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Category: SAMT

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

January 31, 2016 | 16 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Is The Cause Of All Being

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.

Note that the Chapter numbering is correct; we didn’t actually skip anything; I mislabeled two Chapters as one last week.

Chapter 15 That God is to all things the cause of being (alternate translation)

[1] Now, since we have proved that God is the source of being to some things, we must further show that everything besides Himself is from Him.

[2] For whatever belongs to a thing otherwise than as such, belongs to it through some cause, as white to a man: because that which has no cause is something first and immediate, wherefore it must needs belong to the thing essentially and as such. Now it is impossible for any one thing to belong to two and to both of them as such. For that which is said of a thing as such, does not go beyond that thing: for instance to have three angles equal to two right angles does not go beyond a triangle.

Accordingly if something belongs to two things, it will not belong to both as such: wherefore it is impossible for any one thing to be predicated of two so as to be said of neither by reason of a cause, but it is necessary that either the one be the cause of the other,–for instance fire is the cause of heat in a mixed body, and yet each is called hot;–or else some third thing must be cause of both, for instance fire is the cause of two candles giving light.

Now being is said of everything that is. Wherefore it is impossible that there be two things neither of which has a cause of its being, but either both the things in question must have their being through a cause, or else the one must be the cause of being to the other. Hence everything that, in any way whatever, is, must needs be from that to which nothing is a cause of being. Now we have proved above that God is this being to which nothing is a cause of its being. Therefore from Him is everything that, in any way whatever, is. If however it be said that being is not a univocal predicate, the above conclusion follows none the less. For it is not said of many equivocally, but analogically: and thus it is necessary to be brought back to one thing.

Notes Understand this is metaphysics and not physics which is under discussion. A thing having being is not given being by “laws of nature.” We can plant an acorn, which is a nascent oak tree, and which grows according to certain formula we might discover. But its the whole package, including the “laws” and “formula”, are what exists as being-an-oak-tree. It is the totality of the thing which has being. And that being has to have been caused by something. It is that totality which can only have come from some First unchanging cause, which we earlier proved was God.

Science comes after being. Science takes being for granted, and seeks to discover the “formula” to apply to being. But science can never explain being; it cannot even explain the laws and rules which science itself uses. Physics must always be built on top of metaphysics, for without metaphysics there is no physics.

[3] Moreover. That which belongs to a thing by its nature, and not by some other cause, cannot be diminished and deficient therein. For if something essential be subtracted from or added to a nature, there will be at once another nature: even as it happens in numbers, where the addition or subtraction of unity changes the species. And if the nature or quiddity of a thing remain entire, although something is found to be diminished, it is clear that this does not depend simply on that nature, but on something else, through the absence of which it is diminished.

Wherefore that which belongs to one thing less than to others, belongs to it not through its nature alone, but through some other cause. Consequently that thing will be the cause of all in a certain genus, to which thing the predication of that genus belongs above all; hence that which is most hot is seen to be the cause of heat in all things hot, and that which is most light is the cause of all things that have light. Now God is being above all, as we have proved in the First Book. Therefore He is the cause of all of which being is predicated.

Notes Review: A hat is not essential to be a man; a hat is an “accident” and not part of his essential nature. But a man with a head to place the hat on is not a man, but a corpse. Heads are essential and hats are accidents.

[4] Further. The order of causes must needs correspond to the order of effects, since effects are proportionate to their causes. Wherefore, as proper effects are reduced to their proper causes, so that which is common in proper effects must needs be reduced to some common cause: even so, above the particular causes of the generation of this or that thing, is the sun the universal cause of generation; and the king is the universal cause of government in his kingdom, above the wardens of the kingdom and of each city. Now being is common to all. Therefore above all causes there must be a cause to which it belongs to give being. But God is the first cause, as shown above. Therefore it follows that all things that are, are from God.

[5] Again. That which is said to be essentially so and so is the cause of all that are so by participation: thus fire is the cause of all things ignited as such. Now God is being by His essence, because He is being itself: whereas everything else is being by participation: for there can be but one being that is its own being, as was proved in the First Book. Therefore God is the cause of being to all other things.

Notes Don’t forget that when say anything has being, we are speaking of that thing in its totality, including the “forces” which hold the thing together, to use more physical language.

