De Koninck: Every Contingent Opposed to the Necessary Implies a Relation to the Good

CDK Photo
Today, February 13, marks the anniversary of the death of Charles De Koninck (29 July 1906 – 13 February 1965). De Koninck died suddenly in Rome while serving as a lay advisor to the cardinal of Quebec. Among his last works were essays on the morality of birth control. This year being the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, I aim to write an essay describing the value of De Koninck’s change of mind on that issue.

At present, in view of this reminder of life’s contingency and the good of the life to come, I republish my own translation of one of De Koninck’s posthumous articles. Appearing in 1968, this marks its 50th anniversary. (The French original is available here.) The article discusses, among other things, errors in the Thomistic understanding of contingency which De Koninck sees in the work of Maritain and the radical origins of the contingency and the good in things. May Our Lady, St. Dominic, and St. Thomas Aquinas pray for us. May Prof. De Koninck rest in peace.

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Every Contingent Opposed to the Necessary Implies a Relation to the Good


Can one reduce every contingent thing to that of the possibile esse et non esse of a thing insofar as it exists; to be thus or otherwise, does it depend on the choice of the agens a proposito? It is the case that, in relation to the power of God, every creature is contingent, whether any one such case be necessary in itself or not. For it is necessary to distinguish two senses of the expression possibilitas ad non esse, according as one relates the thing called contingent to the sole power of the agent, or that the possibility to non-being can only be said of the thing considered in itself.1 Possibility in the first sense does not imply, concerning itself, any causality contingent or accidental: it obtains of the effect considered in relation to the free agent acting as a per se cause. It is in the second sense that one finds the possibility en every agent susceptible to being an accidental cause, as in natural things insofar as they are generable and corruptible.

God cannot be, in any way, an accidental cause, no creature related to him cannot but call itself possible or contingent in the second sense, whether there exists in it or not a possibility to not be at all. However, extrinsic contingency, that is to say per solam potentiam agentis, does not prevent predicamental being, entirely possible in the first sense, from being divided into the necessary and possible (or contingent) in the second sense.2 This division, however, regards the divine causality, insofar as God wills there to exist some necessary things and other contingent things; his infallible will does not prevent the latter from being in themselves truly contingent. Even man, a free agent, can be the per se cause of an intrinsically contingent event. It is the case that “the concourse of two servants to a determined place is accidental and casual when they go there without each other’s knowledge; nonetheless, this meeting could have been willed absolutely (per se) by their master, sending the one and the other to this determined place so that they would meet.”3 Such a per se cause of intrinsic contingency remains itself exposed to contingency: the servants could be prevented from their meeting at the place willed by their master. If in the course of the route one of them was run down by a truck, the master would be a fortuitous cause of this event. It is in this sense that every created angent can be an accidental cause.

We note, however, that, for St. Thomas, to be the per se cause of an intrinsically contingent event is the privilege of the intellectual agent: nature, being determined to only one of opposed alternatives, can only be a per accidens cause of a casual event:

Similarly, in the corporeal effects of corruptible beings, many things happen by accident. Now, that which is by accident cannot be led back, as to a per se cause, to some natural power, the power of nature being determined ad unum; whereas what is by accident is not one; that is why . . . the following enunciation is not one: Socrates is a white musician, for it does not signify some one thing. This is why the Philosophy says, in the book On the Divination of Dreams, that many things, of which the signs preexist in the heavenly bodies, such as rain and thunderstorms, do not come to pass, being prevented by accident. And, even though this very obstacle, considered by itself, reduces to some celestial cause, nonetheless, the concourse of these things, being by accident, cannot be reduced to some naturally acting cause.4

However, if nature cannot be the per se cause of an accidental event, intellect can be. For

that which is by accident, the intellect can consider as being one, as “white and musical,” which, without being one in itself, can, however, be conceived by the intellect as being one, namely, insofar as by way of composition it forms an enunciation which is one. And in this manner that can be done which, in itself, happens by accident and in a casual fashion, being reduced to an intelligent and preordaining cause. Thus, the concourse of two servants towards a determined place is accidental and casual when they go there without each other’s knowledge; nonetheless, this meeting could have been willed by their master, sending the one and the other to this place so that they would meet each other.5

The same doctrine can be found clearly enunciated in the Summa contra Gentiles (III, c.92):

