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The Fifth Way

The Fifth Way

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Published by Paul Horrigan

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Published by: Paul Horrigan on Jul 09, 2012
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THE FIFTH WAYPaul Gerard Horrigan, Ph.D., 2008.Final Cause
 final cause
is defined as
that for the sake of which something is done
, that is,
that which determines the agent to act or the goal towards which it tends through its operations
. Theterm final comes from the Latin noun
, and the Latin adjective
having reference or relation to an end 
here means the end in view, goal, purposeor aim. A final cause, which is an extrinsic cause, is an end to be achieved which moves theefficient cause to act to achieve it. That which makes the production of an effect desirable is thefinal cause of that effect. I would like to think that the final cause in our example of the
andits sculptor would be Michelangelo’s goal to give glory to God through this work of sculpture.
Cause of Causes (
Causa Causarum
The final cause is called the “cause of causes” (
causa causarum
) for it is the end whichdraws the efficient or agent cause into action, sets the goal, indicates suitable instrumental andexemplar causes to aid the efficient or agent cause in its work, and brings the agent subject to thetask of utilizing the material cause and in the determination of the formal cause of the effect. St.Thomas writes that “
the first cause of all causes
is the final cause. The reason is that matter doesnot get its form unless it is moved by the agent, for nothing reduces itself from potency to act.But the agent does not move except for the sake of the end.”
The final cause is a true cause for itexercises a positive (though mediate) influence over the
of a thing, moving the agent toact. The final cause does not exercise its causality in the way the efficient or agent cause does,for the latter operates through physical influence in the order of execution, while the former operates through a moral influence in the intentional order.
Studies on final causality: P. JANET,
 Les causes finales
, Paris, 1882 ; E. A. PACE,
The Teleology of St. Thomas
,“The New Scholasticism,” (1927), pp. 213-231 ; R. GARRIGOU-LAGRANGE,
 Le Réalisme du Principe de Finalité
, Descleé, Paris, 1932 ; C. HOLLENCAMP,
Causa Causarum
, “Laval Théologique et Philosophique,” 4(1948), pp. 77-109; 311-328 ; R. COLLINS,
 Finality and Being 
, “Proceedings of the American CatholicPhilosophical Association,” 23 (1949), pp. 36-46 ; J. WARREN,
 ature and Purpose
, “The New Scholasticism,” 31(1957), pp. 364-397 ; G. P. KLUBERTANZ,
St. Thomas’ Treatment of the Axiom “Omne Agens Agit Propter  Finem,”
 An Etienne Gilson Tribute
, C. J. O’Neal (ed.), Bruce, Milwaukee, 1959, pp. 101-117 ; J. M. RIST,
Some Aspects of Aristotelian Teleology
, “Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association,” 96(1965), pp. 337-349 ; A. GOTTHELF,
 Aristotle’s Conception of Final Causality
, “Review of Metaphysics,” 30(1976), pp. 226-254 ; R. ALVIRA,
 La noción de finalidad 
, EUNSA, Pamplona, 1978 ; G. VICENTE BURGOA,Omne agens agit propter finem.
 El principio de finalidad en Santo Tomàs de Aquino
, in
 Atti del VIII Congressotomistico internazionale (V)
, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City, 1982, pp. 329-341 ; R. F. HASSING (ed.),
 Final Causality in ature and Human Affairs
, Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C., 1997 ; R.M. AUGROS,
 ature Acts for an End 
, “The Thomist,” 66 (2002), pp. 535-575.
in Greek is
and so we say that the science of final causes is called
, and any explanation or argument which looks at something with reference to its end, purpose or goal is called
. The Fifth Way(
Quinta via
a posteriori
demonstration of the existence of God has been called the
teleological argument 
Summa Theologiae
, I-II, q. 1, a. 2.
The Principle of Finality
The principle of finality states:
omne agens agit propter finem
, that is,
every agent acts for an end 
. This is a self-evident principle understood immediately when the terms in which the principle is expressed are analyzed, for “were an agent not to act for a definite effect, all effectswould be indifferent to it. Now that which is indifferent to many effects does not produce onerather than another: wherefore, from that which is indifferent to either of two effects, no effectresults, unless it be
determined by something to one of them
. Hence it would be impossible for itto act. Therefore,
every agent tends to some definite effect, which is called its end 
Renardcomments on this passage from the
Summa Contra Gentiles
, writing: “In this penetratinganalysis, the nature of the agent as such is considered. The argument is applicable, therefore, toall agents, intellectual or not. An action is necessarily ordered to a definite effect, for the effectmust be determined to be
effect and not another. But what is it that determines the agent tothis particular action? Certainly not the agent as agent, for in that case all agents would always beordered to this particular action, to this particular effect. Consequently, the agent as agent isindifferent to any particular action. Therefore, it must be determined by something else. Thissomething else is what we call the end or final cause. In this case we shall find it to be atendency, an intention, an appetite.”
 The principle of finality,
omne agens agit propter finem
, is again explained by Aquinas inthe
Summa Theologiae
