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efficiency of the Divine WiU ' **. To this occasionalism
Malebranche made just one exception, namely he allowed to
the himian will free action though without external efficacy.

150. Criticism. — First proof that the creature is an efficient
cause. If I consider myself acting, I become conscious of
two things : first, that my act is real and, secondly, that until
it is over and done with, it is throughout dependent upon me.
This double consciousness affords a valid proof of my own
causal power. Moreover I observe that between certain
external phenomena and my internal acts there is a constant
correlation : which is evident proof that the former are caused
by the latter. I will, for instance, to move my arm and it
moves, or that it should remain still and it does not move ;
I determine the force with which it shall move and it moves
to a nicety. What more complete inductive proof of the
efficiency of our will-action upon the external world ?

Second proof that the creature is an efficient cause. — I. If

'» ' Remoto motu, actio nihil aliud importat quam ordinem originis,
secundum quod a causa aliqua vel principio procedit in id quod est a principio."
St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. I, q. 41, a. i, ad 2.

•* De la recherche de la vhiti, Uv. 6"», 2 Partie, ch. HI.


we study the things of nature we see a marvellous variety
in type, in internal constitution and in function. Now what
is all this profuse variety in their natures for, if they are not
efficient causes ? Such richness would be purposeless and a
meaningless prodigality. Malebranche who makes the dis-
tinguishing mark of the Creator as opposed to the creature
to consist in His being the sole efficient cause, here undoubtedly
shows us a most unskilful and unreasonable Architect.

2. Occasionalism compromises free-will. — Again by attempt-
ing to safeguard the free causality of the human will, Male-
branche is inconsistent with his general system. If God alone
enjoys the dignity of cause and it is derogatory to Him for
finite creatures to be causes of their actions, why still allow
that man is master of such acts as tak^ place in his will ?

3. Occasionalism leads to idealism. — It was seen in Criteri-
ology (45, 60) that we cannot come at the existence of things
outside oiuselves except by estabhshing that these beings make
impressions upon us by their activity. Now, if we deny that
they are efficient causes, what validity is left to our proof that
real things exist in the external world ? Still more are we
unable to say anything about the nature of the reahties form-
ing the world. We can never get beyond ourselves and our
own mental states.

4. Occasionalism leads to pantheism. — If God is the only
cause, what utility has the world ? Why not straightway
deny its real existence and assert phenomena to be but mani-
festations of one divine substance ? The step is a short one
to confounding creatures with the personal God.

151. The Principle of Causality. — The Principle of Causality
is often regarded by scientists to be nothing more than a
general law of physics : that is to say, no material manifest-
ation — mechanical, physical or chemical — ever occurs without
having a material antecedent, or efficient, cause. So enun-
ciated, the principle applies only to the physical world and
has no metaphysical signification. Yet is it not patient of
another enunciation with this wider sense ? Understood in
a metaphysical sense we think that the principle may be
stated thus : The existent being to which existence is not essential
exists in virtue of some action external to it. Other proposed
enunciations the reader will find we have discussed in
Criteriology (40).


III. The Final Cause

152. Introductory, — A general conclusion we have reached
from our study in the last few pages is that for ' movement '
there is required the intervention of two intrinsic causes — the
material and formal causes — and one extrinsic, the efficient
cause. Now are these three sufficient for the production of
' movement ' ? Some, the mechanists, assert that they are.
Teleologists, on the other hand, require the additional influence
of a final cause, if the order of universe is to be adequately
explained. Design, purpose, finality, they find to be an evident
fact in the world, and this must be the immediate effect of
a final cause. That there are final causes, then, they are at one
in asserting ; but whether there is one in every particular
case and what may be its nattu-e and what the precise extent
of its finahty they do not determine.

