JMC : Classification of Desires / by Henry Ignatius Smith, OP

Chapter III.

Subjective Classification of Desires in St. Thomas and in Ward.

Professor Ward's classification of desires is found exposed in his Dynamic Sociology which was published originally in 1883; in his Pure Sociology which appeared in 1903 and in his many occasional writings, notably in the American Journal of Sociology. Professor Ward thus describes the field of Pure Sociology (Pure Sociology, p. 4):

"By pure sociology, then, is meant a treatment of the phenomena and laws of society as it is, an explanation of the processes by which social phenomena take place, a search for the antecedent conditions by which the observed facts have been brought into existence, and an aetiological diagnosis that shall reach back as far as the state of human knowledge will permit into the psychologic, biologic, and cosmic causes of the existing social state of man. But it must be a pure diagnosis, and all therapeutic treatment is rigidly excluded. All ethical considerations, in however wide a sense that expression may be understood, must be ignored for the time being, and attention concentrated upon the effort to determine what actually is Pure Sociology has no concern with what society ought to be or with any social ideals. It confines itself strictly with the present and the past, allowing the future to take care of itself. It totally ignores the purpose of the science, and aims at truth wholly for its own sake."

Applied sociology is described as follows (Applied Sociology, p. 5ff.): "Just as Pure Sociology aims to answer the questions What, Why, and How, so applied sociology aims to answer the question What For. The former deals with facts, causes, and principles, tlie latter with the object, end or purpose. The one treats the subject-matter of sociology, the other, its use. However theoretical pure sociology may be in some of its aspects, applied sociology is essentially practical. It appeals directly to interest. It has to do with social ideals, with ethical considerations, with what ought to be. . . . Applied sociology takes account of artificial phenomena consciously and intentionally directed by society to bettering society. . . . In applied sociology the point of view is subjective. It relates to feeling -- the collective wellbeing. In pure sociology the desires and wants of men are considered as the motor agencies of society. In applied sociology they are considered as sources of enjoyment through their satisfaction. . . . Applied sociology may be said to deal with social utility as measured by the satis faction of desire."

Desire, according to Ward, is an inclination to experience agreeable and escape disagreeable sensations (Dynamic Sociology, vol. II, p. 322). Desires are those states of mind that involve a tendency on the part of the individual experiencing them to act in such a manner as will satisfy them and cause them to cease to exist. All of them are physical excitations (Vol. I, p. 603), propelling men to such acting as will best afford a gratification craved. Their basis is the nervous system. They are the springs of action, the social forces. Desires make known the need of the system which aims always to complete itself by securing the objects by which that self-completion is conditioned. Action resulting from desire has built up human civilization. Desires and the activities resulting from efforts to satisfy them furnish the matter or inquiry into the conditions of human progress and social change (ibid. 664).

Ward builds his system upon the philosophy of materialistic evolution. This leads him naturally to determinism in human conduct. The analysis of aggregation as found in the first volume of Dynamic Sociology represents the process by which progress was made from chaos to social organization. Intellect and will are highly organized forms of matter. All human action is determined by laws of matter, and desire of whatsoever kind is purely a function of matter in sensient beings.

St. Thomas builds his system upon the dualistic philosophy which traces the earth in its origin to the act of a personal God creating. This leads him to a libertarian view of human conduct in which the will is regarded as metaphysically determined to the good but undetermined as to the specific goodness of objects of human desire (la, Q. 82, a. 2). In other words the will has liberty of choice among relative goods. This liberty as conceived of by St. Thomas is extensively interfered with by the passions and by ignorance. Not all human acts are free. However, freedom is found among human acts. Intellect and will are spiritual, distinctively of the soul, discontinuous with matter. While human action is to an extent determined by laws of matter and the sensient appetite is organically related to matter, nevertheless intellect and will as forms of rational appetency escape the tyranny of matter and enter for the direction of their activity under the dominion of the moral law of God. The touching point is freedom of the will. According to Ward, all desire is physical excitation.

