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Read Summa Theologica Part II (Pars Prima Secundae) Part 33

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Whether the goodness of the will depends on the object alone?

Objection 1: It would seem that the goodness of the will does not depend on the object alone. For the end has a closer relationship to the will than to any other power. But the acts of the other powers derive goodness not only from the object but also from the end, as we have shown above (Q. 18, A. 4). Therefore the act also of the will derives goodness not only from the object but also from the end.

Obj. 2: Further, the goodness of an action is derived not only from the object but also from the circ.u.mstances, as stated above (Q. 18, A. 3). But according to the diversity of circ.u.mstances there may be diversity of goodness and malice in the act of the will: for instance, if a man will, when he ought, where he ought, as much as he ought, and how he ought, or if he will as he ought not. Therefore the goodness of the will depends not only on the object, but also on the circ.u.mstances.

Obj. 3: Further, ignorance of circ.u.mstances excuses malice of the will, as stated above (Q. 6, A. 8). But it would not be so, unless the goodness or malice of the will depended on the circ.u.mstances.

Therefore the goodness and malice of the will depend on the circ.u.mstances, and not only on the object.

_On the contrary,_ An action does not take its species from the circ.u.mstances as such, as stated above (Q. 18, A. 10, ad 2). But good and evil are specific differences of the act of the will, as stated above (A. 1). Therefore the goodness and malice of the will depend, not on the circ.u.mstances, but on the object alone.

_I answer that,_ In every genus, the more a thing is first, the more simple it is, and the fewer the principles of which it consists: thus primary bodies are simple. Hence it is to be observed that the first things in every genus, are, in some way, simple and consist of one principle. Now the principle of the goodness and malice of human actions is taken from the act of the will. Consequently the goodness and malice of the act of the will depend on some one thing; while the goodness and malice of other acts may depend on several things.

Now that one thing which is the principle in each genus, is not something accidental to that genus, but something essential thereto: because whatever is accidental is reduced to something essential, as to its principle. Therefore the goodness of the will’s act depends on that one thing alone, which of itself causes goodness in the act; and that one thing is the object, and not the circ.u.mstances, which are accidents, as it were, of the act.

Reply Obj. 1: The end is the object of the will, but not of the other powers. Hence, in regard to the act of the will, the goodness derived from the object, does not differ from that which is derived from the end, as they differ in the acts of the other powers; except perhaps accidentally, in so far as one end depends on another, and one act of the will on another.

Reply Obj. 2: Given that the act of the will is fixed on some good, no circ.u.mstances can make that act bad. Consequently when it is said that a man wills a good when he ought not, or where he ought not, this can be understood in two ways. First, so that this circ.u.mstance is referred to the thing willed. And thus the act of the will is not fixed on something good: since to will to do something when it ought not to be done, is not to will something good. Secondly, so that the circ.u.mstance is referred to the act of willing. And thus, it is impossible to will something good when one ought not to, because one ought always to will what is good: except, perhaps, accidentally, in so far as a man by willing some particular good, is prevented from willing at the same time another good which he ought to will at that time. And then evil results, not from his willing that particular good, but from his not willing the other. The same applies to the other circ.u.mstances.

Reply Obj. 3: Ignorance of circ.u.mstances excuses malice of the will, in so far as the circ.u.mstance affects the thing willed: that is to say, in so far as a man ignores the circ.u.mstances of the act which he wills.

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THIRD ARTICLE [I-II, Q. 19, Art. 3]

Whether the Goodness of the Will Depends on Reason?

Objection 1: It would seem that the goodness of the will does not depend on reason. For what comes first does not depend on what follows. But the good belongs to the will before it belongs to reason, as is clear from what has been said above (Q. 9, A. 1).

Therefore the goodness of the will does not depend on reason.

Obj. 2: Further, the Philosopher says (Ethic. vi, 2) that the goodness of the practical intellect is “a truth that is in conformity with right desire.” But right desire is a good will. Therefore the goodness of the practical reason depends on the goodness of the will, rather than conversely.

Obj. 3: Further, the mover does not depend on that which is moved, but vice versa. But the will moves the reason and the other powers, as stated above (Q. 9, A. 1). Therefore the goodness of the will does not depend on reason.

_On the contrary,_ Hilary says (De Trin. x): “It is an unruly will that persists in its desires in opposition to reason.” But the goodness of the will consists in not being unruly. Therefore the goodness of the will depends on its being subject to reason.

