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INNATE IDEAS

The theory that spiritual ideas are not acquired from sense knowledge and reason but are part of human nature. Deriving from Plato, this theory has mainly been espoused in Christian circles regarding the knowledge of God. Since many of the Fathers of the Church characterized the knowledge of God as "not learned," as "automatic," as "implanted," or as a "gift of the soul," some mistakenly concluded that it was literally infused and not acquired. St. Thomas Aquinas explains what this means by saying that the knowledge of God is said to be innate insofar as we can easily know his existence by means and principles that are innate in us (In Boethium de Trinitate, I, 3, 6).

All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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