5. In order to treat of the true direction of human acts, we shall examine in Chapter I. the end or term to which such acts are to be directed; in Chapter II., the morality of human acts; and, in Chapter III., the rule by which they are to be directed to their end.
In the present chapter we shall consider: 1. Ends in general. 2. Our last end. 3. The attainment of our last end.
ARTICLE I. ENDS IN GENERAL.
6. We mean here by end the purpose for which a thing exists; the end of an act is the purpose for which that act is done. For instance, some may read a certain book for pleasure; others for instruction, others again to practise obedience: the act is the same, the ends are various.
Every human act is done for an end. For a human act is an act of the will, and the will cannot act unless the intellect proposes to it something to which it may tend, i. e., something good. The will is only another name for the rational appetite -- that is, the power of tending to a good which the intellect proposes to it. The good intended is the end of the act. Hence, every act is done for an end. You may object that you have no special intention, e. g., in reading; that you read merely to kill time, to be busied with something, etc.; nevertheless, you act for an end or purpose, the end in this case being to kill time or to find occupation.
8. We do not say that the end intended is always a true good, but only that it is always good after a manner; that it is at least an apparent good, and aimed at because apprehended as good. It may be conceived as good in itself, worth tending to for its own sake, or as a means conducive to some other good. No man, however, intends evil for the sake of evil, but only because he sees something good and desirable in what he wills or in its result. A man may do evil to another for the sake of revenge, and thus do what is morally bad; he may do evil to himself -- he may even kill himself; yet he cannot do so except for a purpose which he apprehends as good in some respect -- for example, to be freed from trouble. No will can possibly act without aiming at something that has been apprehended as in some way desirable.
9. We must distinguish the nearest or proximate end, the farther or remote end, and the last or ultimate end, beyond which the agent does not look and in which his desire rests. Thus a student may exert himself in order to win a prize, because, by gaining the prize, he will please his parents, and by striving to please his parents he will please God. In this act of the student the prize is the nearest end, his parents a farther end, and God the last end.
Perhaps he does not think of God, but aims at pleasing his parents so as to receive a promised sum of money, with which finally he intends to buy some sweetmeats for the gratification of his palate. In this act he makes the enjoyment he derives from the gratification of his palate the last end.
10, In the example just given, the sweetmeats constitute the objective end; the enjoyment of them is the student's subjective end. The objective or material end is the object aimed at; the subjective or formal end is the attainment of that object.
11. We must also distinguish the end of the work from the end of the workman. A watchmaker, e. g., constructs watches in order to earn a living. The end of the work, the watch, is to mark the time; the end of the workman is to earn a living.
12. An end is said to be (a) actually intended, if at the time of the act it is thought of and aimed at; (b) virtually intended, if the act is influenced by a former intention to attain an end, though that end is not thought of at the time of the act; (c) habitually intended, if a former intention has not been retracted, yet does not for the time being affect the act; (d) interpretatively intended, if the act was not really intended, but would have been so intended, if the case in hand had been foreseen. Let us take an example. A boy is sent by his father to assist a distressed family. He sets out with the actual intention of fulfilling this commission. While walking along, he is occupied with other thoughts and is unmindful of his message, yet he directs his steps aright in virtue of his former intention -- that is, with a virtual intention. He may delay for hours at a friend's house, totally uninfluenced by the purpose for which he started out; nevertheless, as that purpose has not been given up, it remains as a habit; it is habitual. At last he reaches the distressed family, and finds them in such want that he feels confident that his father, if he knew the circumstances, would wish him to give a larger alms than the sum appointed. Accordingly he gives this larger alms, acting on his father's intention as he interprets it. This is the father's interpretative intention -- i. e., what he would have actually intended if he had known the facts.
ARTICLE II. THE LAST END.
13. The last end, as stated above (No. 9), is that object in which the agent's desire rests. If in his act the agent excludes all reference to any further end, the end is positively last; if such exclusion is not made, the end is negatively last. By the absolutely last end we mean that object which, by its very nature, requires that all action be subordinated to it, and that in it all desires shall rest.
14. The first principle of Moral Philosophy is this:
Thesis I. God is the absolutely last end of all things.