Professor Ward sees in the variety of human desires nothing other than manifestations of physical force acting under immutable natural laws which eliminate totally the thought of a freedom of action in the will. St. Thomas finds that human actions result from intrinsic principles, the powers of the soul and habits; and extrinsic principles, laws and divine grace.

Professor Ward, like St. Thomas, draws a distinction between the ends of nature and the ends of the individual. For the former, the fundamental ends of nature in the organic world, are the preservation of the individual and of the race. These ends are procured by means of desires inherent in the individual and leading him to perform with sufficient regularity the actions through which these two purposes are secured. Hence nutrition and reproduction give rise to two kinds of fundamental desire. They awaken two appetites, the gustatory and the sexual. The end of nature is the preservation and perpetuation of life; that of the individual man is the satisfaction of desire. The former is objective, constituting a biologic process; the latter is subjective, causing a moral or sociological process. Properly understood, these processes have no natural or necessary relation to each other (Dynamic Sociology, I. 469). These two fundamental desires explain the greater part of man's life. They are the original and essential forces back of social organization (Dynamic Sociology, I. 666).

Beside these essential human desires, there are others which Professor Ward calls non-essential since they have no direct and necessary relation with the functions of nutrition and reproduction. They have, however, taken on in the development of civilization, extremely important roles. "These are: First, the aesthetic sentiments, resting physiologically upon the remaining four senses, as the nutritive function rests upon that of taste: secondly, the emotional or moral forces, in so far as they can be distinguished from those presiding over reproduction and, thirdly, the intellectual forces, or the sociologic result of those yearnings after normal exercise which the mind soon begins to manifest when lifted above the necessity of concentrating its energies upon the mere supply of bodily wants. . . . The emotional forces may perhaps be most conveniently grouped around the dominant sentiments of love (with its opposite, hate) and fear (with its opposite, hope) . . . " (Dynamic Sociology, I. 471).

The following tables represent these social forces:

Dynamic Sociology, I. 473.

In Pure Sociology (p. 261), the terms are slightly different.

Physical Forces
(Function bodily)
Ontogenetic Forces

Philogenetic Forces
Positive, attractive (seeking pleasure)
Negative, protective (avoiding pain)

Direct, sexual
Indirect, consanguineal
Spiritual Forces
(Function psychic)
Sociogenetic Forces Moral (seeking the safe and good)
Esthetic (seeking the beautiful)
Intellectual (seeking the useful and true)

Ward's classification is based upon the relation of human powers to human progress. This progress assumes the continuity of the race. The essential social forces or desires are, therefore, those which lead the individual to strive to live and those which lead individuals to strive to make the race live. Aside from these essential forces, the esthetic, emotional and intellectual are looked upon as non-essential in their relation to the race purpose which is conceived to be ultimate. This division finds its principle, therefore, in a relation to progress and continuity. St. Thomas does not draw into his classification of faculties, a principle derived from their bearing upon progress. His conception of progress relates to the finding of the summum bonum or the perfection of the individual in God. His ultimate view is, therefore, spiritually individualistic and not racial as is the case with Ward. Since St. Thomas relates all of the processes of desire to the moral spiritual purposes of life, he descends into the individual, into the constitution of his nature to find his principle of classification. At certain points the two forms of classification overlap but the principle of discrimination is different in each case. Thus we find Ward distinguishing desires into essential and non-essential because they are essential to race continuation and progress. We find St. Thomas classifying desires according to the types of power or activity exercised in the individual. Vegetative appetency, sensitive appetency and rational appetency are three forms of nature found in man. The distinctions among them furnish St. Thomas with sufficient basis of classification, In the system of St. Thomas we meet God everywhere, In the system of Ward we meet Him nowhere except to find His existence denied.

According to St. Thomas, the fundamental purpose of nature is different in each form of existence. That is to say in each succeeding grade of life there is besides the purpose of the lower grades, another external purpose united with its own specific purpose. Thus if A represents the purpose of nature in vegetative life; B, that of nature for sensitive life; and C, that of nature for rational life, the purpose of nature in vegetative life is A. That of nature in sensitive life is A plus B, B conditioning A. The purpose of nature in rational life is A plus B plus C, C conditioning both A and B. Since man is A plus B plus C, we may say that one purpose of nature is the preservation of the individual and of the race. But we cannot say with Professor Ward that the fundamental purpose of nature, including man, is the preservation of the individual and of the race.

