« Prev Chapter CXIII. That the acts of the Rational… Next »

CHAPTER CXIIIThat the acts of the Rational Creature are guided by God, not merely to the realisation of the Specific Type, but also to the realisation of the Individual

EVERYTHING is reckoned to exist for the sake of its activity, activity being the final perfection of a thing. Thus then everything, so far as it comes under divine providence, is guided by God to its proper act. But a rational creature subject to providence is governed and provided for as an individual for its own sake, not merely for the sake of the species, as is the case with other perishable creatures (Chap. CXII). Thus then rational creatures alone are guided by God to their acts, not merely specific but individual.

2. Whatever things are guided in their acts only in what appertains to the species, such things have not the choice of doing or not doing: for what is consequent upon the species is common and natural to all individuals contained under the species; and what is natural is not in our power.737737Naturalia non sunt in nobis, the natural being marked off from the voluntary (note, p. 268). The natural appetites, apart from their voluntary gratification to this or that effect, do not induce acts of the individual man, but acts of the species man. Such acts are not the acts of Charles or James: they are racial, not personal; and so long as they remain racial, and are not in any way brought about or taken up by the will of the person in whom they occur, they are outside of the category of morality, being neither moral nor immoral, but organic. If then man were guided in his acts only to the extent of fitting him for his species, he would have no choice of doing or not doing, but would have to follow the natural inclination common to the whole species, as happens in all irrational creatures.738738The phrase, ‘realisation of a species type,’ or ‘fitness for the species’ (congruentia speciei), in this chapter, points, not the attributes which a man should have to make him a good man, but the attributes that he actually has and must have by the fact of his being a man at all. — With regard to dogs, horses and other ‘educable’ animals, who come to possess individual characteristics of their own, St Thomas would say that any dog or horse, so born, so bred, so circumstanced, would behave just as this or that dog or horse behaves. Determinists say the same of man: but St Thomas, not being a determinist, would deny it of man. Under determinism, all St Thomas’s argumentation of a special divine providence over each individual man falls to the ground. According to St Thomas, a man using free will is an original, not merely one of a tribe. Originality is lost in determinism, and all true individuality; and no difference between man and man is left beyond the difference of one piece of iron hammered into the shape of a crook and another into the shape of a cross.

3. In whatsoever beings there are found actions over and above such as fall in with the common inclination of the species, such beings must be regulated by divine providence in their actions with some guidance beyond that which is extended to the species. But in the rational creature many actions appear, which the inclination of the species is not sufficient to account for, as is shown by their being not alike in all, but various in various individuals.

4. The rational creature alone is capable of being guided to its acts not merely specifically but individually: for by the gift of understanding and reason it is able to discern the diversity of good and evil according as is befitting to diverse individuals, times and places.739739When one of a pair of horses falls on its side, it will go on using its legs as though it were still trotting, thereby kicking its yoke-fellow. A beaver, shut up in a room, is said to make dams with the furniture.

5. The rational creature is not only governed by divine providence, but is also capable to some extent of grasping the notion of providence, whereas other creatures share in providence merely by being subject to providence. Thus the rational creature is partaker in providence, not merely by being governed, but by governing: for it governs itself by its own acts, and also other beings. But every lower providence is subject to the supreme providence of God. Therefore the government of the acts of the rational creature, in so far as they are personal acts, belongs to divine providence.


6. The personal acts of the rational creature are properly the acts that come from a rational soul. Now the rational soul is capable of perpetuity, not only in the species, as other creatures are, but also in the individual. The acts therefore of the rational creature are guided by divine providence, not only as they belong to the species, but also as they are personal acts.740740The idea of this argument is that God cares for the ongoings of permanent beings. In dumb animals the species is permanent, but in man also the soul of the individual.

« Prev Chapter CXIII. That the acts of the Rational… Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |