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Table of contents :
Editorial Foreword • Kenneth A. Bryson
Introduction • Robert Arp
The First Proof
1 A Motion to Reconsider: A Defense of Aquinas’ Prime Mover Argument • Heather Thornton McRae and James McRae
2 The Prime Mover Removed: A Contemporary Critique of Aquinas’ Prime Mover Argument • Richard Geenen and Roger Hunt
3 A Response to Geenen and Hunt • Heather Thornton McRae and James McRae
4 A Response to McRae and McRae • Richard Geenen and Roger Hunt
The Second Proof
5 The Relevance of Aquinas’ Uncaused Cause Argument • Gaven Kerr
6 The Irrelevance of Aquinas’ Uncaused Cause Argument • Herbert Roseman
7 A Response to Roseman • Gaven Kerr
8 A Response to Kerr • Herbert Roseman
The Third Proof
9 From Contingency to Necessary Being • Adam Barkman
10 Problems with Aquinas’ Third Way • Edward Moad
11 A Response to Moad • Adam Barkman
12 A Response to Barkman • Edward Moad
The Fourth Proof
13 A Fourth Way to Prove God’s Existence • David Beck
14 Not So Superlative: The Fourth Way as Comparatively Problematic • Benjamin W. McCraw
15 A Response to McCraw • Edward N. Martin
16 A Response to Beck • Benjamin W. McCraw
The Fifth Proof
Aquinas’ Fifth Way and the Possibility of Science • Michael Hayes
Science and Nature without God • Kevin S. Decker
A Response to Decker • Michael Hayes
A Response to Hayes • Kevin S. Decker
Works Cited
About the Contributors
Recommend Papers

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Revisiting Aquinas’ Proofs for the Existence of God

Value Inquiry Book Series Founding Editor Robert Ginsberg Executive Editor Leonidas Donskis


Philosophy and Religion Edited by Kenneth A. Bryson

The titles published in this series are listed at

Revisiting Aquinas’ Proofs for the Existence of God Edited by

Robert Arp


Library of Congress Control Number: 2016930113

This publication has been typeset in the multilingual “Brill” typeface. With over 5,100 characters covering Latin, IPA, Greek, and Cyrillic, this typeface is especially suitable for use in the humanities. For more information, please see issn 0929-8436 isbn 978-90-04-31157-2 (paperback) isbn 978-90-04-31158-9 (e-book) Copyright 2016 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands. Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Brill Hes & De Graaf, Brill Nijhoff, Brill Rodopi and Hotei Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher. Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted by Koninklijke Brill NV provided that the appropriate fees are paid directly to The Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Suite 910, Danvers, MA 01923, USA. Fees are subject to change. This book is printed on acid-free paper.

Philosophy and Religion (PAR) Kenneth A. Bryson Editor Other Titles in PAR Alana M. Vincent. Jewish Thought, Utopia, and Revolution. 2014. VIBS 274 David C. Bellusci. Amor Dei in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. 2013. VIBS 265 Jim Kanaris, Editor. Polyphonic Thinking and the Divine. 2013. VIBS 257 William Sweet and Hendrik Hart. Responses to the Enlightenment: An Exchange on Foundations, Faith, and Community. 2012. VIBS 241 Avi Sagi. Tradition vs Traditionalism: Contemporary Perspectives in Jewish Thought. Translated from Hebrew by Batya Stein. 2008. VIBS 197 Brendan Sweetman. The Vision of Gabriel Marcel: Epistemology, Human Person, the Transcendent. 2008. VIBS 193 Constantin V. Ponomareff and Kenneth A. Bryson. The Curve of the Sacred. 2006. VIBS 178 Deane-Peter Baker and Patrick Maxwell. Editors. Explorations in Contemporary Continental Philosophy of Religion. 2003. VIBS 143 Rem B. Edwards. What Caused the Big Bang? 2001. VIBS 115 Editorial Board of PAR Rod Nicholls (webmaster) Deane-Peter Baker Alana M. Vincent G. Elijah Dann Russ Dumke Carl Kalwaitis Ruby Ramji Gregory MacLeod

Harriet E. Barber Stephen Clark Gwen Griffith-Dickson Jim Kanaris William Sweet Pawel Kawalec Esther McIntosh Ludwig Nagl





THE FIRST PROOF One: A Motion to Reconsider: A Defense of Aquinas' Prime Mover Argument HEATHER THORNTON MCRAE AND JAMES MCRAE


Two: The Prime Mover Removed: A Contemporary Critique of Aquinas' Prime Mover Argument RICHARD GEENEN AND ROGER HUNT




Four: A Response to McRae and McRae RICHARD GEENEN AND ROGER HUNT


THE SECOND PROOF Five: The Relevance of Aquinas' Uncaused Cause Argument GAVEN KERR, OP


Six: The Irrelevance of Aquinas' Uncaused Cause Argument HERBERT ROSEMAN


Seven: A Response to Roseman GAVEN KERR, OP


Eight: A Response to Kerr HERBERT ROSEMAN


THE THIRD PROOF Nine: From Contingency to Necessary Being ADAM BARKMAN



REVISITING AQUINAS’ PROOFS Ten: Problems with Aquinas' Third Way EDWARD MOAD


Eleven: A Response to Moad ADAM BARKMAN


Twelve: A Response to Barkman EDWARD MOAD


THE FOURTH PROOF Thirteen: A Fourth Way to Prove God's Existence DAVID BECK Fourteen: Not So Superlative: The Fourth Way as Comparatively Problematic BENJAMIN W. MCCRAW



Fifteen: A Response to McCraw EDWARD N. MARTIN


Sixteen: A Response to Beck BENJAMIN W. MCCRAW


THE FIFTH PROOF Seventeen: Aquinas' Fifth Way and the Possibility of Science MICHAEL HAYES


Eighteen: Science and Nature without God KEVIN S. DECKER


Nineteen: A Response to Decker MICHAEL HAYES


Twenty: A Response to Hayes KEVIN S. DECKER








EDITORIAL FOREWORD Thomas Aquinas’ (1225-1274) arguments for the existence of God continue to attract attention, especially in our day of big bang science. His arguments—also known as proofs, ways, of viae, in Latin—are based on the five causes of being and the distinct facts of experience that, when considered today, would encompass developments in science and technology. Our world came into existence approximately 13.8 billion years ago; however, the fact that it exists rather than not requires explanation. Aquinas’ use of the principle of sufficient reason and his argument against the viability of infinite regress to explain why things exist is as valid now as it was in his day. The sterility of infinite regress as an explanation for real existence arises because, in an endless series, no member of that series provides a sufficient reason why things exist. Thus the whole of Aquinas’ argument revolves around the centrality of the existence of being as a first indubitable truth. Nowadays, some form of the argument from design captures the attention of philosopher, theologian, and layperson alike. Does this argument provide the required proof of a Creator God at work given the incredible odds against the universe happening by chance? Why not suppose that the world could have begun by chance, given the possible infinite existence of things in the order of duration? The solution resides in the nature and scope of the argument itself and the world of eternal essences. Does Aquinas’ version of the argument from design—at root, a teleological argument—prove the existence of a Creator God, or does it point to the fact that the arguments are interconnected and that the success of one proof depends on the strength of the other? This then leads to the question: Can each proof stand on its own merit, obviating the need for the others? This much is clear about Aquinas’ arguments: he assigns metaphysical primacy to God’s creative act, and the distinction between the order of duration and the order of origin illustrates this primacy. While it seems possible to recognize that the world can be thought of as being eternal from the point of view of duration, do we have to invoke the argument from efficient causality and the order of origin to explain why the world exists in the first place? Aquinas’ metaphysics concerning the primacy of being lays the foundation for the epistemological claim to the objectivity of knowledge or that what we know in the first operation of knowing is the being of things, rather than our own mental contents. Does this claim add value to the strength of his design argument for the existence of God or does it beg the question, if the proof from design stands alone? If it is the case that the world and all things contained in it exists because of God's creative act, does Aquinas depend on the creative act to argue to the existence of a divine creator? Does he use the primacy of esse to prove God’s existence? Is this not begging the question, or does the Fifth Way



point to the urgent need to include the other causes of being in order to formulate a coherent and fully articulated argument for the existence of God? The suggestion that Aquinas’ argument from design begs the question, or that his arguments need to be considered in their entirety prepares the way to the realm of awkward moments as human understanding reaches beyond itself to test the possibility of seeing God at work in human affairs. I am pleased to leave this formidable task to experts in that field and to welcome Rob Arp’s book to the PAR family of scholarly volumes. Kenneth A. Bryson Editor, PAR Special Series Value Inquiry Book Series

INTRODUCTION Robert Arp We have (in the Thirteenth Century), among innumerable other works, the Summa Theologica, surely one of the most amazing and stupendous products of the human mind. It is safe to say that never before or since has the wide world been so neatly boxed and compassed, so completely and confidently understood, every detail of it fitted, with such subtle and loving precision, into a consistent and convincing whole. – Carl L. Becker, The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-century Philosophers (1932)

My initial desire to revisit Aquinas’ five proofs for the existence of God in Summa Theologica (ST) at I.2.3 (“Whether God exists?”) actually had nothing to do with the proofs themselves, but with the first and second objections that Aquinas considers before launching into the proofs. After having studied Aquinas for many years, and taught philosophy of religion courses for many more years, I was struck by the fact that atheists and hard agnostics today still appeal to these objections as the most convincing reasons why the kind of god countenanced by Aquinas does not (atheists) or probably does not (hard agnostics) exist (Evans 2013, 63; van Inwagen 2008, 63-4; Hyman 2006; Zuckerman 2006; Weisberger 2006). 1. The First Objection: The Problem of Evil The first objection is: It seems that God does not exist; because if one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. But the word “God” means that He is infinite goodness. If, therefore, God existed, there would be no evil discoverable; but there is evil in the world. Therefore, God does not exist. This objection is one form of what has come to be known as the problem of evil. In Aquinas’ objection, the so-called problem is the apparent incompatibility of the existence of a God (who is by definition infinitely good) with the existence of evil. As Aquinas notes, infinite goodness would seem to annihilate evil, its opposite, altogether. The argument is presented in a straightforward modus tollens format: Premise 1: If God existed, there would be no evil discoverable. Premise 2: There is evil in the world. Conclusion: Therefore, God does not exist.



The argument is valid, meaning that (a) if all of the premises are true, then it is impossible for the conclusion to be false, (b) the conclusion follows necessarily (absolutely, apodictically) from the premises, and (c) the premises entail the conclusion; or, the conclusion can already be found in the premises. However, Aquinas does not think that the argument is sound—namely, a good deductive argument worthy of rational affirmation—because he thinks that the first premise is false. As noted in the reply to this objection: As Augustine says (Enchiridion II): “Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.” This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good. The first premise of Aquinas’ argument, “If God existed, there would be no evil discoverable” is a conditional claim made up of the antecedent claim, “If God existed” and the consequent claim, “there would be no evil discoverable.” Given the rules of propositional logic, the only way to make a conditional claim be false is to show that the antecedent is true while the consequent is false at the same time, which is exactly what Aquinas tries to do here: he maintains that it is true that God exists, and it is false that “there would be no evil discoverable” because “part of the infinite goodness of God” is that “He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.” This response leaves one somewhat unsatisfied, however, because it is lacking in concrete examples. But later in the Summa—in his reply to the third objection of I.48.2, “Whether evil is found in things?”—Aquinas borrows ideas from Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and Augustine, noting: And the whole itself, which is the universe of creatures, is all the better and more perfect if some things in it can fail in goodness, and do sometimes fail, God not preventing this… Hence many good things would be taken away if God permitted no evil to exist; for fire would not be generated if air was not corrupted, nor would the life of a lion be preserved unless the ass were killed. Neither would avenging justice nor the patience of a sufferer be praised if there were no injustice. This “God allows evil for the sake of a greater good” kind of reasoning is utilized by C.S. Lewis with his “intolerable compliment” idea in The Problem of Pain (1940, 34) and John Hick with his soul-making account in Evil and the Love of God (1966), but has continued to be advocated more recently by thinkers such as Diogenes Allen (1980), William Hasker (1988), Richard Swinburne (1998), Marilyn McCord Adams (1999), and Eleonore Stump (2010). I have also written on the topic (Arp 2000; also see Oppy 2013).



In many places throughout the Summa and, of course, in De Malo, Aquinas distinguishes between nature-produced physical evils and humanproduced moral evils. The corruption of air and the ass being killed in the previous quotation are examples of physical evils, as are Aquinas’ examples of a lion killing a stag (ST I.19.9) and the aging, decaying, and general corruption of matter (ST I.14.11, I.22.3 ad 3). In his reply to the second objection at De Malo I.1, Aquinas uses sickness, disease leading to blindness, blindness itself, and death as examples of natural evils befalling humans. So too, at ST I.42.3: But it must be observed that evil of nature sometimes arises from a natural cause; and then it is called evil of nature, not merely from being a privation of the good of nature, but also from being an effect of nature; such are natural death and other like defects. One way to make sense of physical evils for Aquinas has to do with what I will call the free reign defense. God creates the world and essentially gives it free reign in terms of allowing the various natural processes to “do what they do” unimpeded. This is why Aquinas can maintain in the previous quotation that things “sometimes do fail, God not preventing this (emphasis added)” as well as that God “does not prevent natural acts from being natural” (ST I.83.1 ad 3). At certain times, these natural processes produce generative, harmonious, and life-giving effects; at other times, these natural processes produce destructive, disharmonious, and death-dealing effects. In the “preservation of the natural order” of the world, Aquinas maintains, God allows “some things to be naturally corrupted” (ST 1.19.9). C.S. Lewis (1940) was a believer in the God of Aquinas and would no doubt agree with the free reign defense, since he tells us that God purposely does not “thwart harmful uses of matter” but instead allows the “fixed laws, consequences unfolding by causal necessity, the whole natural order” (24-5) to exist unimpeded: With every advance in our thought the unity of the creative act, and the impossibility of tinkering with the creation as though this or that element of it could have been removed, will become more apparent… if matter has a fixed nature and obeys constant laws, not all states of matter will be equally agreeable to the wishes of a given soul, nor all equally beneficial for that particular aggregate of matter which he calls his body. (23, 26; also Reichenbach 1982, 87-120) Evils result from human choice as well: “evil also arises from a nonnatural cause; such as violent death inflicted by an assailant” (ST I.42.3). People may choose to be vicious (ST I-II.71.1), commit sin, such as adultery (ST I.83.2 ad 3; I-II.41.1; I-II.157.3; I-II.63.1 ad 4), give in to inordinate desires and temptations (ST I.48.5 ad 3; I-II.41.1; I-II.63.1 ad 4; also De Malo, I.1, VI), or intend any number of selfish actions, such as vainglory (ST I.19.7 ad 2). God



has created humans with the ability to utilize judgment to choose their own actions and destinies: “Man has free will: otherwise counsels, exhortations, commands, prohibitions, rewards, and punishments would be in vain” (ST I.83.1) and “free will is the cause of its own movement, because by his free will man moves himself to act” (ST I.83.1). Aquinas notes that what is meant by free will (liberum arbitrium) is really the “principle of the act by which man judges freely” (ST I.83.2). God allows humans the freedom to choose to do good or evil in this world, and it is the freedom of choice that is seen as good: “God therefore neither wills evil to be done, nor wills it not to be done, but wills to permit evil to be done; and this is a good” (ST 1.19.9 ad 3). Many thinkers have referred to this as a kind of free will defense in response to the problem of moral evil (Plantinga 1974, 165-8, 189-95; Reichenbach 1982, 64-86), and it is, so long as we do not anachronistically project any modern or contemporary ideas of will onto Aquinas’ thinking here (see Davies 2001, 26-30, 35-6). Whether it is anachronistic or not, C.S. Lewis (1940) offers the Christian a sensible way to make sense of the problem of evil in a world made up of human choices. God does not interfere with human action, because such a world would be one in which wrong actions were impossible, and in which, therefore, freedom of the will would be void… Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself. (24-5) There is another kind of evil that God allows, which can be said to “have a foot in” both the moral and physical realms. Humans beget moral evils and these evils beget another kind of evil, namely, the punishment that is necessary to make things right with the world and with God, ultimately, because of the moral evil in the first place. Punishment is a “species of evil” (ST I-II.87.7) that is a natural consequence of rectitude, of righting wrongs. We punish (an evil with a good purpose) those who choose to do things that bring about harm to others (moral evil) so as to level the scales of justice (a good; in fact, a necessary good). When someone harms us in some way, something has been taken away from us that is in need of being put back where it belongs, and we think that a “punishment that fits the crime” is a good thing. Thus, it is virtuous and right to kill a man “for the safeguarding of justice” in a society, for example, where the killing is an evil done to the man, but for the sake of the good of the society: “Thus that a man should live is good; and that a man should be killed is evil, absolutely considered. But if in a particular case we add that a man is a murderer or dangerous to society, to kill him is a good; that he live is an evil” (ST I.19.7; also ST I-II.1.3). In the quotation from I.48.2 mentioned above, “avenging justice” gets at the idea of this kind of necessary evil, too. In De Malo at I.1.5 Aquinas notes: “The evil of natural defect, or of punishment, God does will, by willing the good to which such evils are attached” (also see De Malo I.4.1; Davies 2001, 101, 111).



But this rectitude has a cosmic quality to it, which is why it perhaps has a foot in the physical realm as well. In particular, Aquinas argues that it is within the nature of a good, ordered, teleological universe to be a just and harmonious universe (Copleston 1955, 126; Boland 2007, 133, 140-41). When evil occurs, something is taken away from the just-ness and harmonious-ness of the universe (ST I.20.1), and so, punishment would be necessary in order to maintain an ordered and perfecting end in consideration of such a cosmos that is comprised of imperfect beings. The question then arises as to whether God is the source of evil, since God has created humans and the natural workings of the universe. To this, Aquinas responds that, although God is the ultimate, first, or primary cause of all things, he has created humans and natural entities such that they engage in actions and processes, begetting their own causal chains in a subordinate, secondary fashion (ST I.22). So, God is not the proximate source of evil; but God is the remote source of all things that beget evil: “God is not the cause of evil; but is the cause of the good whereby evil is known” (ST I.14.11 ad 2; also Davies 2001, 42-3). By analogy, the proud and honest automaker constructs an automobile that is as good as it can possibly be, but is still prone to break down, or malfunction, given the workings and interactions of the parts. Further, someone may drive the car and choose to trash it, not take care of it, or run it into a tree because s/he has been drinking. The auto maker is not directly responsible for any evils that result from the workings of the car or the actions of the driver—the car’s own fuel injection system failed, or granny pressed the gas instead of the brake just before the car went through the store window on Main Street. “The sinking of a ship,” Aquinas notes at ST I.49.2 ad 3, “is attributed to the sailor as the cause, from the fact that he does not fulfil what the safety of the ship requires; but God does not fail in doing what is necessary for the safety of all.” At ST I.83.1, in his reply to the third objection, Aquinas states: But it does not of necessity belong to liberty that what is free should be the first cause of itself, as neither for one thing to be cause of another need it be the first cause. God, therefore, is the first cause, Who moves causes both natural and voluntary. And just as by moving natural causes He does not prevent their acts being natural, so by moving voluntary causes He does not deprive their actions of being voluntary: but rather is He the cause of this very thing in them; for He operates in each thing according to its own nature. And in the second objection at ST I.49.2: “And, likewise, whatever there is of being and action in a bad action, is reduced to God as the cause; whereas whatever defect is in it is not caused by God, but by the deficient secondary cause.” The ultimate goodness and grandeur of this universe comprised of numerous complex causal relationships and interactions of things is such that



there must be human-produced moral evils (thereby respecting the human freedom of choice that produces such evils) and nature-produced physical evils (thereby respecting the natural workings of the universe that, at times, lead to destruction, deterioration, and death). There is a beauty to the universe writ large and, as counter-intuitive as it sounds, evil in the form of suffering, pain, corruption, injustice, and even atrocity contribute to that beauty. In an analogous fashion, purity can be appreciated all the more fully by contrast with that which is tainted, clarity by contrast with obscurity, luminance by contrast with darkness, justice by contrast with injustice, courage by contrast with cowardice, etc (ST I.17.4). Aquinas undoubtedly has these passages from Augustine’s De Civitate Dei XI in mind: Chapter 18: Of the Beauty of the Universe, Which Becomes, by God’s Ordinance, More Brilliant by the Opposition of Contraries… For what are called antitheses are among the most elegant of the ornaments of speech. They might be called in Latin oppositions, or, to speak more accurately, contrapositions… As, then, these oppositions of contraries lend beauty to the language, so the beauty of the course of this world is achieved by the opposition of contraries, arranged, as it were, by an eloquence not of words, but of things… Chapter 23… For as the beauty of a picture is increased by well-managed shadows, so, to the eye that has skill to discern it, the universe is beautified even by sinners, though, considered by themselves, their deformity is a sad blemish. And in the first objection at ST I.19.9 (“Whether God wills evils?”), Aquinas even quotes this from Augustine’s Enchiridion 10.11: Out of all things is built up the admirable beauty of the universe, wherein even that which is called evil, properly ordered and disposed, commends the good more evidently in that good is more pleasing and praiseworthy when contrasted with evil. Interestingly enough—again, following Augustine—Aquinas does not think evil is a physical or metaphysical thing at all, but rather is “simply a privation of something which a subject is entitled by its origin to possess and which it ought to have… it is a negation in a substance. Therefore, evil is not an essence in things” (Summa Contra Gentiles [SCG] 3.7.2; also De Malo I.1.3, ST I.49.2-3). The example of evil as a privation that Aquinas uses in several works is blindness: a person should be born with sight, and this is a straightforwardly good thing for a person, so the lack of sight is an evil for that person (see De Principiis Naturae II.10-11; ST I.5.5; ST I-II.18.1; Davies 2001, 20-1). At ST I.33.4 we are told:



In another sense, privation is so called when something has not what naturally belongs to some members of its genus; as for instance when a mole is called blind. In a third sense privation means the absence of what something ought to have; in which sense, privation imports an imperfection. Central to goodness (and evil) for both Augustine and Aquinas is the notion of being: anything that has being is good, an idea that can be traced back through the Neoplatonists to Plato (Wippel 1984, 216; O’Rourke 2003). “Goodness and being are really the same,” Aquinas notes at ST I.5.1 (also see the whole of ST I.6). As the very ground of being, God is perfectly and infinitely good; although, things God has created exist in (and are good to) varying degrees. Since all things were made with goodness from God who is Goodness Itself, evil must be the privation of goodness: “evil deprives a thing of some being” (ST I.5.5 ad 3), Aquinas tells us, while Augustine notes that “all which is corrupted is deprived of good” (Confessions, XII). The deprivation or the diminution of the property of goodness, then, is what is called evil to varying degrees. Good has substantial being, while evil does not. Evil is like a metaphysical “nothing thing” (ST 1.48.3) that results when goodness is removed. To say that something is evil is another way of saying it either lacks goodness, or is a lower order of goodness than what should have been or should be. In Brian Davies’ (2001) words, evil “signifies any kind of failure or shortcoming, anything we might think of as less than good” (14; also Davies 2006a). Augustine tells us, “Evil has no positive nature; but the loss of good has received the name ‘evil’ (De Civitate Dei XI.9),” and “Things that exist are good” (Confessions VII.12), while Aquinas affirms what Augustine claims in Confessions, III, 7, “evil is the privation of good” (ST I.14.10). Another significant theological point that helps to make sense of evil is the basic idea that there can be only one perfect Being in existence, and that is God. Thus, anything other than God that exists is going to be deficient in some way, by definition (MacDonald 1991; Honnefelder 2012). God “lacks nothing” and is “subsistent being itself” (ST I.4.3); He is Pure Act and “the more actuality something has, the greater its perfection” (Quaestiones Disputatae de Spiritualibus Creaturis 1, ad. 25). “Every privation is an imperfection,” Aquinas notes at ST I.11.3, “which cannot apply to God.” Yes, every “created thing has diverse levels or grades of perfection (Quaestiones Disputatae de Spiritualibus Creaturis 1, ad.15)” by virtue of having been created by God, the Perfect Being. But the fact of the matter is that nature is “imperfect” (ST I.62.7), so there will have to be metaphysical “holes” or “lacks” in the universe. To define evil in this way probably strikes the contemporary ear as strange since we normally think of evil as a metaphysically “positive” thing that is something like a state of affairs that results in physical or psychological pain, suffering, distress, destruction, corruption, and/or deterioration of some kind. Think of the physical and psychological effects of being victimized by a



psychopath or sociopath, as in the case of a serial killer, or the injustices and death resulting from the Holocaust, the Spanish Inquisition, tyrannies, and totalitarian regimes—these we consider moral evils perpetuated by human beings with minds and wills. In fact, we often equate the evil done with the evildoer, saying things such as, “Hitler was evil,” “Jack the Ripper was evil,” “John Wayne Gacy was evil,” or “The Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, is evil” (cf. ST I.5.4 ad 3). Now think of all of the humans and other beings capable of suffering who lose life and limb as a result of a disease, prenatal condition, genetic disposition, tornado, hurricane, earthquake, tsunami, or simply “being in the wrong place at the wrong time” during a natural disaster—these we consider evil that results from the world’s natural physical, chemical, and/or biological processes. No doubt a historian would consider the Black Plague an evil, even diabolical, thing, while no one on the planet would quarrel with the claim, “Cancer is an evil.” But both Augustine and Aquinas observed that evil always is attended by injury, and such injury is a deprivation of good—if there were no deprivation, there would be no injury (ST I.48.5 ad 4). Augustine and Aquinas would likely describe any kind of detrimental state of affairs as a “lack” of good or “appropriate existence.” For example, intact limbs are good things that are supposed to exist for the typical animal; taking them (through human action, morally) or missing them (naturally, through disease or being born that way) is evil in that there is now a “lacking” and the entity is “deprived” of them. Likewise, the taking or depriving of a life—in self-defense, defense of another, wartime, capitol punishment, or suicide—is evil, even if it is for the greater good or the result of some unintended action. So too, humans are supposed to be virtuous; thus, vice is evil because it is a lack or privation of virtue. And the list of evils goes on and on. Nevertheless, Aquinas’ solution to the problem of evil has not satisfied many a thinker (Dougherty 2011; Dawkins 2006, 88-9, 135; Harris 2005, 173; Draper 1989; Tooley 1981; McCloskey 1974; Kenny 1969, 3). This is so because of the fact that, for Aquinas, God is an all-good, all-powerful, allknowing being (ST I-II.10.11; SCG I.28), and one would think that such a being so defined would prevent evil, especially evil of the kind that could be considered appalling, diabolical, horrendous, and/or unnecessary. And, as intimated in the previous paragraphs, there is no dearth of evils in this world. The standard deductive argument against the existence of a God so defined that can be traced back (in the West) in some form through Lactantius (250-325 CE) and Cicero (106-43 BCE) to Epicurus (341-270 BCE) may be laid out as follows: Prem1:

If God exists, then He is all-good, all-powerful, and allknowing.

Introduction Prem2: Prem3: Prem4: Prem5: Prem6:




If God is all-good, then He desires to eliminate evil altogether. If God is all-powerful, then He has the ability to eliminate evil altogether. If God is all-knowing, then He is aware of evil and knows when it exists so as to eliminate it altogether. Yet, evil exists. If evil exists, then either God doesn’t have the desire to eliminate evil altogether, or He doesn’t have the power/ability to eliminate evil altogether, or He isn’t aware of evil so as to eliminate it altogether. Either God doesn’t have the desire to eliminate evil altogether, or He doesn’t have the power/ability to eliminate evil altogether, or He isn’t aware of evil so as to eliminate it altogether. (Given Prem5 and Prem6) Therefore, God does not exist. (Given Prem1 and Con1)

In Part X of his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779), David Hume echoes part of the above argument: “Epicurus’s old questions are yet unanswered. Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent? Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent? Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?” And numerous thinkers throughout history have considered the problem of evil as well as offered solutions and theodicies regarding a God with these superlative qualities (see McBrayer and HowardSnyder 2013; Evans 2013; Frances 2013; Dougherty 2011; van Inwagen 2008; Howard-Snyder 2008; Davies 2011, 2006a, 2001; Larrimore 2000; Adams and Adams 1990; Allen 1980; Plantinga 1974; Hick 1966; Lewis 1940). In The Cross of Christ (1986), John Stott has correctly stated that the “fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith, and has been in every generation” (303; also Kenny 1969, 3). This is perhaps why Aquinas mentions the problem of evil as the first objection to God’s existence. I am convinced that the primary reason why atheists and hard agnostics remain unconvinced that Aquinas’ God exists has to do with the fact that people think this being is supposed to act just like a good and loving father or parental figure to all of humanity—especially the innocent, weak, and downtrodden—and a parent that knowingly and willingly allows her/his child to be raped, tortured, murdered, dismembered, and eaten by some serial killer like Jeffrey Dahmer, for example, either is not really a good and loving parental figure or simply does not exist. Recall Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:26: “Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not; neither do they reap, nor gather into barns. And yet, your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they?” Or his words from John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The Magisterium of the



Catholic Church throughout its existence has also affirmed that God is a Father who loves and cares for His earthly children—Christians universally pray “Our Father” in the Lord’s Prayer. In paragraphs 218-221 under the section “God is Love” in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1994), we are told about the “sheer gratuitous love” that God has for people, which is: compared to a father’s love for his son. His love for his people is stronger than a mother’s for her children. God loves his people more than a bridegroom his beloved; his love will be victorious over even the worst infidelities and will extend to his most precious gift: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” And in paragraph 239: By calling God “Father,” the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. God’s parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood, which emphasizes God’s immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. (also see para. 526, 691, 706, 736, 808, 845, 1097, 1108, 1153, 1186, 1204, 1243, 1250, 1468, 1474, 1642, 1692, 1694, 1741, 1828, 2205, 2222, 2226, 2300, 2565, 2599, 2601, 2779-2793) Yet, Antony Flew’s words from his famous 1950 article, “Theology and Falsification” (2), resonate with many people: Someone tells us that God loves us as a father loves his children. We are reassured. But then we see a child dying of inoperable cancer of the throat. His earthly father is driven frantic in his efforts to help, but his Heavenly Father reveals no obvious sign of concern. Some 85 million of God’s children were allowed to die or be murdered during World War II, some 78 million of God’s children were allowed to be murdered during Mao Zedong’s reign (1949-1976)—not to mention the 211 million more who were allowed to die as a result of skirmishes, wars, and mass genocides all throughout Chinese history since the 2nd Century CE—some 60 million were allowed to be murdered or unjustly killed between 1917 and 1953 in the Soviet Union, and some 40 million allowed to be killed during the Mongol conquests of the 13th and 14th Centuries. And there have been millions more of God’s children allowed to die at the hands of other nefarious children of God throughout human history (Hewett 2004; Cawthorne 2006; Guiberson 2010;



Withington 2010). Holocaust survivor, Primo Levi, is famous for having summed up the sentiment of countless Jews and others regarding the Nazi death camps: “There is Auschwitz, and so there cannot be God” (Camon 1989, 44). Then there are the natural kinds of things and events to which God has allowed His children to succumb: God allowed some 7 million of His Chinese children to die in floods and landslides between 1887 and 1975, around 1 million of His Indian children to die in various cyclones in the past few hundred years, and millions and millions more in earthquakes thoughout the world in the past 1,500 years. Of course, there are plagues, throat cancers (such as the one mentioned by Flew above) and other cancers, physical defects, famines, tornadoes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters that God has allowed His children to be killed or maimed by (probably trillions and trillions) in human history (Cawthorne 2006; Guiberson 2010; Withington 2010). Again, because God is supposedly omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, as well as fatherly in nature, one would think that the list of tragedies throughout time would be much shorter—especially those tragedies that befall wholly innocent beings. What kind of a father would Jim be if he leisurely watched as his two-year-old daughter crawled onto the railroad tracks, and then stood next to the tracks with his arms folded as a train rolled over her, strewing her body parts all over the tracks and bottom of the train for some half of a mile? As noted already, thinkers have been mounting responses to the problem of evil and theodicies for more than 2,000 years in the West, but I would like to take a moment to consider a common-sense response put forward by Brian Davies (2011, 2006a)—I say “common-sense” because it has to do with the fundamental distinction between the God of Aquinas (which, in this sense is the same God of Jews and Muslims, too) and everything else in existence. The distinction is simply this: God is utterly other than, wholly distinct from, radically separate from, and in no way like anything in the universe, including earthly fathers. God is perfect, while the universe and all things in it are imperfect; God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, while beings with a mind and will in the universe are powerful, knowledgeable, and good only to a certain extent; God is the superlative of all that is right and true, while things and events in the universe are mere approximations (ST I.13.2). The upshot here is that, as Davies (2006a) notes, “God is not a moral agent subject to moral praise or censure” (88; also 2001, 50-1). We “would be wrong to think of God as… an existent among others” (91) in the universe, so we really cannot and should not think of God as a father. Comparisons to earthly fathers like Jim mentioned above are unjustified; God does not love us or care for us in the exact same way, and we must reject the slogan, “God is a person” (93). Davies tells us simply, “God is radically incomprehensible” (92), and in terms of a grasp of the essence of God, Davies is parroting what Christian theologians have been telling us since St. Paul, namely:


REVISITING AQUINAS’ PROOFS God transcends all creatures. We must therefore continually purify our language of everything in it that is limited, image-bound or imperfect, if we are not to confuse our image of God—“the inexpressible, the incomprehensible, the invisible, the ungraspable”—with our human representations. Our human words always fall short of the mystery of God. (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1994, para. 42)

Yes, we can try to comprehend the essence of God; however, any description of God is understood analogically at best. As the Catholic Catechism notes: The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard: no one is father as God is Father. (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1994, para. 239) Isaiah 55:8-9 states: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Aquinas himself tells us in the Summa at Ia.32.2: Now, our intellect cannot attain to the absolute simplicity of the divine essence, considered in itself, and therefore, our human intellect apprehends and names divine things, according to its own mode, that is in so far as they are found in sensible objects, whence its knowledge is derived. In these things we use abstract terms to signify simple forms; and to signify subsistent things we use concrete terms. Hence also we signify divine things, as above stated, by abstract names, to express their simplicity; whereas, to express their subsistence and completeness, we use concrete names. But not only must essential names be signified in the abstract and in the concrete, as when we say Deity and God; or wisdom and wise; but the same applies to the personal names, so that we may say ‘paternity’ and ‘Father.’ Thus, the general intuition we feel that God is just like a human father is incorrect, and we are inappropriately anthropomorphizing this entity when we should not be doing so. That being the case, the teeth of the objection, “How could a fatherly being allow such atrocities and horrible events to occur?” have been removed. The aforementioned position emphasizes the transcendence of God—a God who is separate, remote, and perhaps aloof like the clockmaker god of the



18th- and 19th-century deists. And while thinking of God in this way may lessen the bite associated with the problem of evil, there is still the longstanding tradition in Christianity of thinking that God is an immanent being as well. After all, the Incarnation is supposed to be the momentous and pinnacle way in which God has intimately connected with humans in history. We are told that God is near us, wholly present, active in the world, in history, and in our lives: The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history. The sacred books powerfully affirm God’s absolute sovereignty over the course of events: “Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases,” and so it is with Christ, “who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens.” As the book of Proverbs states: “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established.” (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1994, para. 303) And Aquinas notes that God is love, that He loves humans and His creation (ST I.20.1; III.94.2), is “full of compassion,” and is “saddened in so far as certain things take place contrary to what He loves and approves” (SCG 91.1, 6, 17). Once the immanent God is emphasized, we are left again with the nagging question of why such a being would allow certain forms of evil to occur. Echoing what was communicated in the previous quotation, we could rationalize evil by saying, “The Lord works in mysterious ways,” or “God has a purpose and reasons for what He does and does not do in our world,” or even “It will all work out in Heaven after the Final Judgment,” but the appeasement of these responses is perhaps fleeting. In his reply to the third objection at ST I.21.4, Aquinas hints that evils help us turn to God, presumably for intellectual and emotional comfort: Justice and mercy appear in the punishment of the just in this world, since by afflictions lesser faults are cleansed in them, and they are the more raised up from earthly affections to God. As to this Gregory says (Moral. xxvi, 9): “The evils that press on us in this world force us to go to God.” 2. The Second Objection: Naturalism Aquinas’ second objection before launching into the five proofs for the existence of God at ST I.2.3 is this: Further, it is superfluous to suppose that what can be accounted for by a few principles has been produced by many. But it seems that everything we see in the world can be accounted for by other principles, supposing God did not exist. For all natural things can be reduced to one principle


REVISITING AQUINAS’ PROOFS which is nature; and all voluntary things can be reduced to one principle, which is human reason, or will. Therefore there is no need to suppose God’s existence.

On the face of it, this objection resonates with the standard conception of the universe that has emerged since the Scientific Revolution. Back in 1927, riding on the coat tails of the enormous success of the physicalistic and reductionistic scientific methodology utilized during the 19th Century and early 20th Century that produced major advances in chemistry, biology, and physics, including quantum physics, Paul Dirac (who shared the 1933 Nobel Prize in physics with Erwin Schrödinger) made this claim at an international conference: If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination. It is quite understandable why primitive people, who were so much more exposed to the overpowering forces of nature than we are today, should have personified these forces in fear and trembling. But nowadays, when we understand so many natural processes, we have no need for such solutions. I can’t for the life of me see how the postulate of an Almighty God helps us in any way. What I do see is that this assumption leads to such unproductive questions as why God allows so much misery and injustice, the exploitation of the poor by the rich and all the other horrors He might have prevented. If religion is still being taught, it is by no means because its ideas still convince us, but simply because some of us want to keep the lower classes quiet. (Heisenberg 1971, 85)

More recently, molecular geneticist Sean Carroll (2012) has noted: Most modern cosmologists are convinced that conventional scientific progress will ultimately result in a self-contained understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe, without the need to invoke God or any other supernatural involvement… Consider a hypothetical world in which science had developed to something like its current state of progress, but nobody had yet thought of God. It seems unlikely that an imaginative thinker in this world, upon proposing God as a solution to various cosmological puzzles, would be met with enthusiasm. All else being equal, science prefers its theories to be precise, predictive, and minimal—requiring the smallest possible amount of theoretical overhead. The God hypothesis is none of these. Indeed, in our actual world, God is essentially never invoked in scientific discussions. You can scour the



tables of contents in major physics journals, or titles of seminars and colloquia in physics departments and conferences, looking in vain for any mention of possible supernatural intervention into the workings of the world. (185, 197) Just like the author of Aquinas’ second objection, Dirac and Carroll are trumpeting metaphysical naturalism, which is the belief that only entities and processes (including human intent and action) that can be accounted for by the methods of science exist, and that there is no need to go outside of the universe to explain the workings of the universe. In other words, there are no such things as supernatural entities (God, gods, angels, demons, paranormal activity, etc.) and the workings of the universe are, in principle, explainable through wholly natural processes. It is easy to see, then, how naturalism, physicalism (the belief that only physical, material things—to include energy and physical laws— exist), reductionism (the belief that complex systems can be explainable in terms of their constituent parts), and, of course, the scientific endeavor usually make for common bedfellows (Rudder Baker 2013; Kim 2003; Moser and Yandell 2000). By contrast with the first objection—which is dealt with in his first response to it near the end of ST I.2.3—Aquinas uses the proofs themselves as the primary response to this second objection, especially the First, Second, and Third Proofs. There is no need to belabor the relevant points of the proofs here, since the contributors in this book will deal with them in their chapters, but a few things may be mentioned that will help to give context to Aquinas’ arguments. John Chrysostom (349-407), Augustine (354-430), Proclus (412-485), Boethius (480-524), Simplicius of Cilicia (ca. 490-560), Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (ca. 6th Century), Ibn Sina (Avicenna, 980-1037), Peter Lombard (1096-1164), Ibn Rushd (Averroes, 1126-1198)—referred to as The Commentator by Aquinas because many of Aristotle’s thoughts were communicated through his works—and Albert the Great (1200-1280) were influential for Aquinas’ thinking (there were many others). And, as many scholars note, Aquinas was a Neoplatonist of sorts, like Augustine following “Plato, but within the limits prescribed by Catholic belief” (Quaestiones Disputatae de Spiritualibus Creaturis 10, ad. 8; also Fabro 1939; Little 1954; Henle 1957; Weisheipl 1974; Gilson [1942] 2002; 1963, 169; Clarke 1994, chs. 4, 5; Stump 2003, 7; O’Rourke 2003; Hankey 2012; Pini 2012). Consider how thoroughgoingly Neoplatonic Aquinas sounds in his discussion of whether all things are good by virtue of God’s Divine Goodness at ST I.6.4. There, after noting that Plato’s “opinion appears to be unreasonable in affirming separate ideas of natural things as subsisting of themselves,” he goes on to maintian: …still, it is absolutely true that there is first something which is essentially being and essentially good, which we call God, as appears from what is


REVISITING AQUINAS’ PROOFS shown above (I.2.3), and Aristotle agrees with this. Hence from the first being, essentially such, and good, everything can be called good and a being, inasmuch as it participates in it by way of a certain assimilation which is far removed and defective; as appears from the above (I.4.3). Everything is therefore called good from the divine goodness, as from the first exemplary effective and final principle of all goodness. Nevertheless, everything is called good by reason of the similitude of the divine goodness belonging to it, which is formally its own goodness, whereby it is denominated good. And so of all things there is one goodness, and yet many goodnesses.

