Philosophy of Evolution: Purpose

State of the Question


The Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome has a philosophy department that currently demands some concept of purpose in Evolutionism.1 Purpose, or final causality, has always been a part of the explanation of reality by the Neo-Scholastic philosophers.2 The principle of finality or purpose applies to every agent, and thus applies to Evolutionism. Finality is the teaching of St. Thomas and our own experience tells us "that everything that is produced though the will of an agent is directed to an end by the agent" (Aquinas Summa Contra Gentiles 3. 1) and "Other things that lack intellect do not direct themselves to their goal, but are directed by another" (Aquinas Summa Contra Gentiles, 3. 1).3 In fact, St. Thomas describes in various ways that "every agent acts for a purpose" (omne agens agit propter finem) on several occasions: Aquinas Summa Contra Gentiles 3. 1; Aquinas Summa Contra Gentiles 3. 2; Aquinas Summa Theologiae, 2-2. 1. 2.

This need for purpose or finality is actually the central theme of the class presentation at the Gregorian University as illustrated in the current printed student notes. Finality of evolution also finds a prominent place in the title, Evoluzione e FinalitB, of the book by Maria Teresa La Vecchia, who teaches the course at the Gregorian University.

Author:  John Edward Mulvihill, S.T.D., D.Min., Ph.D.
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