Jacques Maritain Center: Ethics Without God?

Locating, Assessing, and Strengthening
the Metaphysics behind the Ethics.

Barry A. David,
Franciscan University of Steubenville /
Ave Maria College

(i) Introduction

In his magnificent book, Real Ethics, John Rist at one point summarizes his argument by stating that a "realist theory of moral foundations . . . is unashamedly theological or at least metaphysical, being the more or less expanded metaphysical claim of Plato that there exists some eternal principle of goodness and intelligibility independent of the human mind."{1} Elsewhere, he writes that 'realist' philosophers require the right attitude towards tradition in order to meet today's specific challenges and advance our understanding of ethics.{2} Most important, if we set together the two claims I have cited above, and consider (as we are doing here) the place of Rist's book within 'the tradition', it seems appropriate to analyze the divine principle employed in his essay.{3}

This is worth studying for three reasons: first, it will help us grasp better the details and fundamental correctness of Rist's argument. Second, if it is true that ethics needs to be grounded in a 'reformed' Platonic metaphysics and that, as Rist emphasizes throughout his book, 'a better knowledge of God brings a better knowledge of Man',{4} then a more precise knowledge of the divine principle in which Man participates will provide us with a more exact foundation in which to anchor (and from which to engage) ethical doctrine. And third, even though it is true that Prof. Rist has only intended to elucidate the minimum requirements of a realist ethics and has relied, for this reason, upon what he considers decisive aspects of Augustine's doctrines of God and Man,{5} it is surely the responsibility of the realist philosopher (as Rist portrays him in his book) to distinguish and justify philosophically the nature of the Good in which his teaching is grounded. Adherence to a strict realist methodology{6} -- which is absolutely inseparable from any Platonic conception of God and Man, and in which I include key concepts and principles common to and developed by Plato, Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas -- necessarily demands that we try to know the Good/Perfect/ or Maximum in which Man participates. Hence, in Republic 6, Plato tells us that "the Form of the Good is the greatest object of study, and that it is by their relation to it that just actions and the other things become useful and beneficial . . . [and although] . . . our knowledge of it is inadequate. If we do not know . . . [the Good] . . . even the fullest possible knowledge of other things is no help to us . . . ."{7} So by this standard, Rist's argument will be strengthened if we can sufficiently distinguish and justify philosophically the divine principle in which it is anchored.

By analyzing Rist's doctrine of God by realist principles and concepts, I will argue that a coherent realist/theistic ethic needs to be explicitly anchored in a divine principle that (i) is concretely united with Man (i.e. with human substance, soul and body), and (ii) 'contains' non-participated eternal 'relations' consisting in its eternally 'causing' itself, knowing itself, and loving itself. This is because that conception of the divine -- which approximates (or is moving towards) the Christian-Platonist doctrines of divine incarnation and Trinity -- will necessarily mandate ethical teaching that (i) includes a cogent doctrine of human motivation, (ii) and (by striving to unify 'the whole man with the whole God') avoids the subordinationisms or incomplete accounts of human nature and action that will ultimately characterize both lesser instances of theistic ethics and all avowedly secular ethical systems. Because of the 'inspiration' behind this conference, I will finish by showing how Thomas' teaching on law is a theistic ethics that both assumes and exemplifies these principles.

(ii) Locating and analyzing Rist's doctrine of God

Rist grounds his defense of realist ethics in Augustinian accounts of God and Man since, in his words, " . . . historically speaking, the essentials of any possible realist metaphysic are now securely in place: there is no immediate need to pursue further refinements."{8} This is not only because Augustine corrects, develops, and supercedes that which is found in his (pagan and Christian) Platonist inheritance but also because his "adaptation of Platonic metaphysics (as of important features of Plato's theories of love and the soul) has dominated all subsequent Christian philosophy in the West, including, at relevant foundational points, that of the Thomist . . . ."{9} On this basis, Rist describes Augustine as "the father-in-chief of the most cogently corrected form of the 'Platonic' tradition".{10}

