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!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

SCG, I, 37–38

Chapter 37: THAT GOD IS GOOD [CAPUT TRIGINTA SEPTEM: Quod Deus est bonus]

[1] From the divine perfection, which we have shown, we can conclude to [concludi potest] the goodness of God.

[2] For that by which each thing is called good [quo unumquodque bonum dicitur] is the virtue that belongs to it [est propria virtus eius]; for “the virtue of each thing is what makes its possessor and his work good.” Now, virtue “is a certain perfection, for each thing is then called perfect when it reaches the virtue belonging to it,” as may be seen in Physics VII [3]. Hence, each thing is good from the fact that it is perfect [unumquodque bonum est quod perfectum est]. That is why each thing seeks its perfection as the good belonging to it [unumquodque suam perfectionem appetit sicut proprium bonum]. But we have shown that God is perfect. Therefore, He is good.

[3] Again, it was shown above that there is a certain first unmoved mover, namely, God. This mover moves as a completely unmoved mover, which is as something desired [sicut desideratum]. Therefore, since God is the first unmoved mover, He is the first desired [Deus igitur, cum sit primum movens immobile, est primum desideratum]. But something is desired in two ways, namely, either because it is good or because it appears to be good. The first desired is what is good, since the apparent good does not move through itself [apparens bonum non movet per seipsum] but according as it has a certain appearance of the good, whereas the good moves through itself [bonum vero movet per seipsum]. The first desired, therefore, God, is truly good.

[4] Furthermore, “the good is that which all things desire.” The Philosopher introduces this remark as a “felicitous saying” in Ethics I [1]. But all things, each according to its mode, desire to be in act [Omnia autem appetunt esse actu secundum suum modum]; this is clear from the fact that [quod patet ex hoc quod] each thing according to its nature resists corruption [unumquodque secundum naturam suam repugnat corruptioni]. To be in act, therefore, constitutes the nature of the good [Esse igitur actu boni rationem constituit]. Hence it is that evil ... follows when potency is deprived of act… [unde et per privationem actus a potentia consequitur malum…]. But, as we have shown, God is being in act without potency. Therefore, He is truly good.

[5] Moreover, the communication of being and goodness [Communicatio esse et bonitatis] arises from goodness [ex bonitate procedit]. This is evident from the very nature and definition of the good. By nature, the good of each thing is its act and perfection [Naturaliter enim bonum uniuscuiusque est actus et perfectio eius]. Now, each thing acts in so far as it is in act, and in acting it diffuses being and goodness to other things [agendo autem esse et bonitatem in alia diffundit]. Hence, it is a sign of a being’s perfection that it “can produce its like”… [Unde et signum perfectionis est alicuius quod simile possit producere]. Now, the nature of the good comes from its being something appetible [quod est appetibile]. This is the end, which also moves the agent to act [Quod est finis. Qui etiam movet agentem ad agendum]. That is why it is said that the good is diffusive of itself and of being. But this diffusion befits God because, as we have shown above, being through Himself the necessary being, God is the cause of being for other things [est supra quod aliis est causa essendi]. God is, therefore, truly good.

A key teaching on the convertibility of being and goodness. Existence is "the act of being": for something to exist is for it to impact the surrounding world of potency and other entities by dynamically preserving itself according to its proper form. A rock stays a rock and impacts the world as a rock (e.g. by breaking a window or creating a hollow in the soil or obstructing a tree's roots, etc.). That is the rock's act of being. Things, however, only "act out" their proper modes of being by acting with respect to some end. A plant acts out vegetative existence by having its be-ing oriented towards the goods of nutrition and growth. An animal acts ouf sensitive existence by be-ing with respect to the goods of sensation and motion. A human acts out rational existence by "be-ing towards" the good of truth (as well as the other modes of being just described). A thing only is by being elevated from potency due to the proleptic goodness of its proper end (i.e. its finality). Hence, a thing's act of being is convertible with, or communicable as, its dynamic attainment of its proper good (i.e. telos). Moreover, since an adequate understanding of anything must resolve to its causes, a formal grasp of something is an expression of the truth of that thing's act of existence (i.e. its be-ing towards a proper end): so truth and being and goodness are convertible. Insofar as evil acts of the will are regressions from the goods of the rational soul, yet as they also have their own inner teleology with respect to the (percieved) good of said evil, evil acts of the will only have a 'disjunctive existence' as good-seeking realities. In any case, to speak of God as the cause of being of all other entities is to speak of Him as the ultimate good which all entities seek: for the cause of being, the intelligible inter-ordering of entities, and the summit of existential appetite are thus convertible.

