William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Is Not In A Genus

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.

We know God’s essence and existence are the same thing. God necessarily exists; existence necessarily exists. We know God is not made of stuff, has no potentiality, is not made of parts (is “simple” in a technical sense). He has no extraneous properties. Let’s continue to flesh out, as it were, more of God. We’ll skip a little quickly through these two chapters, because they’re easier and non-controversial (everything here follows simply if you accept what came before). The reader is encouraged (do it!) to go to the original chapters for the complete story.

Chapter 24: That the divine being cannot be specified by the addition of any substantial difference

2 …Whatever needs something added to it, in order to exist, is in potentiality to that thing. But the divine substance is not in potentiality in any way, as proved above:[3] and God’s substance is His being. Therefore His being cannot receive essential specification from something added to it.i

3 Moreover. Whatever makes a thing to be in act, and is intrinsic to that thing, is either the whole essence thereof or part of its essence. Now that which specifies a thing by an essential specification, makes a thing to be in act, and is intrinsic to the thing specified: otherwise the latter could not be specified essentially thereby.ii Therefore it must be either the very essence or part of the essence of that thing. But if something be added to the divine being, it cannot be the whole essence of God, for it has already been proved[4] that God’s existence is not distinct from His essence. Therefore it follows that it is a part of the divine essence: and thus God would be composed of essential parts, the contrary of which was proved above.[5]…

Chapter 25: That God is not in any genus

1 HENCE it follows of necessity that God is not in any genus.iii For whatever is in a genus, has in itself something whereby its generic nature is specified: for nothing is in a genus without being in some one of its species. But in God this is impossible, as shown above.[1′] Therefore it is impossible that God be in any genus…

3 Again. Whatever is in a genus differs as to being from the other things contained in the same genus: otherwise a genus would not be predicated of several things. Now all things that are contained in one same genus, must agree in the whatness of the genus, because the genus is predicated of all in respect of what a thing is. Therefore the being of anything contained in a genus is beside the whatness of the genus. But this is impossible in God.[4′] Therefore God is not in a genus.

4 Further. A thing is placed in a genus by the nature of its whatnessiv, for genus is predicated of what a thing is. But the whatness of God is His very being.[5′] Now a thing is not placed in a genus according to its being, because then being would be a genus signifying being itself.v It remains therefore that God is not in a genus.

5 That being cannot be a genus is proved by the Philosopher as follows.[6′] If being were a genus, it would be necessary to find a difference in order to contract it to a species. Now no difference participates in the genus, so that, to wit, the genus be contained in the notion of the difference, for thus the genus would be placed twice in the definition of the species: but the difference must be something besides that which is contained in the notion of the genus.vi Now there can be nothing besides that which is understood by being, if being belong to the notion of those things of which it is predicated. And thus by no difference can being be contracted. It remains, therefore, that being is not a genus: wherefore it follows of necessity that God is not in a genus.

————————————————————————————-

iIf you need food, then you’re potentially fed. (Something actual must bring this about.) But if you need something that you don’t have, you’re not complete. And God is complete, and has no potentiality (and no parts).

iiThis two sentences are, after a moment’s thought, obvious. But look how well they’re put. Succinct city! It’s also good to reflect. That which causing something to be actual is what makes up that thing’s essence. Causality (act) and essence are linked. This applies everywhere, of course. Not just to God.

iiiFor Aristotle and Aquinas, there are two levels, species and genus, the latter being a collection (if you like) of species. Genus is higher up in the taxonomic order. If something is in a genus, it must then be in one of the species of that genus. But God is sui generis. There is nothing like Him.

ivQuiddity, essence.

vEvery being has being; rather, everything that is in existence, so that it exists does not a genera make.

viThe key phrase is “the difference must be something besides that which is contained in the notion of the genus.” You cannot use the definition of genus as a genus. It is to be real differences which make up a genus. The rest is like the previous argument.

[3] Ch. xvi.
[4] Ch. xxii.
[5] Ch. xviii.

[1′] Ch. xxiv.
[4′] Ch. xxiv.
[5′] Ch. xxii.
[6′] Metaph. iii. 8.

24 Comments

  1. Willis Eschenbach

    November 9, 2014 at 11:22 am

    Since you refer to God as “he”, then God must indisputable belong to the genus of masculine things …

    w.

  2. Really, Willis, this is a criticism of the English language not the argument. It is “He” in the man embraces woman rule of grammar. Now if you wish to discuss the trinity you might have a better case, but that is not a part of this argument.

  3. Is the concept of genus by Aquinas the same as the concept by Linnaeus ?
    And what about Jesus, isn’t he a Hominid and God?

  4. Willis Eschenbach

    November 9, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Scotian
    9 NOVEMBER 2014 AT 12:14 PM

    Really, Willis, this is a criticism of the English language not the argument. It is “He” in the man embraces woman rule of grammar. Now if you wish to discuss the trinity you might have a better case, but that is not a part of this argument.

    When referring to one individual thing, “man” definitely does not include “woman”. If I say that Mother Teresa was actually a man, nobody thinks “Oh, it’s OK because man embraces woman”. And if I were to say “Hillary Clinton is a politician because he …” nobody would give me a pass.

    More to the point, if I call a rock “he”, is that usage correct simply because “man embraces woman”? Sorry, not buying that argument at all.

