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!

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).

Friday, October 8, 2010

SCG, Book 1, Chapter 14

CHAPTER 14: TO KNOW GOD WE MUST USE THE WAY OF REMOTION [CAPUT 14: Quod ad cognitionem Dei oportet uti via remotionis]

[In Scholastic theology, three methods of analogical inquiry were used in discussion of God: the via causalitatis, the via remotionis, and the via eminentiae (or, excellentiae). St. Thomas was treading the via prima (i.e., causality) in the above couple chapters of SCG, where he argued from the effects of the Creator to the existence and nature of the Creator. Since, however, His effects are woefully inadequate to convey God's nature in a fitting way, the other two viae are invoked to balance out the limited gains of the via causalitatis. God is a maker of effects, yes, but He is "remote" from the limitations of makers as we think of them, principally in the way that He creates ex nihilo, whereas lesser makers always have to rely on some medium or tool or model outside themselves. As the IVth Lateran Council stated in 1215, “between the Creator and the creature there cannot be a likeness so great that the unlikeness is not greater [semper maior dissimilitudo in tanta similitudine].” Further, the aspects which we can ascribe to God by analogy with lesser created things (by way of the viae causalitatis et remotionis), we must ascribe to God in an "eminent" or "excellent" way. God is a wise artisan, but eminently and supremely so. God is not simply a rough idea of love, but supereminently love; the Father not simply a paternal pattern, but a supereminently good father, etc.

The methodological "tension" of the
viae tritae occurs and re-occurs through SCG and most Scholastic works, so you should keep an eye open for it.]

[1] We have shown that there exists a first being, whom we call God. We must, accordingly, now investigate the properties of this being.

[2] Now, in considering the divine substance, we should especially make use of the method of remotion. For, by its immensity, the divine substance surpasses every form that our intellect reaches. Thus we are unable to apprehend it by knowing what it is. Yet we are able to have some knowledge of it by knowing what it is not. Furthermore, we approach nearer to a knowledge of God according as through our intellect we are able to remove more and more things from Him. For we know each thing more perfectly the more fully we see its differences from other things; for each thing has within itself its own being, distinct from all other things.

[3] However, in the consideration of the divine substance we cannot take a what as a genus; nor can we derive the distinction of God from things by differences affirmed of God. For this reason, we must derive the distinction of God from other beings by means of negative differences.And just as among affirmative differences one contracts the other, so one negative difference is contracted by another that makes it to differ from many beings. For example, if we say that God is not an accident, we thereby distinguish Him from all accidents. Then, if we add that He is not a body, we shall further distinguish Him from certain substances. And thus, proceeding in order, by such negations God will be distinguished from all that He is not. Finally, there will then be a proper consideration of God’s substance when He will be known as distinct from all things. Yet, this knowledge will not be perfect, since it will not tell us what God is in Himself.

[4] As a principle of procedure in knowing God by way of remotion, therefore, let us adopt the proposition which, from what we have said, is now manifest, namely, that God is absolutely unmoved. The authority of Sacred Scripture also confirms this. For it is written: “I am the Lord and I change not” (Mal. 3:6); ...“with whom there is no change” (James 2:17). Again: “God is not man... that He should be changed (Num. 23:19).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

SCG, Book 1, Chapter 13

CHAPTER 13: ARGUMENTS IN PROOF OF THE EXISTENCE OF GOD [CAPUT 13: Rationes ad probandum Deum esse]

[1] We have now shown that the effort to demonstrate the existence of God is not a vain one. We shall therefore proceed to set forth the arguments by which both philosophers and Catholic teachers have proved that God exists.

[2] We shall first set forth the arguments by which Aristotle proceeds to prove that God exists. The aim of Aristotle is to do this in two ways, beginning with motion.

[3] Of these ways the first is as follows. Everything that is moved is moved by another. That some things are in motion—for example, the sun—is evident from sense. Therefore, it is moved by something else that moves it. This mover is itself either moved or not moved. If it is not, we have reached our conclusion—namely, that we must posit some unmoved mover. This we call God. If it is moved, it is moved by another mover. We must, consequently, either proceed to infinity, or we must arrive at some unmoved mover. Now, it is not possible to proceed to infinity. Hence, we must posit some prime unmoved mover.

[4] In this proof, there are two propositions that need to be proved, namely, [1] that everything that is moved is moved by another, and [2] that in movers and things moved one cannot proceed to infinity.

[5] The first of these propositions Aristotle proves in three ways. The first way is as follows. If something moves itself, it must have within itself the principle of its own motion; otherwise, it is clearly moved by another. Furthermore, it must be primarily moved. This means that it must be moved by reason of itself, and not by reason of a part of itself, as happens when an animal is moved by the motion of its foot. … It is also necessary that a self-moving being be divisible and have parts, since, as it is proved in the Physics [VI, 4], whatever is moved is divisible.

