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Thomas Aquinas: Five Arguments for the Existence of God.

 
 
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 03:18 am
E:\Thomas Aquinas Arguments for the Existence of God.htm

Thomas Aquinas: Five Arguments for the Existence of God.

Summa Theologiae, Question 2, Article 3:


It seems that God does not exist, for if one of two contrary things were infinite, its opposite would be completely destroyed. By "God," however, we mean some infinite good. Therefore, if God existed evil would not. Evil does exist in the world, however. Therefore God does not exist.

Furthermore, one should not needlessly multiply elements in an explanation. It seems that we can account for everything we see in this world on the assumption that God does not exist. All natural effects can be traced to natural causes, and all contrived effects can be traced to human reason and will. Thus there is no need to suppose that God exists.

But on the contrary God says, "I am who I am" (Ex. 3:14).

Response: It must be said that God's existence can be proved in five ways.

1) The first and most obvious way is based on the existence of motion. It is certain and in fact evident to our senses that some things in the world are moved. Everything that is moved, however, is moved by something else, for a thing cannot be moved unless that movement is potentially within it. A thing moves something else insofar as it actually exists, for to move something is simply to actualize what is potentially within that thing.

Something can be led thus from potentiality to actuality only by something else which is already actualized. For example, a fire, which is actually hot, causes the change or motion whereby wood, which is potentially hot, becomes actually hot. Now it is impossible that something should be potentially and actually the same thing at the same time, although it could be potentially and actually different things. For example, what is actually hot cannot at the same moment be actually cold, although it can be actually hot and potentially cold. Therefore it is impossible that a thing could move itself, for that would involve simultaneously moving and being moved in the same respect.

Thus whatever is moved must be moved by something, else, etc. This cannot go on to infinity, however, for if it did there would be no first mover and consequently no other movers, because these other movers are such only insofar as they are moved by a first mover. For example, a stick moves only because it is moved by the hand. Thus it is necessary to proceed back to some prime mover which is moved by nothing else, and this is what everyone means by "God."

2) The second way is based on the existence of efficient causality. We see in the world around us that there is an order of efficient causes. Nor is it ever found (in fact it is impossible) that something is its own efficient cause. If it were, it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Nevertheless, the order of efficient causes cannot proceed to infinity, for in any such order the first is cause of the middle (whether one or many) and the middle of the last.

Without the cause, the effect does not follow. Thus, if the first cause did not exist, neither would the middle and last causes in the sequence. If, however, there were an infinite regression of efficient causes, there would be no first efficient cause and therefore no middle causes or final effects, which is obviously not the case. Thus it is necessary to posit some first efficient cause, which everyone calls "God."

3) The third way is based on possibility and necessity. We find that some things can either exist or not exist, for we find them springing up and then disappearing, thus sometimes existing and sometimes not. It is impossible, however, that everything should be such, for what can possibly not exist does not do so at some time.

If it is possible for every particular thing not to exist, there must have been a time when nothing at all existed. If this were true, however, then nothing would exist now, for something that does not exist can begin to do so only through something that already exists.

If, therefore, there had been a time when nothing existed, then nothing could ever have begun to exist, and thus there would be nothing now, which is clearly false. Therefore all beings cannot be merely possible. There must be one being which is necessary.

Any necessary being, however, either has or does not have something else as the cause of its necessity. If the former, then there cannot be an infinite series of such causes, any more than there can be an infinite series of efficient causes, as we have seen. Thus we must to posit the existence of something which is necessary and owes its necessity to no cause outside itself. That is what everyone calls "God."


4) The fourth way is based on the gradations found in things. We find that things are more or less good, true, noble, etc.; yet when we apply terms like "more" and "less" to things we imply that they are closer to or farther from some maximum. For example, a thing is said to be hotter than something else because it comes closer to that which is hottest.

Therefore something exists which is truest, greatest, noblest, and consequently most fully in being; for, as Aristotle says, the truest things are most fully in being. That which is considered greatest in any genus is the cause of everything is that genus, just as fire, the hottest thing, is the cause of all hot things, as Aristotle says. Thus there is something which is the cause of being, goodness, and every other perfection in all things, and we call that something "God."

5) The fifth way is based on the governance of things. We see that some things lacking cognition, such as natural bodies, work toward an end, as is seen from the fact hat they always (or at least usually) act the same way and not accidentally, but by design. Things without knowledge tend toward a goal, however, only if they are guided in that direction by some knowing, understanding being, as is the case with an arrow and archer. Therefore, there is some intelligent being by whom all natural things are ordered to their end, and we call this being "God."

