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Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video : Christian Books : Whether in the blessed, after the resurrection, all the senses will be in act?

Summa Theologica by Aquinas

Whether in the blessed, after the resurrection, all the senses will be in act?

Objection 1: It would seem that all the senses are not in act there. For touch is the first of all the senses (De Anima ii, 2). But the glorified body will lack the actual sense of touch, since the sense of touch becomes actual by the alteration of an animal body by some external body preponderating in some one of the active or passive qualities which touch is capable of discerning: and such an alteration will then be impossible. Therefore all the senses will not be in act there.

Objection 2: Further, the sense of taste assists the action of the nutritive power. Now after the resurrection there will be no such action, as stated above (Q, A). Therefore taste would be useless there.

Objection 3: Further, nothing will be corrupted after the resurrection because the whole creature will be invested with a certain virtue of incorruption. Now the sense of smell cannot have its act without some corruption having taken place, because smell is not perceived without a volatile evaporation consisting in a certain dissolution. Therefore the sense of smell is not there in its act.

Objection 4: Further, |Hearing assists teaching| (De Sensu et Sensato i). But the blessed, after the resurrection, will require no teaching by means of sensible objects, since they will be filled with Divine wisdom by the very vision of God. Therefore hearing will not be there.

Objection 5: Further. seeing results from the pupil receiving the species of the thing seen. But after the resurrection this will be impossible in the blessed. Therefore there will be no actual seeing there, and yet this is the most noble of the senses. The minor is proved thus: That which is actually lightsome is not receptive of a visible species; and consequently a mirror placed under the sun's rays does not reflect the image of a body opposite to it. Now the pupil like the whole body will be endowed with clarity. Therefore it will not receive the image of a colored body.

Objection 6: Further, according to the science of perspective, whatever is seen is seen at an angle. But this does not apply to the glorified bodies. Therefore they will not have actual sense of sight. The minor is proved thus. Whenever a thing is seen at an angle, the angle must be proportionate to the distance of the object seen: because what is seen from a greater distance is less seen and at a lesser angle, so that the angle may be so small that nothing is seen of the object. Therefore if the glorified eye sees at an angle, it follows that it sees things within a certain distance, and that consequently it does not see a thing from a greater distance than we see now: and this would seem very absurd. And thus it would seem that the sense of sight will not be actual in glorified bodies.

On the contrary, A power conjoined to its act is more perfect than one not so conjoined. Now human nature in the blessed will be in its greatest perfection. Therefore all the senses will be actual there.

Further, the sensitive powers are nearer to the soul than the body is. But the body will be rewarded or punished on account of the merits or demerits of the soul. Therefore all the senses in the blessed will also be rewarded and in the wicked will be punished, with regard to pleasure and pain or sorrow which consist in the operation of the senses.

I answer that, There are two opinions on this question. For some say that in the glorified bodies there will be all the sensitive powers, but that only two senses will be in act, namely touch and sight; nor will this be owing to defective senses, but from lack of medium and object; and that the senses will not be useless, because they will conduce to the integrity of human nature and will show forth the wisdom of their Creator. But this is seemingly untrue, because the medium in these senses is the same as in the others. For in the sight the medium is the air, and this is also the medium in hearing and smelling (De Anima ii, 7). Again, the taste, like the touch, has the medium in contact, since taste is a kind of touch (De Anima ii, 9). Smell also which is the object of the sense of smell will be there, since the Church sings that the bodies of the saints will be a most sweet smell. There will also be vocal praise in heaven; hence a gloss says on Ps.149:6, |The high praises of God shall be in their mouth| that |hearts and tongues shall not cease to praise God.| The same is had on the authority of a gloss on 2 Esdra 12:27, |With singing and with cymbals.| Wherefore, according to others we may say that smelling and hearing will be in act there, but taste will not be in act, in the sense of being affected by the taking of food or drink, as appears from what we have said (Q, A): unless perchance we say that there will be taste in act through the tongue being affected by some neighboring humor.

Reply to Objection 1: The qualities perceived by the touch are those which constitute the animal body. Wherefore the body of an animal has, through its tangible qualities according to the present state of life, a natural aptitude to be affected with a natural and spiritual alteration by the object of touch. For this reason the touch is said to be the most material of the senses, since it has a greater measure of material alteration connected with it. Yet material alteration is only accidentally related to the act of sensation which is effected by a spiritual alteration. Consequently the glorified bodies, which by reason of their impassibility are immune from natural alteration, will be subject only to spiritual alteration by tangible qualities. Thus it was with the body of Adam, which could neither be burned by fire, nor pierced by sword, although he had the sense of such things.

Reply to Objection 2: Taste, in so far as it is the perception of food, will not be in act; but perhaps it will be possible in so far as it is cognizant of flavors in the way mentioned above.

Reply to Objection 3: Some have considered smell to be merely a volatile evaporation. But this opinion cannot be true; which is evident from the fact that vultures hasten to a corpse on perceiving the odor from a very great distance, whereas it would be impossible for an evaporation to travel from the corpse to a place so remote, even though the whole corpse were to be dissolved into vapor. This is confirmed by the fact that sensible objects at an equal distance exercise their influence in all directions: so that smell affects the medium sometimes, and the instrument of sensation with a spiritual alteration, without any evaporation reaching the organ. That some evaporation should be necessary is due to the fact that smell in bodies is mixed with humidity; wherefore it is necessary for dissolution to take place in order for the smell to be perceived. But in the glorified bodies odor will be in its ultimate perfection, being nowise hampered by humidity: wherefore it will affect the organ with a spiritual alteration, like the odor of a volatile evaporation. Such will be the sense of smell in the saints, because it will not be hindered by any humidity: and it will take cognizance not only of the excellences of odors, as happens with us now on account of the very great humidity of the brain, but also of the minutest differences of odors.

Reply to Objection 4: In heaven there will be vocal praise (though indeed some think otherwise), and in the blessed it will affect the organ of hearing by a merely spiritual alteration. Nor will it be for the sake of learning whereby they may acquire knowledge, but for the sake of the perfection of the sense and for the sake pleasure. How it is possible for the voice to give sound there, we have already stated (Sent. ii, D, 2; Q, A, ad 5).

Reply to Objection 5: The intensity of light does not hinder the spiritual reception of the image of color, so long as the pupil retains its diaphanous nature; thus it is evident that however much the air be filled with light, it can be the medium of sight, and the more it is illumined, the more clearly are objects seen through it, unless there be a fault through defective sight. The fact that the image of an object placed in opposition to a mirror directly opposite the sun's rays does not appear therein, is not due to the reception being hindered, but to the hindering of reflection: because for an image to appear in a mirror it must needs be thrown back by an opaque body, for which reason lead is affixed to the glass in a mirror. The sun's ray dispels this opacity so that no image can appear in the mirror. But the clarity of a glorified body does not destroy the diaphanous nature of the pupil, since glory does not destroy nature; and consequently the greatness of clarity in the pupil renders the sight keen rather than defective.

Reply to Objection 6: The more perfect the sense the less does it require to be altered in order to perceive its object. Now the smaller the angle at which the sight is affected by the visible object, the less is the organ altered. Hence it is that a stronger sight can see from a distance more than a weaker sight; because the greater the distance the smaller the angle at which a thing is seen. And since the sight of a glorified body will be most perfect it will be able to see by the very least alteration (of the organ); and consequently at a very much smaller angle than now, and therefore from a much greater distance.

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