Towards an Integral Anthropology

This article was written by Father Mieczyslaw Albert Krapiec O.P., for inaugural exercises at the Catholic University of Lublin in 1999, and is reprinted here with the permission of the author. The author is a noted Thomistic philosopher who has been recognized by awards and honorary doctorates too numerous to mention.

Lublin School of Philosophy.
Hugh McDonald: the translator's home page.


Philosophical anthropology explains the human being in the context of "nature", that is, in the context of the portion of reality which is accessible to man in his natural cognition, by the senses and reason. This philosophical explanation is the foundation for understanding man as the source of personal activities in various human societies. Yet, if we consider real human life, we may ask whether the traditional philosophical anthropology can really provide insight into the whole of human activities. Does not the human transcendence that we observe in man's activities perhaps extend to the broader problematic of human life after death, if the human personal being is immortal? In such a case, does not the understanding of man that is present in a strictly philosophical anthropology require some sort of completion in biblical revelation and a theological interpretation of what divine revelation has to say about man?

During his Nineteen Seventy Nine pilgrimage to Poland, Pope John Paul the Second spoke in Warsaw, and said, "We cannot completely understand man without Christ". His Encyclical letter Fides et Ratio suggests that philosophical anthropology should fully investigate our real human activities and the human inclinations that evoke our activities. Martin Heidegger considered these in the purely philosophical understanding of man as a being-toward-death. Heidegger also mentioned the "existentialia" of man, which are consequences of Geworfenheit, that fact that man's existence has been inserted into the world without man's decision; the world is irrational in this view, acquiring rationality because human thought is anchored in the world. But is not the world rational in its content; does it not provide man with the foundation for understanding? By cognition man comes into contact with the world into which he has been cast. Heidegger's existentialia, all consequences of Geworfenheit, are as follows: Fürsorge - Zuhanden-sein, as a particular feeling of protective concern or stewardship over things; Mitsorge - as human compassion; Sorge>, anxious concern over the tragic taste of man's lot, which is ultimately to exist faced toward death zum Todessein. These existentialia raise questions that we must answer. The questions are related to biblical revelation and every man must do his best to find the answers. A good answer would be such that it could help man direct his life and make his life rational in ultimate terms.

We are asking here whether it is possible to construct an "integral anthropology". We may find the answer in our cultural heritage. It is to be found in concrete form in the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. The Summa Theologica is divided into three parts, which together form a great and reasoned answer to the question: "What is the meaning of human existence?". We will examine in detail the structure of the Summa, as a proposal for an ultimate understanding of the meaning of the existence of human persons.

The first part of the Summa discusses the problematic of God and creation, in particular man's ontic structure. It forms a great answer to the question of "man as being cast without his consent into the world". What sort of world are we talking about? What sort of "being-cast"? How is man understood here?

The world as the setting for human life appears immediately to us as a being which is rational in its essence, for the being of what we call the world is legible; the world awakes in man an understanding of being that extends right to the existence of God himself. At the beginning of the Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas analyzes the problem of our ability to know God through the study of really existing being. In his writing, he establishes human cognition in the field of the intelligibility of being, and it is the intelligibility of being that is the reason for human rationality. The question of the existence of God, and what we can know of God, immediately leads us to the problem of our understanding of being. What sort of being is ultimately presented to human cognition? Man can know this being in five ways; these ways show the ultimate sense or meaning of being as really existing. Being appears in our experience as constantly being completed in its existence. The existence of such being is constantly being actualized; its existence can be acquired or lost. This is the drama of existence: existence must must be constantly actualized. This is something basic for man, for our own human existence is acquired, and we are constantly faced with the prospect of losing existence. No being in our experience gives existence to itself, for it does not possess existence: no such being is existence from and by itself. This is the first way in our search for the rationality of the world. That which constitutes the fact of being in a being is real existence. This real existence is actualized in being ultimately by the Being who of and by Himself is existence, whom we call God. To a certain degree this was foreshadowed in Aristotle's definition of motion, which in the scholastic formulation is: actus entis in potentia quatenus in potentia - est motus . . . Thus we have the proof that is call the way "ex motu", which Saint Paul recalls in his discourse to the Athenians: "In him we move".