[6] Further. Everything that is possible to be and not to be has a cause: because considered in itself it is indifferent to either, so that there must needs be something else that determines it to one. Wherefore, since we cannot proceed to infinity, there must needs be some necessary thing that is the cause of all things that it is possible to be and not to be. Now there is a necessary thing that has a cause of its necessity: and here again we cannot proceed to infinity, so that we must come to something that is of itself necessary to be. And this can be but one, as we showed in the First Book: and this is God. Therefore everything other than Him must be reduced to Him as the cause of its being.

Notes We’re back to Chapter 13 in Book One. A can be the cause of B, and B of C, and so forth, but this has to end, or rather start, somewhere, because something is needed to explain the cause of being in A.

[7] Moreover. God is the maker of a thing, inasmuch as He is in act, as we have proved above. Now by His actuality and perfection He contains all the perfections of things, as we have shown in the First Book; and thus He is virtually all things. Therefore He is the maker of all. But this would not be if something else were of a nature to be otherwise than from Him: for nothing is of a nature to be from another, and not to be from another, since if it be of a nature not to be from another, it is of itself necessary to be, and thus can never be from another. Therefore nothing can be except from God.

[8] Again. The imperfect originate from the perfect, as seed from an animal. Now God is the most perfect being and the sovereign good, as was shown in the First Book. Therefore He is to all things the cause of being, especially since it was proved that there can be but one such thing…

[10] This sets aside the error of the ancient physicists who asserted that certain bodies had no cause of their being: likewise of some who say that God is not the cause of the substance of heaven, but only of its movement.

Notes In mixed-modern-medieval parlance, a potential cannot be actualized without something being in act. Something that does not have being but could is only in potential to being; therefore to be requires an actuality. Now since “chance” or “randomness” cannot be causes since they are not actual, certain effects at the very small, in the realm of quantum mechanics, cannot be said to have no cause of their being. An actuality must still exist to actualize their potential. Now we may not know what this actuality is, but our ignorance does not prove non-existence.

January 24, 2016 | 7 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: God And His Relation To Effects

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.

This is our last week of throat-clearing and set up. Next week the juicier bits begin. It’s good to go through this to build your own confidence, and for the interesting material about the infinity of potentialities in the second Note.

Chapter 11 That something is said of God in relation to creatures (alternate translation)

[1] Now as power is becoming to God in relation to His effects, and as power conveys the notion of a principle, as we have stated; and since principle denotes relationship to that which proceeds from it, it is evident that something can be said of God relatively, in relation to His effects.

[2] Again. It is inconceivable that one thing be referred to another, unless conversely the latter be referred to it. Now we speak of other things in relation to God; for example as regards their being which they have from God, as already proved, they are dependent upon Him. Therefore conversely we may speak of God in relation to creatures.

[3] Further. Likeness is a kind of relation. Now God, even as other agents, produces something like Himself. Therefore something is said of Him relatively.

[4] Moreover. Knowledge denotes relation to the thing known. Now God has knowledge not only of Himself, but also of other things. Therefore something is said of God in relation to other things.

[5] Again. Mover implies relation to thing moved, and agent to thing done. Now God is an agent, and an unmoved mover, as already proved. Therefore relations are predicated of Him.

[6] Again. First implies some kind of relation, and so does supreme. Now it was proved in the First Book that He is the first being and the supreme good.

[7] It is therefore evident that many things are said of God relatively.

Notes That’s the entire, unexpurgated chapter. It shows how extraordinarily careful St Thomas was at all times, with nothing taken for granted. The whole point here, and for the first three paragraphs of the next Chapter, are to understand what is really part of God, and what is not, and to show that we are able to say something about how things related to God. We creatures are not part of God. The universe, His creation, is not God. And so forth. These points will be clarified in the Chapters to come.

Chapter 12 That relations said of God in reference to creatures are not really in God (alternate translation)

[1] THESE relations however which refer to His effects cannot possibly be in God.

[2] For they cannot be in Him as accidents in a subject, since no accident is in Him, as we proved in the First Book. Neither can they be God’s very substance: because, since relative terms are those which essentially refer somehow to something else, as the Philosopher says (Predict.), it would follow that God’s substance is essentially referred to something else. Now that which is essentially referred to another, depends in some way thereon, since it can neither exist nor be understood without it. Hence it would follow that God’s substance is dependent on something else outside it: and thus it would not be of itself necessary being, as we have proved in the First Book. Therefore suchlike relations are not really in God.

[3] Again. It was proved in the First Book that God is the first measure of all beings. Therefore God is compared to other beings as knowable things to our knowledge: since opinion or speech is true or false according as a thing is or is not, according to the Philosopher (Predic.). Now though a thing is said to be knowable in relation to knowledge, the relation is not really in the knowable, but only in the knowledge: wherefore according to the Philosopher (5 Metaph.), the knowable is so called relatively, not because it is itself related, but because something else is related to it. Therefore the said relations are not really in God.

