William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Summary Against Modern Thought: On God’s Will

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.

A quick tour through several chapters this week. I’ve selected highlights because none of material is especially difficult, and none controversial (as far as I can see). God has will, that will is His essence, and God can will other things than Himself. We’ll start next week on tougher propositions about what are the kinds of things God wills.

Chapter 73 That God’s Will Is His Essence (alternate translation)

[1] IT is evident from the foregoing that His will is not distinct from His essence…

[3] Moreover. Since every agent acts in so far as it is actual, it follows that God, Who is pure act, acts by His essence. Now willing is an operation of God. Therefore it follows that God wills by His essence. Therefore His will is His essence…

Chapter 74 That The Principal Object Of God’s Will Is The Divine Essence (alternate translation)

[2]…For the good understood is the object of the will, as proved above. Now the principal object of God’s intellect is the divine essence, as we have already proved. Therefore the divine essence is the principal object of the divine will…

[4] Further. The principal thing willed is to every willer the cause of his willing: for when we say: I wish to walk that I may be healed, we consider that we are stating the reason, and if it be asked, Why do you wish to be healed? We shall continue to give reasons until we come to the last end which is the principal thing willed, and is of itself the cause of willing. Accordingly if God wills principally something other than Himself, it follows that something other than Himself is the cause of His willing. But His willing is His being, as we have shown. Therefore something else will be the cause of His being: and this is contrary to the notion of the first being…

Chapter 75 That God In Willing Himself Wills Also Other Things (alternate translation)

[2]…For He who wills the end principally, wills the means to the end for the sake of that end. Now God Himself is the last end of things, as appears sufficiently from what we have said. From the fact therefore that He wills Himself to be, He wills also other things, that are directed to Himself as their end…

Notes “He wills also other things, that are directed to Himself as their end.” And this is the key, the beginning of theology. We’ll stick to philosophy, but you can see where this can lead.

[4] Moreover. Whosoever loves a thing in itself and for its own sake, loves in consequence all the things wherein it is found: thus he who loves sweetness for its own sake, must needs love all sweet things. Now God wills and loves His own being, in itself and for its own sake, as we have proved above. And all other being is a participation, by likeness, of His being, as was made sufficiently clear by what we have said above. Therefore, from the very fact that God wills and loves Himself, it follows that He wills and loves other things…

Chapter 76 The God, By The One Act Of His Will, Wills Himself And Other Things (alternate translation)

[3]…Moreover. That which is perfectly known and desired is known and desired with respect to its whole virtue. Now the virtue of an end consists not only in its being desired for its own sake, but also in other things being made desirable for its sake. Wherefore he that desires an end perfectly, desires it in both these ways. But it cannot be admitted that God has an act whereby He wills Himself without willing Himself perfectly, since in Him there is nothing imperfect. Hence by every act in which God wills Himself, He wills Himself absolutely, and other things for His own sake. And He wills not things other than Himself, except because He wills Himself, as was proved above. It follows therefore that not by distinct acts but by one and the same act He wills Himself and other things.

Notes Never forget, too, that we are stuck in time, and God is outside of it. Time means change, or rather the inverse of that. But God is not changeable. Yes, the implications of this are mind boggling. None of us can comprehend infinity. As to God being outside “all movement”, see the next argument.

[4] Again. As appears from what has been said, discursion in the act of the cognitive faculty occurs when we know the premisses apart from the conclusions, and draw the conclusions from them: for if we were to see the conclusions in the premisses themselves, simply through knowing the premisses, there would be no discursion, as neither is there when we see something reflected in a mirror. Now just as the premisses are related to the conclusions in speculative matters, so are the ends to the means in practical and appetitive matters: because even as we know conclusions through their premisses, so does the end lead us to the appetite and practice of the means. Accordingly if a person will the end and the means separately, there will be discursion in his will. But there can be no such thing in God, since He is outside all movement. Therefore it follows that God wills Himself and other things simultaneously by the one same act of His will…

Notes I like this one for the structure of logic and uncertainty arguments and the analogy with causality. We’ll meet more about cause later.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for this post; it’s always good to read St. Thomas. This bit of his, in particular, was helpful to me in coming out of the Orthodox Church. Many people mistakenly think that the Filioque is the major issue with the East. In the past it was, but after Florence, in modernity, it is fairly obvious that the Filioque is a doctrine of the Fathers – more supported than denied in the Eastern Fathers, and universal amongst all the Western Fathers (yes, even pre-Augustine).

    The real issue, is the “Essence-Energies” distinction launched by Palamas. Learning that the Fathers, and reason, reject the Palamite distinction between the Divine Energies and Essence (as anything other than a nominal distinction, that is) was a major part of my discovery of the greater Truth, rational coherence and Apostolic/Patristic pedigree of the Catholic Faith.

    Now, it seems that most “catholics” haven’t held the Catholic Faith for half a century… but that’s another matter.

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