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Category: SAMT

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

November 16, 2014 | 43 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: God Is Not The Universe

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.

Pantheism is the belief that the universe (or multiverse or whatever is all that exists) is identical with God. It is an ancient and current belief. See inter alia Star Wars or attend any yoga class. Atheists speak like pantheists (see discussions about “spontaneous” effects, creation from “nothing”, etc.).

Chapter 26: That God Is Not The Formal Being Of All Things

1 FROM the foregoing we are able to refute the error of some who have asserted that God is nothing else than the formal being of everything.[1]

2 For this being is divided into substantial and accidental being. Now the divine being is neither the being of a substance nor the being of an accident, as shown above.[2] Therefore it is impossible for God to be the being whereby everything is formally.i

3 Again. Things are not distinct from one another in that they have being, since in this they all agree. If, then, things differ from one another, it follows that either being itself is specified by certain differences added thereto, so that different things have a specifically different being, or that things differ in that being itself is attached to specifically different natures. But the former of these is impossible, because an addition cannot be attached to being in the same way as a difference is added to a genus, as already stated.[3] It remains, therefore, that things differ because they have different natures, to which being is attached in different ways. Now the divine being is not attached to another nature, but is the nature itself, as shown above.[4] If, therefore, the divine being were the formal being of all things, it would follow that all things are simply one…ii

5 Further. That which is common to many is not something besides those many except only logically: thus animal is not something besides Socrates and Plato and other animals except as considered by the mind, which apprehends the form of animal as divested of all that specifies, and individualizes it: for man is that which is truly an animal, else it would follow that in Socrates and Plato there are several animals, namely animal in general, man in general, and Plato himself.iii Much less therefore being itself in general is something apart from all things that have being; except only as apprehended by the mind. If therefore God is being in general, He will not be an individual thing except only as apprehended in the mind. Now it has been shown above[6] that God is something not merely in the intellect, but in reality. Therefore God is not the common being of all.iv

6 Again. Generation is essentially the way to being, and corruption the way to not-being. For the term of generation is the form, and that of corruption privation, for no other reason than because the form makes a thing to be, and corruption makes a thing not to be, for supposing a certain form not to give being, that which received that form would not be said to be generated. If, then, God were the formal being of all things it would follow that He is the term of generation. Which is false, since He is eternal, as we have shown above.[7]v

7 Moreover. It would follow that the being of every thing has been from eternity: wherefore there would be neither generation nor corruption. For if there were, it would follow that a thing acquires anew a being already pre-existing. Either then it is acquired by something already existing, or else by something nowise pre-existing. In the first case, since according to the above supposition all existing things have the same being, it would follow that the thing which is said to be generated, receives not a new being but a new mode of being, and therefore is not generated but altered. If on the other hand the thing nowise existed before, it would follow that it is made out of nothing, and this is contrary to the essence of generation. Consequently this supposition would wholly do away with generation and corruption: and therefore it is clear that it is impossible…vi

We skip the next six arguments, which refute an error not of main interest to us.


[1] Sum. Th. P. I., Q. iii., A. 8.
[2] Ch. xxv.
[3] Ch. xxv.
[4] Ch. xxii.
[5] Ch. xv.
[6] Ch. xiii.
[7] Ch. xv.

i“This being” is the pantheistic deity, if it existed. Obviously, the universe is made of parts, is in potential, and all those things we already know God cannot be. This is probably the simplest proof in the whole book! So obvious is this that we’ll skip around the remaining arguments, though there is plenty there that is of interest.

iiThere was some confusion about this in the past. If you exist and I exist (and we do) then we both share existence, or being. But after that, we begin to differ. That’s all this means, and Aquinas draws the implication in the next sentence. There are not different kinds of to exist. The takeaway point is that in God existence is essence, or nature.

iiiThat is, we can know the essence of animal, and other essences, too! Once you grasp this seemingly simple point, boy howdy do things change.

ivIn other words, God cannot be a thing which only exists in your imagination.

vA good review: things which are in existence, have being, have form and matter. Take away the form of you and what is left? Nothing but dust. The form of man is his soul.

viI find this argument beautiful. Put another way around, if the universe were God, then nothing could change; things change; therefore the universe is not God. Being cannot alter into new ways of being Being, and nothing can come from nothing. If God were there universe, it would be a dull constant unchanging void with not even a seething quantum “vacuum” to liven it up.

November 9, 2014 | 26 Comments

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 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.

October 26, 2014 | 37 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: There Is No Accident 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.

Previous post.

An easier (relatively speaking, considering you have been reading along thus far) article today, proving God does not look like His popular depictions, i.e. that He has no extraneous properties.

Chapter 23: There Is No Accident In God

1 FROM this truth it follows of necessity that nothing can accrue to God besides His essence, nor anything be accidentally in Him.i

2 For existence itself cannot participate in something that is not of its essence; although that which exists can participate in something else. Because nothing is more formal or more simple than existence. Hence existence itself can participate in nothing. Now the divine substance is existence itself.[1] Therefore He has nothing that is not of His substance. Therefore no accident can be in Him.ii

3 Moreover. Whatever is in a thing accidentally, has a cause of being there: since it is added to the essence of that in which it is. Therefore if anything is in God accidentally, this must be through some cause. Consequently the cause of the accident is either the divine substance itself, or something else. If it is something else, this other thing must act on the divine substance; since nothing introduces a form whether substantial or accidental, into some recipient, unless in some way it act upon that recipient: because to act is nothing but to make something to be actual, and it is this by a form.