However, it is perhaps not an overstatement to claim that the philosophy of Aristotle (384-322 BCE), whom Aquinas referred to as The Philosopher, had the biggest effect upon his conception of reality, even if it was a “NeoPlatonised Aristotle,” to use the words of Wayne Hankey (2012, 56; also see Lowe 2003; Wippel 2000, Introduction; 1984, 33; Owens, 1993). This being the case, Aquinas accepted: Aristotle’s doctrine of the four causes (material, efficient, formal, and final; Physics 2.3, Metaphysics 5.2); the act-potency distinction (Physics 3.2; Metaphysics 9.1-6); the idea that motion and causation are the actualization of potency (Physics 3.2, 201a27-29, 201b33-35, 202a5-6); the idea that everything brought to a state of potentiality must be brought there by something already in the state of actuality (Physics 8.5, 257a10-12; Metaphysics 9.1, 1046a11-13); and the need for a complete explanation for things in reality that move and are moved, as well as cause and are caused, by an appeal to the Prime Mover, or Pure Act, which itself must be Unmoved and Uncaused, and which is in a certain sense nothing like anything in the universe (Physics 1.9, 8.4-6, 10; Metaphysics 12.1-6, 8; also see Plato’s Laws, 893-6; Davies 2006b, xiii). Of course, Aquinas’ acceptance of Aristotle (as well as Plato and any relevant thinker) was always within the context of his Catholic faith, and always with the intention of making sense of, as well as justifying rationally, that faith (Gilson, [1942] 2002; Elders 1990, viii, note 3; O’Rourke 2003; White 2006, 27; Hankey 2012). Aristotle thought that a complete explanation for the motion and cause in the universe had to appeal to something wholly distinct from the universe, a “first principle or primary being that is not movable either in itself or accidentally, but produces the primary eternal and movement” of the universe (Metaphysics 12.8). Aquinas considers Aristotle’s Prime Mover or Pure Actuality to be what is meant by the term “God” from a rational perspective that begins with sense experience. An ultimate explanation for the various entities and processes of our experience leads us to the recognition that there is some being that is source of the universe—as Unmoved Mover (First Proof), Uncaused Cause (Second Proof), and Necessary Being (Third Proof)—but which cannot be subject to the same laws, processes, motions, causes, and other natural processes of the universe; otherwise, it would be yet another thing in



the universe that is in need of an explanation. God offers the universe a “ground”ing, a “source”ing (also SCG I.13), standing “outside the whole order of creation” (ST I.13.7). This approach has come to be known as one version of the cosmological argument for the existence of God (see Russell 1945; Edwards 1959; Owens 1962; Brown 1976; Craig 1980; Kretzmann 1997; Dewan 2006; Koperski 2015). Thus, Aquinas’ reply to the second objection is this: Since nature works for a determinate end under the direction of a higher agent, whatever is done by nature must needs be traced back to God, as to its first cause. So also whatever is done voluntarily must also be traced back to some higher cause other than human reason or will, since these can change or fail; for all things that are changeable and capable of defect must be traced back to an immovable and self-necessary first principle, as was shown in the body of the Article. So for Aquinas, as for Aristotle, the workings of nature and the human will cannot be all that there is to reality. It is important to mention that the kind of causal “source”ing relationship existing between God and the cosmos that both Aristotle and Aquinas are talking about has nothing to do with a causal series in time—Aristotle believed the universe was infinite (Physics 3.6, 206a25-27), and Aquinas never ruled it out as a logical possibility of reason (ST 1.46.2; Scriptum Super Libros Sententiarium I.1.5; Wippel 1984, 202-3). God is the actual Cause now operating, to account for the present being of things. It is not as if the dominoes are set up, and waiting for the “Hand of God” to knock them over so as to start the whole complicated, intricate, complex production. And, not only is God the sustaining cause of the universe right here and right now, but He is also the sustaining cause at any moment at which the exists, even if the universe exists for all of eternity. So, it really makes no difference whether the universe has a beginning or not; it still is in need of God as a kind of metaphysically or ontologically (not temporally) causal Buttress, Stanchion, or Prop (Feser 2009, 62-3, 72, 89; Wippel 1984, 202; 2002, 262; Adler 1980, Ch. 5). Analogy and metaphor—wholly appropriate here, given the nature of God and Aquinas’ view that God cannot be known directly in His essence—may help us understand what it means that God is required as an ultimate explanation for, and source of, the universe. In fact, in his response at ST I.1.10 Aquinas makes it clear that God and other “spiritual truths” should at times be “expounded by means of figures taken from corporeal things, in order that thereby even the simple who are unable by themselves to grasp intellectual things may be able to understand it.” He goes on to note in all three of the replies that metaphor is absolutely essential for an understanding of the Christian God and Christian faith. This being said, back in 1934 a philosophy professor at St. John’s Seminary in the village of Wonersh (located in the Waverley district of Surrey,



England) named R. P. Phillips produced a two-volume work titled Modern Thomistic Philosophy: An Explanation for Students. In the second volume, he puts forward a clever and thought-provoking analogy that attempts to get at the necessity of God for the universe: imagine a standard freight train made up of about 100 cars (in England back then, it was commonplace to refer to the cars as trucks). The cars/trucks could never move by themselves; they always need something else, something separate or different from a car/truck to get them moving, namely, an engine. When we come upon a moving train at a railroad crossing, we automatically infer that there must be some kind of an engine either pushing or pulling the cars/trucks, and we would never think that the cars/trucks move themselves. In fact, if there were no engine (or some other force strong enough to move the cars/trucks), there would be no movement of the train. The cars/trucks are supposed to represent the universe, while the engine represents God. Now, Phillips anticipates a fundamental objection to this line of thinking and considers the possibility that the train could be made up of merely cars/trucks without an engine, but that these cars/trucks have been moving for all of eternity (also see Russell 1945, 453, 463; Edwards 1959; Owens 1962; Brown 1976; Craig 1980; Kretzmann 1997; Dewan 2006, 61-80). Hence, the cars/trucks would be, as it were, their own source of movement, and there would be no need for an engine. So, imagine coming upon a railroad crossing to see a train of cars/trucks already in motion and imagine at the same time that this train has always been moving. The question, “What ultimately causes these cars/trucks to move?” becomes wholly insignificant and superfluous. Analogously, the universe could be its own source of events and things as an infinite and eternal self-contained entity, supporting, causing, moving, “source”ing, and explaining itself with no need of the so-called God hypothesis. To this, Phillips (1934) responds: In a goods train, each truck is moved and moves by the action of the one immediately in front of it. If then we suppose the train to be infinite, i.e., that there is no end to it, and so no engine which starts the motion, it is plain that no truck will move. To lengthen it out to infinity will not give it what no member of it possesses of itself, viz., the power of drawing the truck behind it. If then we see any truck in motion we know there must be an end to the series of trucks, which gives causality to the whole. If no water enters the system of water pipes in a house from the main, there can be no water at the taps. To suppose that we could get causality in some cause which essentially depends for its causality on another by having an infinite series of such causes is like hoping to get water at the tap by prolonging the pipes for ever, but never connecting them up with the main. (vol. 2, 278)



So, Phillips thinks that the actual infinite set itself, taken as a whole, is in need of causality (also see Anscombe and Geach 1961, 112; Owens 1962; Kenny 1969, 24-34; Brown 1976; Craig 1980; Kretzmann 1997; Dewan 2006, 61-80). It may be possible to amend Phillips’ train analogy a bit to make it even more palatable to someone unconvinced by his response. Imagine that the cars/trucks of the train have been moving forever in an infinite direction on a sloped track that also exists in an infinite direction. The sloped track is the source or ground of the movement of the train in its entirety, much like God is the source or ground of the workings of the universe. If Aquinas was alive today, and we presented this analogous scenario to him, he might accept it. Aquinas makes it clear that the biblical doctrine of creation ex nihilo at a point in time is a truth that may be grasped through faith, not reason—reason cannot prove that the world had a beginning in time (ST I.46.2; also Gilson [1942] 2002, 150-1). For all someone utilizing reason knows and can demonstrate, God keeps the universe in existence right here and right now as well as at any moment in which the universe exists, whether the universe had a beginning or not (Feser 2009, 84). The world may be “created from eternity” by God: not merely dependent on God for its existence, but eternally dependent on God. 3. Demonstrating God’s Existence We cannot fully appreciate Aquinas’ arguments for the existence of God at ST Ia.2.3 (or at SCG 1.13) without understanding what Aquinas communicates in the two articles just before the third article containing the proofs. In the first article, “Whether the existence of God is self-evident?” Aquinas notes that the proposition “God exists,” of itself is self-evident, for the predicate is the same as the subject, because God is His own existence as will be hereafter shown. Now because we do not know the essence of God, the proposition is not self-evident to us; but needs to be demonstrated by things that are more known to us, though less known in their nature—namely, by effects. In the second article, “Whether it can be demonstrated that God exists?” he elaborates on what is meant by demonstrating God’s existence “by effects” through utilizing concepts found in Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics I.13, where The Philosopher distinguishes between knowledge of the fact and knowledge of the reasoned fact (also see Aquinas’ Commentary on the Posterior Analytics, II.6). For many medieval thinkers, knowledge of the fact kinds of demonstration were known as quia (in Latin, “because”) demonstrations, while knowledge of the reasoned fact kinds of demonstrations were known as propter quid (in Latin, “on account of the whatness”) demonstrations. Further, propter quid demonstrations were viewed as a priori and proceeded from a knowledge of the whatness (quiddity) of the cause to an understanding of the characteristics



of that cause, to include any effects that result from the cause, while quia demonstrations were viewed as a posteriori and proceeded from a knowledge of an effect (or several effects) to knowledge that the effect(s) have a cause (Davies 2014, 32-4; Feser 2009; McInerny 2004; Stump 2003; Gilson [1942] 2002, 111, 113; Wippel 1984, Ch. IX; Maritain 1964). The motivation for Aristotle and Aquinas here is the fact that sometimes we have some knowledge of a thing (quia), while at others we have a more complete knowledge of a thing such that we can explain it (propter quid). So, for example, if we come upon a pie that has been cut into six parts in the breakroom at work during lunch, we know that one of the pieces of the pie is not as big as the pie itself because we know a priori and in a propter quid fashion that “the whole is greater than the parts.” However, we only know in an a posteriori quia fashion that someone had to have baked the pie, as well as cut it into pieces, but we do not know who exactly because we did not witness these events, which would be necessary for a full explanation—and hence, full knowledge—of how the pie got into the break room and cut into pieces in the first place. A complete explanation of the pie includes its ingredients (material cause), its particular shape and structure as a pie (formal cause), the reason for its having been baked in the first place as a desert to be eaten and enjoyed (final cause), as well as how it got to be baked, partitioned, and placed into the break room (efficient cause). With the distinction between quia and propter quid demonstrations in mind—and kindly obliging my pie analogy—Aquinas thinks that we can demonstrate through reason that the pie was produced and partitioned by a piemaker as a result of an investigation of the pie, but that we cannot demonstrate through reason the fundamental nature or whatness (the quiddity) of the piemaker: Demonstration can be made in two ways: One is through the cause, and is called “a priori,” and this is to argue from what is prior absolutely. The other is through the effect, and is called a demonstration “a posteriori”; this is to argue from what is prior relatively only to us. When an effect is better known to us than its cause, from the effect we proceed to the knowledge of the cause. And from every effect the existence of its proper cause can be demonstrated, so long as its effects are better known to us; because since every effect depends upon its cause, if the effect exists, the cause must pre-exist. Hence the existence of God, in so far as it is not selfevident to us, can be demonstrated from those of His effects, which are known to us. (ST Ia.2.2) And it is these effects experienced in the universe—five, to be exact—that become the starting points for the a posteriori, quia, not-self-evident-to-us demonstrations or proofs for the existence of God as the ultimate Cause of these



effects (White 2006; Wippel 2006; Cohoe 2013; Kerr 2015; for an analysis of the proofs laid out in predicate logic, see Bochenski 1989). That Aquinas advocates an a posteriori method for proving the existence of God and rejects an a priori approach is made crystal clear in the reply to the second objection in ST 1a.2.1, “Whether the existence of God is self-evident?” There, he has St. Anselm’s ontological argument in mind (Pegis 1966; Basler 1970; Elders 1990, 63-7) when he maintains: Yet, granted that everyone understands that by this word “God” is signified something than which nothing greater can be thought, nevertheless, it does not therefore follow that he understands that what the word signifies exists actually, but only that it exists mentally. Nor can it be argued that it actually exists, unless it be admitted that there actually exists something than which nothing greater can be thought; and this precisely is not admitted by those who hold that God does not exist. Once we have knowledge that God exists through experience of the universe and reason showing that a sufficient explanation for the universe itself requires such a being, we can then continue to utilize reason to show what other qualities would be possessed by God, to include immateriality, immutability, eternality, simplicity, perfection, and, of particular importance, the fact that God is ipsum esse per se subsistens (Subsistent Being Itself)—all of which Aquinas demonstrates from ST 1a.3 to 1a.13, just after the five proofs. For example, from the fact that matter always has the potential to take on any number of formal qualities it follows that God cannot be material, because in the First Proof at ST Ia.2.3 it is demonstrated that God is Pure Actuality, wholly without potentiality (ST Ia.3.2; also Aristotle’s Physics 8.10). We can also utilize the faith of scripture and the Catholic Church to better understand the essence of God—although, our minds will never fully grasp God’s nature in this lifetime, and must utilize analogy, metaphor, and the via negativa, viz., saying what God is not (ST 1a.1.7; ST 1a.1.8; ST 1a.1.9; ST 1a.12.3; ST 1a.13). All throughout his writings, Aquinas holds to Aristotle’s model of a syllogism as the appropriate way to demonstrate the existence or essence of something (Amerini 2013). For Aristotle, a demonstration should be articulated in a syllogism because the syllogism is a powerful and foundational way to show why something is the case—namely, what causes brought something about—and once we show why something is the case, we have an explanation and, hence, knowledge (Prior Analytics I.2, 24b18-20; Posterior Analytics I.2). So, for example, if we want to know why Socrates is mortal, we can say: Prem1: Prem2: Con:

All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.



