Month: June 2016

The Second Way of Thomas Aquinas

The Second Way of Thomas Aquinas

                In this essay we will continue on our analyzation of the natural theology of Saint Thomas Aquinas and his many arguments for the existence of God. As with my post on the first way, a keen understanding of Aristotelian metaphysics is needed to have an accurate conception of the said arguments, so referring to my first post is needed decently heavily. The second way is an argument from the efficient causes that frequently occur within our world, and the need for a being whose essence is existence. The argument is commonly in the form of:

  1.    We perceive a series of efficient causes of things in the world.
  2. Nothing exists prior to itself.
  3. Therefore nothing [in the world of things we perceive] is the efficient cause of itself.
  4. If a previous efficient cause does not exist, neither does the thing that results (the effect).
  5. Therefore if the first thing in a series does not exist, nothing in the series exists.
  6. If the series of efficient causes extends ad infinitum into the past, for then there would be no things existing now.
  7. That is plainly false (i.e., there are things existing now that came about through efficient causes).
  8. Therefore efficient causes do not extend ad infinitum into the past.
  9. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.

First in analyzing this argument we need to go over the weighterer terms. An essence is the whatness of a thing. For example the whatness or quiddity of a camera would be cameraness. Things possess an essence conjoined to an esse, or existence, but an essence is entirely separate from the act of  existence a being possesses (In all things but God as we will see from the argument).  An efficient cause is a cause that brings something into being, in the most common example, the efficient cause of the David would be Michelangelo and his tools, and in the case of a mountain, in many cases it would be erosion.

As in the first way, the argument relies on the  absurd implications of an actually infinite essentially ordered series without a first cause, but not against the concept of the actual infinite as a whole. An essentially ordered series is one in which each member is reliant on an intermediate member for an effect, hence every member must function for the series to go on, in a roughly simultaneous manner. If a potency ceases to be actualized, so will the series. This is also not an attack on series ordered per accidents in which a series will continue after termination of another member. In the most popular example, Abraham begets Isaac, Isaac begets Jacob, and Jacob begets Joseph and so forth. If say Abraham dies, the series can still continue even after the termination of Abraham (and it did). Aquinas’s objection to this carrying on in an essentially ordered series can be summed up in an example with moons.  If seven moons in a series relying on the first moon for light have no potency to create light on their own, extending said series to infinity will not suddenly make said series have the potency to  achieve self-lighting. Even if we grant said movers extends to infinity, something would still have to be instilling within them causal powers from outside of the series. So this argument is not an attack on the finitude or lack thereof, of the universe.

Now on to the argument!

  1.  Premise one seems uncontroversial for any sincere truth seeker, things clearly are brought about, and these are generally the result of efficient causal relations. These include not only the substances of our everyday experience, but also the accidents that exist through a substance. 
  2. Premise two also seems uncontroversial, for something to exist prior to itself entails a contradiction, and hence I fail to see this as a valuable tool for evading the implications of the proof. It would both have to exist and not exist in the same respect, and since it is plausible simuatenous causality is true, this makes the absurdity even more definite, it will exist and not exist within the same event.
  3. Premise three does follow logically from the other premises, and hence to deny it leads to the strongly  argued conclusion nothing creates itself, because if a being did, a previous un-existing potency for existense would be required within be actualized by a being that exists, which is contradictory since they are the same being (being is used broadly here, accidents work fine for this as well), hence Aquinas’s conclusion should follow working through the implications. This is by no means making the claim that everything that exists requires a cause, which Aquinas would clearly never make, he was a pretty intelligent guy.
  4. Premise four seeks to show that without an existing cause explanatorily prior, the effects of the cause cannot exist, which plausibly follows from the other steps.
  5. As hinted at earlier, premise five is working through the implications of an essentially ordered series extending indefinitely. Even if there was no  first temporal cause that brought something into existence, a being would be needed to give the series itself a potency or proclivity to function. This is why Aquinas’s arguments are not temporal arguments ie, the universe could be eternal on the view of these arguments, although the Third way implies the universe is in fact finite in the past, although it is not even needed there.
  6. Premise 6 follows as well due to the argument that it seems  illogical to posit that a series of contingent causes would  be a sufficient explanation in the series even thought the act of existence intrinsically in a finite one is absent.  Extending this to infinity would yield nothing.
  7. Premise seven is also clear for any sincere truth seeker. Things clearly do exist now, and have been brought about by efficient causes. Even to think said statement in the case of man would be to have been the result of some prior efficient cause, and this also applies you abstracting the idea of this article. This brings me to an  interesting thing about Aquinas’s arguments, that they explore why things exist at the present moment rather than not, and hence it isn’t an argument for a sort of deistic God. His family of arguments explore why things exist here and now first and foremost, and hence without the act of being, nothing could exist at any point. Necessarily everything is reliant on God’s creative powers as the primary cause of all things here and now, since an escence is not a cause in any real sense. As Aquinas would say