To support my belief that a richer account of the aforementioned concepts would strengthen Rist's presentation, I will analyze principally his concept of 'God' since, by his own admission, this is what grounds his concept of Man.{11} Rist selects Augustine's God because He includes all that is best in Plato's Good and gods, Aristotle's God, the Jewish concept of God -- and more. Augustine's God is personal, lovable, the standard and exemplar of moral goodness, self-knowing, the first efficient cause, omnipotent, providential, law-giver, and "active promoter of moral goodness."{12} By the end of his essay, Rist has focused his theology to the point that what must be emphasized, above all else, are the attributes of Power/Creator, Truth, and Love (identified with God's Holy Spirit{13}) both (i) above all other attributes and (ii) (apparently) as equal between themselves. Without maintaining these two conditions we are beset by several awkward consequences -- both practical and speculative -- which I will now try to develop in a manner that captures the heart of Rist's argument.

These awkward consequences are essentially threefold.

(1) To begin with, it is unrealistic to maintain we would obey God's law 'because He is omnipotent and will punish us if we act otherwise' for this would contradict our inclinations (defective though they may be) to understand and to love. Since we are neither completely irrational nor completely incapable of right love, a relationship motivated by fear and blind obedience is unsatisfactory. Under these circumstances God would have the appearance of an arbitrary, irrational, and selfish tyrant -- and, under 'normal' conditions, who would want to obey that kind of person? Hence, we need to understand God not only as Power -- for in certain contexts 'the fear of the Lord' can usefully counter our irrational and self-destructive tendencies{14} -- but also as Truth and Love if we will have the motivation to obey.{15} To hold otherwise denies a coherent account (i) of God as Truth and Goodness/Love and (ii) of the human mind's inclinations to knowledge and love of good.

(2) Likewise, it is unrealistic to hold that we obey God's law simply 'because His commands make rational sense' since -- insofar as we are beset by the 'surd-factor', i.e. by ignorance and concupiscence -- we are not completely rational. To obey God since we believe 'He is Truth' will satisfy our inclinations for intelligibility and love of goodness on the one hand but, taken in isolation, it will fail to address our own unreasonableness, endemic ignorance, and tendencies towards self-destruction and deception on the other hand. Accordingly, we need to understand God not only as Truth but also as Power and Goodness/Love if we will have motivation to obey. Otherwise we contradict coherent accounts of God and of the primary inclinations (and deficiencies) that structure the mind.

(3) And finally, it is equally unrealistic to maintain that a doctrine which identifies God, above all else, as Love will provide sufficient motivation for human obedience since -- insofar as we seek intelligibility and are beset by the surd-factor -- our love is unstable and very often wrongly ordered. To obey God because He is Love will satisfy our inclination to love what is good and need for divine grace to achieve permanent integration. But taken in isolation from the attributes considered above, it would fail to address our inclination for intelligibility on the one hand (i.e. the need to perceive God as Truth) and our tendency towards self-destructive love (and therefore our need to perceive God as Power){16} on the other hand. Although circumstances may often arise where we emphasize, to a greater degree, one or a couple of the aforementioned aspects of God we need, in the long run, to view Him not only as Goodness/Love but also as Truth and Power if we will have the right motivation to obey.

As I see it, the realist philosopher who thinks otherwise introduces two undesirable effects. First, he makes problematic human obedience since the structure of the human mind and, therefore, the nature of human motivation would be ignored. Correspondingly, he denies a satisfactory notion of God. If we maintain that God is only and/or primarily Power or Truth or Love/Goodness, we imply either (i) that He is without certain perfections we perceive in the created order or (ii) that the perfections we recognize are arranged in Him hierarchically -- in the same way, perhaps, as the virtues are arranged in the virtuous man. In either instance, this could not be God of whom we speak. So, if we will have an adequate notion of God we need, at minimum, to accept the traditional doctrine (famously stated by Thomas) that since 'the maximum in any genus is the cause of all that belongs to that genus' " . . . there must . . . be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God." Hence, the perfections of power, love/goodness, and truth that we find participated in the created order, and within which Man requires a greater participation to achieve unity with God, are one and the same as the divine substance itself.