And the middle term of the syllogism, man-ness, entails mortality, so that is why Socrates is mortal. The mortality entailed in man-ness explains Socrates’ mortality. If we asked Aquinas why God should be understood as ipsum esse per se subsistens, or what explains that God’s essence is to exist, or how he knows God’s essence is to exist, he would undoubtedly utilize a syllogistic demonstration to prove this with the meaning of Uncaused Cause as the middle term, and it would look something like this: Prem1: Prem2: Con:

The Uncaused Cause is something that exists of its own nature. God is the Uncaused Cause. Therefore, God is something that exists of its own nature.

The non-syllogistic fuller explanation of why God is ipsum esse per se subsistens is found in ST 1a.3.4, “Whether essence and existence are the same in God?” Therefore, if the existence of a thing differs from its essence, this existence must be caused either by some exterior agent or by its essential principles. Now it is impossible for a thing’s existence to be caused by its essential constituent principles, for nothing can be the sufficient cause of its own existence, if its existence is caused. Therefore that thing, whose existence differs from its essence, must have its existence caused by another. But this cannot be true of God; because we call God the first efficient cause. Therefore it is impossible that in God His existence should differ from His essence. In the fourth and fifth chapters of his seminal work, De Ente et Essentia, Aquinas also puts forward arguments affirming God as a First Cause, and because of this, “There is a thing, God, whose essence is his existence itself” (also Owens 1986; Kerr 2015). In the Prooemium (Introduction) to the Summa, Aquinas tells us that he wrote the tome “not only to teach the proficient,” but “also to instruct beginners” and that his “proposed intention in this work is to convey those things that pertain to the Christian religion, in a way that is fitting to the instruction of beginners” (I.1). Aquinas does not think that his five demonstrations in ST Ia.2.3 prove the Christian God per se—there is no mention of the Trinity, Incarnation, Salvation, or other fundamental tenets associated with the trinune God of Christianity. The Christian has the science of theology and revelation as sources that attempt to describe the nature of God; although, we can never know the essence of God fully (ST Ia.1.7, 9). Aquinas does think, however, that he has shown that there must be some real thing—albeit a transcendent thing—to explain the basic workings of the universe, and notes



that a Christian will recognize part of what he means by God in the five proofs. Thus, immediately before discussing the proofs, he quotes from Exodus 3:14 where the God of the Israelites, who is the same God of Christianty, claims, “I Am Who Am.” Aquinas includes the proofs in the Summa not because his primary readership is doubtful about the existence of God, but because he thinks reason can demonstrate God’s existence based on the universe requiring an answer to the ulitimate “why” for its very existence. Dominican Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange (1933) wisely puts it: The five classical proofs for God’s existence rest, one and all, on the one principle of causality, expressed in ever deepening formulas, as follows. First: whatever begins has a cause. Second: every contingent thing, even if it should be ab aeterno (from time immemorial), depends on a cause, which exists of itself. Third: that which has a share in existence depends ultimately on a cause which is existence itself, a cause whose very nature is to exist, which alone can say: I am who am. (273) 4. Aquinas’ God Today At the outset of this introduction, I noted that my desire to revisit Aquinas’ five proofs at ST Ia.2.3 had to do primarily with the first and second objections, and I used these as starting points to present some of Aquinas’ ideas and give some theoretical background and context to the five proofs. I thought this approach to be more desirable than paraphrasing the ideas and arguments of the contributors to this volume—the contributors do a fine enough job of doing this anyway! It is wholly appropriate to revisit Aquinas’ proofs for the existence of God today because he “hit the nail on the head”—so to speak—by presenting two objections that really are timeless. The problem of evil and naturalistic explanations are the primary reasons to think believing in the God of Aquinas— and of any religion, really—today is ridiculous. With respect to the problem of evil today, consider Richard Dawkins’ (2006) claims about suffering and God in The God Delusion. Apparently, Dawkins participated in a television panel with fellow Oxford colleagues Richard Swinburne and Peter Atkins where Swinburne “attempted to justify the Holocaust on the grounds that it gave the Jews a wonderful opportunity to be courageous and noble” (89). Dawkins also quotes from an article where Swinburne maintains: Although a good God regrets our suffering, his greatest concern is surely that each of us shall show patience, sympathy and generosity and, thereby, form a holy character. Some people badly need to be ill for their own sake, and some people badly need to be ill to provide important choices for others. Only in that way can some people be encouraged to make serious choices about the sort of person they are to be. (88-89)



Immediately after the quotation, Dawkins notes that this is a “grotesque piece of reasoning, so damningly typical of the theological mind…”—Dawkins obviously thinks that any response to the problem of evil is absurd (135). Thus, he would no doubt think that this blog response from William Lane Craig posted on December 30, 2013 is equally absurd: God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting the natural evils that occur, so that He cannot be held to have acted wrongly in permitting such disasters to happen. The non-theist errs in thinking that “what ought not to be” ought not to be permitted. But God can be justified in permitting bad states of affairs. For example, I think it is very plausible that only in a world which is suffused with natural evil would great numbers of people freely come to know God and find eternal life. In a world utterly devoid of natural evil we should likely be spoiled and pampered children, oblivious to God, not mature moral agents—an emphasis that meshes nicely with your own soul-making theodicy. Therefore, it is not wrong of God to permit natural disasters, any more than it is wrong of me to allow my child to go to the dentist. Demonstrating the fact that the question is still very much alive and well today, Michael Hickson (2013) puts forward: “How can belief in such a God (supremely benevolent, knowing, and powerful) be justified given the vast extent and often horrendous nature of the suffering and moral depravity of human beings” (3)? And in his 2013 paper titled “The Experience of Evil and Support for Atheism,” Jerome Gellman (2013) quotes something profound from 19th-century noted pessimist and philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer ([1850] 1970)—words that are just as true today for the standard atheist: If, finally, we were to show someone the terrible sufferings and miseries to which his life is constantly exposed, he would be seized with horror. And if we were to conduct the most confirmed optimist through the hospitals, infirmaries, and surgical operating-theatres, through the prisons, torture chambers, and slave barracks, over battle fields and places of execution; if we were to open to him all the dark dwellings in which misery cringes from the glance of cold curiosity, then he too would see what this “best of all possible worlds” is like. For where else did Dante get the material for Hell, if not from our real world?… The miseries of life can so increase, and this happens every day, that the death which hitherto has been feared above all things is eagerly seized upon. (98) With respect to naturalistic explanations, consider again Richard Dawkins’ (2006) claims about Aquinas in The God Delusion:



The five ‘proofs’ asserted by Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century don’t prove anything, and are easily—though I hesitate to say so, given his eminence—exposed as vacuous. The first three are just different ways of saying the same thing, and they can be considered together. All involve an infinite regress—the answer to a question raises a prior question, and so on ad infinitum… All three of these arguments rely upon the idea of a regress and invoke God to terminate it. They make the entirely unwarranted assumption that God himself is immune to the regress. (1001) Later in the text, after Dawkins again reiterates his status as an atheist, he trumpets one of the fundamental tenets of naturalism: “If the demise of God will leave a gap, different people will fill it in different ways. My way includes a good dose of science, the honest and systematic endeavour to find out the truth about the real world” (405). Dawkins’ views comport well with what Lynne Rudder Baker (2013) has more recently said about naturalism being “(1) a commitment to science as the discoverer of what really exists and how we come to know it and (2) a repudiation of anything that smacks of the supernatural” (3). And consider Alex Rosenberg’s (2013) claim about naturalism: Naturalism is the label for the thesis that the tools we should use in answering philosophical problems are the methods and findings of the mature sciences—from physics across to biology and increasingly neuroscience. It enables us to rule out answers to philosophical questions that are incompatible with scientific findings. It enables us to rule out epistemological pluralism—that the house of knowledge has many mansions, as well as skepticism about the reach of science. It bids us doubt that there are facts about reality that science cannot grasp. It gives us confidence to assert that by now in the development of science, absence of evidence is prima facie good grounds for evidence of absence: this goes for God, and a great deal else. (18; also see Rosenberg 2011) Yet, philosophers and other thinkers continue to be intrigued by the five ways, especially in response to naturalism. While many think that belief in the kind of God Aquinas describes is absurd, there are many other respectable thinkers who see much value in the proofs. Brian Davies and Edward Feser have been outspoken advocates of Aquinas’ proofs, and have critiqued what they perceive to be the sloppy scholarship of thinkers like Richard Dawkins (2006, 100-3), Daniel Dennett (2006, 242), Sam Harris (2005, 173), and Christopher Hitchens (2007, 278-9) who misread and/or misrepresent Aquinas’ arguments (Davies, 2014, 34-6; Feser 2008, Chapter 1; 2009, 63-4). My professors at The Catholic University of America from the early 1990s when I was pursuing the M.A. in philosophy—John F. Wippel, (1984, 2000, 2007),



William Wallace (1977), Lawrence Dewan (2006, 2007), and Robert Sokolowski (1982)—all champion Aquinas’ thought and see value in the proofs. My professors at Saint Louis University when I was pursuing the Ph.D. in philosophy—Eleonore Stump (2003) and Jack Doyle (2013)—also have a deep appreciation for the thought of the Dumb Ox. We mentioned Antony Flew’s 1950 discussion above. Some 54 years later, the man who was known by philosophers and non-philosophers as the quintessential atheist, claimed he read Aristotle’s works for the first time and was impressed by the argument for the existence of a First Cause. He also noted in an interview from October of 2007 with Dr. Benjamin Wiker that the “laws of nature, life with its teleological organization and the existence of the Universe” led him to a deist position. “I am a deist… I accept the God of Aristotle… I believe that God is… the ultimate being, the Creator of the Universe” (Wiker 2007; also Flew 2007, 1, 71, 92, 144-145, 150) Flew claims in the interview, while in his 2007 book, There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, Flew maintains that through a “pilgrimage of reason” investigating the “laws of nature, life with its teleological organization, and the existence of the universe” he has been led to “accept the existence of a self-existent, immutable, immaterial, omnipotent, and omniscient Being” (155). Flew also mentions a respect for the medieval philosophers, to include Aquinas, and their starting point in experience (135, 189). Like Aristotle and the medievalists, for Flew “it was empirical evidence, the evidence uncovered by the sciences” that started him on his pilgrimage. However, a supposed “philosophical inference drawn from the evidence” is where he found God (Wiker 2007; Flew 2007, 92, 125). ***** I have not covered anything about Aquinas’ personal life and history in this introduction—see the introductions and the works of researchers who have done a fine job of this already, such as Bernard McGinn (2014), Jean-Pierre Torrell (2005), Ralph McInerny (2004), Eleonore Stump (2003), John Wippel (2000), G.K. Chesterton (1933), Jacques Maritain (1964), and, of course, Fr. Copleston (1955). I will recount one thing about Aquinas that Dr. David Gallagher told us in an Aquinas course when I was an undergrad philosophy major at The Catholic University of America around 1990. Apparently, Aquinas had such a colossal memory and keen analytic mind that he could dictate to three scribes about three different matters at the same time, turning to scribe 1 and saying something like, “With respect to human morality, Augustine notes…” then turning to scribe 2 immediately after and saying, “Concerning whether the soul is immortal, I say that…” then turning to scribe 3 immediately after that and saying, “In response to the first objection, God’s omnipotence may be inferred from…” And he could bounce around from scribe to scribe, too. Whether it is true or not (for example, see Gui 1959, 51; O’Rourke 2003,



279), I believed it at the time and it blew my mind, especially after having read just a little of the Summa and knowing about the body of Aquinas’ works. What an incredible thinker! As you move on to read the chapters of this volume themselves, I leave you with these words from C. F. J. Martin in his 1997 book, Thomas Aquinas: God and Explanations: If we want to know about the existence of God, or about the nature of science, we should read Aquinas, not merely the writers of this century… The great benefit to be derived from reading pre-modern authors is to come to realise that after all we might have been mistaken. (203) Kansas City, September 2015

The First Proof One A MOTION TO RECONSIDER: A DEFENSE OF AQUINAS’ PRIME MOVER ARGUMENT Heather Thornton McRae and James McRae My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God. — Albert Einstein

St. Thomas begins his five proofs for the existence of God with the argument from motion, which shows that the only rational explanation for motion in our universe is the existence of a Prime Mover who set the universe in motion but is itself unmoved, which St. Thomas recognizes as God. This chapter argues that the Prime Mover argument for the existence of God successfully demonstrates the existence of a non-spatio-temporal cause for our universe. We first summarize the argument that Aquinas offers in the Summa and defend its plausibility within the context of Aristotelian-based 13th-century natural philosophy and theology. Then, we offer a new interpretation that is compatible with the Big Bang cosmology of 21st-century physics. Aquinas’ Prime Mover argument remains inductively strong, suggesting that the existence of a transcendent Creator is at least as probable as alternative explanations for the origins of the universe. 1. The Argument in the Context of Medieval Thought Proofs for the existence of God are some of the most enduring and well-known examples of medieval intellectual history. In many ways, this makes sense because such proofs are the epitome of medieval thought: they were produced most often by monks, friars, and other religious figures, and dealt with the most central aspect of the theology of Christianity or any monotheistic religion, the existence of the single God. However, these proofs have taken on lives of their own. Consider, for instance, Anselm’s Proslogion, which famously defines God as “that than which nothing greater can be conceived” (Anselm 1979, 2446). This so-called ontological argument is said to be the first of its kind and it was built upon by the likes of Descartes and critiqued by scholars such as Kant.



