Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ignorance of the Wrong-Doing Good

MAN BY NATURE HAS AN INCLINATION to do good. It is writ within his nature, as an innate and invariable principle, to seek his good. He is determined, in a general yet invariable and inescapable way, to seek his good, to implement it, to actualize it. Man is condemned, as it were, generally to seek his specific good, a good determined for him by his specific nature, a nature created by God.* It is, to be sure, a sweet condemnation, not a condemnation against which one should rebel, for its alternatives--to be free fundamentally to do evil, or to be condemned to do evil, or to have no specific end or good--are too horrid to countenance. In fact, to undo our condemnation would be to undo our very nature, who we are. It would call for an essential unraveling. It would be to pour us out as water, to put all our bones out of joint; to make our heart wax, and to melt it in the midst of our bowels. (cf. Ps. 22:14) So I repeat, we are condemned to do good. It is an unalterable, invariable law of our nature.

Je suis condamné à être libre?
Au contraire, Monsieur Sartre.Je suis condamné à être bon!

But this seems to be an absurd, or at least an empirically improbable, proposition. If man is condemned to be good in accordance with his specific nature by this unalterable inclination, why is there so much evil in the world? Why--if we are in fact under the compulsion of this inclination to seek our good--do we chose, or do, or want and desire (even if we do not chose or do) things that are not to our good, i.e., things that are evil? Something, it would appear, creeps in between the general inclination to our good and our concretization of that general inclination that makes man free to do acts of evil. What is it?

It is the presence of will, free will. And this interaction of nature and will brings us to an important distinction between what Bertke calls the "will qua nature" and the "will qua will."**

The "will qua nature" is the specific perfection or good congruent to its specific nature to which every created nature is ordained by God to incline necessarily. All creatures have this inclination, this appetite, this fundamental ordering or "will," whether they have free will or not. Man is counted among those creatures. Man has therefore a will qua nature. That will qua nature is ordered to his fulfillment, that is, happiness, beatitudo.

Man, however, has an additional component, specific to him, and which introduces him into the moral life: freedom of will. Man is thus able to determine or concretize the necessary appetite or inclination, the will qua nature, to particularize it, to seek to fulfill it or carry out, to give it expression, not through necessity, but through individual acts or goods which he is free to select. This appetite or inclination which man follows as a result of his own will (as distinguished from the specific appetite or inclination which is given him by God, the will qua nature) is the "will qua will."

As a result of his freedom, man is free to exercise his "will qua will" in a manner which is consonant with or in a manner which is opposed to the will qua nature. Man may seek his happiness in things that, in fact may not really make him happy if compared to what his nature really calls for. It is, however, in comparing the good sought by the will qua will with the good determined by the will qua nature that we determine the badness or goodness of an act. Hence, "it follows that the goodness of an object [sought by the will qua will] is to be judged according as it is connatural and proportionate to the subject [and its will qua nature]." Bertke, 20-21. The will qua nature is what gives us the standard, not the will qua will.

Here, however, is the problem as it pertains to ignorance of the good and the issue we are exploring (invincible ignorance of the natural moral law).

[M]an by nature is ordained to the perfect human good . . . . This good, which constitutes the final goal of man, must be an unlimited good, corresponding to the unlimited capacity of his intellect to conceive and his will to desire such a good. In so far as this good is the necessary object of the will qua nature, it remains, in the present life, in the abstract (beatitudo in communi).

Bertke, 21.*** What this means is that the will qua nature in this life remains generalized, not particularized, inchoate and not fully formed.
[T]here is in man a natural appetite for the human good. The connotation of this term is made clear by [St. Thomas's] contrast between the will qua nature and the will qua will. The will qua will, according to St. Thomas, seeks things in line with its own determination and not of necessity. The will qua nature, on the contrary, seeks its object necessarily and it is in this sense that the word natural is to be understood.
Bertke, 21-22.

The human will is free, it has what is called the libertas exercitii, or a freedom of exercise, so that man need not act in accord with the necessary inclination of the will qua nature. Man can act in accordance with it, or he can not act in accordance with it (he can abstain). Man is however not free to act against it. The will qua nature remains invariable, though it need not be exercised: it can be put on "hold," in "neutral" so to speak.
The human person is free not to act; but when he does act, of necessity he must tend to an ultimate end. This ultimate end must be the total good of the person as proposed by the intellect. Hence underlying every human action is the desire for complete human happiness. Everything will is ordained to this ultimate end.
Bertke, 29.

