I'll be reading, glossing, and posting Thomas Aquinas' Summa Contra Gentiles, chapter by chapter, about twice a week, until the final Amen. Your comments, questions, and constructive criticisms are welcome!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

SCG, Book I, Chapter 32

Chapter 32: THAT NOTHING IS PREDICATED UNIVOCALLY OF GOD AND OTHER THINGS [CAPUT TRIGINTA DUO: Quod nihil de Deo et rebus aliis univoce praedicatur]

From the annotated edition: "This and the next three chapters suppose the doctrine of Aristotle about synonyma and homonyma to be found in the beginning of his Categories, and in the text-books. The conclusion of this chapter, if accepted, renders pantheism untenable."

[1] [Having established that ascribing many names to God does not conflict with His simplicity {cf. SCG, I, 32}, it is] evident that nothing can be predicated univocally of God and other things.

[2] An effect that does not receive a form specifically the same [formam secundum speciem similem] as that through which the agent acts cannot receive according to a univocal predication [secundum univocam praedicationem] the name arising from that form. Thus, the heat generated by the sun and the sun itself are not called univocally hot. Now, the forms of the things God has made do not measure up to a specific likeness of the divine power [formae ad speciem divinae virtutis non perveniunt]; for the things that God has made receive in a divided and particular way [cum divisim et particulariter recipiant quod] that which in Him is found in a simple and universal way [in Deo simpliciter et universaliter invenitur]. It is evident, then, that nothing can be said univocally of God and other things [Impossibile est igitur aliquid univoce de Deo et rebus aliis praedicari].

[3] If, furthermore, an effect should measure up to the species of its cause, it will not receive the univocal predication of the name unless it receives the same specific form according to the same mode of being [eundem essendi modum eandem specie formam suscipiat]. … For, as is clear from what we have said, there is nothing in God that is not the divine being itself, which is not the case with other things. Nothing, therefore, can be predicated of God and other things univocally.

This passage requires more meditation than I can afford right now.

[4] Moreover, whatever is predicated of many things univocally is either a genus, a species, a difference, an accident, or a property [Omne quod de pluribus univoce praedicatur, vel est genus, vel species, vel differentia, vel accidens aut proprium]. But, as we have shown, nothing is predicated of God as a genus or a difference [cf. SCG, I, 25]; and thus neither is anything predicated as a definition, nor likewise as a species, which is constituted of genus and difference [cf. SCG, I, 28]. Nor, as we have shown, can there be any accident in God, and therefore nothing is predicated of Him either as an accident or a property, since property belongs to the genus of accidents. It remains, then, that nothing is predicated univocally of God and other things [nihil de Deo et rebus aliis univoce praedicari].

[5] Again, what is predicated of many things univocally is simpler than both of them, at least in concept. Now, there can be nothing simpler than God either in reality or in concept [Deo autem neque secundum rem neque secundum intellectum potest esse aliquid simplicius]. Nothing, therefore, is predicated univocally of God and other things.

[6] Everything, likewise, that is predicated univocally of many things belongs through participation to each of the things of which it is predicated; for the species is said to participate in the genus and the individual in the species [nam species participare dicitur genus, et individuum speciem]. But nothing is said of God by participation, since whatever is participated is determined to the mode of that which is participated [nam omne quod participatur determinatur ad modum participati] and is thus possessed in a partial way and not according to every mode of perfection. Nothing, therefore, can be predicated univocally of God and other things.

[7] Then, too, what is predicated of some things according to priority and posteriority [secundum prius et posterius] is certainly not predicated univocally. For the prior is included in the definition of the posterior [nam prius in definitione posterioris includitur], as substance is included in the definition of accident [sicut substantia in definitione accidentis] according as an accident is a being. If, then, being were said univocally of substance and accident, substance would have to be included in the definition of being in so far as being is predicated of substance [Si igitur diceretur univoce ens de substantia et accidente, oporteret quod substantia etiam poneretur in definitione entis secundum quod de substantia praedicatur]. But this is clearly impossible [Quod patet esse impossibile].

I take this to be a major "line in the sand" for St Thomas. Based on my limited understanding, his often otherwise uncontested master, Aristotle, believed that, since substance was the bedrock of his realist metaphysics, therefore every substance included in its definition the fact of its own being. For Aristotle, in other words, a nonexistent substance was incoherent. This was, apparently, but all of piece with his pantheistic eternalism. Whatever exists, exists necessarily, though not absolutely necessarily. But in St Thomas' teaching, there is an intrinsic 'cleft' between anything's (actual) being and its substantial form (or 'essential definition'), a cleft bridged only by the Creator, in whom Being and Essence coalesce in a single act.

Now nothing is predicated of God and creatures as though they were in the same order, but, rather, according to priority and posteriority [secundum prius et posterius]. For all things are predicated of God essentially [cum de Deo omnia praedicentur essentialiter]. For God is called being as being entity itself, and He is called good as being goodness itself. But in other beings predications are made by participation [de aliis autem praedicationes fiunt per participationem], as Socrates is said to be a man, not because he is humanity itself, but because he possesses humanity. It is impossible, therefore, that anything be predicated univocally of God and other things.

Monday, December 13, 2010

SCG, Book I, Chapter 31

[CAPUT TRIGINTA UNUM: Quod divina perfectio et pluralitas nominum divinorum divinae simplicitati non repugnant]

... [2] We have said that all the perfections found in other things are attributed to God in the same way as effects are found in their equivocal causes [sicut effectus in suis causis aequivocis inveniuntur]. These effects are in their causes virtually [in suis causis sunt virtute], as heat is in the sun. For, unless the power of the sun belonged to some extent to the genus of heat, the sun acting through this power would not generate anything like itself. …

So, too, the perfections of all things, which belong to the rest of things through diverse forms, must be attributed to God through one and the same power in Him [Deo secundum unam eius virtutem attribui]. This power is nothing other than His essence [Quae item virtus non est aliud a sua essentia], since, as we have proved [cf. SCG, I, 23], there can be no accident in God. Thus, therefore, God is called wise not only in so far as He produces wisdom, but also because, in so far as we are wise, we imitate to some extent the power by which He makes us wise [secundum quod sapientes sumus, virtutem eius, qua sapientes nos facit, aliquatenus imitamur]. On the other hand, God is not called a stone, even though He has made stones, because in the name stone there is understood a determinate mode of being according to which a stone is distinguished from God [quia in nomine lapidis intelligitur modus determinatus essendi, secundum quem lapis a Deo distinguitur]. But the stone imitates God as its cause in being and goodness, and other such characteristics, as do also the rest of creatures [Imitatur autem lapis Deum ut causam secundum esse, secundum bonitatem, et alia huiusmodi, sicut et aliae creaturae].