To the first argument, therefore, it must be said that, as Augustine remarks, "since God is the supreme good he would permit no evil in his works unless he were so omnipotent and good that he could produce good even out of evil."

To the second, it must be said that, since nature works according to a determined end through the direction of some superior agent, whatever is done by nature must be traced back to God as its first cause. in the same way, those things which are done intentionally must be traced back to a higher cause which is neither reason nor human will, for these can change and cease to exist and, as we have seen, all such things must be traced back to some first principle which is unchangeable and necessary, as has been shown.
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ughaibu
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 03:25 am
@Alan McDougall,
It's interesting that even in the 13th century and even in Italy, believers needed to offer arguments in their attempts to persuade others that their god was real.
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 03:31 am
@Alan McDougall,
Why God cannot be known?
Wittgenstein..
Quote:

4.466 What corresponds to a determinate logical combination of signs is
a determinate logical combination of their meanings. It is only to the
uncombined signs that absolutely any combination corresponds. In
other words, propositions that are true for every situation cannot be
combinations of signs at all, since, if they were, only determinate
combinations of objects could correspond to them. (And what is not a
logical combination has no combination of objects corresponding to
it.) Tautology and contradiction are the limiting cases--indeed the
disintegration--of the combination of signs.
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 06:53 am
@ughaibu,
ughaibu;135834 wrote:
It's interesting that even in the 13th century and even in Italy, believers needed to offer arguments in their attempts to persuade others that their god was real.


I wonder why you say that. Why should they not? Of course, persuasion need not have been the only purpose of these arguments, nor even the purpose at all.
ughaibu
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 07:01 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;135867 wrote:
Of course, persuasion need not have been the only purpose of these arguments, nor even the purpose at all.
What alternative purposes would you moot?
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 07:40 am
@ughaibu,
ughaibu;135868 wrote:
What alternative purposes would you moot?


I would moot trying to establish the truth of the conclusion as the main purpose of argument. Wouldn't you? Descartes, for instance, pointed out the the esteemed doctors of the Sorbonne to whom he was addressing his arguments for God already believed that God existed. So he was trying to establish the existence of God so that we could know that God existed and not merely believe He did. Hence, the arguments.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 07:45 am
@ughaibu,
ughaibu;135868 wrote:
What alternative purposes would you moot?
Isn't it true that Thomas Aquinas wasn't just talking about God's existence, but was offering a way to think about God. People of his time attributed everything that happened to God.

Why did your child die? God. Why did the Normans burn your crops: God.

Thomas Aquinas was reaquainting people with the idea of nature. So God didn't directly kill your child, and the Normans burned your crops, not God.

I see in these proofs on-going references to the nature of time. I'm thinking that a lot of it could be reduced to the old question: how can things be both changing and changeless?

Also, doesn't it appear that Aquinas was right about how tracing origins back in time goes on endlessly?
0 Replies
 
ughaibu
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 07:48 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;135874 wrote:
I would moot trying to establish the truth of the conclusion as the main purpose of argument. Wouldn't you? Descartes, for instance, pointed out the the esteemed doctors of the Sorbonne to whom he was addressing his arguments for God already believed that God existed. So he was trying to establish the existence of God so that we could know that God existed and not merely believe He did. Hence, the arguments.
I see. Didn't Descartes have god as an axiom, in the Cogito? Seems rather cavalier.

---------- Post added 03-04-2010 at 10:50 PM ----------

Arjuna;135875 wrote:
Isn't it true that Thomas Aquinas wasn't just talking about God's existence, but was offering a way to think about God.
I dont know, I've only perused a small amount of condensed versions of his stuff.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 08:00 am
@ughaibu,
ughaibu;135876 wrote:
I see. Didn't Descartes have god as an axiom, in the Cogito? Seems rather cavalier.

---------- Post added 03-04-2010 at 10:50 PM ----------

.


No. He had at least three proofs in the Meditations. Why is it cavalier to try to prove God?
ughaibu
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 08:07 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;135879 wrote:
Why is it cavalier to try to prove God?
It's cavalier to rely on an axiom that is irreducibly imaginary.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 08:10 am
@ughaibu,
ughaibu;135880 wrote:
It's cavalier to rely on an axiom that is irreducibly imaginary.