[6] … That which is held to be moved by itself is primarily moved. Hence, when one of its parts is at rest, the whole is then at rest. … But nothing that is at rest because something else is at rest is moved by itself; for that being whose rest follows upon the rest of another must have its motion follow upon the motion of another. It is thus not moved by itself. Therefore, that which was posited as being moved by itself is not moved by itself. Consequently, everything that is moved must be moved by another.

[7] … [T]he force of Aristotle’s argument lies in this: if something moves itself primarily and through itself, rather than through its parts, that it is moved cannot depend on another. But the moving of the divisible itself, like its being, depends on its parts; it cannot therefore move itself primarily and through itself. … What must rather be true is this conditional proposition: if the part were at rest, the whole would be at rest. Now, this proposition would be true even though its antecedent be impossible. In the same way, the following conditional proposition is true: if man is an ass, he is irrational.

[NB: St. Thomas is referring to the logical truth that any syllogism with a false antecedent––that is, the "If" part of an "If, then" statement––is necessarily valid, since its consequent could be either true or false. An antecedently false syllogism, in other words, always has a valid conclusion, but is not sound.]

[8] In the second way, Aristotle proves the proposition by induction [Physics VIII, 4]. Whatever is moved by accident is not moved by itself, since it is moved upon the motion of another. … Now, whatever is moved is moved through itself or by accident. If it is moved through itself, then it is moved either violently or by nature; if by nature, then either through itself, as the animal, or not through itself, as heavy and light bodies. Therefore, everything that is moved is moved by another.

[9] In the third way, Aristotle proves the proposition as follows [VIII, 5].The same thing cannot be at once in act and in potency with respect to the same thing. But everything that is moved is, as such, in potency. For motion is the act of something that is in potency inasmuch as it is in potency. That which moves, however, is as such in act, for nothing acts except according as it is in act. Therefore, with respect to the same motion, nothing is both mover and moved. Thus, nothing moves itself.

[10] It is to be noted, however, that Plato, who held that every mover is moved [Phaedrus], understood the name motion in a wider sense than did Aristotle … [who] understood motion strictly, according as it is the act of what exists in potency inasmuch as it is such. So understood, motion belongs only to divisible bodies, as it is proved in the Physics [VI, 4]. According to Plato, however, that which moves itself is not a body.Plato understood by motion any given operation, so that to understand and to judge are a kind of motion. Aristotle likewise touches upon this manner of speaking in the De anima [III, 7]. Plato accordingly said that the first mover moves himself because he knows himself and wills or loves himself. In a way, this is not opposed to the reasons of Aristotle. There is no difference between reaching a first being that moves himself, as understood by Plato, and reaching a first being that is absolutely unmoved, as understood by Aristotle.

[11] The second proposition, namely, that there is no procession to infinity among movers and things moved, Aristotle proves in three ways.

[12] The first is as follows [VII, 1]. If among movers and things moved we proceed to infinity, all these infinite beings must be bodies. For whatever is moved is divisible and a body … [cf. Physics VI, 4]. But every body that moves some thing moved is itself moved while moving it. Therefore, all these infinites are moved together while one of them is moved. But one of them, being finite, is moved in a finite time. Therefore, all those infinites are moved in a finite time. This, however, is impossible.

[13] Furthermore, that it is impossible for the abovementioned infinites to be moved in a finite time Aristotle proves as follows. The mover and the thing moved must exist simultaneously. … But bodies cannot be simultaneous except through continuity or contiguity. Now, since, as has been proved, all the aforementioned movers and things moved are bodies, they must constitute by continuity or contiguity a sort of single mobile. In this way, one infinite is moved in a finite time. This is impossible, as is proved in the Physics [VII, 1].

[14] The second argument proving the same conclusion is the following. In an ordered series of movers and things moved (this is a series in which one is moved by another according to an order) [In moventibus et motis ordinatis, quorum scilicet unum per ordinem ab alio movetur], it is necessarily the fact that, when the first mover is removed or ceases to move, no other mover will move or be moved. For the first mover is the cause of motion for all the others. But, if there are movers and things moved following an order to infinity, there will be no first mover, but all would be as intermediate movers. Therefore, none of the others will be able to be moved, and thus nothing in the world will be moved.

[NB: Ordinal motion does not exactly mean 'serial' or 'step by step' motion. Rather, it refers to the idea of, let us say, distributed simultaneous efficiency. The efficient causation in an ordered causal system is distributed simultaneously throughout the elements involved at every moment of change. For example, when a boy splashes water by hitting the surface of a creek with a stick, his hand, the stick, and the disrupted water are all, so to speak, causally concurrent. There is a proper order, a determinate structure, of this event, which cannot happen without all the elements being in the right place at the right––namely, the same––time. Moreover, we must realize that the boy's hand simultaneously depends on its attachment to his body, his body on its attachment to the earth, the earth on its place in the solar system, and so on. Everything in the cosmos must occur in an exact causal, albeit not temporal, order for the water to splash as it does. This is more or less what St. Thomas means by what happens in motis ordinatis.]