[4] Further. The aforesaid relations are said of God not only with respect to those things that are actual, but also with respect to those that are in potentiality: because He both has knowledge of them, and in reference to them is called the first being and the sovereign good. But that which is actual has no real relation to that which is not actual but potential: else it would follow that there are actually an infinite number of relations in the same subject, since potentially infinite numbers are greater than the number two which is prior to them all. Now God is not related to actual things otherwise than to potential things, for He is not changed by the fact that He produces certain things. Therefore He is not related to other things by a relation really existing in Him…

Notes This bears repeating: “the relation is not really in the knowable, but only in the knowledge.” The relation is not ontological, but epistemological, which is the point I have been making about (logic and) probability. The relation doesn’t exist, therefore cannot exist “in” or as part of God.

The God is changeless, or that He exists outside time, i.e. is eternal, and that in Him there is no potential we already know. And we know that relations are knowledge. We have also delved into the subject of potentiality and actuality. Potentialities can be infinite, as Aquinas states, and God can obviously know He could have made things other ways. That knowledge is therefore in God. And we can have knowledge of (some of) these, too. That we can is where uncertainty enters the picture; this is the origin or probability. It is only because we can have knowledge of potentialities that we can be uncertain. This, then, is something which separates us from God.

Actualities are harder. Can they too be infinite? Is space, for example, infinitely graduated, i.e. continuous, or is space only made or “more points” potentially? This is too huge a subject for us to answer here. However, we’ll come back to infinity again and again.

January 17, 2016 | 17 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: God’s Action, Power & Substance

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.

Most of these are easy extensions from Book One, with St Thomas arguing so clearly there isn’t much to say. Thank God for that. The slightly more difficult material is in Chapter 10, below. We return to science soon.

Chapter 8 That God’s power is His substance (alternate translation)

[1] WE may also conclude from this that the divine power is God’s very substance.

[2] For active power becomes a thing according as this is in act. Now God is very act; nor is He being in act by some act that is not Himself, since in Him there is no potentiality, as we have proved in the First Book. Therefore He is His own power.

[3] Again. Whatever is powerful and is not its own power, is powerful by participating another’s power. But nothing can be ascribed to God by participation, for He is His own being, as we proved in the First Book…

[6] Again. In those things whose powers are not their substance, their powers are accidents: hence natural power is placed in the second species of accident. But in God there can be no accident, as was proved in the First Book. Therefore God is His own power.

[7] Further. Whatever is by another is reduced to that which is by its very self, being thus reduced to that which is first. Now other agents are reduced to God as first agent. Therefore He is agent by His very self. But that which acts by its very self, acts by its essence: and that by which a thing acts is its active power. Therefore God’s very essence is His active power.

Chapter 9 That God’s power is His action (alternate translation)

[1] FROM this we can show that God’s power is not other than His action.

[2] For things that are identical with one and the same thing, are identical with one another. Now God’s power is His substance, as we have proved: and His action is also His substance, as we showed in the First Book with regard to His intellectual operation: for this applies equally to His other operations. Therefore in God power is not distinct from action…

[4] Moreover. Just as active power is something acting, so is its essence something being. Now God’s power is His essence, as we have proved. Therefore His action is His being. But His being is His substance. Therefore God’s action is His substance, and so the same conclusion follows as before…

Chapter 10 In what way power is ascribed to God (alternate translation)

[1] SINCE, however, nothing is its own principle, and God’s action is not other than His power, it is clear from the foregoing that power is ascribed to God, not as the principle of action, but as the principle of the thing made. And since power implies relation to something else under the aspect of principle thereof, — for active power is the principle of acting on something else, according to the Philosopher (5 Metaph.) — it is evident that power is ascribed to God in relation to things made, according to reality, and not in relation to action, except according to our way of understanding, for as much as our intellect considers both, the divine power and action to wit, by different concepts.

Wherefore, if certain actions are becoming to God, which do not pass into something made but remain in the agent, power is not ascribed to God in their respect, except according to our manner of understanding, and not according to reality. Such actions are intelligence and volition. Accordingly God’s power, properly speaking, does not regard suchlike actions, but only their effects. Consequently intellect and will are in God, not as powers, but only as actions.