The existence of being, which constantly realizes itself in particular concrete beings, also finds a subject in these beings in the form of an ontic effect, or effect of being. Ontic effects are effects for the reason that they came into existence in a real and definite content. The coming into existence of an effect that did not exist before indicates the source of the effect. Ultimately, this is the Being that exists per se, not dependent upon any other being. Thus the existence that comes to realization, which arises in the form of a real effect, indicates God as the source of existence. This is the main thought in the second Way of St Thomas, where he shows the existence of God as the source of the reality that has come into existence and continues to exist, but not by its own power.

This state of affairs reveals that the world as such does not exist by its own power, from itself, that it is not the master of its own existence. Thomas notes: quod possibile est non esse, quandoque non est: that which is capable of not existing, at some time does not exist. It does not exist of itself or from itself, and if it does exist, then it does not always exist. It receives its existence from the Necessary Existence, God. The three first ways of Saint Thomas are ways of considering the aspect of existence in being. Existence constitutes the real order of being.

The fourth way considers the existing and real content or essence of being, which appears in a hierarchy according to is universal and transcendental properties. Beings come into existence as effects, and so they are to greater or lesser degrees "one", "true", "good", "noble and perfect". When we examine our own conduct, in which we choose that which is better and reject that which is less good, we see that we spontaneously know the degrees of being. That which is better is that which is less subject to destruction or deterioration, that is, it is less divided within itself, more "one". That which is true is less falsified; that which is less deceptive and more attractive, as a stable good or end of action, and so forth. The world consists of beings that share analogically in these transcendental perfections. The transcendental perfections found partially or incompletely in in particular beings, and these beings are effects. Such a world suggest the being of God, who alone is perfect completely and fully, through Himself. In God there is absolute identity of the act of existence and the universal perfections.

The various activities that emerge from this effect, which is reality, indicate teleological activities joined by necessity with God as a personal being. God as a personal being knows and loves, and He directs and governs the world that has come into existence. There are certain factors which are present in all activity: a motive - the good or goods for the sake of which the activity exists rather than not existing; a cognitive determination - which concerns the means for attaining the end; and the facticity or actuality of activity, rather than merely some abstract trains of thought. Thus, when we examine activity as teleological, organized and real or factual, we see God as a personal being, for as a personal being He evokes love, and He directs activity by intellect or reason, and this activity fills the world of the ontic effects that have come into existence.

When the human reason examines the existing world of beings, it sees that being can be understood intellectually. Being is intelligible to the limits of intelligibility. God Himself appears as that limit of intelligibility, existing through Himself as the source, exemplar, and end or good of the beings that are effects.

Thus, human existence, although it is contingent and oriented toward death, is located in the rational context of the world that comes from God and depends upon God for its act of existence. A closer consideration of this world of created beings, such as we find in Saint Thomas' fourth way, in an analogical way shows us what we commonly call the nature of God. God's nature can be known in an analogical manner, either positively (a cataphatic cognition) or negatively (an anaphatic cognition). We can know of God's goodness, infinity, unity, truth, knowledge, love, His participative presence in the world, His ideational cognition, and His happiness.

The knowledge, love and happiness of God becomes clearer to us with the revelation of God's internal life in the Trinity of Persons. God as Absolute Being is not alone or lonely in His infinite life, but eternally He expresses Himself as the Begotten Word-Thought. And the Word passes into the eternal Breath (Verbum spirans amorem of the Love of God for Himself and for all that "is in God and from God". Thus, in his consideration of reality, Thomas shows in the Summa Theologica, that the knowable and rational world is constantly coming from the perfect God, who lives a personal life of infinite creative knowledge and unfailing love, which give rise to a happiness that we can only grasp by analogy in the context of our imperfect knowledge of the beings that are His effects, which have God and His ideative creative cognition as their source

Creativity is God's first activity in relation to the world of beings that come into existence in the act or process of constant creation. The preservation of beings in existence is a continual act of creation: conservatio in esse est continua creatio.

