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Category: SAMT

A tour through Saint Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Contra Gentiles.

July 17, 2016 | 5 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: Angels—or Aliens—Did Not Make The World

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.

Angels, aliens, science, or the “vacuum” cannot create form, and form is necessary to make matter.

Chapter 43 That the distinction among things does not result from some secondary agent introducing forms into matter (alternate translation)

1 CERTAIN modern heretics say that God created the matter of all things visible, but that this was diversified with various forms by an angel. The falseness of this opinion is evident. For the heavenly bodies, wherein no contrariety; is to be found, cannot have been formed from any matter: since whatever is made from pre-existing matter, must needs be made from a contrary. Wherefore it is impossible that any angel should have formed the heavenly bodies from matter previously created by God.

Notes What’s this? The great saint used the H-word? Don’t tell anybody or there’ll be an Internet flap. Interesting, though, that this heresy is found in modern form, e.g. Gaia.

2 Moreover. The heavenly bodies either have no matter in common with the lower bodies, or they only have primary matter in common with them: for the heaven neither is composed of elements, nor is of an elemental nature: which is proved by its movement which differs from that of all the elements. And primary matter could not by itself precede all formed bodies, since it is nothing but pure potentiality, and all actual being is from some form. Therefore it is impossible that an angel should have formed all visible bodies from matter previously created by God.

Notes Don’t forget that angels aren’t made of stuff like we partly are. You will find no angelic dipstick, which is why science is blind to metaphysics. Also recall that prime matter must be married to form to create a material thing. Hence prime matter is “pure potentiality”. Forms, however, can and do and must exist in the mind of God (keep this in your mind in paragraph 4). Matter must have form to exist: everything you see has a form.

3 Again. Everything that is made, is made to be, since making is the way to being. To each thing caused, therefore, it is becoming to be made as it is becoming to be. Now being is not becoming to form alone, nor to matter alone, but to the composite: for matter is merely in potentiality, while form is whereby a thing is, since it is act. Hence it follows that the composite, properly speaking, is. Therefore it belongs to it alone to be made, and not to matter without form. Therefore there is not one agent that creates matter only, and another that induces the form.

4 Again. The first induction of forms into matter cannot be from an agent acting by movement only, for all movement towards a form is from a determinate form towards a determinate form: because matter cannot be without all form, wherefore some form is presupposed in matter. But every agent intending a merely material form must needs be an agent by movement: for since material forms are not subsistent of themselves, and their being is to be in matter, they cannot be brought into being except either by the production of the whole composite, or by the transmutation of matter to this or that form. Therefore it is impossible that the first induction of forms into matter be from someone creating the form only, but it must be from Him Who is the Creator of the whole composite.

5 Further. Movement towards a form comes naturally after local movement: for it is the act of that which is more imperfect, as the Philosopher proves. Now in the natural order things that come afterwards are caused by those which come before. Wherefore movement towards a form is caused by local movement. But the first local movement is the movement of the heaven. Therefore all movement towards a form takes place through the means of the heavenly movement. Hence those things that cannot be made through the means of the heavenly movement, cannot be made by an agent that cannot act except by movement: and such must be the agent that cannot act except by inducing form into matter, as we have proved. Now many sensible forms cannot be produced by the heavenly movement except by means of certain presupposed determinate principles: thus certain animals are not made except from seed. Therefore the original production of these forms, for producing which the heavenly movement is not sufficient without the pre-existence of those forms in the species, must needs proceed from the Creator alone.

6 Again. Just as local movement of part and whole are the same, like that of the whole earth and of one clod, so the change of generation is the same in the part and in the whole. Now the parts of those things that are subject to generation and corruption are generated by acquiring actual forms from forms in matter, and not from forms existing outside matter, since the generator must be like the thing generated, as the Philosopher proves in 7 Metaph. Neither therefore can the total acquisition of forms by matter be effected by any separate substance, such as an angel: but this must be done either by means of a corporeal agent, or by a creative agent, acting without movement.

Notes Betcha didn’t think you’d see the word clod in this book. Recall next that the First Cause is God, as provide in Book 1, Chapter 13.

7 Further. Even as being is first among effects, so does it correspond to the first cause as its proper effect. Now being is by form and not by matter. Therefore the first causation of forms is to be ascribed especially to the first cause.

8 Moreover. Since every agent produces its like, the effect obtains its form from that to which it is likened by the form it acquired: even as the material house acquires its form from the art, which is the likeness of the house in the mind. Now all things are like God Who is pure act, inasmuch as they have forms whereby they become actual: and inasmuch as they desire forms, they are said to desire the divine likeness. Therefore it is absurd to say that the formation of things belongs to another than God the Creator of all.

