7. Philosophy

VII. Philosophy

Philosophy Starts with Thought

Philosophy is the creation of the human understanding, naturally or supernaturally enlarged and enlightened. All begins and ends with Thought, our only medium of knowledge, whatever its sphere or its degree. Thought is, for us, always ultimate. We cannot go before nor behind Thought; for we have nothing but thought with which to go before or behind it. (Vol. 1, p. 58.)

Analysis of Thought

Thought is either intuitive or reflective. The careful analysis of intuitive thought, intuition, …discloses these three elements: subject, object, and their relation, always distinct, always inseparable, given simultaneously in one and the same complex fact. Deny one or another of these elements, and there is and can be no thought. Remove the subject, and there is no thought, for there evidently can be no thought where there is no thinker; remove the object, and there is equally no thought, for to think nothing is simply not to think; and, finally, deny the relation of subject and object, and you also deny all thought, for certainly the soul cannot apprehend an object or an object be presented to the soul with no relation between them. (Vol. 2, p. 42.)

Subject and Object Alike Certain

The three elements of thought being given simultaneously and synthetically in one and the same fact, they all three rest on the same authority and are equally certain both subjectively and objectively. Here we escape the interminable debates of philosophers as to the passage from the subjective to the objective, and, in military phrase, flank the question of the certainty of human knowledge and thus render all arguments against either subjectivism or skepticism superfluous. There is no passage from the subjective to the objective if the activity of the subject alone suffices for the production of thought, and no possible means of a logical refutation of skepticism. If the soul alone could suffice for thought, nothing else would be necessary to its production, and thought would and could affirm no reality beyond the soul itself; no objective reality could ever be proved, and no real science would be possible. All objective certainty would vanish, for we have and can have only thought with which to prove the objective validity of thought. Hence it is that those philosophers who regard thought as the product of the soul’s activity alone have never been able to refute the skeptic or to get beyond the sphere of the subject. (Vol. 2, p. 43.)
If the object were purely passive, or did not actively concur in the production of thought, it would be as if it were not, and the soul could no more think with it than without it. It is the fact that the object objectively concurs in the production of thought that establishes its reality, since what is not or has no real existence cannot act, cannot present or affirm itself. …The soul cannot act without the object, nor unless the object is placed in relation with it; consequently the soul can no more create the relation than it can create the object or itself. The object with the relation, or the correlation of subject and object, then, is presented to the soul or given, not created or furnished by it.
The soul, unable to think by itself alone or in and of itself, can think even itself, find itself, or become aware even of its own existence only in conjunction with the object intuitively presented; each of the three elements of thought therefore not only rests on the same authority, but each as is certain as is the fact of consciousness or the fact that we think. The object is affirmed or affirms itself objectively, and is real with all the certainty we have or can have of our own existence. Further than this thought itself cannot go; we cannot from principles more ultimate than thought demonstrate thought; but it is not necessary, for he who thinks knows that he thinks, and cannot deny that he thinks without thinking, and therefore not without affirming what he denies. This is all that can be asked, for a denial that denies itself is equivalent to an affirmation. (Vol. 2, pp. 44, 45.)
The object, if given simultaneously with the subject in the fact of thought, precedes it in the order of being or real order; for it presents or affirms itself as the necessary condition of the soul’s activity and of her apprehension of her own existence even. It is first in order, and its analysis should precede that of the soul; for as the subject is given only in conjunction with the object, or as reflected or mirrored in it, it is only as reflected or mirrored in the object that it can know or recognize its own powers or faculties. The object determines the faculty, not the faculty the object. …
The analysis of the object, like that of thought, if we mistake not, gives us, or discloses an essential in it, three elements, the ideal, the empirical, and the relation between them. The ideal is the a priori and apodictic element, without which there is and can be no intelligible object, and consequently no thought; the empirical is the fact of experience, or the object, whether appertaining to the sensible order or to the intelligible, as intellectually apprehended by the soul; the relation is the nexus of the ideal and the empirical, and is given by the ideal itself. (Vol. 2, p. 47.)