The conception of a world created from "nothing", where we negate the existence of any form of being apart from God, shows the radical rationality of a reality that comes entirely from God. This conception of creation does not include any idea of emanation, such as we find in Plotinus. Thomas examines more closely the effects created by God in his Summa. There, THomas first studies the creation of the world of rational and pure spirits, known in the language of the Bible as "angels", the messengers or delegates of the divine rule. The world of matter is also completely from God by the act of creation, and it is dependent upon God in its existence. The vision of the world provided by divine revelation contradicts all the accounts of a primordical chaos depicted in mythology. The act of creation concerns all of reality, both pure spirits and matter.

In the context of the created world of spirits, which possess a rationality not limited by matter, and in the context of the world of matter, created together with, and possibly at the same time as the spiritual world, there appears also the creation of man.

Man is a synthesis of the world of spirits and the world of matter. As such he is a special object of God's creative activity. God expressed his own image and likeness in man. God creates man's soul directly. The soul is a being that exists in itself, and we can also think of the soul in the category of form. The soul has its own existence and imparts its existenced to the matter that it organizes into a human body. The human soul is in its essence an incomposite spirit, and it exists in itself as a unified and incomposite being "all at once". This being is not subject to the process of evolution. The human soul does depend upon matter in its activity; the soul is the form that organizes matter. This means that all of man's activity is permeated by materiality, that is, potentiality, and by its dependence upon the body. On the other hand, the ontic structure of certain spiritual effects of human conduct are immaterial. This is the case in that part of our life that can be called, intellectual, cognitive, and volitional. Our volitional life can also be called the spiritually emotional. The ontic structure of our acts of intellect and will is immaterial, although the activity involved in these acts depends upon man's corporeal aspect.

An analysis of man's structure as a being, based on the phenomena of human activity, shows that the soul is essentially ordered to the body, for all the forms of the soul's activity, whether vegetative, sensitive or spiritual, are carried out with the help of the material body. A necessary condition for man's spiritual life is that matter must be concretely formed into a human body. We could say that man and his soul in his activity that is joined with matter, calls matter to make and reveal a synthesis of the whole of the spiritual and material creation.

When we consider God's creative process and God's cognition and ideas as the source of this process, we see man's greatness as a person made in the image and likeness of God. The person, thus considered, is the concrete expression of God's perfection and wealth of being. Man is not merely a being thrown without consent into the world, but he is a concrete person who has to realize God's idea through his own human activity, and must do so in the concrete situation in which he finds himself. Man's realization of God's idea is the actualization of man's personal potentialities for actions that are in the measure of the person. Such actions are conscious and free acts of decision.

The original creation of man by God revealed the rational and free actualization of the perfections of human nature, and it continues to reveal this. This undisturbed process of perfection is call paradise in biblical revelation. At the same time, paradise was the scene of the drama of man's free choice. The freedom given to man became the occasion for an evil choice: sin.

Under these circumstances, the divine government of the world -- and God had created angels and men to govern the world -- was complicated by the evil choices of certain persons in the world of spirits and of man. So man was faced with a new and difficult perspective for human activity, by which he is ultimately to realize God's first plan for the human person, which plan is expressed in the ideas of the concrete particular man. The actualization of human personal potentialities became more difficult, and at the same time God's actual help became absolutely necessary. These matters were presented in the Secunda Pars of the Summa, and in the Tertia Pars, which shows the role of Christ as man's Mediator, Saviour and Redeemer.

2. The individual man in his concrete life, in the state resulting from the fall of our first parents, must make his way through life, and his way is made of human activities, which as human are also activities with a moral dimension. The problematic of the foundations of moral activities is covered in the "Prima Secunda" - the first book of the second part - of the Summa Theologica. We should be aware of the basic factors that together make it possible to perform human acts that should constitute the optimum potentiae. The optimal potency is rational and good human activity.