Such centrality makes medieval work relevant to modern arguments, but simultaneously its very popularity and widespread nature serve to obscure the tradition and context from which it came. Anselm lived in a world that might have questioned which religion and god(s) should be followed and worshiped, but not the existence of at least a god of some sort. Instead, such proofs of God were a form of intellectual or religious meditative exercise, an exercise emphasizing the journey, that contemplation of God that was the central goal of medieval Christian life. Medieval intellectuals already knew the answer and were confident in it, just not in the ability of man to correctly use logic and reason to prove what was already known through revealed scripture. However, St. Thomas Aquinas lived in a different intellectual milieu than Anselm, although Anselm played such a key role in furthering debate and philosophical enquiry that he is sometimes called the father of scholasticism. While Thomas was born in 1225 CE, just more than a century after Anselm’s death in 1109, St. Thomas lived a world that had just experienced what is often called the 12th Century Renaissance, a time of acquisition and reacquisition of Arabic and Greek scientific, philosophical, and theological works (see Haskins 1927). St. Thomas also represents the new mendicant orders. He was a Dominican, an order that had only been founded a decade before his birth, but that, together with the Franciscans, would shape Christian spirituality, first in newly urban Europe and then on other continents in later centuries through missionaries. Even if these were not important enough aspects of the context of his work to merit exploration, St. Thomas was also both a product of and an influence on the rise of the University system in Europe, specifically the University of Paris, the premier institution for the study of theology. Therefore, Aquinas’ first of five proofs for the existence of God deserves to be analyzed from within the context of its own time when evaluating its worth. The proof itself is found within the Summa at I.2.3: The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is moved is moved by another, for nothing can be moved except it is in potentiality to that which it is moved; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is an act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved by another. If that by which it is moved be itself moved, then this also must needs be moved by another, and that by

A Motion to Reconsider


another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and consequently, no other mover, seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are moved by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it moved by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, moved by no other; and this everyone understands to be God. (Aquinas 1945) This is an argument based upon the idea of motion, or motus, but it is necessary to acknowledge that motus does not merely mean motion, but also change. The argument itself proceeds as follows: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Our senses tell us that there is some motion in the world. All things moving must be moved by something else. Motion is the change from potentiality to actuality. It is not possible to be potential and actual in the same respect (e.g., hot). Therefore, the mover cannot also be the moved. There cannot be an infinite regression of movers. Therefore, there must be a first, unmoved mover.

As noted above, proofs of God have a long history, but which of these proofs might have influenced St. Thomas or have been available to him? First is the classical inheritance, enriched by the translation movement of the preceding century. Most important within this tradition is Aristotle’s Physics, in which he establishes his argument for a Prime Mover, or “an eternal unmoved mover” (Aristotle 1984). While there are clear differences between Aristotle and St. Thomas’ versions, the Summa indubitably benefits from St. Thomas’ knowledge of Aristotle, although causality was of interest in the Middle Ages long before St. Thomas. This knowledge underlies premises 2 through 5 above. Aristotle’s Physics was translated into Latin in the 12th Century but many of his views had already been communicated through intermediaries such as Boethius. Part of what was understood by Thomas Aquinas was the Aristotelian division of all being by potency and act, with the transition between the two defined as motion. More specifically, in his Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics, he defines motion as “the act of a thing existing in potency in so far as it is in potency” (Aquinas 1963). However, there were many aspects of Aristotelian physics that had been rejected. For instance, as early as the 6th Century CE, John Philoponus rejected the notion that continued motion required the continuing application of force. In short, while there is not space to thoroughly explore Aristotelian ideas of motion and causality here, for Aristotle and Aquinas motion is change from potentiality to actuality. Premise 6 of St. Thomas’ argument indicates that an infinite regression of movers is impossible. During the Middle Ages, this point was made via a purely rational argument because there was not yet any empirical evidence to suggest that the universe had a definite beginning. Though Genesis clearly



describes the creation of the universe, it was not until the 20th Century that evidence of the Big Bang was discovered (which will be discussed in detail in the next section). The impossibility of an infinite regress is based on the idea that infinite time cannot actually exist. Infinity is a concept in mathematics that we use as an intellectual placeholder for the biggest number that is logically possible. However, if we try to apply the concept of infinite time to reality, it results in a number of logical contradictions. For example, the medieval philosopher Al-Ghazali uses the following example from astronomy. Let us say that for every one time that Saturn orbits the sun, Jupiter completes 2.5 orbits. If the planets had been orbiting the sun for a billion years, Saturn would have completed one billion orbits, while Jupiter would have gone around the sun 2.5 billion times. However, if they have been orbiting the sun for infinity years, they each would have completed the same number of orbits, which is impossible. The absurdity is further heightened if we ask whether the number of orbits is even or odd; with an infinite past, it can be neither, yet an actual number of rotations must be one or the other. As a result, it is logically impossible for time to exist as an actual infinite, which means that there must have been a Prime Mover that initially set the universe in motion (Craig 2006, 571-2). St. Thomas would have also had access to a large portion of the various Islamic cosmological arguments, both of the adherents of falsafa and the mutakallimūm (the Kalam argument). Ibn Sina’s (Avicenna) Al-Isharat walTanbihat (Remarks and Admonitions), containing his Physics and Metaphysics, makes an argument for That Which Is Necessary in Itself, or a “First” that creates immediately. He notes that, “Immediate creation is a thing’s giving existence to another that depends on nothing other than it—without the mediation of matter, instrument, or time” (Ibn Sina 2014, Fifth Class, Ch. 9). At first glance, Ibn Sina’s argument from necessity and contingency, using the idea of causes, seems as much ontological as it is cosmological, and further from St. Thomas than does Aristotle. However, Ibn Sina develops an argument, allowing the “First” to transcend time and space and therefore better suit the created universe demanded by both Islam and Christianity. Thus, he took a large step towards making the Aristotelian argument palatable in the Middle Ages, a step that Thomas Aquinas would build upon. The other Islamic practitioner of falsafa undoubtedly familiar to St. Thomas is Ibn Rushd (Averroes). Ibn Rushd, known as the Commentator because the reintroduction of Aristotle came largely through translations of his work, was widely read. His argument for God contains many of the aspects of Aquinas’ argument, including the impossibility of infinite regress and Ibn Sina’s discussion of causality. However, in terms proving God’s existence, Ibn Rushd was not terribly influential upon St. Thomas or the Middle Ages because of his insistence of adhering to the Greek notion of a temporally infinite universe and his direct opposition to Ibn Sina (Craig 1980, 105-11).

A Motion to Reconsider


The competing argument within Islamic thought, the Kalam argument, belongs to the mutakallimūm, of which al-Ghazali is the best known proponent. The Kalam argument, at its simplest, states that all existing things have beginnings and causes of that existence; the universe had a beginning of existence; and that the universe must therefore have a cause, namely God. While this is seemingly close to the other cosmological arguments, its tradition relies upon more scripturally based, revealed religious authority. This argument would have been best known by St. Thomas through the intermediary of St. Bonaventure in his commentary of Peter Lombard’s Sentences, although Bonaventure tended to think more highly of Plato and less so of Aristotle because of the latter’s insistence on the self-sufficiency of nature. While St. Thomas believed firmly in the authority of revealed scripture, he acknowledged its ineffectiveness for someone who did not share any aspect of the faith, writing: Hence Sacred Scripture, since it has no science about itself, disputes argumentatively with one who denies its principles only if the opponent admits some at least of the truths obtained through divine revelation. ... If our opponent believes nothing of divine revelation, there is no longer any means of proving the articles of faith by argument, but only of answering his objections—if he has any— against the faith. Since faith rests upon infallible truth, and since the contrary of a truth can never be demonstrated, it is clear that the proofs brought against faith are not demonstrations, but arguments that can be answered. (Aquinas 1945, ST I.I.8) In many ways this is the epitome of what St. Thomas did with his proof: provided answers to arguments using inherent reason and logic, as well as providing scriptural support. The format of his Summa is key here. He begins each article with a question, followed by the major objections (arguments that can be answered), then an “On the contrary” that contains a supporting Biblical verse, and finally his answer and specific replies to the objections. In the case of the proofs for God St. Thomas cites the supporting verse Exodus 3:14: “I am Who am.” This is a perfect example of a faith-based answer, but one that is followed by five proofs made without falling back on religious authority. This format springs from an evolving medieval intellectual culture of disputation, making it decidedly a product of its time and a completely reasonable argument during the 13th Century. Disputation is often considered one of the hallmarks of scholasticism, and it was institutionalized in the 13th Century from procedures developed in the 12th Century. Recent scholarship on disputation has emphasized the performative nature of medieval disputation, especially the open disputatio de quolibet, which allowed a free exchange of ideas in a proscribed format of questions, statements, and counter statements.



The Summa gets its literary form and structure from this university disputation (Novikoff 2013, 165-7). This new format fit nicely with the rise of the mendicant orders. The Dominicans in particular were charged with defending the faith through intellectual means, allowing them to dominate the University of Paris during the 12th Century. In the Vitae Fratrorum, the collection of miracles regarding the order at the command of Humbert de Romans in 1256, a vision is reported in which Christ defines the mission of the order while in conversation with his mother: I know, sweet Mother, that sinners are being lost for want of preachers, having none to break to them the bread of the holy Scriptures, or teach the truth, or open the books now sealed to them. Wherefore, yielding to thy entreaties, I will send them new messengers, an Order of Preachers, who shall call the people and lead them to everlasting joys; only then shall we bar the gate to all slothful, accursed, and emptyhanded souls. (De Frachet 1955, 34) St. Thomas was a part of this new order in its formative years, and was likely more passionate about it than modern philosophers are comfortable admitting. For instance, he only joined the Dominicans in 1244 once his father had died, and it was still strongly enough against his family’s wishes that his elder siblings kept him captive for most of the year before papal entreaties freed him to go to Paris and train in theology. This passion for his order, for God, may be uncomfortable for some modern scholars, but it makes him undoubtedly the product of his own world, only strengthening the argument that his proof was plausible in his own time. Additionally, Aquinas’ life work was to reconcile the Greek tradition with the Christian one, and his proofs for God successfully engage both. It is interesting to consider, given the above, where the Summa fits into St. Thomas’ body of work. Written at the end of his life, and never finished, the Summa was begun during his years at the papal court, probably in 1265, between his unprecedented two tenures as master of theology at Paris. It was begun after his Summa de Veritate Fidei Catholicae Contra Gentiles, which was perhaps written for Dominican missionaries in Spain. The Summa, on the other hand, was meant to be a well-organized introductory work for students of theology, something that St. Thomas did not feel existed at that point. The format from oral disputations would have made it accessible to medieval students and quite useful. Thus, St. Thomas’ First Froof for the existence of God was very much a product of its own time and place, albeit one distinguished by its excellence. However, its real test of plausibility within its own context is its immediate legacy. Many point to the Condemnation of 1277, less than a decade after St. Thomas’ death, in which Etienne Tempier, Bishop of Paris, condemned 219