The Ideal is Objective

The object of thought always presents itself either as contingent or as necessary. The categories of necessity and contingency not being empirical, since they are the forms under which we necessarily apprehend every object we do apprehend, we call them ideas, or the ideal. The question to be settled is, Is the ideal, without which no fact or experience is possible, on the side of the object or on the side of the subject? Kant places it on the side of the subject and subjects the object to the laws of the soul; we place it on the side of the object and hold that it is that without which the object is not intelligible, and therefore no object at all. Hence we maintain that the object of thought is not a simple unit, but consists of three inseparable elements, the ideal, the empirical, and their relation. The proof that we are right is furnished in our analysis of thought, and rests on the principle that what is not is not intelligible, and that no object is intelligible save as it really exists. This follows necessarily from the fact we have established that the object presents or affirms itself by its own activity. Contingent existences are active only in their relation to the necessary, consequently are intelligible or cognizable only in their relation of contingency. Then, as certain as it is that we think, so certain is it that the ideal is on the side of the object, not on the side of the subject. This will appear still more evident when we recollect that the contingent is not apprehensible without the intuition of the necessary on which it depends, and the necessary is and can be no predicate of the subject, which is contingent existence, not necessary being, since it depends on the object for its power to act.
It follows from this that the ideal is given intuitively in every thought as an essential element of the object, and therefore that it is objective and real. …Cognition or perception is an act of the soul in concurrence with the object, and the soul, though the forma corporis, or informing principle of the body, never in this life acts without the body, and consequently can perceive the ideal only as sensibly represented. The ideal is really given in intuition, but not by itself alone; it is given in the empirical fact as its a priori condition, and is distinctly held only as separated from it by reflection, the intellectus agens, or active intellect, as maintained by St. Thomas and the whole peripatetic school, as well as by the official teaching in our Catholic schools and colleges generally.
Ideal intuition is not perception or cognition. Perception is empirical, whether mediate or immediate and whatever its object or its sphere, and in it the soul is always the percipient agent. Intuition of the ideal is solely the act of the object, and in relation to it the intellect is passive. It corresponds to the intelligible species of the peripatetics, or rather to what they call species impressa. …Now, as we have shown that the intellect cannot act prior to the presentation of the object or till the object is placed in relation with it, it cannot then, either in the sensible or the intelligible order, place itself in relation with the object, but the object, by an objective act independent of the intellect, must place itself in relation with the subject. This is the fact that underlies the doctrine of the peripatetic phantasms and intelligible species, and translated into modern thought means all simply what we call ideal intuition, or the presentation or affirmation of the object by itself or its placing itself by its own act in relation to the intellect as the a priori condition of perception.
But as the soul cannot act without the body the intelligible cannot be presented save as sensibly represented; and therefore only in the phantasmata or sensible species, from which the active intellect abstracts, divides, disengages, or separates –not infers- them. Yet the intelligible, the ideal, as we say, is really presented, and is the object in which the intellect terminates or to which it attains. (Vol. 2, pp. 51-54.)


It is necessary to be on our guard against confounding the question of the reality of the ideal or universal and necessary ideas…with the scholastic question as to the reality of universals. …The universals of the Schoolmen are divisible into classes: 1, Whiteness, roundness, and the like, to which some think Plato gave reality, as he did to justice, the beautiful, etc. and which are manifestly abstractions, with no reality save in their concretes from which the mind abstracts them; 2, Genera and species, as humanitas. The Scholastics, as far as our study of them goes, do not sharply distinguish between these two classes, but treat them both under the general head of universals. …
The reality of genera and species is very plainly taught in Genesis, for it is there asserted that God created all living creatures each after its kind; and if we were to deny it, generation as the production of like by like could not be asserted; the dogma of Original Sin, or that all men or the race sinned in Adam, would be something more than an inexplicable mystery, and we have observed that those theologians who deny the reality of the species have a strong tendency to deny original sin, or to explain it away so as to make it not sin, but the punishment of sin. Certainly if the race were not one and real in Adam, it would be somewhat difficult to explain how original sin could be propagated by natural generation. It would be equally difficult to explain the mystery of Redemption through the assumption of human nature by the Word, unless we suppose, what is not admissible, that the Word assumed each individual man, for to suppose a real human nature common to all men is to assert the reality of the genus or species. The denial of the reality of genera and species not only denies the unity of the race and thus denies Original Sin, the Incarnation, Redemption, and Regeneration, but also impugns, it seems to us, the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, by denying the unity of the nature or essence of the three persons of the Godhead, and certain it is that both Rosceline and Abelard were accused of denying or misrepresenting that ineffable Mystery. …
As to the other class of universals, …they are conceptions, existing in mente cum fundamento in re, that is, mental abstractions, formed by the mind operating on the concretes given in intuition. They have their foundation in reality. There is a basis of reality in all our mental conceptions, even in our wildest imaginations and our most whimsical fancies, for we neither think nor imagine what is absolutely unreal. (Vol. 2, pp. 54-56.)

