“While the distinction between ends and means is clear, the reality these terms describe is not so simple. Sometimes a thing may be an end in one respect and a means in another. To deal more precisely with the complexities of the concrete situation, philosophers make various divisions of end. (1) Related ends in a given series may be distinguished on the basis of their order of achievement. A proximate end is that for the sake of which something is done directly or immediately. An intermediate end is that in view of which the proximate end is sought and which itself is desired for something else. Both proximate and intermediate ends are also means, each often being referred to as means-ends. The last end in the series is called the ultimate end. This may only be relatively ultimate, as when the series of which it is the last is subordinate to a higher end or ends. The absolutely ultimate end, the supreme end of man is said to be happiness [§51.4]. (2) Another division of end is that into objective end (finis qui), the good or object itself that is sought, e.g., money or knowledge; personal end (finis cui), the person for whom the good is desired, e.g., health is sought for Peter; and formal end (finis quo), the act in which the good is possessed or enjoyed, e.g., the enjoyment of food is in the eating. (3) The end of the work (finis operis), sometimes called the end of the act, is the normal purpose or function of a thing or action, or the result normally achieved; e.g., cutting is the normal function of a knife. The end of the agent (finis operantis) is what the agent actually intends when acting, be it identical or not with the end of the work; so a person may use a knife for cutting or as a screwdriver.” (The Elements of Philosophy by Father William A. Wallace, O.P.; PART 1. // CHAPTER 8. ETHICS // [Section] §51. THE ENDS OF HUMAN ACTION // [paragraph] 3 // [pages] 157 and 158)
Obiter Dicta: Happiness is the goal of human life. Adherence to the idea that happiness is the goal of life is a necessary condition for forming and keeping a healthy morality. To the degree that a morality or moral philosophy has as its ultimate end something other than happiness (e.g. power, wealth, beauty, salvation, fame, holiness) is the degree to which that morality or moral philosophy becomes weird, strange, inhuman, and inhumane.
Within Roman Catholic theology and magisterial teaching our human purpose is to seek a reasonable happiness in this life and supreme happiness in the next. To attain this goal one learns that holiness and salvation are necessary constituents and conditions. Nonetheless, the center of the moral target at which a person must aim so as to live a good life is happiness. This was the opinion of the philosopher of moderate realism, Aristotle (385 to 323 B.C.) and the philosopher/theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas (A.D. 1225 to 1274).
Key: For an explanation of the reference and cross reference forms used in this book (e.g. [§19.6] and (11:292c), see previous posts in this blog entitled “The Elements of Philosophy: Preface (7)” and “The Elements of Philosophy: Preface (8)”.