Philosophy of Evolution: Purpose

Definitions and Distinctions


Programmed Evolution: Pope John Paul II notes that Evolutionsim may be envisioned as a kind of programmed creation, in which God has written into creation the laws for its evolution.17 St. Thomas appears to endorse the dynamic order similar to a programmed evolution in Aquinas Summa Contra Gentiles 3. 22.: "Hence the more final and the more perfect an act is, the more is the appetite of matter inclined to it. Therefore the appetite whereby matter seeks a form must tend toward the last and most perfect act to which matter can attain, as to the ultimate end of generation. Now certain grades are to be found in the acts of forms."18

End (purpose, aim, goal, end in view) (Latin: Finis) is that on account of which or for the sake of which something is done.19 In conferring a perfection, the end has the formal nature of good. In exciting and quieting the will, the end has the formal nature of goal. What leads to the end (finis) is called the means (medium). The Latin definitions of "end" (id propter quod aliquid fit; cuius gratia aliquid fit) indicate true and real causality (fit). The other part of the definitions (propter quod, cuius gratia) indicate the "mode" of influence, final causality.20

Finality (tendency of things for an end): An agent can act with finality due to the goal (or the good), either by self-movement to the goal, or by being moved to the goal by another. An archer wills the goal and sends the arrow to the target; the archer moves himself to the goal by intellect and will; the arrow moved by the archer goes to the target.21 Intrinsic Finality is the finality which is conformed to the demands of nature; it is "in" things themselves and gives them a bent or bias or influence towards their end, e.g., such finality is observable in fire as it tends to consume dry wood, or the tendency of a plant to grow to maturity.22 Extrinsic Finality is conformed to the demands of the artificer.

Final Cause: The final cause is the end to be achieved which "invites," in a manner of speaking, the efficient cause to work to achieve it. That which makes the production of the effect desirable is the final cause of that effect.23

Finality As True Cause: The final cause is a true cause because the nature of a true and proper cause is to influence "to be" in another. But the final cause really causes "to be" in another. Therefore, the final cause is a true cause. Proof of the minor: The final cause really influences "to be" in another, because it is the reason why the agent acts rather than not act. Confirmation of this influence of the final cause is from universal practice in responding to "why?" Why take medicine? In order to be healthy. The responses assign a cause, and when they explain by assigning an end, it must be said that the end is a final cause.24

Finality As First Cause: The end is first in intention and last in execution.25 The fact that something is desirable (desirable for the Neo-Scholastics is: causa finalis in "actu primo" sit bonum ut appetibile) makes it good; the fact that it is good and desired (desired for the Neo-Scholastics is: causa finalis in "actu secundo" sit bonum ut appetitum seu desiratum) makes things tend to it; the fact that things tend to it makes it an end or a final cause of the activity which seeks to attain it. Ultimately, the thing desired (first in intention) is actually attained (last in execution). From this analysis, the final cause "in actu secundo" is prior to the efficient cause. Further, the efficient cause is needed for the subsequent exercise of the formal and material causes.26 St. Thomas says: "Although in some things the end is the last with respect to existence, in the order of causality it is always first" (Aquinas In Metaph. 3. 782).27

Finality and Hypothetical Necessity: Aristotle and St. Thomas both take exception to those who hold absolute necessity in nature. A modern example would be the Fixists, who stress absolute necessity, as opposed to Evolution. Both Aristotle and St. Thomas hold the necessity of finality is preponderant in nature, but is hypothetical or conditional. For example, a house is built not because the materials are put together, but because a house was decided on. The end is the first in intention and the last in execution. Hypothetical necessity is tied to the condition that something is not yet effected, as St. Thomas notes: "...necessitatem ab eo quod est posterius in esse" (confer: Aquinas In Phys. 2. 15. 522). Ultimately, all necessity in nature rests on the final cause.28

Principle of Finality: The principle is "Every agent acts for an end" (Omne agens agit propter finem).29

Providence: Divine Providence is the conception and election of the means that things are able to attain their ends.30 Providence includes all, not even the minimum thing is excluded. Providence is immediate, so that God does not relinquish His care to subordinates, e.g., angels.

God is intimately present in the substance and operations of created beings; but the intimacy of the assistance God gives creatures leaves their efficacy of action absolutely intact.31 The Christian idea of Providence radically differs from a chance or chaotic view of the cosmos and of human affairs. It is precisely Divine Providence as the transcendent wisdom of the Creator that makes the world a cosmos rather than a chaos.32

Governance: Governance of God consists in the real action through which the means for all things are supplied by God, means which are actually directed or can be directed to their proximate or remote goals. Governance therefore consists in the execution of Divine Providence.33 From observation of the universal order of things, it can be deduced that God is the first principle of the universe. However, since the first principle of being is also its end, God must be the end of all things, which God relates and directs to Himself, and this amounts to governing them. Governance is also conservation. Governance differs from providence, because providence is an immanent and eternal act of God alone; while governance is an external, temporal act of God, which often is not by God alone, but by creatures concurring with God.34

Divine Concurrence: God’s concurrence, the cooperation of God with secondary causes to act, is the influx of God operating the same effect and the same action which also proceeds from the creature.35 Both God and the creature make the same entire effect, by the totality of the effect, but not the totality of the cause. Both make the totality of the effect, by the totality of the effect, because the whole effect proceeds from each cause; but not the totality of the cause, because each cause is not the total and unique cause of that effect. Divine concurrence is the second part of Divine Providence. Divine concurrence is proved: first, every agent acts by God’s power, since only God can produce being; and second, God is the cause of operating in everything that operates and produces the very effect this agent produces. Therefore, every agent which produces something in being does so inasmuch as it acts by God’s power.36

Chance: Chance can be considered as a "chance effect" or as a "cause."37 As a chance effect, chance is what incidently and without intention and opinion is conjoined to an effect strictly intended by some other cause; so it must rarely happen, and never with knowledge or intent. As a cause, chance is a cause producing a fortuitous effect, an incidental (per accidens) cause; this causality is "true and certain" even if the causal influence is "unintended, unknown, and unexpected," according to many Neo-Scholastics; this cause "per accidens" is called an "equivocal cause" by Klubertanz. Aristotle gives an example of chance (with its four qualities), when the creditor just happens to meet the debtor in the marketplace. Neither wanted to meet the other (not intended), nor did they always meet there (exceptional), but they could have decided to meet there (intentional possibility), but the fact was they did not so decide (not intended).38

Chance as Equivocal Causality: Klubertanz gives this name to the operation of a second unexpected cause, which interferes with the first line of causality, in a chance encounter. In theory, the result of the chance encounter could be completely equivalent to the causality proper and proportionate to a nature higher than either of the interfering causes themselves.39 Since in such causality there would no longer be a community of nature between cause and effect, it is very appropriately called "equivocal causality" or "equivocal generation."


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