Analysis of the Ideal

The analysis of thought gives us three inseparable elements, all equally real: subject, object and their relation; the analysis of the object gives us also three inseparable elements, all objectively real, namely, the ideal, the empirical, and their relation. The analysis of the ideal, we shall see, gives us again three inseparable elements, all also objectively real, namely, the necessary, the contingent, and their relation, or being, existences, and the relation between them. (Vol. 2, p. 56.)
Real and necessary being is independent and can stand alone, but we found in our analysis of the object another line of categories, the contingent, the particular, the dependent, etc., equally necessary as the a priori condition of experience or empirical intuition, and therefore included in the ideal element of the object, and therefore given or presented in ideal intuition. …The analysis of the ideal shows that the necessary and the contingent are both given in the ideal intuition, and there is no need of attempting to conclude either from the other. They are both primitive, and being intuitively given, both are and must be objectively real. (Vol. 2, pp. 58, 59.)

Reality of the Necessary and Contingent

But the necessary and the contingent are abstract terms and are real only in their concretes. There is and can be no intuition of necessary and contingent as abstractions; for as abstractions they have no objective existence, are therefore are incapable of presenting or affirming themselves in intuition, which, as we have shown, is the act of the object, not of the subject. The necessary must therefore, since we have proved it real, be real and necessary being, and intuition of it is real and necessary being. In like manner, intuition of the contingent is not intuition of contingent nothing, but of contingent being, that is, existences, the ens secundum quid of the Schoolmen. This is what we have proved in proving the reality of the ideal. Ideas without which no fact of knowledge is possible, and which through objective intuition enter into all our mental operations, are not, as they are too often called, abstract ideas, but real.
We have reduced, provisorily, the ideas or categories to two, necessary and contingent, which we find, in the fact that they are intuitively given, are real, and if real, then the necessary is real and necessary being and the contingent is contingent, though real, existence. Then the analysis of the ideal or a priori element of human knowledge gives us being, existences, and their relation. These three terms are really given intuitively, but, as we have seen, in the fact of thought or experience they are given as an inseparable element of the object, not as distinct or separate objects of thought, or of empirical apprehension, noetic or sensible. They are given in the empirical fact, though its a priori element and the mind by its own intuitive action does not distinguish them from the empirical element of the object, or perceive them as distinct and separate objects of thought. We distinguish them only by reflection, or by the analysis of the object, which is complex, distinguishing what in the object is ideal and a priori from what is empirical and a posteriori. When we assert the necessary and contingent as ideas, the mind, again, does not perceive that the one is being and the other existence or dependent on being; the mind perceives this only in reflecting that if given they must be objective and real, and if real, being and existence, for what is not being, or by or from being is not real. The identity of the ideal and the real and of the real with being and what is from being is arrived at by reflection, and is, if you insist on it, a conclusion, but, as the logicians say, an explicative, not an illative conclusion.
But we have reduced the categories to the necessary and contingent, and found the necessary identical with real and necessary being, ens necessarium et reale, and the contingent identical with contingent existence, ens secundum quid. Being is independent and can stand alone, and can be asserted without asserting anything besides itself; for who says being says being is. …But a contingent existence cannot be thought by itself alone, for contingency asserts a relation and can be thought or asserted only under that relation. It would be a contradiction in terms to assert ideal intuition of the contingent as independent, self-existent, for it would not then be contingent. The contingent, as the term itself implies, has not the cause or source of its existence in itself, but is dependent on being. The relation between the two categories is the relation of dependence of the contingent on the necessary, or of contingent existences on real and necessary being.
This relation we express by the word existences. The ex in the word existence implies relation and that the existence is derived from being, and though distinguished from it depends on it, or has its being in it and not of itself. (Vol. 2, pp. 59, 60.)

Relation of Being and Existences

There remains now to be considered the third term, or the relation of the contingent to the necessary, or of existences to being. Being and existences comprise all that is or exists. What is not real and necessary, self-existent and independent being, is either nothing or it is from being and dependent on being. Existences are, as we have seen, distinguished from being, and yet are real, for the idea of contingency is given in the objective intuition or in the ideal element of the object. Existences are then real, not nothing, and yet are not being. Nevertheless they are, as we have seen, related to being and dependent on it. But they cannot be distinct from being and yet dependent on being unless produced from nothing by the creative act of being. Being alone is eternal, self-existent, and besides being there is and can be only existences created by being. Being must either create them from nothing by the sole energy of its will, or it must evolve them from itself. Not the last, for that would deny that they are distinct from being; then the first must be accepted as the only alternative. Hence the analysis of the ideal gives us being, existences, and the creative act of being as the nexus or copula that unites existences to being, or the predicate to the subject. (Vol. 2, p. 61.)