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propositions, of which at least sixteen refer to arguments traceable to St. Thomas. Yet, these condemned positions are not related to his proofs for God and soon after the condemnations were revoked, followed by his canonization by Pope John XXII in 1323. While it is true that his position as the premier theologian of the Middle Ages was not formalized until the CounterReformation necessitated it, the immediate popularity of his Summa is testified by the Codices Manuscripti Operum Thomae de Aquino from 1967. This threevolume work lists only the manuscripts of St. Thomas’ work, including many very early, beautifully illuminated copies of the Summa, such as MS Cod. Bodmer 161 from 1280 (Aquinas 1967). In short, St. Thomas was in many ways exceptional, but still very much of his world. His First Proof for the existence of God is the product of a long Mediterranean tradition of cosmological arguments from Aristotle through the Islamic world. Its disputation format marks it as the product of both scholasticism and the new university intellectual culture. Perhaps most importantly, it blends a respect for the authority of revealed scripture with the newly absorbed Aristotelian philosophy. These connections render an argument that was plausible within its context and has continued to influence philosophers and theologians for centuries. 2. The Prime Mover Argument in the Context of Contemporary Physics A. Motion in Contemporary Physics St. Thomas bases his argument from motion on an Aristotelian conception of physics that has since been supplanted by superior theories in contemporary physics. At the time, Aristotle’s system was the best understanding of physics that existed, so it is natural St. Thomas would base his argument from motion upon Aristotelian natural philosophy. Given the principle of charity, before we can judge the value of this argument, we must update this medieval understanding of motion to something that is in line with contemporary cosmology. In other words, we should ask: If St. Thomas were alive today and privy to modern physics, what argument would he most likely make? The term “motion” can refer to two things: a change of location as a function of time (the common language use of the term) or a change of state (which is more in line with the Aristotelian understanding of actualizing potential). Both definitions can be understood in the context of contemporary physics. Fundamental laws of physics are based on change of location. For example, velocity is equal to the change of position divided by the change of time—and acceleration is derived from velocity, force is derived from acceleration, etc (Shankar 2014, 15-36). This is particularly significant for cosmology because of the law of inertia. To rephrase St. Thomas’ first premise in Newtonian terms, objects in motion stay in motion and objects at rest stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. Without some initial event to impart



motion to all objects in the universe, there can be no motion. As we will see in the next section, this is vitally important when we consider the Big Bang, the event that imparted motion to everything in the universe. However, the type of motion in which St. Thomas is most interested is a change of state in which something actualizes its potential. Newtonian physics describes the relationship between potential and kinetic energy: when a rubber band is stretched, it develops potential energy (stored energy) that is converted to kinetic energy (energy of motion) when the band is released (Shankar 2014, 70-81). Nuclear physics contains many examples of matter changing state according to specific laws: nuclear fusion and fission, the oxidation (burning) of wood, uranium decay, etc. None of these changes are self-caused because each depends upon a prior series of events. For example, a chunk of uranium is radioactive, which means its nucleus spontaneously emits alpha particles, causing it to decay into other elements over time (thorium, radium, radon, polonium, and lead). Thus, the laws of physics give the uranium the potential to be lead, and the process of radioactive decay actualizes that potential. The uranium itself was created in the heart of a dying star via supernova nucleosynthesis, and the star exists because of the Big Bang, which is the source of all motion. All changes of state are dependent upon certain prerequisites: the laws of physics (which define how change takes place), the space-time continuum (where and when the change takes place), and matter/energy (what is changing). As the next section illustrates, space-time, matter, and energy—and possibly even the laws of physics—came into existence with the Big Bang, the very first change of state that initiated all motion in the universe as we know it. Because motion can be explained in terms of contemporary physics, it is possible to update St. Thomas’ argument from motion to make it compatible with current cosmology. The next section offers an explanation of the Standard Big Bang Model of cosmology, which posits that there was a definite beginning to the universe. B. The Standard Big Bang Model of Cosmology From the time of Sir Isaac Newton to the early 20th Century, scientists believed that the universe was timeless and unchanging. When Einstein attempted to apply his general theory of relativity (GTR) to cosmology, he found that he had to introduce a “cosmological constant” to keep the universe static. The static universe hypothesis was refuted in the 1920s by Alexander Friedman and Georges Lemaitre, who independently posited solutions to Einstein’s field equations that indicated the universe was expanding. Edwin Hubble, who used the red shift of distant galaxies to deduce that the universe had originated from a single point, empirically verified the Friedman-Lemaitre model in 1929. The Friedman-Lemaitre model indicates not that the universe has been expanding into empty space, but rather that space itself has been expanding. If we reverse

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this expansion, we eventually come to a point, the singularity, at which spacetime curvature is infinite. Matter, energy, and space-time were infinitely compacted into a single point that began to rapidly expand in a “Big Bang” that brought the known universe into existence (Stumpe 2015; Liddle 2015, sec. 14, 15; Aczel 2014, 100-1; Cowen 2014; Singh 2004; Craig 1999, 724-6; Worthing 1996, 28; Sharov and Novikov 1993; Hubble 1929). The Big Bang created matter, energy, and the space-time continuum, so not only was there nothing prior to it, there was no time before it when anything could have existed (Stumpe 2015; Liddle 2015, 34; Cartlidge 2010; Spitzer 2010, 19). The supersymmetry theory postulates that the four forces of nature—gravity, electromagnetism, and strong and weak nuclear forces—were probably unified as a single superforce immediately after the Big Bang (Aczel 2014, 102; Dine 2007). Because matter, energy, space, and time were so tightly compacted in the singularity, the laws of physics completely break down prior to Planck time (from 10-43 to 5.4 x 10-44 seconds after the Big Bang), which means scientists do not know for certain what took place (Liddle 2015, 91; Worthing 1996, 86-8). This has led some scientists to speculate that the laws of physics did not exist prior to the Big Bang and were generated with the singularity. Despite this lack of certainty about what preceded Planck time, there is a general consensus among cosmologists that a “time zero” actually existed: it is highly probable that the universe did have a definite beginning point (Hawking and Mlodinow 2005, 68-85; Sharov and Novikov 1993; Singh 2004; Cowen 2014; Worthing 1996, 86-97). The Standard Model has staggering implications for philosophy of religion. St. Thomas faced some difficulty in his cosmological arguments proving that an infinite past was logically impossible (Worthing 1996, 47). With the Standard Model, there is scientific proof that the universe has a definite beginning. If everything in motion must be set in motion by something else, and if none of the prerequisites for motion (matter, energy, space-time, and the laws of physics) existed prior to the Big Bang, we can consider the singularity to be the ultimate source for all motion in the universe. At the moment, there is no significant evidence to call the Standard Big Bang Model into question, despite recent attempts (cf. Magueijo 2001; Poplawski 2010; Gibney 2014). Revisions to this theory are highly speculative and not based on empirical evidence. This does not mean that such evidence will not be discovered in the future, but at present, it is reasonable to view the Standard Model as the definitive theory (Spitzer 2010, 22; Silk 1999). However, there are several theoretical models of cosmology that offer explanations of the origin of the universe in which the singularity is not the definite beginning point. The next section discusses the benefits and limitations of these theories.


HEATHER THORNTON MCRAE AND JAMES MCRAE C. Alternatives to the Standard Model

There are five major alternatives to the Standard Model: the Steady State Universe, Oscillating Models, Multiverse Hypotheses, Vacuum Fluctuation Models, and the No Boundary Condition. This section briefly summarizes each of these theories and addresses some of the reasons cosmologists have not accepted them as viable alternatives to the Standard Model (see Roos 2014, Ch. 5). 1. Steady State Universe Sir Fred Hoyle argued that the universe is expanding, but as existing galaxies recede, new matter is created ex nihilo at the center of the universe, thus maintaining a “steady state” of continual creation in which there is no beginning. This theory is problematic because it is not supported by empirical evidence; in fact, discoveries such as microwave background radiation and the existence of radio galaxies at progressively greater distances have indicated that the universe has a definite evolutionary history (Baker 2014; Craig 1999, 7267). Thus, it is impossible for the universe to have always existed in a steady state. As a result, this model has been rejected by contemporary cosmology. 2. Oscillating Models The Oscillating Model theorizes that gravity will eventually cause the universe to collapse in a “Big Crunch” in which all matter first coalesces to form a new singularity and then bounces outward in a new “Big Bang.” Though our universe appears to have begun with the Big Bang, we are in one of an infinite number of oscillating cycles, which means the universe has no definite creation point. However, this theory has several problems. Empirical observations indicate that there is not enough mass in the universe to cause such a collapse (Craig 1999, 727-9; Jastrow 1977, 37-8). This is exacerbated by the discovery of dark energy. A few billion years ago, the universe began to expand at an accelerated rate, which implies the existence of some form of energy that cannot be detected by direct observation. The existence of this “dark energy” has yet to be empirically verified, but it is mathematically necessary to account for the expansion of the universe (Spitzer 2010, 17; Weinberg 2008, 48-9). If dark energy does exist, it means that the force of gravity will never be able to overcome this expansive force, so the universe can never collapse to form a new singularity. A much more significant problem for the oscillating model is the fact that it violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that the flow of energy is unidirectional. Systems will experience a one-way shift from order to disorder, which is measured by entropy (Shankar 2014, 411-36). For example, a cup of hot coffee will gradually cool, warming the colder air around it. It is never the case that heat will move from the colder air into the warmer coffee. In a closed system, entropy always remains stable or increases; a system will never become more orderly over time. If the universe had existed forever, it would be a type of “perpetual motion machine” that defied the Second Law,

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which requires it to eventually “run down” or “wear out” (Spitzer 2010, 24-6; Worthing 1996, 79; Penrose 1988, 1989, 2004). If the universe had an infinite past, we would have already reached a state of maximum entropy, a type of “thermal death” in which matter was maximally diffused, and yet we clearly live in a universe in which there is still a great deal of order. Roger Penrose (1989, p. 329) argues that the Second Law, when taken in conjunction with the Standard Model, indicates that there is a “time zero” at which the universe had minimal entropy and maximal order (i.e., the singularity). It would be impossible to go back further than this moment, which indicates that there was a definite point in time at which the universe came into existence (Penrose 1988, 2004; Worthing 1996, 81-2; Craig 1999, 727-9). Another problem for the Oscillating Model is known as the Radiation Paradox. Penzias and Wilson discovered that about 99% of the electromagnetic radiation in our universe is Cosmic Background Radiation (CBR) left over from the Big Bang; the remaining 1% is light emitted from stars. If the universe were to collapse, starlight would be reabsorbed into the blackbody spectrum, making it part of the CBR. When the next Big Bang occurred, all of the cosmic radiation from the previous cycle would be re-released as CBR, including the new starlight absorbed in the previous cycle. Since our current CBR is only about one hundred times greater than the amount of starlight we can detect, this means that there could not have been more than one hundred previous cycles of a bouncing universe. If the universe kept bouncing, each cycle would produce a universe with more CBR and less starlight, until it was eventually unable to produce stars. Thus, it is impossible for the universe to exist forever; it must have a definite beginning and eventual end (Spitzer 2010, 28-9; Penrose 1988, 1989, 2004). 3. The Multiverse Hypothesis The Multiverse Hypothesis, also known as the Many-Worlds Hypothesis, is the idea that the universe we inhabit is one of a great number of other universes, collectively known as the “multiverse.” Just as three-dimensional space is composed of many two-dimensional planes stacked on top of one another, the multiverse might be composed of many three-dimensional universes stacked together. By “three-dimensional,” we are referring only to the spatial dimensions. Time would apply to all universes, regardless of the number of spatial dimensions present. The multiverse helps to explain a phenomenon in quantum physics called “superposition.” At the quantum level, every event has the potential to either happen or not happen. When the event occurs (or does not occur), it collapses the quantum wave function and becomes an actual state of affairs rather than a potential state of affairs. According to the multiverse hypothesis, when the wave function is collapsed, two new universes are created: one in which the event took place and one in which it did not. If our universe is just one of a nearly infinite number of parallel universes, then the creation of



our universe is no longer a special event that demands a Prime Mover (Aczel 2014, 138-41; Kaku 1994, 2005; Barrow and Tipler 1986). The Multiverse Hypothesis fails to convince, however. Not all physicists support this hypothesis; many consider it an ad hoc theory created to explain some of the stranger phenomena that occur at the quantum level (Worthing, 1996, p. 52). There is currently no empirical evidence to indicate that other universes actually exist. The multiverse hypothesis is purely mathematical. Even string theory, which is the most sophisticated attempt to incorporate additional spatial dimensions, is highly controversial and has yet to provide any verifiable predictions (Ellis and Silk 2014; Aczel 2014, 139-43). Ultimately, the multiverse theory violates Occam’s Razor, the idea that the best theory is the one that is the simplest. The multiverse hypothesis requires the existence of a nearly infinite number of other worlds just to explain the measurement of quantum phenomena, which means it lacks the simplicity and elegance required for a strong theory (Aczel 2014, 146; Worthing 1996, 51). 4. Vacuum Fluctuation Models Edward Tryon postulated in 1973 that the universe might be a particle born out of a primordial vacuum that exists in a steady state. While this vacuum is not itself expanding, it constantly experiences sub-atomic energy fluctuations that generate mini-universes that do expand. Our universe is one of many expanding universes generated by the quantum vacuum. Since the vacuum itself is in a steady state, it does not have a definite beginning, which means that while our universe might have begun with the Big Bang, the quantum vacuum lacks an instant of creation (Tryon 1973; Craig 1999, 729). Alternate versions of this theory have been postulated by Alexander Vilenkin (2006) and the team of John Barrow and Frank Tipler (1986), but all share the common thread of creatio ex nihilo: the universe was spontaneously generated from nothingness and thus does not need a supernatural creator. The first problem with this theory is that it predicts that given enough time, universes will eventually appear at every point in the primordial vacuum. As they expand, they will eventually collide with one another. If the universe is really infinitely old, this collision should have already taken place, yet we have no empirical evidence to suggest that such a phenomenon is happening. The only solution to this problem is to suggest that the primordial vacuum also expands, which would imply that it had a beginning, and thus this model would, like the Standard Model, have a moment of creation (Craig 1999, 729). A second problem with these theories is that the “nothingness” of the primordial vacuum is not actually nothing. The quantum vacuum is “a sea of continually forming and dissolving particles which borrow energy from the vacuum for their brief existence,” which is far from absolute nothingness (Craig 1993, 625). Vacuum fluctuation models rely upon the existence of something— quantum laws, quantum fields, energy, wave fluctuations, etc.—which raises the question, from where did these things come (Aczel 2014, 132)? These