An even does not cease to be fortuitous when it is reduced to a per se cause. Now the power of the celestial body is an efficient cause, in the manner not of intelligence or choice, but of nature. And it is proper to nature to tend towards what is one. If, therefore, an effect is not one, it cannot have a power of nature as a per se cause. Now when two things are conjoined by accident, their unity is not a true one, but only accidental. Furthermore, no power of nature can be the per se cause of this conjunction. Take this man who, under the influence of the celestial body, is moved, after the manner of a passion, . . . to dig a grave. This grave, and the place of the treasure, only make between themselves an accidental unity. Moreover, the power of the celestial body cannot of itself move this ensemble (ad hoc totum), namely that this man dig the grave and the place where the treasure is found. But an intellectual agent, on the contrary, can be the cause of an inclination to this ensemble: for it belongs to the intellect to reduce the many to one (multa ordinare in unum). It is evident, therefore, that even a man, knowing the place of the treasure, could send someone to dig a grave in that place in order that he, without having the intention, find a treasure there. Thus these fortuitous events, once traced back to the Divine Cause, lose their fortuitous character, but they do not lose them when compared with the celestial cause.6

Consequently, to affirm that an event, casual in itself, cannot be related to a distant natural agent, is to deny its true contingency, or rather, to attribute intelligence to nature itself. Such are the alternatives which had to confront the Stoics. They maintained, in effect, that an event in nature is not contingent in relation to a proximate and particular cause, but as soon as one sees it in the perspective of a great number of causes which concur to produce it, their series and connection then entail the character of a per se cause from which the event results with necessity.7 We maintain, on the contrary, that such a necessity is not possible except in view of an intellectual agent. Now, this does not suffice to save the intrinsic possibilitas ad esse et non esse of things: extrinsix contingency does not reveal of itself the division of being into necessary and contingent, unless the intellectual agent, in turn, cannot be an accidental cause.

Consider for a moment the hypothesis of the Stoics, to identify their series, seu connexio causarum, with the initial constellation of the universe. However, so that all the future events fall out in a predetermined manner, and are consequently foreseeable, in which sense can any one event therein be contingent in relation to this constellation? Is it not certainly, in view of the constellation, an established fact, from which the hypothesis causes it to arise infallibly. In order to call it contingent, it would be necessary to relate it to the initial constellation insofar as its author had not been able to establish it, or again to establish it otherwise than in reality it had been. For it is not enough to refer the event in question to a proximate natural cause, since it would be, as every natural agent, determined ad unum: the contingency would be but apparent. This is what puts before us the question posed at the outset of these pages: Is every contingeny traced back to the contingency called extrinsic? This is the tertia via which is invoked.

The greater part of contemporary Thomists have recourse to this reduction. To the extent that he treats of events in nature, Jacques Maritain, for example, says that

for a divine intellect, which knows absolutely all the ingredients of which the world is made, all the “factors” in play in the world and the entire history of all the causal successions which are produced since the world is the world, the visit this bee makes to this rose at such an instant would appear as an even infallibly or necessarily determined.8

And then, in what sense is this “visit . . . at such an instant” contingent? Maritain answers that it is a contingent fact “of the instant that its antecedents themselves could have been, in themselves, otherwise.”

The event in question depends uniquely on the constellation of positions of fact, otherwise called a pure necessity of fact.

These singular events, whether they belong to the class of natural events or to those of chance events, are determined by their antecedents (and those by the same) according to combinations of indefinitely complicated historical series which cross each other in time, but these combinations of series—which in fact could not have been otherwise—could be otherwise: nothing prevents them from having been otherwise, be it by the intervetion of some free agent, or at least by a difference, at the origin of things, in the initial positions of all those historical series (initial positions in which the “constellation” was in fact found, but which no essential structure and no cause in the world necessitated that the “constellation” was such). The fall of this bird, the success of this flower, which are in fact produced, therefore, could have not been produced, they could have encountered impediments to being. These events, by supposing all their antecedents, have been necessitated by them, but their antecedents, not deriving the same from a cause or an essential structure which itself had demanded them, could have been otherwise. Consequentely they remain contingent, they are ever only facts.

In short, they are infallibly predetermines in the constellation and the history of all the factors of the universe given from the beginning, but there is only for them a necessity of fact, mixed or not with a necessity of law. Not only this constellation of factors could be otherwise at the beginning, but more, each of the innumerable encounters among the diverse causal series which take place in the course of the evolution of the world up until the production of these events at present could have not taken place, without having violated any discernable rational necessity in the demands of a nature or of an essentially determined causal structure. Although they are necessary by a necessity of fact, such events are contingent.9

But whence comes it that “the constellation is found thus, in fact?” From the fact that God willed it to be such. However, what results is contingent, one says, because God could have willed it to be other than it in fact had been. Following this conception, an event in nature would be contingent, because God could have established a constellation other than that which he had in fact decreed.

