Principles of Natural Theology / by George Hayward Joyce, S.J.

Chapter XVI. Conservation and Concurrence

  1. Dircct and Indirect Conservation.
  2. Necessity of Direct Conservation.
  3. Divine Concurrence.
  4. Theory of Simultaneous Concurrence.
  5. Concurrence and Free-will.
  6. Concurrence and Moral Evil.

1. Direct and indirect conservation. We treat in this chapter of two closely connected subjects -- the dependence of creatures on God for their continuance in being and for the sustained exercise of their active powers. The former of these is termed divine conservation, the latter divine concurrence. We have already dealt in some measure with these two points in chap. iii. It was there pointed out that God, when He creates, does not confer existence in such wise that the gift once bestowed belongs to creatures independently of the divine causality, but that He conserves them continuously, and that apart from this conservation they would lapse into nothingness. We argued, further, that just as they depend on God for their persistence in being, so likewise do they need a continued exercise of divine causality throughout all their operations. There is no action on the part of the creature, which is not sustained from beginning to end by the divine concurrence. Without this it could not endure for an instant. But both points call for a somewhat fuller treatment than was possible at an earlier stage.

It will be well, in the first place, to distinguish between direct and indirect conservation. A thing is said to be the object of direct conservation when the exercise of causality has regard to the actual being of the thing in question, so that apart from this causal influx it ipso facto ceases to be. Thus so long as a thought remains before the mind, it is being directly conserved by the intellect. Indirect conservation, on the other hand, consists simply in the removal of those agencies which would destroy it. When some substance readily liable to corruption is placed in an hermetically sealed air-tight vessel, it is indirectly conserved: and we exercise indirect conservation if we take a child from the vitiated atmosphere of a big city and send it to breathe the purer air of the country. In both of these ways does God conserve us. Of His direct conservation we shall speak in the next section. But His indirect conservation of our race must not be passed over without notice. Countless different agents cooperate to render the world habitable for man. There is nothing in these agents taken separately to necessitate that this should be. Nature is a whole consisting of a myriad parts: and the organization of the whole as a suitable home for man is in no sense involved in the existence of the parts. The present condition of things, with its strange adjustment to human needs, is no inevitable resultant of the substances composing the world and of the forces inherent in them. Indeed, in view of the ceaseless changes through which these substances are ever passing, the correspondence between inanimate and animate nature, and the adaptation of the whole to man, would assuredly, were things left to themselves, be of short duration, and the rest of the world would speedily become as inhospitable to our race as are to-day the Antarctic regions or the wastes of the Sahara. That this does not happen -- that seedtime and harvest do not fail -- must be attributed, as we have already urged, to the over-ruling causality of God. Man, in virtue of his spiritual and, therefore, immortal soul, is the crown of the material creation. The human race is not merely one group out of a number, distinguished from the rest by certain peculiarities of external form and by ampler cognitive powers. A chasm separates us from all other species -- a difference not of degree but of kind. The world is for man. And since this is so, it is but in accordance with the reason of things that God's providence should so order the action of the secondary causes of which the universe is constituted, that amid all changes they are constant in their adaptation to the preservation of life. In the next chapter, in which we treat expressly of providence, we shall shew that these principles are of application, not merely to the race viewed as a whole, but in the utmost detail and to every individual: that throughout the assigned period of his existence God directs each one to his appointed end, and in consequence exercises on his behalf the indirect conservation which he requires.

Yet not all the substances which God has called into being stand in need of this indirect conservation: for there are some which are incapable of destruction by created forces of any kind. No created agent can destroy a spirit. Created power is of necessity finite. And a finite power can only produce a result, where there is a natural potentiality for its production. If there is no natural potentiality, an infinite power would he requisite to achieve the end. Material substances are capable of destruction, simply because the substratum which enters into their composition is in potency to the reception of other forms than those which they in fact possess. We can resolve a chemical compound into its constituents and thereby destroy it, because it is naturally patient of this change f substantial form: thee is in it a potentiality for the reception of the simple forms in place of that proper to the compound substance. We can destroy life in plant or animal, for we can make changes in the subject-matter such that the vital principle can no longer animate it. One form is expelled and another takes its place. But where a spirit is concerned it is far otherwise. A spirit is a pure form. It has no material substratum capable of determination by another specific principle: it cannot therefore become something else. It must remain what it is, or suffer annihilation. But created power cannot annihilate any more than it can create. A spirit, then, does not need to be preserved against the action of hostile forces. If God does not annihilate it, it cannot be destroyed.

2. Necessity of direct conservation. The principal arguments for God's direct conservation of all created things came before us, as we have observed, in the chapter on the metaphysical proofs of God's existence. What is here said will be for the most part merely a further development of the reasons there given. Every effect properly so called demands the actual operation of the cause of which it is the effect: if the cause ceases to operate, the effect is no longer produced. But in all creatures God is the cause of being. The being which creatures possess is theirs in dependence upon Him. For finite being in all its forms is necessarily an effect due to Him who alone is subsistent being -- esse subsistens. It follows that God exercises a continuous causality in regard of every individual finite substance: and that if He ceased to exert this causality, it would forthwith cease to exist. This, however, is precisely what we signify by conservation. The effective influx of being is not an event which takes place once and for all at the moment of creation. It is continuous, created existence being essentially dependent on it.