In human activity, the primary matter is to understand the end-purpose, which is the motive for that activity. The end-purpose is the reason why the activity has come into existence. An analysis of the end as the motive of activity also indicates the completion of man in happiness. Happiness cannot be dismissed as self-interest, as it is wrongly conceived by Kant, for it is part of the nature of any contingent being that it seeks fulfilment, and this fulfilment can be taken in objective terms as the good in itself, the highest good. In subjective terms, this same good completes or fulfills man as a being that acts rationally, and this is how we should conceive happiness. We elicit activity from ourselves under the influence of a motive that is perceived by the reason, and this eliciting is the activity of the will; it is the voluntarium or volitional aspect of human activity. The act of decision, which Saint Thomas calls electio, is the most important moment in this activity. This is the choice by the will of a particular practical judgement, which indicates to us an obligation to achieve a certain good in our moral act. The good will not remove us from the last end of human life, but rather, it will bring us closer, and enable us to reach it.

Some of the factors involved in a moral decision are the object, which is good or bad, the circumstance under which the human act is done, the subjective intentions joined with the action, and the involvement of other human potentialities apart from the will itself, which elicits the act. All this must be evaluated from the point of view of man as a being that is conscious and free in his activity. The moment of freedom is fulfilled in the choice of the will, in the act of decision, in which there is a synthesis of cognitive and appetitive-volitional factors in the human person.

The truth of a moral choice in an act of decision (the will's free choice for such a judgement about a good, which it should achieve, in order to make itself good by a good human act) is characterized by man's internal truth or internal depravity.

In order to better understand this, we must consider human feelings, which are an important factor in the formation of human conduct, and so in the order of human morality. Feelings do not always appear in one's activity in accordance with the commands of the reason. In the case where human feelings are too autonomous and not dependent upon the reason, it is very difficult to make proper decisions. If we know the character of human feelings, their basic manifestations and ontic structure, we can work upon our inner selves to order these feelings to the rational activity that is proper to man. Hence Saint Thomas analyzes in detail and in breadth the human feelings that are factors that characterize human activity.

Feelings sometimes make human activity easier, and sometimes make it difficult. The same is true of the habits that result from human activities. These habits incline us either to good or to evil activity, and they are a factor in rational moral conduct. These are virtues and vices, acquired by the repetition of certain acts. These habits either perfect or cause the deterioration of human potentialities, the powers and immediate sources of activity. We must examine the subjects in which these habits reside: the reason, the will, the affective or emotional powers, insofar as these are subject to constant correction so that human activities may become more human, more rational and free. As we examine various possible habits in the natural order, the habits which make the sources of human activity virtuous, we open the way for a consideration of the possibility of acquiring virtue through the supernatural order. We may consider the infused virtues, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the gifts and blessings mentioned by revelation.

Saint Thomas was a realist in his consideration of man, and so he had to consider man's inclination to sin. This is a consequence of original sin, which has permanently weakened the natural activity of our reason. He also considered vices and how they are manifest in sins. The problematic of sin is important and timely for man in his human activities, and it merits a special analysis. Saint Thomas analysed sin in many of his questions. His teaching provides a better understanding of man. He shows man as the subject of vices, and shows how sins result from vice. In turn, he shows how sins have further effects upon man.

Man as the subject of acts of sin, and as the one who causes evil by his sins, is an important object of study. This is so we may have a deeper understanding of human nature as the source of human conduct, and also that we may understand man as a participant in social life. Man's social life is adversely affected, and even threatened with destruction, by man's sins. We cannot understand man without considering his sinful activity, as this activity poses a real threat to man, whether he lives alone or in definite social structures where evil is especially harmful and destructive.

In our discussion of man as one capable of rational and voluntary actions, but also capable of actions that are tainted by sin and vice as the consequences of original sin, we should consider the various ways in which society may help man as a source of personal and human activity. Society provides external assistance in the form of laws. Man also has help that reaches to the depth of his soul, such as the help of grace, which is God's supernatural activity.