This doctrine of the divine simplicity (or of God as 'the good of goods') is advantageous insofar as it allows us to (i) locate the aforementioned attributes in God and (ii) balance them equally with each other. But we might wonder how is it established that these are the primary attributes in God? There are other perfections besides these (e.g. beauty, nobility, justice, etc.), and why should they not also be emphasized? Perhaps Power, Truth, and Love are emphasized because of the structure and requirements of the human soul/mind. From where, then, does this correspondence between the structure of the mind and those aspects of the divine arise? Also, since there would seem to be a tendency towards subordinationism due to the limitations of human reasoning, our endemic tendency to anthropomorphize, and our usually disproportionate relationship (brought about by ignorance and/or sin) towards one or another of the aforementioned attributes, how do we guard the aforesaid theology? A doctrine of the radical simplicity of divine substance will certainly support our emphasis on God's power, truth, and love, but there does not seem to be a necessary connection between the one teaching and the other. As a result, we will need to provide a more complete account of God to support Rist's argument.

Lady Philosophy will help us with this since according to a 'reformed' principle of participation -- i.e. a doctrine that includes the principles that 'the being of the lower substances depends on the being of the higher and highest substance', and 'our ability to know the lower depends on our awareness/knowing of the higher and highest' -- the divine principle must (i) be concretely united with man, and (ii) include supreme 'inclinations' or 'relations', so to speak, in which participate the primary human inclinations to God, viz. to His power/being, truth, and love/goodness. In the first instance, it is the clear implication of Platonic doctrine that mind's awareness of its privative relationship with God is presupposed by its awareness of its proper union with God and, therefore, of the existence of some exemplar union of God and Man in which its very own thought and being participates.{17} If the imperfect presupposes the perfect,{18} if mind governs human substance, and if mind is aware of its incomplete union with God, then (i) the divine principle must be united with man, and (ii) there must be a way for him to achieve union with God, i.e. a doctrine of upward participation.{19} Whether they recognize it or not, it is ultimately on the basis of this account of the divine (and human) that Platonists in general and Rist in particular maintain that a 'better knowledge of God brings a better knowledge of Man.' Otherwise we deny -- or fail to develop adequately -- the foundational realist doctrines of God, substance, participation, mind, and evil as privation.

We employ a similar logic to locate and characterize what I have named 'the divine inclinations' or 'relations'. If the human mind participates as image in the divine -- i.e. if mind, as realists have always held, is more like God than anything else -- and if the primary inclinations structuring mind are ordered towards existence (to be in the sense of being in the highest degree), truth (to know), and love (to will){20}; then these inclinations must stand as participations in some non-participated 'relations' of being, truth, and love that structure the divine. I am not claiming to provide proof that God is Trinity -- though I suppose I am moving in that direction. Rather, my point is that if what realist's call 'the inner man' participates more exactly in God than anything else, then what structures the 'inner man' must participate more exactly in the structure of the divine life and reveal its character more than anything else. My procedure here, therefore, is more like Aristotle's in Metaphysics 12 and Plotinus' in enneads 5-6 (i.e. analogical) than like Augustine's in de Trinitate for it is one thing to show (by analogy from creatures) that God's life has an ontological structure like that of the mind but quite another to provide persuasive evidence (by analogy from God Himself) that His life is Trinity since the structure of the mind is trinitarian.{21} Nevertheless, despite the limitations of my procedure, it is clear that what is presupposed by Rist's Platonism -- and, for that matter, by all realists -- is a divine principle structured by eternal relations characterized by being, truth, and goodness/love. The immutable and self-complete divine substance, we might say, 'eternally' 'causes' itself,{22} knows itself, and loves itself; it causes itself knowing and loving itself; it knows itself causing itself and loving itself; and loves itself knowing itself and causing itself. In short, God must be self-knowing, self-loving, and self-being/causing. A contrary conclusion is tantamount to denying, amongst other things, that God is Reason.{23}

