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Aquinas and Natural Law by D. J. O’Connor (auth.) PDF

By D. J. O’Connor (auth.)

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Man always acts for an end. Indeed, everything, including non-rational creatures, does so. But whereas non-rational creatures are guided to their ends by external agents, as an arrow is aimed by the archer, for example, human beings direct their own actions. There is a final end (ultimus finis) for human existence, and indeed only one final end, which is the same for all men. All men's 26 desires are directed to this although they do not all know what the final good for man consists in. Otherwise, of course, they would not have the diverse interests that they do have, and would not turn away from their true final end by sin.

Thirdly, it has goodness from its circumstances, in respect, as it were, of its accidents. Fourthly, it has goodness from its end, to which it is compared as to the cause of its goodness. '24 This is not an easy set of distinctions to understand. Aquinas does not illuminate his very abstract account with concrete examples of all four types of goodness combining in a single act. We can readily see the point of the third and fourth types of goodness. The goodness of an action can depend upon the circumstances in which it takes place.

In short, St. Thomas seems to be in a dilemma: either human nature is something discernible in our structure and behaviour or it is not. If it is, then we have first to decide what particular degree and kind of form and function is indicative of human nature, and then classify candidates for human status as passing or failing in accordance with these standards. If it is not, then we have no means of knowing what a human being is and so no means of knowing who is human. Intellectual intuition, here as elsewhere, gives discordant results.

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