: “Every agent of necessity acts for an end. For if, in a number of causesordained to one another, the first be removed, the others must of necessity be removed also. Nowthe first of all causes is the final cause. The reason of which is that matter does not receive form,save in so far as it is moved by an agent; for nothing reduces itself from potency to act. But anagent does not move except out of intention for an end. For if the agent were not determinate tosome particular effect, it would not do one thing rather than another: consequently, in order thatit produce a determinate effect, it must of necessity be determined to some certain one, which hasthe nature of an end. And just as this determination is effect in the rational nature by the rationalappetite, which is called the will; so, in other things, it is caused by their natural inclination,which is called the natural appetite.”
We see here in this passage that if the agent were notdetermined to a definite effect it could not act and produce this effect and not another. Thus, itwould not act at all. It is this determination of the agent to a determinate effect is what is meant by the end.An agent tends to its end by its action or movement in two ways says Aquinas: “First, asa thing moving itself to the end – man, for example. Secondly, as a thing moved by another tothe end, as an arrow tends to a determinate end through being moved by the archer, who directshis action to the end. Therefore, those things that are possessed of reason, move themselves to anend; because they have dominion over their actions, through their free will (
liberum arbitrium
)which is the faculty of will and reason. But those things that lack reason tend to an end, by
natural inclination
, as being moved by another and not by themselves; since they do not knowthe nature of an end as such, and consequently cannot ordain anything to an end, but can beordained to an end by another. Consequently, it is proper to the rational nature to tend to an end,
Summa Contra Gentiles
, III, 2.
The Philosophy of Being 
, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1950, p. 145.
Summa Theologiae
, I-II, q. 1, a. 2.
3as directing (
) and leading itself to the end; whereas it is proper to the irrational nature totend to an end, as directed or led by another, whether it apprehend the end (by sense faculties), asdo irrational animals, or do not, as is the case of those things which are altogether void of knowledge.”
 The inclination which an agent has to attain the end, to act because of the end, is called anappetite. Now such a tendency to act for an end is obvious in the case of man. But what aboutother creatures, animate and inanimate? Do plants have tendencies? What about rocks andchemical elements? Do all things, insofar as they are agents, have appetite, that is, an orientationto act in a definite and determined manner? The Angelic Doctor explains that this indeed is thecase: “There is an appetite which arises from an apprehension existing, not in the subject of theappetite, but in some other: and that is called the
natural appetite
. This is because natural thingsseek what is suitable to them according to their nature, by reason of an apprehension which is notin them, but in the Author of their nature. And there is another appetite arising from anapprehension in the subject of the appetite, but from necessity and not from free will. Such is inirrational animals, the
 sensitive appetite
. Again, there is still another appetite following freelyfrom an apprehension in the subject of the appetite. And this is the
intellectual appetite
, which is called the will.”
 “Every agent tends to some effect which is the end,”
writes Aquinas. The end, therefore,is the effect as intended and not as produced, that in which the intellect tends. The end cannot bea physical determination, for the end which determines the action of an agent is not yet produced but intended. The end, consequently, is in the intentional order, the order of reason. But how canan irrational being, a plant for example, have a tendency determined by an effect not yetactuated? A plant is devoid of reason and therefore we are unable to postulate a final causeformally present and actually desired in the intentional order, the order of reason. But the plantacts for a determinate end, it has been finalized. The answer is that if a being acts for a definiteend it acts intelligently. “Every work of nature,” writes the Angelic Doctor, “is the work of intelligence,”
because nature acts for a definite end and since our rock is devoid of intellect,this inclination, this tendency to a determined end must have been impressed on it by anintelligent cause: “Therefore, things which can in no way know, can nevertheless have desire;that is, in so far as they are directed to a definite thing which exists in the material order. For appetite does not of necessity argue a spiritual existence as does cognition. Wherefore, there can be a natural appetite without a natural cognition. Nor yet is the truth of this hindered by the factthat in all cases appetite follows upon cognition; for this cognition does not belong to theseappetitive beings themselves, but to Him who ordains them to their end.”
 “Since a material being is determined in its own material existence, and has but onetendency to a determined thing, for this reason no knowledge is required whereby it woulddistinguish according to the norm of appetibility what is appetible from what is not. But this
Summa Theologiae
, I-II, q. 1, a. 2.
Summa Theologiae
, I-II, q. 26, a. 1, c.
Summa Contra Gentiles
, III, 2.
 De Veritate
, q. 5, a. 2, ad 5m.
 De Veritate
, q. 22, a. 3 ad5m.

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