It does not escape St. Thomas' attention that the activities related to the preservation of the individual and of the race frequently interfere with and disturb the activities of intellect and will in man. It is the whole man that acts. Man is not pure reason nor pure animal. In the order of dignity and in relation to destiny the rational side of man is supreme. Hence in the mind of St. Thomas, the existence of the individual and of the race contributes to progress just in proportion as the individual is spiritualized, moralized, and kept through regulated conduct in touch with God and subject to his known moral law. "In all series of agents and causes of change, the end of the prime agent and mover must be the ultimate end of all, as the end of the general is the end of all the soldiers who serve under him. But among all the component parts of man we find the intellect to be the superior moving power: for the intellect moves the appetite, putting the object before it; and the intellectual appetite moves the sensile appetites, the irascible and the concupiscible, . . . the sensile appetite crowned by the consent of the will proceeds to move the body. The end, therefore, of the intellect is the end of all human actions. But the end and good of the intellect is truth. . . . Therefore, the last end of the whole man and his activities and desires is to know the first truth which is God" (Con. Gen. 3, c. 25).

When discussing the purpose of the individual as distinct from the purpose of the race our two authors agree in substance if not in spirit. Desires are understood in largely the same way as will be seen by a comparison of the table to follow.

Both of our authors hold that happiness is the end of the individual. They agree in understanding the function of pleasure as related to desire. They disagree fundamentally in the functions placed upon desires and in the moral interpretation of the relation of these to life as a whole. "All motives whatever are desires, and their satisfaction becomes an end of conation. In man, too, the satisfaction of desire in general, which in each particular case is attended with, or rather consists in, pleasure, acquires, in consequence of the highly derivative and greatly varied character of his desires, a distinctive name, not applicable to animals, and is called happiness. So far as the direct purposes of the sociologist are concerned, therefore, the ultimate end of conation is happiness" (Dynamic Sociology, II, p. 94). Happiness is "Excess of pleasure or enjoyment over pain or discomfort" (Dynamic Sociology, II, p. 108). St. Thomas holds likewise that "Every action is the result of man's desire for happiness" (1-2ae, Q. 1, a. 1). Happiness, according to him, means the satisfaction of desires through action. Pleasure is the natural concomitant but pleasure coming from the satisfaction of desires to do God's will is often obtained at the cost of bodily pain. Pleasure is the object of action in a limited way but not alone physical pleasure. St. Thomas might agree with Ward in saying that happiness is the preponderance of pleasure over pain, but the latter would have in mind pleasure unrelated to God whereas the former, true to his system of thought, conceives of no pleasure as true pleasure except when interpreted in its ultimate relation to God in human life.

The following table indicates the scope of Ward's classification and the places in St. Thomas where the subjects listed in Dynamic Sociology, Vol. I, are treated.

