itself, is posterior to the intellect of the artisan. And consequently the sensible box [made by the artisan], which has such a form or such a species, [is] also [posterior to the intellect of the artisan].
Now just as the intellect of the artisan is to the artificial object, so too the divine intellect is to all creatures. Hence the first way of considering any nature whatever is according as it is in the divine intellect. But the second way of considering any nature is absolutely. The third [way of considering it is] according as it has being in the things themselves, or in the angelic mind. The fourth [is] according to the being it has in our intellect. And therefore Dionysius says in On the Divine Names, Ch. 12, while he is assigning this order, that the first among all things is God, the “substantificator” of things. But afterwards [come] the gifts of God, which are shown to creatures, considered both universally and particularly, like Beauty by itself, [and] Life by itself, that is, the very nature of life, which he says is a gift coming from God. Then [come] the participants in [those gifts], considered universally and particularly. These are the things in which the nature has being.
In [all] these cases, therefore, that which is prior is always the reason for the posterior. When the posterior is taken away, the prior remains, but not the other way around. Hence it is that that which belongs to a nature according to its absolute consideration is the reason why it belongs to some nature according to the being it has in singulars, and not conversely. For Socrates is rational because man is rational, and not the other way around. Hence, given that Socrates and Plato did not exist, still rationality would belong to human nature. Likewise too, the divine intellect is the reason for the nature considered absolutely and in singulars. And the nature absolutely considered and in singulars is the reason for the human understanding [of it], and in a certain way the measure of it.
Therefore, Augustine’s remarks about six can be understood in two ways. In one way, so that by the number six there is understood the nature of six absolutely, to which perfection belong primarily and by itself. This [nature] is the reason for the perfection of the things that participate in six. Hence when all the things that are perfected by six are taken away, perfection still belongs to the nature six. And in this way ‘six’ names a created nature.
In another way six can be understood according to the being it has in the divine intellect. In this way its perfection is the reason for the perfection found in creatures established in accordance with [the number] six. If these also were taken away, perfection would remain in the aforesaid [number] six.
Now in this way six will not be a creature, but rather the reason of the creature in the creator, which is the idea of six, and is in reality the same thing as the divine essence, differing only by reason.
To the first [objection] therefore it is to be said that when all the creatures that were made during the six days are taken away, it is not said that perfection remains in the number six as though the number six had some being in the nature of things even though no creature existed. Rather [it is] because when every created being is taken away, the absolute consideration of the nature “six” remains, insofar as it abstracts from every kind of being. And it is in this way that perfection is attributed to it, just as if all individual men were taken away, still rationality would remain attributable to human nature.
To the second [objection] it is to be said that just as among created things there are some more common and some more contracted, so too the reasons of the more common things in God extend to more things, but [the reasons of] the less common things [extend] to fewer. Now because unity and multitude are common to all created things, therefore also the ideal reason of number extends to all creatures. Hence Boethius says at the beginning of his Arithmetica, “All things whatever that are constituted from the primordial nature of things seem to be formed by the species of numbers.” For this was the principal thing in the mind of the [their] constitutor. Now the exemplar or idea of a stone does not extend to all creatures. And therefore, if “six” is taken for the idea of six in this sense, still six will be more eminent than a stone, that is than the idea of a stone, namely, insofar as it extends to more things.
Again, perfection belongs to six according to the nature of six, but [it does] not [belong in this way] to a stone.
To the third [objection] it is to be said that it is not Augustine’s intention to say that even if other creatures cross heaven and earth, “six” would remain according to some created being, but rather that [even] if all creatures lacked being, still the nature of six, which belongs to its perfection, would remain, insofar as it abstracts from every being of this kind, just as also human nature will remain such that rationality will belong to it.
But as for what was objected to the contrary, it is to be said that although in God there cannot be anything having parts, nevertheless the reason of a thing that has parts can be in him. And so there is in him the reason of [the number] six constituted from [its] parts, and [also] the reason of its parts.
- The point of these arguments rests on the fact that the number six is a “perfect” number, that is, a number equal to the sum of its aliquot parts. Thus, 6=1+2+3.
- PL 34, 301.
- Ibid. [This should read, “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away,” and likewise the reply should read, “even if heaven and earth and other creatures pass away…” —tb]
- PL 34, 296.