"…quia in nomine lapidis…" This addresses my worry in chapter 28 about how the perfection of, say, color can be in God, yet no color be in God. My response in that chapter was to say "that God possesses the excellence of color in the mode of causation and measure, rather than in any specific chromatic sense. After all, God qua ens summe perfectum infinitely transcends the finite mode of specific color. … This means whatever color can do is given to it by the power of God as first, preeminent cause…." I think that squares with Thomas' point here that "in nomine ______ intelligitur modus determinatus essendi".

[3] A similar situation obtains among the knowing and operative powers of man. For by its single power the intellect knows all the things that the sensitive part of the soul grasps through a diversity of powers [Intellectus enim unica virtute cognoscit omnia quae pars sensitiva diversis potentiis apprehendit]––and many other things as well. So, too, the higher an intellect is, the more it can know more things through one likeness [Intellectus etiam, quanto fuerit altior, tanto aliquo uno plura cognoscere potest], while a lesser intellect manages to know many things only through many likenesses [cognoscenda intellectus inferior non pertingit nisi per multa]. So, too, a ruling power extends to all those things to which diverse powers under it are ordered. In this way, therefore, through His one simple being God possesses every kind of perfection that all other things come to possess, but in a much more diminished way, through diverse principles.

"…intellectus inferior non pertingit…" The range of intellectual power can be seen in humans in the classroom. Smarter students need only one or two examples to grasp the principle, whereas those of lower intellect require numerous examples and repetitions to achieve understanding.

[4] From this we see the necessity of giving to God many names [necessitas plura nomina Deo dandi]. For, since we cannot know Him naturally except by arriving at Him from His effects [non possumus cognoscere naturaliter nisi ex effectibus deveniendo in ipsum], the names by which we signify His perfection must be diverse, just as the perfections belonging to things are found to be diverse [sicut et perfectiones in rebus inveniuntur diversae]. Were we able to understand the divine essence itself as it is and give to it the name that belongs to it, we would express it by only one name. This is promised to those who will see God through His essence: “In that day there shall be one Lord, and His name shall be one” (Zach. 14:9).

Friday, December 10, 2010

SCG, Book I, Chapter 30

Chapter 30: THE NAMES THAT CAN BE PREDICATED OF GOD [Quae nomina de Deo possint praedicari]

… [2] Since it is possible to find in God every perfection of creatures, but in another and more eminent way, whatever names unqualifiedly designate a perfection without defect are predicated of God and of other things: for example, goodness, wisdom, being, and the like. But when any name expresses such perfections
along with a mode that is proper to a creature, it can be said of God only according to likeness and metaphor [cum modo proprio creaturis, de Deo dici non potest nisi per similitudinem et metaphoram].

According to metaphor [Per metaphoram], what belongs to one thing is transferred to another, as when we say that a man is a stone because of the hardness of his intellect. Such names are used to designate the species of a created thing, for example, man and stone, for to each species belongs its own mode of perfection and being. The same is true of whatever names designate the properties of things, which are caused by the proper principles of their species. Hence, they can be said of God only metaphorically. But the names that express such perfections along with the mode of supereminence with which they belong to God [cum supereminentiae modo quo Deo conveniunt] are said of God alone [de solo Deo dicuntur]. Such names are the highest good, the first being, and the like.

[3] …[T]hat some of the aforementioned names signify a perfection
without defectis true with reference to that which the name was imposed to signify; for as to the mode of signification, every name is defective [absque defectu … quantum ad illud ad quod significandum nomen fuit impositum: quantum enim ad modum significandi, omne nomen cum defectu est]. For by means of a name we express things in the way in which the intellect conceives them [Nam nomine res exprimimus eo modo quo intellectu concipimus]. For our intellect, taking the origin of its knowledge from the senses, does not transcend the mode which is found in sensible things, in which the form and the subject of the form are not identical owing to the composition of form and matter [Intellectus autem noster, ex sensibus cognoscendi initium sumens, illum modum non transcendit qui in rebus sensibilibus invenitur, in quibus aliud est forma et habens formam, propter formae et materiae compositionem].

Now, a simple form is indeed found among such things, but one that is imperfect because it is not subsisting; on the other hand, though a subsisting subject of a form is found among sensible things, it is not simple but rather concreted. Whatever our intellect signifies as subsisting, therefore, it signifies in concretion [significat in concretione]; but what it signifies as simple, it signifies, not as that which is, but as that by which something is [quod vero ut simplex, significat non ut quod est, sed ut quo est].

As the annotated edition explains:

Concretionem habens. The concrete to St Thomas means the composite. Any existing created substance, as he teaches, is compounded of specific nature and individualising notes, of actuality and potentiality, of essence and existence. Thus, in creation, the abstract alone is simple, concrete being is compound. … Thus the concrete man is something that is: the abstract humanity is that whereby man is man, not something that is by itself.

As a result, with reference to the mode of signification there is in every name that we use an imperfection [in omni nomine a nobis dicto, quantum ad modum significandi, imperfectio invenitur], which does not befit God, even though the thing signified in some eminent way does befit God [res significata aliquo eminenti modo Deo conveniat]. This is clear in the name goodness and good. For goodness has signification as something not subsisting, while good has signification as something concreted. And so with reference to the mode of signification no name is fittingly applied to God; this is done only with reference to that which the name has been imposed to signify [quantum ad hoc nullum nomen Deo convenienter aptatur, sed solum quantum ad id ad quod significandum nomen imponitur]. Such names, therefore, as Dionysius teaches [De divinis nominibus I, 5, De caelesti hierarchia II, 3], can be both affirmed and denied of God. They can be affirmed because of the meaning of the name; they can be denied because of the mode of signification [affirmari quidem, propter nominis rationem; negari vero, propter significandi modum].

