Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Silence of the Lambs analysis - part 36: Aquinas on creation; application to Gumb


In part 29 of the analysis, we explored the issue of whether Jame Gumb, in his attempt to 'become a woman' by making a 'suit' (out of women's skins) that he can wear, is performing an act of creation (in the Christian sense).

In addressing whether Gumb is creating, Saint Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica was looked at, in specific, at Question 45, First Article: "Whether To Create Is To Make Something From Nothing?" Part 29 dealt with the first objection in this article, with Aquinas's answer to this objection indicating that he does, in fact, believe that to create is to make something from nothing. (Of course, this is Aquinas's position to begin with, and the objections to it are to be taken as being made (by an 'imaginary' opponent) as an argument against this premise; but to apply Aquinas's philosophy to the movie, we need to look at the objections and their replies in detail.) Objection 2 of the First Article is,

"[T]he nobility of action and of motion is considered from their terms. Action is therefore nobler from good to good, and from being to being, than from nothing to something. But creation appears to be the most noble action, and first among all actions. Therefore it is not from nothing to something, but rather from being to being."

Aquinas replies,

"Changes receive species and dignity, not from the term wherefrom, but from the term whereto. Therefore a change is more perfect and excellent when the term whereto of the change is more noble and excellent, although the term wherefrom, corresponding to the term whereto, may be more imperfect: thus generation is simply nobler and more excellent than alteration, because the substantial form is nobler than the accidental form; and yet the privation of the substantial form, which is the term wherefrom in generation, is more imperfect than the contrary, which is the term wherefrom in alteration. Similarly creation is more perfect and excellent than generation and alteration, because the term whereto is the whole substance of the thing; whereas what is understood as the term wherefrom is simply not-being." (emphasis in original)

Finally, a third objection is made and then addressed, then the Summa moves on to the Second Article (of Question 45).

It seems Gumb is altering rather than generating or creating. He is going from being to being; the 'creation' of the suit is obviously not an instance of going from nothing to something. The 'wherefrom' is imperfect: his victims were gluttons in life (recall that Starling tells Lecter that all of Gumb's female victims were large girls), but the 'whereto' (the suit) is even more imperfect, not only because it is being sewn together, which introduces imperfections, but because wearing it would make Gumb's overall physique more 'out of order' or 'distorted'. We conclude that the above passages further verify what was observed at the end of part 29 of the analysis: going by Aquinas, Gumb is not creating.

Catherine Martin is physically large, as are all of Gumb's female victims.

Question 45 of the Summa Theologica on Logos Virtual Library


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