Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The Animal that Stands to See the Stars

I came up with this on the spur of the moment last night.

All the Skeptics Do Not Know

All the skeptics do not know
The blowing courses of the snow
Nor the sun in burning sky;
All incessant mewling 'why'
Must cease before the flood of light
That bursts upon the end of night.
We feel the wind upon our face
And know the loves of all our race,
For this, and this alone, is why
The minds of men so doomed to die
Look up, as bodies rise from land
And tall and proud begin to stand
With eyes that pierce the sea-mists far --
Awed at heaven with its stars.


The allusion toward the end is to Aquinas, who in a discussion of the aptness of the body for human intellectual life considers our upright stature. He gives four reasons why it is fitting for a rational animal to stand upright, and the first is this:

First, because the senses are given to man, not only for the purpose of procuring the necessaries of life, which they are bestowed on other animals, but also for the purpose of knowledge. Hence, whereas the other animals take delight in the objects of the senses only as ordered to food and sex, man alone takes pleasure in the beauty of sensible objects for its own sake. Therefore, as the senses are situated chiefly in the face, other animals have the face turned to the ground, as it were for the purpose of seeking food and procuring a livelihood; whereas man has his face erect, in order that by the senses, and chiefly by sight, which is more subtle and penetrates further into the differences of things, he may freely survey the sensible objects around him, both heavenly and earthly, so as to gather intelligible truth from all things.


I seem vaguely to remember a passage somewhere, though, in which Aquinas is even more specific, and, building on something Aristotle says, notes that we are upright in order to see the stars (astronomy being the first awakening of systematic knowledge). Has anyone come across this passage?

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