- I. Presevative Forces might be called nutritive (p. 482) and represent the efforts to secure necessary food supply. They are (1a. Q. 78. a. 1, a. 2)
-- (1) Positive seeking active preservation (hunger) (2-2ae, Q. 64)
-- (2) Negative securing protection (cold) and are covered in the subjective term want and its correlative subsistence (p. 485). This subsistence desire (under intelligent direction) (p.487) accounts for origin and development of (ibid.)
(1a, Q. 11, a. 1; 2-2ae, Q. 25, a. 7)
--- Art (Industrial p. 486) (ibid. Q. 66)
--- Industry (488) (ibid.)
--- Property (493) in the intelligent explanation of which we meet (ibid.)
---- Laws of Acquisition (497 ff) (1-2ae, QQ. 90-108)
---- Modes of Acquisition (524) -
---- Production and Distribution (528-581) -
---- Parasitic Acquisition through -
----- Robbery and theft (583) (2-2ae, Q. 66)
----- War (584) (Opus. 20; 2-2ae, Q. 40)
----- Statecraft (585) (De Regimine Principum)
----- Priestcraft (587) (3a, De Sacerdotio)
----- Monopoly (590) -
- II. Reproductive Forces operating for the future (598) preserving the race (ibid.) and considered as (1a. Q. 78, a. 1. a. 2)
-- (1) Direct -- results flowing from sexual instinct (p. 603) (1a, QQ. 98-101)
-- (2) Indirect -- dependent on generative function (ibid.), -- family, tribe nations (604). All of these forces are covered by term Love (610). From the mere desire (direct) to perform this act follow the whole physiological and psychological differentiation of the sexes (605-664). (Supp. QQ. 41-69)
B. NON-ESSENTIAL FORCES -- not indispensable to the life of either the individual or species (665). All are reducible to a physical basis (666) and are localized in the body (ibid.) and are divided into -
- I. Aesthetic Forces -- love of the beautiful in sight and sound 668) and account for -
-- (1) Fine arts that appeal to the eye (669), Sculpture, Painting, Landscape gardening and Architecture (669-672). -
-- (2) Fine arts appealing to the ear -- (672-674) (ibid.)
- II. Moral Forces -- meaning all the emotions grouped with their consequences (675). (1a, Q. 81)
-- (1) Love Forces (including opposite, hate forces -- 676) covering (1-2ae, Q. 22-49)
--- Parental Love (676) (2-2ae, De Charitate)
--- Consanguineal Love (677) (ibid.)
--- Patriotism (ibid.) (ibid.)
--- Philanthropy (ibid.) (ibid.)
--- Self Love (679) (ibid.)
-- (2) Fear Forces (1-2ae; QQ. 41-45)
--- Physical -- anticipating bodily results (682) from violence (684) of man (ibid.) animals (ibid.) inanimate nature (686) and spiritual beings (687) or disease. (1a. QQ. 106-115)
--- Psychical -- of a religious nature immortality, on which all religion is built (690-96). (1a, Q. 75, a. 6a)
- III. Intellectual -- source of man's superiority (697) and include Love of acquiring knowledge Pleasure of intellectual activity Control over nature (697 ff) (passim)

Our two authors disagree fundamentally in philosophy and in the moral interpretation of life. Ward concludes his thinking with a concept of race progress. This requires that he exalt individual and race preservation into primacy in his system. His conception of progress is expressed in the terms of a continually improving human race. The essence of this improvement lies in the increasing mastery of man over nature, the widening of the horizon of life of the individual which in turn is accomplished by the strengthening of the non-essential or ameliorating forces, namely, the esthetic, the moral and the intellectual powers. While both of them necessarily disagree in understanding the nature and function of free will, this difference does not result in important discrepancies in the descriptive portion of their systems in as far at least as the observation and explanation of desires are concerned. St. Thomas agrees in making the functions of the individual and race preservation fundamental in life. But this view of them is essentially moral or directive. He at no time separates these processes from their relation to the understanding and unfolding of the will of God in human life as a whole and the interpretation of life as the progressive revelation of the divine will on the part of the individual.

St. Thomas does not present to us any clear conception of human progress as the term is now understood. He gives us a theoretical concept of it in which its standard is derived from the relation of the individual to the realization of the will of God for that individual. We miss in Ward the clearcut and suggestive analytical view of appetency which is the heart of the Thomistic exposition. On the other hand, we miss in St. Thomas the thoroughgoing recognition of the esthetic forces such as is found in the system of Ward. The two are practically agreed in their explanation of the nature and functions of pleasure, but St. Thomas is led irresistibly to throw the atmosphere of ultimate spiritual interpretation around his treatment. This we miss in the work of Dr. Ward, who does not carry the thought beyond a conception of race progress. The work of interpreting the thought of each in the language of the other is beyond present purpose. Opportunity to make that study conveniently is offered in the above table. In the main, this dissertation is prompted by the hope that modern sociology may find it to its advantage to acquaint itself more thoroughly with our old theological and philosophical literature. At the same time, it may not be vain to expect those who are thoroughly acquainted with that older literature may find new insight in their own fields and a wider vision of truth by taking advantage of the splendid results of the research work that must be credited to modern sociology.

<< ======= >>