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Category: SAMT

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

March 1, 2015 | 5 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: That God Is One II

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.

Finishing the God is one argument this week. Many words, but boy do they flow. If you’ve been following the discussion, this should be a breeze. But if not, review the subjects of essence and existence, and recall the in God they are the same.

Chapter 42 That God is One Two (as in Part two)

[9] Furthermore, given two gods that are posited as agreeing in the necessity of being, either that in which they differ is in some way required for the completion of their necessity of being, or it is not. If it is not, then it is something accidental, because that which accrues to a thing without contributing to its being is an accident. Hence, this accident has a cause, which is, consequently, either the essence of the necessary being or something else. If its essence, then, since the necessity itself of being is its essence, as is evident from what was said above, the necessity of being will be the cause of that accident. But the necessity of being is found in both gods. Therefore, both will have that accident, and thus will not be distinguished with reference to it. If, however, the cause of the accident is something else, it follows that, unless that something else existed, this accident would not exist; and unless this accident existed, the aforesaid distinction would not exist. Therefore, unless that something else existed, these two supposed necessary beings would not be two but one. Therefore, the proper being of each depends on the other, and thus neither of them is through itself a necessary being…

[11] It is, therefore, not possible to posit many beings of which each is through itself a necessary being.

Notes In other words, it isn’t and can’t be turtles all the way down, which each one giving something to another which the other doesn’t have.

[12] What is more, if there are two gods, either the name God is predicated of both univocally, or equivocally. If equivocally, this is outside our present purpose. Nothing prevents any given thing from being equivocally named by any given name, provided we admit the usage of those who express the name. But if it be used univocally, it must be predicated of both according to one notion, which means that, in notion, there must be in both one nature. Either, therefore, this nature is in both according to one being, or according to a being that is other in each case. If according to one, there will not be two gods, but only one, since there cannot be one being for two things that are substantially distinguished. If each has its own being, therefore in neither being will the quiddity be its being. Yet this must be posited in God, as we have proved. Therefore, neither of these two beings is what we understand by the name God. It is, therefore, impossible to posit two gods…

Notes Shorter version: since God’s existence and essence are one, as previously proved, to say there are two (or more) gods is to speak equivocally.

[13] …therefore there cannot be several beings of which each is a necessary being. It is, consequently, impossible that there be several gods.

[15] Furthermore, either the nature signified by the name God is individuated through itself in this God, or it is individuated through something else. If through something else, composition must result. If through itself, then it cannot possibly belong to another, since the principle of individuation cannot be common to several, It is impossible, therefore, that there be several gods.

[16] If, again, there are several gods, the nature of the godhead cannot be numerically one in two of them. There must, therefore, be something distinguishing the divine nature in this and in that god. But this is impossible, because, as we have shown above, the divine nature receives the addition neither of essential differences nor of accidents. Nor yet is the divine nature the form of any matter, to be capable of being divided according to the division of matter. It is impossible, therefore, that there be two gods.

Notes Of course, this follows even if you’re not yet convinced God exists. And if you are not yet convinced, you need to go back and re-read especially Chapter 13. And the material proving God is pure act, actuality only, and in Him there is no potential or accidents (if you like, parts that are not essential).

[17] Then, too, the proper being of each thing is only one. But God is His being, as we have shown. There can, therefore, be only one God…

[19] Furthermore, we notice in each genus that multitude proceeds from some unity. This is why in every genus there is found a prime member that is the measure of all the things found in that genus. In whatever things, therefore, we find that there is an agreement in one respect, it is necessary that this depend upon one source. But all things agree in being. There must, therefore, be only one being that is the source of all things. This is God.

[20] Again, in every rulership he who rules desires unity. That is why among the forms of rulership the main one is monarchy or kingship. So, too, for many members there is one head, whereby we see by an evident sign that he to whom rulership belongs should have unity. Hence, we must admit that God, Who is the cause of all things, is absolutely one…

Notes This is St Thomas being complete. I don’t think these last arguments are convincing on their own. [19] relies on earlier material on being-in-act, and where that ultimately arises. [20] seems to be missing premises about what God is up to. But, of course, we don’t need either of these two and have enough both from last week and this to prove (with certainty) there is only one God who is the ground of all being, the Unmoved Mover, etc.

