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CHAPTER LXXXV: THAT THE HEAVENLY BODIES ARE NOT THE CAUSE OF OUR WILLING AND CHOOSING
IT is also evident from the foregoing that the heavenly bodies are not the cause of our willing and choosing.
For the will is in the intellective part of the soul, according to the Philosopher (3 De Anima ix.). Therefore if the heavenly bodies cannot make a direct impression on our intellect, as we have proved, neither will they be able to influence the will directly.
Moreover. Every act of choice or will in us is caused immediately through an intellectual apprehension: for the apprehended good is the object of the will (3 De Anima x.): wherefore there cannot ensue perverseness of choice, unless the judgement of the intellect err in the particular object of choice, as the Philosopher states (7 Ethic. iii.). But the heavenly bodies are not the cause of our intellectual apprehension. Therefore neither can they be the cause of our choice.
Further. Whatever takes place in this lower world through the influence of heavenly bodies happens naturally; since the things here below are naturally subordinate to them. If, therefore, the heavenly bodies have any influence on our choice, this must happen naturally: so that, in fact, man naturally chooses to perform his actions, even as dumb animals perform theirs from natural instinct, and as inanimate bodies are moved naturally. Consequently there will not be two active principles, namely purpose and nature, but only one, namely nature. But Aristotle proves the contrary (2 Phys. v.). Therefore it is untrue that the influence of heavenly bodies is the cause of our choice.
Besides. Things that happen naturally are brought to their end by definite means; wherefore they always happen in the same way: for nature is determined to one method. But man's choice tends to the end in various ways, both in morals and in things made by art. Therefore man's choosing does not come from nature.
Again. Things which are done naturally, for the most part are done rightly: since nature fails but seldom. Consequently if man chose by nature, his choice would be right for the most part; which is clearly false. Therefore man does not choose naturally: yet this would be the case if his choice were subject to the influence of heavenly bodies.
Further. Things of the same species do not differ in those natural operations which result from the specific nature: hence each swallow makes its nest in the same way, and every man equally understands the first principles which are known naturally. Now choosing is an operation that results from the human species. Consequently if man chose naturally, all men would choose in the same way: and this is evidently untrue, both in morals and in things made by art.
Moreover. Virtue and vice are proper principles of choice: because the virtuous and the vicious man differ through choosing contraries. Now civic virtues and vices are not in us by nature but by habituation. The Philosopher proves this (2 Ethic. i.) from the fact that we acquire the habit of those operations to which we are accustomed, especially from childhood. In us therefore choosing does not come from nature: and consequently, it is not caused by the influence of heavenly bodies, in respect of which things happen naturally.
Again. Heavenly bodies make no direct impression except on bodies, as we have shown. Consequently if they are the cause of our choosing, this will be by an impression made either on our bodies, or on external bodies. Yet in neither way can they be a sufficient cause of our choosing. For the objective presentation of some corporeal thing cannot be an adequate cause of our choice: since it is clear that when a man meets with something that pleases him, be it meat or woman, the temperate man is not moved to choose these things, whereas the intemperate is. Again no possible change wrought in our bodies by an impression of the heavenly bodies can suffice to cause us to make a choice: since all that results therefrom are certain passions, more or less impetuous; and passions, however turbulent, are not a sufficient cause of choosing, since the same passions lead the incontinent to follow them by choice, and fail to induce the continent man. Therefore it must not be said that the heavenly bodies cause our choice.
Further. No faculty is bestowed without a purpose. Now man has the faculty of judging and counselling about all matters relative to his own actions, whether in the use of externals, or in giving a loose or a tight rein to our internal passions. But this would be of no use, if our choice were the result of the heavenly bodies and not in our own power. Therefore the heavenly bodies are not the cause of our choice.
Besides. Man is naturally a civil or social animal. This is evident from the fact that one man does not suffice for himself if he live alone: because the things are few wherein nature makes adequate provision for man, since she gave him his reason by means of which he might provide himself with all necessaries of life, such as food, clothes and so forth, for the production of which one man is not enough. Wherefore man has a natural inclination for social life. Now, the order of providence does not deprive a thing of what is natural to it: rather is each thing provided for according to its nature, as we have said above. Therefore man is not so made by the order of providence that he be deprived of social life. Yet he would be deprived of it, were our choice to proceed from the influence of heavenly bodies, like the natural instinct of other animals.
Moreover laws and precepts of conduct would be useless, were man not the master of his own choice: and useless too would be punishments and rewards for good and wicked, if it were not in our power to choose this or that. And yet, if there were not such things there would be at once an end to social life. Consequently man is not so made according to the order of providence, that his choice should result from the movements of heavenly bodies.
Again. A man's choice is of good and evil things. Hence, if our choosing is the result of the movements of the stars, it would follow that the stars are the per se cause of wicked deeds. But that which is evil has no natural cause, since evil is incidental to a defective cause, and has no per se cause, as we have proved. Therefore it is impossible that our choice be the direct and per se effect of the heavenly bodies.