Wherefore God will be passive and movable to some agent: which is against what has been decided above.[2] If, on the other hand, the divine substance itself is the cause of the accident that is in it, then it is impossible for it to be its cause as receiving it, since then the same thing in the same respect would make itself to be in act. Therefore, if there is an accident in God, it follows that He receives that accident in one respect, and causes it in another, even as bodies receive their proper accidents through the nature of their matter, and cause them through their form: so that God, therefore, will be composite, the contrary of which has been proved above.[3]iii

4 Again. Every subject of an accident is compared thereto as potentiality to act: because an accident is a kind of form making a thing to exist actually according to accidental existence. But there is no potentiality in God, as shown above.[4] Therefore there can be no accident in Him.iv

5 Moreover. Everything in which something is accidentally is in some way changeable as to its nature: since an accident, by its very nature, may be in a thing or not in it. Therefore if God has something that becomes Him accidentally, it follows that He is changeable: the contrary of which has been proved above.[5]v

6 Further. Everything that has an accident in itself, is not whatever it has in itself, because an accident is not of the essence of its But God is whatever He has in Himself. Therefore no accident is in God. The middle proposition is proved as follows. A thing is always to be found more excellently in the cause than in the effect. But God is the cause of all things. Therefore whatever is in Him, is found in Him in the most perfect way. Now that which is most perfectly becoming to a thing, is that thing itself: because it is more perfectly one than when one thing is united to another substantially as form is united to matter: which union again is more perfect than when one thing is in another accidentally. It follows therefore that God is whatever He has.vii

7 Again. Substance is not dependent upon accident, although accident depends on substance. Now that which is not dependent upon another, can sometimes be found without it.[6] Therefore some substance can be found without an accident: and this seemingly is most becoming to a supremely simple substance, such as the divine substance.[7] Therefore the divine substance is altogether without accidents.viii

9 …Having established this truth we are able to refute certain erroneous statements in the law of the Saracens to the effect that the divine essence has certain forms added thereto.ix


iThis follows, probably obviously, from God’s essence being His existence (last week). Think of it like if existence = essence, then there’s no room for accident’s. What can be an “accident”, i.e. an unessential property, of existence itself?

ii“that which exists can participate in something else.” You exist, and accidentally (in this sense) have characteristics that other human beings might or might not have. None of these accidents change your essence, which is that of a rational being. The rest follows simply from point 1.

iiiA lot of words, which I trust you read carefully. If there was an accident in God, it must have been caused. By what? The only possibility is God. But that would make Him composite, and we have already proved He is not made of parts, and (as we’ll need next) He has no potentiality. Thus this proof is pretty simple.

ivYou remember act versus potential, I trust? That it takes a cause, i.e. something actual, to turn a potentiality into an actuality? The rest follows.

vThe footnote is, as it often is, to Chapter 13, which proves God is the Unchanging Changer slash Unmoved Mover. Not too different than proof 3, then.

viThe middle term is “an accident is not of the essence of its subject.”

viiThe rest is really proving existence and essence are one in God again, though the roundabout way. A cause is more than its effect, and cause cannot give what it doesn’t have. Good analogy I once read is that the cause of the water becoming red is red dye, but the red dye will necessarily be redder (or no less red) than the water. The rest follows, but it is admittedly a bit of a tangle.

viiiThis obviously follows from the material above; it doesn’t survive on its own. But note what simple means: without accidents or parts, without potentiality. It is not a synonym of “less” or the like.

ixI left this in only to prove what we already know. That disputes are ever with us.

[1] Ch. xxii
[2] Ch. xiii.
[3] Ch. xviii.
[4] Ch. xvi.
[5] Ch. xiii.
[6] Cf. ch. xiii: Again it any two things . . . p. 28.
[7] Ch. xviii.
[8] v. 4.

October 19, 2014 | 20 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: God ‘s Existence And Essence Are The Same

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.

Thinking cap times, folks. What God is and that He is are the same thing. I AM WHO AM.

Chapter 22: That in God existence and essence are the same

1 FROM what has been shown above, we may go on to prove that in God essence or quiddity is not distinct from His existence.

2For it has been shown above[1] that there is a thing which exists of itself necessarily, and this is God.i Now necessary existence, if it belong to a quiddity which is not that existence itself, is either inconsistent with or repugnant to that quiddity, as per se existence is to the quiddity of whiteness, or else is consistent or akin thereto, for instance that whiteness exist in some other thing. In the former supposition it will not belong to that quiddity to exist per se necessarily, for instance it becomes not whiteness to exist per se. In the second hypothesis, either this existence must be dependent on the essence, or both of them on some other cause, or the essence on the existence. The first two are in contradiction with the very notion of necessary per se existence: for if it depend on something else, it no longer exists necessarily. From the third supposition it follows that this quiddity is added accidentally to the thing which exists per se necessarily: because whatever follows on the essence of a thing is accidental thereto. Therefore God has not an essence distinct from His existence.ii

5…Further. Each thing exists by its own existence. Wherefore that which is not its own existence does not exist per se necessarily. But God exists per se necessarily. Therefore God is His own existence.

