I'll be reading, glossing, and posting Thomas Aquinas' Summa Contra Gentiles, chapter by chapter, about twice a week, until the final Amen. Your comments, questions, and constructive criticisms are welcome!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

SCG, I, 37–38

Chapter 37: THAT GOD IS GOOD [CAPUT TRIGINTA SEPTEM: Quod Deus est bonus]

[1] From the divine perfection, which we have shown, we can conclude to [concludi potest] the goodness of God.

[2] For that by which each thing is called good [quo unumquodque bonum dicitur] is the virtue that belongs to it [est propria virtus eius]; for “the virtue of each thing is what makes its possessor and his work good.” Now, virtue “is a certain perfection, for each thing is then called perfect when it reaches the virtue belonging to it,” as may be seen in Physics VII [3]. Hence, each thing is good from the fact that it is perfect [unumquodque bonum est quod perfectum est]. That is why each thing seeks its perfection as the good belonging to it [unumquodque suam perfectionem appetit sicut proprium bonum]. But we have shown that God is perfect. Therefore, He is good.

[3] Again, it was shown above that there is a certain first unmoved mover, namely, God. This mover moves as a completely unmoved mover, which is as something desired [sicut desideratum]. Therefore, since God is the first unmoved mover, He is the first desired [Deus igitur, cum sit primum movens immobile, est primum desideratum]. But something is desired in two ways, namely, either because it is good or because it appears to be good. The first desired is what is good, since the apparent good does not move through itself [apparens bonum non movet per seipsum] but according as it has a certain appearance of the good, whereas the good moves through itself [bonum vero movet per seipsum]. The first desired, therefore, God, is truly good.

[4] Furthermore, “the good is that which all things desire.” The Philosopher introduces this remark as a “felicitous saying” in Ethics I [1]. But all things, each according to its mode, desire to be in act [Omnia autem appetunt esse actu secundum suum modum]; this is clear from the fact that [quod patet ex hoc quod] each thing according to its nature resists corruption [unumquodque secundum naturam suam repugnat corruptioni]. To be in act, therefore, constitutes the nature of the good [Esse igitur actu boni rationem constituit]. Hence it is that evil ... follows when potency is deprived of act… [unde et per privationem actus a potentia consequitur malum…]. But, as we have shown, God is being in act without potency. Therefore, He is truly good.

[5] Moreover, the communication of being and goodness [Communicatio esse et bonitatis] arises from goodness [ex bonitate procedit]. This is evident from the very nature and definition of the good. By nature, the good of each thing is its act and perfection [Naturaliter enim bonum uniuscuiusque est actus et perfectio eius]. Now, each thing acts in so far as it is in act, and in acting it diffuses being and goodness to other things [agendo autem esse et bonitatem in alia diffundit]. Hence, it is a sign of a being’s perfection that it “can produce its like”… [Unde et signum perfectionis est alicuius quod simile possit producere]. Now, the nature of the good comes from its being something appetible [quod est appetibile]. This is the end, which also moves the agent to act [Quod est finis. Qui etiam movet agentem ad agendum]. That is why it is said that the good is diffusive of itself and of being. But this diffusion befits God because, as we have shown above, being through Himself the necessary being, God is the cause of being for other things [est supra quod aliis est causa essendi]. God is, therefore, truly good.

A key teaching on the convertibility of being and goodness. Existence is "the act of being": for something to exist is for it to impact the surrounding world of potency and other entities by dynamically preserving itself according to its proper form. A rock stays a rock and impacts the world as a rock (e.g. by breaking a window or creating a hollow in the soil or obstructing a tree's roots, etc.). That is the rock's act of being. Things, however, only "act out" their proper modes of being by acting with respect to some end. A plant acts out vegetative existence by having its be-ing oriented towards the goods of nutrition and growth. An animal acts ouf sensitive existence by be-ing with respect to the goods of sensation and motion. A human acts out rational existence by "be-ing towards" the good of truth (as well as the other modes of being just described). A thing only is by being elevated from potency due to the proleptic goodness of its proper end (i.e. its finality). Hence, a thing's act of being is convertible with, or communicable as, its dynamic attainment of its proper good (i.e. telos). Moreover, since an adequate understanding of anything must resolve to its causes, a formal grasp of something is an expression of the truth of that thing's act of existence (i.e. its be-ing towards a proper end): so truth and being and goodness are convertible. Insofar as evil acts of the will are regressions from the goods of the rational soul, yet as they also have their own inner teleology with respect to the (percieved) good of said evil, evil acts of the will only have a 'disjunctive existence' as good-seeking realities. In any case, to speak of God as the cause of being of all other entities is to speak of Him as the ultimate good which all entities seek: for the cause of being, the intelligible inter-ordering of entities, and the summit of existential appetite are thus convertible.