Notes The line we are “made in God’s image” is starting to make more sense now.

July 3, 2016 | 9 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: First Causes In The Distinction Of Things

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.

No matter what, God is still at base.

Chapter 42 That the first cause of the distinction of things is not the order of secondary agents (alternate translation)

1 WE may also prove from the same premisses that the distinction of things is not caused by the order of secondary agents; as those maintained who held that God, since He is one and simple, produces but one effect, which is the first created substance: and that this, because it cannot equal the simplicity of the first cause,—not being pure act, but having a certain admixture of potentiality—has a certain multiplicity, so that it is able to produce some kind of plurality; and that in this way, effects ever failing of the simplicity of their causes, the multiplication of effects results in the diversity of the things whereof the universe consists.

2 Accordingly this opinion does not assign one cause to the entire diversity of things, but a different cause to each particular effect: and the entire diversity of things it ascribes to the concurrence of all causes. Now we say that those things happen by chance, which result from the concurrence of various causes, and not from one determinate cause. Wherefore the distinction of things and the order of the universe would be the result of chance.

Notes As ever, pay attention to this important definition of chance: not a cause but the unpredicted (but not necessarily unpredictable) confluence of many causes.

3 Moreover. That which is best in things caused is reduced, as to its first cause, to that which is best in causes: for effects must be proportionate to their causes. Now the best among all things caused is the order of the universe, wherein the good of the universe consists, even as in human affairs the good of the nation is more God-like than the good of the individual. Hence we must reduce the order of the universe to God as its proper cause, Whom we have proved above to be the sovereign good. Therefore the distinction of things, wherein consists the order of the universe, is the result not of secondary causes, but rather simplicity of the first cause.

Notes It’s not an argument, but suppose it’s true that “the good of the nation is more God-like than the good of the individual”, consider our culture, then ponder the implications.

4 Further. It seems absurd to assign a defect in things as cause of that which is best in things. Now the best in things caused is their distinction and order, as shown above. Therefore it is unreasonable to assert that this distinction is the result of secondary causes failing of the simplicity of the first cause.

5 Again. In all ordered active causes, where action is directed to an end, the ends of the secondary causes must be directed to the end of the first cause: thus the ends of the arts of war, horsemanship, and bridle-making are directed to the end of the political art.

Now the origin of beings from the first being is by an action directed to an end: since it is according to intellect, as we have proved; and every intellect acts for an end. If, therefore, in the production of things there are any secondary causes, it follows that their ends and actions are directed to the end of the first cause, and this is the last end in things caused. And this is the distinction and order of the parts of the universe, which order is the ultimate form, so to speak. Therefore the distinction and order in things is not on account of the actions of secondary causes; but rather the actions of secondary causes are on account of the order and distinction to be established in things.

Notes Even if you can escape teleology in things, which is impossible, it is perfectly obvious that all intellects act for an end. The instant you begin to argue with this, you confirm it. The implications of this are put next.

6 Further. If the distinction of the parts of the universe and their order is the proper effect of the first cause, through being the ultimate form and the greatest good in the universe, it follows that the distinction and order of things must be in the intellect of the first cause: because in things that are made by an intellect, the form produced in the things made proceeds from a like form in the intellect: for instance, the house which exists in matter proceeds from the house which is in an intellect.

Now the form of distinction and order cannot be in an active intellect, unless the forms of the things which are distinct and ordered be therein. Wherefore in the divine intellect there are the forms of various things distinct and ordered, nor is this incompatible with His simplicity, as we have proved above. Accordingly, if things that are outside the mind proceed from forms that are in the intellect, it will be possible, in things that are effected by an intellect, for many and diverse things to be caused immediately by the first cause, notwithstanding the divine simplicity, on account of which some fell into the aforesaid opinion.

7 Again. The action of one who acts by intellect terminates in the form which he understands, and not in another, except accidentally and by chance. Now God is an agent by His intellect, as we have proved: nor can His action be affected by chance, since He cannot fail of His action. It follows, therefore, that He produces His effect for the very reason that he understands and intends that same effect. But by the same idea that He understands one effect, He can understand many effects other than Himself. Wherefore He can at once cause many things without any intermediary.

8 Moreover. As we have shown above, the power of God is not confined to one effect, and this is befitting His simplicity: because the more a power is united, the nearer it approaches to infinity, being able to extend to so many more things. But it does not follow that one thing only can be made by one, except when the agent is determined to one effect. Wherefore, we are not bound to conclude that, because God is one and utterly simple, therefore many things cannot proceed from Him, except by means of certain things that fail of His simplicity.

