top of page

The Domestic Aquinas Project

Making the Summa Applicable to Families

Prima Pars

Question 5: On Goodness in General (6 Articles)


Article 1:  Is goodness and being really different? 


Structure of the Argument:


Goodness is what everyone desires. 

Something is good and desirable if it is perfect.

Something is perfect insofar as it is actualized (and not in potential).

Therefore, because a thing exists it has perfection and is thus good.


Thus: goodness and being are the same, but goodness adds desirability.


Everything that exists has being in a simple way.  When we begin to add to that existence with things such as colour and shape and size then we say this thing exists as a white wall or a grape vine; it exists in a more complex way.


All that exists is perfect simply meaning that they

have been actualized, they have existence and

this in itself is a perfection. 


When we consider something in all that it is,

e.g.: the whole tree, it’ll have aspects of

imperfections and perfections.  Thus, it is good in

some ways and not in others.


Family Take Home:


My wife and I would have a debate over and over about whether we can say anyone is evil.  The argument was that a man who does evil things is still a human person and doesn’t God create good?  Vs. The man did evil things and thus we should call him evil. 


St. Thomas solves this problem with this article.  The man who does evil things is good and desirable insofar as he exists and is a person.  Satan is also good from this point of view.  However, when we look at the man and all that he is and his evil deeds, we see much that is not desirable and thus not good. So we can call the man evil. 


It is in this way that we can love the sinner and the sin.  How we can love our children and hate disobedience.

Question 5. Article 2:  Is Goodness prior in idea to being?


Structure of the Argument:


Being is prior to goodness when we are thinking about things.  Why?


The key here is that we can only know that what exists first.  All our knowledge is based on what exists.  When we think of a moose, we can only know what the word ‘moose’ refers to because a moose actually exists. 


The first object of the mind is being.  It is the first

thing that we conceive.  Everything that exists

participates in being and thus all things can be

known.  Just as sound is the proper object of the ear,

so being is the proper object of the intellect.  Things

that don’t exist cannot be known.  Obviously. 


It is prior to goodness in idea because being is what

we first encounter.  Things are good because they

have being, but we encounter their being first.


Family Take Home:


This article is pretty abstract and one must wonder how it could apply or why it even matters.  However, the article is absolutely key to understanding how we understand.  Other philosophers, like Kant, Ockham and Descartes have tried to understand how we understand not using this principle and end up with the conclusion that we can’t know the essence of anything or we can’t really know anything is real and so forth. 


The key is that everything that exists is knowable.  God created being (existence).  It is being that mind encounters first and because we share in being with all of the rest of creation, we can truly know things.  I can know that I have a body and that I’m more than a ‘thinking thing’.  I can know that I made for relationship and can know my wife intimately.  I can know that a tree has an essence and the word ‘tree’ isn’t just some abstract word we’ve assigned to tall wood things. 


If this is true, if things have an essence (a nature) and these can be known, then we enter a world of absolutes.  If there are absolutes in nature, it makes sense there would be absolutes in spirituality, in morality, in philosophy.  Absolutes point to a Creator, one who is wise and creates out of His wisdom. 

Q. 5: Article 3:  Is Every Being Good?


Structure of the Argument:


As was mentioned in Article 1, everything that exists, has been actualized in some way and thus has some element of perfection. This perfection is desirable and hence good.  Everything that is, has formally some element of goodness simply because it has being. 


St. Thomas also notes that goodness doesn’t add anything to a being except that it is desirable.  In objects there is added to existence, their nature (or essence) which includes accidents such as size, quantity, quality, and so forth.  These accidents in a way contract being (existence) into a specific nature.  Goodness does not do this to being.  Thus, we can still say God is perfectly simple and perfectly good without adding an accident to Him.

Family Take Home:


Things are called evil because they lack a perfection.  In men, we

call them evil because they lack in virtue.  Blindness is a natural evil

because it lacks the power to see well.  We call disease evil because

it deprives us of health.  A virus is in a formal sense is good

because it truly exists and existing is a perfection and perfection is

desirable.  What the virus accomplishes in man is to cause a lack of

health.  The lack of the good, the lack of the health is what we call



It is important to note that evil is simply this:  a lack, a deprivation

of the good.  It does not actually exist.  Thus, when we pray or

when we speak of evil, it is important to remember that we are

speaking not of something that actually exists, but of a lack or



When we pray for evil to desist in a situation, we are praying for

the obstacles causing something to be imperfect to be removed.  


This is important for two reasons: 


  1. If we are praying for a bully to stop his evil actions, we are really praying for the bully to increase in virtue.  Praying in this way helps the child to see the good that is in everything.

  2. All things that are good are in some way beautiful.  Suffering can be seen as beautiful under a certain aspect.  There is a beauty to a virus scientifically

Q. 5. Article 4: Whether goodness has the aspect of the final cause?


Structure of the Argument:


All of us desire goodness.  In this way, goodness can be seen as the end for which we desire, or as the final cause – that is that thing that moves us towards itself.  The red wine is good.  We recognize the goodness and act to obtain it.  The red wine acts as a final cause like a magnet.