_I answer that,_ As stated above (AA. 1, 2), the goodness of the will depends properly on the object. Now the will’s object is proposed to it by reason. Because the good understood is the proportionate object of the will; while sensitive or imaginary good is proportionate not to the will but to the sensitive appet.i.te: since the will can tend to the universal good, which reason apprehends; whereas the sensitive appet.i.te tends only to the particular good, apprehended by the sensitive power. Therefore the goodness of the will depends on reason, in the same way as it depends on the object.

Reply Obj. 1: The good considered as such, i.e. as appetible, pertains to the will before pertaining to the reason. But considered as true it pertains to the reason, before, under the aspect of goodness, pertaining to the will: because the will cannot desire a good that is not previously apprehended by reason.

Reply Obj. 2: The Philosopher speaks here of the practical intellect, in so far as it counsels and reasons about the means: for in this respect it is perfected by prudence. Now in regard to the means, the rect.i.tude of the reason depends on its conformity with the desire of a due end: nevertheless the very desire of the due end presupposes on the part of reason a right apprehension of the end.

Reply Obj. 3: The will moves the reason in one way: the reason moves the will in another, viz. on the part of the object, as stated above (Q. 9, A. 1).

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FOURTH ARTICLE [I-II, Q. 19, Art. 4]

Whether the Goodness of the Will Depends on the Eternal Law?

Objection 1: It would seem that the goodness of the human will does not depend on the eternal law. Because to one thing there is one rule and one measure. But the rule of the human will, on which its goodness depends, is right reason. Therefore the goodness of the will does not depend on the eternal law.

Obj. 2: Further, “a measure is h.o.m.ogeneous with the thing measured”

(Metaph. x, 1). But the eternal law is not h.o.m.ogeneous with the human will. Therefore the eternal law cannot be the measure on which the goodness of the human will depends.

Obj. 3: Further, a measure should be most certain. But the eternal law is unknown to us. Therefore it cannot be the measure on which the goodness of our will depends.

_On the contrary,_ Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 27) that “sin is a deed, word or desire against the eternal law.” But malice of the will is the root of sin. Therefore, since malice is contrary to goodness, the goodness of the will depends on the eternal law.

_I answer that,_ Wherever a number of causes are subordinate to one another, the effect depends more on the first than on the second cause: since the second cause acts only in virtue of the first. Now it is from the eternal law, which is the Divine Reason, that human reason is the rule of the human will, from which the human derives its goodness. Hence it is written (Ps. 4:6, 7): “Many say: Who showeth us good things? The light of Thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us”: as though to say: “The light of our reason is able to show us good things, and guide our will, in so far as it is the light (i.e. derived from) Thy countenance.” It is therefore evident that the goodness of the human will depends on the eternal law much more than on human reason: and when human reason fails we must have recourse to the Eternal Reason.

Reply Obj. 1: To one thing there are not several proximate measures; but there can be several measures if one is subordinate to the other.

Reply Obj. 2: A proximate measure is h.o.m.ogeneous with the thing measured; a remote measure is not.

Reply Obj. 3: Although the eternal law is unknown to us according as it is in the Divine Mind: nevertheless, it becomes known to us somewhat, either by natural reason which is derived therefrom as its proper image; or by some sort of additional revelation.

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FIFTH ARTICLE [I-II, Q. 19, Art. 5]

Whether the Will Is Evil When It Is at Variance with Erring Reason?

Objection 1: It would seem that the will is not evil when it is at variance with erring reason. Because the reason is the rule of the human will, in so far as it is derived from the eternal law, as stated above (A. 4). But erring reason is not derived from the eternal law. Therefore erring reason is not the rule of the human will. Therefore the will is not evil, if it be at variance with erring reason.

Obj. 2: Further, according to Augustine, the command of a lower authority does not bind if it be contrary to the command of a higher authority: for instance, if a provincial governor command something that is forbidden by the emperor. But erring reason sometimes proposes what is against the command of a higher power, namely, G.o.d Whose power is supreme. Therefore the decision of an erring reason does not bind. Consequently the will is not evil if it be at variance with erring reason.

Obj. 3: Further, every evil will is reducible to some species of malice. But the will that is at variance with erring reason is not reducible to some species of malice. For instance, if a man’s reason err in telling him to commit fornication, his will in not willing to do so, cannot be reduced to any species of malice. Therefore the will is not evil when it is at variance with erring reason.

_On the contrary,_ As stated in the First Part (Q. 79, A. 13), conscience is nothing else than the application of knowledge to some action. Now knowledge is in the reason. Therefore when the will is at variance with erring reason, it is against conscience. But every such will is evil; for it is written (Rom. 14:23): “All that is not of faith”–i.e. all that is against conscience–“is sin.” Therefore the will is evil when it is at variance with erring reason.

