chapter  5
3 Pages

The Soul's Perfection and Deficiency

Every existent being, refined or base, subtle 'or grosS,I9& has a property in which no other existent being participates with it. Indeed, the determination and realization of its quiddity involve such a property.190 But it may have certain other actions, in which other things besides itself participate with it. Thus a sword has the property of penetration and smoothness in cutting, and a horse that of obedience to the rider and fleetness in running, and no other thing could conceivably participate with them in this. It is true that a sword participates with the axe in hewing, and the horse with the donkey in load-carrying, but the perfection of each thing lies in the full issuing of its property from it, and its defect in the failing or want of such issue. So, the more perfect a sword be in penetration and smoothness of cutting (so that its action is achieved without its owner needing to employ. excessive trouble and effort), the more perfect it is in its own affair; and the better runner a horse be, and the more tractable in serving its rider and obeying the bit and accepting schooling, the nearer it comes to its perfection. Likewise in respect of defect: if a sword cuts with difficulty, or even fails to cut at all, it will be used in place of another iron (tool), and this represents a decline in its rank; and if a horse does not run well, or is not obedient, it is turned into a pack-horse and made to share the

49 donkey's lot, and this is charged to its clumsiness and meanness.I96

Similarly, Man has a property by which he is distinguished from other existent beings. But he has other actions and faculties, in some of which the animal species share with him, and in some others the types of plants or the minerals and other bodies. (Something of this has already been explained.) However, the property to which none other has access with him, is the notionl97 of rationality,13D on account of which he is called 'rational'.32 This is not speech in act, for the dumb man also possesses this notion,197 though not speech in act: rather does this notionl97 signify the faculty of perceiving intelligibles and the power of distinction and reason,l4I by which one discriminates between fair and foul, reprehensible and praiseworthy, and disposes of them according to the will. It is on account of this faculty that Man's actions are divided into good and bad, and fair and foul, and that he is characterized by felicity or affliction, as against the other animals and the plants. Thus, whoever applies this faculty properly, and by will and endeavour reaches that virtue towards which he was directed at creation, such a one is good and blissful; but one who neglects to tend that property, either by striving in an opposite direction or by sloth and aversion,198 is evil and afflicted. As for what Man shares with the animals and other compounds, if this dominates him and he directs his aspiration thereto, he will decline from his own rank and arrive among the ranks of the beasts-or he may come even lower than that. For example, such a man may confine his desire to the attainment of pleasures and bodily appetites, favoured and yearned for by the senses and the corporeal faculties, such as foods, and drinks, and clothes and women,l45 which are the outcome of the dominance of the appetitive faculty;89 or (he may confine himself) to the securing of conquest, domination and revenge, which are the fruit of the ascendancy of the irascible faculty.oo But if he reflects, he will recognize that to confine one's aspiration to such ideas is sheer worthlessness and pure defect. Indeed, other animals in these respects are more perfect than he and more capable of effecting their design.199 This can be observed in the avidity of a dog for eating, the intense urge of a pig to gratify its appetites, or the charge of a lion when overcoming and bringing down; similarly among other types of predatory animals, beasts, birds, water-dwellers and so on. So how should an intelligent man200 be content to strive on a course where, even if he put forth a supreme effort therein, he cannot equal a dog; and whence should a man of high purpose201 deem it permissible to seek something whereby, even if he spend a whole lifetime upon it, he is not to be compared to a pig? Likewise in respect of the irascible faculty: if Man relate himself to the least wild animal in that respect, the latter takes precedence over him. Man's virtue passes from potency to act only D

when he cleanses his soul from such monstrous vices, such ruinous defects; for the physician, so long as he removes not the sickness, can hold no hope of health; and the dyer, so long as he cannot find the garment free of the marks of filth and grease, will not deem it receptive of the colour intended. But when the inclination of the human soul is diverted from what must cause its deficiency and corruption, then of necessity the essential faculty202 comes into motion; and it occupies itself with its own particular acts,203 namely the quest of the true sciences and universal knowledge,204 confining its aspiration to the attainment of felicities and the acquisition of &"ood things. In proportion to the quest and to the close pursuit of congruents,205 as also to the avoidance of the opposites and impediments thereto, so does that faculty increase. (In this it is) like a fire, which will not kindle unless it find a receptacle free from moisture; but once it has ignited, its ascendancy grows momentarily, and the faculty of burning increases within it, until it fulfils the requirements of its own nature.