As for the rest, it is important to ntoe that, on this hypothesis, the constellation, once given, all the causes which compose it “accipiunt rationem unius causae sufficientis.” They come together as one single natural agent. It remains to see, if, in nature, those effects that one calls contingent are such in view of the natural agent considered as causa per se, or if they are such exclusively in view of the free will of God. Now, as we have seen, no natural agent (in contrast to the agens a proposito) could be a per se cause of an accidental effect called “casual.”

Whence comes it that one believes he can liken thus the doctrine of Aristotle and St. Thomas to the determinism of the physics called classical? To have neglected the role of the good, of final causality, in nature; to have wanted to explain everything in terms of “essences” and of pure efficient causality. Maritain, when he speaks of chance, gives no role to finality, although it enters into the very definition of chance, namely: “causa per accidens in his quae fiunt a natura propter finem in minori parte.”10 However, for Aristotle and St. Thomas, chance has no sense apart from operation for an end. That which happens by chance in nature, just as what happens by luck in our deliberated actions, must have the character of good or of evil. Maritain would say that this case consists in “the chance of finality” (as if he could have the other) and that

These considerations, which are relative to the pseudo-finalities imagined by man and in the human interests engaged in the event, resort to practical knowledge and introduce into the theory of chance extraneous and parasitic elements; that is why we have abstracted from such in this essay.11

This ignorance of finality has branded the scholastics since Durandus of Saint-Pourçain, who poorly understood the definition of the good, namely: “what all desire.”12 It is better explained since the prodigious developments of mathematical physics, which, being formally mathematical, abstract from all finality.13 The physicists, on the other hand, when they employ the word “chance” in regard to the laws of great numbers, use a term verbally identical, but equivocal. For, to what statistics calls “the least probable” is assigned a numerical value which renders its improbability foreseeable and consequently it takes away from chance properly speaking. It is, therefore, impossible to directly transfer our doctrine of chance to the domain of statistics. However, the discussions about the relations of the incertitude of quantum physics have revealed, over a quarter-century ago, that in general the Thomists had adopted the determinism in the sense which Maritain defends in his teaching over contingency in nature.


Let us get to the heart of the matter. What should be called “contingent” or “possible”? There is the possible which is opposed to the impossible. It is described as “common,” and it is even said of the necessary. Indeed, if the necessary were not possible, it would be impossible.14 But the very term is also used as a proper name of that opposed to the necessary, namely that which can be and not be, whereas one calls necessary that which cannot not be.15 Now, to be and to not be are contrdictorily opposed. The possible or contingent, taken in this sense, signifies, consequently, a “potentia simul contradictionis,” a power “ad esse et non esse.”16 So a thing in potency at time A, but exclusively in potency to be in act at time B, is no longer contingent, but necessary. If Socrates is seated at A, if this is to be contingent, it must be the case that, while he is seated at A, it be true to say that he can be either seated or not-seated at B: that the contradictories, incompatible at B, are simultaneously true of the same potency at time A.

Now, the posse esse et non esse, whatsoever it be, always refers to the appetite, and consequently to finality. First of all, here is how Aristotle proves this a propos rational powers. After having shown in how many ways the word “potency” is said, and that, in all cases, “power” signifies a principle, be it active (“principle of a change in some other being, or in the same being insofar as it is other”) or passive (“the principle, in a passive being, of change that it is susceptible of undergoing by the action of some other being, or of itself insofar as it is other”),17 he establishes the division of beings found by these principles. Now, reason alone being ruler of its own act, it consequently divides potencies into rational and irrational. He gives the arts as an example of a rational potency:

This is why all arts, i.e. all productive forms of knowledge, are potencies; they are originative sources of change in another thing or in the artist himself considered as other.18

However, what relation can there be between the rational power and the opposed terms of the contingent: to be and not to be?