[6] That is why it is written in a Psalm (72:1): “How good is God to Israel, to those who are of a right heart!” And again: “The Lord is good to those who hope in Him, to the soul that seeks Him” (Lam. 3:25).

Chapter 38: THAT GOD IS GOODNESS ITSELF [CAPUT TRIGINTA OCTO: Quod Deus est ipsa bonitas]

Annotated: "That God is His own Goodness: It is possible, I fear, in any school of learning to pass examinations and take degrees, philosophical and theological, by consistent repeating of an accepted phraseology that one does not really understand. What is the meaning of the axiom that God is His own goodness, His own wisdom, His own power, and the rest? It means that goodness, wisdom, power, is inseperable from God; and that each of the divine attributes, could we but view it adequately, would be found to involve all the rest. On the other hand, any given man, as Dr Smith, is not inseparable from his own learning except hypothetically, if his learning is to be at all, inasmuch as Dr Smith's learning has and can have no existence apart from Dr Smith. Formally speaking, the Doctor gives being to his own learning, so long as it lasts. But, besides that he might die and his learning with him -- whereas God and God's goodness cannot cease to be -- he might also forget all that he knows, and still remain Dr Smith. Nor does his learning involve his other attributes, his stature, for example, or his irascibility."

[1] From this we can conclude that God is His goodness.

[2] To be in act is for each being its good. But God is not only a being in act; He is His very act of being, as we have shown [est ipsum suum esse, ut supra ostensum est]. God is, therefore, goodness itself, and not only good.

If act is good, and if God is pure act, then God is pure good.

[3] Again, as we have shown, the perfection of each thing is its goodness. But the perfection of the divine being is not affirmed on the basis of something added to it, but because the divine being, as was shown above, is perfect in itself. The goodness of God, therefore, is not something added to His substance; His substance is His goodness [sua substantia est sua bonitas].

[4] Moreover, each good thing that is not its goodness is called good by participation [participative dicitur bonum]. But that which is named by participation has something prior to it from which it receives the character of goodness. This cannot proceed to infinity, since among final causes there is no regress to infinity, since the infinite is opposed to the end [in causis finalibus non proceditur in infinitum, infinitum enim repugnat fini]. But the good has the nature of an end. We must, therefore, reach some first good, that is not by participation good through an order toward some other good, but is good through its own essence. This is God. God is, therefore, His own goodness.

Annotated: "The infinite is inconsistent with any end, while good bears the character of an end." It may be urged that end does not bear the same sense in both these propositions. In the former it means limit (peras): in the latter it means, end in view, the perfection that crowns growth and effort (telos). The answer is that the infinite is inconsistent with any end, if infinity has to be traversed before that end is reached: for infinity is untraversable."

[5] Again, that which is can participate in something, but the act of being can participate in nothing [ipsum autem esse nihil participare potest]. For that which participates is in potency, and being is an act [quod enim participat potentia est, esse autem actus est]. But God is being itself, as we have proved. He is not, therefore, by participation good; He is good essentially.

Annotated: "Whereas Dr Smith is not essential wisdom."

An elegant syllogism. For something to be is to act towards a proper good/end, but being itself cannot participate in anything, since participation requires potency (i.e. dependency on the (greater) thing being-participated-in). As God is pure act, He cannot participate in anything, and thus cannot participate in any greater goodness outside Himself. Ergo, God is wholly good in and of Himself, and goodness is wholly one with God in and of itself.

[6] Furthermore [Amplius], in a simple being, being and that which is are the same [omne simplex suum esse et id quod est unum habet]. For, if one is not the other, the simplicity is then removed. But, as we have shown, God is absolutely simple. Therefore, for God to be good is identical with God [ipsum esse bonum non est aliud quam ipse]. He is, therefore, His goodness.

Annotated: "That is, its existence and its essence are the same (Chap. XXII)."

[7] It is thereby likewise evident that no other good is its goodness. Hence it is said in Matthew (19:17): “One is good, God.”

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