Someone, however, might endeavour to meet this argument by saying that every evil choice results from the desire of some particular good, as we have proved above: thus the choice of the lustful man arises from his desire for a good consisting in sexual pleasure: and some star causes movement to this good in general. In fact this is necessary for the generating of animals: and this common good was not to be omitted on account of the particular evil of an individual, who through this instigation chooses an evil.
But this reply is not sufficient if we suppose the heavenly bodies to be the per se cause of our choice, through making direct impressions on our intellect and will. Because the impression made by a universal cause is received in a thing according to that thing's mode. Consequently the effect of a star which causes a movement towards pleasure connected in an ordinate manner with generation, will be received into a thing according to the mode proper thereto: thus we see that various animals have various ways and various times of coming together, as becomes their nature, as Aristotle remarks (De Hist. Anim. v. 8). Hence the intellect and will receive the impression of that star according to their mode. Now when a thing is desired according to the mode of the intellect and reason, there is no sin in the choice, which is always evil through not being according to right reason. Therefore if the heavenly bodies were the cause of our choice, we should never make an evil choice.
Further. No active power extends to things above the species and nature of the agent: because every agent acts through its form. Now, to will, as also to understand, transcends every corporeal species: for just as our intellect understands the universal, so also is our will referred to the universal, for instance we dislike every kind of thief, as the Philosopher says (Rhet. ii. 4). Therefore the act of the will is not caused by a heavenly body.
Besides. Things directed to an end are proportionate to that end. Now, our choice is directed to happiness as our last end. And this does not consist in bodily goods, but in the union of our soul, through the intellect, with divine things: this was proved above to be an article of faith and in accordance with the opinion of philosophers. Therefore heavenly bodies cannot be the cause of our choice. Wherefore it is said (Jerem. x. 2, 3): Be not afraid of the signs of heaven which the heathens fear: for the laws of people are vain.
We hereby refute the opinion of the Stoics, who held that all our actions, even our every choice, are governed by the heavenly bodies. – This is also said to have been the opinion of the Pharisees among the Jews of old.– And the Priscillianists were also guilty of this error, as stated in De Hæresibus.
This was also the opinion of the ancient physicists, who held that intellect differs not from sense. Wherefore Empedocles, as quoted by Aristotle (3 De Anima iii.), said that the will of man, like that of other animals, is strengthened presently (i.e., according to the present moment), by the movement of the heaven which is the cause of time.
We must observe, however, that although heavenly bodies are not the direct cause of our choosing, by making a direct impression on our will, nevertheless indirectly they do occasion our choice, through making an impression on bodies. This happens in two ways. First the impression made by a heavenly body on bodies other than our own may be an occasion of our making a particular choice: thus when through the action of the heavenly bodies the air becomes intensely cold, we choose to warm ourselves by the fire, or to do something similarly befitting the time being.–Secondly, they may make impressions on our own body, and when the body is affected movements of the passions arise; either because such impressions make us liable to certain passions; for instance the bilious are prone to anger; or because they produce in us a bodily disposition that occasions a particular choice, thus when we are ill, we choose to take medicine.–Sometimes too, the heavenly bodies are a cause of human acts, when through an indisposition of the body a person goes out of his mind, and loses the use of reason. Such persons are not capable of choosing properly speaking, but they are moved by a natural instinct, like dumb animals. It is evident, however, and we know by experience, that such occasions whether exterior or interior are not a necessary cause of choice: since man can use his reason to reject or obey them. But those who follow their natural bent are in the majority, and few, the wise alone to wit, are those who avoid the occasions of ill-doing and who follow not the impulse of nature. Hence Ptolemy says (Centiloq. 8, 7, 1) that the soul of the wise man assists the work of the stars; and that the astrologer cannot read the stars unless he knows well the bent of the mind and the natural temperament, and that the astrologer should not express himself in detail but only in general terms: because the majority resist not their bodily disposition, and so the impression of the stars takes effect in them; but not always in this or that individual who, maybe, uses his reason to resist that inclination.
- ↑ Ch. lxxxiv.
- ↑ Ch. lxxxiv.
- ↑ 1 Ethic. vii.
- ↑ Ch. lxxi.
- ↑ Ch. iv. seqq.
- ↑ Ch. v., vi.
- ↑ Ch. xxv. seqq.
- ↑ Cf. Ch. lxxxiv.
- ↑ Cf. Joseph., Ant. Jud. xiii. 5.
- ↑ S. August., De Haeres., Haeres. lxx.
|Source: St. Thomas Aquinas, The Summa Contra Gentiles, trans. by The English Dominican Fathers from the latest Leonine Edition, Benzinger Brothers: New York, 1924.|