As to the character of the finahty which is reahzed in the
world there is a divergence of opinion among teleologists :
Descartes, Leibniz, and the French Eclectics profess that it is
extrinsic ; Aristotle, St. Thomas and Scholastics in general
that it is above all intrinsic and irnmanent. This does not
however imply that Scholastic philosophy denies extrinsic
finahty : on the contrary, it considers that some things of
nature are made for others, that they are " useful ' to one
another. For example, the elements that go to make up our
atmosphere are so nicely mixed that in every cUmate organic
Ufe is rendered possible ; the organic kingdom is subordinate
to the animal kingdom ; our globe is just so situated in rela-
tion to the sun as to conduce to the maintenance and develop-
ment of organic fife. What is meant is that these relations
of extrinsic ptirpose are the result of a much deeper finahty
that is inherent in every substantial being. Whereas, then,
according to the Cartesian theory the extrinsic order of nature
is achieved by God solely by the means of efficient causes and
maintained solely by the external action of His Divine Provi-
dence, for Aristotle and St. Thomas there is in the very depths
of all beings a tendency which draws them to their ends and
directs thereto the exercise of their forces and, while they are
thus all pursuing their own intrinsic ends, other relations of
extrinsic finahty exist between them and constitute the har-
mony, of the universe. In the Scholastic theory the extrinsic


finality of the universe follows from the internal orientation
and disposition of each individual being.

Before justifying this conception of nature, it will be profit-
able first to analyse some of the ideas involved.

153. A Fuller Concept of Final Cause. Voluntary and
Physical Finality. — Let us take an example in which the
causality of the final cause is apparent : — A young man decides
to become a doctor. He sets himself to attend lectures and
to read the branches of study specified for the medical pro-
fession. Why does he do this if not to obtain his degree,
which will admit him to the profession. Because to be a
doctor is a career in life that appeals to him and is a good for
him, he pursues the studies which lead to it.

Purpose {finis) is a desired good which, because it is desired,
determines the will to choose an action or line of action judged
to he necessary or useful for its attainment. Aristotle defines
it as that for the sake of which something is done or made, id
cujus gratia aliquid fit.

The end or purpose is a cause, since besides the fact that
in the absence of the volition of it certain definite actions
would not occur (which is also the case with a conditio sine qud
non), it exercises a positive influence upon the manifestation
of certain actions and upon the order of their succession ; and
to exercise a positive influence is characteristic of a cause.

Furthermore, in the example we have just given the final
cause is a known good ; the finality or tendency towards a
willed end is directed by a judgment ; it is, as the Scholastics
say, ' elicita ', a ' psychical ' act. Our fellow men as well as
ourselves order their actions to some final result, which is their
purpose and influences their actions as means leading to it.
Similarly do animals seek things they perceive and want, and
adapt their actions with a view to the attainment of them.

But outside and beyond conscious volition and appetitions
we can discern in the physical world this same causality.
There we see a wonderful interplay of countless, varied and
ever-renewed operations issuing into results that are consistently
good and useful. This constant repetition of the same results
alike in the vegetable and mineral kingdoms, as well as in
the animal and human, demands for its causal explanation
the influence of a final cause.

Xn. both cases, in the subject possessing an inner sense or


consciousness, where finality is conscious and voluntary and
the influence of a purpose known and willed, and also in the
physical world, where it is neither known nor voluntary, the
influence is the effect of one and the same fundamental cause,
the finality of a final cause.

What is the nature of this causality ?

Let us try and determine the nature of this causality.

154. The Causality of the Final Cause. — The final cause
exercises an attraction upon the active powers of beings and
determines these powers or forces so attracted to will or to
tend towards the good offered to them. From this it is clear
that the causaJity of the final cause consists in an attraction
which it exercises upon the will and a consequent tendency
in the same power or faculty towards the good offered. Re-
garded from the side of the final cause, it is an attraction
exercised by the end upon the appetitive faculty ; regarded
from the side of the faculty sufiEering this attraction, it is a
passive modification. This modification gives rise to a desire
in the will towards its good, a tendency or, as we call it, an
' intention ' (in-tendere). The intention of a purpose involves,
as a natural consequence, the desire of the means which lead
to its attainment ; and, finally, this desire is the determining
cause of such actions as have to be performed for the end first
entertained and willed to be realized.