Analysis of the Relation

The analysis of the relation is not practicable in the sense of the other analyses we have made; for as relation it has only a single term, and prescinded from the related is simply nullity. We can analyze it only in the related, in which alone it is real. In the fact of thought we have found that the object is active, not passive as most philosophies teach; and therefore that it is the object that renders the subject active, reduces it to act, and therefore creates it. St. Thomas and, we believe, all the Scholastics teach that in the reception of the phantasms and the intelligible species the mind is passive. That which is purely passive is as if it were not, for whatever really is or exists is or exists in actu and therefore is necessarily active. Since, then, the phantasms and species proceed from the object, it follows that the object actualizes the subject and renders it active or intellectus agens. Hence the relation of object and subject in the fact of thought is the relation of cause and effect. The object actualizes or creates the subject, not the subject the object.
The relation we have found of the ideal and empirical is also the relation of cause and effect. The empirical we have found is impossible without the ideal, for it depends on it and does not and cannot exist without it. That without which a thing does not and cannot exist and on which it depends is its cause. The ideal then causes, produces, or creates the empirical, and therefore the relation between them is the relation of cause and effect. Ideal space produces empirical space and ideal time produces empirical time. As the ideal is real and necessary being, ens necessarium et reale, as we have seen, ideal space is and can be only the power of being to externize its own acts, in the order of coexistences, and ideal time can only be the power of being to externize its own acts successively, or progressively. Empirical space is the effect of the exercise of this power producing the relation of coexistence; empirical time is its effect in producing the relation of succession, or progressive actualization. The relations of space and time are therefore resolvable into the relation of cause and effect. …
As all the categories of the upper line are integrated in real and necessary being, and as all the categories of eth lower line are integrated in existences, so all relations must be integrated in the relation of being and existences, which is the act of being, producing and actualizing existences, and therefore the relation of cause and effect. Hence there are and can be no passive relations or relations of passivity. Whatever is or exists is active, and God, who is being in its plentitude and infinity is, as say the theologians, actus purissimus, most pure act. Only the active is or exists; the passive is non-existent, is nothing, and can be the subject of no predicate or relation. (Vol. 2, pp. 62-64.)

The Relation that of Cause and Effect

It follows from this that the relation of subject and object, or rather of object and subject, in every thought is the relation, as we have said, of cause and effect. It is the third term or copula in the ideal judgment, and is in every judgment, whether ideal or empirical, that which makes it a judgment or affirmation. …Being and existences as subject and predicate constitute no judgment without the copula that joins the predicate to the subject. As the copula can proceed only from being, or the subject of the predicate, as its act, the ideal judgment is necessarily ens creat existentias; and as the object produces or creates the predicate, the judgment in its three terms is divine and apodictic, the necessary and apodictic ground of every human or empirical judgment, without intuition of which the human mind can neither judge nor exist.
It is not pretended of course that all judgments are ideal, any more than it is that every cause is first cause. There are second causes, and consequently second or secondary, that is, empirical judgments. The second cause depends on the first cause, which is the cause of all causes; so the empirical judgment depends on the ideal or divine judgment which it copies or imitates, as the second cause always copies or imitates in its own manner and degree the first cause. There is no judgment- and every thought is a judgment- without the creative act of being creating the mind and furnishing it the light by which it sees and knows; yet the immediate relation in empirical judgments, that is, judgments which the soul herself forms, though a relation of cause and effect, is not the relation between being and existences, …which were sheer pantheism, inasmuch as it would deny the existence of second causes and make God the sole and universal actor. The relation in the ideal judgment is only imminently the cause in the empirical judgment, in the sense in which being is the eminent cause of all actions, in that it is the cause of all causes.
The copula or relation in the ideal judgment is the creative act of being, or subject creating the predicate, as we shall soon prove, and uniting it to itself. This is true of all relations. The first term of the relation of subject and predicate is the cause of the second term, and by its own causative act unites the predicate to itself as its subject. Second causes have, in relation to the first cause, the relation of dependence, are produced by it, are its effects or predicates; but in relation to their own effects they are efficient causes and represent creative being. We are existences and wholly dependent on real and necessary being, for our existence and our powers are simply the effect of the divine creative act or activity; but in relation to our own acts we are cause; we are the subject, they are the predicate, and our act producing them is the copula. In this sense the second cause copies the first cause and the empirical judgment copies the ideal or, as we have called it, the divine judgment.
We say this not by way of proof that the relation between being and existences is the creative act of being, which follows necessarily from the reduction of the categories to being, existences, and their relation, or subject, predicate, and copula, for the copula can be nothing else than the creative act of being; but to prevent the mistake of supposing that being is the agent that acts in our acts, and that our acts are predicates of the divine activity. (Vol. 2, pp. 65-67.)