And each of {the rational powers} which are accompanied by a rational formula is alike capable of contrary effects, but one non-rational power produces one effect; e.g. the hot is capable only of heating, but the medical art can produce both disease and health. The reason is that science is a rational formula, and the same rational formula explains a thing and its privation, only not in the same way; and in a sense it applies to both, but in a sense it applies rather to the positive fact. Therefore such sciences must deal with contraries, but with one in virtue of their own nature and with the other not in virtue of their nature; for the rational formula applies to one object in virtue of that object’s nature, and to the other, in a sense, accidentally. For it is by denial and removal that it exhibits the contrary; for the contrary is the primary privation, and this is the removal of the positive term. Now since contraries do not occur in the same thing, but science is a potency which depends on the possession of a rational formula, and the soul possesses an originative source of movement; therefore, while the wholesome produces only health and the calorific only heat and the frigorific only cold, the scientific man produces both the contrary effects. For the rational formula is one which applies to both, though not in the same way, and it is in a soul which possesses an originative source of movement; so that the soul will start both processes from the same originative source, having linked them up with the same thing. And so the things whose potency is according to a rational formula act contrariwise to the things whose potency is non-rational; for the products of the former are included under one originative source, the rational formula.19

This, then, is the difference, essential in this matter, between reason and nature. Nature is determined ad unum, because contraries cannot be in it simultaneously. The proximate subject itself cannot be at the same time healthy and sich, white and black. However, in reason, contraries are together. Indeed, one of the two contrary terms always implies the negation of the other. Sickness is, essentially, the negation of health. Although the notion of sickness is other than the notion of health, the {former depends upon the latter}, and thus one can say that the notion of health is the notion of sickness.20 The same holds for contradictory terms. The negative “to not be” depends upon the notion of “to be.” In addition, because contradictories are simultaneous in reason, certain philosophers have been able “to say” that nothing prevents that they be not together in nature. The identity of the modus rei in se and of the modus rei in intellectu is furthermore the fundamental postulate of idealism, whereby it leads logically to materialism. This postulate supposes that the notions of contraries are only one and the same notion. The fact that “in anima est quodammodo una species contrariorum,” that the notion of the one (health) is the notion of the other (sickness), could give rise to such a confusion. The postulate in question implies as well that the affirmation and negation of the same thing must be simultaneously compatible in reason. In this respect, the occasion of this error, which is a veritable denial of reason itself, could be the fact that the notion of affirmation is in the notion of negation, the one and the other of these being as a result simultaneous in reason.21

There is, therefore, something common between reason and nature, namely that contraries are in the same subject; they are simultaneous in reason, and successively in nature. What is proper to the rational power is to be a faculty of contrary actions.22

Therefore, what is the relationship between the appetite and reason as the power over contraries?

Since that which is ‘capable’ is capable of something and at some time in some way (with all the other qualifications which must be present in the definition), and since some things can produce change according to a rational formula and their potencies involve such a formula, while other things are nonrational and their potencies are non-rational, and the former potencies must be in a living thing, while the latter can be both in the living and in the lifeless; as regards potencies of the latter kind, when the agent and the patient meet in the way appropriate to the potency in question, the one must act and the other be acted on, but with the former kind of potency this is not necessary. For the nonrational potencies are all productive of one effect each, but the rational produce contrary effects, so that if they produced their effects necessarily they would produce contrary effects at the same time; but this is impossible. There must, then, be something else that decides; I mean by this, desire or will. For whichever of two things the animal desires decisively, it will do, when it is present, and meets the passive object, in the way appropriate to the potency in question. Therefore everything which has a rational potency, when it desires that for which it has a potency and in the circumstances in which it has the potency, must do this. And it has the potency in question when the passive object is present and is in a certain state; if not it will not be able to act. (To add the qualification ‘if nothing external prevents it’ is not further necessary; for it has the potency on the terms on which this is a potency of acting, and it is this not in all circumstances but on certain conditions, among which will be the exclusion of external hindrances; for these are barred by some of the positive qualifications.) And so even if one has a rational wish, or an appetite, to do two things or contrary things at the same time, one will not do them; for it is not on these terms that one has the potency for them, nor is it a potency of doing both at the same time, since one will do the things which it is a potency of doing, on the terms on which one has the potency.23

Appetite, or electio, choice, is therefore essential to reason as a power over contraries. Without appetite, reason does not find itself in front of being and non-being, of being thus or otherwise, as an activer power over contraries. Consequently, the possibility of contraries which is defined by this power, would be denied.24 This posse esse et non posse would imply contradiction.

A thing is called possible or contingent, in the sense determined, when, in order for it to be, it depends on a rational power; therefore on an agent, an extrinsic principle in the sense that every active principle is extrinsic (even when the passive power is intrinsic to the agent) and this agent must be free.

A propos to the possible vis-a-vis the rational power, another distinction must be made. For a thing could be called possible in relation to some particular power—thus one calls possible to man all that which is subject to the rational power of man. This possible is defined by this particular power. But that this one thing is not possible to this power, it does not follow that it is absolutely impossible. Socrates could not sit, if “seated,” attributed to Socrates, implicated being and non-being at the same time of him, as the proposition “the man is a horse,” which is to say man and not-man at the same time. Now the power of Socrates is not proper to reason in virtue of the fact that “to sit” is not repugnant, of itself, to the subject “Socrates.” This possibility, which is named absolutely, consists simply in this, that the attribution of a predicate to a sibject does not imply any contradiction.