The assertion that an effect as such demands the actual operation of its cause is a self-evident truth. That which does not need the actual operation of its cause and can subsist without it, is not actually an effect. The principle may, however, be further verified by consideration of the four orders of cause taken severally. Thus it is manifestly true of the intrinsic causes, matter and form. Should the form be expelled from the matter, the substance which they unite to form ceases to be. It holds good no less certainly of the two extrinsic causes. If the final cause ceases to exercise its influence on the efficient cause, the latter will no longer operate. In regard to efficient causation, so far as substances are concerned, our experience is limited to causes in fieri: the dependence of a substance on its cause in esse does not fall under our observation. But the evidence afforded by causes in fieri and by the causation in esse of accidents is such as to forbid us to doubt that the principle holds good in this case also. A created substance can no more exist apart from the continuous causative action of God than a thought can exist apart from the efficient causality exerted by the mind. Not, of course, that God stands to the substance in the same relation which the intellect holds to its concept. But in both cases we are concerned with a cause and its effect. And though one effect is a substance, and the other a mere accidental determination, it is as impossible in the one case as in the other that the effect should exist apart from the causal influx on which it depends.

Or our argument may take a somewhat different form. The continued existence of a thing must be due to some cause, no less than the origination of that existence. There must be something to account for that existence in each successive period of time through which it endures. God is the only being who is uncaused. This cause must be either the original act by which the thing was called into being, or the thing itself as a constituted reality, or some other created being, or finally God. No other hypothesis is possible. But of these alternatives the first three must all be rejected. Hence by a process of exclusion we are forced to recognize that God is the cause of the continued existence of things. The original act of creation cannot account for the thing's persistence in being: for that act is past and gone. A present fact demands a present explanation. It cannot, again, be the thing as a constituted and persistent reality: for this is just that for whose cause we are searching. We are enquiring why it should persist. If we say that it has a power of self-conservation, we are, on the one hand, explaining the existence of the thing by the power, while on the other we must explain the existence of the power by the thing to which it belongs -- a patent instance of a vicious circle. Nor yet can the effect be attributed to any other created being. A creature's powers, as we have seen, suppose a subject of action possessing a natural potentiality for the result produced. But the conservation of a being in existence, the effective action which retains it from lapsing into nothingness, does not presuppose any such subject. It is that in virtue of which there is a subject of action at all. It is, in other words, a continued creative causality: and as such demands infinite, and not finite, power. Just as a creature cannot by its action call into existence matter or spirit, because it cannot bridge the chasm between nonentity and being, so, too, it is incapable of the causal activity which has as its direct result that same existence as a persistent reality. It remains that it is God alone to whom the continued existence of created things must be attributed.

St. Thomas puts to himself the question whether God could create a being and then confer on it the power to continue in existence without divine conservation. It may, he notes, be urged that creatures can so produce their effects that they do not need the continuous action of their cause to sustain them: a fortiori God should be able to do this. Such reasoning, however, is readily shewn to involve a fallacy. There is no parity between the causality of God in regard to His creatures, and that exercised by created agents. Created agents are causes in fieri only: the effect depends on them only for the process by which it is brought about. God is the cause, not merely of this process, but of the being as such. Hence St. Thomas concludes that God Himself cannot make two contradictories simultaneously true. A thing created by God is one which is dependent on Him for its being: whereas a thing supposed not to stand in need of conservation is thereby understood not to be dependent on Him for its being, but only for its transition from nonentity to actuality -- its becoming. In other words, such a thing is not due to creation at all. It follows that it is entirely inconceivable that God should confer on any creature the power to exist without continuous divine conservation to sustain it in being.{1} In view of this very express teaching it is strange to find it sometimes asserted that the doctrine of creation at a given point of time is logically inconsistent with any other view than that of deism, according to which the world once created is independent of God. Professor Pringle Pattison mentions the Scholastic doctrine of conservation, and comments on it as follows: "This they held, even while maintaining at the same time a theory of the original creation of the universe at a definite period in the past. But the more thoughtfully we consider the idea of creation as a special act or event that took place once upon a time, the more inapplicable does it appear . . . . The act is an incident in God's existence, and the product stands somehow independently outside him and goes by itself: so that his relation to the subsequent unfolding of the cosmic drama is at most that of an interested spectator."{2} It is manifest that no one in any degree familiar with the Scholastic metaphysics could hold that the doctrine of creation involved the consequences here attributed to it. But inasmuch as such conclusions can be drawn even by a writer of distinction, it seemed desirable to shew how complete is the misconception involved.

