Is Goodness A Final Cause?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the Ocean of Truth. We’ve been going through the doctrine of God and the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas has been our guide. Those who do not have a copy of the Summa are invited to go to where they can read a copy for free. I ask for your prayers especially as I go through this series and in my life period. As I prepare this, I want to eliminate the illusion that those of us in this field are spiritual giants who have no struggles in our life and have such an intimate walk with God that we don’t feel normal sufferings. We do, and can do so deeply. Also, while our minds can work well in these areas, they can seem to lack in our struggles. Thus, my first prayer request is for continued Christlikeness. The second is my finances. The third is an area in my life related to both of these.

Now to the question. Is goodness a final cause? We need to look back and remember our causes in Aristotle and the two the medievals added. Our formal cause is what something is, to which we are good by formal cause as is God, though he has no cause technically. Our material cause is matter, which is also good. We’re not Gnostics. Our efficient cause, that which brings us into being, is God who is good. Our instrumental cause is God’s Wisdom, which I’ve argued elsewhere is Jesus, who is good. Our exemplar cause, that which we are made after, are the eternal ideas in the mind of God, which are also good. The final cause is the why of our existence and that is goodness.

Those who have been following along will see this question is really obvious in a way. If all desire perfection, then we all desire to be the best we can be and ultimately, being is good. What is especially interesting about this question, particularly for me, is that Aquinas ties in beauty with this, and regular readers know I am a philosopher of beauty.

Starting with the final cause, we all desire goodness. Why we do anything ultimately is we perceive that there is some good to be obtained, hence this would be a problem for moral relativism. If there is no good, there really is no reason to do anything. There is no reason to even disagree with me unless you think it is good that people believe your position over mine.

What about beauty? Beauty is another aspect of being and beauty relates to the mind, it is that which pleases when seen. Aquinas does not mean anything subjective by this however as if to say “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” He would balk at that. Beauty for him is that which is in due proportion.

This is important in our times where people think things have to fit some sort of ideal to always be beautiful. Aquinas’s philosophy allowed room for a lot more beauty than ours does today. Now there is no doubt some qualities a thing must possess to be beautiful or else beauty would be subjective, but our categories today are way too exclusive.

If we do not see our fellow human beings as beautiful, then our standards are way too exclusive. Now Aquinas would agree there are some things we ought not to see as beautiful, but these are because the humans themselves as beautiful and the things we see detract from what is.

If we meet someone with a missing limb for instance or a deformity of some sort, Aquinas would think that the missing limb or deformity is not beautiful, but who would really disagree? It is not beautiful because it points to a lack that the person ought to have. In fact, we as Christians believe this is something good about the resurrection of the body. We will have good and complete bodies that won’t be lacking.

Lest anyone think I’m being hard on some, I will pick on myself as well. I have had scoleosis surgery which means that my back has a scar straight down the middle for where a steel rod was put on my spine. Now I already certainly am underweight and definitely do not have what I would consider the manly build that I am supposed to have, but I think Aquinas would say my scar is not beautiful, and I think he’d be right. There will come a day when I no longer have this scar.

Yet beauty is what inspires us to do what we ought to do, and this includes the beauty of Christ. We want our actions to be beautiful. We want our goals to be beautiful. We want to be beautiful. This isn’t just a female thing. Men should want this for themselves as well. Being a Christian means having a Christian view of beauty, and beauty being in the eye of the beholder is not a Christian view.

Beauty is in the object and things are beautiful for we have a beautiful God. We as Christians need to have a doctrine of beauty and be recognizing what all falls into this category.Let us do all we can to honor beauty and help those around us to be more beautiful so we can be presented to Christ as a beautiful bride.

We shall continue tomorrow.

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