The reason for the distinction between what is impossible due to the privation of a potency, and what is impossible because of the conflict between the terms of a proposition is found in the two manners in which one can say to be. On the one hand, indeed, “To be able to be [posse esse]” is said in relation to “to be,” while, on the other hand, “to be” is said not only of that which exists in reality, but also of being as true, according to the composition or division in propositions, insofar as one finds truth or falsity in them.25 Similarly, possible and impossible are said not only according to the potency or impotency of the thing, but also following truth or falsity, according to the composition or the division in proposition formed by the soul. For there, the impossible is the contrary of what is true necessarily; the false is, in this relation, not only what is true, but what is in addition necessary—the falso is necessarily impossible.26 For “to be false absolutely” and “to be absolutely impossible” are not the same thing. If one says of Socrates that he is standing, although he is seated, what one says is false, but not impossible, since he could also sit down. What is absolutely impossible is that he actually be, simultanteously, standing and sitting.27

Now the absolutely possible, which is defined by the simple non-conflict of the terms of the proposition, does not seem to say, determinately, what could be or not be. For the proposition “the diagonal of the square is incommensurable with the side” not only does not imply any contradiction, but it is true with all necessity, and the inverse is not only false, but impossible. Although it is false to say that Socrates is seated when he is not, it does not follow that it is impossible that he sit.

In other words, among things that can be called “possible” in the sense that they are not impossible and of themselves do not imply any contradiction, are those which are absolutely necessary, as well as God, or again the incommensurability of the diagonal, as well as all those which cannot in any way not be.This possibility could not depend on an active potency. But there are also things which could be or not be, such as Socrates, which could be and not be, be seated or not-seated. There are, therefore, among absolutely possible things, those which are equally possible in the sense which is opposed to the necessary without condition.


It is these possible things (opposed to the impossible, but distinct nonetheless from the possibles which are entirely necessary without any condition) to which the omnipotency of God extends. It is by their definition that we come to know the proper object of omnipotence. Indeed, one cannot determine the things to which omnipotence properly extends by saying: just as the power of man extends to all the things which are possible to the rational power of man, so also omnipotence extends to all the things which ar epossible to the power of God. This would be, observes St. Thomas, a circular manifestation of omnipotence, “for this would in effect end up saying nothing other than the following: God is omnipotent because he can do all that he can do.”28 On the contrary, God is omnipotent because he can do all that which does not imply, in itself, simultaneously to be and not to be. Further, it would be contradictory for God to be able to make something which cannot be in any way not be, that it not be.

But where does the appitite intervene relative to the objects of omnipotence? For, first of all, it would appear surprising that an object described as possible due to the fact that the predicate does not conflict with the subject, has an essential relationship to the appetite, such that its very possibility implies that it emerges out of the practical knowledge of that which is possible for it. After detailing how one must understand the “possibles” in the proposition “Deus [potest] omnia possibilia,” St. Thomas continues:

On the other hand, one must consider that, since every agent makes something like itself, that to every active power there corresponds something possible, which is its proper object, and which answers to the nature of the act which grounds the active power. Thus, the power to heat is related, as to its proper object, to what is susceptible of being heated. Now the divine being, from which the notion of the divine power is taken, is infinite being, not limited to some genus of being, but contains beforehand in itself the perfection of being in its totality. Consequently, all which possesses or could have the ratio of being is found contained among what is absolutely possible, in which regard God is called omnipotent.

Now nothing is opposed to the notion of being, except non-being, which alone conflicts with the notion of the absolutely possible under the divine power, which implies in itself being and non-being simultaneously. Indeed, this is not within the grasp of omnipotence, not because of some defect of this divine power, but because it cannot possess the ratio of “doable” and of “possible.” Thus, everything which does not imply a contradiction is contained under the possible in view of which God is called omnipotent. As to the terms which imply a contradiction, they are not contained within the divine omnipotence, because they do not bear the ratio of the possible. For this reason it is fittingly said of those which cannot be realized, that God cannot make them.29

