Philosophy of Evolution: Purpose

The Scholastic Solutions


Neo-Scholastic Philosophers solve the problem of finality in evolution in an Aristotelian and an affirmative way.

Klubertanz proposes a solution to Evolutionism needing a concept of purpose by explaining just how this is able to happen. Evolutionism, from one species to a new species as philosophically possible at all, was already explained through secondary causality, but what explains the progress of evolution to higher species? Briefly, essential evolution of living things up to and including the human body (the whole man with his spiritual soul excluded) is explained through equivocal causality, chance, and Providence.58

Equivocal causality is the name that Klubertanz gives to the operation of a second unexpected cause, which interferes with the first line of causality, in a chance encounter. In theory, when one line of causality is interfered with second line of causality, the result could be completely equivalent to the causality proper and proportionate to a nature higher than either of the interfering causes themselves.59 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." In the quotation below we ask could St. Thomas Aquinas support Klubertanz’s equivocal causality ("whatever way things change") by affirming multiple lines of causality ("all things") leading to greater order ("ultimate goal") in the universe? Yes, St. Thomas teaches, "The same divine wisdom is the efficient cause of all things, and not only gives things their existence but also in things existence with order, in so far as things are joined to one another in order to the ultimate whatever way things change" (Aquinas De Divinis Nominibus, 4. 733).60

Chance events on the level of secondary created causes is an uncaused meeting or interference of two independent lines of causality, says Klubertanz.61 This chance meeting of two independent lines of causality is inexplicable, unintelligible, just like Aristotle’s example of the creditor and the debtor accidently meeting in the marketplace. Does St. Thomas support Klubertanz by admitting chance? Yes, St. Thomas states, "From the foregoing it appears that Divine Providence does not remove fortune and chance from things" (Aquinas Summa Contra Gentiles 3. 74).62

Providence is involved, Klubertanz rightly concludes.63 A chance event happens only with regard to a to the created causes involved. There is no chance if we take into consideration all the causes involved. What is chance with regard to creatures is actually planned by Divine Providence. And because the two independent lines of causality are unified in the divine intellect, there is a unified cause to account for a single effect. In this was chance and Divine Providence can explain the origin of effects higher than their created causes. Could St. Thomas support Klubertanz’s view of the influence of Providence? Yes , he can for St. Thomas teaches: "Providence consists precisely in this predisposing of beings to their goal" (Aquinas Summa Theologiae 1. 22. 1).64

Klubertanz does an excellent work of explanation. However, he does not put his proof into a syllogistic argument. It appears several arguments can be developed from the principle of finality and the principle of sufficient reason.

The first argument is from the Principle of Finality. Every agent acts toward a goal.65 But Evolutionism is a process in which agents act for the origin of species. Therefore, evolutionary agents have finality, or purpose.

The major premise of the above argument is the principle of finality. The minor premise is the definition of Evolutionism, minimally that the agents of evolution work for the origin of (new) species, and at maximum the agents of evolution work for a higher grade of species. Klubertanz (backed by the principles of Aquinas) give a philosophical explanation of how this evolution to a higher grade can happen. The conclusion follows from the "action" of evolutionary agents.

Another, second, argument is from the Principle of Finality. Material causality inclines (finality) toward a higher grade of being. But Evolutionism involves material causality. Therefore Evolutionism inclines (finality) toward a higher grade of being.

The major premise of the above argument is the principle of finality: every agent acts toward a goal,66 and it is a fact that such a goal (higher grades of being) exists.67 The minor premise is explained by Evolutionism involving the possibility of inherited characteristics, which are not formal, but on the side of material dispositions, which is peculiar to living things;68 the appetite of matter inclines it to higher grades of being.69 Therefore, Evolutionism inclines (finality) to a higher grade of being.

The third argument is from the Principle of Sufficient Reason. A sufficient reason is needed for transformation (finality) to a higher grade of being. But equivocal causality, chance and Providence are a sufficient reason for transformation (finality) to a higher grade of being. But again Evolutionism involves equivocal causality, chance and Providence. Therefore, Evolutionism involves causality that is a sufficient reason for transformation (finality) to a higher grade of being.

The major premise of the argument above is the principle of sufficient reason itself: Nothing exists without a sufficient reason.70 The major premise asserts that transformation exists,71 and that higher grades of being exist.72 The first minor premise philosophically explains the elements necessary for transformation to a higher grade of being, avoiding determinism by equivocal causality, and avoiding indeterminism by Providence;73 and this is supported by science.74 The second minor defines Evolutionism as a process that involves multiple causalities, both contingent and divine,75 and the need for causality in the transformation to a higher grade of being is supported by the principle of causality: Whatever contingently exists has its efficient cause.76 Therefore, Evolutionism involves causality that is a sufficient reason for transformation (finality) to higher grades of being.

