Will as Intellective Appetite for What Is Good

'An appetite for good is in all things,' Aquinas says in SCG II, 'since, as philosophers teach, the good is what all things have an appetite for. Now in things that lack cognition this sort of appetite is of course called natural appetite; a stone, for example, is said to have an appetite for being farther down [than it is]. But in things that have sensory cognition it is called animal [instinctual or sensory] appetite, which is divided into the concupiscible and the irascible [e.g. the instincts to seek food or to avoid pain, and to struggle for survival]. In those that have intellective cognition, however, it is called intellective or rational appetite, which is will' (11.47.1237).

end p.201


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As physical objects, as animals, and as rational, human beings are characterized by all three species of the universal appetite for good, but by will distinctively. And what differentiates will from other appetites is will's essential association with intellect, paralleling the essential association of our instinctual drives with sense-perception. In the passage I just quoted, however, the nature of will's association with intellect is left unspecified. For all that's said there, 'will' might designate no more than a special instantiation of the universal appetite found in beings that have intellect, somewhat as 'heliotropism' designates one of its instantiations found in beings that have roots. But, naturally, Aquinas thinks that the occurrence of the universal appetite in the absence of all cognition, or associated essentially with one or the other sort of cognition, produces relationships that distinctively link the appetite with the good it's oriented toward:

All things are inclined by appetite in their own way toward what is good, but variously. [I'm omitting the accounts of natural and animal appetite in this passage.] Now some things are inclined toward what is good along with a cognition on the basis of which they cognize the essential nature of good—a condition proper to intellect—and these things are the ones most fully (perfectissime) inclined toward what is good. [It is,] of course, not as if they were directed toward what is good [for them] only by something other than themselves, like things that lack cognition, or [inclined] toward what is good only in some particular way, like things that have only sensory cognition. Instead, they are as if inclined toward goodness itself, considered universally.

And that inclination is called will. (ST la.59.1c)

7 See also ST la.59.4c: '[Tlhe object of intellective appetite (which is called will) is what is good considered in connection with the universal essential nature of the good (nor can there be any appetite except for what is good). That is why appetite in the intellective part [of the soul] is not divided in accordance with a distinction of any particular goods, as the sensory appetite is divided [into the concupiscible and the irascible], [The sensory appetite] is not oriented toward (respicit) good considered in connection with [its] universal essential nature but rather toward some sort of particular good.' Perhaps Aquinas's fullest account of these species of appetite for the good is the one he provides in QDV 23.1c.

Of course, Aquinas ascribes to one's will activities that have standardly been associated with it, such as making choices and, on that basis, directing one's other faculties. But in all the passages we've been considering so far, it is not will's activities that concern him, but rather its fundamental nature. And in Aquinas's view its nature is fundamentally not that of an independent, equipoised end p.202


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved capacity for choice, but that of an innate inclination toward what is cognized as good by each individual intellect naturally associated with each individual will. Choosing, directing, and any other acts or states of will are manifestations of the appetite that is will's essence, manifestations that are variously but inevitably shaped by intellective cognition.

Although Aquinas mentions only creatures in these passages in which he is characterizing will quite generally, nothing he has to say about it there is incompatible with attributing will to God. Whatever Aquinas turns out to mean by identifying will in human beings with an inclination 'toward goodness itself, considered universally', it's an identification that seems (and is) made to order for an attribution of will to the being that, he has already argued, is 'goodness itself' (1.38) and a being that 'intellectively cognizes himself perfectly' (1.47).

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