    Throughout history, the Christian god has been proclaimed to be (and invariably painted as) a masculine being. Now, you want to erase that because of some grammar rule? You’ll have to tell Leonardo to take the beard off the guy giving the spark to Adam on the Sistine ceiling …

    w.

  5. Willis,
    I don’t think that your analogies work here since we are discussing the artibutes of the unmoved mover which Aquinas labels God. What pronoun would you prefer to use and how would the use change the point being made? You should also remember that Aquinas wrote in Latin.

    “Throughout history, the Christian god has been proclaimed to be (and invariably painted as) a masculine being.” None of these people appear in Aquinas’ “Summa Contra Gentiles” which is being discussed here. In any case what do the opinions of other Christians have to do with the validity of the arguments presented by Aquinas? I also think that Michelangelo was allowed a certain degree of poetic licence.

    There may be many flaws in Aquinas, especially in the parts to come, but if so I suspect that they will be subtle and not the kind of trivial gotcha point that you have made.

    Regards, WmS

  6. @Willis Eschenbach:

    While it is true that God has no gender, and could not have one, there are good reasons to use the “He” when speaking of Him. See for example God, man, and masculinity.

  7. I love this old argument – God as the fixed base of all that is subjective.

    JMJ

  8. OT

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/time-travel-simulation-resolves-grandfather-paradox/

    “In a model proposed by the theorist David Deutsch in 1991, however, the paradoxes created by CTCs could be avoided at the quantum scale because of the behavior of fundamental particles, which follow only the fuzzy rules of probability rather than strict determinism.
    “… If the particle were a person, she would be born with a one-half probability of killing her grandfather, giving her grandfather a one-half probability of escaping death at her hands—good enough in probabilistic terms to close the causative loop and escape the paradox.”

  9. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 9, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    if I call a rock “he”, is that usage correct

    Ja, auf deutsch. Der Fels ist wirklich “er.”

  10. Dover_beach
    Not so pedantic, how about answering the question.
    The more I read about Aquinas, the more his God is not the christian God, but a part of the Universe.

  11. All this analysis regarding “God” — but which “God”?

    There’s a huge gap between arguing that there was/is a “God” as ‘first mover’ versus something more specific:

    Ecumenicalism — the effort to unite “Christianity” into a single doctrine (look it up for more detail)…one umbrella label, but so many incompatible doctrines associated with which are an equally number of diverse & incompatible renditions of “God.” Marcion is a famous early (but far from earliest) example for noting the logical & behavioral inconsistencies/incompatibilities in how “God” has been portrayed.

    One articulate scholar is Dr. J. Dirks — who, upon learning of the original diversity (somewhat much more diverse & incompatible than modern versions) & conducting some objective analysis converted to Islam (not the usual transition for anyone doing objective research into the area)…he explains why — useful info for understanding how & why some particularly dedicated of that ilk would like to, or are, trying to kill you (jihad), such as:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phvGGeoPOPg
    or
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOZSrPF5GNo (he starts at about 7:55 getting to the point)

    This has some practical value for anyone likely to get in a debate with a Muslim — a growing part of the U.S. & other country populations — one can understand their perspective a little better.

    The issues Dirk’s raises with Christianity, based on Christian references, are consistent with/the very same things that Christian scholars have been long familiar.

  12. The more I read about Aquinas, the more his God is not the christian God, but a part of the Universe

    Wrong on both counts. A part of the universe? Dear oh dear.

  13. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 10, 2014 at 9:39 am

    The more I read about Aquinas, the more his God is not the christian God, but a part of the Universe.

    Then you could not have read very much.

  14. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 10, 2014 at 9:59 am

    There’s a huge gap between arguing that there was/is a “God” as ‘first mover’ versus something more specific

    Certainly. But it would be useless to argue about the characteristics of something that you haven’t shown to exist. The first proposition in Euclid doesn’t give you the full flower of Euclidean geometry, either. But the rest does follow.
    http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2014/11/first-way-part-iv-cascades.html

  15. YOS, we have read what’s here and Hans is right. Godness is imbued in the universe, which all I take his comment as meaning. There is nothing about a big fella with a white beard counting the sparrows as they fall.

  16. There is nothing about a “big fella with a white beard” in the Bible. Honestly, some of the comments border on the inane.

  17. Exactly ad, if you define the universe as “everything visible and invisible that exists” then God (or any enabling entity) is a part of it.

  18. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 10, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    if you define the universe as “everything visible and invisible that exists” then God (or any enabling entity) is a part of it.

    And if you define the universe as a strawberry shortcake, then what?

  19. YOS is correct. No classical theist has used such a ridiculous definition for ‘universe’.

  20. @dover_beach:

    “There is nothing about a “big fella with a white beard” in the Bible. Honestly, some of the comments border on the inane.”

    You are just jealous that you cannot refute the devastating argument to the effect that Gandalf does not exist! Nyah Nyah!

  21. “Universe and God” is the same mistake as “body and soul”.

  22. What mistake would that be precisely?

  23. Ye Olde Statisician

    November 11, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    “Universe and God” is the same mistake as “body and soul”.
    ——What mistake would that be precisely?

    Obviously, the Hansean mistake of supposing that body and soul are two distinct things.
    Or else that the “Universe” is alive and God is its soul.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

© 2016 William M. Briggs

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