Manual Saint Thomas and the Future of Metaphysics (Aquinas Lecrure 22)

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St. Thomas Aquinas

Seller Inventory P Joseph Owens. Publisher: Marquette Univ Pr , This specific ISBN edition is currently not available. View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Synopsis Book by Owens, Joseph "synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title. Buy New Learn more about this copy. Cobley is the ninth Thomas A. This address developed into an article published in and subsequently a book entitled Cultural Implications of Biosemiotics Springer Cobley has published articles about semiotics, including biosemiotics, zoosemiotics and cybersemiotics , the works of Sebeok and Deely, communication theory, narrative, subjectivity, popular genres especially the thriller and cultural theory in general.

His philosophical work prepared the way for the Second Vatican Council. Earlier in his life, Maritain was named French ambassador to the Vatican, and he was actively involved in drafting the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. His forward-looking Thomism applied perennial truths to the changing historical climate of his own time. His interest and works spanned many aspects of philosophy, including aesthetics, political theory, philosophy of science, metaphysics, the nature of education, liturgy and ecclesiology.

Deely also took the last photographs of Maritain on display at his funeral and later wrote the constitution of the International American Maritain Association, now in its 44th year. Deely April 26, — Jan. He is author of more than 30 books and articles, as well as editor of several book series. Thomas thinks there are two kinds of truths about God: a those truths that can be demonstrated philosophically and b those truths that human beings can come to know only by the grace of divine revelation.

Thomas thinks there are at least three mutually reinforcing approaches to establishing truths about God philosophically: the way of causation ; the way of negation , and the way of perfection or transcendence. Thomas makes use of each one of these methods, for example, in his treatment of what can be said truly about God by the natural light of reason in ST. Thomas offers what he takes to be demonstrations of the existence of God in a number of places in his corpus.


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His most complete argument is found in SCG, book I, chapter There is also an argument that Brian Davies , p. There are a number of things to keep in mind about the five ways.

First, the five ways are not complete arguments, for example, we should expect to find some suppressed premises in these arguments. To see this, we can compare the first way of demonstrating the existence of God in ST Ia. Whereas the former is offered in one paragraph, the latter is given in 32 paragraphs.

Indeed, as we shall see, Thomas does not think that God could be first in a temporal sense because God exists outside of time. Third, as Thomas makes clear in SCG I, 13, 30, his arguments do not assume or presuppose that there was a first moment in time. Nor do the five ways attempt to prove that there was a first moment of time.

Sermon: Emitte spiritum

Although Thomas believes there was a first moment of time, he is very clear that he thinks such a thing cannot be demonstrated philosophically; he thinks that the temporal beginning of the universe is a mystery of the faith see, for example, ST Ia. Interestingly, even on such a supposition, Thomas thinks he can demonstrate philosophically that there is a God. The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause.

Now [ 12 ] in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because [ 6 ] in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now [ 7 ] to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, [ 8 ] if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause.

But [ 9 ] if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, [ 10 ] neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; [ 11 ] all of which is plainly false. Therefore, [ 13 ] it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, [ 14 ] to which everyone gives the name of God Fathers of the English Dominican Province, trans.

The second premise, third premise, seventh premise, the inference to the eighth premise, and the fourteenth premise likely require further explanation. As for premise 2 , we should note that Thomas assumes the truth of a principle often called the principle of causality. The principle of causality states that every effect has a cause. The principle of causality is a piece of common sense that arguably also plays a pivotal role in all scientific inquiry. Of course, when it comes to our understanding of the nature of ultimate causes, it may be that we run into certain limits to human understanding.

This is something Thomas admits, as will be seen below. Given the importance of the principle of causality in everyday life and scientific work, to deny the principle of causality in the context of doing metaphysics would seem to be ad hoc see Feser , p. Premise 3 is a metaphysical principle. Consider a scenario that would constitute a denial of premise 3 : there is an x such that, absolutely speaking, x causes itself to exist.

However, this is not possible.

Although x can be the efficient cause of itself in one respect, for example, an organism is an efficient cause of its own continued existence insofar as it nourishes itself, it cannot be the efficient cause of itself in every respect. This is easiest to see in the case of something bringing itself into existence. In order for x to perform the act of bringing x into existence at time t , x must already exist at t in order to perform such an act.

