The End of All Things IV

All creatures, in their own way, seek to imitate the divine likeness. Man, though, does this in a way that is absolutely unique. Material substances, as material, are characterized by a certain finitude that is absent in creatures who possess an immaterial principle. Man’s immaterial principle, the soul, possesses an intellect which is in potency to intelligible species. In other words, the intellect is able to receive the forms of other substances without itself being determined to one thing. Potentially, the intellect of man is infinite.

The intellect of God is actually infinite. He essentially contains the perfections of all beings in a pre-eminent way (as was shown in a previous post). By fulfilling its potential for possessing all that is intelligible, then, man becomes more like God than any other creature.

Man’s knowing power begins with sensation. Our intellectual activity consists in rendering actually intelligible that which is only potentially intelligible within the objects of sensation. The end of man, then, cannot be fulfilled in this way. Man’s natural power of knowledge is proportioned to sensible objects, but he desires perfect knowledge of all that is, which means that he must acquire knowledge of that which cannot be sensed, i.e. immaterial substances.


The End of All things III

All movement is for the sake of perfection. This is because the perfection of anything is its goodness, and goodness is the fulfillment of some potency according to the act to which it is ordered. All created goodness, though, is good insofar as it participates in the uncreated or divine goodness. The divine goodness, then, is that for the sake of which all things move.

“For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28).

All things participate in the divine goodness inasmuch as they exist and move, but since the motions and activities of creatures differ according to their natures, each creature attains to the divine likeness in its own way. For example, all living creatures attempt to maintain themselves in perpetual existence both individually and specifically, meaning through the reproduction and care of offspring. In this way, creatures imperfectly imitate the eternity of God.

Atop the hierarchy of creation rests a creature whose perfection exceeds all other physical beings. This creature attains to the divine likeness in a unique and more perfect way than anything else. Man, the rational animal, is this creature.