To the proofs already advanced it seems worth while to add another given by some authors, which is drawn from God's power to annihilate being, should He see fit. If God has power to create finite beings, it follows that He can also reduce them to nothingness: He can take away the existence which He saw fit to bestow. But if we ask how such annihilation can come about, we find that it can only be conceived as the withdrawal of His conserving activity: that otherwise it is unintelligible. It cannot be the result of a positive action. In so far as action is positive, it is the communication of a positive effect, substantial or accidental. Doubtless, where material substance is concerned, such action may lead to the loss of a particular substantial form. Thus, if we cut a living thing into pieces, the vital principle is expelled. But the immediate effect here produced is positive. The extended body was actually one, and potentially many. Our action reduces the potentiality to act, and makes it actually multiple. The negative consequence, the loss of life, is only the indirect result. But in annihilation there is no positive effect at all. One form does not replace another: the thing simply ceases to be. Such a result can only spring from a cessation of action. The thing falls back into nothingness, not because God does anything, but because He no longer continues the action to which its being was due. In other words, annihilation would be incomprehensible, unless the existence of the creature were due to divine conservation.

It will be noticed that we do not raise the question whether God ever does annihilate a creature. There are reasons of considerable suasive force, which suggest that He does not do so.{3} Yet no argument can be given which shews that annihilation is impossible, that it is repugnant to one or other of the Divine attributes. There might, as we conceive, be valid reasons why God should in His wisdom call a creature into being for a time only. As regards the purely material creation there is no special difficulty in such a supposition. And this being so, God's power to annihilate forms a legitimate basis of argument.

It is hardly needful to point out that conservation is not the reiteration of creation -- a series of successive and distinct acts by which the created existence is constantly renewed. It seems to have been thus conceived by certain mediaeval Arabian philosophers, whose view St. Thomas mentions merely to dismiss.{4} The basis of the error was their inability to imagine any other cause save a causein fieri. This led to a conception of conservation as a constant series of transitions from nothingness to being, so that the continuous identity of a substance in successive moments was more or less comparable to the identity possessed by the figures on a cinematograph-screen, which for all their apparent permanence, are really a series of separate pictures viewed in such rapid succession that the eye fails to distinguish them. It would be hardly worth while to notice this error, had it not also been occasionally attributed to the Schoolmen. Their teaching was, as we have seen, altogether different. According to them Conservation is the persistence, not the reiteration, of the creative act. Creation, viewed as God's action, is His free volition as causing the initial existence of the creature: conservation is that same volition as causing the continuance of that existence. While, considered in the creature, creation is finite being as dependent upon God in its beginning: conservation is the same relation of dependence regarded as an enduring condition.

3. Divine concurrence. When we assert God's concurrence with created causes, we signify far more than is implied by merely terming Him the First Cause of their various activities. The latter expression does not explicitly convey a distinct relation to the effect produced, but might be almost equally well employed if the causality exercised by Him consisted simply in an initial impulse given to the secondary agent. By concurrence is signified that God cooperates directly in the production of every effect due to a created cause: that throughout the process He is exerting an efficient causality proper to Himself, so that the result in all its stages is partially attributable to His direct agency. On this point all adherents of the Scholastic system are at one, though, as will appear, when they come to explain how God's cooperation is exercised, they are divided into two opposing schools. Yet all acknowledge that the divine concurrence is a necessary deduction from first principles. A proof of this conclusion may be briefly given as follows. Finite being in all its forms is a direct effect of God's efficient causality. In this all finite things resemble one another, that they are: and this common feature must be attributed to one and the same cause, which can be none other than Subsistent Being, God Himself. But the operations of finite causes are productive of being, substantial or accidental. Hence it is manifest that in every operation of a finite cause there is a divine concurrence in virtue of which it is productive of this effect.

It is hardly necessary to point out that the conclusion here reached in no way involves us in the opinion that God is the sole cause, and that the causality of finite agents is only apparent. It is true that some have been found to maintain that created things cannot be more than 'occasional causes' that they are destitute of active powers capable of affecting what is external to themselves: and that the changes which they seem to produce are really wrought by God, who supplies for their incapacity by acting on their behalf. St. Thomas informs us on the authority of Maimonides that some of the mediaeval Arabian philosophers had adopted this view.{5} More recently a similar error was defended by some of the later Cartesians. Recognizing that the Cartesian system afforded no real explanation how material and immaterial substance could act upon each other -- how material things could give rise to concepts in the mind, or volitions formed within the soul could result in external changes, they cut the knot by a theory of occasional causes. God, they said, produces in the intellect the concepts which represent external things, but which cannot arise from our perception of them: and when we form a volition, it is He who really effects those changes in the external order, which correspond to our purpose. The Scholastic doctrine of concurrence is far removed from any such paradoxes. It attributes to secondary causes the exercise of a veritable causality. It has already been said that there is a difference of opinion among Scholastic philosophers regarding the mode of the Divine activity. Some hold with St. Thomas that the concurrence is required for the production of the action: that its function is to confer upon the finite agent that premotion without which it cannot act at all: that it is prior, not in time, but in the order of causality to the activity of the creature. It is, they contend, a concursus proevius. Many, however, are found who adopt the opinion defended by Suarez, and maintain that the influx of the First Cause has regard, not to the agent as such, but to the effect, viz., the resulting action. Premotion, they hold, is unnecessary, since the powers of the created cause require no complement to enable them to exercise their efficiency. Divine concurrence is requisite, for upon it the new effect depends for its being. But neither in the order of time nor in the order of causality is this concurrence prior to the action of the creature: it is, on the contrary, a concursus simultaneus.

