Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Useful, the Delightful, and the Honest


1.  Finally, having settled everything else, Thomas inquires into the division of goodness into three degrees or kinds: the useful, the honest (usually translated “virtuous”), and the delightful (usually translated “pleasant”).

2.  The objections to his division of goodness into these three kinds are simple: first, that goodness ought to be divided into the ten categories of Aristotle (Substance, Quantity, Quality, Relation, Place, Time, Posture, Habit, Action, Passion) and not be restricted to the category of Quality (as useful, honest, and delightful all are, being accidental perfections).  Second, that a genus is properly divided into opposites (e.g. birds into flying and flightless), which these three are not.  Third, that the three are co-dependent on each other, which means that they cannot divide goodness, since they often coincide.

3.  He cites Ambrose for his authority in the Sed Contra.

4.  In the Corpus he grants that the division arises in the first instance from the different kinds of human good: some things are useful to man insofar as they help him achieve his end; other are honest insofar as they are desired for their own sake, as the ends to which human desire tends; others are delightful as goods in attainment of which the will rests.

5.  Thomas sets out to apply this division to goodness universally.  Useful goods are those through which a thing passes as it tends toward its ultimate end or rest.  Honest goods are those things which terminate the motion of things, i.e. toward which things ultimately tend.  Delightful goods are those which characterize the act of a thing in a state of final rest.

6.  He answers the objections as follows: first, that goodness is divided into the ten categories in the consideration of different aspects of the being of a subject, but as regards goodness itself, the good is divided into useful, honest, and delightful.

7.  Second that the division given is not by an opposition of things (as different species under a genus, like in the example given above), but by an opposition of rationes: though they may coincide in things, they are separable based on the different ways they relate to the ultimate perfection of a thing, and can be isolated from each other, as demonstrated by the existence of things which are delightful without being honest, or useful without being delightful, etc.

8.  Third, he orders the varieties of goodness, and says that they are all called “good” by analogy to one: the honest good.  After the honest, the pleasant or delightful is second, and the useful last.  This division and ordering is very important and will recur numerous times throughout the Summa.


– Goodness should be divided by the ten categories.
– Goodness should be divided into opposites.
– The three divisions are co-dependent.

– The division given is one of aspect or ratio, not a division of subjects.
– The useful is what a thing passes through toward its end.
– The pleasant or delightful is what a thing rests in at the end of its movement.
– The honest is what a thing tends toward for its own sake.

– Goodness applies to all of the categories, but is not properly divided by them.
– The division given is a division of rationes, not of things.
– The division given is a division by analogy to one primary good: the honest.

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