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CHAPTER LXXIVThat Divine Providence is not inconsistent with Fortune and Chance658658See Chap. VI, note, p. 187.

THE multitude and diversity of causes proceeds from the order of divine providence and arrangement. Supposing an arrangement of many causes, one must sometimes combine with another, so as either to hinder or help it in producing its effect. A chance event arises from a coincidence of two or more causes, in that an end not intended is gained by the coming in of some collateral cause, as the finding of a debtor by him who went to market to make a purchase, when his debtor also came to market.659659The example is from Aristotle’s three chapter on chance and fortune (Physics, II, iv, v, vi), the concluding sentence of which is worth quoting: “Chance (τὸ αὐτόματον) and fortune (ἡ τύχη) something posterior to intelligence and natural development: so that however much chance be the cause of the system of the heavens, intelligence and natural development must needs be a prior cause, as well of many other things, as also of this universe.”


Hence it is said: I saw that the race was not to the swift . . . . but that occasion and chance are in all things (Eccles ix, 11) to wit, in all sublunary things (in inferioribus).660660Aristotle is right in contending that things do happen by fortune and chance; and further that fortune and chance are relative terms, denoting the unforeseen and unpremeditated in relation to (human) forethought. But in relation to a perfect providence, an all-seeing mind, an omnipotent ruler, nothing is fortuitous: everything is foreseen, allowed for, willed, or at least permitted. Nor are the laws of nature at fault in a chance event. The same forces, working according to the same laws, forward man to his destination nine hundred and ninety-nine times, and the thousandth time they destroy him.

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