February 15, 2015 | 8 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: That God Is One I

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.

Hotting up this week. A more contentious argument! St Thomas knows this and builds slowly. So shall we, by breaking up the chapter over two weeks.

Chapter 42 That God is One

[1] From what has been shown it is evident that God is one.

[2] For it is not possible that there be two highest goods, since that which is said by superabundance is found in only one being. But God, as we have shown, is the highest good. God is, therefore, one.

[3] Again, it has been shown that God is absolutely perfect, lacking no perfection. If, then, there are many gods, there must be many such perfect beings. But this is impossible. For, if none of these perfect beings lacks some perfection, and does not have any admixture of imperfection, which is demanded for an absolutely perfect being, nothing will be given in which to distinguish the perfect beings from one another. It is impossible, therefore, that there be many gods.

Notes Argument [3] is delightful. And it shows, albeit indirectly, that all those religious systems peopled with multitudes of gods must (as they of course do) acknowledge their gods fall short of perfection, and that even this demi-dieties must look to something higher than themselves. And this higher thing can only be God.

[4] Again, that which is accomplished adequately through one supposition is better done through one than through many. But the order of things is the best it can be, since the power of the first cause does not fail the potency in things for perfection. Now, all things are sufficiently fulfilled by a reduction to one first principle. There is, therefore, no need to posit many principles.

Notes I’ve lost the link to an article which shows that Ockham is not the originator of his razor. If I rediscover it, I’ll put it here.

[5] Moreover, it is impossible that there be one continuous and regular motion from many movers. For, if they move together, none of them is a perfect mover, but all together rather take the place of one perfect mover. This is not befitting in the first mover, for the perfect is prior to the imperfect. If, however, they do not move together, each of them at times moves and at times does not. It follows from this that motion is neither continuous nor regular. For a motion that is continuous and one is from one mover. Furthermore, a mover that is not always moving is found to move irregularly, as is evident among lesser movers among whom a violent motion is stronger in the beginning and weaker at the end, whereas a natural motion proceeds conversely. But, as the philosophers have proved, the first motion is one and continuous. Therefore, its first mover must be one.

[6] Furthermore, a corporeal substance is ordered to a spiritual substance as to its good. For there is in the spiritual substance a fuller goodness to which the corporeal substance seeks to liken itself, since whatever exists desires the best so far as this is possible. But all the motions of the corporeal creature are seen to be reduced to one first motion, beyond which there is no other first motion that is not in some way reduced to it. Therefore, outside the spiritual substance that is the end of the first motion, there is none that is not reduced to it. But this is what we understand by the name of God. Hence, there is only one God.

Notes Once more, I beg you will review Chapter 13. Motion means change, and the start of every here-and-now change must have an impetus. This is God. Thomas emphasizes that they’re cannot be two or more first causes. Since there can only be one, it must be God, who is one.

[7] Among all the things that are ordered to one another, furthermore, their order to one another is for the sake of their order to something one; just as the order of the parts of an army among themselves is for the sake of the order of the whole army to its general. For that some diverse things should be united by some relationship cannot come about from their own natures as diverse things, since on this basis they would rather be distinguished from one another. Nor can this unity come from diverse ordering causes, because they could not possibly intend one order in so far as among themselves they are diverse. Thus, either the order of many to one another is accidental, or we must reduce it to some one first ordering cause that orders all other things to the end it intends. Now, we find that all the parts of this world are ordered to one another according as some things help some other things. Thus, lower bodies are moved by higher bodies, and these by incorporeal substances, as appears from what was said above. Nor is this something accidental, since it takes place always or for the most part. Therefore, this whole world has only one ordering cause and governor. But there is no other world beyond this one. Hence, there is only one governor for all things, whom we call God.