Proof. Such an end we have defined to be an object which, by its very nature, requires that all action be subordinated to it, and that in it all desires shall rest. Now God alone can be that object. For all things except God are contingent or unnecessary, i. e., they have not in themselves the principle of their own existence (Ment. Phil. No. 104), but they exist only because and in so far as God gives them being (Ment. Phil. No. 220), and preserves them by His will and power (No. 263). Hence God possesses entire and perfect dominion over all things, and in the creature there is nothing that is not dependent on God. He has therefore the right to make all things tend to Himself and to rest in Him as in their last end. Moreover, He is bound to do so by His own perfections. For, since He is infinitely wise (Ment. Phil. No. 253), He must direct all things to an end worthy of Himself. Now, God alone is worthy of God. Consequently, God must require that all things tend ultimately towards Himself, and that in Himself all desires shall rest. Therefore God is the last end of all things.
15. But how do all things tend ultimately to God? We affirm that they must tend towards Him with their whole being; because God has made their whole being, the essence and the attributes of each, and all their powers. Now whatsoever He makes, He must direct ultimately to Himself as being the only end worthy of His action. Therefore all things must tend towards God with their whole being.
16. The direction which God gives to things is not a momentary extrinsic impulse, such, e. g., as a musket-ball gets from the exploding powder; nor simply a continued extrinsic management, such as the leading of a horse by the bridle; but it is an impulse intrinsic to every creature, which is not distinct in reality from its very essence or nature and its peculiar tendencies. Hence, every action that the creature performs in accordance with its nature is towards that end for which it was created, namely, towards God Himself.
17. Of course, we do not say that every being tends immediately towards God. This can be said of intelligent beings only; yet all other beings tend mediately towards Him.
There is a broad truth in the saying, "Order is Heaven's first law." God's direction, which cannot fail to be wise, is ever appropriate to the nature of the thing directed. Hence, everything is so constituted as to tend towards that which is suited to its nature and is for its good; plants perform just those actions which are good for them, and this their own nature makes them do. By so acting they elaborate from the inert clod food for the animal kingdom. Animals perceive by their senses what is good for them, and are led by their appetites to appropriate that good. Man, finally, whom all material things subserve, tends by the faculties peculiar to himself, his intellect and will, to the knowledge and love of God, and is fitted and prompted by his rational nature to direct the material creation to the glory and service of his sovereign Lord.
18. As the inert clod supports vegetable life, as the vegetable is for the animal, and as the brute animal, together with all inferior things, is for man; so in man himself the lower powers are to subserve the higher powers, which are his intellect and will. Though each faculty has its own specific tendency to its own specific good, still man is not a bundle of independent faculties; but he is a person, essentially one, fitted by nature to employ his faculties for the attainment of what is good for him in his specific nature as man. If, therefore, as it often happens, an inferior faculty craves what hinders rather than promotes the proper action of a higher faculty, reason then requires that such a craving be suppressed, in accordance with this principle of order: the lower faculties are to be controlled by the higher. The good craved in this case is not a real good for the person, but rather a real evil (Ment. Phil. No. 44). The intellect and will, when perfectly controlling the inferior faculties, are in a fit condition to follow up their own specific tendencies toward their proper objects, which are truth and all good worthy of man.
19. Good worthy of man is called becoming, fit or proper. In its strict meaning it is moral good -- that good, namely, which is conformable to reason regulating free acts; in a wider meaning, it includes natural or physical good -- that is, whatever perfects the nature of man, as health, knowledge, etc. Good viewed as conducive to the attainment of another good is styled useful; viewed as capable of giving satisfaction or pleasure to an appetite it is named pleasurable. The useful and pleasurable, when they are embraced by the will according to the right order of things and in a manner worthy of man, share in the nobility of moral good. Thus the pleasure which a dutiful son finds in making his parents comfortable and happy is morally good; and all the just and indifferent means used to promote this end are in the right order of human acts, and are therefore morally good.
20. Since God is the last end of all things (No. 14.), He is, therefore, the last end of our highest powers, the intellect and will. But there is this difference between the tendencies of our higher powers and the tendencies of other things: that, while the latter tend to God only mediately, our intellect and will tend to Him immediately, and do not find rest until they repose in Him as in their last end. When a brute animal has eaten and drunk what its appetite craves, it rests in the satisfaction of its animal desires, and longs for nothing beyond this. But our understanding and will can find rest in nothing short of the knowledge and love of God.