[4] Now, the mode of supereminence in which the abovementioned perfections are found in God can be signified by names used by us only through negation, as when we say that God is eternal or infinite, or also through a relation of God to other things, as when He is called the first cause or the highest good.
For we cannot grasp what God is, but only what He is not and how other things are related to Him [Non enim de Deo capere possumus quid est, sed quid non est, et qualiter alia se habeant ad ipsum], as is clear from what we said above.

Playing chicken!

In my gloss of book I, chapter 28, I discussed the old riddle of the chicken and the egg, concluding that the chicken, as the perfected form of the egg, has a metaphysical, if not a chronological, priority. Coincidentally, there was also some dispute about the topic at Dr Feser's blog, which eventually led me to the following MSNBC story: "Which came first, the chicken or the egg? British scientists claim to have solved the mystery". The key point is this:

The scientists found that a protein found only in a chicken's ovaries is necessary for the formation of the egg, according to the paper Wednesday. The egg can therefore only exist if it has been created inside a chicken.

The protein speeds up the development of the hard shell, which is essential in protecting the delicate yolk and fluids while the chick grows inside the egg, the report said.

"It had long been suspected that the egg came first but now we have the scientific proof that shows that in fact the chicken came first," said Dr. Colin Freeman, from Sheffield University's Department of Engineering Materials, according to the Mail.

So, there you have it: the chicken wins and science was lucky enough to catch up with sound metaphysics.

SCG, Book I, Chapter 29

Chapter 29: ON THE LIKENESS OF CREATURES TO GOD [CAPUT Veginti Novum: De similitudine creaturarum]

[1] In the light of what we have said, we are
able to consider [considerari potest] how a likeness to God is and is not possible in things.

[2] Effects that fall short of their causes do not agree with them in name and nature. Yet, some likeness must be found between them, since
it belongs to the nature of action that an agent produce its like, since each thing acts according as it is in act [de natura enim actionis est ut agens sibi simile agat cum unumquodque agat secundum quod actu est]. The form of an effect, therefore, is certainly found in some measure in a transcending cause, but according to another mode and another way [Unde forma effectus in causa excedente invenitur quidem aliqualiter, sed secundum alium modum et aliam rationem]. For this reason the cause is called an equivocal cause. Thus, the sun causes heat among these sublunary bodies by acting according as it is in act. Hence, the heat generated by the sun must bear some likeness to the active power of the sun, through which heat is caused in this sublunary world; and because of this heat the sun is said to be hot, even though not in one and the same way. And so the sun is said to be somewhat like those things in which it produces its effects as an efficient cause. Yet the sun is also unlike all these things in so far as such effects do not possess heat and the like in the same way as they are found in the sun [a quibus tamen rursus omnibus dissimilis est, inquantum huiusmodi effectus non eodem modo possident calorem et huiusmodi quo in sole invenitur]. So, too, God gave things all their perfections [Deus omnes perfectiones rebus tribuit] and thereby is both like and unlike all of them.

This post at The TOF Spot, concerning global warming and the Earth-Sun coupling, is a timely reminder of how the causal primacy of the sun in, say, this chapter, is not a metaphysical trifle, but also an ongoing scientific reality.

[3] Hence it is that
Sacred Scripture recalls the likeness between God and creatures [sacra Scriptura aliquando similitudinem inter eum et creaturam commemorat], as when it is said in Genesis (1:26): “Let us make man to our image and likeness.” At times the likeness is denied [aliquando similitudo negatur], as in the text of Isaiah (40:18): “To whom then have you likened God, and what image will you make for Him?” or in the Psalm (82:1) [Vulgate]: “O God, who is like You?”

[4] Dionysius is in agreement with this argument when he says: “The same things are both like and unlike God. They are like according as they imitate as much as they can
Him Who is not perfectly imitable [eius qui non est perfecte imitabilis], they are unlike according as effects are lesser than their causes [dissimilia autem, secundum quod causata habent minus suis causis]” [De div. nom. IX, 7].

[5] In the light of this likeness, nevertheless,
it is more fitting to say that a creature is like God rather than the converse [convenientius dicitur Deo creatura similis quam e converso]. For that is called like something which possesses a quality or form of that thing. Since, then, that which is found in God perfectly is found in other things according to a certain diminished participation [id quod in Deo perfecte est, in rebus aliis per quandam deficientem participationem invenitur], the basis on which the likeness is observed belongs to God absolutely, but not to the creature [illud secundum quod similitudo attenditur, Dei quidem simpliciter]. Thus, the creature has what belongs to God and, consequently, is rightly said to be like God. But we cannot in the same way say that God has what belongs to the creature [Non autem sic potest dici Deum habere quod creaturae est]. Neither, then, can we appropriately say that God is like a creature, just as we do not say that man is like his image, although the image is rightly said to be like him.

[6] All the less proper, moreover, is the expression that God is likened to a creature. For
likening expresses a motion towards likeness and thus belongs to the being that receives from another that which makes it like [assimilatio motum ad similitudinem dicit et sic competit et quod ab alio accipit unde simile sit]. But a creature receives from God that which makes it like Him. The converse, however, does not hold. God, then, is not likened to a creature; rather, the converse is true.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

SCG, Book I, Chapter 28


[1] Although the things that exist and live are more perfect than the things that merely exist, nevertheless, God, Who is not other than His being, is a universally perfect being. And I call universally perfect that to which the excellence of no genus is lacking [dico universaliter perfectum, cui non deest alicuius generis nobilitas].

[2] Every excellence in any given thing belongs to it according to its being. For man would have no excellence as a result of his wisdom unless through it he were wise. So, too, with the other excellences. Hence, the mode of a thing’s excellence is according to the mode of its being [secundum modum quo res habet esse, est suus modus in nobilitate]. For a thing is said to be more or less excellent according as its being is limited to a certain greater or lesser mode of excellence. Therefore, if there is something to which the whole power of being belongs, it can lack no excellence that is proper to some thing. But for a thing that is its own being it is proper to be according to the whole power of being [si aliquid est cui competit tota virtus essendi, ei nulla nobilitatum deesse potest quae alicui rei conveniat. Sed rei quae est suum esse, competit esse secundum totam essendi potestatem].