_I answer that,_ Since conscience is a kind of dictate of the reason, for it is an application of knowledge to action, as was stated in the First Part (Q. 19, A. 13), to inquire whether the will is evil when it is at variance with erring reason, is the same as to inquire “whether an erring conscience binds.” On this matter, some distinguished three kinds of actions: for some are good generically; some are indifferent; some are evil generically. And they say that if reason or conscience tell us to do something which is good generically, there is no error: and in like manner if it tell us not to do something which is evil generically; since it is the same reason that prescribes what is good and forbids what is evil. On the other hand if a man’s reason or conscience tells him that he is bound by precept to do what is evil in itself; or that what is good in itself, is forbidden, then his reason or conscience errs. In like manner if a man’s reason or conscience tell him, that what is indifferent in itself, for instance to raise a straw from the ground, is forbidden or commanded, his reason or conscience errs. They say, therefore, that reason or conscience when erring in matters of indifference, either by commanding or by forbidding them, binds: so that the will which is at variance with that erring reason is evil and sinful. But they say that when reason or conscience errs in commanding what is evil in itself, or in forbidding what is good in itself and necessary for salvation, it does not bind; wherefore in such cases the will which is at variance with erring reason or conscience is not evil.

But this is unreasonable. For in matters of indifference, the will that is at variance with erring reason or conscience, is evil in some way on account of the object, on which the goodness or malice of the will depends; not indeed on account of the object according as it is in its own nature; but according as it is accidentally apprehended by reason as something evil to do or to avoid. And since the object of the will is that which is proposed by the reason, as stated above (A.

3), from the very fact that a thing is proposed by the reason as being evil, the will by tending thereto becomes evil. And this is the case not only in indifferent matters, but also in those that are good or evil in themselves. For not only indifferent matters can receive the character of goodness or malice accidentally; but also that which is good, can receive the character of evil, or that which is evil, can receive the character of goodness, on account of the reason apprehending it as such. For instance, to refrain from fornication is good: yet the will does not tend to this good except in so far as it is proposed by the reason. If, therefore, the erring reason propose it as an evil, the will tends to it as to something evil.

Consequently the will is evil, because it wills evil, not indeed that which is evil in itself, but that which is evil accidentally, through being apprehended as such by the reason. In like manner, to believe in Christ is good in itself, and necessary for salvation: but the will does not tend thereto, except inasmuch as it is proposed by the reason. Consequently if it be proposed by the reason as something evil, the will tends to it as to something evil: not as if it were evil in itself, but because it is evil accidentally, through the apprehension of the reason. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. vii, 9) that “properly speaking the incontinent man is one who does not follow right reason; but accidentally, he is also one who does not follow false reason.” We must therefore conclude that, absolutely speaking, every will at variance with reason, whether right or erring, is always evil.

Reply Obj. 1: Although the judgment of an erring reason is not derived from G.o.d, yet the erring reason puts forward its judgment as being true, and consequently as being derived from G.o.d, from Whom is all truth.

Reply Obj. 2: The saying of Augustine holds good when it is known that the inferior authority prescribes something contrary to the command of the higher authority. But if a man were to believe the command of the proconsul to be the command of the emperor, in scorning the command of the proconsul he would scorn the command of the emperor. In like manner if a man were to know that human reason was dictating something contrary to G.o.d’s commandment, he would not be bound to abide by reason: but then reason would not be entirely erroneous. But when erring reason proposes something as being commanded by G.o.d, then to scorn the dictate of reason is to scorn the commandment of G.o.d.

Reply Obj. 3: Whenever reason apprehends something as evil, it apprehends it under some species of evil; for instance, as being something contrary to a divine precept, or as giving scandal, or for some such like reason. And then that evil is reduced to that species of malice.

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SIXTH ARTICLE [I-II, Q. 19, Art. 6]

Whether the Will Is Good When It Abides by Erring Reason?

Objection 1: It would seem that the will is good when it abides by erring reason. For just as the will, when at variance with the reason, tends to that which reason judges to be evil; so, when in accord with reason, it tends to what reason judges to be good. But the will is evil when it is at variance with reason, even when erring. Therefore even when it abides by erring reason, the will is good.

Obj. 2: Further, the will is always good, when it abides by the commandment of G.o.d and the eternal law. But the eternal law and G.o.d’s commandment are proposed to us by the apprehension of the reason, even when it errs. Therefore the will is good, even when it abides by erring reason.

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