Part VI: The Union of

Part VI: The Union of Natural Things To God

The word “natural” is one of the many words derived from the Latin “nasci” meaning “to be born”. The participle form “natus” was present in many Latin words beginning in “nat-“: most of which have reference to birth or “coming forth”. Once we know to look for this, we can see the same quality in the “nat-” words in English: “natal” simply means birth, as does “nativity”. “Nascency” meaning “birth or origin” is from the same root, as is “nascent” meaning “beginning to exist” . Our word “nation” connotes “a people all born in the same land”, and a “native” is one who was born in a certain place.

Since the word “natural” is a part of a community of words that all relate to the idea of birth, it is best to see the later developments of the word arising from this root idea. A few meanings of the word relate explicitly to birth: “a natural leader” is someone who was born to lead, and “natural parents” are synonymous with “birth parents”.

This idea of birth contains the idea of what arises motu proprio, spontaneously, and apart from human intention. This might be first said of living things: trees drop seeds, shoots spring up- but plenty of non- living things arise spontaneously apart from human design. Summer rains, climate patterns, the aurora borealis, flooding rivers, and even the decay and death of things are all called “natural”. “Natural things” is a more general class than “living things”, yet there is a certain similarity to living things in that natural things arise “on their own”- at least in the sense of coming forth separately from human initiative.

When we compare natural things to the created things we took up in Part V, we see that “to be natural” adds to the idea of “to be created” the idea of activity. This activity is sometimes in the thing only as a passive power (as in the water that flows downhill), but regardless of this, the activities we call natural are determinate activities. This is what allows us to oppose natural activities to artificial ones- they differ in agent but are alike in being determinate. It is this very determination that allows us to study natural things- or even to name them. If some activity lacked determination altogether, we wouldn’t even recognize it as a species of action to be named. .

But to have determination of action means to have a term of action. But “term” in this sense means “end”. It makes no difference whether this term is a static point to be reached and rested in (like “maturity” or “digested”) or whether the term of the action is the action itself (like “seeing” or “playing guitar”) in both cases it is the a term of the action that arises as an end.

But to have a term, or an end by nature is to have a term of action even before the activity. It is the having of this term even before the activity that allows everyone from a two year-old to a scientist to predict natural activities (why else would we move out of the way of a tree falling towards us? Or place meat on a flame to cook it?)*

Whatever, therefore, moves a thing to a term per se**, moves it to a term that is determined prior to the action. But a term that is determined prior to action is possessed prior to action, since it is determining actions while, and even before*** they happen. But to possess a term prior to acting toward it requires knowledge in one way or another. But the knowledge is obviously not the knowledge of the natural thing, and by definition it is not the knowledge of a man working by art. To be natural, therefore, which means to have determinate activity apart from human intention, means to have a unity with a being whose knowledge governs all natural things, and through whose very governance all things receive their existence as natural. And this being all call God.
*”acting for an end” is often made out to be something less obvious than it is. Any determinate action, by definition, has an end. See pp. 7 here
** It is important to pick the proper term here, and it is not always clear what the term is. The only thing proved here is that there is some term, from which every action takes its species. Still less is it clear what exactly the proper good of a determinite action is- that there is some good is almost axiomaic, what exactly the good is is somethimes hard to determine: consider the particular determinite action of carbon dioxide or sulfuric acid forming.
***This before is not temporal, but causal, it indicates that the action is always determined.


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