Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Whether Creatures are Good by their own Goodness, or by God's


1.  Having established that God alone is good by his very essence, Thomas concludes his discussion of the divine goodness by asking in what way the divine goodness supplies or accounts for the goodness of creatures.  This is one of the rare articles of the Summa in which the Corpus reflects a refinement of the arguments in the objections, rather than a refutation of them.

2.  There are two objections.  The first is taken from Augustine’s 8th book On the Trinity.  The quotation suggests that when we abstract from created individuals and look at hte goodness itself by which they are good, we will come to see God as the good of every good.  And since every thing is good by its own goodness, it seems that every thing is good by the goodness of God.

3.  The other objection is from Boethius, who observes that everything is called good to the extent that it is ordered to God.  Thus if God is the end and perfection of all things, it would seem that everything is good by the goodness of God.

4.  For the Sed Contra, he observes briefly that everything is good to the extent that it has being (inquantum sunt), and everything is by its own act of being, not by God’s act of being (the alternative being the sort of pantheism refuted in Q.3, A.8), so that everything is good by its own goodness, and not by the divine goodness.

5.  In the Corpus, he spends some time discussing the Platonic theory of forms, according to which every common form subsists independent of its instances as a substance in its own right.  Though Thomas rejects this theory in general, referring to an abundance of reasons present in Aristotle (some of which are listed in the Leonine edition), he grants that it is true without qualification (absolute verum) that there is a first thing that exists and is good by its very essence, which we call God.  And since everything receives its own act of existing from God, and its own proper perfection from him as well, and these perfections grant to creatures a certain limited and defective participation in or likeness to the divine perfection and goodness, it is possible to say that things are, in a sense, by participation in the dDivine Being, and likewise that they are Good, in a sense, by participation in the Divine Goodness, even though strictly speaking each thing’s goodness is its own, and each thing’s being is its own, lest we collapse into the absurdity of claiming that God enters into composition with things, or is somehow admixed with creatures.


- God is the good of every good. (Augustine)
- Every goodness is good by being ordered to God. (Boethius)

- Plato said that every individual has its form by participation.
- Plato was wrong in general, but right as regards being and goodness.
- Though each thing has its own proper act of being and its own proper goodness, still these properties of creatures exist in themselves by participation in the divine act of being, and the divine goodness.

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