We learn two things from all this: first, that Rist's account of God is grounded in a coherent philosophical logic; and second, that a more rigorous application of that logic can provide us with a more intelligible and persuasive account of theistic ethics. In the former regard, one benefit of the doctrine of divine simplicity is that the 'whole man' must be included in sound ethical doctrine. If the universe consists in an array of substances that participate to greater and lesser degrees in God, and human substance requires upward participation to achieve its proper end, then realist ethics must consider the unification with God not just of the soul or some part thereof but, instead, of the whole soul (reason, will, the emotions etc.) and, therefore, body to which it is joined. Or, put differently, if ethicists do not view man in light of a right understanding of God they will either divinize man (i.e. make him -- or some part thereof -- into God{24}) or trivialize him (i.e. make him into less than what he is{25}).

Furthermore, we now see that Rist emphasizes equally the divine power/being, truth, and goodness/love not only because of human weakness (the surd-factor) and the way that the mind just happens to be structured, but because the latter structure participates in the ontological structure of the divine substance which stands to it as its Good. Therefore, we find in a higher level Platonic metaphysics an explicit balancing in the Godhead of being/power, truth, and love and, correspondingly, of the inclinations towards being/power, knowing, and loving in the mind. These are crucially important doctrines for as Rist has showed us in his book, incomplete accounts of God and/or of man will (i) fail to give us an acceptable explanation of human motivation and (ii) make the slide towards subordinationist theistic ethics -- i.e. fideisms, rationalisms, and power -- worship -- and their secular imitations -- found in Kantianism(s), utilitarianism, natural law theories without God, and choice-theory -- both easier and more tempting.

However, if realist ethics is anchored in a God who is eternally self-causing/being, self-knowing, and self-loving and concretely united with 'man', it will necessarily view man as one substance (i) in the image and likeness of God, (ii) made to be united with God, and (iii) governed by three primary inclinations ordered to the divine life. With lesser accounts of God (and man), we can certainly defeat Thrasymachus -- Rist is right about that. But we stand in peril, at the same time, of (i) denying and/or defeating some crucial aspect of ourselves, and (ii) failing to possess the tools needed to diagnose our adversary's sickness and attempt a right and lasting cure. If man can only know and govern himself through knowing and loving God, there is simply no other way.

(iii) Thomas' theistic ethics.

Finally, since the inspiration for this conference is "Thomistic and philosophical" it seems fitting to measure our argument by a 'Thomistically informed'{26} analysis of aspects of Aquinas' treatise on Law. This will allow us to understand better (i) that Thomas' doctrine of law -- including his teaching on natural law -- is a theistic ethic and (ii) perhaps also Rist's cryptic comment that Thomism is "that tradition in Western moral philosophy which presents the most detailed version of the realist theory of moral and spiritual life. . . ."{27}