[15] The third proof comes to the same conclusion, except that, by beginning with the superior, it has a reversed order. … That which moves as an instrumental cause cannot move unless there be a principal moving cause. But, if we proceed to infinity among movers and things moved, all movers will be as instrumental causes, because they will be moved movers and there will be nothing as a principal mover. Therefore, nothing will be moved.

[16] Such, then, is the proof of both propositions assumed by Aristotle in the first demonstrative way by which he proved that a first unmoved mover exists.

[17] The second way is this. If every mover is moved, this proposition is true either by itself or by accident. If by accident, then it is not necessary, since what is true by accident is not necessary. It is something possible, therefore, that no mover is moved. But if a mover is not moved, it does not move…. It is therefore possible that nothing is moved. For, if nothing moves, nothing is moved. This, however, Aristotle considers to be impossible—namely, that at any time there be no motion. Therefore, the first proposition was not possible, since from a false possible, a false impossible does not follow. Hence, this proposition, every mover is moved by another, was not true by accident. …

[19] But, if the proposition that every mover is moved is true by itself, something impossible or awkward likewise follows. For the mover must be moved either by the same kind of motion as that by which he moves, or by another. If the same, a cause of alteration must itself be altered, and further, a healing cause must itself be healed, and a teacher must himself be taught and this with respect to the same knowledge. Now, this is impossible.So that, if the proposition were true, the same thing would be possessed and not possessed by the same being—which is impossible.

If, however, the mover is moved by another species of motion, so that (namely) the altering cause is moved according to place, and the cause moving according to place is increased, and so forth, since the genera and species of motion are finite in number, it will follow that we cannot proceed to infinity. There will thus be a first mover, which is not moved by another.

Will someone say that there will be a recurrence, so that when all the genera and species of motion have been completed the series will be repeated and return to the first motion? This would involve saying, for example, that a mover according to place would be altered, the altering cause would be increased, and the increasing cause would be moved according to place. Yet this whole view would arrive at the same conclusion as before: whatever moves according to a certain species of motion is itself moved according to the same species of motion, though mediately and not immediately.

[20] It remains, therefore, that we must posit some first mover that is not moved by any exterior moving cause.

[21] Granted this conclusion—namely, that there is a first mover that is not moved by an exterior moving cause—it yet does not follow that this mover is absolutely unmoved. That is why Aristotle goes on to say that the condition of the first mover may be twofold [VIII, 5]. The first mover can be absolutely unmoved. If so, we have the conclusion we are seeking: there is a first unmoved mover. On the other hand, the first mover can be self-moved. This may be argued, because that which is through itself is prior to what is through another. Hence, among things moved as well, it seems reasonable that the first moved is moved through itself and not by another.

[22] But, on this basis, the same conclusion again follows: … it cannot be said that, when a mover moves himself, the whole is moved by the whole. Otherwise, the same difficulties would follow as before: one person would both teach and be taught, and the same would be true among other motions. It would also follow that a being would be both in potency and in act; for a mover is, as such, in act, whereas the thing moved is in potency. Consequently, one part of the self-moved mover is solely moving, and the other part solely moved. We thus reach the same conclusion as before: there exists an unmoved mover.

[23] Nor can it be held that both parts of the self-moved mover are moved, so that one is moved by the other, or that one moves both itself and the other, or that the whole moves a part, or that a part moves the whole. All this would involve the return of the aforementioned difficulties: something would both move and be moved according to the same species of motion; something would be at once in potency and in act; and, furthermore, the whole would not be primarily moving itself, it would move through the motion of a part. The conclusion thus stands: one part of a self-moved mover must be unmoved and moving the other part.

[24] But there is another point to consider. Among self-moved beings known to us, namely, animals, although the moving part, which is to say the soul, is unmoved through itself, it is yet moved by accident. … [T]he moving part of the first self-moving being is not moved either through itself or by accident [cf. Physics VIII, 6]. For, since self-moving beings known to us, namely, animals, are corruptible, the moving part in them is moved by accident. But corruptible self-moving beings must be reduced to some first self-moving being that is everlasting. Therefore, some self-moving being must have a mover that is moved neither through itself nor by accident.

[25] It is further evident that, according to the position of Aristotle, some self-moved being must be everlasting. For if, as Aristotle supposes, motion is everlasting, the generation of self-moving beings (this means beings that are generable and corruptible) must be endless. But the cause of this endlessness cannot be one of the self-moving beings, since it does not always exist. Nor can the cause be all the self-moving beings together, both because they would be infinite and because they would not be simultaneous. There must therefore be some endlessly self-moving being, causing the endlessness of generation among these sublunary self-movers.