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However, if x already exists at t to perform the act of bringing x into existence at t , then x does not bring itself into existence at t , for x already exists at t. However, the same kind of reasoning works if x is a timelessly eternal being. Premise 7 shows that Thomas is not in this argument offering an ultimate efficient causal explanation of what is sometimes called a per accidens series of efficient causes, that is, a series of efficient causes that stretches perhaps infinitely backward in time, for example, Rex the dog was efficiently caused by Lassie the dog, and Lassie the dog was efficiently cause by Fido the dog, and so forth.

If he did have such a per accidens causal series in mind, then premise 7 would be subject to obvious counter-examples, for example, a sculptor is the efficient cause of a sculpture. However, it routinely happens that a sculpture outlives its sculptor. In such a case, we can take away the efficient cause the sculptor without taking away the effect of its efficient causation the sculpture.

Unless we are comfortable assigning to Thomas a view that is obviously mistaken, we will look for a different interpretation of premise 7. This interpretation of premise 7 fits well with what we saw Thomas say about the arguments for the existence of God in SCG, namely, that it is better to assume at least for the sake of argument that there is no beginning to time when arguing for the existence of God, for, in that case, it is harder to prove that God exists.

With such an interpretation of premise 7 in the background, we are in a position to make sense of the inference from premises 6 and 7 to premise 8. Finally, premise 14 simply records the intuition that if there is an x that is an uncaused cause, then there is a God. Of course, Thomas does not think he has proved here the existence of the Triune God of Christianity something, in any case, he does not think it possible to demonstrate.

Rather, Thomas believes by faith that the absolutely first efficient cause is the Triune God of Christianity. However, to show philosophically that there is a first uncaused efficient cause is enough to show that atheism is false. To put this point another way, Thomas thinks Jews, Muslims, Christians, and pagans such as Aristotle can agree upon the truth of premise As will be seen, Thomas thinks it possible, upon reflection, to draw out interesting implications about the nature of an absolutely first efficient cause from a few additional plausible metaphysical principles. Thomas thinks I can know what a thing is, for example, a donkey, since the form of a donkey and my intelligible species of a donkey are identical in species see, for example, SCG III, ch.

Therefore, we cannot naturally know what God is. Thomas thinks this is true even of the person who is graced by the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity in this life; knowing the essence of God is possible for human beings, Thomas thinks, but it is reserved for the blessed in heaven, the intellects of whom have been given a special grace called the light of glory [see, for example, ST Ia.

Although we cannot know what God is in this life, by deducing propositions from the conclusions of the arguments for the existence of God, Thomas thinks we can, by natural reason, come to know what God is not.

Edited by Brian Davies

To say that God is not composed of parts is to say that God is metaphysically simple see, for example, ST Ia. Since nothing can cause itself to exist all by itself, whatever is composed of parts has its existence caused by another. Therefore, God does not have parts. As Thomas notes, the denial that God the Creator has parts shows how much God is unlike those things God creates, for all the things with which we are most familiar are composed of parts of various kinds.

However, there are a number of ways in which something might be composed of parts. The most obvious sense is being composed of quantitative parts, for example, there is the top inch of me, the rest of me, and so forth. Since God is not composed of parts, God is not composed of quantitative parts. Thomas thinks that material objects, at any given time, are also composed of a substance and various accidental forms. The substance of an object explains why that object remains numerically one and the same through time and change.

For example, Thomas would say that a human being, say, Sarah, is numerically the same yesterday and today because she is numerically the same substance today as she was yesterday. However, Sarah is not absolutely the same today compared to yesterday, for today she is cheerful, whereas yesterday she was glum.

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Thomas calls such characteristics—forms a substance can gain or lose while remaining numerically the same substance— accidental forms or accidents. At any given time, Sarah is a composite of her substance and some set of accidental forms. Now, we have shown that God is not composed of parts. Therefore, God also is not a composite of substance and accidental forms.


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  • However, features that a being has at one time that it does not have at another are accidental forms. Thus, beings that change are composed of substance and accidental forms. However, God is not composed of substance and accidents. Therefore, God does not change see, for example, ST Ia. Indeed, the fact that God is not composed of parts shows that God is not only unchanging, but also immutable unchangeable , for if God can change, then God has properties or features that he can gain or lose without going out of existence.

    However, properties or features that a being can gain or lose without going out of existence are accidental forms. Therefore, if God can change, then God is composed of substance and accidental forms.