“that the act of existing itself be caused by the form or quiddity – and by ‘caused’ I mean as by an efficient cause – for then something would be the cause of itself and produce itself in existence, which is impossible”

Which means that existence has to be conjoined to an essence. For example, if these things do not have existence conjoined with their essence, there is no reason at all for their essence to naturally be existent,  as the essence of a turtle with and without the act of existence is exactly the same. This is clearly contrary to  the interventionist view of God professed by most Theistic personalist’s like Plantinga and Swineburne.

8. Premise eight follows logically, limited amount to explain.

9.Hence Premise nine concludes resoundingly stating that something exists in which the essence is identical with it’s existence, is the primary cause and creator of all things, and that would be what all declare as God. The same arguments from the previous post can be used to argue for God possessing an intellect, (That is the best way to word it) as this points to the same being, as existence itself  is an actualized potential, and God is pure existence/being itself as Actus Purus, and hence the Prime Mover and first cause. Logical possibility is itself a potency, which needs to be remembered. 


Overall, as with the first way, the second way is a successful argument in natural theology. The argument is really quite great, but it probably a bit too metaphysic heavy to explain adequately to the novice in this area. We will review the Third Way in my next post, which relies heavily on the prior two arguments for one of its most potent solutions. Thank you for reading and God bless you all! 

The First Way of Thomas Aquinas

The First Way of Thomas Aquinas

In this post I will give a rundown of one of the most central and oldest arguments of natural theology, with roots all the way to Aristotle, The First Way of Thomas Aquinas, or the argument from motion. Here is the argument in its most common form:

The project of Natural Theology is by no supposition a new one, with roots in ancient Greek philosophy, and this argument is of no exception to being quite aged. Originating as a staple of Aristotle’s causal order, with Him being both the Actus Purus and serving as the worlds final cause, the Unmoved First Mover has gained a wide array of recognition, perhaps being the most iconic piece of Natural Theology in existence. Aquinas in particular refined this argument to it’s fullest conclusion, and successfully moved the act potency distinction within Christian Theology. Problems related to Divine Causality, Free will, grace, and various others have all been explained by using this formula. The distinction itself arises due to our cognition of change. For although this is a universal distinction describing all of reality, we come first to know of the distinction through our senses, seeing the subjective potencies and accidents gained by the objects of our experience, and then moving beyond them (which we will discuss later). Our knowledge of essences starts from the objective dispositions of them placed upon our intellect, and the fundamental ways in which they work, and from this we can tell whether it existence is non accidental to them. For Aquinas argues that even the essence and existence paradigm is a variety of the Act Potency one, with an essence being in potency to an act of existence. With this background in mind, we will move forward with the proof:

  1. Our senses prove that some things are in motion.
  2. Things move when potential motion becomes actual motion.
  3. Only an actual motion can convert a potential motion into an actual motion.
  4. Nothing can be at once in both actuality and potentiality in the same respect (i.e., if both actual and potential, it is actual in one respect and potential in another).
  5. Therefore nothing can move itself.
  6. Therefore each thing in motion is moved by something else.
  7. The sequence of motion cannot extend ad infinitum.
  8. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