In view of much that has been said in previous chapters it must be evident to every reader that in our opinion the former of these positions is alone tenable. We have urged in more than one connection that inasmuch as all action is a transition from potency to actuality, it is totally impossible that it can take place without the continuous agency of a cause external to the immediate agent: that otherwise we should be driven to admit that a being can confer on itself a new reality which it does not possess, giving to itself that which it has not got to give. The principle that the transition from potency to actuality supposes the operation of a cause which itself possesses the perfection actualized, is, we maintain, self-evident -- though, of course, the perfection may exist in the cause in a higher manner, and not in the manner in which it is found in the effect. It follows that the operations of a finite agent can only take place in virtue of a premotion, ultimately referable to the First Cause. The finite cause is instrumental in regard of the Prime Mover: and apart from a previous concurrence, its efficient powers lack their final complement.

In every case of purely instrumental causality, although the action is one, proceeding from both agents acting together, we may distinguish in the effect produced that which is proper to the principal cause, and that which appertains to the instrument. Thus, in the written page we discriminate between what is due to the pen and what to the directing mind. The same holds good in the case of all finite activity. There is an element referable to the First Cause: an element proper to the finite agent. In so far as the result, be it substance or accident, is being, it is due to the First Cause, Subsistent Being. The particular character of the being -- its determination to this or that kind -- is the part to be assigned to the immediate agent, the finite cause.

Yet here a word of caution is necessary. The causality of creatures in regard of the First Cause is not absolutely similar to instrumental causality in the usual acceptance of the term. The points of difference should be noted as well as the points of resemblance. Created causes, even such as are styled principal, resemble instruments properly so called, inasmuch as they can only operate in virtue of the action of a higher cause: while the action emanating from them is due to the combined efficiency of both, the lower acting in subordination to the higher. Moreover, just as a human agent uses different instruments according to the end to be attained -- the carpenter, for example, selecting a particular tool for a particular kind of work: so the First Cause produces the variety of effects which the created order displays, through causes which correspond in each case to the result intended. Yet there is a radical difference between the two. Where instrumental causation in the usual acceptance of the term is in question, the work achieved does not resemble the instrument but the principal cause. The statue resembles the conception in the mind of the sculptor: for this idea is the formal principle determining the principal cause. It does not resemble the chisel. The function of the instrument is to enable the material to receive the form communicated by the principal cause. Finite principal causes are not instruments in this sense. The effects which they produce resemble, not God, hut themselves. The oak-tree produces an oak-tree: man, a man: the sculptor, as we have just noted, a statue modelled on the idea which he has conceived.{5}

This point is of the first importance. Since the form which the instrument aids in producing has no stable inherence in the latter, it follows that an instrument cannot be a cause endowed with freewill, producing its effect when it chooses. It depends absolutely on the cause which employs it, and which gives to it a transient elevation, transmitting through it the form in question. It is otherwise as regards finite principal causes. The forms which they produce have a stable inherence in them, either permanent as in the case of their specific nature, or temporary as in the instance of the statue. Hence their instrumental relation to the First Cause is not of such a kind as to exclude the very possibility of their being endowed with free-will.{6}

St. Thomas, in a well-known and much commented passage, enquires regarding the measure in which the actions of finite agents depend on God. He sums up his discussion by enumerating four distinct ways in which the operation of every subordinate cause is due to the First Cause. God, he tells us, (1) confers the capacity for action -- the active powers: (2) He conserves them: (3) He calls them into activity (applicat actioni): and, finally, (4) it is through His assistance that all created powers operate. The distinction between these two last modes of dependence interests us here. Just as conservation is requisite as the continuance of creation, so, too, where the operation of the creature is in question, God must not only by an initial premotion call the agent from potentiality to act, but must throughout sustain the action by a continuous influx of causal efficiency. The conclusion follows directly from the principles of St. Thomas's philosophy, nor would any other solution be consistent with them. He goes on to remind us that God's active power is one and the same with the Divine essence: and, further, that God in virtue of His immensity is present within every finite agent, conferring on it the gift of existence. These considerations make it yet more manifest how intimate is the influence of the First Cause on all created activities, whether they belong to the material order, or proceed from spiritual faculties such as the intellect and will.{7}

We cited above (chap. xi., §3) a passage from Martineau, in which he supports his view that there are limits to the Divine prescience by contending that there are events in which the Divine causality plays no part. "Lending us a portion of His causation," he says, "He refrains from covering all with His omniscience." It will appear from what we have said that we regard this supposition as wholly inadmissible. For efficient activity of any kind to operate apart from the premoving influence of the First Cause would seem as repugnant to reason as for finite being to exist without the creative and conserving action of the Creator.

