Yes, We Can Know Truth Today | Fr. Paul Conner, OP | Homiletic & Pastoral Review
How astonishing it is to be a human person! Like vegetables, it is wonderful enough to be able to assimilate inanimate minerals and grow, as well as to reproduce our own kind. Like our dear pets, it is amazing that we have senses to know the physical world, and emotional and instinctual reactions to that ongoing awareness. We can even move on our own from place to place!
But how much more amazing it is that we can also know and react in a very different way—as persons. We can define what our senses present to us, letting us know and name each thing distinct from every other. We can reflect on the meaning of what happens to us and of the emotions and instincts we experience. From understanding, we can invent, and together create, a culture and civilization. We can express knowledge in language and translate one tongue into another. With language we can joke, entertain, and laugh.
And beyond knowing the physical side of experience, we can ponder and come to understand the vast array of non-physical realities—such as friendship, loyalty, betrayal, courage, cowardice, inspiration, honesty, character, heroism, etc. We can become self-aware and build up self-knowledge throughout a lifetime. But best of all, we can know, converse and cooperate with, and love others as persons. These marvelous things we can do, because to be a person is so much more wonderful than to be a plant or animal.
In addition to knowing as a person, we can freely choose so much beyond the automatic responses of our bodies; we exercise personal freedom daily in matters great and small, a second power unknown to even the biggest, strongest, and most developed of animals.
These two highest powers of being human, which afford the greatest experiences of life, are named intellect and free will.