Good and Evil I

Good, having the nature of both perfection and end, is expressed by creatures in two ways. First, as we said before, the creature has a certain perfection in lieu of its form, which is the proper end of generation. Second, the creature obtains perfection by virtue of its activity. Both of these goods can only imitate the divine goodness in a limited and imperfect way. As the end of generation, form is the goodness of creatures, but substances which are composed, metaphysically speaking, do not possess this end essentially. Substances composed of matter and form or essence and existence cannot contain their own form or existence by virtue of their being. They receive such goods from something external to them. 

What we have, then, is an hierarchical order in which composite substances must receive their goodness from something which is essentially good. God, being his own essence, existence, and goodness, has goodness essentially. His goodness is not the end of some generation or the completion of some incomplete activity. All goodness in creatures is therefore a participation in His goodness.  In the same way, God's essential being demonstrates that he is the cause of being in all things, His essential goodness demonstrates that he is the ultimate end of all creatures. 


An Interlude

The proceeding posts constitute a brief introduction to 1) goodness in general and 2) goodness as applied to man specifically. Many people begin discussions of good and evil from a purely ethical or moral perspective without first seeking to articulate what is truly meant by "goodness." This whole discussion, though, has been about goodness, and inasmuch as we are discussing how man becomes good, we are discussing his happiness. Man, a creature who by nature seeks happiness, must look to God as that for which he longs. His happiness does not consist in anything else. To seek happiness in wealth, bodily pleasure, social status, or power over others, is folly, and it is in the misplacing of one's happiness in such things that evil consists.

The End of All Things V

Man's natural desire for knowledge cannot terminate in any created -- corporeal or immaterial -- substance. This is because as man penetrates the essence of things, that is, as he acquires their intelligible species within himself, he must necessarily understand them as secondary things, effects. No desire for knowledge, though, is satiated through the knowledge of mere effects. The perfection of knowledge, then, consists in a knowledge of causes, but not the types of causes of which we have direct sensible experience. All causes of this sort are not causes simply but are instead causes of some things and effects of others. My father is, in a way, the cause of me while also being the effect of my grandfather. The human intellect cannot find rest in the knowledge of such causes but must come to know the first cause, the Uncaused Cause.

When man comes to know God, his natural desire for knowledge is fulfilled and, since God is the cause of all goodness, no further desire can remain within him. To "see" God as he is, through His own essence, is the culmination of human life and is known as beatitude.

In conclusion, all creatures attain their end through the generation of their form. The possession of this end is called goodness, and it is through creatures' individual goodness that they assimilate to the divine goodness. Man, the rational animal, does so in an utterly special way. As an intellectual creature, his form is most properly attained through the possession of a knowledge of that which is most true, good, and existent. Knowledge of God, Who is truth, goodness, and being itself, is the final cause of man since it is this knowledge which brings man into his respective perfection. Man's end culminates in beatitude.