For a right conception of the causality of the final cause
we must avoid imagining that the attraction it exercises is
a physical effect of an efficient cause : for precisely when con-
sidered as an end, the good does not yet really exist in nature,
md therefore it cannot exercise a physical action on the
subject who is pursuing his desires. Similarly we must guard
igainst representing it as the physical effect of an act of know-
ledge : for knowledge of the good to be obtained is the con-
dition without which the attraction of the object woidd not
influence the conscious subject, whereas the attraction is
something belonging to the good itself. The final cause is,
then, the good presented to the will, and its causality consists
in the attraction which the good has for the appetitive faculty
and in the inclination which it engenders there. ' Sicut
influere causae efficientis est agere, ita influere causae finaJis
est appeti et desiderari ', is St. Thomas' summing up «^,

» " De verilate, q. 22.


This theory of finality is not limited to conscious volitions
and appetitions, but applies also to the final cause as mani-
fested in the domain of unconscious nature. Here it is still
always a passive inclination, an ' intention ', but the con-
ditions of its exercise are different. Here, unlike the voluntary
inclination which is evoked through the perception or imagin-
nation of a good end, the tendency is natural and innate to
the subject. Again, whilst the voluntary incUnation is an
accidental formal cause, the natural tendency is identical with
the substantial form of the specific type **. This tendency
which unconscious beings possess towards their ends the
mediaeval Scholastics did not hesitate to call intentio naturae
or appetitus naturalis.

This analysis of final cause will aid us to a better under-
standing of the meaning of nature and natural law.

155. The Meaning of 'Nature'. — ^Nature is in reality identical
with substance. Nevertheless we must not conceive it, as
the mechanists do, as any sort of substance endowed with any
sort of forces ; it is substance considered precisely as an
intrinsic, first principle of operations that are proper to the
being which produces or undergoes them. According to Aris-
totle ■ natura est principium quoddam (est causa) motus et
quietis, quatenus ad ipsum pertinet primo per se, et non per
accidens ' ®'.

Most of what is comprised in this definition has already
been explained above when we considered the idea of nature
(87), so that only a few points remain to be considered here.

Nature is callgd a first principle of action to distinguish it
from natural forces or faculties which are derived and immediate
principles of action. Further, it is called intrinsic to distin-
guish it from the ef&cient cause and the exemplary cause, both
of which are extrinsic, the one to the effect and the other to
the work completed after it as model. Lastly, it is said to be
the principle of operations proper to the subject, for the reason
that not every operation of which a being may be the subject
is ' natural ' : some there are that are contrary to its nature
and on this account are termed ' violent ' or ' unnatural '.

"■ ' Res naturalis per formam qua perficitur in sua specie, habet inclina-
tionem in proprias operationes et proprium finem, quem per operationes
consequitur : quale est enim unumquodque, talia operatur et in sibi con-
venientia tendit '. St. Thomas, Cont. Gent., IV, 19.

•' i'hys.. II. c. I.


Only those manifestations of activity are natural to a subject
which subserve the purpose for which it exists.

Every being that finds a place in the real world has an end
of its own, a purpose it is to fulfil. To enable it to obtain this,
it requires some suitable, or ' proper ', powers of action ; powers
which, since the end of the being remains the same throughout,
remain the distinctive properties of the being throughout its
existence. Now for their stability these powers require, in
each being, a persistent substrate in which they have their
foundation ; a substantial substrate that is their ultimate
principle, and to which the tendency towards the being's
natural end must in last analysis be attributed. Such a
substrate, substance so conceived, Aristotle calls ' nature '.

After these explanations there should be little difficulty in
understanding what are laws of nature.

156. Teleological Conception of Natural Law. — According
to mechanistic philosophy law means the regular and constant
appearance of certain phenomena as the necessary consequent
of certain material antecedents. It is a law, for example,
that every living being derives its origin from a living cell ;
which means to say, placed in certain conditions necessary for
its division or reproduction, a cell will divide or reproduce
itself and inevitably give birth to a new organic individual.
In the regular recurrence of natural phenomena the chief
feature that strikes the mechanist is the rigid determinism :
from such and such antecedents such and such consequents
must inevitably follow.