What axiom would that be? The existence of God was not an axiom for Descartes. He advanced arguments for God, so God was the conclusion of arguments. I already pointed to one of those arguments by which Descartes argues that since God implanted the idea of Himself in all persons, God exists. We discussed that argument.
ughaibu
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 08:12 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;135883 wrote:
What axiom would that be? The existence of God was not an axiom for Descartes. He advanced arguments for God, so God was the conclusion of arguments.
In that case, nothing was cavalier.
0 Replies
 
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 08:19 am
@ughaibu,
ughaibu;135876 wrote:
I dont know, I've only perused a small amount of condensed versions of his stuff.
All I know about it comes from history books.

I know that often historians will point out that in understanding medieval times, it's important to grasp that they saw the world differently. We're apt to misinterpret their actions without understanding how immediate God seemed to them.

Thomas Aquinas is thought of as a precursor to the Newtonian view: that the universe is a giant clock that God set into motion. God can then walk away and the clock keeps working according to its nature. So evil exists because the mechanism makes it possible, not because God directly causes evil.

"In the second half of the (12th) century came the recovery of Aristotle's lost treatises on logic, which dealt with such subjects as how to build a syllogism, how to prove a point, or how to refute false conclusions. Using these instruments, medieval thinkers were for the first time in a position to systematize and summarize their entire philosophical position."

Thomism includes the idea that "God usually prefers to let nature run its course according to its laws; the belief that there is a "fitness" in human action conforming to these laws of nature..."

quotes from "A History of Civilization" - Brinton, Christopher, and Wolff
0 Replies
 
GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 03:31 pm
@ughaibu,
ughaibu;135834 wrote:
It's interesting that even in the 13th century and even in Italy, believers needed to offer arguments in their attempts to persuade others that their god was real.


The very nature of conversation, oratory, writing etc... the speaker author must first convince people of his/her authority regarding the "truth". Aquinas as well as establishing "the nature" of God, the nature of people's relations with God etc.. he was establishing his authority to talk about God. It not really like Aquinas was strolling through a culture of open atheists.

Your post in itself has an attempt to establish your authority by a satirical reference to prevailing doctrine within many academic, cultural elite, and other currently popular groups. "Ha! look at the stupidity of the Theists, and look at my alignment with the obviously more sophisticated group. I'm aligned with the smart ones I must have authority to speak about the Existence or lack thereof of God."
ughaibu
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 07:20 pm
@GoshisDead,
GoshisDead;136083 wrote:
Your post in itself has an attempt to establish your authority by a satirical reference to prevailing doctrine within many academic, cultural elite, and other currently popular groups. "Ha! look at the stupidity of the Theists, and look at my alignment with the obviously more sophisticated group. I'm aligned with the smart ones I must have authority to speak about the Existence or lack thereof of God."
I appreciate that my post was ignorant but the above strikes me as a mischaracterisation.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 07:35 pm
@ughaibu,
ughaibu;136224 wrote:
I appreciate that my post was ignorant but the above strikes me as a mischaracterisation.
The way you said "their God" sounded condescending. It's an on-going problem... there's no inflection or facial expressions to help with interpretation here. We tend to take things as they sound in our minds. And you know what's lurking there...
ughaibu
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 07:38 pm
@Arjuna,
Arjuna;136240 wrote:
The way you said "their God" sounded condescending.
Your username is that of Krishna's interlocutor in the Bhagavad Gita, so I take it that you have some idea of how many gods there are, and were in the 13th century, in hinduism.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 07:58 pm
@ughaibu,
ughaibu;136245 wrote:
Your username is that of Krishna's interlocutor in the Bhagavad Gita, so I take it that you have some idea of how many gods there are, and were in the 13th century, in hinduism.
I know. And the idea of many gods has sort of returned through some approaches to clinical psychology.

The Abrahamic God isn't one of many. But I observed the good point you made: why does somebody bother to prove the existence of God unless there's some doubt. Just to flex their brand new logic muscles?
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 08:13 pm
@Arjuna,
Arjuna;136263 wrote:
I know. And the idea of many gods has sort of returned through some approaches to clinical psychology.

The Abrahamic God isn't one of many. But I observed the good point you made: why does somebody bother to prove the existence of God unless there's some doubt. Just to flex their brand new logic muscles?


Culture collision? To affix Aristotle to Jehova? For the dialectical thrill?
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 08:25 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;136276 wrote:
Culture collision? To affix Aristotle to Jehova? For the dialectical thrill?
The entry of Aristotle's writings to Europe was profoundly influential.

According to Life of Brian, if you say Jehovah, you're supposed to be stoned to death. Jehovah! Jehovah!
 

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