Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION I.: OF THE LAST END OF MAN IN GENERAL. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1)
Return to Title Page for Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
QUESTION I.: OF THE LAST END OF MAN IN GENERAL. - St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1) 
Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas. A Translation of the Principal Portions of the Second part of the Summa Theologica, with Notes by Joseph Rickaby, S.J. (London: Burns and Oates, 1892).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
OF THE LAST END OF MAN IN GENERAL.
Article I.—Is it proper to man to act for an end?
R. Of the actions done by man, those alone are properly called human, which are proper to man as man. Now man differs from irrational creatures in this, that he is master of his own acts. Wherefore those acts alone are properly called human, whereof man is master. But man is master of his own acts by reason and will: hence free-will is said to be a function of will and reason. Those actions, therefore, are properly called human, which proceed from a deliberate will. Any other actions attributable to man may indeed be styled actions of man, but not properly human actions, since they are not of man as he is man. Now it is clear that all the actions that proceed from any power are caused by that power acting in reference to its object. But the object of the will is some end in the shape of good. Therefore all human actions must be for an end.
§ 1. The end, though it is last in execution, is first in the intention of the agent, and in this way stands as a cause.
§ 3. Such actions as when man moves foot or hand, while thinking of other things, or strokes his beard, are not properly human, because they do not proceed from the deliberation of the reason, which is the proper principle of human actions.
Article IV.—Is there any last end of human conduct?
R. In ends there is found a twofold order, to wit, the order of intention and the order of execution, and in both orders there must be some first point. That which is first in the order of intention is a sort of principle moving the desire: take that principle away, and desire would have nothing to move it. The moving principle of the execution is that from whence the work begins: take away that moving principle, and none would begin to work at anything. Now the moving principle of the intention is the last end: the moving principle of the execution is the first step in the way of means to the end. Thus, then, on neither side is it possible to go on to infinity: because, if there were no last end, nothing would be desired, nor any action have a term, nor would the intention of the agent rest. On the other hand, if there were no first step in the means to the end, no one would begin to work at anything, and deliberation would never terminate, but go on to infinity.
Article V.—Can one man have several ultimate ends?
R. It is impossible for the will of one man at the same time to go out to several diverse objects as to so many different last ends. The reason may be assigned thus. Since every being seeks its own perfection, a man seeks that as his last end which he seeks as his perfect and crowning good. The last end therefore must so fill the whole of the man’s desire as to leave nothing to be desired beyond it. This cannot be, if anything further is required to the perfection of that end. Therefore desire cannot go out to two things as if each were its perfect good.
§ 1. To Augustine’s saying, “Some have placed the last end of man in four things, pleasure, repose, the goods of nature, and virtue,” it is to be said that all these several objects are regarded in the light of one perfect good constituted out of them, by those who have placed in them their last end.
§ 3. The power of the will does not extend to making things opposite and irreconcilable coexist, as they would coexist, if the will could tend to several diverse objects as to so many last ends.
§ 4. That wherein a man rests as in his last end dominates his desire, because therefrom he takes rules of conduct for his whole life: whence it is said of gluttons, “Whose god is their belly,”1 because they place their last end in the pleasures of the table. But, as is said: “No man can serve two masters,”2 two, that is, not in concert with one another. Therefore it is impossible for one man to have several ultimate ends not in harmony with one another.
Article VI.—Is everything that a man wills, willed for the sake of the last end?
R. It needs must be that all things that a man desires are desired for the sake of the last end. Whatever a man desires, he desires in the light of a good thing. If it is not desired as perfect good, which is the last end, it must be desired as tending to perfect good, because always the commencement of a thing is directed to the completion thereof, as is apparent both in things of nature and in things of art, and thus every commencement of perfection is directed to the attainment of perfection in its full measure, which is the achievement of the last end.
§ 1. Actions done in jest are not referred to any external end, but are simply directed to the good of the author of the jest, his delight or recreation. But the full measure of the good of man is found in his last end.
§ 2. Speculative science, being desired as some sort of good by the student of it, is comprehended under that complete and perfect good which is the last end.
§ 3. It is not necessary for one to be always thinking of the last end in every desire and in every work; but the efficacy of the first intention, which is made in view of the last end, remains in every desire of everything, even without any actual thought of the last end: just as it is not necessary in walking along a road to think at every step of the place whither you are going.
§ 4. Augustine says: “That is our final good, which is loved for its own sake, and all other things for the sake of it.”
Article VII.—Is the last end of all men one and the same?
R. We may speak of the last end in two ways: in one way, of the last end itself; in another way, of that in which the character of the last end is found. As regards the last end itself, all agree in desiring the last end, because all desire the fulness of their own well-being, in which full well-being the last end consists. But as regards that in which the character of the last end is found, all men do not agree in their last end. Some seek riches as their complete and final good; others seek pleasure; others other things; just as to every taste deliciousness is pleasant, but to some men most pleasant is the deliciousness of wine, to others the deliciousness of honey, and so of the rest. Nevertheless, that must absolutely be most pleasant, with which he is best pleased who has the best taste; and in like manner that good must be most complete, which is pursued as his last end by him whose affections are best in order.
§ 1. They who sin turn away from that in which the character of the last end is truly found, but not from the simple intention of the last end, which they mistakenly seek in the wrong things.
§ 2. The difference of interests and pursuits in life between man and man is due to the diversity of things in which the character of the final good is sought.
[1 ]Philipp. iii. 19.
[2 ]St. Matt. vi. 24.