[2] It is also clear from the foregoing that the manifold actions ascribed to God, as intelligence, volition, the production of things, and the like, are not so many different things, since each of these actions in God is His own very being, which is one and the same thing. How one thing may remain true while having many significations, may be clearly seen from what has been shown in the First Book.

Notes The wording for paragraph [1] isn’t smooth, to say the least, so to help there is one clarification we can try, and it is that we must always keep separate that which is from that which we know or understand. It is the aspect of our knowing that can change of a thing that exists, though the thing itself obviously remains unchanged.

January 10, 2016 | 12 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Is The Cause Of All Being

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.

More relatively simple material this week. But it’s going to heat up soon. Review!

Chapter 6 That it becomes God to be the source of being to other things (alternate translation)

[1] TAKING then as granted the things that were proved in the foregoing Book, let us now proceed to prove that it becomes God to be the source and cause of being to other things.

Notes He means Book 1. Start here.

[2] For it was shown above by the proof of Aristotle that there is a first efficient cause which we call God. Now an efficient cause brings its effects into being. Therefore God is the cause of being to other things.

[3] Again. It was shown in the First Book by the argument of the same author, that there is a first immovable mover, which we call God. Now the first mover in any order of movements is the cause of all the movements in that order. Since then many things are brought into being by the movements of the heaven, and since God has been proved to be the first mover in the order of those movements, it follows that God is the cause of being to many things.

Notes Super-condensed review (do not expect to understand everything in this one paragraph). By “change” or “movement” we mean activiation of a potential. Every activation of a potential requires something actual. Every here-and-now secondary cause needs a first or initial here-and-now cause or now activation of any potential could ever happen. God is this First Activator, i.e. He is pure actuality, Being Itself. Every substance is a “mixture” of being and essence. God’s being is His essence. God must provide the ultimate cause of all being.

[4] Moreover. That which belongs to a thing by its nature, must needs be in that thing universally; as for man to be rational, and for fire to tend upwards. Now it belongs to a being in act that it should enact an effect; for every agent acts according as it is in act. Therefore it is natural to every being in act to enact something existing in act. Now God is being in act, as we proved in the First Book. Therefore it is competent to Him to produce something in act, to which He is the cause of being.

Notes A vase is potentially a pile of shards. The potential-pile cannot act. It requires something actual to actualize the potential-of-being-shards. An example of an actuality: a flying baseball.

[5] Further. It is a sign of perfection in things of the lower world, that they are able to produce their like, as stated by the Philosopher (4 Meteor.). Now God is supremely perfect, as was proved in the First Book. Therefore it is competent to Him to produce something in act like unto Himself, so that He is the cause of its being.

[6] Again. It was shown in the First Book that God wills to communicate His being to other things by way of likeness. Now it belongs to the will’s perfection to be the principle of action and movement, as stated in 3 De Anima. Since then God’s will is perfect, it lacks not the power of communicating His being to a thing by way of likeness. And thus He will be the cause of its being…

Notes Given or accepting the prior proofs, it cannot be controversial that God can cause things to be.

Chapter 7 That in God there is active power (alternate translation)

[1] IT follows from this that God is powerful, and that active power is fittingly ascribed to Him.

[2] For active power is the principle of acting on another as such. Now it becomes God to be the principle of being to other things. Therefore it becomes Him to be powerful.

[3] Moreover. Just as passive potentiality is consequent upon being in potentiality, so active potency is consequent upon being in act: for a thing is active because it is in act, and passive because it is in potentiality. Now it becomes God to be in act. Therefore active power is becoming to Him.

Notes The vase is in passive potential to being in shards, the baseball is in active potential to busting through the vase. Passive and active, the done to and doer. For a richer and more complete explanation, read this. In God there is no passive potency, but there can be active potency. See paragraph 5 below.

[4] Again. The divine perfection includes the perfection of all things, as was proved in the First Book. Now active power belongs to the perfection of a thing: since a thing is found to be the more perfect in proportion as it is more powerful. Therefore God cannot be devoid of active power.

[5] Further. Whatever acts, has the power to act, since that which has not the power to act, cannot possibly act; and what cannot possibly act, of necessity does not act. Now God acts and moves, as was proved above. Therefore He has the power to act; and active but not passive potency is fittingly ascribed to Him.

Notes Thus when we say God is pure act or that God has no potentiality in Him, we mean He is always the doer and not the done-toer. Simple! As in, God is metaphysically simple, i.e. (this is review) has no passive potentiality. The concept of active potentiality is therefore not so straightforward. To God, all of time exists at once; He is outside time. Therefore He does not change.