Are all things good in and of themselves?


#1

When I made the statement today that my computer intrinsically is “neutral” that I can use it for good or evil, I was told “no” your computer is good. St. Thomas Aquinas says so.

Can you help me understand this position? It is very important to me.

God bless.

Lily Marlene


#2

Dear Lily Marlene, first I would like to quote what I believe to be the relevant passages from the Summa Theologica. Let me know if they need any further explanation/elucidation:

ST Part 1, Question 5, Article 1 (Whether goodness differs really from being?): "On the contrary, Augustine says (De Doctr. Christ. i, 42) that, ‘inasmuch as we exist we are good.’

I answer that, Goodness and being are really the same, and differ only in idea; which is clear from the following argument. The essence of goodness consists in this, that it is in some way desirable. Hence the Philosopher [Aristotle] says (Ethic. i): ‘Goodness is what all desire.’ Now it is clear that a thing is desirable only in so far as it is perfect; for all desire their own perfection. But everything is perfect so far as it is actual. Therefore it is clear that a thing is perfect so far as it exists; for it is existence that makes all things actual, as is clear from the foregoing (3, 4; 4, 1). Hence it is clear that goodness and being are the same really. But goodness presents the aspect of desirableness, which being does not present."

ST Part 1, Question 5, Article 3 (Whether every being is good?): "On the contrary, Every being that is not God is God’s creature. Now every creature of God is good (1 Timothy 4:4): and God is the greatest good. Therefore every being is good.

I answer that, Every being, as being, is good. For all being, as being, has actuality and is in some way perfect; since every act implies some sort of perfection; and perfection implies desirability and goodness, as is clear from 1. Hence it follows that every being as such is good."

For more context, including the objections and replies, go to newadvent.org/summa/1005.htm.

God bless!


#3

I don’t know who posted the excellent reply but I thank you, Now, I do understand that all that God created is good. That is simply told in Genesis. What I am stuck on is the word “computer” which I classify as an inanimate object, lifeless and sexless, put together by a human being. Of course this human being is good, because God is the Creator.

I guess I did not clarify the inanimate quality of a computer - does it make a difference? Would it follow therefore that cars are good, houses, etc.?

Maybe my understanding of "good " is the problem?

God bless anyone who can even understand my dilemma.

Lily Marlene :o


#4

Dear Lily Marlene, I appreciate your compliment! My name is Will R. Huysman.

St. Thomas in Article 1 used “a thing” so he means that every entity which subsists as a reality, whether living or inanimate, etc. is good inasmuch it exists, i.e. is good “as being.” Thus cars, computers, houses, etc. are good inasmuch as they exist or “have being”. Goodness and being are really the same, but goodness, unlike being, “presents the aspect of desirableness.” This is a distinction without difference.

Though it is a lengthy, take a look at the freely available old Catholic Encyclopedia article called “Good” @ newadvent.org/cathen/06636b.htm. I pray that it will help you to better understand the concept of “goodness” and the many senses in which we use the term. God bless.


#5

Happy to make your acquaintance, Will R. Huysman, and thank you, again.

I just finished the article on the newadvent website. It was important that I see the article written by St. T . A. a very old friend of mine. So old, that much of which I studied long ago,must once again be rediscovered. That single sentence “everything that is, is good, because it is” clearly substantiates the fact that my computer is good, simply because it is… Another way of saying it I find is- being and good are objectively the same.

I have as yet to reconcile the fact that, although I must accept it as true, I do not fully understand all that the statement implies since my untamed imagination is always at work.

You said that St. Thomas uses the word “thing”. Now that is an interesting word because I always think of one quotation from Sacred Scripture that has changed with the many translations.
A great deal is at stake as far as I am concerned as a result. But maybe it is only in MY mind. “And when I am lifted up I shall draw all THINGS to myself.” The old translation. The newer one says “And when I am lifted up I will draw all MEN to myself.” (meaning of course, all men and women but not all of creation.)
I have long wanted to get someone’s view on this particular quotation. What think you?

Again,

:blessyou:

:slight_smile: Lily Marlene

The divine clemency has made this salutary commandment, that even some things which reason is able to investigate must be held by faith; so that all may share in the knowledge of God easily, and without doubt or error.
Thomas Aquinas


#6

This is a really good question–are all human artifacts good? In terms of Thomistic philosophy, probably the starting question would be: do human artifacts have essences (which correspond to ideas in the mind of God), as natural things do? As I understand Thomas’s position, he would say that artifacts do not have essences as wholes–they are merely collections of parts put together by human ingenuity. So the original material things from which the computer is made are good; the mathematical harmonies that allow the computer to function are good (indeed are a direct reflection of the divine reason); and the human ingenuity that put the computer together is good in and of itself. But with this last one things get more complicated. Humans have the power to use their ingenuity for twisted purposes. It is possible for humans to use their God-given intelligence and the divinely created physical stuff lying around and the mathematical and other laws that govern the physical world (all of which are good in themselves) to create artifacts specifically for evil purposes. An obvious example would be a gas chamber at Auschwitz. The gas chamber is not good or even neutral, because it is constructed specifically for the purpose of murder. One could perhaps put it to a good or neutral use (if one thinks that just capital punishment is a good–as Aquinas did, though I’m more dubious–then one might conceivably argue that using the gas chamber to execute the Nazi murderers themselves–after a fair trial, of course–would constitute a good use). But I think it would be hard to deny that as constructed, in its historical context, the physical artifact called a “gas chamber” is strongly oriented toward a perverted, evil use. I would say that a nuclear bomb is even more unequivocally oriented toward evil, since one can’t use it without killing innocent people (and one could conceivably use a gas chamber only to execute murderers–of course I would admit that the intention of those engaged, say, in the Manhattan project was far less unequivocally evil than that of the Nazis in making gas chambers). But I didn’t want to start an argument on that point!

Similarly, one could conceivably argue that computers or televisions or other human artifacts are unsuitable for good uses and intrinsically oriented toward bad ones. I’m not sure this is true. I’m simply saying that one doesn’t fall into Manicheanism by arguing this. The argument has to be made or refuted on a case by case basis.

So no, I don’t think computers are necessarily good in themselves, because they are made by sinful human beings and thus may be shaped to some extent by the perverted wills of those human beings. However, they are “neutral” in the sense that the physical stuff of which they are made is intrinsically good and one can use that physical stuff for purposes other than those intended (if the intended purposes are bad, as in the case of the gas chambers at Auschwitz). That may involve a greater or lesser modification of the artifact (for instance, one might buy a computer, find porn on it, and delete the files; or on the other extreme one might decide that computers are worthless for any good purpose, melt the computer down, and make rosary beads of the scrap).

Edwin


#7

Edwin,

Thank you for your post. Your analysis reflects the problems that caused me to post the question!!
Nuclear bombs were on my mind, though I did not mention them along with computers, cars, and all man made material things. Our thinking runs along the same paths.

Yet, Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas say that “everything that is, is good, because it is.”

Thanks for sharing.

Lily Marlene


#8

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