Laws and rights, both of which are covered by the Latin term IUS, IURIS and the Polish term PRAWO, are of particular importance in man's life. This is especially true of man as living in society. This applies whether we are speaking of a society that exists at the natural level such as the family, various organizations, the state, or the supernatural society, which in the light of faith we see as the Church. We are considering law in its basic ontic (real and intentional) structure. We may understand laws as rules of conduct that have been properly established by man. The conception of law presented by Saint Thomas is particularly important in the study of law, for his conception provides us not only with the foundations for a philosophy of law, but also with a theological understanding.

Traditional or classical philosophy considers the phenomenon of law to be something natural that comes into existence together with man, whereby man's life is protected. Thus law as an inter-personal phenomenon concerns human activities wherein man has an obligation with a view to man's good, as well as the prohibition of activities that are harmful. This is not merely a matter of convention, but it is a necessary condition for human life and personal development. Hence the good of man that is achieved by human activity places an obligation upon man by virtue of nature. Man's good appears in man's natural inclinations, and these inclination are ordered to the preservation of human life, and to the development of personal life. Personal development occurs in the intellectual and cognitive order, as well as in the order of moral conduct by the realization in decisions of the human good, and ain the order of creative activity in various orders of life where human activities result in the production of that which is beautiful. Law in this sense, understood here as the realization of the human good, is the foundation for all the conventional or positive laws that govern the particular details of human conduct in the social order. However, no rule of conventional law may be directed against the real good of man. If the lawmaker promulgated a law contrary to man's good, it would be a law in appearance only, and it would not have any power to oblige human conduct, which always involves the realization of a true good.

Thomas applies his general conception of law when he considers the religious laws of the Old Testament and those of the Church of his time. These laws are applied only for the sake of increasing the human good and for man's internal perfection. They cannot hinder man in his relation to God, as the Person with whom man is connected in his religious life.

Man is ordered to share in God's personal life. This life is completely beyond man's natural powers. At the end of the Prima Secundae Thomas discusses the question of grace as a necessary condition and starting point of the supernatural life that continues in the beatific vision. Grace is conceived as the trace of the Incarnate Word, man's Saviour and Redeemer, and the transformation of the soul after the Pattern of the Incarnate Word. Grace enables the human person to share in God's own knowledge, love, freedom and happiness, according to Christ's own words. Grace also makes possible the beatific vision, in which God Himself is directly experienced. Grace, as God sharing Himself, ultimately provides a guarantee to man that what God intended for man when He created the human soul may come to fruition. The supernatural order is built into the structure of the human being and the human activities that transcend matter. The supernatural order brings to completion the potentialities of human nature. Human nature is at its depth submissive to God's action, which has been traditionally described as obediential potency - potentia oboedientialis.


3. After Saint Thomas provides a rough outline of the structure of man's natural and supernatural activity by which man actualizes his natural and supernatural potentialities, he analyses the particular manner in which these potentialities are actualized. He discusses that particular virtues and the general forms of human life. He considers the natural and supernatural virtues and the particular assistance that God gives us in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He presents them dialectically along with the vices and sins that deform them. In his activity, man has the possibility to choose either good or evil. Hence we should not be one-sided in considering man as a person who actualizes his potentiality, but we must consider those things that destroy or compromise the rational meaning of human life. The particular analyses of how man actualizes his virtues also draw upon the experience of various thinkers over the ages, in ancient, classical and biblical cultures. This approach allows us to see the richness and variety of human life as it appears in knowledge and conduct.

Human conduct and man's moral life are one and the same. Morality is the essential form of human conduct. For this reason, the Summa Theologica analyses human conduct at great length. Man's activity qua man is characterized by its rationality and freedom. Thomas draws upon the important distinction of Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics where he presents three forms of activity in which rational cognition finds expression: theoretical knowledge ordered to truth; practical knowledge whereby human potentialities are actualized in attaining to the good; and creative or artistic cognition, which is ordered to the realization of beauty, as a synthesis of truth and goodness. Of course, these three ways of knowledge overlap in concrete human action, but one or another will be accented, depending whether we are engaged in theory, practice or with creative directives. Practical knowledge is unique in that it is realized in every individual personal human life. This type of knowledge concerns man himself, as he is actualized by his own decisions in action. Thus it applies to every man. Not every man makes scientific discoveries, nor does every man produce works of art, but every man must act in a human manner. Every man must make decisions and act. This is the domain of morality, for every action of man actualizes him as a rational and good man (or as irrational and evil), that is, simply as a man. The consideration of the various ways of virtuous and vicious action are important in knowing who man is, as man is ordered, whether he is willing or unwilling, to eternal life, for such is the structure of the human being.