9 Further. It was shown above that God alone can create. Now there are many things which cannot come into being except by creation: such as all those which are not composed of form and matter subject to contrariety because the like must needs be incapable of being generated, since all generation is from a contrary and from matter. Such are all intellectual substances, and all heavenly bodies, and even primary matter itself. We must therefore assert that all such things have taken the origin of their being from God immediately…

Notes Infinite power is needed to create from nothing! In “et omnia corpora caelestia” we have angels.

June 26, 2016 | 15 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: Good And Evil Aren’t Wholly Opposites

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’re deep into technicalities this week, all of which reinforce the proof that God is the first cause of all. As we have long learned, Thomas was nothing if not thorough.

Chapter 41 That the distinction of things is not on account of a contrariety of agents (alternate translation)

1 FROM the above we may also prove that the cause of distinction among things is not a diversity or even a contrariety of agents.

2 For if the diverse agents who cause the diversity among things, are ordered to one another, there must be some cause of this order: since many are not united together save by some one. And thus the principle of this order will be the first and sole cause of the distinction of things. If, on the other hand, these various agents are not ordered to one another, their convergence to the effect of producing the diversity of things will be accidental: wherefore the distinction of things will be by chance; the contrary of which has been proved above.

Notes And recall, as always, chance is not ontic.

3 Again. Ordered effects do not proceed from diverse causes having no order, except perhaps accidentally, for diverse things as such do not produce one. Now things mutually distinct are found to have a mutual order, and this not by chance: since for the most part one is helped by another. Wherefore it is impossible that the distinction among things thus ordered, be on account of a diversity of agents without order.

Notes In other words, there is such a thing as coincidence.

4 Moreover. Things that have a cause of their distinction cannot be the first cause of the distinction of things. Now, if we take several co-ordinate agents, they must needs have a cause of their distinction: because they have a cause of their being, since all beings are from one first being, as was shown above; and the cause of a thing’s being is the same as the cause of its distinction from others, as we have proved. Therefore diversity of agents cannot be the first cause of distinction among things.

5 Again. If the diversity of things comes of the diversity or contrariety of various agents, this would seem especially to apply, as many maintain, to the contrariety of good and evil, so that all good things proceed from a good principle, and evil things from an evil principle: for good and evil are in every genus.

But there cannot be one first principle of all evil things. For, since those things that are through another, are reduced to those that are of themselves, it would follow that the first active cause of evils is evil of itself. Now a thing is said to be such of itself, if it is such by its essence. Therefore its essence will not be good. But this is impossible. For everything that is, must of necessity be good in so far as it is a being; because everything loves its being and desires it to be preserved; a sign of which is that everything resists its own corruption; and good is what all desire. Therefore distinction among things cannot proceed from two contrary principles, the one good, and the other evil.

Notes Life is not a battle between Good and Evil. It is a battle to avoid corruption. Plus, don’t forget that here and below, evil is a privation, an absence.

6 Further. Every agent acts in as much as it is actual; and in as much as it is in act, everything is perfect: and everything that is perfect, as such, is said to be good. Therefore every agent, as such, is good. Wherefore if a thing is essentially evil, it cannot be an agent. But if it is the first principle of evils, it must be essentially evil, as we have proved. Therefore it is impossible that the distinction among things proceed from two principles, good and evil.

7 Moreover. If every being, as such, is good, it follows that evil, as such, is a non-being. Now, no efficient cause can be assigned to non-being, as such, since every agent acts for as much as it is an actual being, and every agent produces its like. Therefore no per se efficient cause can be assigned to evil, as such. Therefore evils cannot be reduced to one first cause that is of itself the cause of all evils.

8 Further. That which results beside the intention of the agent, has no per se cause, but befalls accidentally: for instance when a man finds a treasure while digging to plant. Now evil cannot result in an effect except beside the intention of the agent, for every agent intends a good, since the good is what all desire. Therefore evil has not a per se cause, but befalls accidentally in the effects of causes. Therefore we cannot assign one first principle to all evils.

Notes Keep in mind what is happening here. When a man sins he thinks, at the moment, the sin is a good. And you have to love the example of finding treasure when burrowing for potatoes!

9 Further. Contrary agents have contrary actions. Therefore we must not assign contrary principles to things that result from one action. Now good and evil are produced by the same action: thus by the same action water is corrupted and air generated. Therefore the difference of good and evil that we find in things is no reason for affirming contrary principles.