The Fact of Creation

Yet though being is sufficient in all respects for itself, it is cognizable by us only mediante its own act creating us and affirming itself as the first term or being in the ideal element of the object in thought, and therefore only in its relation to the second term, or existences. This relation under which both being and existences, the necessary and the contingent, are given, is the creative act of being, as we have seen, and therefore, as that mediante which both being and existences are given, is necessarily itself given in ideal intuition. It is as necessarily given in the object in every thought as either being or existences, the necessary or the contingent, and therefore is objectively as certain as either of the other two terms without which no thought is possible, and is in fact more immediately given, since it is only mediante the relation or creative act of being that either being or existences themselves are given or are objectively intuitive.
But not therefore, because being is cognizable only in its relation to existences, does it follow that being itself is relation or that all our cognitions are relative, or, as Gioberti maintains, that all truth is relative; nay, that the essence of God, as implied in the mystery of the Holy Trinity, is in relation, in the relation of the three Persons of the Godhead. The relation is given in ideal intuition as the act of real and necessary being. The relation then is extrinsic, not intrinsic, and since being is real, necessary, independent, self-existing, and self self-sufficing, the creative act must be not a necessary, but a free, voluntary act on the part of being. The relation, then, is not intrinsic, but freely and voluntarily assumed.
Being is given in ideal intuition mediante its creative act, then as creator or ens creans. But as nothing extrinsic or intrinsic can oblige being, which is independent and self-sufficing, to create or to act ad extra, it must be a free creator, free to create or not to create, as it chooses. Then being must possess free will and intelligence, for without intelligence there can be no will, and without will no choice, no free action. Being must be then in its nature rational, and then it must be personal, for personality is the last complement or rational nature, that is, it must be a suppositum that possesses, by its nature, intelligence and free will. Then being, real and necessary, being in its plentitude, being in itself, is – God, and the creator of the heavens and the earth, and all things visible and invisible. (Vol. 2, pp. 71,72.)

Intuition and Reflection
While we have by our analysis of thought established the reality of the object, or its existence a parte rei, and asserted the objectivity and therefore the reality of the ideal, we have nowhere found or asserted the ideal alone as the object in thought. We have found and asserted it only as the ideal element of the object, which must in principle precede the empirical element, but it is never given separately from it, and it takes both the ideal and the empirical in their relation to constitute the object in any actual thought. The ideal and the empirical elements of the complex object are distinguished by the intellectus agens, or reflection, in which the soul acts, never by intuition, ideal or empirical, in either of which the action originates with the object. Most men never do distinguish them during their whole lives; even the mass of philosophers do not distinguish them or distinguish between intuition and reflection. The peripatetics, in fact, begin with the reflective activity, and hardly touch upon the question of intuition, save in what they have to say of phantasms and species. Their principles they take from reflection, not from the analysis of thought or its object. We do dissent from their principles or their method, but we do not regard their principles as ultimate, and we think the field of intuition, back of reflection, needs a culture which it does not receive from them, not even from St. Thomas, still less from those routinists who profess to follow him. We do not dissent from the Thomist philosophy; we accept it fully and frankly, but not as in all respects complete. There are, in our judgment, questions that lie back of the starting-point of that philosophy, which, in order to meet the subtleties and refinements of modern pantheists or atheists, the philosopher of today must raise and discuss.
These questions relate to what in principle precedes the reflective action of the soul, and are solved by the distinction between intuition and reflection and between ideal intuition and empirical intuition or perception, that is, cognition. What we explain by ideal intuition the ancients called the dictates of reason, the dictates of nature, and assumed them to be principles inserted in the very constitution of the human mind; Descartes called them the innate ideas; Reid regarded them as constituent principles of man’s intellectual and moral nature; Kant, as the laws or forms of the human understanding. All these make them more or less subjective and overlook their objectivity, and consequently cast doubts on the reality of our knowledge. “It may be real to us, but how prove that it is not very unreal to other minds constituted differently from ours?” We have endeavored to show that these are the ideal elements of the facts of experience and are given in objective or ideal intuition, which is the assertion to the mind by its own action of real and necessary being itself, and therefore our knowledge, as far as it goes, is universally true and apodictic, not true to our minds only.
The objection commonly raised to the ideal formula, Ens creat existentias, is not that it is not true, but that it is not the principle from which philosophy starts, but the end at which philosophy arrives. This, in one sense, of we speak of the reflective order, is true, and the philosophy most in vogue does not reach it even as its end at all. Yet by using reflection we shall find that it is given in the object of every thought, as we have shown, the first as well as the last. Ideal intuition is a real affirmation to the mind by the act of the ideal itself but it is not perception or distinct cognition, because, as we have said, it is not given separately, but only as the ideal or a priori element of the object, and is never intuitively distinguished or distinguishable from it. This is, we think, a sufficient answer to the objection, which is founded on a misapprehension of what is really meant by the assertion that the ideal formula is the principle of science and intuitively given. It is so given, but it is only given by reflection that the mind distinguishes it and is aware of possessing it. (Vol. 2, pp. 74-76.)