Now mechanism states a fact but does not explain it, or
rather it explains it only up to a point. Whilst the main ob-
ject of experimental science is indeed to assign to a phenomenon
its material antecedents and to notice the invariable character
of the bond connecting them, there is yet beyond the scientific
question a further problem which the experimental sciences
cannot face and which falls properly within the domain of
metaphysics. When we have learnt that certain antecedents
are inevitably followed by a certain phenomenon, and have
further observed that these various antecedents, these forces
whose exercise is the reason of the phenomenon, are in far
the greater number of cases productive of useful effects, the
question arises why it is that in spite of differences of place,
time and circumstances the same useful types — types that

M.S.P. — VOL. I. N N


are beautiful and good — ever recur. For this lelicitous
behaviour of all the forces of nature, for this regular recurrence
of the same effects, a sufficient reason naust exist ; and it does
exist, according to the teleological conception of nature, in
fi,nal causes.

These must not, however, be thought to take the place of
efficient causes : the actual presence of the conditions required
for a force to act are the determining reason of its doing so in
any particular case. It is the constant, harmonious direction
of the manifold forces of a subject to one end that the final
cause, the fundamental inclination of nature towards this
end, is required to explain.

In brief, then, a law of nature is an internal fundamental
determination in virtue of which a substance, as the first
principle of action, tends to realize a determinate effect. When
the effect for which a thing's nature is made becomes reahzed,
the thing is said to be obeying, or following, its law.

It may happen, however, that a thing does not follow the
law of its nature, that some other effect than that aimed at
by its nature is attained, and in this case an accidental effect

157. Accidental Effects. — Natural causes and effects
must be carefully distinguished from accidental causes and

A natural effect is one determined by the very nature of
the efficient cause. ' Effectus per se causae naturalis est id
quod consequitur secundum exigentiam suae formae ', or
again : ' effectus per se causae naturahs est quod evenit ex
intentione naturae '. When the agent has knowledge and
can will the effect, when it is ' ex proposito ', prepense, it is
said to be intentional : ' effectus causae agentis a proposito
est illud quod accidit ex intentione agentis '.

An accidental effect is opposed aUke to natural and inten-
tional effects : ' quidquid provenit in effectu praeter inten-
tionem est per accidens '. It is one which happens contrary
to the natural tendency of the agent ; in fact one we com-
monly speak of as an accident, a chance-event or a coin-
cidence. Just as a cause is said to be natural when it produces
an effect in accordance with its proper end, so the same cause
is said to be accidental when there attaches either to it or its
effect some event that is incidental, something not included


in the scope of its end'*. An accidental effect, then, is not
the product of any one particular cause alone : for, if the
teleological conception of the universe is true, every real being
is bound to produce its own definite kind of effect, its " natural
effect ', and can produce no other. If an accident happens,
it can do so only by some second cause concurrently acting
— in accordance with its own nature — and coimteracting the
production of the natural effect of a first cause. Hence it
would be wrong to speak of the natural cause of an accident ;
it may be explained by the coincident action of two or more
natural causes, but the coincidence itself, strictly speaking,
has no cause : there is nothing in nature predetermining it.
Observe how this leaves the principle of causaUty intact :
the accidental effect results from two causes or two series of
natural causes which " fall out ' together and react upon each

Let it also be noted that when we say that natural causes
combine and produce an accidental effect without there being
any objective bond uniting them, we are taking up a purely
relative standpoint ; we are viewing the coincidence of natural
causes as we know them, from the point of view of human
knowledge, not from that of the Divine knowledge. Divine
Providence must have taken into account the encounter of
two or more causes and the resulting event of their conjoined

Lastly, notice that only that event may be called an acci-
dental effect which does not occur regularly and constantly.
When an event that hitherto we have put down to the
fortuitous meeting of two or more natural causes occurs with
constant regularity, we change our opinion of it, since the
coincidence-theory no longer satisfies our need of a causal
explanation, and we find ourselves compelled to ascribe it
to an habitual cause, to a law of nature.

