The cosmos of beings reveals a vast hierarchy of degrees in regard to their contents of meaning. In the sphere of lifeless matter, a comparative poverty of meaning seems to predominate. Lifeless matter presents a certain simplicity in the sense of a low measure of metaphysical perfection and depth of meaning -- shown by the supremacy, in this province, of mechanical patterns of happening. Everywhere in matter we find a mere contiguity and combination of things rather than creative interpenetration. This sphere, too, is destined to represent symbolically the metaphysical abundance of God; but to fulfill that function it needs the category of quantity, both in the sense of a multiplicity of single units and in the sense of extensive manifoldness. A single material thing taken as such represents the wealth of being, proper to the material sphere as a whole, in a fragmentary and indirect manner only.He says it is very different indeed with even the lowest organic (living) thing because much more is "said" (great term there! reminds me of DNA) so there is greater meaning and significance, but at the same time more simplicity because it is all subordinated to one principle. So there is a self-unity even within the smallest plant or single-celled creature:
The various component functions in an organism are not merely contiguous to, and combined with, one another; they are coupled together in a kind of mutual interpenetration.This seems very closely connected to what Pieper has said about interiority in regard to living things. I can't help being charmed that it is similar to what Isaac Asimov also said about physic's simplicity in comparison to biology.
If much more is "said" in any single and low organism than in a bit of lifeless matter, then infinitely more is "said" in regard to any spiritual personality. By "spiritual personality" is not meant Shirley Maclaine or the Dalai Lama but basically (besides the Trinity) -- each human and angel. A personality is something with a being that exists outside materiality.
In the degree in which a thing represents God, by so much does it participate in the divine abundance of being, and so much greater is also the significance of a single unit thereof. ....and while the spiritual person has far more substantiality and depth than a living organism (as such), let alone lifeless matter, by the same token it also possesses much more simplicity.
Personal essence, he writes, is not resolvable into quantity -- into number or measurable parts or sections. The essence of personality is something significant of itself, which is why one human is worth more than a lifeless galaxy and why it is never fitting that one human be "used" for the good of another or even of many others. The soul is in this respect "simple", and that is how God, even as Omnipotent and Omnipresent and Omniscient, is also entirely simple.
Simplicity, thus interpreted, is not akin but antithetical to primitivity and poverty of meaning. The simplicity of an entity increases with its height; it implies, as it were, the expression of great meaning in one word, the condensation of a great wealth of being in one individual...So simplicity seems to be correlated with significance. This takes some thinking.
In this same sense, he says that philosophical cognition,
"intent on grasping the essence of things" (intima rei intus legere) is in a fundamental sense simpler than scientific cognition, whose methods of observation and deduction are linked to an outward approach to the object. ... it aims to comprehend the unity of the entire cosmos ... (while) the natural sciences depend on quantity, on an extensive accumulation of data by means of repeated experiments; the knowledge they procure covers its field in breadth. "
Philosophy, in contrast, does not depend intrinsically on quantity and it seeks to immerse, to contemplate in depth (or in height), not cover in broad scope. Thus it is simple; multiplicity is not of the essence, as it is with science.
On the other hand (he does not say this yet, but it is something Aquinas has said in regard to learning) -- since we are beings who receive things by means of our senses, which relate to material things, we generally start with the multiplicity, the appearances, and then move "higher" as he says to the more profound simplicity.