In my first post on Schmid’s paper “Finality without Final Causes,” I gave some background to and summarized Schmid’s core argument for the conclusion that on Suárez’s own account of final causation there cannot be final causes either in the divine or natural realms. Final causation in the natural realm is supposed to derive from final causation in the divine realm, external actions derive their final causes from immanent actions, but God’s immanent actions have no final causes.
I’ve argued in the past that Suárez can solve this problem. The general strategy is to tell a different story about how final causality works in the case of God than in the case of human beings. More specifically, deny in the first place that external actions inherit their final causes from immanent acts in the case of God. That is, restrict that story to the case of finite rational agents. Suárez does this explicitly: “We deny that it is always necessary that there be causality of an end internal to the agent itself in order for it to be able to have a place beyond the agent in its other effects” (DM 23.9.9). The concerns stemming from God’s pure actuality do not apply in the case of God’s transeunt or external actions, so if God’s immanent acts can be transparent to final causality in this way, then it seems that God’s transeunt actions can have final causes after all. This might still leave a worry about metaphorical motion. After all, there is no place for metaphorical motion in either God’s immanent or transeunt acts. But didn’t Suárez say that the causality of the end consists in metaphorical motion?
Here I think it is important to notice an easily overlooked structural feature of Suárez’s disputation on final causation, DM 23. The disputation consists of ten sections. The first section, as one might expect, introduces final causes and asks whether there are any in reality. In that section he divides agents into three classes: the uncreated rational agent (God), created rational agents (e.g., human beings), and natural agents (e.g., plants). He then says that since the case of created rational agents is better known to us (we ourselves are such agents), he will first discuss final causation in that realm and then later talk about the other agents (DM 23.1.8). He only returns to the other agents in sections nine and ten (on God and natural agents, respectively). That means that in all the intervening sections he is still restricting his attention to the human case.
That the discussion in sections two through eight is restricted in that way is borne out by the objections he does and does not consider. For example, in the seventh section he asks whether cognition of an end is necessary for final causation. The obvious potential counterexample for any Aristotelian is the case of natural agents, but Suárez does not consider that objection. This would be a significant oversight if he took himself already to be establishing a perfectly universal claim that cognition is necessary, but it makes good sense if he is restricting his attention to created rational agents. The structure of Suárez’s discussion raises interpretive questions, since one might well want to take some of the conclusions in sections two to eight as applying more generally than just to created rational agents. But for present purposes, the important point is that there seems to be textual room for restricting the story about metaphorical motion to the domain of created rational agents. In other words, the claim that an end’s causality consists in metaphorical motion of the will need not be read as applying to the divine case.
Or so I suggested. Schmid has a well-argued reply. Recall that Suárez wants there to be a common concept of cause such that final causes will really be causes. But, Schmid argues, this requires an analogy of intrinsic attribution, which requires that efficient and final causes both infuse being into another thing but in different ways, and the way in which final causes exemplify that characteristic is through metaphorical motion. Hence, whatever Suárez says about ends in the case of God’s actions, they do not metaphorically move and so they do not satisfy the characteristic of being a cause and so they do not fall under the common concept of cause. If the term ‘final cause’ is applied in the divine case, it becomes an equivocal term. Schmid is willing to grant that God acts for a purpose and so allows that there is finality in divine actions. But there is no final causality. In short he answers affirmatively the question in the title of his paper: “Finality without Final Causes?”
My first reaction to Schmid’s argument is fear and trepidation. Final causation is a challenging enough topic. Bring in scholastic doctrines of analogy and an absolutely simple (yet three) being who has intellect and will but is pure actuality, immutable, and impassible … It’s a familiar thought that there is one way of being right and many ways of being wrong, but here all ways start looking wrong.
Being less courageous, I will ask some questions rather than asserting a position contrary to Schmid’s:
Suárez clearly thinks that ’cause’ is an analogical term, but is it clear that Suárez thinks it does not apply univocally to efficient and final causes? DM 27.1.11 suggests to me that he thinks it applies univocally in at least some cases. This might not help Suárez out. Schmid’s argument against analogicity might work just as well against univocity. Still, if Suárez does think that efficient and final causes are univocally causes, that might affect how we should understand his account more generally.
Instead of focusing on the account of metaphorical motion in DM 23.4, could we take our lead from DM 24.2.12 where Suárez says that “final causality … only consists in this dependency which the action has by the agent having thus ordered it to the end”? The suggestion would then be that this dependency counts as the infusion of being. Furthermore, God’s transeunt actions can have this dependency via God’s eternal love and intention. The way created rational agents order actions to an end involves metaphorical motion, but God can order actions to an end without metaphorical motion. In either case, transeunt actions come to have the relevant dependency that satisfies the characteristic needed for an analogy of intrinsic attribution. I am not sure that this could be made to work, but my general thought is there may be ways to wriggle out of seeing metaphorical motion as the only way final causes could have a genuine influxus.
The second question, of course, is the crucial one with respect to Schmid’s core argument. If something along the lines of my suggestion can be made to work, then Suárez might be able to retain his account of final causation and have it apply in the divine and natural realms after all.
I also have two questions of clarification:
Schmid talks of describing an actualization of the will from two sides, from the side of the end or final cause and from the side of the will or efficient cause. Is this supposed to imply that the efficient cause’s physical motion and the final cause’s metaphorical motion are in fact one and the same motion, just under two descriptions? To use Suárez’s language are the physical motion and metaphorical motion distinct ex natura rei or only conceptually?
Disagreements over whether something is an F can be rooted in two different places. The disagreement might indicate disagreement about what conditions need to be met for the concept to have application or there might be agreement about that but disagreement over whether those conditions are met. I often find myself unclear about which sort of disagreement is at stake in discussions of final causation. Am I right in thinking that the key issues in this paper concern the concept of final causation rather than what the world is like? More precisely, does an Aristotelian who thinks there is unproblematic final causation in the natural realm without appeal to God disagree with Suárez about what conditions need to be met for the concept to have application, or is there disagreement about what natural agents are like and how they work?