4. Theory of simultaneous concurrence. We have mentioned above the theory of simultaneous concurrence taught by Molina and Suarez. Although we regard it as erroneous, it is necessary to give a brief exposition of it, since during the last three centuries it has been defended by very many Scholastic writers, including the majority of those belonging to the Society of Jesus. Convinced that the Thomist theory of the predetermination of the human will was both false and pernicious, they felt unable to accept a doctrine which apparently was so closely allied to it. In their anxiety to avoid a most dangerous error they went to the opposite extreme. According to this system, as we have already noted, a created cause needs no premotion to pass from potency to act. It requires, indeed, Divine concurrence to enable it to produce any effect. For every effect is being under some form or other, and there can be no production of being without the exercise of Divine causality: since being, as such, is always and everywhere due to the operation of Subsistent Being, viz., God. But there is no subordination of the created cause to the Divine causality: the former is not instrumental in regard of the latter. It must not, however, be imagined that there are two distinct actions which combine to produce a single result, very much as two men might unite to draw a load too heavy for one of them alone. There is but one action, which proceeds alike from the created cause and from God, yet so that priority belongs to neither of the two.{8} That the created cause stands in no need of premotion, may, Suarez holds, be easily shewn. Secondary causes are not incomplete in their respective kinds, but complete. To suppose that they need a Divine premotion to determine them to their action is to affirm that they are incomplete, and are not of themselves adequate principles of the result which they produce. But if it be admitted that they are, apart from any complement, true principles of the effect attained, then nothing is demanded of the First Cause save a concurrence with their action: premotion is unnecessary. Inasmuch as, in this explanation, the Divine concurrence is absolutely simultaneous, the question at once arises, how the correspondence between the Divine and human contribution is to be explained. As regards necessary causes there is no difficulty. God from all eternity has foreseen the mode of action connatural to each creature at each moment of its existence according to the circumstances in which it will be placed, and has decreed to afford it the concurrence requisite for the exercise of its powers. Where, however, the acts of free agents are concerned the case is different: for the Divine decree must be such as to allow for liberty of choice. Here recourse is had to scientia media. God foresees the alternatives presented to the created will in each individual contingency, and foresees likewise which alternative the creature will freely choose, provided the choice be rendered possible by the concurrence requisite for its realization. That particular concurrence, and not another, He has decreed from all eternity to give. He would have decreed otherwise, had His foreknowledge shewn Him that the created agent's choice would take another direction. The future free volition of the creature determines which shall be the concurrence destined for it. Yet we may say with truth that when the moment for action comes, God offers to the will a concurrence for any one of the various possible alternatives. Did He not do so, it would not be really capable of taking any other course than that which it actually chooses.{9}

Such is the system of simultaneous concurrence. Without attempting to deal with it at length it will suffice to indicate two points which in our judgment are fatal to it considered as an explanation of the activity exercised by secondary causes. In the first place, it involves the rejection of the principle Quidquid movetur ab alio movetur -- the self-evident truth that the transition from potency to act can only take place through the actual operation of an efficient cause other than the agent in question. The Suaresian theory is based upon the supposition that secondary causes, whether necessary or free, if placed in suitable conditions, can exercise their causal powers without any impulse from without. Were it not so, he holds, as we have seen, that the cause would be incomplete. He fails to see that it would only be incomplete in the sense that it lacked something which no secondary cause can possibly possess: nothing would be wanting to its perfection viewed as a secondary cause.{10} Thus he is led to explain away a principle of vital importance in the Scholastic metaphysics, and even to contend that neither Aristotle nor St. Thomas Aquinas really meant what they said in their appeal to this axiomatic verity.{11}

Equally decisive is another argument against this theory. Suarez is emphatic that the concurrence is with the action as such.{12} Otherwise we should, as he clearly saw, have to admit that a new reality could arise in no way dependent on the source of all reality, Subsistent Being. Hence the action must be attributed to both agents simultaneously, the created and the uncreated. Now it is true that one and the same work may be accomplished by a plurality of agents, acting together, provided that the work in question is divisible into quantitative parts, so that the several agents may each contribute a share. Thus, to employ an illustration already given, a number of men might combine to haul a heavy tree. But here we are concerned, not with the work (operatum), but with the action (operatio). And we need only consider what is essentially involved in the very notion of action to see that an action due to two agents is a contradiction in terms. An action is not an effect viewed in abstraction from the source from which it proceeds. It is a change considered precisely as proceeding from the active powers of the agent to which it is attributed. Or, as viewed from the side of the agent, it is the determination of its active powers to the production of the change in question. In creatures it is necessarily an accidental determination. In God, no accidental determination is possible; but His action ab extra is none the less the change produced, viewed precisely as issuing from Him as cause. It follows that if a given change is due to two agents not subordinated the one to the other, but acting independently, we have not one action, but two. If then the action of the creature is but one; and if it must in so far as it is something real -- a new determination of the finite agent -- be due to a causal influx of the First Cause, the source of being, this can only be because the secondary cause operates instrumentally as regards the First. In no other way is it possible for one and the same operation to be referred to more than one agent.{13}

5. Concurrence and free-will. It remains for us to consider the bearing of the doctrine of previous concurrence, which we are engaged in defending, on the question of the free volitions of the human agent. Can the two he reconciled? Is it possible to hold that divine premotion is requisite for every action, and that nevertheless the elective acts of the will are not predetermined by the First Cause? The Thomist school, as we have seen, deny the possibility. The transition from potentiality to actuality involved in every election cannot, they maintain, be initiated by the secondary cause. It lacks altogether any power of such initiation: it is simply indeterminate save in so far as determined to one course or another by the efficiency of the First Cause. Yet God so predetermines it, that it follows the path which He has marked out, not by constraint, but freely. We have already shewn that we find ourselves unable to accept this view of the case. To us it appears far more manifest that predetermination and free election are mutually repugnant, than that there is a metaphysical impossibility in an election in which the will so determines its own course that its choice is in no sense predetermined for it. Nor does this self-determining power of the will seem to us incapable of reasonable defence.

