Summary Against Modern Thought: Rational Creatures Are Governed For Their Own Sakes

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THAT THE RATIONAL CREATURE IS DIRECTED BY GOD TO HIS ACTIONS NOT ONLY BY AN ORDERING OF THE SPECIES, BUT ALSO ACCORDING TO WHAT BEFITS THE INDIVIDUAL

1 It is evident, as a result, that only the rational creature is directed by God to his actions, not only in accord with what is suitable to the species, but also in accord with what is suitable to the individual.

Each thing appears to exist for the sake of its operation; indeed, operation is the ultimate perfection of a thing. Therefore, each thing is ordered to its action by God according to the way in which it is subordinated to divine providence.

Now, a rational creature exists under divine providence as a being governed and provided for in himself, and not simply for the sake of his species, as is the case with other corruptible creatures. For the individual that is governed only for the sake of the species is not governed for its own sake, but the rational creature is governed for his own sake, as is clear from what we have said. And so, only rational creatures receive direction from God in their acts, not only for the species, but for the individual.

2 Again, whenever beings are directed in their acts, solely on the basis of what pertains to the species, the capacity to act or not to act is not present in them. For things that are associated with the species are common and natural to all individuals contained in the species.

Now, natural functions are not within our power to control. So, if man were able to direct his acts only in accord with what is suitable to the species, he would not have within him the capacity to act or not to act. Rather, he would have to follow the natural inclination common to the whole species, as is the case with all irrational creatures. Therefore, it is obvious that a rational creature has the ability to direct his acts, not only in accord with the species, but also in accord with the individual.

Notes You cannot flex your spleen. And while you can and must have others do a lot of thinking for you, you have to think for yourself, too.

3 Besides, as we showed above, divine providence extends to all singular things, even to the least. In the case of those beings, then, whose actions take place apart from the inclination appropriate to their species, it is necessary for them to be regulated in their acts by divine providence, over and above the direction which pertains to the species. But many actions are evident, in the case of the rational creature, for which the inclination of the species is not enough. The mark of this is that such actions are not alike in all, but differ in various cases. Therefore, the rational creature must be directed by God in his acts, not only specifically, but also individually.

4 Moreover, God takes care of each nature according to its capacity; indeed, He created singular creatures of such kinds that He knew were suited to achieving the end under His governance. Now, only the rational creature is capable of this direction, whereby his actions are guided, not only specifically, but also individually. For he possesses understanding and reason, and consequently he can grasp in what different ways a thing may be good or bad, depending on its suitability for various individuals, times, and places. Therefore, only the rational creature is directed in his acts by God, individually as well as specifically.

5 Furthermore, the rational creature is subject to divine providence in such a way that he is not only governed thereby, but is also able to know the rational plan of providence in some way. Hence, it is appropriate for him to exercise providence and government over other things.

This is not the case with other creatures, for they participate in providence only to the extent of being subordinated to it. Through this possession of the capacity to exercise providence one may also direct and govern his own acts. So, the rational creature participates in divine providence, not only by being governed passively, but also by governing actively, for he governs himself in his personal acts, and even others. Now, all lower types of providence are subordinated, as it were, to divine providence. Therefore, the governing of the acts of a rational creature, in so far as they are personal acts, pertains to divine providence.

6 Again, the personal acts of a rational creature are properly the acts that stem from the rational soul. Now, the rational soul is capable of perpetual existence, not only in function of the species, as is the case with other creatures, but also in an individual sense. Therefore, the acts of a rational creature are directed by divine providence not only for the reason that they are important to the species, but also inasmuch as they are personal acts.

7 This is why, though all things are subject to divine providence, the care of man is especially attributed to it in Sacred Scripture, in the text of the Psalm (8:5): “What is man that You art mindful of him?” and of 1 Corinthians (9:9): “Does God take care of oxen?” Indeed, these statements have been so expressed because God takes care of human acts, not only as they pertain to the species, but also inasmuch as they are personal acts.

Notes Was it Dickens who said the proper business of man is man?

One thought

  1. Know then thyself; presume not God to scan,
    The proper study of mankind is Man.
    Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
    A being darkly wise and rudely great:
    With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
    And too much weakness for the Stoic’s pride,
    He hangs between; in doubt to act or rest;
    In doubt to deem himself a God or Beast;
    In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
    Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err.
    Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
    Whether he thinks too little or too much.
    – Alexander Pope

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