Thus, all those things which do not have the nature of something “factibile,30 are found to be excluded from the absolutely possible which are the object of omnipotence. Further, those possibiles have a fundamental relationship to the good, for every agent acts for an end. This is why St. Thomas says that

among things which were not, nor are not, nor will be—those which he never proposed to do—God has a speculative knowledge; and while one could say that he sees them within his power, it is better to say [accomodatius] that he sees them in his goodness, which is the end of all those things which he does, namely, according to which he sees many other ways of sharing his proper goodness, than those which are found to be communicated to existing things, past, present, or future. For all created things could not equal his goodness, insofar as it is the measure in which they seem to participate.31

That God sees these possibles, as such, in his goodness, which is the end of all the things which he does, seems to say that his knowledge of possible is essentially practical: that he knows them as doable by himself, even when he will never make them. Necessarily, then, he has a knowledge which is not only practical: God does not make the possibility of the possible things which he knows; that would be to say that the participability of his essence is an effect of his power, and not of his very goodness. His power does not have the ratio of possible things as its object, which are not doable, but the “possibile esse vel non esse” as such, according to which God can make or not, according to his will. The rationes of the possibles cannot be, as such, ordered to some end. The knowledge that God has of them is speculative by reason of the very object (ex parte rei): his essence which is participable, but of which the participability is necessary and in no way operable. For God cannot render his essence participable, unless he could will it to be participated. However, by knowing his essence as participable, he knows with all necessity how he could make what is possible, even when he will never make them.32 This knowledge of possible insofar as he know how he could make them, is practical as to its object (de re operabili), but speculative as to its end.33 This does not seem at all to say that in this knowledge, which is practical habitu vel virtute,34 the possibles are not seen in ther relationship to the only end that God could will them when he did. The things that he will never do are seen in his goodness: the perfection of his essence is known as communicable good, which he communicates or not. This knowledge, however, is of a compositive mode since it bears on the manner of directing things towards their end, because it is does not actually order the things that God could do, to the end which could be their if he willed them. In other words, his knowledge is not fully practical—practical actu or simpliciter—that relates to things that he makes.

This shows sufficiently that even the absolutely possible, the object of omnipotence, is inseparable from the goodness and the free will of God.


Translated by John G. Brungardt, from the original French: Charles de Koninck, “Tout contingent oppose au necessaire implique un rapport au bien,” Laval théologique et philosophique 24.2 (1968): 201-214. The original French is available at LTP’s website.

1St. Thomas, Q. D. de Potentia, q. 5, a. 3.

2St. Thomas, In VI Metaph., lect. 3, nn. 1220-1222.

3St. Thomas, In I Perih., lect. 14, n. 15.

4St. Thomas, In I Perih., lect.14, n.14.

5Ibid., n.15. As St. Thomas expressly says elsewhere, the concourse of two agents is not essentially by chance: “Contingit autem homini bene vel male secundum fortunam, quandoque quidem ipso solo agente, sicut cum fodiens in terram invenit thesaurum quiescentem: quandoque autem actione alterius causae concurrente, sicut cum aliquis vadens ad forum causa emendi, invenit debitorem, quem non credebat invenire. In primo autem eventu, homo adiuvatur ad hoc quod aliquid sibi bene contingat, secundum hoc solum quod dirigitur in eligendo illud cui coniunctum est per accidens aliquod commodum quod provenit praeter intentionem. In secundo autem eventu, oportet quod uterque agens dirigatur ad eligendum actionem vel motum unde sibi occurrant.” See Summa contra Gentiles, III, c. 92., n. 11.

6{Ibid., n. 12.}

7See St. Thomas, In I Perih., lect. 14, n. 10: “Hoc igitur quidam attendentes posuerunt quod potentia, quae est in ipsis rebus naturalibus, sortitur necessitatem ex aliqua causa determinata ad unum quam dixerunt fatum. Quorum Stoici posuerunt fatum in quadam serie, seu connexione causarum, supponentes quod omne quod in hoc mundo accidit habet causam; causa autem posita, necesse est effectum poni. Et si una causa per se non sufficit, multae causae ad hoc concurrentes accipiunt rationem unius causae sufficientis; et ita concludebant quod omnia ex necessitate eveniunt.”

8Jacques Maritain, Reflexions sur la nécessité et la contingence, dans Raison et raisons, Paris, L.U.F., 1947, p. 45.

9Ibid., pp. 49-51.

10Cf. St. Thomas, In II Phys., lect. 8 et 10.

11Op. cit., p. 63, n. 1.

12Cf. Charles Hollencamp, Causa Causarum, Québec, Presses universitaires Laval, 1949.

13St. Thomas, In I Post. Anal., lect. 25, n. 4.