We have seen that the object of the will is the good known as such by the intellect. Wherever the intellect recognizes an object as good -- whether its goodness lie in its intrinsic excellence, or be relative to ourselves, consisting simply in its power to satisfy some desire felt by us -- the rational appetite is at once, in a greater or a less degree attracted to it.{14} There arises forthwith in the will an indeliberate movement towards the object. The force of this impulse varies very greatly. On the one hand it may be so strong as to render resistance a matter of extreme difficulty: on the other, so slight as to be hardly perceptible. This indeliberate act, we contend, proceeds from the operation of the First Cause, and is in fact an initial premotion. It does not constrain us. We are free to cooperate with it, and so to act instrumentally in its regard. But we may, if we will, refuse our correspondence, and, turning to some other object which attracts us, pursue that instead. Or, we may. as we shall shortly point out, simply desist from action. The choice which we make is our own. But in so far as we act at all, the whole motion of the will is due to the First Cause as causa principalis. The action of the secondary agent is instrumental, in the sense in which we have explained that term above. For the finite agent lacks all power to initiate movement in its own right: it operates in every case in virtue of an impulse conferred by the Prime Mover. It will be observed that, according to the account just given, there is an exact correspondence between the final and the efficient causation to which an action is due. The efficient premotion of the First Cause is not arbitrarily given. God does not premove the will to desire this or that particular object, while in regard of other objects equally attractive in themselves, the will receives no such premotion. Whenever an object is such as to exert upon the will the attraction proper to final causality, the initial premotion of the efficient cause is conferred. It thus appears that the action of the Prime Mover on the free agent is analogous to that exercised upon inanimate substances, and, on a different plane, upon the brute creation. These are premoved in accordance with fixed law. Inanimate substances have, each of them, certain specific characteristics which determine what their activities shall be: and they are premoved to such action as these inherent 'forms' require. Thus, to take a simple example, iron, water, mercury, receive respectively the premotion which corresponds to their natures. Similar, though, as we have said, of a higher kind, is the premotion directing the activities of brutes in accordance with their natural appetites and instincts. Nor is it otherwise with the premotion of the will. This, too, is ruled by law. In so far as the mind views an object as good -- as a final cause -- the will is premoved towards the thing in question. Just as in inanimate things premotion is conditioned by an inherent 'form,' so in the rational will it depends on a 'form' temporarily inherent in the intellect. But many objects offer satisfaction to our physical appetites from which the law of right reason would bid us abstain. To allow them to exert their final causality on us -- to make them an end of action -- would involve a breach of moral obligation. Yet the mind cannot help being aware of their attractive force; and in so far as it gives its attention to any one of them, and regards it as adapted to the satisfaction of some desire, does the will experience an initial premotion towards that object. We are not speaking here of the definitive practical judgment, which is the final determinant of the free act.{15} We are concerned to explain what at first sight is calculated to cause surprise, that the will receives initial premotion to acts which are wrong, as well as to acts which are right. And we say that this is explained by the law which rules the activity of the faculty, viz., that in so far as the intellect views an object as capable of satisfying some desire, an indeliberate movement towards that object always takes place in the will.

We have already pointed out that there is one object in regard to which the will is not free, but necessitated.{16} We cannot look on beatitude -- full and complete happiness -- as undesirable, and hold it in aversion. If we contemplate it at all, we must desire it. But in regard to all other things we are at liberty to will them or to reject them: for these come before us as partial and incomplete realizations of the good. If the will yields to the attraction of such an object and desires it, it does so freely. For we only need to bid the intellect Contemplate it, not in its attractive qualities, but in its limitations, and we are no longer under any constraint to desire it. Just as there arose an indeliberate movement towards the object in virtue of what in it was good, so by reason of the disadvantages attached to it there springs up a movement in the contrary direction -- a premotion to its rejection: for in this case rejection itself appears as a good. The two movements will, doubtless, be of unequal intensity. But the will is not obliged to follow the stronger. We may deliberately adopt what we know to be a lesser good, if we choose to exclude the thought of that in which it is defective and consider solely the gratification to be obtained. Or, without a positive act of rejection, the mere contemplation of the deficiency and incompleteness of the object may lead to the cessation of desire. If, indeed, a man's mind should become so absorbed by some particular object that he can neither take note of its limitations, nor compare it with other ends, he is no longer capable of elective choice in its regard. This actually occurs from time to time when a man is suddenly mastered by an access of anger, fear or some other passion. But the case is exceptional: and in such circumstances man ceases for the moment to be a rational agent at all. He is no more responsible for his action than one of the lower animals. Normally, man is master in his own house. Thus, if we have received an injury, the remembrance of the wrong will probably arouse in the will an indeliberate desire to pay off old scores. But we know perfectly well that if we consent to this desire we do so as free agents, and become responsible for an act which it is in our power to avoid. We can, if we choose, consider revenge under a very different aspect. We can view it as a violation of God's moral law, and seeing it thus, can turn away from it.{17}