[6] That is why it is written in a Psalm (72:1): “How good is God to Israel, to those who are of a right heart!” And again: “The Lord is good to those who hope in Him, to the soul that seeks Him” (Lam. 3:25).

Chapter 38: THAT GOD IS GOODNESS ITSELF [CAPUT TRIGINTA OCTO: Quod Deus est ipsa bonitas]

Annotated: "That God is His own Goodness: It is possible, I fear, in any school of learning to pass examinations and take degrees, philosophical and theological, by consistent repeating of an accepted phraseology that one does not really understand. What is the meaning of the axiom that God is His own goodness, His own wisdom, His own power, and the rest? It means that goodness, wisdom, power, is inseperable from God; and that each of the divine attributes, could we but view it adequately, would be found to involve all the rest. On the other hand, any given man, as Dr Smith, is not inseparable from his own learning except hypothetically, if his learning is to be at all, inasmuch as Dr Smith's learning has and can have no existence apart from Dr Smith. Formally speaking, the Doctor gives being to his own learning, so long as it lasts. But, besides that he might die and his learning with him -- whereas God and God's goodness cannot cease to be -- he might also forget all that he knows, and still remain Dr Smith. Nor does his learning involve his other attributes, his stature, for example, or his irascibility."

[1] From this we can conclude that God is His goodness.

[2] To be in act is for each being its good. But God is not only a being in act; He is His very act of being, as we have shown [est ipsum suum esse, ut supra ostensum est]. God is, therefore, goodness itself, and not only good.

If act is good, and if God is pure act, then God is pure good.

[3] Again, as we have shown, the perfection of each thing is its goodness. But the perfection of the divine being is not affirmed on the basis of something added to it, but because the divine being, as was shown above, is perfect in itself. The goodness of God, therefore, is not something added to His substance; His substance is His goodness [sua substantia est sua bonitas].

[4] Moreover, each good thing that is not its goodness is called good by participation [participative dicitur bonum]. But that which is named by participation has something prior to it from which it receives the character of goodness. This cannot proceed to infinity, since among final causes there is no regress to infinity, since the infinite is opposed to the end [in causis finalibus non proceditur in infinitum, infinitum enim repugnat fini]. But the good has the nature of an end. We must, therefore, reach some first good, that is not by participation good through an order toward some other good, but is good through its own essence. This is God. God is, therefore, His own goodness.

Annotated: "The infinite is inconsistent with any end, while good bears the character of an end." It may be urged that end does not bear the same sense in both these propositions. In the former it means limit (peras): in the latter it means, end in view, the perfection that crowns growth and effort (telos). The answer is that the infinite is inconsistent with any end, if infinity has to be traversed before that end is reached: for infinity is untraversable."

[5] Again, that which is can participate in something, but the act of being can participate in nothing [ipsum autem esse nihil participare potest]. For that which participates is in potency, and being is an act [quod enim participat potentia est, esse autem actus est]. But God is being itself, as we have proved. He is not, therefore, by participation good; He is good essentially.

Annotated: "Whereas Dr Smith is not essential wisdom."

An elegant syllogism. For something to be is to act towards a proper good/end, but being itself cannot participate in anything, since participation requires potency (i.e. dependency on the (greater) thing being-participated-in). As God is pure act, He cannot participate in anything, and thus cannot participate in any greater goodness outside Himself. Ergo, God is wholly good in and of Himself, and goodness is wholly one with God in and of itself.