Is the theory of equivocal causality of Klubertanz adequate enough to explain regressive evolution? Yes, it is adequate.77 "Regressive evolution" is that type of evolution in which the offspring would be essentially less perfect than the parent, and on the scientific level an example are parasites. In this case of regressive evolution the equivocal causality would allow the emergence of a lesser perfection virtually contained in a greater. Thus chance and Providence can also explain the origin of effects that are lower than their created causes.

Does the common doctrine of Neo-Scholastic philosophers support the theory of Klubertanz? An number of Neo-Scholastic philosophers affirm the principle of finality without directly considering its application to Evolutionism. However, since the principle of finality is a "first principle" of absolute certainty and universal application, so considered by Neo-Scholastic philosophy,78 their affirmations cite below confirm the application of the principle of finality to Evolutionism. Thus, they confirm the absolute need for finality in evolution.

Calcagno notes that natural bodies operate for an end because always or frequently they operate in a constant way to gain what is the best.79 This is finality.

De Finance notes that potency or appetite is a relation. The inclusion of the goal in the appetite is the good which the appetite demands.80 This is internal finality.

Dougherty notes that the Creator can "direct them (creatures) to other than their connatural objects. All this God can do without undoing the nature of mobile being. It is to be noted that properties flow from the nature of a thing, but they do not constitute its nature or essence. Consequently, God can suspend actions proper to a being without destroying its essence."81 Dougherty’s use of "direct" indicates finality, and "other...objects" implies Evolutionism. This rich text also involves Providence and Governance.

Donat notes that material in all its changes "quasi" desires this, that it become man.82 Form is educed from the potency of the material (except for the human soul which is created). All other forms depend for their existence...depend on the material in becoming.83 This is internal finality.

Gardeil proves the principle of finality, citing Aristotle, from the regularity in nature, from art imitating nature, and from adaptation of plants and animals that can be observed in nature.84 Concerning a metaphysical proof, Gardeil cites Aquinas that movement must have a goal.85 Concerning irrational creatures, St. Thomas notes: "The entire irrational world is related to God as an instrument is to a principle agent (Aquinas Summa Theologiae 1-2. 1. 2).86

Glenn explicitly notes, everything that acts, acts on account of an end (omne agens agit propter finem).87 The apple-tree has a way of producing apples, and the pear-tree produces pears. Internal finality is not difficult to prove, Glenn says, since the most positivistic of scientists relies on this constancy of nature. Glenn cites finality in St. Thomas, without a reference note, "If the agent were not determined to the producing of a certain effect, it would not produce this effect rather than that."88

Hugon proposes, "All natural things act according to an end." Proof arises from the fact that the removal of the first cause (final cause) removes all the others since material and formal causes depend on the efficient cause, which in turn depends on the final cause, and secondly, chance does not result in action that is consistent and uniform.89

La Vecchia notes that efficient cause has to have an orientation to one specific goal.90 The goal is the end, the movement of the efficient cause is the finality.

Renard notes that our own internal experience verifies St. Thomas that everything that is produced is directed to an end (Aquinas Summa Contra Gentiles 3. 1).91 This is internal finality.

Do Neo-Scholastic philosophers confirm the various elements in Klubertanz’s theory of equivocal causality, namely chance and Providence? A number of Neo-Scholastic philosophers give confirming opinions concerning chance. Ayala maintains that chance is an integral part of the evolutionary process.92 De Finance confirms finality, Providence and chance in that "the ordination of the universe to man is found in the order of essences...But because divine action respects the activity of natures, it suppressed neither contingence, nor liberty, nor even chance"and bases his views on Aquinas Summa Contra Gentiles 3. 72-74.93 Nogar affirms chance by writing, "...chance systems are involved in the process out of which order emerges."94 Further, a number of Neo-Scholastic philosophers agree with Klubertanz by giving confirming opinions concerning Providence. Benignus notes that necessity and contingency of created beings do not bind God because they are not conditions of God’s operation, but conditions produced by that operation, citing St. Thomas: "The order of Divine Providence is unchangeable and certain in this that these things which are provided by it happen, every one, in that manner which it provides, whether necessarily or contingently" (Aquinas Summa Theologiae 1. 22. 4. ad 2).95 Haffner cites Pope John Paul II who sees causality, chance and Providence in the universe, and is concerned that secular humanists might "ignore the law of causality and so would allow the cosmos to be a sufficient cause and explanation unto itself...chance...on human affairs which are then seen as merely fortuitous rather than providential."96 Finally, a number of Neo-Scholastic philosophers agree with Klubertanz by giving confirming opinions concerning the concordant operation of God with His creatures. Benignus notes that Divine Concurrence is the second part of Providence.97 Hellin confirms the operation of Divine Concurrence so that the whole effect proceeds from each cause, but not the totality of cause, because each cause is not the total and unique cause of that effect.98 Therefore, Neo-Scholastic philosophers do confirm the various elements in Klubertanz’s theory of equivocal causality, namely chance and Providence.



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