For example, if there were a separately existing whiteness, it could not lack any of the power of whiteness. For a given white thing lacks something of the power of whiteness through a defect in the receiver of the whiteness, which receives it according to its mode and perhaps not according to the whole power of whiteness. God, therefore, Who is His being, as we have proved above, has being according to the whole power of being itself. Hence, He cannot lack any excellence that belongs to any given thing [Deus igitur, qui est suum esse, ut supra probatum est, habet esse secundum totam virtutem ipsius esse. Non potest ergo carere aliqua nobilitate quae alicui rei conveniat].

I admit I don't know how to ascribe "color" to God. Presumably God does not lack the excellence of any genus, including that of color, but surely God is not chromatic. My hunch is that God possesses the excellence of color in the mode of causation and measure, rather than in any specific chromatic sense. After all, God qua ens summe perfectum infinitely transcends the finite mode of specific color. God preeminently possesses the excellence of the genus of color––without being subsumed under that, or any other, genus––in so far as He is the intrinsic basis (or "measure") for the genus of color. This means whatever color can do is given to it by the power of God as first, preeminent cause (cf. §7 infra). Color can not only produce effects in various entities (e.g. photovoltaic sensors, amoeba, plants, panthers, etc.) but also ground differences among entities in themselves (e.g. by differentiating "the lime-green apple" from "the maroon apple"). Causal and differentiating power are found in God in a preeminent way, first, because He energizes the existence of anything in order for it to be causally efficacious among other things, and, second, because He orders disparate things in generic and specific relations (i.e. differentiae). God is not "colored" but color is very dimly like God in so far as it reflects His causal and differentiating power.

[3] But just as every excellence and perfection is found in a thing according as that thing is, so every defect is found in it according as in some way it is not. Now, just as God bas being wholly, so non-being is wholly absent from Him. For as a thing has being, in that way is it removed from non-being. Hence, all defect is absent from God. He is, therefore, universally perfect [A Deo ergo omnis defectus absistit. Est igitur universaliter perfectus].

[4] Those things that merely exist are not imperfect because of an imperfection in absolute being [Illa vero quae tantum sunt, non sunt imperfecta propter imperfectionem ipsius esse absoluti]. For they do not possess being according to its whole power; rather, they participate in it through a certain particular and most imperfect mode.

This is why the Church rejects, say, Manicheanism. Heresies of its kind teach that anything short of God's fullness is evil, simply because it is evil qua "not-entirely-good", whereas the Church understands that things can be perfect in their own way, and are not evil simply because they are not God. Actually, as I have argued before, all anti-theistic arguments from evil boil down to the belief that God's greatest failure is creation of any kind. If God alone is wholly and perfectly good, and anything He creates necessarily pales in comparison, then, for the proponent of an argument from evil, a state of affairs in which anything less good than God exists is strange proof either that He doesn't exist or that He is unable freely to create a non-evil world. Thomas, however, teaches us that perfection is relative to a thing's actual mode of existence, not to God's absolute being per se. Or as the annotated SCG puts it, "Perfection is actuality up to standard. In a finite nature, the standard imposes limitations, according to the Aristotelian canon of the golden mean, a canon not framed for the infinite."

[5] Furthermore, everything that is imperfect must be preceded by something perfect. Thus, the seed is from the animal or the plant [Omne imperfectum ab aliquo perfecto necesse est ut praecedatur: semen enim est ab animali vel a planta]. The first being must, therefore, be most perfect. But we have shown that God is the first being. He is, therefore, most perfect. …

So the chicken did come before the egg and "orange" was named after the fruit rather than vice versa!

More seriously, however, it is perhaps an open question biologically which "thing" came first in "chickenhood." A sound metaphysic need only insists upon the fact that there must be a metaphysically prior mode of existence (essence) according to which a metaphysically subsequent entity acts. If once long ago "a chicken" did hatch from what thereby became "the first chicken egg," it is up to biologists to discover that fact. Whichever way the empirical cookie––or eggshell––crumbles, what abides is the fact that a chicken could only exist––i.e. instantiate its proper act of being––if there were an antecedent principle of perfection (i.e. a form) in the world. This I take to be one aspect of St Maximus' teaching on the abiding power of the logoi in nature, as they are energized in the Logos (cf. here1 or here2). Because God sustains the very possibility of "chickenhood" in the world, by way of His knowledge of it, a knowledge had in the Logos of His own Godhead, therefore this chickenhood at least has a metaphysical role in nature qua the prior metaphysical principle for what end up being actual chickens.

God, as St Augustine taught, has impregnated the world with "formal seeds" (rationes seminales) of being; in the course of time, these seeds may emerge into robust biological realities, thought they lay unseen for ages beforehand. This is what "evolution" means etymologically, a "rolling out" of what was rolled into the world at creation. So if by some chance an egg was laid which had mutations in it that would result in the hatching of the first chicken, it is only on account of that egg's "conforming to" a metaphysical principle of perfection that it could result in anything existentially viable in its own right. In that sense, the egg is not less perfect than the hatchling, since it also possesses––albeit in 'condensed', proleptic form––the essential capacities of the future chicken. On the other hand, the egg is really only a chicken egg if it yields what properly exists as a chicken. If it yielded a headless glob of two feet and a wing, it would not be a perfect(ed) chicken egg. Thus it is the chicken, as a dynamic existent––i.e. as a modally specific act of being––which classifies this or that egg as this or that kind of egg. Until it hatches, we do not know what "this egg" will produce––unless we already know the egg came from such and such an animal. Hence, while the egg materially constitutes the nascent chicken, the chicken formally reduces the egg's potency to exist in an actual-specific mode of being; and thus the chicken is metaphysically prior, or superior, to the egg. A chicken that produced no eggs be a perfect chicken––albeit not a perfect case of the entire species––, whereas an egg that did not yield a chicken would be so imperfect a "chicken egg" as to not qualify.