21. Thesis II. By our intellect and will we must tend to God as our last end.
Explanation. Of course, we do not say that it is wrong for man to love created things; but right order requires that we should make all these so many stepping-stones, as it were, to the higher plane of the knowledge and love of God. In this proposition, then, we maintain that the last end of man's intellect and will, that, namely, for which these faculties were given to him, is to know and to love God. We can prove this proposition in two ways: first, by considering the matter in the light of God's nature; and, secondly, by considering it from the standpoint of man's nature. However, we shall confine ourselves at present to the first consideration, which demonstrates that God is the objective end of man's highest powers; the second aspect we shall present further on in connection with man's subjective end (No. 32).
Proof. God is the absolute ultimate end (Thesis I.), the Supreme Good to which man is bound to tend. This tendency must be through faculties or activities by which he can apprehend the Supreme Good. He cannot do so by any organic faculty, because God is a pure spirit, and, consequently, not the object of organic perception. It must, therefore, be through his immaterial faculties, the spiritual activities of his soul, his intellect and will. Man's intellect, by its nature, is able to know God, and his will is able to love what the intellect knows and proposes as worthy of love. Therefore, by our intellect and will we must tend to God as our last end.
22. Thesis III. God created all things for His own extrinsic glory.
Explanation. Honor is the recognition of worth; when expressed in words, it is called praise. Glory is the praise of exalted merit, and in its full acceptance implies love as well as knowledge, together with the manifestation of the same by many persons as a tribute of homage that is due to the person glorified. The knowledge and love which God possesses with regard to Himself is His intrinsic glory; the homage of praise and love that creation renders to God is His extrinsic glory.
Proof 1. We have seen that God is the absolute ultimate end of all things; or, in other words, that all things must tend to Him as to their last end. Since this tendency is something willed by God, it is something good. Yet no good can be added to God intrinsically, because He is Himself the Infinite Good: it can, therefore, be added to God only extrinsically. God has no need of any extrinsic good; yet, if He creates at all, He must necessarily require that creatures shall proclaim Him as their Creator, and thus render Him the glory which is His due. Hence, the end God had in creating all things was His own extrinsic glory.
Proof 2. Man in particular, we know from thesis II., is bound to tend to the Supreme Good, his last end, by his intellect and will -- that is, by knowing and loving God; but in these very acts of man consists the extrinsic glory of God. Therefore, man in particular was created for the extrinsic glory of God.
1. Irrational creatures cannot praise and love God. Answer. They cannot love God, it is true; nor can they praise Him directly: nevertheless, they praise Him indirectly, by displaying God's power, goodness, wisdom, beauty, etc., to the intelligent creation, thereby serving to inspire and increase the praise and love of God on the part of man.
2. God cannot fail of His purpose, but He fails to receive the praise and love of the wicked. Therefore, He did not create them for that end. Answer. Though the wicked refuse God the homage of their love and voluntary praise in this life, they still serve to proclaim His praise. For in the next life they glorify His justice by their punishment, and even in the present life they make manifest His mercy and longanimity.
3. It would be unworthy of God to promote His glory by the misery of His creatures. Answer. To create man for misery would be unworthy of God, yes; we are maintaining that God, on the contrary, created all men for happiness, but on the condition that they shall render Him due service. When the wicked voluntarily turn away from their destined bliss by refusing to do their duty, they must necessarily incur a just punishment. The solution of this and similar difficulties will be better understood after we have treated of the sanction of the natural law (No. 107 et seq.).
24. As we remarked above (No. 10), the object aimed at or intended is the objective or material end and the attainment or enjoyment of the object is the subjective or formal end. So far we have proved that God is the objective end of all things, and particularly so of His rational creatures; we have explained, also, the manner in which all things tend to God by fulfilling the purpose which He had in view when creating them. We shall next consider the subjective end of man, i. e., his attainment of his objective end.
ARTICLE III. THE ATTAINMENT OF OUR LAST END.
25. A man can labor for very different objects -- now for honor, now for wealth, again for the pleasure of eating or drinking, or for the performance of duty, etc. Yet there is one thing common to all his objects, or ends, or purposes -- namely, a desire of well-being, of happiness. All men desire happiness, but they often differ widely concerning the object in which they expect to find their happiness.
