THE WILL OF THE LORD OF THE WORLD
A disturbing fact
THE last chapter, this one and the next are dedicated to answering the question: what is man? In the last chapter, it was the essence of man and his faculties in general that were principally concentrated on. In this chapter, we shall examine in detail one of the faculties of man that easily stands out as one of the most momentous facts in the universe — the motive power of man’s human actions, his human will.
The mystery of the human will
From the beginning this human will has been one of the great mysteries of the universe; and it will so remain until the end, particularly to those who are committed to a statement of the universe in terms of physical formulae. To this clerkish mind, the will is a fractious pupil disgracing the whole institution by its wanton irregularity. It escapes all measurement, all calculation. As though it were a grinning imp tossing the clumsy giant of the universe about with a kind of spiritual ju-jitsu, the will expends, with insolent ease, enormous energy in ruling the complex kingdom that is man and his possessions; yet no trace of that energy has been recorded. In a world bound by strict necessity, the will alone is totally unpredictable; in a systematic universe, it stands out incorrigibly individualist. It remains an unknown quantity as far as physical science goes; it cannot be managed but only carefully coaxed and yet, while itself so utterly intangible, it is quite capable of managing the physical world about it.
Irritation at the mystery
No wonder it has driven the wise men of our time to despair. It simply does not fit into the kind of orderly picture our times demand; so it has become necessary, to save the picture, to destroy the will, to banish it from the earth by a scientific fiat — which, exasperatingly, itself is a product of a human will.
As a product of the human will, this very banishment has the will’s refreshing variety about it; as though to underscore the huge joke of the will reading the decree of its banishment in a terrifying voice and at the same time listening to it in an attitude of abject terror, trudging off in heart-breaking loneliness and at the same time cozily sitting at home surrounded by friends. Some men have accomplished this banishment by reducing the will to mechanically monotonous regularity and necessity which, they insist, is the universal movement of all that exists. Man does what he does because he cannot help himself, rising and falling, scurrying to escape or rushing to attack drifting or driven but all the while jammed compactly into the serried ranks of the physical where no one gets out of step. This is the camp of the determinists, no little group even in our day though they belong, properly, in the nineteenth century.
Another group effects the banishment by a wave of the wand of science to make all things in the universe as unpredictable as the movements of the will of man. This is the modern school of indeterminism which insists there is no necessity whatever in the world; the apparent regularity is the product of our mathematical minds. The technique, however, is far from modern; for it has been an old, old trick, when faced with a problem, for men to solve it by denying first one then the other extreme of the dilemma.
A much more widespread type of banishment today aims at a kind of compromise by making man merely an animal, enjoying no more freedom or responsibility than the others, but no more machine-like than the others either. These are the evolutionists who have carried our popular journals and newspapers by storm and have taken charge of educational philosophy to corrupt the foundations of Christian civilization utterly.
Finally, a group less bold than the others, destroys the human will by insisting that human knowledge is limited to particular, sensible things. We can know only what can be measured and weighed and observed scientifically; so man’s appetite is limited to particular, sensible things to the exclusion of freedom.
All this makes for as orderly a picture as that of a city which insists that there be none but green traffic lights lest the citizens become confused. But it is not a pretty picture any more than a completely gray world would be a pretty world; nor is it a true picture, a fair representation of either the world or of men. These pseudo-scientific philosophers have falsified the accounts, writing down “identity” for “order” to obtain a neat result at the expense of facts.
Facts of the mystery
The facts must be met if we are to understand human life, if we are to understand and direct our own actions. It will not do to excuse ourselves from murder on grounds that would excuse a tree from growing or a cat from stretching; as a matter of fact, we know the act is entirely our own. The facts are that we have a common relationship with the animals; and, no less clearly, that we have the unique gift of freedom. No matter how these two appear to confuse the orderly world we have drawn up for ourselves, both must be faced, for we are not trying to lull ourselves to sleep with bedtime stories but rather to light our anxious steps with the lantern of truth.
The appetite of man: Fact of his appetite
Man’s motive power is certainly not that of a machine: he has an appetite. In an earlier chapter, appetite was described as the driving force of every creature in the universe; its object was pointed out as the good, possessing the smack of desirability that draws all things to action. In irrational nature, it is called natural appetite, the obedience to natural physical laws; in the animals, sense appetite, or obedience to natural physical laws operating through animal instincts; in man, it is human appetite.