[7] Nothing, moreover, acts except as it is in act. Hence, action follows the mode of act in the agent [Nihil agit nisi secundum quod est in actu. Actio igitur consequitur modum actus in agente]. It is therefore impossible that an effect brought forth by an action be of a more excellent act than is the act of the agent. On the other hand, it is possible that the act of the effect be less perfect than the act of the efficient cause, since an action can become weakened through the effect in which it terminates. Now, in the genus of the efficient cause there is a reduction to one cause, called God [In genere autem causae efficientis fit reductio ad unam primam quae Deus dicitur], as is evident from what we have said; and from this cause, as we shall show later on, all things come. Hence, it is necessary that whatever is found in act in any thing whatever must be found in God in a more eminent way than in that thing itself [Oportet igitur quicquid actu est in quacumque re alia, inveniri in Deo multo eminentius quam sit in re illa]. But the converse is not true. God, therefore, is most perfect.

"…one cause, called God…" God as linguistic placeholder. Since God utterly surpasses what we can say about Him (cf. SCG I, 14), the best we can say about Him "by way of remotion" (ibid.) is how He corresponds to our grasp of Him by the effects of His power (cf. SCG I, 3). God is simply "that which grounds finite causation," or "that which measures all grades of being," and so on. This is why it is legitimate for Thomas in Summa theologica I, 2, 3 to end his "five ways" (as alluded to in the previous sentence) with the famous "and this everyone understands to be God," or "to which everyone gives the name of God," etc. Since "God", as a verbal entity, is not commensurate with the reality to which it refers––and thus is not a grounds for an ontological proof (cf. SCG I, 10) of His existence––, we are left with faith in His nature by Revelation and progressive adumbrations of His being by way of philosophical theology, tempered always by the experience of worship and ascesis. "God," then, is used as a cognitive pivot-point, or discursive foothold, from which we inch our way toward Him by fides quaerens intellectum. "God" is the almost comically puny yet rightly humblingly linguistic pry-bar by which we progressively gain insight into the reality of our origin and destiny in Christ, "by a certain extension of the name [God]" (cf. §10 infra).

Cf. §2 supra.

[8] In every genus, furthermore, there is something that is most perfect for that genus, acting as a measure for all other things in the genus. For each thing is shown to be more or less perfect according as it approaches more or less to the measure of its genus. Thus, white is said to be the measure among all colors, and the virtuous man among all men. Now, the measure of all beings cannot be other than God, Who is His own being [autem quod est mensura omnium entium non potest esse aliud quam Deus, qui est suum esse.]. No perfection, consequently, that is appropriate to this or that thing is lacking to Him; otherwise, He would not be the common measure of all things.

[9] This is why, when Moses asked to see the divine countenance or glory, he received this reply from the Lord: “I will show you all good,” as it is written in Exodus (33:18, 19); by which the Lord gave Moses to understand that the fullness of all goodness was in Him. Dionysius likewise says: “God does not exist in a certain way [Deus non quodam modo est existens]; He possesses, and this before all others, all being within Himself absolutely and limitlessly” [De div. nom. V, 4].

[10] We must note, however, that perfection cannot be attributed to God appropriately if we consider the signification of the name according to its origin [nominis significatio quantum ad sui originem]; for it does not seem that what is not made [factum] can be called perfect [perfectum]. But everything that comes to be is brought forth from potency to act and from non-being to being when it has been made. That is why it is rightly said to be perfect, as being completely made, at that moment when the potency is wholly reduced to act, so that it retains no non-being but has a completed being [Sed quia omne quod fit, de potentia in actum deductum est et de non esse in esse quando factum est, tunc recte perfectum esse dicitur, quasi totaliter factum, quando potentia totaliter est ad actum reducta, ut nihil de non esse retineat, sed habeat esse completum]. By a certain extension of the name [Per quandam igitur nominis extensionem], consequently, perfect is said not only of that which by way of becoming reaches a completed act, but also of that which, without any making whatever, is in complete act. It is thus that, following the words of Matthew (5:48), we say that God is perfect: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

"By a certain extension of the name [Per quandam igitur nominis extensionem]…" Cf. gloss on § 7 supra.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Purpose of this blog...

I decided to un-clutter my main blog and make my ongoing study of Summa contra gentiles more accessible for web searches and those who take an interest in it. I will transplant my previous posts of SCG––approximately chapters 1–27 of Book 1, as––to this blog and then proceed glossing SCG here (and crosslink to it at my main blog, FCA).


It was not until about the 14th or 15th chapter of book 1 that I began really glossing the content, and not till about the same point or later that I began systematically adding the original Latin to key points in the text.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

SCG, Book I, Chapter 27

Book 1, Chapter 27: THAT GOD IS NOT THE FORM OF ANY BODY [Quod Deus non sit forma alicuius corporis]

[1] Having shown that God is not the being of all things, we can likewise show that He is not the form of any thing.

[2] As we have shown, the divine being cannot belong to any quiddity that is not being itself. [Nam divinum esse non potest esse alicuius quidditatis quae non sit ipsum esse, ut ostensum est.] Now, only God is the divine being itself. It is impossible, therefore, for God to be the form of some other being.

[3] Furthermore, the form of a body is not the being itself, but a principle of being. But God is being itself. [Forma corporis non est ipsum esse, sed essendi principium. Deus autem est ipsum esse.] He is, therefore, not the form of a body.

Monday, October 11, 2010

SCG, Book I, Chapter 26

Book 1, Chapter 26: THAT GOD IS NOT THE FORMAL BEING OF ALL THINGS [Quod Deus non est esse formale omnium]


Sunday, October 10, 2010

SCG, Book I, Chapter 25


[1] From this we infer necessarily that God is not in some genus.

[2] Every thing in a genus has something within it by which the nature of the genus is determined to its species; for nothing is in a genus that is not in some species of that genus. But, as we have shown, this determination cannot take place in God. God cannot, then, be in some genus.

[3] If, moreover, God is in a genus, either He is in the genus of accident or in that of substance. He is not in the genus of accident, since the first being and the first cause cannot be an accident. Neither can God be in the genus of substance, since the substance that is a genus is not being itself; otherwise, every substance would be its being and would thus not be caused by another—which is impossible, as is evident from what we have said. Therefore, God is not in some genus.

[4] Again, whatever is in a genus differs in being from the other things in that genus; otherwise, the genus would not be predicated of many things. But all the things that are in the same genus must agree in the quiddity of the genus, since the genus is predicated of all things in it in terms of what they are. In other words, the being of each thing found in a genus is outside the quiddity of the genus. This is impossible in God. God, therefore, is not in a genus.

