The Transcendental Properties of Being
by Jim J. McCrea
Philosophers have pointed out that being or that-which-exists has universal characteristics. These are known as the transcendental properties of being.
Classically, four have been identified - these are *unity,* *truth,* *goodness,* and *beauty.*
Unity means that all true beings have a oneness to them. A given thing is one thing. For example, many parts go into constituting one automobile. However, if the automobile is made multiple by disassembling it, an automobile no longer exists. A heap of automobile parts is not an automobile. It is only their proper assembly into a unity that makes it an automobile.
The truth of things is their intelligibility. When we look around us and observe clouds, houses, people etc. we understand what we are seeing as meaningful and intelligible. We do not merely register a meaningless pattern of sensations.
Goodness means that all proper beings fulfill a need or a desire in another - for example the mother hen is for her chicks, the rain is for the earth, and male is for female. All true beings have this service dimension (in a moment I will get to what happens when something doesn't have this).
Beauty is that which pleases when seen (as is the definition of St. Thomas Aquinas). Everything is beautiful in the measure it has being. Beauty has: (1) Integrity, which means that everything that is supposed to pertain to a given being is present; (2) Proportion, which means that all of its components are related to each other in a right and harmonious way; and (3) Clarity, in which it is meaningful and intelligible (and which can also mean that it has brightness of color).
The transcendentals are convertible with each other. This means that they are simply different names for the same reality - being. Although they refer to the one reality of being, they differ as concepts. The Catholic philosopher, Jacques Maritain, said that many concepts are required for the one reality of being because being is too rich to be captured by a single concept.
It is noteworthy that the universe has this qualitative structure of the transcendental properties of being. One would expect a purely random (but existing) universe to be a gray even gas all at the same temperature.
Now what about the opposite of the transcendentals? What about what is *divided,* what is *unintelligible,* what is *evil,* and what is *ugly?*
When these opposites exist, they exist because of a *lack* of being in a thing. They are not beings in themselves. They exist not because of any lack, but because of a lack of what is *due.* For example, lack of wings to fly in a man is not an evil because wings to fly are not due to a man according to his nature. But lack of sight is a physical evil because it is due.
Similarly, something divided, something unintelligible, and something ugly denote a lack of what is due in a thing - it is the *not* unified, the *not* intelligible, and the *not* beautiful.
As mentioned, all true beings are good and are of service to other beings. An example of how that is subverted is with a cancer tumor. It does not serve the physical body but turns against it. A cancer tumor is not a being but is an aggregate of beings - it is a group of individual cells growing wildly and independently. With this condition of being an aggregate, there is a lack of unity. It is ugly, which means that it lacks beauty. And being disorded, it lacks intelligibility.
Now finite unity, truth, goodness, and beauty must have a standard by which they are compared, to be measured by. This would be Unity Itself, Truth Itself, Goodness Itself, and Beauty Itself, which would necessarily be the maximum possible which is infinite. This infinite unity, truth, goodness, and beauty we call God, who is Being Itself (not being in a limited mode as are finite things). Thus God's name is "I Am" (Exodus 3:14). He is not "I am such and such" denoting a qualifier which would be a limitation.
The absence of the transcendentals - that is, division, unintelligibility, evil, and ugliness - since they are parasites in being, which is a lack of something that is due, do not have an absolute standard which is the greatest of themselves. No infinite and absolute division, unintelligibility, evil, and ugliness exist, but are referred to and measured according to the positive transcendentals, defined as a lack of them.
Infinite goodness in God means that God is love (1 John 4:8), and will completely fulfill all our longings for perfect and absolute love in heaven. Infinite truth in God means that He is Pure and Absolute Intelligibility - He is the ultimate "logic" of reality which will completely quench our thirst to know the ultimate reason for things. Infinite beauty means that the vision of His essence will give infinite pleasure to the soul. Infinite unity means that there is absolutely no division in God to the extent that there is no distinction of parts. All His attributes are identical to each other and to His very being. His love is one and the same as His omnipotence, and His omnipotence is the same thing as His intellect and knowledge, and all of that is His very self. With that absolute unity or simplicity, God is infinitely pure, rendering infinite joy for completely purified souls in heaven. The absolute purity of God is expressed by the statement: Nothing exists in God but what is identically God.
God will give us all that in heaven forever provided that we are faithful to Him.
Now God created us solely so that we can abide eternally and with full consciousness in that Infinitely Ravishing Reality which is Himself, which will give us infinite happiness forever. God has done this simply because of His love for us.
That is why Jesus came to earth to die on the Cross for our sins. It is the reason why He founded the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
It is up to us, in this life, to accept or refuse that offer.