" ' Sicut entxum quoddam est per se et quoddam per accidens, ita et causa-
rum : sicut per se domus causa est ars aedificatoria, per accidens vero album
et musicum. Sed considerandum est quod causa per accidens dicitur dupli-
citer : Uno modo ex parte causae, alio modo ex parte eflFectus. Ex parte
quidem causae, quando iUud quod dicitur causa per accidens, conjungitur
causae per se, sicut si album vel musicum dicatur causa domus, quia accidenta-
liter conjungitur aedificatori. Ex parte autem effectus, quando accipitur
aUquid quod accidentaliter conjungitur effectui : ut si dicamus quod sedi-
ficator est causa discordiae, quia ex domo facta accidit discordia '. St. Thomas
In. H Phys. lect. 8. •


158. Corollary : Three Meanings of Natural Law. — Since
the order, or orderliness, of a whole makes a far more vivid
appeal to the imagination than that of the parts of a whole,
the human mind has ever spontaneously considered the ordei'
of the whole universe as the work of a supreme Master who
imposes His will upon the several elements of which it is
made ; and thus it would seem, as Suarez suggests, that ' law '
originally presented itself to the human mind as a command-
ment — i.e. of the Creator. Only secondly do the various
scientific conceptions of law come to be formed and accordingly
by way of metaphor. We may then, by proceeding deduct-
ively, distinguish three kinds of law : —

1. In its most fundamental sense law designates the natural
inclination of a being towards the end appropriated to it by
the Author of nature, an inclination or inherent tendency
which is the internal reason of all its activities converging to
this end.

2. As the result of all the forces of a being converging to one
and the same end is a constant and uniform manner of action
on the part of the being, law denotes in a more superficial
acceptation this uniform and constant manner of action of the
things in the universe.

3. Lastly, as the uniformity and constancy of action de-
pends on certain extrinsic conditions, the relation of an action
to the conditions of its exercise must be taken into account
in the formulation of a law, and this gives us a third, and the
usual, meaning of law as the expression of the relation between
an action and its extrinsic conditions. An example of such is
the law of gravitation that enunciates that bodies attract one
another in direct proportion to their masses and in inverse
proportion to the square of their distances.

159. Necessity of the Laws of Nature. — We may now inquire
what is meant when the laws of nature are said to be necessary.

A thing is said to be necessary which cannot but exist or
be so, and to be contingent which can not- be or be otherwise.
Moreover necessity may be absolute or conditional. An event
is absolutely necessary when this necessity is due to an ante-
cedent cause — material, formal or efficient — of its appearance ;
it is conditionally necessary when its appearance depends
upon a free end : for example, although you need not build
a house, although there is no absolute necessity for you to


build it, yet 1/ you will do so, you are bound — by a conscqii^U
necessity depending on the condition of your willing it — ^to
make use of materials requisite for buUding.

Now mechanists consider natural phenomena to be effects
of a rigid determinism, to be necessarily produced by efficient
causes, and in consequence natural laws to be absolutely
necessary by an ankctJcnt necessity. On the other hand,
the teleological conception is that phenomena are ruled by
the natural ends beings possess, and that since these ends
need not have been willed, the laws of nature are only con-
ditionaUy necessary by a consequent necessity.

Adopting this latter view, how fcir are we to say that this
conditional necessity extends ?

We say that law in its deepest, fundamental sense, as denot-
ing the natural inclination of a being towards its end, is neces-
sary. Does it, however, follow from this that the being which
by the law of its nature is directed always to one and the same
end is bound with the same necessity and constancy to put
forth its acti\-ity ; in other words, that law in the sense signify-
ing the uniform tuann^ of actioii of a being in nature is also

Online LibraryDésiré MercierA manual of modern scholastic philosophy → online text (page 52 of 55)