[5] Then, too, each thing is placed in a genus through the nature of its quiddity, for the genus is a predicate expressing what a thing is. But the quiddity of God is His very being. Accordingly, God is not located in a genus, because then being, which signifies the act of being, would be a genus. Therefore, God is not in a genus.

[6] Now, that being cannot be a genus is proved by the Philosopher in the following way [Metaphysics III, 3]. If being were a genus we should have to find a difference through which to contract it to a species. But no difference shares in the genus in such a way that the genus is included in the notion of the difference, for thus the genus would be included twice in the definition of the species. Rather, the difference is outside what is understood in the nature of the genus. But there can be nothing that is outside that which is understood by being, if being is included in the concept of the things of which it is predicated. Thus, being cannot be contracted by any difference. Being is, therefore, not a genus. From this we conclude necessarily that God is not in a genus.

[7] From this it is likewise evident that God cannot be defined, for every definition is constituted from the genus and the differences.

[8] It is also clear that no demonstration is possible about God, except through an effect; for the principle of demonstration is the definition of that of which the demonstration is made.

[9] Now it can seem to someone that, although the name substance cannot properly apply to God because God does not substand accidents, yet the thing signified by the name is appropriate and thus God is in the genus of substance. For a substance is a being through itself. Now, this is appropriate to God, since we have proved that He is not an accident.

[10] To this contention we must reply, in accord with what we have said, that being through itself is not included in the definition of substance. For, if something is called being, it cannot be a genus, since we have already proved that being does not have the nature of a genus. Neither can what is through itself be a genus, since the expression seems to indicate nothing more than a negation. Something is said to be a being through itself because it is not in another. This is a pure negation, which likewise cannot constitute the nature of a genus; for a genus would then say, not what a thing is, but what it is not. The nature of substance, therefore, must be understood as follows. A substance is a thing to which it belongs to be not in a subject. The name thing takes its origin from the quiddity, just as the name being comes from to be. In this way, the definition of substance is understood as that which has a quiddity to which it belongs to be not in another. Now, this is not appropriate to God, for He has no quiddity save His being. In no way, then, is God in the genus of substance. Thus, He is in no genus, since we have shown that He is not in the genus of accident.

SCG, Book I, Chapter 24

Book I, Chapter 24:

THAT THE DIVINE BEING CANNOT BE DETERMINED BY THE ADDITION OF SOME SUBSTANTIAL DIFFERENCE [Quod divinum esse non potest designari per additionem alicuius differentiae substantialis]

SCG, Book I, Chapter 23

Quod in Deo non est accidens)
SCG, I, xxiii


SCG, Book I, Chapter 22

ST. THOMAS D'AQUINO: THAT IN GOD BEING AND ESSENCE ARE THE SAME [Quod in Deo idem est esse et essentia] (P. I, c. xxii)

SCG, Book I, Chapter 21


[1] From what has been laid down we can infer that God is His essence, quiddity, or nature [haberi potest quod Deus est sua essentia, quidditas seu natura].

[2] There must be some composition in every being that is not its essence or quiddity [In omni enim eo quod non est sua essentia sive quidditas, oportet aliquam esse compositionem]. Since, indeed, each thing possesses its own essence, if there were nothing in a thing outside its essence all that the thing is would be its essence; which would mean that the thing is its essence. But, if some thing were not its essence, there should be something in it outside its essence. Thus, there must be composition in it. Hence it is that the essence in composite things is signified as a part, for example, humanity in man. Now, it has been shown that there is no composition in God. God is, therefore, His essence [Si igitur aliquid non esset sua essentia, oportet aliquid in eo esse praeter eius essentiam. Et sic oportet in eo esse compositionem. Unde etiam essentia in compositis significatur per modum partis, ut humanitas in homine. Ostensum est autem in Deo nullam esse compositionem. Deus igitur est sua essentia].


SCG, Book I, Chapter 20

ST. THOMAS D'AQUINO (1225–1274)

SCG I, I, xx: THAT GOD IS NOT A BODY (Quod Deus non est corpus)

[1] From the preceding remarks [in SCG I, I, xix, i.e. that in God is nothing violent or unnatural] it is also shown that God is not a body.


SCG, Book I, Chapter 19


[1] From this [viz., "Therefore, that which is before all things, namely, God, must be free of all composition." Cf. SCG I, xviii] Aristotle concludes that in God there can be nothing violent or unnatural.

[2] Everything in which there is found something violent and outside nature has something added to itself, for what belongs to the substance of a thing can be neither violent nor outside nature. Now, nothing simple has anything added to itself, since this would render it composite. Since, then, God is simple, as we have shown, nothing in Him can be violent or outside nature.

[3] Furthermore, the necessity of coaction is a necessity from another. But in God there is no necessity from another; He is necessary through Himself and the cause of necessity for other things. Therefore, nothing in God is due to coaction.

[4] Again, wherever there is something violent, there can be something beyond what befits a thing through itself; for the violent is opposed to what is according to nature. But in God there cannot be anything beyond what befits Him according to Himself; for God, as we have shown, is of Himself the necessary being. There can, therefore, be nothing violent in God.

[5] Then, too, everything in which there can be something violent or unnatural is by nature able to be moved by another. For the violent is “that whose source is from the outside, the receiver being completely passive.” Now, as we have shown, God is absolutely immobile [Cf. SCG I, xvi?]. There can, therefore, be nothing violent or unnatural in Him.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

SCG, Book I, Chapter 18


… [2] In every composite there must be act and potency [Nam in omni composito oportet esse actum et potentiam]. For several things cannot become absolutely one unless among them something is act and something potency. Now, beings in act are not united except by being, so to speak, bound or joined together, which means that they are not absolutely one. Their parts, likewise, are brought together as being in potency with respect to the union, since they are united in act after being potentially unitable [ipsae partes congregatae sunt sicut potentia respectu unionis: sunt enim unitae in actu postquam fuerint in potentia unibiles]. But in God there is no potency. Therefore, there is no composition in Him.