[26] Again, we see that among beings that move themselves some initiate a new motion as a result of some motion. This new motion is other than the motion by which an animal moves itself, for example, digested food or altered air. By such a motion the self-moving mover is moved by accident. From this we may infer that no self-moved being is moved everlastingly whose mover is moved either by itself or by accident. But the first self-mover is everlastingly in motion; otherwise, motion could not be everlasting, since every other motion is caused by the motion of the self-moving first mover. The first self-moving being, therefore, is moved by a mover who is himself moved neither through himself nor by accident. …

[28] Now, God is not part of any self-moving mover. In his Metaphysics[XII, 7], therefore, Aristotle goes on from the mover who is a part of the self-moved mover to seek another mover—God—who is absolutely separate. For, since everything moving itself is moved through appetite, the mover who is part of the self-moving being moves because of the appetite of some appetible object. This object is higher, in the order of motion, than the mover desiring it; for the one desiring is in a manner a moved mover, whereas an appetible object is an absolutely unmoved mover. [Cum enim omne movens seipsum moveatur per appetitum, oportet quod motor qui est pars moventis seipsum, moveat propter appetitum alicuius appetibilis. Quod est eo superius in movendo: nam appetens est quodammodo movens motum; appetibile autem est movens omnino non motum.] There must, therefore, be an absolutely unmoved separate first mover. This is God.

[29] Two considerations seem to invalidate these arguments. The first consideration is that, as arguments, they presuppose the eternity of motion, which Catholics consider to be false.

[30] To this consideration the reply is as follows. The most efficacious way to prove that God exists is on the supposition that the world is eternal. Granted this supposition, that God exists is less manifest. For, if the world and motion have a first beginning, some cause must clearly be posited to account for this origin of the world and of motion. That which comes to be anew must take its origin from some innovating cause; since nothing brings itself from potency to act, or from non-being to being.

[31] The second consideration is that the demonstrations given above presuppose that the first moved being, namely, a heavenly body, is self-moved. This means that it is animated, which many do not admit.

[32] The reply to this consideration is that, if the prime mover is not held to be self-moved, then it must be moved immediately by something absolutely unmoved. Hence, even Aristotle himself proposed this conclusion as a disjunction: it is necessary either to arrive immediately at an unmoved separate first mover, or to arrive at a self-moved mover from whom, in turn, an unmoved separate first mover is reached.

[33] In Metaphysics II [Ia, 2] Aristotle also uses another argument to show that there is no infinite regress in efficient causes and that we must reach one first cause—God. This way is as follows. In all ordered efficient causes, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, whether one or many, and this is the cause of the last cause. But, when you suppress a cause, you suppress its effect. Therefore, if you suppress the first cause, the intermediate cause cannot be a cause. Now, if there were an infinite regress among efficient causes, no cause would be first. Therefore, all the other causes, which are intermediate, will be suppressed. But this is manifestly false. We must, therefore, posit that there exists a first efficient cause. This is God.

[34] Another argument may also be gathered from the words of Aristotle. In Metaphysics II [Ia, 1] he shows that what is most true is also most a being. But in Metaphysics IV [4] he shows the existence of something supremely true from the observed fact that of two false things one is more false than the other, which means that one is more true than the other. This comparison is based on the nearness to that which is absolutely and supremely true. From these Aristotelian texts we may further infer that there is something that is supremely being. This we call God.

[If there is no such thing as absolute truth, there is no such thing as lying.]

[35] … Contrary and discordant things cannot, always or for the most part, be parts of one order except under someone’s government, which enables all and each to tend to a definite end. But in the world we find that things of diverse natures come together under one order, and this not rarely or by chance, but always or for the most part. There must therefore be some being by whose providence the world is governed. This we call God.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

SCG, Book 1, Chapter 12

CHAPTER 12: OF THOSE WHO SAY THAT THE EXISTENCE OF GOD CANNOT BE DEMONSTRATED BUT IS HELD BY FAITH ALONE [CAPUT 12: De opinione dicentium quod Deum esse demonstrari non potest sed sola fide tenetur]

[1] There are others who hold a certain opinion, contrary to the position mentioned above, through which the efforts of those seeking to prove the existence of God would likewise be rendered futile. For they say that we cannot arrive at the existence of God through the reason; it is received by way of faith and revelation alone.

[2] What led some persons to hold this view was the weakness of the arguments which had been brought forth by others to prove that God exists.

[3] Nevertheless, the present error might erroneously find support in its behalf in the words of some philosophers who show that in God essence and being are identical, that is, that that which answers to the questionwhat is it? is identical with that which answers to the question is it? Now, following the way of the reason we cannot arrive at a knowledge of what God is. Hence, it seems likewise impossible to demonstrate by the reason that God exists.

[4] Furthermore, according to the logic of the Philosopher, as a principle to demonstrate whether a thing is we must take the signification of the name of that thing [Posterior Analytics II, 9]; and, again according to the Philosopher [Metaphysics IV, 7], the meaning signified by a name is its definition. If this be so, if we set aside a knowledge of the divine essence or quiddity [i.e., 'whatness'], no means will be available whereby to demonstrate that God exists.

