Summary Against Modern Thought: Proper Ends

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1 So, then, it is not difficult to answer the arguments that have been presented.

2 As a matter of fact, we are not forced to say that there was error in the understanding of a separate substance, in judging a good not to be a good. Instead, it was in not considering the higher good to which its proper good should have been directed. Now, the reason for this lack of consideration could have been that the will was vehemently turned toward its own good, for to turn to this or that object is a characteristic of free will.

Notes It doesn’t matter what we don’t understand how free will comes about, but that it exists is what is important.

3 It is evident, also, that he desired only one good, that is, his own; but there was sin in this, because he set aside the higher good to which he should have been ordered. just as sin in us is due to the fact that we desire lower goods, that is, those of the body, in discord with the order of reason, so in the devil there was sin, because he did not relate his own good to the divine good.

4 Moreover, it is clear that he overlooked the mean of virtue, in so far as he did not subject himself to the order of a superior; thus, he gave himself more importance than was proper, while giving less to God than was due Him to Whom all should be subject as to the Orderer of the primary rule. So, it is evident that, in this sin, the mean was not abandoned because of an excess of passion, but simply because of inequity under justice, which is concerned with actions. In fact, actions are possible in the case of separate substances, but passions are in no way possible.

5 Nor, indeed, is it a necessary conclusion that, if no defect can be present in higher bodies, for this reason sin cannot occur in separate substances. For bodies and all things devoid of reason are only moved to action; they do not act of themselves, for they do not have control over their acts. Consequently, they cannot depart from the primary rule which actuates and moves them, except in the sense that they cannot adequately receive the regulation of the primary rule.

Of course, this is so due to the indisposition of matter. For this reason, the higher bodies, in which this indisposition of matter has no place, never can fall short of the rightness of the primary rule. But rational substances, or intellectual ones, are not merely acted upon; rather, they also move themselves to their proper acts. Indeed, the more perfect their nature is, the more evident is this characteristic in them, for, the more perfect their nature is, the more perfect is their power to act. Consequently, perfection of nature does not preclude the possibility of sin occurring in them in the aforesaid way: namely, because they fasten upon themselves, and pay no attention to the order of a higher agent.


1 From the points which have been determined above, it is manifest that divine providence extends to all things. Yet we must note that there is a special meaning for providence in reference to intellectual and rational creatures, over and above its meaning for other creatures.

For they do stand out above other creatures, both in natural perfection and in the dignity of their end. In the order of natural perfection, only the rational creature holds dominion over his acts, moving himself freely in order to perform his actions.

Other creatures, in fact, are moved to their proper workings rather than being the active agents of these operations, as is clear from what has been said. And in the dignity of their end, for only the intellectual creature reaches the very ultimate end of the whole of things through his own operation, which is the knowing and loving of God; whereas other creatures cannot attain the ultimate end except by a participation in its likeness.

Now, the formal character of every work differs according to the diversity of the end and of the things which are subject to the operation; thus, the method of working in art differs according to the diversity of the end and of the subject matter. For instance, a physician works in one way to get rid of illness and in another way to maintain health, and he uses different methods for bodies differently constituted.

Likewise, in the government of a state, a different plan of ordering must be followed, depending on the varying conditions of the persons subject to this government and on the different purposes to which they are directed. For soldiers are controlled in one way, so that they may be ready to fight; while artisans will be managed in another way, so that they may successfully carry out their activities. So, also, there is one orderly plan in accord with which rational creatures are subjected to divine providence, and another by means of which the rest of creatures are ordered.

Categories: Philosophy, SAMT

1 reply »

  1. Matt,
    A translation of the translation would be helpful, moving the references into 20th century terms…

    – What does “a separate substance” refer to in §1
    – What is the “mean of virtue”? in §4
    – What/why does he say ” no defect can be present in higher bodies” in §5

    The last sentence in that section is relatively clear, I think.

    Consequently, perfection of nature does not preclude the possibility of sin occurring in them in the aforesaid way: namely, because they fasten upon themselves, and pay no attention to the order of a higher agent.

    but the rest of it seems muddled to my modern eyes.

    Do you have a recommended commentary?

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