10 Moreover. That which altogether is not, is neither good nor evil. Now that which is, for as much as it is, is good, as proved above. Therefore a thing is evil forasmuch as it is a non-being. But this is a being with a privation. Wherefore evil as such is a being with a privation, and the evil itself is this very privation. Now privation has no per se efficient cause: since every agent acts inasmuch as it has a form: wherefore the per se effect of an agent must be something having that form, because an agent produces its like, except accidentally. It follows, then, that evil has no per se efficient cause, but befalls accidentally in the effects of causes which are effective per se.

11 Consequently there is not one per se principle of evil: but the first principle of all things is one first good, in whose effects evil is an accidental consequence.

Notes Intending evil for another isn’t what is meant, because that act is, by the agent, at least at the moment, seen as a good. Though it isn’t here argued, that this is so means the definition of what is truly good and evil must come from outside desire.

June 19, 2016 | 6 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: Matter Doesn’t Always Matter

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.

Just a small point today, though there’s real meat in paragraph 5.

Chapter 40 That matter is not the first cause of the distinction of things (alternate translation)

1 FURTHERMORE, it is evident from the foregoing that the distinction of things is not on account of a diversity of matter as its first cause. For nothing determinate can proceed from matter except by chance: because matter is in potentiality to many things, of which if only one were to result, it must needs be that this happens in the minority of cases, and such is that which happens by chance, especially if we remove the intention of an agent. Now it was proved that the distinction of things is not from chance. It follows therefore that it is not on account of a diversity of matter, as its first cause.

Notes Remember, chance here does not mean a real thing, but in the sense of a unknown (or unintended) cause or causes.

2 Again. Those things which result from the intention of an agent, are not on account of matter as their first cause. For an active cause precedes matter in acting: because matter does not become an actual cause except in so far as it is moved by an agent. Wherefore if an effect is consequent upon a disposition of matter and the intention of an agent, it does not result from matter as its first cause. For this reason we find that those things which are referable to matter as their first cause, are beside the intention of the agent; for instance monsters and other mischances of nature.

But the form results from the intention of the agent. This is proved thus. The agent produces its like according to its form, and if sometimes this fails, it is from chance on account of a defect in the matter. Therefore forms do not result from a disposition of matter as their first cause; on the contrary, matters are disposed in such a way that such may be their forms. Now the specific distinction of things is according to their forms. Therefore the distinction of things is not on account of the diversity of matter as its first cause.

Notes Monsters! If you’re creating a sculpture and the stone has a flaw which cracks the work at an intended point, this is a defect in matter. Dysgenic mutations, too.

3 Moreover. The distinction of things cannot result from matter except in those which are made from pre-existing matter. Now many things are distinguished from one another which cannot be made from pre-existing matter: for instance, the celestial bodies, which have no contrary, as their movement shows. Therefore the diversity of matter cannot be the first cause of the distinction of things.

Notes Well, the science is not quite right here, but the argument isn’t dependent on stars. Think instead “virtual” particles popping into existence in the vacuum.

4 Again. Whatever things having a cause of their being are distinct from one another, have a cause of their distinction: because a thing is made a being according as it is made one, undivided in itself and distinct from others. Now if matter, by its diversity, is the cause of the distinction of things, we must suppose that matters are in themselves distinct. Moreover it is evident that every matter has being from something else, since it was proved above that everything, that is in any way whatsoever, is from God. Therefore something else is the cause of distinction in matters: and consequently the first cause of the distinction of things cannot be a diversity of matter.

Notes If molecules are made of atoms, and atoms quarks, and quarks strings, and strings whatever, then eventually we must bottom out at a first cause of being. That cause cannot be nothing.

5 Again. Since every intellect acts for the sake of good, it does not produce a better thing for the sake of an inferior thing: and it is the same with nature. Now all things proceed from God Who acts by His intellect, as stated above. Therefore inferior things proceed from God for the sake of better things, and not vice versa.

But form is more noble than matter, since it is its perfection and act. Therefore He does not produce such and such forms for the sake of such and such matters, but rather He produced such and such matters that there might be such and such forms. Therefore the specific distinction in things, which is according to their form, is not on account of their matter: but on the contrary matters were created diverse, that they might be suitable for diverse forms.

Notes What a remarkable argument! The distinction must be in logical priority. If matter is required for forms to exist, then since prime matter has no form, both must be created simultaneously, though matter must be logically prior to form.

6 Hereby is excluded the opinion of Anaxagoras, who postulated an infinite number of material principles, which at first were mixed together in one confused mass, but which an intellect subsequently separated, thus establishing a distinction among things: as well as the opinions of any who held the distinction of things to be the result of various material principles.