Tag Archives: the fall

Book I Chapter XII


To our three readers, I do apologize for having taken such a long break in what already is a generous posting schedule. I’ll not bore you with all the details but instead shall endeavor to continue commentary on Book I, which is not too far from coming to a close, after which we shall begin the monumental and amazing Book V.

Having just stated that there are no natural means of salvation, and assuming the framework he has already been working with, Hooker examines “The cause why so many natural or rational Laws are set down in Holy Scripture.” The question must be raised given the focus Hooker has placed on the knowability by Reason of natural laws. Both this and the previous chapter help to address questions I have been consistently asking and ones that are unavoidable for those who have made the post-critical turn: If there are all these Laws that are supposedly able to be known by all people endowed with Reason, why is it that so many are not known and even outright rejected in entire societies? I presciently knew a bit about this because of the essays on Hooker which I have read by Rowan Williams — for whom, following a rather recent tradition of Hooker interpretation, Hooker is not so much a classical “Natural Law” theologian of the 18th and 19th C. school but one who, in a patristic and scholastic synthesis, chastened any naive notion of simple Natural Law with an ascetical theology that knows the tendency of humans to pervert reason through sin. Hooker states that the reason there are so many natural laws in Scripture is because not everybody is actually skilled with reason enough to know natural laws. Moreover, we don’t know many natural laws because of “imbecility.”

Again, being so prone as we are to fawn upon ourselves, and to be ignorant as much as may be of our own deformities, without the feeling sense whereof we are most wretched; even so much the more, because not knowing them we cannot so much as desire to have them taken away; how should our festered sores be cured, but that God hath delivered a law as sharp as the two-edged sword, piercing the very closest and most unsearchable corners of the heart, which the Law of Nature can hardly, human laws by no means possible, reach unto?

All in all, we’re messed up, and often don’t even know when we’re messed up, so we’re helped along by Scripture containing Natural Laws, seeing as without such help, who knows when we’d stumble upon even some basic natural laws? For Hooker, it’s not enough simply to say that it is difficult to discern even natural laws because of the Fall. He goes further: It is practically impossible for fallen humanity to know such things as they ought to know for salvation, and so “that which is desired naturally must now be supernaturally attained.”

Here, I believe, is the “post-liberal” avenue into Natural Law in Hooker. The reason we will need to check Reason against Revelation is because we are prone to fawn upon ourselves, prone to be convinced of convenient untruths even in the name of tradition.

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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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