Notes Take time to digest this. It doesn’t quite stand on its own but is a sort of corollary to the prime mover argument (Chapter 13 again). It still holds if we are part of a “multiverse” or whatever. Something has to be at the base of all. That is, if there is an ordering, there must be a hierarchy which is objective. That hierarchy must have an end and (to make it short) this is God.

[8] Then, too, if there are two beings of which both are necessary beings, they must agree in the notion of the necessity of being. Hence, they must be distinguished by something added either to one of them only, or to both. This means that one or both of them must be composite. Now, as we have shown, no composite being is through itself a necessary being. It is impossible therefore that there be many beings of which each is a necessary being. Hence, neither can there be many gods.

Notes Simple! But what about this whole Trinity (get it? get it?) thing? We come to it, but a way down the road.

February 8, 2015 | 17 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: The Goodness Of 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.

We’ve had to switch translations because the first site is throwing errors (coincidentally using the same old server I did) and its owner has gone missing. This translation, estimable as it is, lacks the footnotes of the other. We’ll make do. I’m also changing my footnote style, which will be obvious. Since I was first sick and then came the hacking, it’s been a few weeks, so I recommend reviewing old chapters before continuing. With the blessing, this week’s chapters are particularly easy.

Chapter 40: That God is the good of every good

[1] From the foregoing it is also shown that God is “the good of every good.”

[2] For the goodness of each thing is its perfection, as we have said. But, since God is absolutely perfect, in His perfection He comprehends the perfections of all things, as has been shown. His goodness, therefore, comprehends every goodness. Thus, He is the good of every good.

[3] Moreover, that which is said to be of a certain sort by participation is said to be such only so far as it has a certain likeness to that which is said to be such by essence. Thus iron is said to be on fire in so far as it participates in a certain likeness of fire. But God is good through His essence, whereas all other things are good by participation, as has been shown. Nothing, then, will be called good except in so far as it has a certain likeness of the divine goodness. Hence, God is the good of every good.

[4] Since, furthermore, each thing is appetible because of the end, and since the nature of the good consists in its being appetible, each thing must be called good either because it is the end or because it is ordered to the end. It is the last end, then, from which all things receive the nature of good. As will be proved later on, this is God. God is, therefore, the good of every good.

Notes Don’t forget in [3] the previous result that no thing can reach perfection. Our running example was a circle. The idea of a perfect circle can be comprehended but no instantiation of one ever will be. And if simple geometric figures can’t make it, how can we? Not without grace and not during this life.

In [4] appetible, i.e. desirable; capable or worthy of being the object of desire. Each thing is worthy of desire because of its use, its end. And a thing is good when it is ordered towards its end, or, loosely, when it used in the way it was meant be used. This is the backbone of (the old) natural law.

Chapter 41: That God is the highest good

[1] From this conclusion we prove that God is the highest good.

[2] For the universal good stands higher than any particular good, just as “the good of the people is better than the good of an individual,” since the goodness and perfection of the whole stand higher than the goodness and perfection of the part. But the divine goodness is compared to all others as the universal good to a particular good, being, as we have shown, the good of every good. God is, therefore, the highest good.

[3] Furthermore, what is said essentially is said more truly than what is said by participation. But God is good essentially, while other things are good by participation, as we have shown. God is, therefore, the highest good.

[4] Again, “what is greatest in any genus is the cause of the rest in that genus,” for a cause ranks higher than an effect. But, as we have shown, it is from God that all things have the nature of good. God is, therefore, the highest good.

[5] Moreover, just as what is not mixed with black is more white, so what is not mixed with evil is more good. But God is most unmixed with evil, because evil can be in God neither in act nor in potency; and this belongs to God according to His nature, as we have shown. God is, therefore, the highest good.

Notes Pragmatism or utilitarianism do not flow from [2]. Rather, the good of the people comes from the good of individuals. Goodness begins at home. Fix yourself first. And this still requires a definition of good, which is given above (and previous posts). Everything else follows rather simply.

