Reinhard Huetter - December 2016 Meeting Topic

The Finality of the Rational Soul and the Natural Desire for the Vision of God

The finality of the rational soul is a central component of a comprehensive account of ultimate human happiness, or beatitude. What happiness or beatitude consists in in its perfect continuous state presupposes an understanding of the specific nature and the distinct finality of the suppositum naturae rationalis, that is, the human person. Hidden disagreements on this fundamental metaphysical level (human beings are not persons but at best super-primates; they do not have rational souls, but the mind is an epiphenomenon of neurological processes; the universe is bereft of finality, because there does not exist a transcendent First Cause and Final End, usually called God) give rise to notions of happiness that are not only philosophically underdetermined but mutually exclusive, if not simply equivocal.

In my paper I will consider the metaphysical principle of finality as advanced and defended by Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas shows that the principle of finality affords, first, a properly nuanced understanding of the natural desire for the vision of God (and thereby secures the intelligibility of a divine revelation and the gratuity of the beatific vision) and, second, a properly nuanced distinction between nature and grace (and thereby secures the intelligibility and distinct gratuity of salvation and deification in differentiation from the gratuity of creation). I will consider one important passage in Aquinas’s Summa theologiae, but will subsequently rely almost completely on the argumentation Aquinas advances in the third book of his Summa contra gentiles.