[5] Again, if, as is shown in the Posterior Analytics [I, 18], the knowledge of the principles of demonstration takes its origin from sense, whatever transcends all sense and sensibles seems to be indemonstrable. That God exists appears to be a proposition of this sort and is therefore indemonstrable.

[6] The falsity of this opinion is shown to us, first, from the art of demonstration which teaches us to arrive at causes from their effects.Then, it is shown to us from the order of the sciences. For, as it is said in the Metaphysics [IV, 3], if there is no knowable substance higher than sensible substance, there will be no science higher than physics. It is shown, thirdly, from the pursuit of the philosophers, who have striven to demonstrate that God exists. Finally, it is shown to us by the truth in the words of the Apostle Paul: “For the invisible things of God... are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made” (Rom. 1:20).

[7] Nor, contrary to the first argument, is there any problem in the fact that in God essence and being are identical. For this is understood of the being by which God subsists in Himself. But we do not know of what sort this being is, just as we do not know the divine essence. The reference is not to the being that signifies the composition of intellect. For thus the existence of God does fall under demonstration; this happens when our mind is led from demonstrative arguments to form such a proposition of God whereby it expresses that He exists.

[8] Now, in arguments proving the existence of God, it is not necessary to assume the divine essence or quiddity as the middle term of the demonstration. This was the second view proposed above. In place of the quiddity, an effect is taken as the middle term, as in demonstrationes quia [link]. It is from such effects that the meaning of the name God is taken. For all divine names are imposed either by removing the effects of God from Him or by relating God in some way to His effects.

[9] It is thereby likewise evident that, although God transcends all sensible things and the sense itself, His effects, on which the demonstration proving His existence is based, are nevertheless sensible things. And thus, the origin of our knowledge in the sense applies also to those things that transcend the sense.

SCG, Book 1, Chapter 11

CHAPTER 11: A REFUTATION OF THE ABOVE-MENTIONED OPINION AND A SOLUTION OF THE ARGUMENTS [CAPUT 11: Reprobatio praemissae opinionis et solutio rationum praemissarum]

[1] In part, the above opinion [viz., that God's existence is self-evident] arises from the custom by which from their earliest days people are brought up to hear and to call upon the name of God. Custom, and especially custom in a child comes to have the force of nature. As a result, what the mind is steeped in from childhood it clings to very firmly, as something known naturally and self-evidently.

[2] In part, however, the above opinion comes about because of a failure to distinguish between that which is self-evident in an absolute sense and that which is self-evident in relation to us. For assuredly that God exists is, absolutely speaking, self-evident, since what God is is His own being. Yet, because we are not able to conceive in our minds that which God is, that God exists remains unknown in relation to us. So, too, that every whole is greater than its part is, absolutely speaking, self-evident; but it would perforce be unknown to one who could not conceive the nature of a whole. ... [A]s it is said in Metaphysics II [Ia, 1], ... “our intellect is related to the most knowable things in reality as the eye of an owl is related to the sun.”’

[3] And, contrary to the point made by the first argument, it does not follow immediately that, as soon as we know the meaning of the name God, the existence of God is known. It does not follow first because it is not known to all, even including those who admit that God exists, that God is that than which a greater cannot be thought. After all, many ancients said that this world itself was God. ... [Even assuming] that everyone should understand by the name God something than which a greater cannot be thought, it will still not be necessary that there exist in reality something than which a greater cannot be thought. ... [T]hat something greater can be thought than anything given in reality or in the intellect is a difficulty only to him who admits that there is something than which a greater cannot be thought in reality. ...

[J]ust as it is evident to us that a whole is greater than a part of itself, so to those seeing the divine essence in itself it is supremely self-evident that God exists because His essence is His being. But, because we are not able to see His essence, we arrive at the knowledge of His being, not through God Himself, but through His effects.

... [M]an naturally desires God in so far as he naturally desires beatitude, which is a certain likeness of the divine goodness. On this basis, it is not necessary that God considered in Himself be naturally known to man, but only a likeness of God. It remains, therefore, that man is to reach the knowledge of God through reasoning by way of the likenesses of God found in His effects.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

SCG, Book 1, Chapter 10

CHAPTER 10: THOSE WHO SAY THE EXISTENCE OF GOD IS SELF-EVIDENT, AND THEREFORE CANNOT BE DEMONSTRATED [CAPUT 10: De opinione dicentium quod Deum esse demonstrari non potest cum sit per se notum]

[1] There are some persons to whom the inquiry seeking to demonstrate that God exists may perhaps appear superfluous. These are the persons [e.g., St. Anselm of Canterbury] who assert that the existence of God is self-evident, in such wise that its contrary cannot be entertained in the mind. It thus appears that the existence of God cannot be demonstrated, as may be seen from the following arguments.