Like I said: an easy week! We appropriately pick up steam again next time. Review before then!

January 11, 2015 | 1 Comment

Summary Against Modern Thought: No Evil 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.

This post is one that has been restored after the hacking. All original comments were lost.

Previous post.

Evil is the absence or lack of the good.

Chapter 39: That no evil can be in God

1 HENCE it is manifestly apparent that evil cannot be in God.

2 For being and goodness and all essential predicates have nothing besides themselves added to them, although that which is or the good may have something besides being or goodness: since nothing hinders the subject of one perfection being the subject of another besides; thus that which is a body may be white and sweet: while every nature is confined within the bounds of its essence, so that it admits of nothing extraneous within itself. Now God is goodness and not merely good, as we have proved above.[1] Therefore nothing that is not goodness can be in Him: and consequently evil can nowise be in Him.

Notes This is partly an argument of grammar. His “while every nature is confined within the bounds of its essence, so that it admits of nothing extraneous within itself” is nearly a tautology, both grammatical and logical. Point is, accepting that God is goodness itself (as proved last time), it follows that goodness itself can contain no evil.

3 Moreover. As long as a thing remains, that which is contrary to its essence is altogether incompatible with that thing: thus irrationality or insensibility is incompatible with man unless he cease to be man. Now the divine essence is goodness itself, as we have proved.[2] Therefore evil which is contrary to good can have no place in God unless He cease to be God: which is impossible, since He is eternal, as was proved above.[3]

Notes The urge to turn “thus irrationality or insensibility is incompatible with man unless he cease to be man” into a joke is almost irresistible. But I’ll rise above my vulgar tendencies to note an important point: being rational and sensible is what separates man from brute. Being rational is part of man’s nature. Remove that nature [insert joke here] and what is left is not man. The rest of Aquinas’s argument follows logically.

4 Again. Since God is His own being, nothing can be said of Him by participation, as is clear from the argument given above.[4] If, then, evil were predicated of Him, it would be a predicate not by participation, but by essence. But evil cannot be predicated of any thing in such a way as to be the essence of that thing: for it would lack being, which is a good, as we have shown above:[5] and in evil there can be no extraneous admixture, as neither can there be in goodness. Therefore evil cannot be predicated of God.

Notes Not for the last time it is emphasized that evil is the absence or lack of the good. This must be kept ever firmly in mind.

5 Again. Evil is opposed to good. Now the notion of good consists in perfection:[6] and therefore the notion of evil consists in imperfection. Now defect or imperfection cannot be in God, since He is universally perfect, as shown above.[7] Therefore evil cannot be in God.

6 Further. A thing is perfect according as it is in act.[8] Therefore it will be imperfect according as it is deficient in act. Therefore evil is either privation or includes privation. Now the subject of privation is a potentiality: and this cannot be in God,[9] and consequently neither can evil.

Notes Don’t forget that we earlier learned that to have potentiality is to lack perfection. The example given was instantiations of circles. No real circle can achieve perfect circleness. It is deficient in being in act of a perfect circle.

7 Moreover. If good is what is desired by all,[10] it follows that evil as such is shunned by every nature. Now that which is in a thing against the mode of its natural appetite is violent and unnatural. Therefore evil in a thing is violent and unnatural in so far as it is an evil to that thing, although in composite things it may be natural thereto in respect of some part. But God is not composite, nor can anything be violent or unnatural in Him, as shown above.[11] Therefore evil cannot be in God.

Notes This argument is easy. But don’t forget a good for one thing can be an evil for another. It’s good for the lion to gut a gazelle, but not so good for the gazelle. The lion desires its good, but its good results in unhappy ruminants.

———————————————————————————

[1] Ch. xxxviii.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ch. xv.
[4] Ch. xxxviii.
[5] Ch. xxxvii.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ch. xxviii.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ch. xvi.
[10] 1 Ethic. i.
[11] Chs. xviii., xix.