[6] Furthermore [Amplius], in a simple being, being and that which is are the same [omne simplex suum esse et id quod est unum habet]. For, if one is not the other, the simplicity is then removed. But, as we have shown, God is absolutely simple. Therefore, for God to be good is identical with God [ipsum esse bonum non est aliud quam ipse]. He is, therefore, His goodness.

Annotated: "That is, its existence and its essence are the same (Chap. XXII)."

[7] It is thereby likewise evident that no other good is its goodness. Hence it is said in Matthew (19:17): “One is good, God.”

Thursday, March 24, 2011

SCG, I, 34–36

Chapter 34: THAT NAMES SAID OF GOD AND CREATURES ARE SAID ANALOGICALLY [Quod ea quae dicuntur de Deo et creaturis dicuntur analogice]

[1] From what we have said, therefore, it remains that the names said of God and creatures are predicated neither univocally nor equivocally but analogically [neque univoce neque aequivoce, sed analogice], that is [hoc est], according to an order or reference to something one [secundum ordinem vel respectum ad aliquid unum].

[2] This can take place in two ways. In one way, according as many things have reference to something one. Thus, with reference to one health we say that an animal is healthy as the subject of health, medicine is healthy as its cause, food as its preserver, urine as its sign.

[3] In another way, the analogy can obtain according as the order or reference of two things is not to something else but to one of them. Thus, being is said of substance and accident according as an accident has reference to a substance [accidens ad substantiam respectum habet], and not according as substance and accident are referred to a third thing [non quod substantia et accidens ad aliquid tertium referantur].

[4] Now, the names said of God and things are not said analogically according to the first mode of analogy, since we should then have to posit something prior to God, but according to the second mode.

[The annotated edition explains the problem to be solved thus: "[W]e call God 'good' as being the origin of goodness, and creatures 'good' as being effects of divine goodness. But at that rate, it appears, we ought to know the goodness of God before we know the goodness of creatures, which seems not to be the case. This objection St Thomas proceeds to clear away."]

[5] In this second mode of analogical predication the order according to the name and according to reality is sometimes found to be the same and sometimes not. For the order of the name follows the order of knowledge [Nam ordo nominis sequitur ordinem cognitionis], because it is the sign of an intelligible conception [quia est signum intelligibilis conceptionis].

When, therefore, that which is prior in reality is found likewise to be prior in knowledge, the same thing is found to be prior both according to the meaning of the name and according to the nature of the thing. Thus, substance is prior to accident both in nature, in so far as substance is the cause of accident, and in knowledge, in so far as substance is included in the definition of accident. Hence, being is said of substance by priority over accident both according to the nature of the thing and according to the meaning of the name. [Et ideo ens dicitur prius de substantia quam de accidente et secundum rei naturam et secundum nominis rationem] …

[6] Thus, therefore [Sic, igitur],
because we come to a knowledge of God from other things
[quia ex rebus aliis in Dei cognitionem pervenimus],
the reality in the names said of God and other things belongs by priority in God
[res nominum de Deo et rebus aliis dictorum per prius est in Deo]
according to His mode of being [secundum suum modum],
but the meaning of the name belongs to God by posteriority [sed ratio nominis per posterius. Unde et nominari dicitur a suis causatis].
And so He is said to be named from His effects
[Unde et nominari dicitur a suis causatis].

[The annotated edition remarks: "This distinction between the 'thing signified' (res nominis) and the 'concept attaching to the name' (ratio nominis) is of interest to the idealist. It supposes -- as Kant also supposes, though Hegel apparently does not -- a distinction between things and our way of looking at them. "

I wonder how different the case is with our own self-consciousness. Even though we come to know ourselves through a diversity of perceptions, memories, feelings, impulses, and actions, and even though we are referred to by many names, yet we know ourselves to be one.]