[2] Those propositions are said to be self-evident that are known immediately upon the knowledge of their terms. Thus, as soon as you know the nature of a whole and the nature of a part, you know immediately that every whole is greater than its part. The proposition God exists is of this sort. For by the name God we understand that than which a greater cannot be thought [id quo nihil maius cogitari possit].This notion is formed in the intellect by one who hears and understands the name God. As a result, God must exist already at least in the intellect. But He cannot exist solely in the intellect, since that which exists both in the intellect and in reality is greater than that which exists in the intellect alone. Now, as the very definition of the name points out, nothing can be greater than God. Consequently, the proposition that God exists is self-evident, as being evident from the very meaning of the name God.

[3] Again, it is possible to think that something exists whose non-existence cannot be thought. Clearly, such a being is greater than the being whose non-existence can be thought. Consequently, if God Himself could be thought not to be, then something greater than God could be thought. This, however, is contrary to the definition of the name God. Hence, the proposition that God exists is self-evident.

[4] Furthermore, those propositions ought to be the most evident in which the same thing is predicated of itself, for example, man is man, or whose predicates are included in the definition of their subjects, for example, Man is an animal. Now, in God, as will be shown in a later chapter, it is pre-eminently the case that His being is His essence, so that to the question what is He [quid est]? and to the question is He [est]? the answer is one and the same. ...

[5] What is naturally known is known through itself, for we do not come to such propositions through an effort of inquiry. But the proposition that God exists is naturally known since, as will be shown later on, the desire of man naturally tends towards God as towards the ultimate end.The proposition that God exists is, therefore, self-evident.

[6] There is also the consideration that that through which all the rest are known ought itself to be self-evident. Now, God is of this sort. For just as the light of the sun is the principle of all visible perception, so the divine light is the principle of all intelligible knowledge; since the divine light is that in which intelligible illumination is found first and in its highest degree. That God exists, therefore, must be self-evident.

[7] These, then, and others like them are the arguments by which some think that the proposition God exists is so self-evident that its contrary cannot be entertained by the mind.

SCG, Book 1, Chapter 9

THE ORDER AND MANNER OF PROCEDURE IN THE PRESENT WORK [CAPUT 9: De ordine et modo procedendi in hoc opere]

[1] ... [T]he intention of the wise man ought to be directed toward the twofold truth of divine things, and toward the destruction of the errors that are contrary to this truth. One kind of divine truth the investigation of the reason is competent to reach, whereas the other surpasses every effort of the reason. I am speaking of a “twofold truth of divine things,” not on the part of God Himself, Who is truth one and simple, but from the point of view of our knowledge, which is variously related to the knowledge of divine things.

[2] Now, to make the first kind of divine truth known, we must proceed through demonstrative arguments, by which our adversary may become convinced. However, since such arguments are not available for the second kind of divine truth, our intention should not be to convince our adversary by arguments: it should be to answer his arguments against the truth; for, as we have shown, the natural reason cannot be contrary to the truth of faith. The sole way to overcome an adversary of divine truth is from the authority of Scripture.... For that which is above the human reason we believe only because God has revealed it.Nevertheless, there are certain likely arguments that should be brought forth in order to make divine truth known ... for the training and consolation of the faithful, and not with any idea of refuting those who are adversaries. For the very inadequacy of the arguments would rather strengthen them in their error, since they would imagine that our acceptance of the truth of faith was based on such weak arguments.

[3] ... We shall first seek to make known that truth which faith professes and reason investigates. This we shall do by bringing forward both demonstrative and probable arguments, some of which were drawn from the books of the philosophers and of the saints, through which truth is strengthened and its adversary overcome [Books I-III]. Then, in order to follow a development from the more manifest to the less manifest, we shall proceed to make known that truth which surpasses reason, answering the objections of its adversaries and setting forth the truth of faith by probable arguments and by authorities, to the best of our ability [Book IV].

[4] We are aiming, then, to set out following the way of the reason and to inquire into what the human reason can investigate about God. ...

SCG, Book 1, Chapter 8

HOW HUMAN REASON IS RELATED TO THE TRUTH OF FAITH [CAPUT 8: Qualiter se habeat humana ratio ad veritatem fidei]

[1] ... Sensible things, from which the human reason takes the origin of its knowledge, retain within themselves some sort of trace of a likeness to God. This is so imperfect, however, that it is absolutely inadequate to manifest the substance of God. For effects bear within themselves, in their own way, the likeness of their causes, since an agent produces its like [Habent enim effectus suarum causarum suo modo similitudinem, cum agens agat sibi simile]; yet an effect does not always reach to the full likeness of its cause [non tamen effectus ad perfectam agentis similitudinem semper pertingit.]. Now, the human reason is related to the knowledge of the truth of faith ... in such a way that it can gather certain likenesses of it, which are yet not sufficient so that the truth of faith may be comprehended as being understood demonstratively or through itself. Yet it is useful for the human reason to exercise itself in such arguments, however weak they may be, provided only that there be present no presumption to comprehend or to demonstrate. For to be able to see something of the loftiest realities, however thin and weak the sight may be, is ... a cause of the greatest joy.