Now, according to Thomas, each created substance exists by participation in a triune God who governs all things by His eternal law, i.e. by Reason. Generally speaking, each living substance has a mode of existence that entails (i) specific inclinations -- which participate in the divine inclinations -- towards created goods (that participate in the Good), and (ii) a primary inclination -- also ordered to the Good and in which the aforementioned inclinations participate. This inclination governs the secondary inclinations so that the creature, by following its desires for good, achieves its determinate end. Hence, the dog's desire for food, water, and play are ordered to its instinctive desire to actualize its potential as dog -- according to which mode of existence it participates, without knowledge, in God. Unlike the irrational creature, however, man's inclinations to created goods are ordered -- on account of his possession of reason (in which respect he stands in the image and likeness of God) -- by an inclination towards the Good itself. This inclination is comprised of man's intellect and will/rational appetite. While intellect's proper end is God under the aspect of Truth, the will's proper end is God under the aspect of Good. Taken altogether, this means that man's (i) desires for such goods as food, procreation, community, and knowledge are ordered by his primary inclination to God, and (ii) determinate end consists in union with God. In other words, if man were not ordered to God he could not be ordered to created goods; and he is ordered to created goods so as to be ordered to God.{28} Thomas asserts, therefore, that insofar as man possesses reason, he is governed by the law of reason, viz. a natural law implanted in him by God so that he can be ordered to God. Man discovers this divinely established law by way of synderesis; its first precept is that 'good is to be done and pursued and evil is to be avoided'; the secondary/explanatory precepts participate in the above and consist in pursuing what belongs to basic self-preservation, the preservation of the family, and (above all else) the good of reason -- including society and God. Hence, God is the alpha and the omega of the natural law.

Thomas makes it clear, however, that governance by natural law (as defined above) constitutes only one aspect of man's participation in eternal law. This is because natural law, taken on its own, is an incomplete guide for human living. Although it will aid man thereto, it cannot bring him to his determinate end of union with God since reason and will are (i) limited in their scope -- they cannot, on their own, know and will the divine essence --, and (ii) defective in their operations. Hence Thomas maintains, like Augustine, that human substance exists in a state of privation. As a 'reformed'-Platonist, he understands that each of us has some primordial/implicit awareness of God{29} and inclinations towards knowing the essence of God and achieving beatitude{30} but on account of our privative state we need, in addition to the natural law, God's direct help, viz. divine law, in order to achieve the knowledge, rectitude, and beatitude we innately desire. This law, implanted in us by grace/illumination, is inclusive of natural law and helps us to fulfill it. Moreover, divine law and human law -- which is supposed to participate in natural law -- have the overall function of enforcing, clarifying, and developing natural law on the one hand, and teaching man what he needs to know and do in order to achieve beatitude on the other hand. For Thomas, then, God's law for man includes what he calls divine law, natural law, and human law; and taken altogether, these provide man with a sufficient guide for right living.

It is obvious, therefore, that Thomas' doctrine of law is essentially a theistic ethic having the same essential structure and philosophical presuppositions as we sketched out earlier. The universe consists in an array of substances that participate, to greater and lesser degrees, in God; man stands in a state of privation with the result that the inclinations to God that govern his rational element, viz. intellect and will, are less capable than they ought to be; despite their privations, intellect and will participate in some supreme 'inclinations' in the divine Reason/Godhead; the rules for human right-living, viz. divine law, natural law, and human law, presuppose an eternal law that includes the ideal of union of human substance with divine substance; man receives the aforementioned laws -- whether by indirect or direct illumination -- by participation in God; and by his reason man is required to figure out and follow the implications of the law given to him by God. From beginning to end, Thomas' doctrine of law is grounded in philosophically satisfying accounts of God, participation, substance, mind, and evil as privation.

(iv) Conclusion

We conclude, therefore, that Rist's argument for realist ethics is grounded in a coherent metaphysics, and that it can be strengthened, to some extent, by focusing not only on a higher level concept of God but also on the essential philosophical logic and related doctrines (like substance, participation, mind, and evil as privation) that sustain and develop it. This will provide us with accounts of God and of Man that include and seek to integrate and unify the whole man/person with God. As a result, we will possess a satisfactory understanding of human motivation, and a way around the problem of subordinationism (or de-humanization), viz. of focusing too much on one aspect of God and/or the human self to the exclusion of other equally important aspects, that characterizes (i) some forms of theistic ethics and (ii) each and every one of their secular imitations.

