William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Summary Against Modern Thought: There Is No Accident In God

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

An easier (relatively speaking, considering you have been reading along thus far) article today, proving God does not look like His popular depictions, i.e. that He has no extraneous properties.

Chapter 23: There Is No Accident In God

1 FROM this truth it follows of necessity that nothing can accrue to God besides His essence, nor anything be accidentally in Him.i

2 For existence itself cannot participate in something that is not of its essence; although that which exists can participate in something else. Because nothing is more formal or more simple than existence. Hence existence itself can participate in nothing. Now the divine substance is existence itself.[1] Therefore He has nothing that is not of His substance. Therefore no accident can be in Him.ii

3 Moreover. Whatever is in a thing accidentally, has a cause of being there: since it is added to the essence of that in which it is. Therefore if anything is in God accidentally, this must be through some cause. Consequently the cause of the accident is either the divine substance itself, or something else. If it is something else, this other thing must act on the divine substance; since nothing introduces a form whether substantial or accidental, into some recipient, unless in some way it act upon that recipient: because to act is nothing but to make something to be actual, and it is this by a form.

Wherefore God will be passive and movable to some agent: which is against what has been decided above.[2] If, on the other hand, the divine substance itself is the cause of the accident that is in it, then it is impossible for it to be its cause as receiving it, since then the same thing in the same respect would make itself to be in act. Therefore, if there is an accident in God, it follows that He receives that accident in one respect, and causes it in another, even as bodies receive their proper accidents through the nature of their matter, and cause them through their form: so that God, therefore, will be composite, the contrary of which has been proved above.[3]iii

4 Again. Every subject of an accident is compared thereto as potentiality to act: because an accident is a kind of form making a thing to exist actually according to accidental existence. But there is no potentiality in God, as shown above.[4] Therefore there can be no accident in Him.iv

5 Moreover. Everything in which something is accidentally is in some way changeable as to its nature: since an accident, by its very nature, may be in a thing or not in it. Therefore if God has something that becomes Him accidentally, it follows that He is changeable: the contrary of which has been proved above.[5]v

6 Further. Everything that has an accident in itself, is not whatever it has in itself, because an accident is not of the essence of its subject.vi But God is whatever He has in Himself. Therefore no accident is in God. The middle proposition is proved as follows. A thing is always to be found more excellently in the cause than in the effect. But God is the cause of all things. Therefore whatever is in Him, is found in Him in the most perfect way. Now that which is most perfectly becoming to a thing, is that thing itself: because it is more perfectly one than when one thing is united to another substantially as form is united to matter: which union again is more perfect than when one thing is in another accidentally. It follows therefore that God is whatever He has.vii

7 Again. Substance is not dependent upon accident, although accident depends on substance. Now that which is not dependent upon another, can sometimes be found without it.[6] Therefore some substance can be found without an accident: and this seemingly is most becoming to a supremely simple substance, such as the divine substance.[7] Therefore the divine substance is altogether without accidents.viii

9 …Having established this truth we are able to refute certain erroneous statements in the law of the Saracens to the effect that the divine essence has certain forms added thereto.ix

—————————————————————————

iThis follows, probably obviously, from God’s essence being His existence (last week). Think of it like if existence = essence, then there’s no room for accident’s. What can be an “accident”, i.e. an unessential property, of existence itself?

ii“that which exists can participate in something else.” You exist, and accidentally (in this sense) have characteristics that other human beings might or might not have. None of these accidents change your essence, which is that of a rational being. The rest follows simply from point 1.

iiiA lot of words, which I trust you read carefully. If there was an accident in God, it must have been caused. By what? The only possibility is God. But that would make Him composite, and we have already proved He is not made of parts, and (as we’ll need next) He has no potentiality. Thus this proof is pretty simple.

ivYou remember act versus potential, I trust? That it takes a cause, i.e. something actual, to turn a potentiality into an actuality? The rest follows.

vThe footnote is, as it often is, to Chapter 13, which proves God is the Unchanging Changer slash Unmoved Mover. Not too different than proof 3, then.