Existences are distinguishable from being and are nothing without the creative act of God. Only that act stands between them and absolute nullity. God then does not form them from a preexisting matter, but creates them from nothing. He does not evolve them from himself, for then they would be the divine Being itself and indistinguishable from it, contrary to what has been already established, namely, that they are distinguished from God as well as joined to him mediante his creative act. God is not a necessary but a free creator; creatures are not then evolved from his own being, but himself, a free creator, is necessarily distinct from and independent of them; and as without creation there is nothing but himself, it follows necessarily that he must, if he creates existences at all, create them from nothing, by the word of his power, as Christian theology teaches.
But the fact that they are creatures and distinct from the Creator proves, also, that they are substances, or substantial existences, and therefore, as philosophers say, second causes. If creatures had no substantial existence they would be mere phenomena or appearances of the divine Being or substance, and therefore could not be really distinguishable from God himself; which would be a virtual denial of the creative act and the reality of existences, and therefore of God himself; for it has been shown that there is no intuition of being save mediante the creative act of being, or without the intuition of existences, that is, of both terms of the relation. It would deny, what has been amply proved, that the object of intuition, whether ideal or empirical, is and must be real, because it does and must present or affirm itself, which if unreal or mere appearance it could not do, since the unreal has no activity and can have no object of thought. …Moreover, the object in intuition presents or affirms itself as it is, and existences all present or affirm themselves as real, as things, as substances, as second causes. (Vol. 2, pp. 76, 77.)
Existences are substantial, that is, active or causative in their own sphere or degree. The definition of substance by Leibnitz – though we think we have found it in some of the medieval doctors, as vis activa, corresponding to the German Kraft and the English and French force – is a proper definition so far, whatever may be thought of what he adds, that it always involves effort or endeavor. In this sense existences must be substances or else they could not be given intuitively, as in our analysis of the object we have seen they are, for in intuition the object is active and presents or affirms itself. Strictly speaking, as we have seen in the analysis of relation, nothing that exists is or can be passive, for passivity is simply in potentia ad actum; whatever exists at all exists in actu and so far is necessarily vis activa. Existences in their principle are given intuitively, and their principle cannot be substantial and they unsubstantial. But it is necessary here to distinguish between the substans and the substania, between that which stands under and upholds or supports existences or created substances and the existences themselves. The substans is the creative act of God, and the substantia or existence is that which it stands under and upholds. (Vol. 2, p. 78.)