7…Moreover. Existence denotes a kind of actuality: since a thing is said to exist, not through being in potentiality, but through being in act. Now everything to which an act is becoming, and which is distinct from that act, is related thereto as potentiality to act: since act and potentiality are reciprocal terms. Accordingly, if the divine essence is distinct from its existence, it follows that His essence and existence are mutually related as potentiality and act. Now it has been proved that in God there is nothing of potentiality, and that He is pure act.[4] Therefore God’s essence is not distinct from His existence.iii

9…Further. Everything exists through having existence. Therefore nothing the essence of which is not its existence, exists by its essence, but by participation of something, namely existence. Now that which exists by participation of something cannot be the first being, because that in which a thing participates in order to exist, is previous to that thing. But God is the first being, to which nothing is previous.[6] Therefore God’s essence is His existence.iv

10 This sublime truth Moses was taught by the Lord: for when he asked the Lord (Exod. iii. 13, 14): If the children of Israel should say to me: What is His name? what shall I say to them? the Lord answered: I AM WHO AM….Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: HE WHO IS hath sent me to you; thus declaring His own name to be: HE WHO IS. Now every name is appointed to signify the nature or essence of a thing. Wherefore it follows that God’s very existence itself is His essence or nature.v


iChapter 13. Always Chapter 13. Go and re-read it. Don’t be lazy.

iiRepeat that paragraph three times fast. It’s all there, but not put in the friendliest language to us, whose gray matter is accidentally much smaller than Thomas’s. Considering that paragraph’s density is what might have led him to re-write that proof in a happier way, in the Summa Theologica, Book 1, Question 3, Article 4, sed contra:

First, whatever a thing has besides its essence must be caused either by the constituent principles of that essence (like a property that necessarily accompanies the species–as the faculty of laughing is proper to a man–and is caused by the constituent principles of the species), or by some exterior agent–as heat is caused in water by fire. Therefore, if the existence of a thing differs from its essence, this existence must be caused either by some exterior agent or by its essential principles. Now it is impossible for a thing’s existence to be caused by its essential constituent principles, for nothing can be the sufficient cause of its own existence, if its existence is caused. Therefore that thing, whose existence differs from its essence, must have its existence caused by another. But this cannot be true of God; because we call God the first efficient cause. Therefore it is impossible that in God His existence should differ from His essence.

Secondly, existence is that which makes every form or nature actual; for goodness and humanity are spoken of as actual, only because they are spoken of as existing. Therefore existence must be compared to essence, if the latter is a distinct reality, as actuality to potentiality. Therefore, since in God there is no potentiality, as shown above (Article 1), it follows that in Him essence does not differ from existence. Therefore His essence is His existence.

Thirdly, because, just as that which has fire, but is not itself fire, is on fire by participation; so that which has existence but is not existence, is a being by participation. But God is His own essence, as shown above (Article 3) if, therefore, He is not His own existence He will be not essential, but participated being. He will not therefore be the first being–which is absurd. Therefore God is His own existence, and not merely His own essence.

Admit it: that is some pretty writin’! “[N]othing can be the sufficient cause of its own existence, if its existence is caused.” God is not caused, He is the necessary being, as we already learned. Thomas also refers to Article 3, “Whether God is the same as His essence or nature?”, in which he notes that in things composed of matter and form (like us and baseball bats) essence and existence differ, but in things “in which individualization is not due to individual matter”, and since God is not made of matter but does have an essence and since forms or universals don’t exist materially (we are not Plantonists here), God “must be His own Godhead, His own Life, and whatever else is thus predicated of Him.” What is predicated of Him, we are still to learn (Chapter 30).

Now St Thomas continues in Chapter 22, and so shall we, but omitting some of the now redundant material.

iiiThis is redundant, but I like it, because we ever need to emphasize the difference between potentiality and actuality.

ivBy being “first” being, Thomas does not mean God was caused. God’s existence is necessary. It’s not that everything else came “after” God, but that God is necessary for the existence of everything else. God is outside time.

v(Ellipsis original.) We don’t often include scriptural evidence, and even here we are not asking you to rely on it as a separate proof that essence = existence (we already have enough proof). But just look at what this nearly illiterate pre-computerized pre-Enlightenment “desert tribe” came up with! We have deduced from first principles the very same name of God as they knew! I AM = existence. WHO AM = essence. I AM WHO AM is equivalent to existence = essence, and so is HE WHO IS. Ain’t you amazed?! (I’m speaking in the voice of Captain Aubrey.)

[1] Ch. xiii.
[2] Ch. xviii.
[3] Ch. xiii.
[4] Ch. xvi.
[5] Ch. xviii.
[6] Ch. xiii.
[7] vii. 11.
[8] ii.