Family Take Home:


There are a few take-homes from this article as St. Thomas adds some interesting aspects into his replies. 


First of all, it is important to know that we can never desire evil.

  In order to sin or to do an evil act, we must be convincing

ourselves that it is a good.  So the murderer is convinced that

the pleasure he receives from murdering (or revenge or anger

release, &c.) is good.  Our children need to understand this

process that they have in their thinking.  If they want to steal

the cookie, they are convincing themselves that the real

pleasure of the taste of the cookie is a greater good than evil

of sinning or disobeying.   If we can recognize how we think, we can work towards correcting our errors.


Secondly, St. Thomas in his 3rd reply, discusses how our will defines if we are either good or bad.  “A man is said to be good, not by his good understanding; but by his good will.”  For a man can understand clearly that lusting is a sin and then still lust.  It is through the will that we act.  If we have a good will, we will act good and thus be considered a good man.  If we have a good will, but start and continue to make bad choices, then we will be eventually be called a ‘bad man’.  Our will is what gives us the ‘umph’ to do something.  It is important than to strengthen our will so that it becomes masters of our senses and our desires for pleasures and submits the desires for cookies to our understanding that it is bad to steal.


Thirdly, St. Thomas in his 1st reply, mentions what makes up beauty

and states something interesting: We find things beautiful that have

their due proportion for “our senses delight in things duly

proportioned.”  In pointing out what is beautiful and discussing

beauty with the children, we continue to point out the nature of

things.  A flower is beautiful when it has all its petals and is what it is

meant to be without defects, petals missing, black or dried spots, &c. 

We, as humans, have a beauty that increases with our own due

proportion.  Our bodies are more beautiful when they are in proper

proportion.  A muscle builder with huge shoulders and puny legs we

would say ‘looks funny.’  Our souls have a beauty too when they are proper proportion, that is: our intellect understanding properly and our will strong against temptation.  Both make up who we are and both need due attention to grow us in beauty.

Q. 5: Article 5:  Does goodness consist in mode, species and order?


Structure of the Article:


Mode, species and order are in all things created.  Things that have these three in abundance are very good and those that lack are then lacking in goodness.   This is because the essence of goodness is made up of mode, species and order.  Through mode, species and order things having being and are good. 


As we previously learned, something is perfect if it lacks nothing in particular to its mode of perfection and things are more desirable the more perfect they are. 


Now all created things are what they are because of their form.  The form is what gives the matter the impetus to be what it is.  A tree has a tree form.  Humans have a rational soul (our form of our body).  The form of a created thing determines that mode in which a specific thing exists.  I am a human existing as a male.  To the degree that I don’t come to a perfection of my masculinity I lack in goodness.  The form also determines the species.  My soul is a rational soul.  My form is rational.  This puts me into the species of homo sapiens.  Finally, every form brings a determination of the created being towards a certain end.  Because I am rational I have an immortal soul and thus ordered to an immortal end higher than myself – God.

Family Take Home:


In our upside-down thinking world that can’t decide whether

a girl is a girl or a boy, it is important to raise our children

with the right anthropology.  Without this, they can easily

fall prey to the thousands of lies that are told through

professors, books, music and entertainment.  My wife and I

have made ‘defending a proper anthropology’ a new aspect

of their homeschooling curriculum.  Our thoughts don’t

determine who we are in our essence as our mainstream

society believes.  I can’t think myself into changing my

gender.  I am what I am because of the form I’ve been given

and that form is immortal.  I have a human rational soul that

enlivens my entire body from growing my bones, digesting

my food, activating my senses and through which I think and

desire.  This form was made specifically and only for my specific body.  It could inform no other body.  Further, my form has ordered me towards an immortal end.  We are of such great dignity, a dignity we share with the angels, that we are ordered to share in divinity of God. 


Our job is to live according to our nature – to be human and as perfectly as possible through developing virtuous which will make us holy.

Q. 5. Article 6:  Is goodness rightly divided into the virtuous, the useful and the pleasant?


Structure of the Argument:


We can look at the nature of goodness is in three ways.  We desire the good.  When we desire something that is good as part of, or on the way to desiring something else, we call this useful.  An example of this would be medicine.  Medicine is good since it is useful for health.   If our satisfaction is in what is good for its own sake than that

goodness has the aspect of being worthy or virtuous.  An

example of this is the good that another person is for they

good and worthy to be pursued for their own sake.  Thirdly,

something is good when we rest in it and it brings us

delight.  An example of this is the love between a man and

wife – the wills are more at rest, in delight in the love

between them.


Family Take Home:


When teaching our adolescent boys about relationships,

the aspect of the good needs to come into play.  St. Pope

John Paul II tells us that “a person should not be merely a

means to an end for another person,” (Love &

Responsibility, Ch.1) because each person is of such a high dignity.  When we men consider our relationships with women and girl friends, and wives – we must always bare this principle in mind.  We are not to use women as a means for pleasure.  They are good and need to be loved for their own sake.  A husband needs to enthrone his beloved and love her for her sake and in doing so he will delight and find rest in their love.  It is essential that us fathers live this out and model it for our sons.

bottom of page