[2] The testimony of Hilary agrees with this. Speaking of this same truth, he writes as follows in his De Trinitate [II, 10, ii]: “Enter these truths by believing, press forward, persevere. And though I may know that you will not arrive at an end, yet I will congratulate you in your progress. For, though he who pursues the infinite with reverence will never finally reach the end, yet he will always progress by pressing onward. But do not intrude yourself into the divine secret, do not, presuming to comprehend the sum total of intelligence, plunge yourself into the mystery of the unending nativity; rather, understand that these things are incomprehensible.

Monday, October 4, 2010

SCG, Book 1, Chapter 7

CHAPTER 7: THE TRUTH OF REASON NOT OPPOSED TO THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN FAITH [CAPUT 7: Quod veritati fidei Christianae non contrariatur veritas rationis]

[1] Now, although the truth of the Christian faith which we have discussed surpasses the capacity of the reason, nevertheless that truth that the human reason is naturally endowed to know cannot be opposed to the truth of the Christian faith. For that with which the human reason is naturally endowed is clearly most true; so much so, that it is impossible for us to think of such truths as false. Nor is it permissible to believe as false that which we hold by faith, since this is confirmed in a way that is so clearly divine. Since, therefore, only the false is opposed to the true, as is clearly evident from an examination of their definitions, it is impossible that the truth of faith should be opposed to those principles that the human reason knows naturally.

[2] Furthermore, that which is introduced into the soul of the student by the teacher is contained in the knowledge of the teacher—unless his teaching is fictitious, which it is improper to say of God. Now, the knowledge of the principles that are known to us naturally has been implanted in us by God; for God is the Author of our nature. These principles, therefore, are also contained by the divine Wisdom. Hence, whatever is opposed to them is opposed to the divine Wisdom, and, therefore, cannot come from God. That which we hold by faith as divinely revealed, therefore, cannot be contrary to our natural knowledge.

[3] ... If, therefore, contrary knowledges were implanted in us by God, our intellect would be hindered from knowing truth by this very fact. Now, such an effect cannot come from God.

[4] ... Now, it is impossible that contrary opinions should exist in the same knowing subject at the same time. No opinion or belief, therefore, is implanted in man by God which is contrary to man’s natural knowledge. ...

[7] From this we evidently gather the following conclusion: whatever arguments are brought forward against the doctrines of faith are conclusions incorrectly derived from the first and self-evident principles imbedded in nature. Such conclusions do not have the force of demonstration; they are arguments that are either probable or sophistical. And so, there exists the possibility to answer them.

SCG, Book 1, Chapter 6

Chapter 6: THAT TO GIVE ASSENT TO THE TRUTHS OF FAITH IS NOT FOOLISHNESS EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE ABOVE REASON [CAPUT 6: Quod assentire his quae sunt fidei non est levitatis quamvis supra rationem sint]

[1] Those who place their faith in this truth, however, “for which the human reason offers no experimental evidence,” do not believe foolishly, as though “following artificial fables” (2 Peter 2:16). For these “secrets of divine Wisdom” (Job 11:6) the divine Wisdom itself, which knows all things to the full, has deigned to reveal to men. It reveals its own presence, as well as the truth of its teaching and inspiration, by fitting arguments; and in order to confirm those truths that exceed natural knowledge, it gives visible manifestation to works that surpass the ability of all nature. Thus, there are the wonderful cures of illnesses, there is the raising of the dead, and the wonderful immutation in the heavenly bodies; and what is more wonderful, there is the inspiration given to human minds, so that simple and untutored persons, filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit, come to possess instantaneously the highest wisdom and the readiest eloquence. When these arguments were examined, through the efficacy of the abovementioned proof, and not the violent assault of arms or the promise of pleasure, and (what is most wonderful of all) in the midst of the tyranny of the persecutors, an innumerable throng of people, both simple and most learned, flocked to the Christian faith. In this faith there are truths preached that surpass every human intellect; the pleasures of the flesh are curbed; it is taught that the things of the world should be spurned. Now, for the minds of mortal men to assent to these things is the greatest of miracles, just as it is a manifest work of divine inspiration that, spurning visible things, men should seek only what is invisible. Now, that this has happened neither without preparation nor by chance, but as a result of the disposition of God, is clear from the fact that through many pronouncements of the ancient prophets God had foretold that He would do this. The books of these prophets are held in veneration among us Christians, since they give witness to our faith.

[2] The manner of this confirmation is touched on by St. Paul: “Which,” that is, human salvation, “having begun to be declared by the Lord, was confirmed to us by them that hear Him: God also bearing them witness of signs, and wonders, and divers miracles, and distributions of the Holy Spirit” (Heb. 7:3-4).

