William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Summary Against Modern Thought: That God Is Good

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

This post is one that has been restored after the hacking. All original comments were lost.

Previous post (is missing due to the hack).

Good is perfection; the lack of perfection is not Good.

Chapter 37: That God is Good

1 THE goodness of God may be concluded from His perfection which we have proved.[1]

2 For that by reason of which a thing is said to be good is its own virtue, since the virtue of any thing is that which makes its subject good and renders its work good.[2] Now virtue is a perfection: since we say that a thing is perfect when it attains its proper virtue, as stated in 7 Phys.[3] Wherefore a thing is good from the fact of its being perfect: and consequently every thing desires its own perfection as its proper good. Now it has been proved[4] that God is perfect. Therefore He is good.i

iHere is the Catholic Encyclopedia, which also provides a definition of evil.

…In a creature, considered as a subject having existence, we distinguish several elements of the goodness which it possesses:

  • Its existence or being, which is the ground of all the other elements.
  • Its powers, activities, and capacities. These are the complement of the first, and they serve it to pursue and appropriate whatever is requisite for and contributory to sustaining its existence, and developing that existence into the fullness of perfection proper to it.
  • Each perfection that is acquired is a further measure of existence for it, hence a good.
  • The totality of these various elements, forming its total good subjectively, that is, its entire being in a state of normal perfection according to its mind, is its good complete. This is the sense of the axiom: omne ens est bonum sibi (every being is a good unto itself).

The privation of any of its powers or due perfections is an evil for it, as, for instance, blindness, the loss of the power of sight, is an evil for an animal. Hence evil is not something positive and does not exist in itself; as the axiom expresses it, malum in bono fundatur (evil has its base in good).

3 Again. It has been proved above[5] that there is an immovable first mover which is God. Now He moves as a mover absolutely immovable: and this moves as the object of desire.[6] Wherefore God, since He is the first immovable mover, is the first object of desire. Now a thing is desired in two ways, either because it is good, or because it seems good. The former is that which is good, for the seeming good does not move per se, but according as it has some appearance of good; whereas the good moves per se. Therefore the first object of desire, which is God, is good.ii

iiThis is a call to review, again, Chapter 13!

4 Further. The good is that which all things desire, which the Philosopher quotes as very well said.[7] Now all things desire to be in act according to their mode: which is evident from the fact that every thing, by its nature, shrinks from corruption. Wherefore the essential notion of the good is to be in act, and consequently evil which is opposed to good results from the privation of act by potentiality, as the Philosopher declares (9 Metaph.).[8] Now God is a being in act and not in potentiality, as we have proved above.[9] Therefore He is truly good.iii

iiiPontentiality limits goodness? Let’s quote from Ed Feser’s Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction, pp 36-37:

Take the roundness of a certain rubber ball, which is actual, but in a limited way insofar as roundness as such is perfect roundness yet the ball’s roundness is not perfect (since there is at least a slight imperfection in even the most carefully made ball), and insofar as roundness, which is of itself a universal, comes to be instantiated in this particular object and in that sense limited to a particular time and place. The Thomist position is that it is only potency which can ultimately account for these limitations on a thing’s actuality…In particular, it is the potency of rubber qua material substance to take on different forms that limits the roundness…

Let’s don’t forget that the stuff around is a combination of actuality and potentiality.

5 Moreover. The bestowal of being and goodness proceeds from goodness. This is proved from the very nature of the good, and from the notion it conveys. For the good of a thing is naturally its act and perfection. Now a thing acts through being in act: and by acting it bestows being and goodness on other things. Wherefore it is a sign of a thing’s perfection that it is able to produce its like, as the Philosopher declares (4 Meteor.).[10] Again, the notion of the good is that it is something appetible: and this is an end. And the end moves the agent to act. Hence good is said to be diffusive of self and being.[11] Now, this diffusion is becoming to God: for it has been shown above[12] that He is the cause of being in other things, since He is the per se necessary being. Therefore He is truly good.iv

ivI might have left this argument out except for footnote 10, which points to Aristotle’s Meteorology. Yes, even the ancients were concerned with climate change. In that book we learn such things as “Rawness is its opposite and is therefore an imperfect concoction of the nutriment in the fruit” but also that “Consequently a raw thing is either spirituous or watery or contains both spirit and water.” Aristotle’s science observations are not terrible, given his situation. Consider “Ripening being a kind of perfecting, rawness will be an imperfect state, and this state is due to a lack of natural heat and its disproportion to the moisture that is undergoing the process of ripening.” Ripe is good.

———————————————————————

[1] Ch. xxviii.
[2] 2 Ethic. vi.
[3] iii. 4.
[4] l.c.
[5] Ch. xiii.
[6] Ibid., Since, however, God … p. 31.
[7] 1 Ethic. i.
[8] D. 8. ix.
[9] Ch. xv.
[10] iii. 1.
[11] Dionysius, Div. Nom. iv.
[12] Ch. xiii.
[13] Ps. lxxii. 1.

1 Comment

  1. Mr Briggs, This is very interesting – excellent in fact. I found ch. 1 and 37-77 but I can’t locate the beginning from Ch. 2. I found this site because someone retweeted your post for ch. 77. Is there a link from the beginning?

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