Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Infinity and Dignity

The dignity of the intelligent subject arises, as I have observed, from the dignity of the idea of being, the source of the subject's understanding. Being, the first object of knowledge and the source of all our other knowledge, is universal, unlimited and infinite, and alone renders the mind capable of knowing all the genera and species of good, and enjoying such knowledge. The nature of this knowledge and enjoyment is characterised by a truly supreme and infinite dignity. It enables the intelligent subject to forget self by considering things as they are in themselves; to look at things impartially and justly; and in so doing, to render homage to being itself, without thought of self, in all the degrees in which it knows being.

The objectivity found in intellective contemplation is in a certain sense infinite, as I said, because it has no limits. It is capable of making known all things, even infinite things, as they are and whatever they are. And infinity is the fundamental principle of dignity. Wherever we are engaged with something infinite, we are dealing with something so great and awesome that finite things give way before it. In its presence, they experience a sublime sense of their own nothingness in thinking of this being which, transcending them, calls forth unlimited reverence for its own veiled, obscure grandeur. The primary dignity of the intelligent subject, therefore, lies in the contemplation of truth.

Bl. Antonio Rosmini, The Principles of Ethics, Chapter 3, Article 9 (section 66).

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