"Oh, happiness, our being's end and aim!
Good, pleasure, ease, content, -- whate'er thy name."
26. Not only do all men desire happiness, but they also desire perfect happiness or beatitude. Beatitude may be defined as that state in which man is made perfect by the possession of all good things. It implies endless duration and the full satisfaction of all desires. Is such a state attainable by every man?
27. Thesis IV. Every man can attain perfect happiness.
Proof. If a certain good is found in all men, it must be part of man's nature, and hence it proceeds from the Author of nature. Now, there exists in us all, as we know by our consciousness, a desire of perfect happiness; and this desire is good, for by it we are impelled to perfect ouselves. Therefore, this desire proceeds from the Author of nature. But God could not have implanted such a desire in our nature unless he gave us the means to satisfy it; because to allure us by a desire and a hope which He had destined to disappointment would be opposed to God's infinite goodness and truthfulness. Consequently, God has given us the means whereby every one of us can attain perfect happiness.
28. But here a difficulty presents itself. We often experience contradictory desires; a man, e. g., may love peace, yet when provoked by an insult he feels inclined to break the peace. It is evident that perfect happiness cannot exist where desires are in conflict. How, then, can the conflict be made to cease? Clearly, not until the lower cravings of our complex nature cease to war against reason. But as this never comes to pass fully in this life, the logical inference is that beatitude is not attainable in this life. Yet we have proved it to be attainable; it follows, therefore, that we can gain perfect happiness in a future life.
29. At this point another question arises: Is man to be made supremely happy by being deprived of half his nature? Shall the soul be beatified alone, and the body moulder into dust? You may reply, there will be a resurrection by which all things will be made right. In that event, full gratification will be given to man's desires, among which there will never more be strife; for the faculties of his lower nature will be in perfect subjection to the spirit. This is the answer of Father Costa-Rossetti, S.J., and others, who maintain that in a purely natural order of things the soul cannot attain beatitude without the body. In the state of separation, they say, the soul would feel a longing to be reunited to the body, which nature intended for it, and with which it formed one person. Nothing prevents us, they continue, from supposing that a future resurrection belongs to the order of nature, in this sense: that, as God gave us a natural desire for perfect happiness, He thereby pledged Himself to procure the realization of that desire for those who obey the laws of nature.
30. Most philosophers, however, consider the resurrection as entirely supernatural, and in no sense due to our nature, and they maintain that the soul can be perfectly happy without the body. To prove this point, they reason thus: The lower powers of man exist to subserve his higher powers in this life. When the soul possesses in the next life the full knowledge and love of God, it no longer needs the body or the lower faculties, and consequently it will have no desire for reunion with its inferior companion.
The authorities and arguments for both opinions are sufficiently weighty to warrant the student freedom to accept either. Whichever opinion be adopted, every objection against the attainment of beatitude can be satisfactorily answered.
31. Thesis V. No created object can make man perfectly happy.
Proof. Man is distinctively man chiefly by his intellect and will; hence no object can make him perfectly happy, unless it fully satisfies his intellect and will. This, however, no created object can do. Such objects are riches, honors, pleasures, human science and virtue. But as none of these, nor all of them together, can satisfy man's intellect and will, it is clear that no created object can make man perfectly happy.
1. Not riches, which are only a means of providing other good things. At their best they cannot last beyond the present life, and they do not perfect the intellect and will.
2. Not honor. For honor, whether viewed as the esteem which others have of us or as the outward manifestation of this esteem, cannot perfect our intellect and will. It generally has uncertain existence when it is obtained, and it cannot be obtained by all. Besides, honors are often bestowed upon the undeserving and denied to those who are most worthy of them.
3. Not sensual pleasures, which certainly cannot perfect our higher faculties. On the contrary, the pursuit of sensuality degrades man to the level of the brute; and surely it is absurd to say that man's perfect happiness consists in self-degradation.
4. Not the human sciences. Since human nature is essentially the same in all men, the perfect happiness of the human species must be the same in kind for every individual, and hence within the reach of all. But science is not within the reach of all, because many persons have not sufficient ability to acquire it. Being, moreover, something finite, science can neither satisfy the intellect, which is always reaching out for unlimited knowledge, nor the heart, which is capable of loving and, therefore, desiring the Infinite.