14See St. Thomas, Summa contra Gentiles, III, c. 86: “Possibile enim quoddam est quod ad necessarium sequitur. Nam quod necesse est esse, possibile est esse: quod enim non possibile est esse, impossibile est esse; et quod impossibile est esse, necesse est non esse; igitur quod necesse est esse, necesse est non esse. Hoc autem est impossibile. Ergo impossibile est quod aliquid necesse sit esse, et tamen non sit possibile illud esse. Ergo possibile esse sequitur ad necesse esse.”

15See St. Thomas, In {IX} Metaph., lect. 3, nn. 1811-1812: “possibile dupliciter dicitur. Uno modo secundum quod dividitur contra necesse; sicut dicimus illa possibilia quae contingunt esse et non esse. Et sic accepto possibili, non habet locum quod hic dicitur. Nihil enim prohibet quod antecedens sit contingens esse et non esse, consequens tamen sit necessarium; sicut patet in hac conditionali, si Socrates ridet, est homo. Alio vero modo possibile dicitur secundum quod est commune ad ea quae sunt necessaria, et ad ea quae contingunt esse et non esse, prout possibile contra impossibile dividitur. Et sic loquitur hic philosophus; dicens de possibili, quod necesse est consequens esse possibile, si antecedens fuit possibile.”

16Ibid., lect. 9, n. 1869. Also, see St. Thomas, In I de Coelo, lect. 26, n. 6: “Quamvis enim nullius potentia sit ad hoc quod duo opposita sint in eodem tempore in actu, tamen nihil prohibet quod potentia alicuius sit ad duo opposita respectu eiusdem temporis sub disiunctione, aequaliter et eodem modo: sicut potentia mea est ad hoc quod cras in ortu solis vel sedeam vel stem; non tamen ut utrumque sit simul, sed aequaliter possum vel stare non sedendo, vel sedere non stando.”

17Aristotle, Metaph., IX, c. 1, 1046a10.

18Ibid., c. 2, 1046b. {Ross trans.}

19Ibid., 1046b5-24. {Ross trans.}

20See St. Thomas, In VII Metaph., lect. 6, n. 1405: “. . . in anima autem est quodammodo una species contrariorum. Et hoc ideo, quia formae in materia sunt propter esse rerum formatarum: formae autem in anima sunt secundum modum cognoscibilem et intelligibilem. Esse autem unius contrarii tollitur per esse alterius; sed cognitio unius oppositi non tollitur per cognitionem alterius, sed magis iuvatur. Unde formae oppositorum in anima non sunt oppositae. Quinimmo substantia, idest quod quid erat esse privationis, est eadem cum substantia oppositi, sicut eadem est ratio in anima sanitatis et infirmitatis. Per absentiam enim sanitatis cognoscitur infirmitas. Sanitas autem, quae est in anima, est quaedam ratio, per quam cognoscitur sanitas et infirmitas; et consistit in scientia, idest in cognitione utriusque.”

21See St. Thomas, ST Ia-IIae, q. 64, a. 3, ad 3: “Ipsae res contrariae non habent contrarietatem in anima, quia unum est ratio cognoscendi alterum, et tamen in intellectu est contrarietas affirmationis et negationis, quae sunt contraria, ut dicitur in fine peri hermeneias. Quamvis enim esse et non esse non sint contraria, sed contradictorie opposita, si considerentur ipsa significata prout sunt in rebus, quia alterum est ens, et alterum est pure non ens, tamen si referantur ad actum animae, utrumque ponit aliquid. Unde esse et non esse sunt contradictoria, sed opinio qua opinamur quod bonum est bonum, est contraria opinioni qua opinamur quod bonum non est bonum. Et inter huiusmodi contraria medium est virtus intellectualis.”

22See St. Thomas, Q. D. de Veritate, q. 26, a. 3, ad 7: “Potentia rationalis se habet ad contraria aliquo modo sibi proprio, et aliquo modo communi sibi et omnibus aliis. Quod enim potentia rationalis sit subiectum contrariorum accidentium, hoc sibi et aliis commune est, quia omnium contrariorum idem est subiectum; sed quod se habeat ad contrarias actiones, istud est sibi proprium; naturales enim potentiae sunt determinatae ad unum. Et sic loquitur philosophus, quod rationales potestates sunt ad opposita.”

23Aristotle, Metaph., IX, c. 5, 1047b35-1048a25.

