Book I. Ch. 7

– Tony

Taken in itself the statement that “By reason man attaineth unto the knowledge of things that are and are not sensible” could be said to mean that reason is simply the exercise of logic, or of tracing the “chain of being;” but that is to miss the conclusion to the previous chapter which Robb so expertly exposited: The right use of reason requires “education and instruction;” furthermore, Hooker claims that reason is dependent on teloi and desire. No thing is able even to “move” without there being an end toward which it moves, and the provocation of the desire of that end. (I’m not entirely sure if it is important to note that Hooker says nothing can move without an end/desire rather than that nothing does move. It’s probably nothing) “End” need not imply a static and fixed point of orientation but can mean simply that movement or action is itself the desired end.

Whatever else it means that we are made in the image of God, it means that we “resemble him also in the manner of working.” We work “wittingly” and “freely,” such that we can choose even not to do things which may or ought to be done. From here Hooker moves into a tightly packed set of sentences:

“To choose is to will one thing before another. And to will is to bend our souls to the having or doing of that which they see to be good. Goodness is seen with the eye of the understanding. And the light of that eye, is reason. So that two principal fountains there are of human action, Knowledge and Will; which Will, in things tending towards any end, is termed Choice.”

Let us attempt to summarize Hooker to this point.

There are teloi, but these do not move anything to action. The desire of the end is what provokes to action/motion. We know that an end is desirable and/or good by apprehension, by Knowledge. But, again, it is not knowledge but desire that provokes motion. Yet sometimes we might not desire unless we first knew to desire, or if knowledge awoke desire. We come to know by reason. Having known, by will we choose, but it is only choice if we might have been able not to do.


Yet to will is different in fundamental ways than to have appetite, an “inferior natural desire.” “The object of Appetite is whatsoever sensible good may be wished for; the object of Will is that good which Reason doth lead us to seek.” (emphasis added). It lies not entirely within our power to choose to have joy, grief, or fear. It is the non-reasonableness and lack of will to choose which marks appetite. Appetite can in some ways be controlled, though, by Will. “Appetite is the Will’s solicitor, and the Will is Appetite’s controller.”

Hooker calls the objects of appetite a “sensible” and a “natural” good. I am curious, then, if we might choose by will not to do something for which we have an appetite, will the objects of appetite therefore also sometimes be not-good? I’m guessing that here Hooker is being quite subtle: for he says that we cannot desire a non-good because non-goods do not exist according to the normative notion of evil as privation. Yet surely if by reason we comprehend that the end or doing of an appetite is better to be left undone, then isn’t it the case that appetite sometimes does “desire” a not-good end? Since if it were better and reasonable, should it not necessarily be better to do it than not to do it? As he goes on to say, we can only will to do such things as reason teaches are possible. All true goods are possible goods. Yet appetite is not so constrained. Therefore appetite does not always wish for that which is good insofar as it does sometimes wish for that which is not possible. Perhaps then, with section 6, it is the case that there is a “goodness which is or seemeth to be joined with it. Goodness doth not move by being, but by being apparent;” (emphasis added)

I’m left, therefore, with more questions about what appetite is.

The reason that we sometimes will the less-good or even evil is not because such knowledge lies entirely outside the possible knowing of reason, but because our reason and will are weakened by the Fall, by “divine malediction.”

I’m not gonna lie, this little chapter was tough for me to wrap my head around. Please to help if you see weaknesses in my reading.

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One thought on “Book I. Ch. 7

  1. Robbie says:

    Nice work on tackling this difficult section, Tony.

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