The traditional Latin expression signifying the purpose or intention of the agent in acting, prescinding from the consideration of the finis operis of the act in its substance (inner construction). In created acts, the finis operantis may or may not coincide with, though it can never alter, the finis operis of the act itself. There may be an indefinite number of interior motives on the part of the agent relative to the one act; an act of theft may be motivated by avarice, or revenge, or jealousy, etc.; the marital act may be motivated by charity, justice, or carnality. An evil motive cannot change the species of an act whose finis operis is good; nor can a good motive change the species of an act whose finis operis is evil.
The concept of finis operantis is used not only in regard to human acts but by analogy to understand more fully divine acts. In the consideration of the divine act of creation, theology distinguishes its finis operantis from its finis operis. God's end in creating (finis operantis ) is His own absolute goodness, the love of which moves Him to communicate to creatures a participation in His own infinite perfection H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 3002). God's necessary subsistence and His infinite beatitude, which it connotes (Ibid. 3001), preclude, in His extradivine acts, any end other than Himself. As He is the first efficient, exemplary cause, He must be the ultimate final cause of every created being.
See Also: finis operis; end; final causality.
Bibliography: Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., (Paris 1903–50) 1:1522–26. w. kern, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 4:139–140. p. j. donnelly, "St. Thomas and the Ultimate Purpose of Creation," Theological Studies 2 53–83; "The Vatican Council and the End of Creation," ibid. 4 (1943) 3–33.
[m. r. e. masterman]