The necessity for a distinctly human appetite will be clearer if we understand the close connection between the inclination of appetite and the form or determining principle. Every inclination follows some form; it may be on a least of woven steel links or the leash may be as physically intangible as a divine command, but inclination must, of its very nature, be tied up with a form. A moment’s thought makes the thing obvious; surely inclination, if it means anything, means a tendency in a determined direction and the principle of determination is precisely form. A difference in forms, then, demands a difference in inclinations to desirable objects, that is, a difference in appetite. Thus, inanimate creation and plant life possess only their own physical form, their own substantial principle of unity and life, with the result that they follow, necessarily and rigidly along the lines of that one form in entirely predictable fashion.
A creature that can know, however, possesses more than its own form. It cannot, of course, have many substantial forms, many principles of unity and life; but it can have, over and above its own substantial form, the forms of other things, forms received into itself by knowledge, determining knowledge and appetite over and above the determination given them by their own substantial form. The animal, for instance, by his sense knowledge receives particular forms — the form of a bird, a bone, a man; by that knowledge, a wider scope, a greater difference of object is immediately given to the animal’s appetite. Man, by his intellectual knowledge, possesses the universal, the specific, form of things and immediately has an infinite horizon thrown open to his appetite. To reach out to that infinite field of good revealed by the universal character of intellectual knowledge, there must be a distinctly human appetite, an appetite distinctly proportionate to the knowledge of man.
Its harmony with universal order
Nor is this an upheaval of the universal scheme of things. This is not making a special exception from nature for man; rather it is an insistence on facts as the manifestation of an order worthy of the supreme wisdom of the architect of the universe. Man is different in his appetite, precisely because he is different in his nature. Why should he be moved as the stones or animals are since he is neither a stone nor an animal? There is the same beautiful hierarchy in appetite that there is in being, in perfection, within the universe; the same gradual revelations of the beauty and perfection that is God’s.
The humanity of man’s appetite: Of his sensitive appetite
This is really the key to the apparent contradiction of man’s appetites, the often insisted on war between the flesh and the spirit. As a matter of fact, man has two appetites for his nature is a complex of matter and spirit; he receives the forms of other things, not only in an intellectual, universal fashion but also in a particular, sensible fashion as do the animals. He has, then, two appetites: a sensitive and an intellectual appetite; but both are human, both belong to man, neither is in any way a detraction from his human nature. Indeed, the denial of either one is tantamount to the destruction of the humanity of man.
The fact of it
Because it is so hard to deny the fact of wet feet or too salty food, there are few today who question our possession of sense knowledge. We do see the difference between a brown hat and a purple one, we hear a flat note in an otherwise splendid aria, we do smell the toast burning much too late to do anything about it. In other words, we, too, possess those particular species that come by the way of sense, the particular forms of things other than ourselves. As appetite marches in the footprints of knowledge, as the inclinations follow the forms possessed, there can be no doubt of our possession of a sense appetite. We can, and do, dislike burnt toast or flat notes, brown hats or purple ones; we can, and do, enjoy the brisk air of a fall morning or the lazily relaxing rays of a summer sun. You may, here and there, find a philosopher today to deny this; but there is a very good chance of your meeting him in Florida for the winter or in Maine for the summer.
The sense appetite, like all appetite, has to do with good as its proper object: either it sits back in lazy enjoyment of the good possessed, like a stuffed puppy dozing by a warm fire; or it watches with nervously alert eyes for a chance to seize the good that is not yet had but must be had. In the latter case we have the reason for action; man’s inclinations ate no more than appetite’s gentle hints or nagging demands that leave him little doubt as to what he still lacks and that give him little peace until he sets out on the long quest for the good.
This is the general object of the sense appetite. There is, however, a striking difference in the particular objects of sense appetite. A starving man will fight for a scrap of food just as readily as a well-fed man will relish the last dainty delicacies of a banquet; a man will, in other words, not only reach out for and enjoy the good things, he will do the hard bitter things that seem to go flatly against his inclinations for good and pleasant things. There are, then, two faculties of sense appetite: one runs after the good precisely as good or runs from its opposite; the other is the fighter of the sensual side of our nature, the champion of the milder (concupiscible) appetite and its objects. This faculty, the emergency (or irascible) appetite, deals with good but precisely as difficult; its work is the conquest of difficulties and the overthrow of impediments to the milder appetite.