Thomas begins his consideration of the particular modes of virtuous action with an analysis of the theological virtues: faith, hope and charity. These virtues are emphazised in the revelation of the New Testament and are presented with the analogy of a child in relation to his parents. Christ teaches that this is how we should live in relation to God. We are to be "children of God", as is expressed in the prayer that begins with the words "Our Father". The child behaves toward his parents with faith, trust or hope, and love. The child is born in the family, and receives from his parents everything necessary for life. Most important, along with the ability to speak he gains knowledge of life. If he is to survive, he must have trust in what he learns from his parents. The words of his parents are the first and primary source of knowledge. Faith, then, is the first way in which we know about life. The moment of faith in the process of knowledge is with us throughout our lives, for we are not capable of verifying everything we are told. We would not have survived childhood if we did not accept what our parents told us as true in an attitude of faith. The same holds true with respect to trust or hope, and love in the relation of the child to his parents. The same attitude and way of life is necessary for man in the supernatural life. Man is grafted on to the supernatural life and it is the only real form of man's life that is everlasting and eternal. An analysis of the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity is also necessary if we are to be aware of and understood in actual circumstances what we must do and what is our final goal. The detailed analysis of these virtues introduces man into a fully aware human life that aims through death at eternity, and it permits him to better understand the humanity of man as it is given to him to be completed in his acts.

We possess a great variety of habitual forms of human activity, both positive and negative. These habitual modes of activity have an immense influence upon human conduct, and by examining this we gain a better knowledge of the human forms of the moral life. In 46 questions, each which includes several articles, Thomas examines the forms of activity associated with the theological virtues, the connection between human conduct and the practice of faith, hope and charity. For example, along with the analysis of the object of faith and the various manifestations of faith, we find discussions on the gift of intellect, the gift of knowledge, the act of infidelity, the nature of heresy, apostasy, blasphemy, intellectual blindness and the dulling of the senses, and so forth. All these should sensitize man to the actualization of faith itself within him in various particular social and psychic contexts. The same applies to the other theological virtues, which deeply permeate the human psyche in the life of the individual and society.

The supernatural order does not destroy man's life, but ennobles the activity of human nature as man acts in the real context of experience. The philosophical tradition examined the various forms of human conduct in so far as conduct can be foreseen as resulting from the habits as sources of human activity. As the ancient classical philosophers presented them, the souces of human action are the human reason, the free will, and passions, including the irascible passions that incline us to fight, and the concupisible passions that are oriented toward a pleasurable good. The activity of these powers is formed into various habits, and thereby man is made noble as the author of his own deeds. This is expressed in the four cardinal virtues, which in turn can each be subdivided into particular virtues, and the contrary deformations, where the virtues are perverted by evil actions, and these are the vices. The four cardinal virtues are prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.

If man is a rational being, then the reason is the guide of human conduct. A man must have proper preparation in his cognitive activity that is ordered to the realization of the good. The general preparation of the reason to right action may be called prudence. In antiquity, Heraclitus wrote of prudence as phronetic cognition, and Aristotle connected phronetic cognition with the domain of ethics as the knowledge of morality. Prudence concerns a wide range of activities. These activities are anchored in the past, and so prudence involves the memory of things past, as well as an attentive awareness of the present state of the individual and society with all their positive and negative aspects. Finally, prudence involves foresight, which can be regarded as a sort of personal providence in the activity of the human person.