This argument uses plenty of metaphysical terms and hence, a introductory guide is quite useful as a companion help the reader. To word it simply, we observe change, which is what motion means in a scholastic sense.  Actual motion is causal perfection or causal prowess. In the fullest sense it is the presence of a perfection that completes a particular object.  In the case of someone learning German, the German teacher would be actual as far as the breadth of knowledge on the subject goes, having learned German (I would hope).  A pupil in the German class would have merely the potential to learn the language, but as of yet, this ability has not been actualized. For something to be potential is for it to be a objective disposition or a perfection to be gained by an object. Now the reason this distinction is of necessity is best displayed by the various absurd positions held before this distinction. For example Heraclitus, the greek philosopher held that all of reality was in flux without any real objective stability.  The objection immediately raised against Heraclitus was how could such a principle not break the Law of Contradiction, since under this philosophers formula something both is being and becoming in the same respect. Heraclitus’s answer was to deny the Law of Contradiction held for anything more than dialectical dealings. In order to deal with this  (although he was more directly dealing with the next philosopher), Plato bit the bullet, and yet said that we do have knowledge  based on our experiences with the Realm of Forms, that we can recognize some objective resemblance of the things we see in fleeting moments, due to us recognizing the forms in which they exemplify. This is because the forms are unchanging and immutable, antithetical to the reality of our experience.  Taking the opposite extreme was Parmenides who held that all of reality was one and distinct. The reason he held such an extreme position was under the assumption that being was the only thing that could exist. For change in reality can only emerge from one of two things, being or non being. But from nothing nothing comes. Hence, only being can produce the reality we see. This seems all well and good until we see Heraclitus’s conclusion. For he reasons that something already in being is already in being, and hence no change would have occurred. Secondly, since everything is being, the only way to distinguish two objects would either be being or non being. If it is non being, then how can the absence of being explain a difference? However, if it is being, then we run into an issue we ran into with change. For how could one distinguish based off existence, which is common to all beings? Parmenides thought you could not, and hence all of reality was one and unchanging, a sort of block.

Aristotle argues that all of these views are simply mistaken. Heraclitus, trying to argue his position, actually commits several obvious fallacies. For to present this argument to an interlocutor, one would have to consult a variety of premises, and consult them in such a way that assumes stability. For if all of reality is in flux, one could not in principle present such a conclusion. One can simply retort that his “proof” is self referentially incoherent, that there has to be a distinction between being and becoming.  Secondly, since we work in the order of knowing, and since being is prior to knowing, any conceptual principle would have to be prior to the act of judging. Now the Principle of Non Contradiction is such a principle. Therefore, it follows, that the Principle of Non Contradiction does not merely govern the conceptual realm, but also any coherent ontology. How can one assume that ones intellectual judgement are protected by the law, when not arguing for it’s applying to reality as reality? Therefore, it follows reality has some stability, even if change does occur. After this Aristotle argues against Plato’s solution to this problem. It can even be questioned whether Plato’s solution solves the problem, as he cannot consult his intellect which is again in the unstable world of Heraclitus (Plato’s matter based solution is interesting, but we will not consult it right now). Aristotle’s main argument is due to the gratuitousness of the forms, and the data of our experience. One does not need to posit a realm of forms when the forms can merely inhibit the particular substances of our existence. For the intellect, when judging something comes across the forms not in a previous life, but by abstracting the particular tendencies of a subject and it’s final cause. It removes any of the principles of limit that obviously exist in this life, and abstracts them towards the final universal concept. In spite of this, the form is not merely an abstract sort of thing, but something that actually serves almost as a nature to the particular subject. It both grounds the type of thing any particular being is, and also the unique potencies it has. It provides a sufficient explanation for why an object has the dispositions and powers another one does not, and has limited cost on any ontological economy. Now one might ask why the form is limited in reality, since the sort of things Plato talked about were perfect. Also, what happens when a particular change occurs that is not related to the form gaining a property, say when a dog biodegrades into the dirt? Aristotle posited something called Prime Matter to do the work here. For Prime Matter, which is in potency to any form (that is it is literally infinite potentiality) both limits a item in space (where it is located), and also the degree of perfection it has in reality. Secondly, in the midst of a change of substance, something has to serve as the substratum of change. For when something changes, experience dictates that it is not merely annihilated and recreated. For there is a real layer that stays. When we see something melting, there is a really similar feature about the new object formed, even if it is not completely the same. The form is absent, while a part of the being continues on.  Only a framework that can match both of these experiences is to be preferred. Hylomorphism (the thesis that all material objects are composed of Form and Prime matter) according to Aristotle is the only the only option of preference. Both of these distinct parts constituted what is called a substance, which Aristotle posited is anything with causal powers in any sense part of our experience.

