CT 73: Diversity in Things According to Degree and Order

Having established the reason for diversity in created things, Thomas then goes on in Chapter 73 to begin to characterize that diversity.

Diversity among things was rightly established according to a definite order, so that some things might be more excellent than others. For this pertains to the lavishness of the divine goodness, that God should communicate a likeness of His goodness to created things, so far as possible. God is not only good in Himself, but exceeds other beings in goodness, and guides them toward goodness. Consequently, that the likeness which created beings bear to God might be heightened, it was necessary for some things to be made better than others, and for some to act upon others, thus leading them toward perfection.

God is better than all things; consequently, some created things are better than other created things. Contemplating this order in nature leads us to contemplate God in His goodness.

The basic diversity among things consists chiefly in diversity of forms. Formal diversity is achieved by way of contrariety; for genus is divided into various species by contrary differences. But order is necessarily found in contrariety, for among contraries one is always better than the other. Therefore diversity among things had to be established by God according to a definite order, in such a way that some beings might be more excellent than others.

Two propositions are contraries if no more than one of them can be true. Any given thing can be either a dog or a human, but not both (and most likely neither).

The statement I find most interesting is the one I emphasized above. Why on earth should one of a pair of contraries always be the better? I’ll grant than men are better (more perfect) than dogs, but are apples necessarily better than oranges (or, perhaps, vice versa)? Must all kinds of being be absolutely ranked?

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