is the animal who talks, but there is talk and talk.
Thomas Aquinas distinguished between locutio
and illuminatio in the course of discussing communication
among the angels. But he illustrates the distinction
with reference to human talk.
should tell me that you want to visit Sicily, or that
you intend to reread Marcus Aurelius, this doubtless
tells me what is on your mind, but it does not enlighten
mine. It is mere locutio. On the other hand,
if by talking you lead my mind from something it knows
to some new truth derivative from the premises, then
you have enlightened me. This is illuminatio.
Sometimes I wish Thomas had stuck with the angels.
majority of what we say to one another must be characterized
as locutio; how seldom we lapse into illuminatio.
The question arises as to whether or not locutio
is morally suspect. Most of what spouses say to one
another is locutio. We want to hear all the contingent
and vagrant facts about the one we love. Nothing is
trivial, everything said takes on interest from the
one saying it. Is this a confessable fault? Ought we
hold ourselves only to enlightening one another?
implies can, as the moralists say, and surely human
life could not be lived on such a basis. To restrict
our communications to illuminatio would bring
about a Grand Silence indeed. We might just as well
hold ourselves to communicating in symbolic logic. If
illuminatio alone is impossible for us, locutio
must have moral credentials.
that is said to rank under another is thereby being
condemned. Apodictic discourse is far more perfect than
poetry, infima doctrina, but this does not ban
poetic discourse. We cannot live without it. Locutio
is, on the criteria Thomas gives, less than illuminatio.
But, like Lalage, we must go on, dulce loquentes,
there is locutio and locutio. We will
have to account for every word we have spoken, a sobering
thought. We easily get lost in mere chatter. From time
to time the animal who talks should shut up.