Now that we formed a frame work we can move to the objections of Parmenides. Firstly, Aristotle argues change is such an obvious feature of reality that a denial of this should not be taken extraordinarily seriously. Parmenides is undergoing a change in his mind when he delights in the argument (even if only introspectively) and when he presents it to an interlocutor. How can one deny this? A theory is absurd that denies explicitly what it affirms implicitly, and Parmenides no change thesis is an obvious example of this. Secondly, how can Parmenides hold that only one thing exists?  For when one peers inside oneself, she experiences herself as a unified whole, with all of her causal powers being experienced in this way as well. As Berkley argued, when one raises her arm, she manifests causal powers that are so real and obvious that a denial of this seems all the worse off. You are however, separate from the world outside you, and this is again obvious from your introspective experiences. However, we can perhaps even represent the first argument against Parmenides full circle to show this point. If all of reality was one and undivided, how could he present such a proof without consulting distinct premises in a syllogism, while also taking objections from an interlocutor? The same argument against the first premise can be presented here, and hence his position is reduced to absurdity.

Parmenides presented a distinct proof for his position related to being we will address here. This point is especially relevant to the prospects of natural theology. For the fallacy is hidden implicitly but is able to be bitten when one truly sees the fallacy peeping out. For Parmenides is using being in a univocal fashion, when it very plausibly it is not. To be univocal a term needs to be used in the same way across beings. Typically these usages are few and far between, as they rarely even apply to the same genus. An example of this would be the words “run” in both dogs and man, which share the same basic meaning. The opposite extreme is equivocation, which is when two objects, while predicated using the same word, are predicated in a entirely different order. An example of this is when you call a doctor a quack, and also say that the duck made the noise “quack”. These are manifestly not representing the same reality, even if the word is. Now the middle ground Aristotle took was to note that being is an analogical term, which is to say it is predicated both similarly and differently of two particular subjects. An example of this would be “The Sun is smiling at me” and “Brenda smiled at me”. This, an analogy of proportion, is constituted both by a clear difference, while also bearing similarity in a very important respect. There is something really alike in the two beings. Aristotle argues from this truism that being is a term of this sort. For if it were not, we would run into the sorts of problems Parmenides spoke of. While a thinker like Scotus had the tools to speak using a bare univocal definition of being, Parmenides did not. More importantly however, it actually seems true to say that things exist in different ways while still both having some resemblance in their status. For it is obvious while a horse doesn’t exist in the same way that a quark does, there still is some obvious likeness. So Aristotle’s position receives vindication.