viThe middle term is “an accident is not of the essence of its subject.”

viiThe rest is really proving existence and essence are one in God again, though the roundabout way. A cause is more than its effect, and cause cannot give what it doesn’t have. Good analogy I once read is that the cause of the water becoming red is red dye, but the red dye will necessarily be redder (or no less red) than the water. The rest follows, but it is admittedly a bit of a tangle.

viiiThis obviously follows from the material above; it doesn’t survive on its own. But note what simple means: without accidents or parts, without potentiality. It is not a synonym of “less” or the like.

ixI left this in only to prove what we already know. That disputes are ever with us.

[1] Ch. xxii
[2] Ch. xiii.
[3] Ch. xviii.
[4] Ch. xvi.
[5] Ch. xiii.
[6] Cf. ch. xiii: Again it any two things . . . p. 28.
[7] Ch. xviii.
[8] v. 4.

37 Comments

  1. Sander van der Wal

    October 26, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    Existence is not a property of a thing, existence is the thing being a property of something else.

  2. You just proved there’s more than one way to define the word “accident.”

    Mr. Briggs, you do realize it is the year 2014, right? This is a fun exercise, but these arguments are just anachronisms, fun little philosophical antiquities today. This isn’t “against modern thought” at all. This is the same argument against the same thought from a thousand years ago.

    Against modern thought you are going to have to apply modern arguments. Today, philosophy is just not going to do the trick. You need science and you just don’t have it. A thousand years from now, I doubt anyone will be religious anymore, at least not very similarly to today. They’ll find other things to be irrational about, but not old mythology. Probably secular ideology… I don’t think it really matters.

    JMJ

  3. @Sander

    Are you referring to Kant’s objection? In that case, it’s really not relevant to anything other than Kantianism.

    Coffey pretty much destroys Kant through two chapters here:
    https://archive.org/stream/epistemologycoff01coffuoft#page/xii/mode/2up

    @JMJ

    Great parody, man. That’s just what someone with no knowledge of either philosophy or science would say. I especially like your “modern thought needs modern arguments”-part. So substantial! So mythological! 🙂

  4. A smart man wouldn’t try to flatter himself that way, Daniel.

    JMJ

  5. Sander van der Wal

    October 27, 2014 at 4:54 am

    @Daniel Joachim

    I don’t know.

  6. swordfishtrombone

    October 27, 2014 at 11:32 am

    “A thing is always to be found more excellently in the cause than in the effect.”

    Brings Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure to mind. Didn’t they kidnap Socrates though? Seriously, I thought movement was supposed to be down to cause and effect earlier in this teetering stack of arguments – how is ‘movement’ to be found “more excellently” in one object than another? Equal and opposite reactions, and all that.

  7. “There is no accident in God.”
    Corrolary:
    1 Everything God does is on purpose,
    2 God does not evolve
    3 God can’t learn from His mistakes.

  8. JMJ:

    Against modern thought you are going to have to apply modern arguments. Today, philosophy is just not going to do the trick. You need science and you just don’t have it.

    Wow. That’s what logical positivists said; it was self-defeating.

    Hans:

    1 Everything God does is on purpose,
    2 God does not evolve
    3 God can’t learn from His mistakes.

    What a strange syllogism. What part of premises 1 and 2 implies that God makes mistakes?

  9. @dover_beach

    “Wow. That’s what logical positivists said; it was self-defeating.”

    What?! Haven’t you seen the latest theorem by Physics that gave support to the philosophical stance of positivism beyond all reasonable doubt? It was further developed by evidence from Botany this week – cumulated according to Bayes’ of course. You’ve got to stay up-to-date on our solid “modern thinking”.

    Cause we f****** love science, and this is how we display it!

    @Hans

    Is there anything called the “anthropomorphic fallacy”? Can I coin it now?

  10. Daniel, the usual cop-out: any biblical counterproof is an “allegory”.
    My examples are biblical, hence the God of Aquinas does not bear any resemblance with the God of the Bible. Still awaiting proof for the existence of the old testament God.