Chapter 35: THAT MANY NAMES SAID OF GOD ARE NOT SYNONYMS [Quod plura nomina dicta de Deo non sunt synonyma]

[1] It is likewise shown from what has been said that, although names said of God signify the same reality, they are yet not synonyms because they do not signify the same notion [non tamen sunt synonyma: quia non significant rationem eandem].

[2] For [Nam]
just as diverse things are likened through their diverse forms to the one simple reality that God is [sicut diversae res uni simplici rei quae Deus est similantur per formas diversas],
so our intellect through its diverse conceptions is to some extent likened to God [ita intellectus noster per diversas conceptiones ei aliqualiter similatur]
in so far as it is led through the diverse perfections of creatures to know Him [inquantum per diversas perfectiones creaturarum in ipsum cognoscendum perducitur].

[This is fundamental! Thomistic paydirt! The mother lode and lodestone of analogia entis!]

Therefore, in forming many conceptions of one thing, our intellect is neither false nor futile [non est falsus neque vanus], because the simple being of God, as we have shown, is such that things can be likened to it according to the multiplicity of their forms [ei secundum formas multiplices aliqua similari possint]. But in accord with its diverse conceptions our intellect devises diverse names that it attributes to God [Secundum autem diversas conceptiones diversa nomina intellectus adinvenit quae Deo attribuit].

Hence [Et ita], since these names are not attributed to God according to the same notion, it is evident that they are not synonyms [cum non secundum eandem rationem attribuantur, constat ea non esse synonyma], even though [quamvis] they signify a reality that is absolutely one [rem omnino unam significent]. For the signification of the name is not the same, since a name signifies the conception of the intellect before it signifies the thing itself understood by the intellect [nomen per prius conceptionem intellectus quam rem intellectam significet].

Chapter 36: HOW OUR INTELLECT FORMS A PROPOSITION ABOUT GOD [Qualiter intellectus noster de Deo propositionem formet]

[1] From this it is further evident that, although God is absolutely simple, it is not futile [non in vanum] for our intellect [intellectus noster] to form enunciations [enuntiationes format] concerning God in His simplicity by means of composition and division [componendo et dividendo].

[2] For although, as we have said, our intellect arrives at the knowledge of God through diverse conceptions, it yet understands that what corresponds to all of them is absolutely one. For the intellect does not attribute its mode of understanding to the things that it understands [non enim intellectus modum quo intelligit rebus attribuit intellectis] {This is the fatal flaw of linguistic reductionism (à la Quine, Goodman, Whorf-Sapir, Wittgenstein, inter alia): to equate the (mode of) being of referents with the (mode of) being of linguistic action.}; for example, it does not attribute immateriality to a stone even though [quamvis] it knows the stone immaterially [eum immaterialiter cognoscat]. It therefore sets forth the unity of a thing by a composition of words [rei unitatem proponit per compositionem verbalem], which is a mark of identity, when it says, God is good or goodness.

[The annotated edition has it: "All our knowledge is immaterial, or in other words, universal, got by a spiritualisation of the impressions of sense: we know at once hoc aliquid et tale. To know hoc aliquid by itself would be impossible. The first knowledge is a judgement."]

The result is that [ita quod] if there is some diversity in the composition, it is referred to the intellect, whereas the unity is referred to the thing understood by the intellect [si qua diversitas in compositione est, ad intellectum referatur, unitas vero ad rem intellectam]. On the same basis [Et ex hac ratione], our intellect sometimes forms an enunciation about God with a certain mark of diversity in it [cum aliqua diversitatis nota], through the use of a preposition, as when we say, there is goodness in God.
Here, too, there is indicated a certain diversity, which belongs to the intellect [aliqua diversitas, quae competit intellectui],
and a certain unity, which must be referred to the reality [et aliqua unitas, quam oportet ad rem referre].

[The annotated edition remarks: "Kant would have said: The mind does not, or anyhow should not, mistake the forms of its own thought for properties of noumena. Hegel denied that there were any noumena, and held thought-forms to be everything that is. Forms of thought, e.g., universality, were quite recognised by the schoolmen."]