God is Free

The cosmic phenomena are not phenomena of the divine Being, but are phenomena or manifestations of created nature, and of God only mediante his creative act. The cosmos, with its constitution and laws of nature, is his creature; produced from nothing and sustained by his creative act, without which it is still nothing. God then, as the creator of nature, is independent of nature and necessarily supernatural, supercosmic, or supramundane, as the theologians teach and as all the world, save a few philosophers, scientists, and their dupes, believe and have always believed.
God being supernatural, and the creative act by which he creates and sustains nature being a free act on his part, the theory of the rationalists and naturalists that holds him bound, hedged in, by what they call the laws of nature, is manifestly false and absurd. These laws do not bind the Creator, because he is their author. The age talks much of freedom and is universally agitating for liberty of all sorts, but there is one liberty, without which no liberty is possible, it forgets – the liberty of God. To deny it is to deny his existence. God is not the Fate or inexorable Destiny of the pagan classics, especially of the Greek dramatists. Above nature, independent of it, subject to no extrinsic or intrinsic necessity except that of being and of being what he is, God is free to do anything but contradict, that is, annihilate himself, which is the real significance of the Scholastic “principle of contradiction.” He cannot be and not be; he cannot choose to be and not to be what he is, for he is real and necessary being and being in its plentitude. He can do nothing that contradicts his own being or attributes, for they are all necessary and eternal, and hence St. Paul says, “it is impossible for God to lie.” That would be to cat contrary to his nature, and the divine nature and the divine being are identical and indistinguishable in re. It would be to contradict his very being, his own eternal, immutable, and indestructible essence, and what is called the nature of things.
Saving this, God is free to do whatever he will, for extrinsic to him and his act nothing is possible or impossible; since extrinsic to him there is simply nothing. His liberty is as universal and as indestructible as his own necessary and eternal being. He is free to create or not as he chooses and as in his own wisdom he chooses. The creative act is therefore a free act, and as nature itself, with all its laws, is only that act considered in its effects, it is absurd to suppose that nature or its laws, which it founds and upholds, can bind him, restrict him, or in any way interfere with his absolute freedom. God cannot act contrary to his own most perfect nature or being, but nothing except his own perfection can determine his actions or his providence. Following out the ideal judgment, or considering the principles intuitively given, they are alike the principles of the natural and of the supernatural. They assert the supernatural in asserting God as creator; they assert his providence by asserting that creation and conservation are only one and the same act, and the free act, or the act of the free, uncontrolled, and unnecessitated will of God. Hence also it follows that God is free, if he chooses, to make us a supernatural revelation of his will and to intervene supernaturally or by miracles in human or cosmic affairs. Miracles are in the same order with the fact of creation itself, and if facts, are as provable as any other facts. (Vol. 2, pp. 80, 81.)

God as Final Cause

That God is the final cause of creation follows necessarily from the fact that he is its free, voluntary first cause. If God were, as Cousin maintains, a necessary creator, he could act only ad finem, not propter finem, and therefore could not be asserted as the final cause of creation; but being a free creator, not compelled by any extrinsic or intrinsic necessity, as he cannot be, since he is being in its plentitude, ens perfectissimum, he can create only for some end, and consequently only for himself, for besides him there is and can be no end for which he can create. He is therefore the final cause of creation, as well as its first cause. Hence St. Paul tells us that “for him, and in him, and to him are all things.” The conclusion is strengthened by considering that God being all-powerful and essentially wise and good, it would contradict his own being and attributes to create without any end or for any but a good purpose or end, and he alone is good, for the very reason that he alone is being, and his creatures are being and good only by participation.
No doubt it may be said that God creates for the good of creatures, but he is the good as he is the being of creatures, and he can give them good only by giving them himself, for besides himself there is no good for them, since besides him there is no good at all. The end or final cause of a creature is its good, and when we say God is the final cause or end of a particular existence, we say he is that which it must seek and possess in order to attain to and possess its supreme good or beatitude. When we say God creates all things for himself, we simply means that he creates all things for the manifestation of his own glory in the life and beatitude of his creatures. The end or final cause of an existence is in obtaining the complement or perfection of its being. It is not simply beatitude, but beatitude in God that is the end. Creation flows out from the infinite fullness of the divine Love, which would diffuse itself in the creation and beatitude of existences, and God cannot beatify them otherwise than through their participation of his own beatitude. God, then, is the ultimate and final cause of creation.
But why could not God create existences for progress or for progress through infinity? That would be a contradiction in terms. Progress is motion towards an end, and where there is no end there is and can be no progress. Progress is advancing from the imperfect to the perfect, and if there is no perfect there can be no advance towards it; if there is progress it must finally come to an end. The doctrine of infinite or indefinite progressiveness of man, so popular in this nineteenth century, is based on the denial alike of creation and the final cause of man and the cosmos. It supposes development instead of creation and admits only the physical laws of nature, which operate as blind and fatal forces, like what is called instinct in man and animals. Hence we have a class of scientists who seek to elevate man by improving, through wise and skillful culture, the breed. How do these men, who deny God as final cause and hold the theory of development or evolution, account for the existence of moral ideas or the universal belief in a moral law? This belief and these ideas cannot be obtained either by observation or by induction from the study of the physical laws of nature; and if we hold them to be given intuitively, we assert their reality, affirm that there is a moral order, and then, a final cause of creation.
We maintain that the soul really has intuition of God as final cause in a sense analogous to that in which we have seen it has intuition of being as first cause. …The soul desires beatitude; but it cannot desire what it has no intuition of, or what is in no sense presented or affirmed to it, and since God is himself this beatitude, the soul must have some intuition of God as its good or final cause. It is true, St. Thomas says that the soul does not know explicitly that it is God that presents or affirms himself as the beatitude it desires. It does not know that it is God any more than it does when it sees a man coming without being able to distinguish whether it is Peter or some other man that is coming; yet it is as really intuition of God as final cause, as the intuition of the idea is intuition of God as real and necessary being , or as first cause. In neither case is there a distinct or explicit cognition that what is presented is God, and it comes to know that it is so only by reflection.
Certainly every soul desires happiness, supreme beatitude; and desire is more than a simple want. Desire is an affection of the will, a reaching forth of the soul towards the object desired. What a man desires he, in some degree at least, wills; but will is not a faculty that can in any degree act without light or intelligence. The soul can will only what is presented to it as good; it cannot will evil for the reason that it is evil, though it may will the lesser good instead of the greater and a present good instead of a distant or future good; for it has the freedom of choice. Yet it is certain that the soul finds its complete satisfaction in no natural or created good. It craves an unbounded good and will be satisfied with nothing finite. Why, but because it has an ever-present intuition that it was made for an infinite good? Why, but because God the infinite and everywhere and at every instant presents or affirms himself to the soul as that alone which can fill it or constitute its beatitude? The fact that every limited or created good is insufficient to satisfy the soul has been noted and dwelt on by philosophers, sages, prophets, and preachers in all ages of the world, and it is the theme of the poet’s wail and the source of nearly all life’s tragedies. Yet it is inexplicable on any possible hypothesis except that of supposing the soul was made for God and has an intuitive intimation of the secret of its destiny.
Assuming, then, the intuition of God as final cause in the desire of beatitude, the assertion of it rests on the same authority that does the assertion of the ideal as being, or being as God, and therefore, as our several analyses have proved, it is as certain as either the subject or object in the fact of thought or as the fact that we think or exist. In fact, as we have already seen, it is included in the creative act of being as a free voluntary act. Being cannot act freely without will, and no one can will without willing an end; and no good being without willing a good end. No really good end is possible but God himself; we may therefore safely and certainly conclude God is our last cause as well as our first cause, at once the beginning and end, the Alpha and the Omega of all existences, the original and end of all things.
We ate now able to assert for man a moral law and to give its reason in distinction from the natural or physical laws of the scientists. The physical laws are established by God as first cause and are the laws or creative forces operative in existences in their procession, by way of creation, from God as first cause; the moral law is established by God as final cause, and prescribes the conditions on which rational existences can return to God without being absorbed in him and fulfill their destiny or attain to perfect beatitude. This completes the demonstration of Christian Theism. (Vol. pp. 83-86.)