The cardinal virtue of justice ennobles the human will and strengthens it so that it consistently renders to each what is due to him. Justice concerns life as directed by the law, but also other forms of living together properly with other people. It was discussed in both the biblical and philosophical tradition. In the ethics of Socrates and Plato, justice was a particularly sublime form of perfect human life. If we study justice at greater depth, we see that there are many special forms of justice and injustice. We may mention three principal varieties of justice: legal justice, distributive justice and commutative justice. These are manifest in individual and social life, and they are seen most clearly when we consider unjust acts. There are many kinds of unjust acts, concerning both persons and things. If we consider murder, mutilation, coercion, fraud, insult, mockery, slander, or mischief, we become keenly aware of the role of justice in our common life.

Justice extends not only to other human beings, but also to the person of God. Here we may consider the role of religion in man's life. There are many forms of justice included under the virtue of religion, and likewise many corresponding vices. Our relation towards our parents, our family, our fatherland, and our nation are also a domain of justice. These forms of justice also ennoble man. Here again we find corresponding vices. (Every virtue has two corresponding vices, one arising from a shortcoming, and the other arising from an excess in human action). Vices not only deform the human act, but a vicious act in turn deforms the person who performs the act.

Prudence greatly depends upon the formation of habits in the human passions. Certain passions help us in removing an imminent evil, and these passions are ennobled by the virtue of fortitude. The virtue of fortitude provides strength in a prudent attack upon an evil, so that we might overcome it. Fortitude is even more important in giving us strength to hold evil in check and not surrender to it. Fortitude may manifest itself in very difficult acts as courage, but it also appears in ordinary daily matters as patience and persistence; it may also appear as magnanimity and humility.

It is important for the life of the individual and of whole societies that we should understand man and show his nature in activity that is ennobled by fortitude or depraved by a lack of fortitude, or an abuse of fortitude.

Man is made more noble by subjecting his appetitive passions to the rule of human reason. This takes the form of the virtue of temperance, and this virtue completes our vision of human rational conduct. Temperance puts a rational restraint upon human emotion, like a bit in a horse's mouth. By temperance we are able to rule over the desires of soul and body in the various domains of life. Temperance has often been associated with human sexuality and the activities of procreation, but temperance also applies to the movements of the human psyche in the domain of the soul, such as envy, pride, excessive and unnecessary curiosity, and the desire to surpass others. Temperance requires not only that man regulates his own important and necessary biological powers in the vegetative level, matters such as nourishment and the transmission of human life, but also in the area of his spiritual desires. If man's spiritual desires are not properly governed and improved, they lead to the devastation of individual and social life.

All men are concerned with how to aim for perfection in moral conduct. There are also particular manifestations of human life such as "prophecy, which is a unique pronouncement on matters connected with religion, for the good of man. Toward the end of the second part of the Summa Theologica, Saint Thomas considers prophetic speech, which uses metaphoric language. This language of metaphor must be properly understood. The matters of religion normally are beyond the range of human knowledge, and therefore they cannot be expressed univocally or by common analogy as in normal and daily human speech. Prophecy requires a different kind of metaphor, one which has not only a cognitive function, but also an emotional function, as it properly disposes the psyche of the listener (or reader) to take an emotional stance, positive or negative, toward the information provided by the metaphor. Furthermore, another gift is necessary to interpret the metaphor transmitted in the prophetic teaching. This is the act of turning attention to the information, which is called in Latin accepta, and the proper interpretation of this information, the iudicium de acceptis. These matters are also connected with the problematic of the teaching office of the Church, which preserves the revealed truths of the faith and has the power to interpret them correctly for the good of the faithful, whom it should "strengthen in faith."

Thomas concludes his consideration of human activity in the Secunda Secundae by considering the active and contemplative forms of life, particularly the contemplative life in religious orders, which is supposed to effectively help in a noble realization of humanity.