Hence, as Plato shows us in the Republic, and as Rist eloquently reminds us in Real Ethics, Thrasymachus must be engaged and rebuffed not just by fine sounding concepts and clever counter-arguments but also by showing that the very ground of his judgment-making (epistemology) and the ontological structure of his mind and of reality as a whole are realist.{31} To follow Plato's example, we require not just a 'reformed' account of the Sun (i.e. the likeness and offspring of the Good), but also 'reformed' accounts of (i) the Good Itself and (ii) the Line, Cave, and human person that explain it. We certainly need ethical doctrine that is grounded in realist metaphysics, but this metaphysics needs to be as cogent as possible and presented side by side with its concomitant psychology and epistemology.

{1} J.M. Rist, Real Ethics; Reconsidering the Foundations of Morality (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 271.

{2} Ibid., 278: "Thus a tradition needs not only to be a repository of the past wisdom of its society, but to be a for ever able to update the expression of that wisdom in different historical contexts, enriching our understanding of it in the face of continually new and unexpected challenges." Cf. 278-9 : " . . . .the only sort of tradition with which we are to concern ourselves is no fossil but contributes to a growing and developing spiritual universe: a tradition, indeed, which without abandoning or deforming its enunciated principles and foundations is able to learn both from reflection on itself and from the criticism of its opponents."

{3} If Rist is right that we need to rethink the foundations of morality, then if morality is grounded in realist metaphysics we need also to rethink -- or, at the very least, reflect upon -- our metaphysics. In this paper I focus, to some extent, on that project.

{4} Rist, 261: "And inadequate accounts of God, as I have observed, supply or support correspondingly inadequate accounts of man."

{5} Ibid., 45.

{6} By this I include 'reformed' (i.e. Christian-Platonist) Platonic doctrines of God, substance, downward participation (viz. that created substances exist by participation in God), upward participation (viz. that human substance is created in relationship with and to achieve union with divine substance), mind (viz. that man is governed by his reason and that his reason is structured by three co-implicate powers that are co-extensive with the mind itself -- awareness/memory [or being/existence], understanding, and love/willing), and evil as privation. I include arguments as apparently diverse as Plato's Line, Aristotle's Metaphysics, Augustine's De Trinitate, Anselm's Proslogion, and each of Aquinas' 'five ways' and his Summa Theologica itself.

{7} The Republic, trans. G.M.A. Grube (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1974), 6, 505a, 159-160.

{8} Rist, 45.

{9} Ibid., 38.

{10} Ibid., 106.

{11} For the reason mentioned above and because of the time constraints on this presentation, I will not focus directly on Rist's philosophical psychology / Augustinian concept of Man. However, it is worth noting that all of the important historical developments and characteristics that Rist finds in Augustine's notion of Man can be traced to Augustine's more rigorous application of classical Platonic philosophical principles to his own experience. The advances upon classical antiquity that Rist finds in Augustine include these: (i) that the moral self is the whole soul rather than some morally pure 'undescended' core self (ibid., 74-81); (ii) that authentic self-integration is available not just to the philosopher but to everyone (ibid., 42-3; cf. Augustine's account of Monica in conf. 1-9); (iii) that human beatitude consists in achieving the integrated life, by God's grace, at some point, beyond the future, in the afterlife (Rist, 81-2); and (iv) that moral improvement and complete integration depends decisively on God's love as efficient and final cause in the moral life (ibid., 106-7, 257).

These important developments can be traced, I think, to Augustine's more rigorous application of the Platonic doctrines of God, participation, substance, mind, and evil as privation. This is evident, first of all, in Conf. 7.9.13-17.23 where Augustine learns, from his ascent to the 'vision of God' that his proper end -- i.e. the telos of the human substance Augustine -- is unity with God but the reason why he cannot presently achieve this is because of ontological difference and moral difference, i.e. although, through his mind, he can achieve temporary union with the immutable, incorporeal and incorruptible God, his mind is defective, his substance is mutable and, as his lust for sexual pleasure shows, he wants to remain mutable. As a result, he discovers that he stands in a state of privation which can only be overcome by joining himself to God, the source of being, truth, and goodness/love. The problem he faces is neither that his mind/reason and/or soul -- that through which he knows God -- is meant to be united with God and that the body gets in the way; nor that there is some morally pure core self to which he must return; but that his entire substance -- including his mind and soul -- is in a state of privation. Therefore, since his mind is found in his soul, which is part of his human substance, it follows that what is promised him in the vision of God (ibid., 7.10.16) is no less than the union of the whole Augustine with God.

In addition, Augustine understands that the unity with God he seeks may be 'tasted', from time to time, in this life but that it can only be achieved in a state beyond this life (Rist, 81-2; Augustine: Conf. 10. 40.65; and Civ. Dei 19.20), and that he requires God's Holy Spirit (Rist, 106-7; Augustine, Conf. 8.12.28-30) in order to 'want to want' moral improvement and achieve integration.

{12} Rist, 42: "Augustine's God, as the God of his Christian Platonist predecessors, is personal and therefore more readily understood as lovable. He represents the Platonic Form of the Good as the standard of goodness . . . a living and self-knowing 'being' and the ultimate efficient cause of living beings; like the Platonic gods . . . the God of the Christians is that which we should strive to resemble and is thus at the same time a Platonic Form, an Aristotelian Mind 'in actuality', and an omnipotent, providential and 'moral' Jewish personal source of law and command. . . . He . . . is not only the point of reference for moral language but also the active promoter of moral goodness."

{13} Ibid., 106.

{14} I think here of Rist's Augustinian assertion that man is beset by a surd-factor (71), a.k.a. the twin difficulties of ignorance and concupiscence. Rist writes (263): "I have already considered our 'surd'-factor, our self-expanding capacity to lose sight of our 'desired' moral unity, the nature of which Augustine subsumed under two interlocking categories, ignorantia and concupiscenta, which he claimed to be results of the Fall. . . . First, we do not always recognize the good for what it is; we are perplexed and do not know how to apply our principles to actual situations. Such ignorantia is not always simple ignorance. Because 'we' are divided, we may be inclined 'not to know' or 'not to want to know' what we should do. That brings our 'ignorance' (insofar as it begins by a perverse act of willing) closer to our concupiscentia, our lack of will to do what we know to be right, our weakness for various forms of attractive malice: our ability.to 'know the better and follow the worse'. In the absence of a unified self, since we are divided as to the nature of the 'we' which is knower and agent, it would seem impossible always to know what we should do. Furthermore, if and when we have knowledge of what is right, we are unable to act on it because 'we' are unable consistently to carry through the implications of our moral beliefs. To act consistently requires the activity of a single individual or self . . . which is what we are not and cannot be, except in hope."

{15} Rist writes (261-2): "But if God's other attributes are swallowed up by the emphasis on his power . . . then to say that what we are commanded is right is no more than to say that the power disposed by God is right. That, as I have allowed, seems to point towards a 'morality' of obedience hard to justify as morality at all. If, however, God's love is an attribute inseparable from his power, we can be certain that what he commands will not be right merely because he commands it . . . but right because it is good as God is good. There are two possible forms of 'divine command morality', only one of which -- that which assumes the loving goodness of God -- is compatible with our sense that if something be right it is not right merely because it is the will of a superior."

{16} Yet he also maintains (275) that in certain contexts it is fitting to emphasize divine power, fear of God and obedience -- because of "the soul's weakened and divided state." Rist writes (ibid.): "This is where divine command moralities have their appeal, since fear may offer support where love and inspiration cannot, or cannot yet. To the objection that mere obedience to moral command is not moral obedience at all, the obvious reply is that the divine command does not add or subtract to or from the goodness of what is commanded. It does, however, draw attention to the 'personal' nature of the Good as well as aid the human being to habituate himself to doing the right thing . . . ."

{17} We infer (by applying rigorously Platonic principles and concepts) not just the union of mind and/or soul with the divine substance but the union thereto of the whole substance because -- maintaining rigorously the doctrine of substance -- the mind that knows God is found in the human soul which is the substantial form of the human substance composed of soul and body.