[3] Every composite, moreover, is subsequent to its components [Item. Omne compositum posterius est suis componentibus]. The first being, therefore, which is God, has no components.

[4] Every composite, furthermore, is potentially dissoluble [Adhuc. Omne compositum est potentia dissolubile]. This arises from the nature of composition, although in some composites there is another element that resists dissolution. Now, what is dissoluble can not-be. This does not befit God, since He is through Himself the necessary being [Quod autem est dissolubile, est in potentia ad non esse. Quod Deo non competit: cum sit per se necesse-esse]. There is, therefore, no composition in God.

[5] Every composition, likewise, needs some composer. For, if there is composition, it is made up of a plurality, and a plurality cannot be fitted into a unity except by some composer. If, then, God were composite, He would have a composer. He could not compose Himself, since nothing is its own cause, because it would be prior to itself, which is impossible [Amplius. Omniscompositio indiget aliquo componente: si enim compositio est, ex pluribus est; quae autem secundum se sunt plura, in unum non convenirent nisi ab aliquocomponente unirentur. Si igitur compositus esset Deus, haberet componentem: non enim ipse seipsum componere posset, quia nihil est causa sui ipsius; esset enim prius seipso, quod est impossibile]. Now, the composer is the efficient cause of the composite. Thus, God would have an efficient cause. Thus, too, He would not be the first cause—which was proved above.

[6] Again, in every genus the simpler a being, the more noble it is: e.g., in the genus of the hot, Ere [sic; fire/ignis吧?], which has no admixture of cold. That, therefore, which is at the peak of nobility among all beings must be at the peak of simplicity [Quod igitur est in fine nobilitatis omnium entium, oportet esse in fine simplicitatis]. But the being that is at the peak of nobility among all beings we call God, since He is the first cause. For a cause is nobler than an effect. God can, therefore, have no composition.

[7] Furthermore, in every composite the good belongs, not to this or that part, but to the whole—and I say good according to the goodness that is proper to the whole and its perfection. For parts are imperfect in comparison with the whole, as the parts of man are not a man, the parts of the number six do not have the perfection of six, and similarly the parts of a line do not reach the perfection of the measure found in the whole line [nam partes sunt imperfectae respectu totius: sicut partes hominis non sunt homo, partes etiam numeri senarii non habent perfectionem senarii, et similiter partes lineae non perveniunt ad perfectionem mensurae quae in tota linea invenitur]. If, then, God is composite, His proper perfection and goodness is found in the whole, not in any part of the whole. Thus, there will not be in God purely that good which is proper to Him. God, then, is not the first and highest good.

[8] Again, prior to all multitude we must find unity [Item. Ante omnem multitudinem oportet invenire unitatem]. But there is multitude in every composite. Therefore, that which is before all things, namely, God, must be free of all composition.

SCG, Book I, Chapter 17


[1] From this [i.e., that there is no passive potency in God, Quod in Deo non est potentia passiva] it is likewise evident that God is not matter [Deum non esse materiam].

[2] Whatever matter is, it is in potency [Quia materia id quod est, in potentia est].

[3] Matter, furthermore, is not a principle of acting [Item. Materia non est agendi principium]. That is why, according to Aristotle, the efficient cause and matter do not coincide [Physics II, 7]. But, as we have said, it belongs to God to be the first efficient cause of things. Therefore, He is not matter.

Aristotle's distinction between efficient causes and the matter upon which they act can be seen this way: since every change matter undergoes must be caused by something, the cause for its alteration cannot be in the matter itself, otherwise one and the same matter would both retain and alter its exact proportions. Hence, only if an efficient cause is distinct from matter can the matter retain its exact characteristics and yet still undergo changes. Matter is that which undergoes change, and therefore it is passive with respect to efficient causes, and indeterminate with respect to formal causes. Matter becomes determinate ("specific") by being informed and, by the same token, becomes active by means of efficient causes, which are themselves ordered toward some end.

[4] Moreover, for those who reduced all things to matter as to the first cause it follows that natural things exist by chance. Aristotle argues against these thinkers in Physics II [8]. Hence, if God, Who is the first cause, is the material cause of things, it follows that all things exist by chance.

The reason a purely material world can only give "chance" explanations for natural phenomena, is that matter [hyle] intrinsically lacks its own determining principles, otherwise efficient and formal causes would be unable to "revoke" matter's principles and produce material variability. Since matter per se lacks intrinsic formal and efficient principles, it is "open" the so to speak mutable determinateness which efficient and formal causes bring to bear upon it. As such, if everything were matter, there would be no intrinsic principles for why each thing is what it is. We could only cite "chance," or, in other words, sheer ignorance. Chance is a code word for ignorance, not a meaningful explanation.

[5] Again, matter does not become the cause of something actual except by being altered and changed [Item. Materia non fit causa alicuius in actu nisi secundum quod alteratur et mutatur]. But if, as we have proved, God is absolutely immobile, He cannot in any way be the cause of things according to the mode of matter.

[6] Now, the Catholic faith professes this truth, namely, it asserts that God has created all things, not out of His own substance, but out of nothing [qua Deum non de sua substantia, sed de nihilo asserit cuncta creasse].

[7] On this point, however, the madness of David of Dinant stands confounded. He dared to assert that God is the same as prime matter on the ground that, if He were not, He would have to differ from it by some differences, and thus they would not be simple. For in the being that differs from another by a difference, the difference itself produces a composition. David’s position was the result of ignorance. He did not know how to distinguish between difference and diversity […qua nescivit quid inter differentiam et diversitatem intersit]. The different, as is determined in Metaphysics X [3], is said relationally [ad aliquid], for every different is different by something [omne differens aliquo est differens]. Something is called diverse, however, absolutely, from the fact that it is not the same [diversum autem aliquid absolute dicitur, ex hoc quod non est idem]. Difference, therefore, must be sought among those things that agree in something, for we must point to something in them according to which they differ: for example, two species agree in genus and must therefore be distinguished by differences. But in things that agree in nothing we need not seek the whereby they differ; they are diverse by themselves [In his autem quae in nullo conveniunt, non est quaerendum quo differant, sed seipsis diversa sunt]. In the same way, opposite differences are distinguished from one another [Sic enim et oppositae differentiae ab invicem distinguuntur]. For they do not share in the genus as a part of their essence, and therefore, since they are by themselves diverse, there is no need to seek that by which they differ [et ideo non est quaerendum quibus differant, seipsis enim diversa sunt]. In this way, too, God and prime matter are distinguished: one is pure act, the other is pure potency, and they agree in nothing [Sic etiam Deus et materia prima distinguuntur, quorum unus est actus purus, aliud potentia pura, in nullo convenientiam habentes].