With this in mind, we can present the Act-Potency distinction once more. Aristotle, due to these issues just posited, divided being into two distinct categories, being in act and being in potency. As we have said earlier, being in act is the fullness of a particular perfection, possessing a particular attribute one was merely in potency to. Being in potency is related to being as act as the disposition for a particular perfection. An obvious example for this would be a subatomic particle. A sub atomic particle, by it’s ratio is located at a particular point in space, say point A. It is in potency however, to the perfection of being in point B. If say such a particle were moved, something would actualize the perfection that was once merely in potency. Now local changes are not the only possible changes one can have. For one can grow in knowledge (which is not obviously local), one can change a color when mad, one can grow bigger etc. Qualities, Quantities, local changes, and substantial changes are all incorporated to Aristotle’s Causal thesis. It is important to contrast this with the change we discussed earlier that allowed us to posit Prime Matter. This is what Aristotle called an accidental change, one not essential to the being. Accidents are not the sort of things that exist in and of themselves, but exist by resting in a substance.  Aristotle also reasons from applying the Law of Contradiction to this problem that a being cannot move itself. For a being to actualize a potential in the same time and respect, by itself and from itself, is for it to both possess and not possess a particular perfection, which is absurd. One can perhaps argue that we have an obvious counter example to this in the actions of free creatures (Aristotle even thinks rational creatures are by definition self movers and most Scholastics felt creatures did move themselves with regard to their free will). Now the solution to this apparent difficulty is found in the contents of such movements. When a creature move’s itself, it is only on the basis that one part moves in relation to another, forming a particular action or deliberation. This is not self movement in the fullest sense, and hence is not a real counter examples. There are some interesting tidbits about the contents of this discussion (for the record Suarez was probably right), but that is neither here nor now. Another counter example posited is that of inertia, since this thesis seeks to show object’s in motion tend to stay in motion unless acted upon by another. This is obviously not the only type of change discussed, but it is of a particularly great sum in our daily experience. Now there are various way’s one could argue against this,  but there are three solutions of notoriety. Firstly, one can adopt the stance that Newton’s theory implicitly assumes such a distinction as act and potency. For since rest is the absence of motion in Newtonian physics, motion is merely a state actualized, with no need for any continued actualization. While this seems plausible, this faces a number of difficulties A. (Are spatial relations not things that need to be actualized, things that cannot be done by the object in itself?) and B. (Would not such a position seem quite absurd to Aristotle’s model?). These two difficulties seem insurmountable with regards to the problem. Secondly, one could adopt a sort of impetus theory, and say that the object which creates the motion in a particular agent allows the body to tend towards it’s place because of an “imparted form”. Thomist’s like Lagrange argue this to be viable, and there is a historical case to be made that Aquinas held this view too. The obvious issue with this however is that many, if not most of the forms imparted are finite, and inertia is infinite (at least with regards to movement). However, the defender of the impetus theory could charge the inertia proponent with an absurd position, for how can the fact that this effect be continued forever be explained by a finite cause? The impetus theorist, placing metaphysics at a higher place than physics sees the Newtonian’s assumption as not remotely justifiable. Newton’s laws are based on a few generalized test, and the impetus theorist would say that her model both explains the data while preserving a legitimate metaphysical assumption, that a being cannot give more than it has, which is the case of the cause who both stops (and if need be) and starts the motion. The Impetus theorist has a plausible stopping point here. It even becomes more viable if one assumes that the impetus provides a potentially infinite amount of power, although this supposition seems quite strange and unhelpful (even if it has been argued with some zeal). The most popular solution to the problem is to posit a sustaining cause, even in the face of it’s counter intuitiveness. The reason is a sustaining cause can both carry the motion forward in a potentially infinite regard, and is empirically equivalent to the inertial  theorist’s results. For since this is under a generalized condition, perhaps when one comes into a potential stopper (like say an object in the way of a projectile), they can posit the cause simply bracing for impact (in an analogical way of course). This seems to work, but the question is why one should one posit this cause at all? It is obviously simpler to ontological economy to go without it. However, since a First Mover bears a great deal of benefits with regards to other forms of motion, this device is already in the Thomist’s ontology. More importantly, is not obviously antithetical to all of Newtonian physics either. To note a physical example in which a sustaining cause is still needed, one need not look further than multi directional uniform motion. As GH Joyce states: “Motion which is of two or of three dimensions may also be uniform. Thus we have uniform motion of two dimensions when the movement of a body round a point is such that equal areas are swept by the radius vector in equal times. No one questions that uniform motion of two dimensions demands an external agency for its realization. It seems difficult to explain why, if a regulating cause is requisite in the one case, it is not equally necessary in the other. Again: we are familiar with the phenomenon of uniform acceleration with regard to time. The motion of a falling body increases in arithmetical progression. Here, too, we postulate an external cause, without which the acceleration is declared to be inexplicable. But it may be questioned whether uniformity of velocity is really a whit more intelligible apart from the efficiency of an agent actually present than is uniformity of acceleration”. If a sustaining cause is needed in this physical example, why not hold one in other conditions? Obviously the cases are different, but it shows that such devices are not utterly repugnant to modern physics. The three options show there is serious wiggle room for the Thomist, and that there are incentives to hold the respective positions. The first position, while deemed deficient by the authpr, does preserve the Newtonian formula in it’s complete glory. The impetus theory might preserve the traditional Thomistic view, while contradicting the results of modern physics. Yet, it provides justification for doing so. It is however deemed by the writer that the sustaining cause thesis both is the least absurd and explains away the results of modern physics in a clear way. If one places being as being, the study of Metaphysics, above physical theories, one can see the incentive to accept such a formula, even facing the weight of modern physics. One is not arguing with the results per se, but merely the interpretation.