4. Man's ontic structure and source, and the forms of his activity allow us to understand more profoundly who man is, and how he is realized as a dynamic and potential personality. This realization takes place in the perspective of the end purpose of human life, which concludes with the death of the body, while the soul, which is not subject to death, remains alive. Here we are faced with the greatest difficulties in understanding the meaning of human life. On the one hand, the human soul within man is not subject to decay, despite the disintegration of the body. The soul is capable of a new and perfect life, but man is powerless on his own to attain the life that he desires in his spiritual acts. Although in man there is the natural desire to see God as the ultimate fulfilment of human inclinations, this desire alone on the part of man is without power to achieve its goal. This was expressed in a Latin formulation: desiderium naturale - INEFFICAX - videndi Deum - Natural desire powerless to see God. Only God can fulfil this desire. Biblical revelation, particularly that of the New Testament, reveals that it is the Incarnate LOGOS-WORD, Jesus Christ, who is the Author of human fulfilment in salvation. Jesus, the son of Mary of Nazareth, when he became man did not cease to be the same Person of God, through his life, death and resurrection actualized the deepest potentiality, the obediential potentiality for the beatific vision of God. Christ thus stands at the very center of man's personal dynamism as He who by his divine power is able to actualize in full that which God himself infused into the soul when he created it, the desire for the ultimate and everlasting happiness in the beatific vision. Christ, He Himself revealed, actualizes man's eternal life in God.

The third part of Saint Thomas' Summa Theologica is devoted to a consideration and analysis of Jesus Christ as God-Man. This part is very detailed and long, but Saint Thomas died before he could complete it. For this reason, the final questions that discuss this role were completed in what is called the Supplementum. Thomas' disciples followed Thomas' thought concerning the ultimate sense of man's personal life in the beatific salvation of man brought about by Jesus Christ. Only Jesus, as God-man, can be the mediator between man and God, and simultaneously man's Saviour. He does all this through all the natural desires that are infused into human nature. His teaching and deeds in the form of his redemptive death as martyr and his salvific resurrection are an argument of faith for the truth of a rational vision of man.

Saint Thomas took the standpoint of faith. He showed the salvific form of the Incarnate Word, and completed the vision of integral anthropology, for he showed and proved that man as a concretized (condensed, as it were) thought of God, originates from God and ultimately is fulfilled in a way above human reason. Man is fulfilled not by his own powers, but by the power of the Person of God. The Person of God through the human nature of Jesus Christ which also has its subject in the existence of the LOGOS, is the crowning point of human life.

The third part of the Summa Theologica contains analyses of the divine and human nature of Jesus Christ, his Incarnation, Birth, Life, His powers, teaching, death and Resurrection. These are known from the Gospel, yet they all must be analysed in order to avoid misunderstandings and errors. Such misunderstandings often come up in the interpretation of the most important mysteries concerning God and man, and concerning the ultimately meaning of man's life. The exposition of Jesus Christ in His life, death, resurrection and glorification are completed by a discussion of the salvific role of the institution founded by Christ, the Church, and a discussion of the Mother of God, the Saints and the Sacraments. The Sacraments are a stable Source of grace that joins man with the life of the Divine Persons. In all this Christ is present as Redeemer and Saviour. He leads man to his eternal destiny, eternal personal life in God through the beatific vision.

That last part of the third section of the Summa Theologica that is called the Supplementum is a compilation of other texts of Saint Thomas arranged in the same way as the articles of the Summa. Although the writing in the Supplementum is weak compared with the original lectures of Saint Thomas, the general thought retains its integrity as it shows us man as seen with the eyes of reason and faith, man as he is found in the divine milieu, and this thought is certainly presented accurately.

If we are to make sense of man's existence, this is the only way. We must see man whose soul is directly created by God; man who was subject to evil; man who in all his rational and good acts aims at his destiny, who is sacrificed by God and fulfilled by the God-man. Only this line of thought completely explains the meaning of human existence and the fulfillment of human nature in each human person by the salvific power of Jesus Christ.

Copyright 1999, Hugh McDonald (with the permission of Father Krapiec). You may reprint this article in small quantities, for distribution to students and colleagues, and not for profit, but you must include the URL ( and this notice of copyright. If you found this useful and interesting, I would appreciate a message: