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, April 14, 2011

SCG, Book I, Chapter 44


… [2] … among movers and things moved we cannot proceed to infinity, but must reduce all movable things, as is demonstrable, to one first self-moving being. The self-moving being moves itself only by appetite and knowledge…. The moving part in the first self-moving being must he appetitive and apprehending.

Now, in a motion that takes place through appetite and apprehension, he who has the appetite and the apprehension is a moved mover, while the appetible and apprehended is the unmoved mover. … [God] must be related to the mover that is a part of the self-moving being as the appetible is to the one who has the appetite. Not, however, as something appetible by sensible appetite, since sensible appetite is not of that which is good absolutely but of this particular good, since the apprehension of the sense is likewise particular; whereas that which is good and appetible absolutely is prior to that which is good and appetible here and now.

The first mover, then, must be appetible as an object of intellect, and thus the mover that desires it must be intelligent. All the more, therefore, will the first appetible be intelligent, since the one desiring it is intelligent in act by being joined to it as an intelligible. Therefore, making the supposition that the first mover moves himself, as the philosophers intended, we must say that God is intelligent.

[3] … since every mover moves through a form at which it aims in moving, the form through which the first mover moves must be a universal form and a universal good. But a form does not have a universal mode except in the intellect [cf. para. 8 below]. Consequently, the first mover, God, must be intelligent.

[4] … all movers in the world are to the first mover, God, as instruments are related to a principal agent. Since, then, there are in the world many movers endowed with intelligence, it is impossible that the first mover move without an intellect. Therefore, God must be intelligent.

This is also akin to the argument discussed by Prof. Feser in this post, which I cited in chapter 43 as well. The transcendental conditions of being require that, for intellect to emerge in nature, intellect must somehow ground or antecede nature, which a quasi-Darwinian point well made by Fr. Oakes (cf. this post infra). This is also similar to Schopenhauer's fundamental point about "Wille in Natur", i.e., that the reason all levels of being and all interactions show an interconnected striving (and strife!), is due to the fact that "absoluter Wille" is the ontic basis of reality. Schopenhauer's thought, then, is a kind of Thomism without light.

[5] Again, a thing is intelligent because it is without matter. A sign of this is the fact that forms are made understood in act by abstraction from matter. And hence the intellect deals with universals and not singulars, for matter is the principle of individuation. … But we have shown that God is absolutely immaterial. God is, therefore, intelligent.

[6] Then, too, as was shown above, no perfection found in any genus of things is lacking to God. … But among the perfections; of things the greatest is that something be intelligent, for thereby it is in a manner all things, having within itself the perfections of all things. …

As the annotated edition notes: "The vastness of the stellar universe is in a manner the reach and amplitude of my mind, when I come to form some slight idea of it." Or as Cdl. Newman put it (The Idea of a University, part 2, article 8):

"There is but one thought greater than that of the universe, and that is the thought of its Maker. … He, though One, is a sort of world of worlds in Himself, giving birth in our minds to an indefinite number of distinct truths, each ineffably more mysterious than any thing that is found in this universe of space and time. Any one of His attributes, considered by itself, is the object of an inexhaustible science…. We are able to apprehend and receive each divine attribute in its elementary form, but still we are not able to accept them in their infinity, either in themselves or in union with each other. Yet we do not deny the first because it cannot be perfectly reconciled with the second, nor the second because it is in apparent contrariety with the first and the third. The case is the same in its degree with His creation material and moral. It is the highest wisdom to accept truth of whatever kind, wherever it is clearly ascertained to be such, though there be difficulty in adjusting it with other known truth."

[7] Again, that which tends determinately to some end either has set itself that end or the end has been set for it by another. Otherwise, it would tend no more to this end than to that. Now, natural things tend to determinate ends. They do not fulfill their natural needs by chance, since they would not do so always or for the most part, but rarely, which is the domain of chance. Since, then, things do not set for themselves an end, because they have no notion of what an end is, the end must be set for them by another, who is the author of nature. … But God could not set an end for nature unless He had understanding. …

As the annotated edition notes, "This is the Argument from Design, so valuable to the theologian in dealing with evolution. See Chap. XIII."

[8] Furthermore, everything imperfect derives from something perfect; for the perfect is naturally prior to the imperfect, as is act to potency. But the forms found in particular things are imperfect because they are there in a particular way and not according to the community of their natures. They must therefore be derived from some forms that are perfect and not particular. But such forms cannot exist unless by being understood, since no form is [act-ually] found in its universality except in the intellect [cf. para. 3 above]. Consequently, these forms must be intelligent, if they be subsistent; for only thus do they have operation. God, then, Who is the first subsistent act, from whom all other things are derived, must be intelligent.

The annotated edition remarks:

"Evolutionism says just the opposite. Is not the whole notion of development a process from the imperfect to the perfect? But the eternal question abides -- What begot the first germ, containing in itself the promise and potency of the vast development which we see? St Thomas asserts a priority of nature of the perfect to the imperfect, not a priority of time. God, though prior in duration, is not prior in time to the creature, as He is not in time at all: there is no time antecedent to creation. In the series of created causes, the imperfect is doubtless prior in time to the perfect. The first verses of Genesis assure us of that, as well as all sound study of evolution."

… [10] The truth of this faith was so strong among men that they named God from the act of understanding. For theos [θεος], which among the Greeks signifies God, comes from theaste [θεασθαι], which means to consider or to see.

The annotated has a lengthy note about Thomas' mention of perfect forms in this chapter, of which I shall only cite the following: "All that is absolutely necessary is the existence of a Supreme Being, who virtually contains in Himself all perfections which are represented in our minds by various abstract forms; a Being who is the Actuality of all ideal perfection (Chap. XXVIII)."

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