Man is not free to determine his own nature, or specify what is, in fact, good for him. He has no libertas specificationis (velle hoc velle illud) in the matter of his nature, though he has it with respect to everything else. Therefore, when a human being acts, the will qua nature is incapable of choosing some lesser good or some evil (i.e., imperfect happiness) instead of perfect happiness. When man chooses a lesser good or some evil, man does so under the compulsory law that he must act in a manner which is consonant with his will qua nature. But since the will qua nature can be put on hold, in neutral, man has in him the freedom in choosing specific goods, that is, in exercising his will qua will, to choose contrary to what the will qua nature would otherwise demand. In choosing the means to his good, to his happiness, man is free. And so in the selection of particular goods, man is free, free even to act against his own good, his own perfect happiness.
The goal of man, perfect happiness, is established by God; nothing can change this. Because he has an end, man seeks the means to the end. . . . However, the dependence of the will qua will on the will qua nature is not the same as that of the will qua nature upon nature itself, for, whereas the will qua nature is drawn necessarily toward the goal established by nature, the selection of the final gaol in the concrete and of the means to the goal, which are the objects of the will qua will, are left to man's self-determination. Further, man in his present state can deliberately choose a false goal of happiness and means that do not lead to the true goal of his nature in the concrete.
Bertke, 22-23.

This freedom is at the heart of the entire moral order, for the entire moral order seeks to govern, guide, rule the freedom so that man may exercise it in conformity with his own good, ultimately to his own real happiness. Thus, the injunction "do good" and "avoid evil" is not aimed at man's will qua nature, but is aimed at where man is free, in the exercise of his will qua will.

The principle, "do good," enters here. It is the first principle of the moral order. It is not the mere expression of man's necessary inclination to perfect happiness considered in the abstract [beatitudo communis]. Though it is based on this inclination, in itself it has solely to do with the choosing of the particular end and means, for only concerning these is man free, and only where man is free can there be a moral law. The principle, "do good," is only another way of saying, "use the means that lead to your end," "act for your true end."

Bertke, 23.
*How different is this principle, that man is "condemned" to be good, compared to Sartre's famous principle that man is condemned to be free ("Je suis condamné à être libre," I am condemned to be free, he famously stated in his book Being and Nothingness. To get there he also has to say "L'existence précède et commande l'essence," existence precedes and commands essence, for the moment that that principle of existentialism is reversed, that essence precedes existence, then instead of being "condemned" to be free, we are "condemned" to do good. Of course, Sartre also places good and freedom in false opposition, as there is no opposition between freedom and our nature. Freedom, moreover, does not fundamentally mean the ability to do good and evil, but rather the liberty to do good and concretize or instantiate the good, so freedom is ordered to the good, and not in any manner opposed to it.
**The distinction is found in St. Thomas Aquinas's work De Veritate, q. 22 a. 5 co.
Hoc autem est cuiuslibet naturae creatae, ut a Deo sit ordinata in bonum, naturaliter appetens illud. Unde et voluntati ipsi inest naturalis quidam appetitus boni sibi convenientis. Et praeter hoc habet appetere aliquid secundum propriam determinationem, non ex necessitate; quod ei competit in quantum voluntas est.

Sicut autem est ordo naturae ad voluntatem, ita se habet ordo eorum quae naturaliter vult voluntas, ad ea respectu quorum a seipsa determinatur, non ex natura. Et ideo, sicut natura est voluntatis fundamentum, ita appetibile quod naturaliter appetitur, est aliorum appetibilium principium et fundamentum. In appetibilibus autem finis est fundamentum et principium eorum quae sunt ad finem; cum quae sunt propter finem, non appetantur nisi ratione finis. Et ideo, id quod voluntas de necessitate vult quasi naturali inclinatione in ipsum determinata, est finis ultimus, ut beatitudo . . . .

[Bertke's translation]

Every created nature is divinely ordained to the good, and seeks this good naturally. Hence, there is in the will a natural appetite for the good congruent to itself: over and above this it has an appetite to seek things according to its own determination and not of necessity. The object of this second inclination is the good which is sought by the will qua will.

Moreover, the relations between the objects sought by the will qua nature and the objects sought by the will qua will are the same as the relation between nature and will. And therefore, just as nature is the foundation of the will, so also the object naturally sought by the will qua nature is the foundation of the things sought by the will qua will. In the objects of the appetite, moreover, the end is the foundation and principle of those things which lead to the end, since they are sought only in relation to the end. And therefore the object of the will qua nature is perfect happiness.

[Schmidt's translation]

It belongs to any created nature, however, to be ordained by God for good, naturally tending to it. Hence even in the will there is a certain natural appetite for the good corresponding to it. And it has, moreover, the tendency to something according to its own determination and not from necessity. This belongs to it inasmuch as it is the will.

Just as there is an ordination of nature to the will, there is, moreover, a parallel ordination of the things which the will naturally wills to those in regard to which it is determined of itself and not by nature. Thus, just as nature is the foundation of will, similarly the object of natural appetite is the principle and foundation of the other objects of appetite. Now among the objects of appetite the end is the foundation and principle of the means to the end, because the latter, being for the sake of the end, are not desired except: by reason of the end. Accordingly what the will necessarily wills, determined to it by a natural inclination, is the last end, happiness . . . .
(The first (more liberal) English translation is found in Bertke. The second (more literal) English translation is Robert W. Schmidt, S.J. (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1954)).
***Beatitudo in communi means happiness in general, abstractly, inchoately.

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