  11. The usual modern fundamentalist cop-out, whether Atheist or Christian: if you don’t view the Bible as one homogenous book of literal, straight-forward interpreted historical genuine stories, then you ain’t a real Christian. Exegesis is a waste, after all.

    But due to your phrasing, I do expect you to recognize the proofs for the “God of the Philosophers” aka “Pure Act”. Does this mean that you’re a Theist now, even if not a Christian? 🙂

  12. Only abstract entitities exist “outside” time and space, as per definition nothing exists outside time and space : therefore heaven is not eternal, it is timeless and void i.e. pure nothingness.
    God exists like Captain Ahab exists: an entity in literature to whom you can attribute properties.

  13. @Hans

    Invalid conclusion, due to an invalid form of logical syllogism and unwarranted assumptions.

    “..as per definition nothing exists outside time and space”.

    That’s hilarious. Care to point me to your book of definitions?

    Even St. Augustine spoke of “God’s eternity”, not as in an infinite number of years, but outside of time altogether. But now we obviously know better. Because…you know, Scienceâ„¢!

  14. @Hans Erren:

    Go away.

  15. swordfishtrombone

    October 28, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Daniel Joachim:

    “outside of time altogether” is just a series of words with no meaning. It’s no good defining what it doesn’t mean, i.e. “an infinite number of years”. What does it mean?

  16. Rodrigues, please discuss, don’t evict.
    Daniel, God is a non-physical Entity, like the integer numbers and Captain Ahab. A non-physical entity cannot be the cause of a physical universe. You may state that God created the integer numbers, but that is a meaningless phrase as God then had to create Himself.

  17. @Hans

    And if you’re ever caught on video tape, you’ll instantly become Brad Pitt.

    Sorry, but that logic of identification won’t do beyond pre-school. Not to talk of your flawed view of causation.

    God is pure act. Captain Ahab and number are not. What about you starting to interact with real arguments instead of making objections to things that none ever said?

  18. Why do these Sunday posts always degenerate into a debate between the angry atheists and the tumultuous theists? Is it because of politics as discussed in this article?

    http://stuartschneiderman.blogspot.ca/2014/10/the-only-acceptable-bigotry.html

    I particularly like this part “People think of this as enlightened, but it resembles religious fanaticism. If a religion insists that everyone hold to the same beliefs it will quickly figure out that it is impossible to know precisely what anyone really believes. Thus, it will feel the need to test believers to see if they are harboring heretical beliefs. It will run inquisitions and witch hunts to rid the populace of people who might be unbelievers. And it fears any association with individuals who might be heretics or who might not be sufficiently fervent in their convictions.”

    The other possibility is that it may be impossible to have an honest debate with someone who thinks that you are damned for disagreeing with him or that he is damned just for listening. You can take this statement either way.

  19. Daniel, Physics is pure act. God is pure existence.
    Consider this thought experiment: Say, in 100 years there is astronomical proof that our universe is an eternally oscillating bubble between the planck length and 200 billion light years.

    Would this be a falsification of a Creator? Of course not, for the same reason that an eternal universe can exist, natural numbers do exist, and evolution exists. Creation is not an event. The start of the universe was not a miracle for the same reason that the invention of natural numbers has a “beginning”. An eternally oscillating universe does not have a beginning but still can have a Creator. Like numbers are eternal but also can have a creator.

    I can live without a creator. And I still need proof that the Creator of the natural numbers is the Father of Jesus. But that proof will come, I hope.

    Scotian I am not agry, I love this debate.

  20. “Physics is pure act”

    Haha, what’s that even supposed to mean?

    And of creation not being an event, I actually agree with you. That’s why we need Pure Act (God, not physics, that is) to sustain all of creation in existence at every instant.

    But you only seem to jump to new points of discussions every time I display the flaw in your old ones. I’ve got bad experience with “machine-gun-argumentation”, so I don’t see how this is fruitful?

