The Universal Appetite for Good

The genus under which Aquinas locates will as a species is what he identifies as an appetitus for what is good, an absolutely universal appetitus, associated with all being. Appetitus can't be given an accurate, illuminating,

one-word English translation in this context.

3 See stump and Kretzmann 1982: n. 18. Sects. 5 ('Will') and 6 ('God's Will') of that article are especially relevant to this chapter.

'Wanting' comes closest to getting it right for instances of appetitus in rational and non-rational animals, where it is associated with cognition, but even then only in case wanting X is understood as compatible with having

4 See e.g. SCG 1.77.659: Appetitus occurs 'in so far as appetitus is directed toward an appetible thing—either a thing pursued by whatever has the appetitus or a thing in which it [whatever has the appetitus] is at rest'; ST la.19.1, ad 2: 'In our case will pertains to the appetitive part [of the rational soul] which, even though it gets its name from "appetendo" (seeking), has not only the activity of seeking what it does not have but also that of loving what it has and delighting in it.' It seems that Aquinas may sometimes have recognized a strict sense of appetitus that was not to be understood in that way. Obj. 1 in In Sent. ('Is There Will in God?') argues against attributing will to God just because 'will is a kind of appetitus, but every appetitus belongs to what is incomplete' in so far as it lacks that for which it has the appetitus. In his rejoinder (ad 1) Aquinas claims that 'although will is said to be in God, it is not granted that there is appetitus in him, because, according to Augustine, appetitusi strictly speaking, is for a thing one does not have. God, however, has all his good in himself. That is why even in our case will is not appetitus, strictly speaking, when it is joined together with that which is willed.' See also QDV 23.1, ad 8, quoted on p. 214 below.

But since Aquinas would end p.199


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved include the heliotropism of (non-cognitive) plants and even the weight of (inanimate) stones among clear instances of this universal appetitus, 'wanting' obviously won't do in general. In the expectation that misleading connotations can be set aside, I'll simply use 'appetite' as a rough English equivalent for appetitus.

In one of Aquinas's SCG arguments for God's goodness he begins by quoting and offering an explanation of Aristotle's famous citation of a principle of universal appetite:

The good is what all things have an appetite for—which the Philosopher introduces in Ethics I [1, 1094a2-3] as having been very well said. But all things have an appetite for (appetunt) being actualized in their own way, as is clear from the fact that each thing in keeping with its own nature resists harm to itself (repugnat corruption'!). Therefore, being actualized constitutes the essential nature of what is good. And that is why a potentiality's being deprived of its actualization leads directly to the bad that is opposed to the good [associated with the actualization of that potentiality], as is clear from what the Philosopher says in Metaphysics IX [9, 1051a4-17], (1.37.306)

This interpretation of the universal appetite for good grows naturally out of Aquinas's thesis that the terms 'being' (ens) and 'goodness' (bonum) are the

same in reference and differ only in sense.

5 See ST la.5.1. On this thesis and some of its consequences see Stump and Kretzmann 1988; also MacDonald 1991b.

Part of what this means, as we saw in Chapter Four, is that any thing is good of its kind to the extent to which it is a whole, complete specimen of that kind, free from relevant defect, to the extent to which it is fully realized or developed, to the extent to which its specifying potentialities are actualized. And so a thing is good of its kind to the extent to which it is in being as a thing of that kind.

Now every appetite is only for what is good. The reason for this is that appetite is nothing other than some sort of inclination for something on the part of whatever has the appetite. But a thing is inclined only to something like [it] and suitable [for it] (aliquid simile et conveniens). Therefore, since every thing is some sort of good to the extent to which it is a being and a substance, it is necessary that every inclination be toward what is good.

end p.200

Kretzmann, Norman , (deceased) formerly Susan Linn Sage Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Cornell University, New York

The Metaphysics of Theism

Print ISBN 9780199246533, 2001 pp. [201]-[205]

And it is for this reason that the Philosopher says (in Ethics I) that the good is what all things have an appetite for. (ST IaIIae.8.1c)

So, the single referent shared by the terms 'X's being' and 'X's goodness' is X's nature to the extent to which it has been realized in X. The difference in sense between those terms shows up plainly in the fact that 'X is a good tp' explicitly commends X, as 'X is a tp' does not. A thing's goodness is its

capacity to elicit appetite, to operate as a final cause.

6 As at least a subsidiary final cause, since it may elicit appetite because of its perceived utility as something directed toward an end the agent is already inclined to, rather than as an end in its own right: 'Now the essential nature of what is good, which is the object of the will's power, is found not only in an end but also in things that are directed toward the end. . . . However, things that are directed toward an end are not good or willed for their own sakes, but rather in virtue of their ordered relationship to the end. And so will is drawn to them only in so far as it is drawn to the end'(ST IaIIae.8.2c).

And in a being that has cognition—instinctual, sensory, or intellective—the being's cognition of something as good for itself (whether or not that has already been attained) will elicit appetite for that, activating the being's innate inclination toward and approval of its own preservation and fulfilment. As Aquinas reads the Aristotelian principle of universal appetite as applied to imperfect, temporal beings, then, it looks like a not implausible principle of developmental inertia: a thing tends to actualize its specifying potentialities unless adversely acted upon.

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