The Duty to Obey God

What, then, is the ground of the right of God to command us and of our duty to obey him? The ground of both is in the creative act. God has a complete and absolute right to us, because, having made us from nothing, we are his, wholly his, and not our own. He created us from nothing, and only his creative act stands between us and nothing; he therefore owns us, and therefore we are his, body and soul, and all that we have, can do, or acquire. He is therefore our sovereign Lord and Proprietor, with supreme and absolute dominion over us, and the absolute right, as absolute owner, to do what he will with us. His right to command is founded on his dominion, and his dominion is founded on his creative act, and we are bound to obey him, whatever he commands, because we are his creature, absolutely his, and in no sense our own. (Vol. 2, p. 91.)

Obligation of Worship

The essential principle of religion is perfect trust in God and obedience to his sovereign will, the unconditional surrender of our own wills to the will of our creator. That is only what the moral law enjoins, for the first law of justice is to give to every one his due or his own, and we owe to God, as has been seen, all that we are, have, or can do. This shows that religion and morality in their principle are one and the same and therefore inseparable. There is, then, no morality without religion and no religion without morality. He who refuses to keep the commandments of God and to render him his due violates the moral law no less than he does the religious law. …
But this is not all. If the moral law requires our unreserved obedience to the commands of God, it requires us to honor, love, trust, and obey him in all things, and therefore to worship him in the way and manner he prescribes. If, then, he is pleased to make us a supernatural revelation of his will and to promulgate supernaturally a supernatural law, we are bound by the moral or natural law to obey it, when promulgated and brought to our knowledge, as unreservedly as we are to obey the natural law itself. If Christianity be, as it professes to be, the revelation of the supernatural order, a supernatural law, no man who knowingly and voluntarily rejects or refuses to accept it fulfills the natural law or can be accounted a moral man. (Vol. 2, pp. 93, 94.)