Thus, though human volition depends absolutely on the divine premotion, and in this, as in every other form of activity, there can be no transition from potency to act except through the efficient action of the First Cause, the will is not predetermined. Freedom, we maintain, consists essentially in the power of self-determination. And to assert that the choices of the will are predetermined by a higher cause appears to us wholly irreconcilable with freedom and consequently with moral responsibility in man. Even as regards beatitude, though it is impossible for the will, if it act at all, to do other than desire it, yet it is free either to act or not to act. It retains the libertas exercitii. For though the object contemplated is happiness in its fullness, yet the subjective act of desire is a finite and, therefore, partial good. We may turn the mind to some other object of consideration, and thus banish the thought of beatitude: or we may find an object of desire in the mere exercise of liberty -- stat pro ratione voluntas.{18}

But how is it that man determines himself to abstain from corresponding with one premotion, and to admit another. Here is the mystery of free-will, and of this we have no explanation to offer. We can describe the conditions of the faculty's exercise, but cannot explain the act itself. Yet it will not escape notice that to abstain from correspondence is a very different thing from the initiation of motion on the part of the finite agent. We do not claim for the creature any power to originate reality apart from the First Cause. What is claimed in this regard is negative not positive -- not a power of independent action, but of abstinence from action. Where the creature acts positively, it acts instrumentally: and the action, so far as real, proceeds from the First Cause.

6. Concurrence and moral evil. We are not here concerned with the great problem of the existence of moral evil. That is reserved for the next chapter. But even if the existence of evil be taken for granted, a difficulty may be raised as to God's concurrence with the wrong action. We touched upon this subject in the preceding section; but a somewhat completer reply seems called for.

Every wrong action may be considered under two aspects -- as an objective reality and in its relation to moral order. Viewed purely as reality. the act contains no evil element whatever. Thus considered, it is simply being in one or other of its modes: and, as such, is actuality -- perfection -- in such and such a degree. The attribute of moral evil belongs to it solely in so far as it fails to conform to the order which reason prescribes. Here, as in all its manifestations, evil consists, not in anything positive, but in privation -- in the absence of something which full perfection demands. But though all perfection and reality flow originally from God, the creature is capable by itself of privation and defect. To it, and not to the Creator, must all the moral evil of the wrong action be referred. That in the act which comes from God is its reality, and is good. Whatever in it is defective and wrong is from the created will. This is plain enough as regards the external action. The blow, e.g., with which the murderer kills his victim, viewed in itself and out of relation to the particular occasion, is an activity demanding health and strength: and, so far, is a perfection. The evil lies, not in the action as an action, but in the failure to observe due order in its exercise. This failure is no positive reality no evil entity to which God gives being. The same is true of those physical appetites which are for men the principal source of wrong-doing. In themselves they are not merely blameless, but necessary to the welfare of the species. Without their demand for satisfaction man would perish. But reason prescribes that their satisfaction should be controlled, that it should be permitted or checked in all cases with reference to the service of God, the rights of our fellow-men, and the harmony and due subordination of our faculties as a whole. If, as is too often the case, the human agent fails to observe the order which is obligatory on him, if his indulgence of his appetites is contrary to reason, the evil in the act is not attributable to God. God does not concur in the evil: for that is privation only. The principle is no less applicable in the case of the internal act of the will itself, the true seat of moral evil. We may take the extreme case of an act of hatred of God. The malice of such a wish lies not in the act as such. In certain cases aversion is a duty. It lies in the fearful disorder involved in exercising an act of aversion in regard of the Supreme Good.

These instances will have shewn that when it is said that moral evil consists in privation, we do not signify that all sins are sins of omission. The action is commonly positive, but of, such a kind that it lacks the due order which our free acts should possess. Nor, again, must it be imagined that the agent necessarily intends the privation as such. The sinner usually does not desire the element of wrong for its own sake. But he is intent on so me particular gratification, and would sooner render himself guilty of moral fault than abstain from the act which will secure it. When the nature of moral wrong is understood, the difficulty as to the divine concurrence disappears. God permits the fault, but in no sense approves it. He concurs solely with the action as an entitative reality, not in the moral wrong. So far as the act contains physical perfection it is referable to God: so far as it contains moral imperfection to the creature.

{1} De Pot., q. 5, art. 2.

{2} Idea of God, p. 302.

{3} Summa Theol., I., q. 104, art. 4.

{4} Con. Gent, III., c. xv.

{5} De Pot., q. 3, art. 7.

{5} "Agens per se et agens instrumentale in hoc differunt, quod agens instrumentale non inducit in effectu similitudinem suam, sed similitudinem principalis agentis. Principale autem agens inducit similitudinem suam: et ideo ex hoc aliquid constituitur principale agens quod habet aliquam formam, quam in alterum transfundere potest: non autem ex hoc constituitur agens instrumentale, sed ex hoc quod est applicatum a principali agente ad effectum aliquem inducendum." St. Thomas Aq., IV.. S., d. 19, q I, art. 2, sol. I.