24See St. Thomas, In IX Metaph., lect. 4, n. 1820: “. . . cum potentia rationalis se habeat communiter ad duo contraria, et ita cum a causa communi non procedat effectus determinatus, nisi sit aliquid proprium quod causam communem ad hunc effectum magis determinet quam ad illum, sequitur quod necesse est, praeter potentiam rationalem, quae est communis ad duo contraria, poni aliquid, quod appropriet eam ad alterum faciendum ad hoc quod exeat in actum. Hoc autem est appetitus aut prohaeresis, idest electio quorumcumque, idest electio quae pertinet ad rationem. Quod enim aliquis considerat, hoc facit; ita tamen si existit in dispositione, qua est potens agere, et passivum adsit. Unde sicut potens potentia irrationali necessario agit, passivo appropinquante; ita omne potens secundum rationem, necesse est quod faciat quando desiderat illud cuius habet potentiam, et eo modo quo habet. Habet autem potentiam faciendi cum passivum praesens fuerit, et ita se habeat quod possit pati; aliter facere non posset.”

25See St. Thomas, In VI Metaph., lect. 4.

26See ibid., V, lect. 13, nn. 970-973.

27See St. Thomas, In I Coelo, lect. 26, n. 4.

28St. Thomas, ST Ia, q. 25, a. 3, c.

29St. Thomas, ST Ia, q. 25, a. 3, c.: “cum unumquodque agens agat sibi simile, unicuique potentiae activae correspondet possibile ut obiectum proprium, secundum rationem illius actus in quo fundatur potentia activa, sicut potentia calefactiva refertur, ut ad proprium obiectum, ad esse calefactibile. Esse autem divinum, super quod ratio divinae potentiae fundatur, est esse infinitum, non limitatum ad aliquod genus entis, sed praehabens in se totius esse perfectionem. Unde quidquid potest habere rationem entis, continetur sub possibilibus absolutis, respectu quorum Deus dicitur omnipotens. Nihil autem opponitur rationi entis, nisi non ens. Hoc igitur repugnat rationi possibilis absoluti, quod subditur divinae omnipotentiae, quod implicat in se esse et non esse simul. Hoc enim omnipotentiae non subditur, non propter defectum divinae potentiae; sed quia non potest habere rationem factibilis neque possibilis. Quaecumque igitur contradictionem non implicant, sub illis possibilibus continentur, respectu quorum dicitur Deus omnipotens. Ea vero quae contradictionem implicant, sub divina omnipotentia non continentur, quia non possunt habere possibilium rationem. Unde convenientius dicitur quod non possunt fieri, quam quod Deus non potest ea facere.”

30On this point, Cajetan formulates the following objection: “. . . Si omne possibile absolute, omneque ens ac non implicans contradictionem, sub omnipotentia clauditur, Deus ipse continebitur sub sua omnipotentia: quonium Deus esse de numero horum est, ut patet..” To which he responds: “Ad hoc, et similia, dicendum est quod, cum sermo praesens sit de omnipotentia factiva, cum divimus omne possibile, omne ens, omne non implicans contradictionem, semper subintelligitur causabile effective. Sic enim excluduntur et divine, et peccata, et quaecumque sunt potentiarum passivarum et imperfectarum, ut sic.” See In Iam, q. 25, a. 3, n.5.

31St. Thomas, Q. D. de Veritate, q. 2, a. 8, c.: “. . . quorumdam vero quae nec fuerunt, nec sunt, nec erunt, quae scilicet nunquam facere disposuit, habet quasi speculativam cognitionem; et quamvis possit dici quod intueatur ea in sua potentia, quia nihil est quod ipse non possit, tamen accommodatius dicitur quod intuetur ea in sua bonitate, quae est finis omnium quae ab eo fiunt; secundum, quod scilicet, intuetur multos alios modos esse communicationis propriae bonitatis, quam sit communicata rebus existentibus, praeteritis, praesentibus, vel futuris; quia omnes res creatae eius bonitatem aequare non possunt, quantumcumque de ea participare videantur.”

32See St. Thomas, ST Ia, q. 14, a.1 6, ad 3: “. . . de operabilibus perfecta scientia non habetur, nisi sciantur inquantum operabilia sunt. Et ideo, cum scientia Dei sit omnibus modis perfecta, oportet quod sciat ea quae sunt a se operabilia, inquantum huiusmodi, et non solum secundum quod sunt speculabilia. Sed tamen non receditur a nobilitate speculativae scientiae, quia omnia alia a se videt in seipso, seipsum autem speculative cognoscit; et sic in speculativa sui ipsius scientia, habet cognitionem et speculativam et practicam omnium aliorum.”

33See ibid., corpus.

34See St. Thomas, Q. D. de Veritate, q. 3, a. 3, c.


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