Gods Willing of Other Things

I began this chapter with the claim that although ascribing intellect to first being was not enough to warrant identifying first being as end p.217


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved personal God, the addition of will to intellect was all that was needed to fill out the warrant. And I characterized persons as entities that are typically

(though of course not always) fully conscious, self-directed, responsible, free agents that are capable of certain personifying attitudes toward and relationships with other entities of this sort, relationships such as wronging or loving. But Aquinas's arguments for will in God and his account of divine will so far have not provided grounds for ascribing to God all those personifying characteristics. The two most important components of full-fledged personhood that have yet to make their appearance are choice and interpersonal relationships with creatures. In Aquinas's account, the second of those components is closely connected with the first.

The main reason why neither of those components has yet appeared is that choice has been expressly excluded from the account of God's willing of his essence, the principal object of divine volition: 'God necessarily w\\\s his being and his goodness, and he cannot will the contrary' (80.676). Of course, there's nothing unexpected in that much of the account: it clearly does follow from all that's been developed in Aquinas's natural theology up to this point. But it leaves divine will looking not much like the will of a human person, and rather more like the earth's naturally necessitated, utterly non-personal, static appetite for remaining at the centre of the Aristotelian cosmos. If there's personifying choice anywhere in divine volition, then, it must be in God's willing of things other than himself—created things. But the way Aquinas introduces that sort of willing into his account seems unpromising in this regard.

To begin with, his own general theory of volition requires him to say that Vn willing himself [God] also wills other things. For it belongs to anyone who principally wills an end to will things that are directed toward the end, [and to will them] because of the end. Now God himself is the ultimate end of things (as is clear to some extent from things said earlier [1.74]). Therefore, in virtue of the fact that he wills himself to be, he also wills other things, which are in an ordered relationship to him as to [their] end' (75.639-40). Imperfect willers can and sometimes do will an end without willing any things that are directed toward the end, but no such perverse dereliction of willing is thinkable in God's case; and so it does seem obvious that God could not engage in the necessary willing of end p.218


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved himself without also willing whatever other things are appropriately directed

toward that end.

29 See also e.g. 83.705: 'Necessarily, anyone who wills anything wills the things that are necessarily required for it, unless there is some shortcoming in the wilier, either because of ignorance or because some passion distracts him from correctly choosing what is directed toward the intended end—things that cannot be said of God.'

Now, given the identification of that end with God himself, it is unthinkable that any things that may be directed toward that end could serve as means for attaining, sustaining, or enhancing it, even though in connection with human willing the things that are directed toward an end must most often be considered means. So it remains to be seen how, exactly, any things other than God could in any sense at all be willed by God because they are 'directed toward the end' that is God himself. But there's no doubt about which other things are being thought of here as willed by God for that reason. It's simply all of them; for 'in willing himself God wills all the things that are in him. But in a certain way all things pre-exist in him, through [their] own essential natures (as was shown above [1.54]). In willing himself, therefore, God also wills other things' (75.643).

At least two relevant problems emerge from this introductory account of God's willing things other than himself. First, since God's willing of other things is presented as occurring in his necessary, choiceless willing of himself, there's still no sign of divine choice even in God's willing of other things, the only other kind of divine willing there could be. And, second, attributing to God the willing of all the uncountably many other things there are certainly seems to threaten absolute simplicity. Aquinas, ever alert to apparent compromises of simplicity, deals promptly with that second problem. But the way he deals with it only makes the first problem harder, because he argues, as might be expected, that 'God wills himself and other things in a single act of will' (76.647).

His most effective argument for that conclusion proceeds by simply making the relevant aspects of his general theory of volition more precise:

What is cognized and desired perfectly is cognized and desired to the full extent of its power. Now the power of an end is measured not only in terms of its being desired in itself but also in terms of other things' becoming appetible on account of it. Whoever desires an end perfectly, therefore, desires it in both these respects. Now one must not posit any act of God's end p.219


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved willing in which he wills himself and does not will himself perfectly, since there is nothing imperfect in him. Therefore, in any act in which God wills himself, he wills himself absolutely and other things on account of himself. But, as has been proved [1.75], he wills things other than himself only in so far as he wills himself. It remains, therefore, that he wills himself and other things not in separate acts of will but in one and the same act. (76.649)

This single act of will—God's sole, eternally occurrent, all-encompassing volition—has already expressly been shown to be necessary and choiceless as regards its principal object, even if it is free in an attenuated sense. How, then, could any act identical with that act count as an act of choice? As we go further into Aquinas's account of God's willing of creatures, it's becoming only harder to see how choice can enter into God's volition at all. Aquinas acknowledges the difficulty: 'Now, if divine volition is for the divine goodness and the divine being necessarily, it might seem to someone that it would be for other things necessarily as well, since (as was proved above [1.75]) [God] wills all other things in willing his goodness' (81.682).

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