SCG, Book I, Chapter 16

[Quod in Deo non est potentia passiva]

[1] If God is eternal, of necessity there is no potency in Him.

[2] The being whose substance has an admixture of potency is liable not to be by as much as it has potency; for that which can be, can not-be [quia quod potest esse, potest non esse]. But, God, being everlasting, in His substance cannot not-be [Deus autem secundum se non potest non esse]. In God, therefore, there is no potency to being.

[3] Though a being that is sometime in potency and sometime in act is in time in potency before being in act, absolutely speaking act is prior to potency. For potency does not raise itself to act; it must be raised to act by something that is in act. Hence, whatever is in some way in potency has something prior to it[tamen simpliciter actus est prior potentia: quia potentia non educit se in actum, sed oportet quod educatur in actum per aliquid quod sit in actu. Omne igitur quod est aliquo modo in potentia, habet aliquid prius se]. But, as is evident from what was said above, God is the first being and the first cause. Hence, He has no admixture of potency in Himself.

[4] Moreover, that which is a necessary being through itself is in no way a possible being, since that which is through itself a necessary being has no cause, whereas, as we have shown above, whatever is a possible being has a cause. But God is through Himself a necessary being. He is, therefore, in no way a possible being, and so no potency is found in His substance.

[5] …[E]ach thing acts in so far as it is in act. …[W]hat is not wholly act acts, not with the whole of itself, but with part of itself. But what does not act with the whole of itself is not the first agent, since it does not act through its essence but through participation in something. The first agent, therefore, namely, God, has no admixture of potency but is pure act [Unumquodque agit secundum quod est actu. Quod … non est totus actus, non toto se agit, sed aliquo sui. Quod autem non toto se agit, non est primum agens: agit enim alicuius participatione, non per essentiam suam. Primum igitur agens, quod Deus est, nullam habet potentiam admixtam, sed est actus purus].

[6] Further, just as each thing naturally acts in so far as it is in act, so it is naturally receptive in so far as it is in potency; for motion is the act of that which exists in potency [nam motus est actus potentia existentis]. But God is absolutely impassible and immutable … [and] has, therefore, no part of potency—that is, passive potency.

[7] Then, too, we see something in the world that emerges from potency to act.Now, it does not educe itself from potency to act, since that which is in potency, being still in potency, can therefore not act. Some prior being is therefore needed by which it may be brought forth from potency to act. This cannot go on to infinity. We must, therefore, arrive at some being that is only in act and in no wise in potency. This being we call God [Non autem educit se de potentia in actum: quia quod est potentia, nondum est; unde nec agere potest. Ergo oportet esse aliquid aliud prius, qui educatur de potentia in actum. Et iterum, si hoc est exiens de potentia in actum, oportet ante hoc aliquid aliud poni, quo reducatur in actum. Hoc autem in infinitum procedere non potest.Ergo oportet devenire ad aliquid quod est tantum actu et nullo modo in potentia. Et hoc dicimus Deum].

SCG, Book I, Chapter 15


[1] From what we have said it is further apparent that God is eternal.

[2] Everything that begins to be or ceases to be does so through motion or change. Since, however, we have shown that God is absolutely immutable, He is eternal, lacking all beginning or end.

[3] Again [Amplius]. Those beings alone are measured by time that are moved. For time, as is made clear in Physics IV [11], is “the number of motion.” But God, as has been proved, is absolutely without motion, and is consequently not measured by time. There is, therefore, no before and after in Him; He does not have being after non-being, nor non-being after being, nor can any succession be found in His being. For none of these characteristics can be understood without time. God, therefore, is without beginning and end, having His whole being at once. In this consists the nature of eternity […totum esse suum simul habens. In quo ratio aeternitatis consistit].

[4] What is more, if it were true that there was a time when He existed after not existing, then He must have been brought by someone from non-being to being.Not by Himself, since what does not exist cannot act [Non a seipso: quia quod non est non potest aliquid agere]. If by another, then this other is prior to God. But we have shown that God is the first cause. Hence, He did not begin to be, nor consequently will He cease to be, for that which has been everlastingly has the power to be everlastingly [quia quod semper fuit, habet virtutem semper essendi]. God is, therefore, eternal.

[5] We find in the world, furthermore, certain beings, those namely that are subject to generation and corruption, which can be and [can-]not-be. But what can be has a cause because, since it is equally related to two contraries, namely, being and non-being, it must be owing to some cause that being accrues to it. Now, as we have proved by the reasoning of Aristotle, one cannot proceed to infinity among causes [cf. SCG I, xiii]. We must therefore posit something that is a necessary being. Every necessary being, however, either has the cause of its necessity in an outside source or, if it does not, it is necessary through itself. But one cannot proceed to infinity among necessary beings the cause of whose necessity lies in an outside source. We must therefore posit a first necessary being, which is necessary through itself. This is God, since, as we have shown, He is the first cause. God, therefore, is eternal, since whatever is necessary through itself is eternal.

[6] From the everlastingness of time, likewise, Aristotle shows the everlastingness of motion [Physics VIII, 1], from which he further shows the everlastingness of the moving substance [VIII, 6]. Now, the first moving substance is God. God is therefore everlasting [Prima autem substantia movens Deus est. Est igitur sempiternus]. If we deny the everlastingness of time and motion, we are still able to prove the everlastingness of the moving substance.For, if motion had a beginning, it must have done so through some moving cause. If this moving cause began, it did so through the action of some cause. Hence, either one will proceed to infinity, or he will arrive at a moving cause that had no beginning.

[7] To this truth divine authority offers witness [Huic autem veritati divina auctoritas testimonium perhibet]. The Psalmist says: “But You, Lord, endure forever”; and he goes on to say: “But You art always the selfsame: and Your years shall not fail” (Ps. 101:13, 28).