Another example of the important distinction between descriptive and restrictive relative clauses

St. Thomas asked one of his scribes to write:

Id enim quod praecipue in rebus creatis Deus intendit est bonum quod consistit in assimilatione ad Deum

(ST I Q. 50 art 1)

do we translate this as:

What God chiefly intended in creating things is the good which consists in assimilation to God.

or

What God chiefly intended in creating things is the good, which consists in assimilation to God.

What is St. Thomas saying about goodness here? In the first, the relative clause starting with “which” is restricting the idea of good. The second says that goodness as such is nothing other than a certain assimilation to the divine life.

A third possibility (which is probably the best reading on the basis of an isolated text) – St. Thomas knew that the statement admitted of two meanings, and he intended both.

2 Comments

  1. T. Chan said,

    September 22, 2008 at 10:42 am

    Is there any good which is not in an assimilation to God?

  2. a thomist said,

    September 22, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    As a fact, no, every increase in good is ipso facto some increase in divine likeness. But this does not mean that the very notion of good involves the idea of divine assimilation (though it might) and in this sense there is an account of good that does not involve the idea of assimilation.


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