A detailed treatment of these two sense appetites is proper matter for the second volume of this work. Here it will be enough merely to catalogue them. Thus, from the mild appetite there spring such fundamental inclinations as: love and its opposite, hate; desire and aversion, relative to an absent good or evil; and delight and sorrow, the first of which is rest in the possession of good, the second, repugnance to the presence of evil. From the emergency appetite come hope and despair, daring and fear. and, finally, anger. It is sufficient, for the purposes of this volume, to note the distinction of these appetites and the common source of all the inclinations in the fundamental ones of love and hate. The whole subject of the passions of man, that is, of the movements of the sense appetite, is taken up in exhaustive detail in the next volume.
Its relation to reason and will
None of these are evidences of intellectual appetite. In fact, there very often is sharp conflict between the intellectual appetite and these sensual appetites as many a man can testify when, holding desperately to his moment of high resolve, he refuses a cigarette though his mouth is watering for it, our attitude towards this conflict of appetites raging within us is a penetrating indication of the interrelation of these appetites; the fact is, we are not neutrals, not even belligerent neutrals, we are intensely interested in seeing the intellectual appetite come out on top. Thus, when a man becomes violently angry he is “beside himself”; a man is “crazy with pain,” “paralyzed by fear,” and so on; that is, these sensual appetites have usurped complete control with the result that this man is no longer a man, he is not himself, he is, for the moment, an animal. We naturally expect the sense appetites to be subjects in the kingdom of man; wizen they are not, their victim is in the grip of animal appetites, the supreme motive power of his actions is not that distinctly human appetite that is will, but one of its subjects.
These sense appetites do, as a matter of fact, obey reason and will. Normally we do not fly from evil as a sheep does from a wolf, in blind panic; we do not run in out of the rain as a cat does. We might even deliberately stay out in the rain for reasons that never occur to a cat. The movements of our sense appetites are not the instinctive reactions of an animal; when they are, we do not boast of them, we are ashamed. They are made to follow the reasoning of an intellectual being; that is what we mean by self-control and why we are rather proud of it as evidence of our more thorough humanity, of our having lived up to ourselves.
Not that the sense appetites always obey reason. Anger can flare up so suddenly as to take control in a surprise rebellion; animal love can gnaw away the foundations of resistance so slowly and imperceptibly that the fort caves in on its defenders when at last they rush to the defense. The soul has an utterly despotic control over the members of the body that move at its command; a hand or a foot does not rebel against the soul’s orders to move. But the reason and will exercise only a kind of political control over the sense appetites; these latter can rebel, and they do.
The reason for this difference is fairly obvious. The members of the body are executing faculties, they fulfill orders; of themselves they have no sovereignty, no power of movement. But the sense appetites have a kind of sovereignty of their own. They are made to move at the command of man’s deliberate will; but they are also moved by sense objects and phantasms of the imagination. A man can awaken chagrined at having his dream-banquet interrupted by an alarm clock before he had taken a bite, or he can awaken with a sigh of intense relief at escaping the horrors of a nightmare; and all this, after he had tucked his mind away for the night in, the heavy blankets of sound sleep.
Of his intellectual appetite — the fact of it
Man has his own substantial form to which responds his natural appetite; he has the sensible, particular forms gathered by sense knowledge to which his sense appetite responds; and, finally, he becomes all things, he possesses the forms of all being, by his intellectual knowledge and to this his intellectual appetite or will jumps to answer. Again, this appetite, like all appetite, deals with good, that alluring perfection that spurs to action or that, once possessed, quiets the clamors of appetite. But, since it follows the universal, intellectual knowledge of man, its proper object is that universal good that is known by the intellect. It can, of course, reach out for any particular good; but only the universal, the supreme good is worthy of its mightiest efforts and this alone quiets all the will’s desires.
The nature of man’s will: Universality of its object
Good in general, or, to give it another name, what fulfils desire, happiness, is the adequate object of the will. By its very nature, the will must march under this standard. Absolutely nothing can be done precisely under the aspect of evil; the murderer must see his crime as somehow good, the lonely schoolgirl must get some good out of her prolonged homesickness or there would be no murders and no blues. Whatever the particular goal to which the will runs, it must be painted in the colors of happiness; once a set goal is chosen, then the means necessarily connected with that goal take on some of its necessity and must be willed. If a man sees happiness in wealth, in pleasure or in God, then the things necessarily leading to wealth, to God or to pleasure cannot be objectionable to him, they cannot take second place until the goal itself has been changed. To put it in the concrete, it is impossible for a man to commit mortal sin without abandoning God as his ultimate happiness and final goal; that is precisely the terrible tragedy of mortal sin, that it does involve abandoning God for some glimmer of His beauty in the pool of the world.
Over and above this natural and absolute necessity of willing our end, our perfection, the necessity which is the starting point of all voluntary action and which is itself entirely agreeable to the will, there is another necessity to which the will is entirely subject. A graphic statement of this necessity is seen in the willingness with which a man abandons his wardrobe in order to escape from a burning hotel. The necessity is, of course, hypothetical; he could have remained on guard protecting his clothes until he was burned to a cinder, but if he wanted to live, the clothes had to be left behind. Undoubtedly there is an element of unwillingness in this; but, at the same time, there is a very complete Willingness; he does not make his exit from the flaming hotel like a sulky boy but like a scared cat. He willed this particular end of escape, and, willing that, he necessarily willed all that was involved in the task of escaping, even to the abandonment of a hard-won wardrobe.
Free objects: The nature of freedom
There is something of this element of unwilling willingness in man’s embrace of any particular good, for one can not be had without the exclusion of others; it is only in the embrace of the infinite good that a man abandons all else and gains everything, only in that supreme good is every other good to be found. Experience is witness enough, however, that the note of reluctance is not a serious impediment to man’s choice from the glittering counters of goodness. In both the natural and the hypothetical necessity, there is a thorough voluntariness that tones down the strong, severe lines of necessity’s stern face. In coercive necessity, the necessity of brute force, sternness is changed to savagery. There is nothing here to attract the will. Yet, for all that, it is a puny thing; for neither is there in it anything strong enough to bend the fragile will of the weakest of men. A man can be beaten to a pulp, tossed into a gangster’s automobile, hustled into a concentration camp or even nailed to a cross; he cannot be forced to will these things. For one of the mysteriously strongest things about the human will is that it cannot be moved by any force in the world; there is an inherent impossibility in the notion of applying leverage to a spiritual thing and no one knows this better than a sinner. No one but himself and God knows how absurd is the plea that he has been forced to commit sin.
Freedom and necessity
Granted that there are some things that must be willed necessarily by a man, it is quite clear that not everything he chooses has been willed necessarily. In other words, man, in regard to some things, enjoys a gift unique in the physical world — the gift of freedom. Let it be well understood, however, that freedom here is not used in the same way in which it is proudly displayed today in such modern catchwords as “freedom of speech,” “freedom of the press” or “freedom of conscience.” Freedom does not mean the ability to do anything, say anything, believe anything; that is not freedom but freedom’s abuse. That this is an abuse and not freedom itself is readily recognized when the thing is brought down to the concrete; it is not freedom that allows an orator to harangue a crowd into committing adultery With this man’s wife; nor is it freedom in whose name newspaper advertisements and full powered propaganda urge men into an abuse of love and a flouting of nature; neither is it freedom’s privilege to undermine the very social structure without which men cannot live. Freedom does not mean that a man has been turned loose on the world, released from all order, all direction, from all purpose; that is not a privilege, it is a condemnation to a bestiality far surpassing the animality of the brutes.
Freedom and law
To apostles of license, every law is an insult to every individual citizen; every restriction is a cause for rebellion and men can live only so long as they have the physical force to maintain that life against all their fellows. Freedom, rightly understood, means no more than the right to choose between means to an end. There is no question of freedom relative to the end of man’s activities, just as there is no question of freedom relative to that end once it has been attained in heaven. Freedom is man’s badge of responsibility; it is a consecration to obligations rather than an exemption from all that demands courage and sweat and tears in its accomplishment. Freedom revolves entirely around the means to an end. Consequently the things that are not means, the things that lead a man away from his end rather than to it, have no place in the essential notion of liberty but in the description of its degradation and abuse. It is true that a man can commit murder, but that does not mean that he is free to murder; in committing his crime he is not exercising his liberty, he is abusing it.
For free will, like every other faculty of man, was given him that he might attain his full stature, his full perfection; that is, that by it he might attain his end. A deliberate aversion from that end is as revolting a perversion as the Epicureans’ resort to the vomitorium after a full meal. This faculty of will was not created to make a mockery of order but to make order’s perfect accomplishment a personal achievement.
Nevertheless it is true that freedom does denote the absence of necessity. Is it necessary that we have a choice between two objects? Does, for instance, the fact of my town possessing only one newspaper destroy my liberty relative to newspapers; or, if there is only one theatre in town, is my liberty done away with? Evidently if there are more than one newspaper or theatre, I am free to choose between the competing purveyors of news and amusement. But I am no less free even when there is only one: I can read or refuse to read, I can go to the theatre or stay at home; in other words, the fundamental liberty of acting or not acting remains. The theologians call this the liberty of exercise, in contrast to the liberty of specification which involves two or more objects; it is this liberty of exercise which is absolutely essential to freedom. This is the freedom that we enjoy before every act and even during that act; for always we have the power to stop willing. It is, then, not at all necessary that the choice between good and evil be offered a man if he is to retain his freedom; indeed, there is much more opportunity for freedom’s exercise when evil does not enter into the picture at all, much less chance for it when evil is rampant.
As an immediate consequence of this we are driven to a sane view of law. For in this light, law is not an infringement of liberty but rather a guarantee and protector of it; the Ten Commandments, for example, ruling out the things that draw us away from our end, do not destroy the material of liberty but concentrate our attention upon it. A police force which effectively operates against crime, protects liberty. License, unrestricted action in whatever field, be it license of the press, of the radio, of speech, of morals, is the most serious menace liberty has to face; for license not merely abuses the freedom of the one guilty of it, it directly and immediately interferes with the freedom of others, preventing their steady progress to their end by their free choice.
Proofs of freedom
If this freedom of men were being attacked by some jealous race that did not possess the gift itself, such an attack might be understandable. But when men themselves are eager to deny this faculty, when they battle with all the energy of fanatic strength, with all the ingenuity that can be commanded by wealth, educational advantages and institutions to champion the abuse of this gift, then we are facing a perversion that outdoes the excesses of paganism. Today it is extremely necessary to defend the freedom of man from a vast army of intellectuals in America. What proof have we of freedom?
From the nature of human knowledge — proximate source of freedom
The immediate source of man’s freedom is to be found in the intellectual character of his knowledge. By this knowledge, man is the only spectator on earth of the drama of the universe; he can enter into the inmost nature of everything else and he can step outside of himself, his is not the provincial view of the animals, but the cosmopolitan outlook that knows values and their limitations because it has the material for comparison. All appetite follows in the steps of knowledge and is proportionate to it, for appetite of itself is necessarily blind. All the universe moves to a goal: some of its creatures with slow, plodding steps in the dark, guided by the knowledge of the governor of the universe; others move from object to object as the flashlight of sense knowledge lights up the beauty of this sensible thing and leaves the rest clothed in the darkness of mystery; but men, with the floodlight of intelligence lighting up the whole scene see clearly the obstacles of evil, the helps of particular goods, but over and above they see the goal to which they race. The appetite proportioned to this intellectual knowledge can be satisfied with none of the attractions of the roadside stands; it drives on to the goal of all, the universal good that only man can know.
To look at it from another angle, the fact that we can know the universal enables us to appreciate the limitation, which is to say the imperfection, of the particular. We can see the good in the particular and take it to ourselves; or, seeing its limitation, its undesirability, we can pass it by. It is precisely this limitation of everything less than the supreme good that makes it as impossible for the particular goods to force the will as it is for a thimbleful of water to fill a twelve-gallon pail. It is only a good without limitation, without weak points, without undesirability that is proportioned to the will; only this is an adequate object, only this can move the will necessarily. Faced with anything less, the will is free.
The moral argument
On the moral side, an obvious argument for freedom is offered by several commonplace facts. Clearly, it is silly to fine a man for speeding if he is not the driver at all, but one driven by necessity. It is a stupid gesture to reward bravery if courage is merely the violent interaction of chemical reagents. It is absurd to exhort man to control his passions, to strive for goals, to hold fast to ideals if in all this he has no choice. In other words, the advice, counsels, exhortations, commands, rewards, punishments, the whole juridical process presuppose the freedom of man.
In fact, the whole question of morality and moral standards is irrational without the fact of freedom. If a moral law means anything, it means a law that does not force but obliges, a law whose subjects are capable of violating it in contrast to the subjects of a physical law. A legislature does not rule on the size of the ears of subjects, though it does insist on the payment of taxes. A modern philosopher, insisting that man is an animal, a chemical or a machine and at the same time talking of right and wrong, decent and indecent, noble and disgraceful is stultifying himself; the college student, accepting the principles of such teaching, is doing the rational thing when he throws all morality overboard.
A much more intimate proof of our freedom comes from the undeniable fact of our realization of that freedom, from the testimony of psychological conscience. Before a man lights a cigarette, he knows he does not have to light it; while he is smoking, he is sure he can stop at any time; when the smoke is all over and done with, the conviction of his freedom remains. He knows he has not been pushed about by cosmic forces. A man knows he is guilty of wrong because he is so sure he could have done right; he knows this thing should be done here and now, but he is just as sure that he can refuse to do it.
Nor is he an eccentric, queer and lonely in his eccentricity. The same convictions are quite universal among men. Consequently, when a criminal pleads for mercy on the grounds that he could not help committing his crime, he is actually advancing a plea of insanity, at least of temporary insanity. A professor can hold forth on the theory that the heritage of society dictates human action or that neurones or reflex arcs are the real movers; but he will probably report to the college authorities any student who laughs aloud or strolls out in the middle of the lecture.
Argument from the divine government of universe
— radical source of freedom
There is, finally, the proof of freedom from the beauty, the order of the divine government of the universe. Everything else in nature is moved according to its particular nature; a cat never barks, nor does a tree bite. Why, then, should man be the sole exception? Why should man be moved like a thing that is not human when he has human nature? Why should he not be moved in the human fashion, that is, freely? Why should man be subject to the necessary movement that regulates those whose knowledge is limited to the particular or which have no knowledge at all, when he has a universal horizon that is an image of the divine horizon? Why should his appetite, capable of the universal. the supreme, be forced to desire what is so plainly imperfect? In other words, as we saw in the chapter on the divine will, God is the radical source of our freedom by His divine government of the universe; we are free because the power of His will reaches out to all that is real, not merely to the creature, not merely to the action, but also to the mode in which that action is placed, to its freedom or its necessity. The first mover, when it is a question of moving man, moves him according to his human nature — freely.
An interesting point comes up here indicating the power of a lie if it is big enough and told often enough. Of recent years, it has become the fashion to look upon modern philosophers and educators as the champions of man while the Church is considered a reactionary enemy of all that is wholesomely human. Yet, if one were to run down the list of truths that every Catholic must hold as infallibly true, he would find such things as this: man is a creature of body and soul, his intellect is valid, it can certainly know truth, his will is free, he is in command of his life, one might well wonder — who is my neighbor?
Relations of will and intellect
The interrelation of intellect and will is a matter to be unraveled at length in the second volume of this work It must, however, be mentioned here because the intimacy of their interaction is obvious from what has been said; and the fact of that interaction presents the mind with a difficulty that cannot be slurred over. Since every appetite is blind and follows the steps of knowledge, evidently the will depends on the intellect for the object of its movement; a man cannot, for example, desire God as his supernatural happiness until God is known to him by faith. Yet the will is the principle of all movement in man, so that the intellect moves to its considerations under the motion of the will; it is entirely up to the girl herself whether she will consider her big feet and be downcast or her pert nose and be considerably cheered.
The will cannot move until the intellect has shed its light, yet the intellect is moved by the will; certainly, this has the appearance of a vicious circle. Really, there is nothing vicious about it. The circle is broken by the admission of the obvious truth that the movement of one or the other must be first; granted that first movement, their interaction goes merrily on. That first movement is from the intellect, for it is fundamental that we must know what we are to desire. What moves the intellect to its first consideration? That first movement must come from an outside agent; and the only outside agent who can act directly on the soul is God.
In his comparative estimate of these two faculties, St. Thomas considers the intellect the nobler, at least in the abstract and in the perfect state of heaven. His reasons are solid. From the point of view of their objects, it is clear that the object of the intellect is more simple, more abstract; which is to say that the intellect’s object is less tainted with particularity, and has, therefore, less of limitation, of imperfection about it. From the angle of man’s goal, which is the beatific vision, the direct, intuitive knowledge of Cod, the nobility of the intellect stands out boldly; for the perfection of man, like the perfection of anything else, consists in the highest act of his highest faculty. The enjoyment or fruition of God, the will’s part in man’s happiness, comes by way of consequence, it is a kind of corollary of that beatific vision.
In this life the action of the will may well be more noble than the action of the intellect by reason of the very nature of their objects. For truth, the object of the intellect, is in the intellect, while good, the object of the will, is in things. The practical consequences of this fact are momentous. Thus, St. Thomas could be an angel of purity while possessing an expert knowledge of impurity; a detective can have an exhaustive knowledge of methods of robbery and still be an honest man. In other words, the intellect takes everything in on its own level. What we know exists in us in our way, whether it be worms or God; knowledge does not elevate or degrade us, rather it levels things to the one human plane.
The will, on the contrary, does not take things into itself; it goes out to things. We become what we desire. If that be infinitely above us, we are lifted out of ourselves to that superior height; if it be beneath us, we are dragged down to the level of what we crave. If we place our goal in God, we soar to divine heights; if we revel in the pleasures of the animals, we are dragged down to the mire of animal existence and further, for we can think of ways of being more animal than the animals.
Conclusion: Facts of man’s appetite
From this survey of the appetites of man we can understand that these appetites do upset the pretty pattern of uniformity modern philosophy has pieced together. They are disturbing factors in the universe and in individual life; they always will be. In fact, they are supposed to be. They are planned by the divine architect as restless springs of action that would allow a man rest only when the walls of heaven had been stormed and divine life itself shared. The aim of life and of the universe is not dull stagnation but high attainment; and these appetites are the motive forces driving us on to that high goal.
Our sensual appetites are not a den of iniquity nor a holy of holies. It is as much of an injustice to man to look upon these appetites as gods to be honored in clouds of incense as it is to throw up our hands in horror and view them as unclean things. They are neither one nor the other; they are the very homely, very human equipment of that image of God which is man. They are capable of great heights and equally capable of great depths — but only at the instigation of a higher authority which alone is to be blamed or praised.
That higher authority is the deliberate will of man; a source of terrific potentialities and responsibilities, opening up terrifying prospects of failure, driving on to actions that only a courageous human heart could dare to try. But it is also the source of sacrifice, of the extravagance of love, of success, of virtue, of heaven. By that will God can be ours, but by it, too, we can throw in our lot with Satan.
A disturbing fact in the universe
The human will is a disturbing fact in the universe. perhaps because it is the supreme Fact. The crowned head can never rest easy; a subject world, whether within or without man, always holds possibilities of rebellion. But it is precisely this deliberate will that gives man dominion over the whole of creation, including himself. It is the key link in that beautifully forged chain of being that stretches from the crudest form of existence up through the glory of the angels to the splendor that is God.
A disturbing fact in human life
Of course it is a disturbing fact in human life. It is a constant reminder that we are human; and sometimes that comes hard. It would seem so much easier to look on our selves as machines, to lose ourselves in the dreamy softness of emotionalism, to let down the barriers to animalism very easy, very weak, and very cowardly. But if it is a constant goad driving us on to be worthy of our humanity, it is also a constant defense against the horror of despair and the filth of license. It boldly stamps all of human activity with the human trademark — “mine”; the mark of control, of proprietorship, of pride as well as of responsibility.
The human will is disturbing for it makes us full sharers in the divine perfection: capable of knowing and acting as God does, through intellect and will; of sharing in the work of divine providence as no other member of the physical universe shares, completing that image of God in the physical universe. We alone, of all these creatures. have the power to rise to direct possession of God, For we alone, of all these creatures, have the power to rise in open rebellion against that God and continue in that rebellion for eternity.