    @Scotian

    I think that is a very unfair assessment. People’s gotta be allowed to disagree, and let each other know why. We should all pursue truth as a most high good after all. Relativism is an unattractive alternative.

    Comparing that to (or even quoting) inquistions and witch hunts is just beyond unreasonable.

  21. Hans, the alliteration was just too tempting.

    Daniel, you have presented a number of assertions but I do not see to what purpose. In any case you have not addressed the main points of my comment. That’s all right though as no one else has either when I have brought up similar points in the past. Belief as tyranny is a perspective that few are willing to entertain.

    I wasn’t going to say this but the urge is overwhelming. First you say “People’s gotta be allowed to disagree…” and who could disagree with this sentiment except that you do since you follow up with “…just beyond unreasonable” which is a clear attempt to stifle debate.

  22. “…just beyond unreasonable” which is a clear attempt to stifle debate.

    Really, expecting people to engage reasonably in debates is stifling? On-point? Stifling.

  23. dover_beach: Reasonable, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

  24. @Scotian

    Tyranny? Where?

    Assertions? Like God being Pure Act? As have been argumented for several times in this blog already, and which I’m requesting Hans to interact with, instead of objecting to arguments that no one has ever given? And making up definitions?

    “I wasn’t going to say this but the urge is overwhelming. First you say “People’s gotta be allowed to disagree…” and who could disagree with this sentiment except that you do since you follow up with “…just beyond unreasonable” which is a clear attempt to stifle debate.”

    – Are you kidding me? The context of the last statement was your (quoted) comparison to inquisitions and witch hunts. Do you rely on other readers not being able to read the rest of the conversation for themselves?

  25. Dover, Brandon made my point for me.

    Daniel, “Belief as tyranny is a perspective that few are willing to entertain.” It seems that I was correct. I’m sure that you can come up with historical beliefs that lead to tyranny. Just consider the ones that you disagree with and then generalize from there.

    “Assertions?” I was, of course, referring to comments you directed to me. I am not defending Hans as I have my own opinions.

    “… comparison to inquisitions and witch hunts.” Why does this bother you and more importantly, why do you think such a comment should be censored? I think that my quoted passage is very insightful and if you read the entire link you will find that it is not specifically about religion. I also see that the key points of my comments are still being avoided, i.e. the nature of belief, and the assigning of debate opponents to perdition.

    Daniel & Dover, you must be aware from previous comments that I am partly sympathetic to your positions. Do you feel the need to see if I am harbouring heretical beliefs. 😉

  26. Daniel, so you need a Sustainer. God is so busy with keeping the light speed constant that he doesn’t have time to listen to prayers. There you go: the theodocy explained along the way.

  27. Brandon G:

    dover_beach: Reasonable, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

    Really? So, having agreed to engage in a discussion according to certain rules, it would be arbitrary to hold them to those rules on the grounds of reasonableness?

    Scotian:

    Why does this bother you and more importantly, why do you think such a comment should be censored? I think that my quoted passage is very insightful and if you read the entire link you will find that it is not specifically about religion. I also see that the key points of my comments are still being avoided, i.e. the nature of belief, and the assigning of debate opponents to perdition.

    Firstly, to claim that certain statements are unreasonable and best avoided is not censorship; it is a corollary of civil and fruitful debate. Secondly, no one here is assigning debate opponents to perdition.

    Hans:

    Daniel, so you need a Sustainer.

    No, no, secondary causation requires a Sustainer, that is Aquinas’s point.

    keeping the light speed constant

    Why is the speed of light or any other universal physical constants constant?

  28. “Why is the speed of light or any other universal physical constants constant?”
    Because if it weren’t you wouldn’t be here to ask.

  29. Ok i’m out apparently i need moderation.

    Bye.

  30. Because if it weren’t you wouldn’t be here to ask.

    So it’s a brute fact?

  31. Dover,
    “Firstly, to claim that certain statements are unreasonable and best avoided is not censorship; it is a corollary of civil and fruitful debate.”