[3] This wonderful conversion of the world to the Christian faith is the clearest witness of the signs given in the past; so that it is not necessary that they should be further repeated, since they appear most clearly in their effect. For it would be truly more wonderful than all signs if the world had been led by simple and humble men to believe such lofty truths, to accomplish such difficult actions, and to have such high hopes. Yet it is also a fact that, even in our own time, God does not cease to work miracles through His saints for the confirmation of the faith.

[4] On the other hand, those who founded sects committed to erroneous doctrines proceeded in a way that is opposite to this, The point is clear in the case of Muhammad. He seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us. His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure. In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men. As for proofs of the truth of his doctrine, he brought forward only such as could be grasped by the natural ability of anyone with a very modest wisdom. Indeed, the truths that he taught he mingled with many fables and with doctrines of the greatest falsity. He did not bring forth any signs produced in a supernatural way, which alone fittingly gives witness to divine inspiration; for a visible action that can be only divine reveals an invisibly inspired teacher of truth. On the contrary, Muhammad said that he was sent in the power of his arms—which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants. What is more, no wise men, men trained in things divine and human, believed in him from the beginning, Those who believed in him were brutal men and desert wanderers, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching, through whose numbers Muhammad forced others to become his followers by the violence of his arms. Nor do divine pronouncements on the part of preceding prophets offer him any witness. On the contrary, he perverts almost all the testimonies of the Old and New Testaments by making them into fabrications of his own, as can be. seen by anyone who examines his law. It was, therefore, a shrewd decision on his part to forbid his followers to read the Old and New Testaments, lest these books convict him of falsity. It is thus clear that those who place any faith in his words believe foolishly.

SCG, Book 1, Chapter 5

Chapter 5: THAT THE TRUTHS THE HUMAN REASON IS NOT ABLE TO INVESTIGATE ARE FITTINGLY PROPOSED TO MEN FOR BELIEF [CAPUT 5: Quod ea quae ratione investigari non possunt convenienter fide tenenda hominibus proponuntur]

[1] Now, perhaps some will think that men should not be asked to believe what the reason is not adequate to investigate, since the divine Wisdom provides in the case of each thing according to the mode of its nature. We must therefore prove that it is necessary for man to receive from God as objects of belief even those truths that are above the human reason.

[2] No one tends with desire and zeal towards something that is not already known to him. But, as we shall examine later on in this work, men are ordained by the divine Providence towards a higher good than human fragility can experience in the present life. That is why it was necessary for the human mind to be called to something higher than the human reason here and now can reach, so that it would thus learn to desire something and with zeal tend towards something that surpasses the whole state of the present life. This belongs especially to the Christian religion, which in a unique way promises spiritual and eternal goods. And so there are many things proposed to men in it that transcend human sense. The Old Law, on the other hand, whose promises were of a temporal character, contained very few proposals that transcended the inquiry of the human reason. Following this same direction, the philosophers themselves, in order that they might lead men from the pleasure of sensible things to virtue, were concerned to show that there were in existence other goods of a higher nature than these things of sense, and that those who gave themselves to the active or contemplative virtues would find much sweeter enjoyment in the taste of these higher goods.

[3] It is also necessary that such truth be proposed to men for belief so that they may have a truer knowledge of God. For then only do we know God truly when we believe Him to be above everything that it is possible for man to think about Him; for, as we have shown, the divine substance surpasses the natural knowledge of which man is capable. Hence, by the fact that son things about God are proposed to man that surpass his reason, there is strengthened in man the view that God is something above what he can think.

[4] Another benefit that comes from the revelation to men of truths that exceed the reason is the curbing of presumption, which is the mother of error. For there are some who have such a presumptuous opinion of their own ability that they deem themselves able to measure the nature of everything; I mean to say that, in their estimation, everything is true that seems to them so, and everything is false that does not. So that the human mind, therefore, might be freed from this presumption and come to a humble inquiry after truth, it was necessary that some things should be proposed to man by God that would completely surpass his intellect.

[5] A still further benefit may also be seen in what Aristotle says in the Ethics [X, 7]. There was a certain Simonides who exhorted people to put aside the knowledge of divine things and to apply their talents to human occupations. He said that “he who is a man should know human things, and he who is mortal, things that are mortal.” Against Simonides Aristotle says that “man should draw himself towards what is immortal and divine as much as he can.” And so he says in the De animalibus [I, 5] that, although what we know of the higher substances is very little, yet that little is loved and desired more than all the knowledge that we have about less noble substances. He also says in the De caelo et mundo [II, 12] that when questions about the heavenly bodies can be given even a modest and merely plausible solution, he who hears this experiences intense joy. From all these considerations it is clear that even the most imperfect knowledge about the most noble realities brings the greatest perfection to the soul. Therefore, although the human reason cannot grasp fully the truths that are above it, yet, if it somehow holds these truths at least by faith, it acquires great perfection for itself.

[6] Therefore it is written: “For many things are shown to you above the understanding of men” (Sirach 3:75). Again: “So the things that are of God no man knows but the Spirit of God. But to us God has revealed them by His Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:11, 10).