{6} "Instrumentum dupliciter dicitur. Uno modo proprie: quando scilicet aliquid ita ab altero movetur, quod non confertur ei a movente aliquod principium talis motus: sicut serra movetur a carpentarlo: et tale instrumentum est expers libertatis. Alio modo dicitur instrumentum magis communiter quidquid est movens ab alio motum, sive sit in ipso principium sui motus, sive non: et sic ab instrumento non oportet quod omnino excludatur ratio libertatis: quia aliquid potest esse ab allo motum, quod tamen se ipsum movet: et ita est de mente humana." St. Thomas Aq., De Ver., q. 24, art. I, ad 5.

{7} "Sic ergo Deus est causa actionis cujuslibet in quantum dat virtutem agendi, et in quantum conservat eam, et in quantum applicat actioni et in quantum ejus virtute omnis alia virtus agit. Et cum conjunxerimus his, quod Deus sit sua virtus, et quod sit intra rem quamlibet, non sicut pars essentiae, sed sicut tenens rem in esse, sequetur quod ipse in quolibet operante immediate operetur, non exciusa operatione voluntatis et naturae." De Pot., q. 3, art. 7.

{8} Exterior actio Dei et creaturae una et eadem est, Ut diximus. Et ideo secundum eam rationem non potest actio creaturae manare aut pendere proprie ab actione Dei, neque e converso actio Dei potest proprie causare actionem creaturae, quia idem non causat seipsum, neque pendet a seipso. Item, quia actio solum est causa sui termini, et non est causa nisi per modum vim: actio autem Dei non est via ad actionem creaturae, sed ad effectum, neque actio est terminus actionis. . . . Loquendo de actione externa, tam Dei quam creaturae, sic non potest una dici prior natura quam alia, prioritate causalitatis, quia ut ostensum est, cum sint una et eadem actio, non potest inter eas intercedere vera causalitas." Suarez. Disp. Metaph., XXII., sect. 3, nn. 8, 10.

{9} Deus praebet unicuique causae secundae concursum modo accomodato naturae ejus. Sed haec est natura causae liberae, ut, positis ceteris conditionibus praerequisitis, sit indifferens ad plures actus: ergo debet etiam recipere in actu primo concursum modo indifferente: ergo debet, quantum est ex parte Dei, illi offerri concursum, non tantum ad unum actum, sed ad plures. . . . alias voluntas creata nunquam esset proxime potens ad plures actus efficiendos: ergo nunquam esset libera quoad specificationem actus." Disp. Metaph., XXII., sect. 4, n. 21.

{10} Cf. St. Thomas Aq., De Pot., q. 3, art. 7, ad 7.

{11} Disp. Metaph., XXII., sect. 2, 00. 20 seqq., 47 seqq.; Cf. Urráburu, Theodicaea, t. ii., p. 835 (Valladolid, 1900).

{12} Disp. Metaph., XXII., sect. 3, n. 4,

{13} "Una actio non procedit a duobus agentibus unius ordinis: sed nihil prohibet quin una et eadem actio procedat a primo et secundo agente" St. Thomas Aq., Summa Th., I., q. 105, art. 5, ad 2.

{14} Supra, Ch. xii., § 1.

{15} Difficulty is sometimes felt in regard to the doctrine that the judicium ultimo-practicum is the final determinant of the free act. It is asked whether this does not involve us in an infinite regress. Does not the choice of this judgment rather than another suppose a previous act of will, and this again a previous judgment, and so on? To this it is replied that there is no regress. The practical judgment determines the act of will in the order of formal causality while in the order of efficient causality this same volition is productive of this judgment rather than of one to a different effect. Reciprocal causality is impossible where we are concerned with causes of the same order. But, as Aristotle pointed out (Meta ph., V., c. ii.), it occurs where the causes are in different orders. Such is the account of the free act accepted hy the Thomist school. It would seem to he preferable to that advocated by Suarez, who holds that even after the final practical judgment, the will is able to choose freely between the alternatives presented to it. (Disp. Metaph., XIX., sect. 6); cf. Garrigou-Lagrange, op. cit. § 61.

{16} Supra, Ch. v., § 2.

{17} Sic ergo illa causa quae facit voluntatem aliquid velle, non oportet quod ex necessitate hoc faciat: quia potest per ipsam voluntatem impedimentum praestari, vel removendo eam considerationem, quae inducit eam ad volendum, vel considerando oppositum, scilicet quod hoc quod proponitur ut bonum, secundum aliquid non est bonum." St. Thomas Aq. De. Malo, q. 6, art. 1, ad 15.

{18} Si ergo apprehendatur aliquid ut bonum conveniens secundum omnia particularia quae considerari possunt, ex necessitate movebit voluntatem: et propter hoc ex necessitate appetit beatitudinem. . . Dico autem ex necessitate quantum ad determinationem actus, quia non potest velle oppositum: non autem quantum ad exercitium actus, quis potest aliquis non velle tunc cogitare de beatitudine: quia etiam ipsi actus intellectus et voluntatis particulares sunt. De Malo, q. 6, art. 1.

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