With this background in mind, we will now proceed to the argument. The first premise was already pressed in the reply to Parmenides. For almost nothing is more evident in life than the fact that change occurs at least introspectively. How can one with any seriousness deny this? It is manifest that any argument against motion is far less obvious than the thesis that motion exists, and that any argument against change relies on motion as well.  The second premise is a reformulation of the act potency paradigm. We have just proved it’s usefulness previously, and it seems to be the only thesis that accounts for the robust change among stability we observe in the world. The third through fifth premises are perhaps a bit controversial, but it relies on the Law of Contradiction applied to the world of being. For if something actual was not actualizing the potential of another, then what is truly doing the actualizing? It cannot be the thing itself, for as we have shown, this would break the law of non contradiction. Nor can it be nothing, because from nothing nothing comes. Modern Quantum physics has not shown this supposition to be in flux, for the indeterminacy of a vacuum does not denote that there is not cause. We will go into arguments from the Principle of Sufficient Reason later, but this provides excellent justification that the Principle of Causality is a necessary explanation for things that come into being or are sustained in being. Aquinas felt that the First Mover moved our wills indeterminately, and hence, he already had a mechanism in his ontology capable of moving non mechanistically. The Philosophy of Nature adopted by Aquinas and Aristotle was not merely mechanic in essence, but purpose filled, and almost any perfection could be instilled to a secondary mover as long as it is within reason. It also had to befit the nature of the instrument. Perhaps the Vacuum functions as a sort of instrument.

Premise seven is often confused as an argument against the existence of an actual infinite, which is not actually the case at all. Aquinas had no noticeable issues with the existence of an actual infinite in comparison to a writer like Craig. He did not think the universe could be demonstrated to have a beginning, and hence none of his arguments require that (although the third way pushes for that being a very reasonable situation). Aquinas did actually have experience with the series spoken about by Craig, even if most were in the form of a traversal argument. What Aquinas was arguing against were what is called essentially ordered series, like a hand moving a stick, moving a rock, which in turn moves a leaf. This is the example Aristotle gives, in which if a potency withers away, the series terminates. Each mover is working roughly simultaneously, and hence there is no room in between for a mover to cease operation.  He did not have issues with say, a continuous string of parents having kids, where when the parents died, their children still could function adequately in the future without them (The second way goes into this more). This is what is deemed an accidentally ordered series, and is the thesis someone like Craig accepts as absurd with regards to actual infinitude.  In Aquinas’s mind if a finite amount of movers could not in fact give a sufficient explanation for the motion in a series order per se (An essentially ordered one), extending it to infinity has not suddenly created one. Even if an infinite regress could occur, something would be needed to impart their causal powers and perfections, something not within the series itself. Lagrange gives his argument in the form of a broom stick. Like a broom, a series of causes merely in potency to a particular perfection are deficient with regards to fulfilling their end, as a broom is with regards to sweeping without an agent moving it. The broom is manifestly finite, and yet moving it’s handle to an infinite length will not allow it to impart motion by it’s own doing. In the same way, a series that is merely in potency to act will not be given the power of movement even if such a series is infinite. Now one might object that such a series is quite odd. For modern science has shown absolute simultaneity to be a patent fallacy. Granting this, even if not necessarily the case, the series we are discussing is not based on a temporal argument, but one about explanations. Just a painting can have a certain hierarchy within the frame it fills, so can causes such as this. This argument is not strictly temporal, with these causes operating in such a way that modern physics does not touch it. Still, one can even challenge the notion that these movers are not functioning in an event based order. Movers move in relativity to another event, and yet we would just argue the events are separate. For it is our very argument that the series just discussed is an event based series, constituting a single event, no matter how many movers are involved. Hence such a trouble evaporates. Another challenge to simultaneous causation is whether it is possible for a simultaneous series to not be instantaneous, with the event just ending immediately. This is a robust challenge, and yet one answered by the Metaphysicians Rani Anjum and  Stephen Mumford. The reason simultaneous causation is not a chimera is because the sort of series is simultaneous over an event, which takes place in time. An example of this would be a ice cube melted by the sun. The melting of an ice cube is caused simultaneously by the sun beam’s thermal powers, and yet it is not instantaneously melted, because the total cause happened in a temporal sequence. This shows such a rebuttal is wrong headed, only indirectly facing an argument like this. When the hand moves the stick, he does so not once instantaneously, but over a sequence lasting as long as the series continues. With these rebuttals out of the way, we can arrive at a being who is Pure Act, not the sort of thing that could in principle be set in motion, and oneat  the top of the causal hierarchy.