    It is, when not supported by evidence or argument since anything can be claimed. The same can be said for claims of personal judgment concerning civility. Why have you avoided making yourself clear?

    “Secondly, no one here is assigning debate opponents to perdition.”

    You claim to speak for everyone? However, I am glad to hear that you are not. Does that make you a Universalist?

    Hans, moderation in all things. 😉

  32. It is, when not supported by evidence or argument since anything can be claimed. The same can be said for claims of personal judgment concerning civility. Why have you avoided making yourself clear?

    Sorry, you’re not making sense.

    <blockquote.You claim to speak for everyone?

    No, I’m reporting that no one on this thread (fact) has actually threatened you with or could actually assign you to perdition.

  33. Dover, “Sorry, you’re not making sense.”

    Now this is a curious statement. I would have said something like “I do not understand what you are trying to say” which is clearly a statement I can defend. Your statement is a claim of personal expertise which could be embarrassing if not shared by anyone else.

    “I’m reporting that no one on this thread …” A number of people on this website are Roman Catholic and so I gather from this that you are not aware of the beliefs required for membership in this religion. That is understandable if you are a Universalist.

  34. Now this is a curious statement.

    It isn’t curious at all. I don’t understand how your response actually replies to my previous statement. Do you mean to say that “the claim that certain statements are unreasonable and best avoided is … censorship”…”when not supported by evidence or argument since anything can be claimed”? That is, I gather is what you meant by “is” in the statement beginning “It is, when…” If so, where did Daniel or I say that making statements that challenge assertions made in argument by an interlocutor is unreasonable?

    A number of people on this website are Roman Catholic and so I gather from this that you are not aware of the beliefs required for membership in this religion.

    They might well be Catholic but has any of them actually threatened you with perdition? no; and if they had anyway, could they actually assign you to perdition? No, again.

  35. Dover,
    This is my original statement “The other possibility is that it may be impossible to have an honest debate with someone who thinks that you are damned for disagreeing with him or that he is damned just for listening.” You may have lost the sense of this in the ensuing debate. There is no claim as to who is doing the damning. An underlying sense is that for many religions, and RC is only one, outsiders are damned simply for being outsiders. Disagreeing is one way to expose your outsider status. In the context of my entire post this also applies to secular belief systems, using damned in a metaphorical sense.

    You have lost me in your first paragraph, but to paraphrase myself, it is not enough to claim that a statement is “beyond unreasonable” you have to back this up with solid argument. Well, you do if you want me to take you seriously, but maybe you don’t care about that. If the latter why are you even commenting?

  36. This is my original statement “The other possibility is that it may be impossible to have an honest debate with someone who thinks that you are damned for disagreeing with him or that he is damned just for listening.” You may have lost the sense of this in the ensuing debate. There is no claim as to who is doing the damning. An underlying sense is that for many religions, and RC is only one, outsiders are damned simply for being outsiders. Disagreeing is one way to expose your outsider status.

    Firstly, given that some here were ‘outsiders’ at some stage, why would they or we think you’re “damned for disagreeing with him or…just for listening”? I can’t help but feel you’re being overly dramatic about this. Secondly, I don’t understand how the possibility of perdition, anyway, could be an impediment to honest debate.

    You have lost me in your first paragraph, but to paraphrase myself, it is not enough to claim that a statement is “beyond unreasonable” you have to back this up with solid argument.

    Then you can understand my confusion if the ‘is’ in your previous statement “It is, when…” was not in fact a direct response to my saying ““the claim that certain statements are unreasonable and best avoided is not censorship”. No one is disputing that statements need to be backed up by argument, the point Daniel made and I concurred with was the unreasonableness of statements irrelevant to the current argument.

  37. “But you only seem to jump to new points of discussions every time I display the flaw in your old ones. I’ve got bad experience with “machine-gun-argumentation”, so I don’t see how this is fruitful?”

    Apologies I wasn’t aware of using machine-gun-argumentation, I also don’t see where you refuted me. We must be in two different universes.

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