5. Not virtue, which consists in a habitual tendency to perfection. Virtue is consequently not the ultimate object of desire, but only a means to attain that object (No. 72 et seq.).
6. Not all these united. For they are all confined to the present life, and they cannot satisfy the desires of a being that longs for everlasting happiness.
32. Thesis VI. God is the only object that can make man perfectly happy.
Proof 1. Every man can attain perfect happiness (Thesis IV.); therefore an object must be attainable that can make every man perfectly happy. But no created object can do this (Thesis V.). Therefore the Creator is the only object that can make man perfectly happy.
Proof 2. Man's perfect happiness supposes perfect satisfaction for his highest powers -- i. e., his intellect and will; but no object can give such satisfaction to these two powers except perfect truth and perfect goodness. For his intellect ever seeks to know the causes of things and the causes of these causes; nor can it ever rest content until it understands the First Cause. As the First Cause contains all good, the human will cannot help loving and desiring it when it is once known. Therefore the perfect or infinite truth and goodness, which is God, is the only object that can make man perfectly happy; in other words, the possession of God is our subjective last end.
33. Man's ultimate beatitude, as Philosophy treats it, viewing the subject by the light of reason alone, does not include the intuitive knowledge of God, the beatific vision, which we know from revelation to be really in store for us. The beatific vision is not due naturally to man or to any other creature; it is a supernatural gift. A soul in a state of natural beatitude would know God in a manner proportionate to its nature; it would understand the perfections of the Creator by reasoning from the knowledge it possesses of itself and other creatures. This knowledge of God, though abstract and not intuitive, would not be a cold speculation; on the contrary, in such a knowledge of a Being all good, all beautiful, all amiable, the soul would enjoy all perfection. Thus the primary element in natural beatitude would be the perfect knowledge of a perfect object. Yet, consequent on that knowledge and inseparable from it, as an attribute or even an essential part of perfect happiness, would be the love and enjoyment of that object on the part of the will.
34. No one pretends that perfect happiness, as here described, can be attained in this life. The nearest approach to it possible on earth lies in the right ordering of our faculties towards the attainment of our last end. Indeed, from the nature of things and from the laws of harmony which an all-wise Creator has established in the universe, the happiness of a being is proportionate to that being's perfection. Hence the more perfect we become, the happier we shall be.
35. Moreover, we may distinguish three kinds of perfection; (a) Physical perfection, which supposes the possession of all the faculties required for the "acts of the man ;" (b) Moral perfection, which regards our human acts as properly directed to our last end; (c) Final perfection, which consists in our attainment of that end. Possessing then the physical perfection of human nature, we must, to attain higher moral perfection, so order our faculties by the practice of virtue, that:
1. Our lower powers shall aid and never impede the proper action of the intellect and will. This implies that we must restrain and control our passions, and suppress all inordinate desires for bodily pleasures, riches, honors, and power. By so doing we shall live free from contention, impatience, restless ambition; from intemperance and lust, with their attendant degradation of body and soul.
2. Our higher powers, the intellect and will, shall tend to ennobling objects which bring us nearer to God. We ought to study His perfections. We should endeavor to appreciate His constant care for us, and to understand His supreme right to manage the whole course of our lives. In this way we shall acquire an humble resignation to God's sovereign will, and a loving trust in His fatherly providence -- dispositions which secure us in peace against the passing ills of life. Thus, unlike the Stoics of old, who vainly strove to imagine that there were no ills for the just on earth, we must accept, as men of sound common sense, the sufferings of this time in confidence and love, as purifications through which we are to pass to the full possession of eternal happiness in God.
3. Of the goods of earth, which are needed for our bodily life, we shall exert ourselves to obtain a sufficiency. Accordingly, a man should from his youth qualify himself for some respectable pursuit, in order either to procure a decent support for himself and those depending on him, or, if he already has the gifts of fortune, to enable him to pass successfully through possible reverses. With such an equipment, though his station in life may seem ever so lowly, a man can enjoy deeper peace of soul and greater happiness than those who abound in riches and honors and the world's false delights.
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