Now a couple arguments about the conclusion can be set up right away. Why should one conclude the First Mover is immutable, and cannot be set in motion by anything else? Could it not be a brute fact that a part simply had this perfection and was able to terminate the series? Well upon looking at the total series such an argument becomes deficient in several respects. For one, either the mover actualized at the top of the chain had that perfection essentially, or it had to be moved to actualize this perfection by a distinct part. If the part is not the sort of being that can be moved towards such a series, it is pure act. If, however, the part only moved to participate in such a series because it was moved in relation to another part, it becomes manifest such a mover was actualized by another and hence part of these series. This makes it clear that the First Mover is not the sort of thing composed of parts, because if it were, then such a mover would have an Act in relation to the other parts that were previously in potency, requiring the First Mover to have been moved by another which is a patent absurdity. Nor can such a being gain accident’s, for accident’s are in potency to a substance which is in act. Hence, it follows the First Mover is entirely simple and immutable. Such a being could not pass from being in potency to being in act, and is hence eternal, essentially so. The school boys retort about “Who moved the First Mover?” is protected in this argument. Now an interlocutor can object that an immutable mover is a contradiction in terms, for how can one act without changing? One can give a few examples of such an event, as this is clearly not fallacious when one digs beneath the surface. When humans move after a particular object presented as sense appetite, they do so because they were moved by the particular goods of the item. The item never need be touched, but such an item did function as an unmoved mover to the agents who acted upon their appetitive tendencies.  Another example of a unmoved mover would be a professor in a class, who could be presenting his knowledge for all eternity on a chalkboard (the in’s and outs of such an analogy are not important), allowing others to gain in knowledge while he does not in any real sense change in this respect. While not all of the First Mover’s movements will be by mere intellectual influence, there are some obvious analogies. The First Mover is eternally acting, while no change is going on within Him.

The most obvious issue that can be raised is from the definition of such a being, as an opponent can object that such a being is not necessarily God. Why does Aquinas end with the conclusion “and this all men call God”?  We will touch on this in greater detail when we discuss the attributes of the Deity, yet we will mention some points here. To begin, all Aquinas meant by this line was that among the attributes of what God is, He is also the First Mover set in motion by no other. Aquinas dedicates extensive proofs to the properties of the deity, and sort of expected his readers to follow up on those. We will in our short time mention some of the attributes we can derive. The First Mover will both contain intellect and will, because if He did not, then how could He move and concur with free intellectual agents? While the contents of this concurrence will not be discussed as of now, in a weak sense the First Mover must move along side Human agents, allowing them to realize their self induced ends.  Some of the actions humans do is immanent (ie inside the agent), while other actions are transitive (outside the agent). The only beings capable of doing (even if God’s movement here is simply a weak concurrence) both of these actions are ones endowed with intellect and will. Therefore the First Mover is intellectual and willing. Secondly, this feature is assumed by the fact such a First Mover is a self Mover (in a weak sense due to His essence being fundamentally inclined “towards” movement, with the First Mover literally being an act), setting himself in motion “towards” the series. For the only beings capable of moving themselves in towards a good are those equipped with desire and apprehension (even if the beings in our experience only do it because of a continuous actualizing of parts). Now the First self moved mover cannot be so on account of any proximate good, for all proximate good’s are prior to the appetitive desire, while the First Mover is posterior to none. If He were posterior to a good He would be moved by a particular good non essentially, which is impossible and in explicit contradiction to the First Mover’s natural immutability as we have previously shewn. Nor can He do so on account of any parts that need actualizing, for as we have displayed the First Mover is not composed of parts. Therefore the First Mover has to move on account of His own goodness. Furthermore, this goodness will have to function as His beatitude. In a being not composed of parts however, what can limit the goodness of such an agent? Also, for something that is Pure Act, with all real perfections essentially, how can one not be perfect? Therefore, it follows the First Being is perfect as well, and only acts on account of His own goodness. Everything moved is on the supposition of the glory experienced within the First Mover’s beatitude, and His wish to spread His own goodness to the world. When humans deem something good, they do so on account of it’s desirability, and anything that is infinitely desirable and perfect is also infinitely good.Therefore, the First Mover is unlimited goodness. Obviously this proof has already been shown with regards to the First Mover’s tendency, but it can be displayed as objective through the judgements of men’s experience. Furthermore,  Given that God is pure act, and that no perfection is not found in Him on account of this, it follows God is utterly omnipotent. No movement or causal disposition is repugnant to the First Mover. This same proof can be used to argue that the First Mover is all knowing. Since the First Mover is a being endowed with intellect and will, it truly is open to all intellectual data. This means facts are something the First Being is in potency to. However, the First Mover can stand in potency to no things, but must contain all perfections essentially. It then follows that there is no knowledge that is not contained in a preeminent sense within the First Act. Next, it is manifestly clear the First Mover is not composed of matter and form, hence being immaterial. Anything material is composed of matter and form, ordered in such a way akin to potency and act. The form, being the determinant bearer of perfections is in act to Prime Matter, which both limits and forms the compound (since Prime Matter is potentially anything), which is in turn in potency to form. However, the First Mover can stand in potency to nothing, nor is composed of distinct parts. It then follows that the First Mover is not material. Secondly, anything material is in potency to division, as it is of a determinant length. However, the First Mover stands in no potency to anything and is hence not material. Thirdly, whatever is material is spatial, and is limited to a certain area. However, the First Mover stands in no potency to any specific spatial relation as he could neither be moved there nor move himself there, as no bodies are capable of such self movement in the sense just described, and the First Act is also unlimited as we have previously shewn. Therefore again, the First Mover is the First Act. Lastly and most magnificently, there can also only be one First Mover, as all movers have to be distinguished from each other by some part. However, the First being is not composed of parts. Therefore, it follows the First Being is essentially One and Unique. It is to be noted that all the perfections we have just proved are not found in a divided sense, but formally constituting the essence of the First Mover.