{18} Boethius, for example, expresses this principle in his Consolation of Philosophy: "It follows that if something is found to be imperfect in its kind, there must necessarily be something of that same kind which is perfect. For without a standard of perfection we cannot judge anything to be imperfect." (The Consolation of Philosophy, trans. R. Green, [Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1962], book 3, prose 10, p.61.)

{19} This is part of the presupposition beneath Augustine's Confessions, viz. Christ, the perfect union of God and Man. For as beautiful things presuppose Beauty Itself, viz. God, and existing things presuppose Existence/Being Itself, viz. God, so Augustine's awareness of his imperfect relationship with God presupposes some perfect relationship between God and Man, viz. Christ, in which his own relationship with God participates. A similar logic lies beneath Augustine's analysis of the two cities in de civitate Dei and of the divine trinity in de Trinitate.

{20} I am relying here on something that is more like Augustine's paradigm in Conf. 13.11.12 of being (esse), knowing (nosse), and willing (uelle) (for which he is indebted, to some extent, to Porphyry and Marius Victorinus) rather than on his further developed paradigm in Trin. 10-15 of memory/awareness (memoria), understanding (intelligentia), and willing (voluntas/amor).

{21} For an account of the structure, cogency, and aspects of the influence of Augustine's argument in Trin. 8-15 see B. David, "Anselm's Argument: the Augustinian Inheritance -- Continuity and Development," Augustinian Studies (forthcoming, 2003-4).

{22} When I say that the divine 'causes itself' I mean the sort of thing, viz. eternal generation, that Plotinus describes in Ennead 5.1 and that Christians signify by the divine 'begetting' and 'proceeding' when explaining the origin of the divine processions. I do not mean that the eternal, incorruptible, and incorporeal divine substance brings itself into being or undergoes temporal change. For a corrected Platonic view of the divine life see Augustine's argument in Trin. 5-15.

{23} N.b. how a rigorous application of Platonic conceptions leads us to conclusions that are in agreement with crucial aspects of Christian trinitarian doctrine. For arguments that are more exact than what I have stated above see: Augustine's de Trinitate 8-15, Anselm's Monologion, and Bonaventure's Itinerarium.

{24} Some might argue that Kant divinizes reason, Nietzsche divinizes the will, and Sartre divinizes man himself.

{25} I think here of (inter alia) utilitarians, relativists, choice-theorists, and natural law theories that exclude God.

{26} By this I mean that I will read his account of law in the context of teachings presented elsewhere in the Summa on God, Man, and creation.

{27} Rist, 281.

{28} This shows why natural law doctrines that either exclude or are not anchored in God (the so-called 'New Natural-Law Theory') are incomplete. For if man is not ordered to the Good itself there is no way to explain (amongst other things) the existence of 'basic' goods, and man's need to order rightly his relation to them in the first place. Contra Finnis, it complicates the issue to list practical reasonableness as one of the seven basic goods since it is by this good, viz. reason -- which is ordered to the Good itself! -- that one orders one's relation to the other goods. (This would hold even if Finnis asserts that each basic good participates in God for in that case he will have denied the special/pre-eminent way that human reason participates in God.) There is no doubt, however, that his approach may be useful in certain contexts -- as in helping people see their inclinations to good -- and in clarifying aspects of natural law itself. Cf. Rist, 257-260.

{29} S.T. I.2.1, reply obj. 1.

{30} S.T. I.12.1, respondeo; and II, 3,8, respondeo.

{31} Rist, 30: "What then is Plato's complementary strategy, and by extension what might be our complementary strategy? He must show that a certain sort of metaphysics, together with a very specific theory of man, are the necessary foundations for morality, and highlight the disastrous personal and social consequences if such foundations cannot be laid. For Plato an adequate account of morality has to depend both on an exposition of our human nature and of how it is now 'divided', as on a metaphysical theory about the proper object of human knowledge and human love."