These arguments allow us to arrive at a being who is Intellectual, willing, Goodness itself, Perfection itself, simple, omnipotent, omniscient, immaterial and so forth. It is obvious why Aquinas felt this was “what all men call God”

     Overall, I do think Aquinas’s first way still does work as a plausible argument from natural theology. Not based on the natural sciences like the arguments used by most apologists, it has unfortunately fallen out of favor. This is also largely due to the moderns  disillusionment with a medieval argument.  However, the explanatory power and the wide reach of the argument speaks for itself. 


Aristotelian and Scholastic Metaphysics

Aristotelian and Scholastic Metaphysics

In this essay, I will be discussing Aristotelian metaphysics, a sort of preliminary piece before I analyze the five ways of Thomas Aquinas, seeing as a keen understanding of metaphysics will be extremely helpful in understanding the arguments and accessing them accurately. I will also analyze whether the argument stands up to modern science and could be perceived as convincing to the modern viewer.

Act or actuality: state of casual prowess and casual perfection. Aristotle’s and Aquinas’s God would be perceived as pure actuality in a general sense.

Potentially or potency: the state of being in which said being is able to receive causal prowess. A tree in my yard exists in potentiality, but not in actuality for example, since it has the ability to have casual prowess acted upon it.

Motion is change of any sort.

Substance: What really is. Certain qualities certainly could be beyond perception.

Accidents: Qualities that can be seen.

Form: Actuality, form would be in the case of a ball, roundness and bounciness. Examples of objects with great form would be a brick of silver, since over time it will not be destroyed in 100 years, compared to say an apple, which will change to not be perceivable (more on this later). Things can be pure form, and in a general sense, Angels would indeed be this, since they not material.

Matter: potentially, waiting to be form. Matter without form however is nothing.

The Four causes:

Formal cause: What the object is in the form of, in the case of the David, it would be the David.

Material cause: What said being is made of. In the case of the David, Marble.

Efficient cause: What brings it about. In the case of the David, Michelangelo and in fact his tools.

Final cause: Put simply, the reason why. In the case of the David it could be many, but to keep it simple we can just word it as to glorify David.

How things change:

Quality: When a being is changed in a fashion that does not change its necessary identity. an example would be making a triangle outlined red.

Quantity: The perceivable size of a being. An apple growing bigger would be an example.

Corruption/generation: changing the fundamental nature of what something is. Continuing with the apple example, chewing an apple down to where is ceases to be an apple.

Location: where an object is located. An apple located on a table instead of a tree would be an example.

Two more distinctions:

Existence: Act of being.

Essence: The whatness of a thing. Also called the quiddity of a thing. The whatness of a dog would be dogness to describe it briefly. The essence is separate from the existence in all things that are not God, which we will explore in the second way, and is a matter of Divine Simplicity.

This is just a basic outline of Aristotelian metaphysics. In the coming pieces, I will try to analyze whether the Five ways are still effective arguments in natural theology, or whether they have in fact been dismantled by modern physics. Thanks for reading.