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models effectively pass the philosophical buck by shifting the question of the origin of our universe to a new question about the origin of the primordial vacuum. Finally, there is no well-defined boundary between the quantum world, in which things behave according to strange laws, and the macro world of everyday experience, which acts according to a different set of rules. Tryon concludes that our universe is literally a virtual particle generated by the quantum vacuum, which is problematic because the macroscopic universe we experience does not behave according to the laws of quantum physics. If vacuum fluctuation models are correct, universes should be constantly generating from the primordial vacuum and colliding with our own, which (thankfully) does not seem to have happened (Craig 1993, 631-33). The French philosopher and quantum theorist Bernard d’Espagnat describes quantum theory as a “veiled reality theory.” There is an epistemic veil between us (as macroscopic beings) and whatever is going on at the microscopic level of quantum reality. This is why quantum theory is so bizarre and seemingly contradictory: we are making educated guesses about what is happening behind the veil. John Bell distinguishes between things that are “beable” and those that are “potential”: the former are capable of being or actually existing, while the latter are “mathematical conveniences” that make a theory work but do not actually exist. For example, an electromagnetic field is beable (it actually exists), while electromagnetic potential is a concept that facilitates calculations in physics (Norsen 2011; Aczel 2014, 122-24). Quantum theory contains many strange concepts that are not beables, but are nonetheless useful potentials that give us a limited picture of what is behind the quantum veil (Aczel 2014, 1204). Andre Linde’s Chaotic Inflationary Model solves some of the problems of the Vacuum Fluctuation Model by postulating that inflation is an ongoing process in which universes, once they have expanded to a sufficient size, generate new universes that branch off of them. Each universe is like a bubble that expands to eventually generate smaller bubbles on its surface, each of which expands and generates its own new bubbles. Since the bubbles never interact, they avoid collision. Linde claims that this process is both endless and beginingless: there is no initial singularity because our universe branched off of a previously existing universe (Linde 1984). However, in 1994, Alexander Vilenkin and Arvind Borde proved that this process of inflation cannot be infinitely extended into the past (Vilenkin 2006; Borde and Vilenkin 1994). As we “rewind” the expansion, there are fewer and fewer bubbles, which means that at some point, there must have been one initial bubble that generated the others, which itself must have had a singularity (Craig 1999, 729-30). 5. The No Boundary Condition James Hartle and Stephen Hawking (1983) offer a unique solution to the problem of what happened prior to Planck time. By using imaginary numbers



for the time value in Einstein’s gravity equations, they are able to convert time into something that behaves like a fourth dimension of space, which effectively eliminates the existence of time prior to Planck time. In the Standard Big Bang Model, the expansion of the universe looks like a cone: there is a definite beginning point for both time and space (the apex of the cone), which then expands outward both temporally (the height of the cone) and spatially (the radius of the cone). By converting time into another region of space prior to Planck time, Hartle and Hawking effectively round off the end of the cone so that there is no definite beginning point to the universe. If the universe had no beginning point, the question of what created the universe becomes meaningless (Worthing 1996, 52-3, 101-2; Hawking 2001, 82-5; Hartle and Hawking 2000). There are several significant problems for this theory, however. The main controversy amongst physicists revolves around Hartle and Hawking’s use of imaginary numbers as if they were real. It is common in quantum mechanics for physicists to use imaginary numbers for time, but by the end of the calculation, they convert the imaginary numbers back to real numbers so that their equations apply to the real world. Hartle and Hawking do not convert imaginary time back into real time in their equations; if they did, the singularity would reappear. Hawking (1994) has even admitted that his theory is not meant to be taken realistically, stating, “I take the positivist viewpoint that a physical theory is just a mathematical model and that it is meaningless to ask whether it corresponds to reality” (44; also Craig 1999, 730-3). This is problematic because if a theory is to have any explanatory power, it must correspond to reality. Second, even if time can be rounded off so that it does not have a definite beginning point, we still need to explain where the universe came from, or why there is something rather than nothing. Even if the end of a cone is round, the cone still has an end (Spitzer 2010, 33). Hartle and Hawking (1983) have provided an explanation of how the universe works, but not why it exists in the first place. If the No Boundary Condition were true, the universe might not need a Prime Mover, but it would still need a Sufficient Reason (Worthing 1996, 54-5). The third problem with this theory is the implications it has for causality. If time is imaginary and functions like the surface of a sphere, effects can be temporally antecedent to their causes (they would actually take place both before and after their causes). The arrow of time that defines causality (and, as noted above, thermodynamics) would seem to disappear, yet everyday experience of our universe indicates that time and causality flow in only one direction (Worthing 1996, 59; Craig 1993, 635). As William Lane Craig points out, spatial dimensions are characterized by “betweenness” while time is distinguished by “earlier/later than.” While we can move forward and backward in space, we cannot move backward in time; the past and future are inaccessible to us. This has led Hawking to suggest that so-called “real time” is an illusion,

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a conclusion that seems to make causality impossible and his own theory implausible (Craig 1993, 635-7). Because these five theories—the Steady State Universe, Oscillating Models, Multiverse Hypotheses, Vacuum Fluctuation Models, and the No Boundary Condition—are problematic and not widely accepted by scientists, and because the Standard Model is best supported by emprical evidence, we can accept the Standard Big Bang Model as the most plausible theory for the origin of our universe. 3. Revised Argument from Motion We can now revise St. Thomas’ argument from motion so that it conforms to contemporary cosmology. The form of the argument below parallels St. Thomas’ original argument, differing only in terms of the scientific evidence upon which it is based. 1.




It is empirically evident that things in the universe are in motion. All galaxies are moving away from a common point of origin. All motion— whether change of location or change of state—is dependent upon the prerequisites of matter, energy, space-time, and the laws of physics. Motion must be initiated by an outside force. If an object in motion is put in motion by another object, that second object must have also been put in motion by a third object, and so on. The initial cause of all motion is the Big Bang, which is the source of all matter, energy, space-time, and possibly even the laws of physics. The causes of motion cannot go on infinitely because there was a definite beginning to the universe. The Standard Big Bang Model, which is almost universally accepted by scientists, indicates that there was a moment when the universe came into existence, before which there was absolutely nothing. Therefore, there must be a Prime Mover that puts all things in motion, but is not itself moved by anything. There is not a satisfactory scientific theory that can explain the origin of the singularity. Only something that is immaterial could have created the singularity ex nihilo. Thus, some entity that is not part of the universe must have generated the singularity, the initial event that created all motion in the universe. 4. The Strength of the Prime Mover Argument

So just how convincing is this “proof” for the existence of God? As the first section demonstrates, St. Thomas did not intend for his proofs to convince atheists that God exists. For one thing, his society did not tolerate atheists, so there were few around who needed convincing (and they were typically persuaded by an appeal to argumentum ad baculum). St. Thomas simply wanted



to show that it is reasonable to be a Christian, and that articles of faith are compatible with what philosophy, including natural philosophy, tells us about the world. In the 21st Century, it is equally unlikely that any proof for the existence of God will cause an atheist to be instantly converted to any sort of theism. However, these arguments can show that a belief in God is rational and worthy of hope (Crocker 2011). So the question is not “will this argument convert an atheist?” but rather, “is this argument at least as plausible as the alternative explanations for the origins of our universe?” The reason St. Thomas offers five arguments for the existence of God is that when taken together, these arguments make a much stronger case for the plausibility of God’s existence. As Richard Swinburne has argued, the inductive probability of God’s existence increases with each proof (Swinburne 1979). Is the Prime Mover argument more convincing than atheistic interpretations of the origin of the universe? As indicated above, the Standard Big Bang Model is almost universally accepted by scientists and alternatives to this model are fraught with problems. Thus, we can say with a great deal of plausibility that the universe came into existence at a specific point in time out of nothing. The revised version of St. Thomas’ argument states that a nonspatio-temporal entity, the Prime Mover, generated the singularity, which brought into existence space-time, matter, and energy (and possibly the laws of physics). This argument is at least as strong a theory as the scientific alternatives explored above. It is at least as simple: the alternative scientific explanations require the existence of multiverses, inflationary universes, or the quantum vacuum, while St. Thomas’ argument demands the existence of the Prime Mover. It is at least as coherent, since the Prime Mover argument does not contradict itself or any known laws of physics, while the alternative theories are at odds with observable data. Finally, the Prime Mover argument has greater explanatory power because it actually explains the origin of the universe without an appeal to an infinite regress. Thus, the conclusion, “The Prime Mover generated the singularity,” is at least as plausible as the alternatives offered by speculative physics. We must be cautious, however, not to overstate the conclusion of the argument. It simply demonstrates the existence of a Prime Mover, not the existence of the Judeo-Christian God per se. Following St. Anselm, God is traditionally understood as a maximally perfect being: omniscient (allknowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), omnipresent (transcending space and time), and omnibenevolent (morally perfect). The Prime Mover argument does not prove that God exists with all of these attributes. Because the Prime Mover has to be transcendent to be the creator of space-time, matter, and energy, it is certain that it is omnipresent: if it were not, it would be susceptible to the infinite regress problem (Craig 1999, 733-4). To generate a universe out of nothing, the Prime Mover must be incredibly intelligent, but not necessarily all-knowing (e.g., it might not know my every thought or what will happen in the future). The Prime Mover must also be unimaginably powerful, but not necessarily all-

A Motion to Reconsider


powerful in the sense that it can do anything that is logically possible. However, this argument says nothing about the Prime Mover’s ethics. Our current universe is perfectly compatible with an amoral or even immoral creator. Thus, while a Christian might recognize the Prime Mover as compatible with the Christian understanding of God, this argument alone does not prove the existence of God, only the existence of the Prime Mover. To get these other attributes, we must rely upon ontological and axiological arguments. This is where the modern interpretation of the proof is most different from its original context: for St. Thomas this proof was necessarily limited by the imperfection of human reason. The ethical implications were assured by the authority of revealed scripture. The Prime Mover argument is not an appeal to the God-of-the-gaps fallacy often criticized by atheist scholars. This fallacy essentially says that whenever there is a gap in human understanding, it is reasonable to conclude, “God did it!” When applied to cosmology, this fallacy would take the following form: “Science can’t tell us where the universe came from, so God must have made it.” Obviously, this would mean that God’s relevance might dwindle as the scope of scientific understanding increases. However, there is a significant difference between the superstitious appeal to ignorance that is the God-of-thegaps fallacy and the sophisticated rational argumentation used by the cosmological argument, which states that some Prime Mover is the only rational explanation for the origin of the universe ex nihilo. The Prime Mover argument offered here is based not upon gaps in scientific knowledge, but upon the best information that contemporary cosmology can tell us about the origins of the universe. The Big Bang illustrates that the universe is not itself necessary, but dependent for its existence upon some transcendent, necessary being. To deny this is to deny Leibniz’s principle of sufficient reason, which states that, “anything that exists must have a reason for its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or else in an external ground” (Craig 1999, 733-44). Furthermore, the appropriately weakened conclusion of this argument is not, “God did it!” but rather, “some Prime Mover generated the singularity.” There is no attempt to bootleg any particular religious tradition into the argument. Thus, an appeal to the god-of-the-gaps fallacy does not refute the Prime Mover argument. It is entirely possible that new advances in cosmology might render this argument less plausible (though it is equally possible that they might strengthen it). Ultimately, if religion and metaphysics are to survive in the 21st Century as relevant subjects of inquiry, they must view themselves as disciplines that are fallible in the same way as science. Our concept of God might need to be revised in light of new scientific evidence as well as new philosophical advances. We are finite beings struggling to understand the nature of ultimate reality and our place within it, and it would be a blatant act of hubris to think we know everything... especially about God.

Two THE PRIME MOVER REMOVED: A CONTEMPORARY CRITIQUE OF AQUINAS' PRIME MOVER ARGUMENT Richard Geenen and Roger Hunt 1. Introduction In his Summa Theologica, Aquinas considers various objections to the claim that God’s existence can be proven via the use of reason. For example, he considers the objection that because God’s nature is unknowable to us, his existence cannot be established. Aquinas responds by claiming that God’s existence can be established a posteriori (i.e., through experience) in virtue of His effects made manifest in the world. Similar to contemporary intelligent design theorists today who insist that some intelligent creator must be responsible for certain biological phenomena in the world, Aquinas insists that God must be responsible for certain natural phenomena such as motion and change (cf. Carroll 2000; Dawkins 2006; Gregory 2009; Beckwith 2010). Yet, at the outset Aquinas responds to a very contemporary sounding skeptic, one who insists that the world can be fully explained without reference to God. At ST I.3.2 Aquinas considers this criticism: Further, it is superfluous to suppose that what can be accounted for by a few principles has been produced by many. But it seems that everything we see in the world can be accounted for by other principles, supposing God did not exist. For all natural things can be reduced to one principle which is nature; and all voluntary things can be reduced to one principle, which is human reason, or will. Therefore there is no need to suppose God’s existence. So, too, contemporary critics of the intelligent design movement regularly insist that we need not appeal to an all-powerful, personal being in order to explain apparent design in nature; rather, such phenomena can be fully and adequately explained by appeal to natural causes (Dembski and Ruse 2004; Ayala 2006; Carroll 2012, 185, 197). Biological order can be explained by causes such as natural selection and genetic drift, geological phenomena can be explained by natural causes such as plate tectonics, and astrological order can be explained via theories such as the Big Bang and Inflation.



Aquinas would not be persuaded by such appeals. Following Aristotle, he suggests that certain natural phenomena such as motion (construed generally as change from one state to another which includes locomotion, alternation, and growth or diminution) require more than an efficient cause for each effect which might have brought the motion about. Instead, Aquinas insists that even if every motion in the universe were brought about by a prior mover—e.g., if an infinite series of billiard balls conducted motion from one ball to the next without fail— the whole chain of motion requires some logical terminus or starting point, an unmoved mover responsible for ultimately causing and sustaining the motion of the world. This unmoved mover, says Aquinas, is God. Hence, the critic is wrong to insist that all natural phenomena can be adequately explained ultimately by natural causes since motion requires God as a transcendent prime mover. In order to assess this reasoning, we must have a better sense of the particular elements of Aquinas’ argument; for example, why he insists that an infinite series of movers is inadequate for fully explaining the motion/change found in the world. We must also better understand the Aristotelian metaphysical framework that Aquinas is employing. And we must understand why and how Aquinas believes a being, God, can explain change/motion while being an unmoving/unchanging entity. After explaining these elements, we will establish that Aquinas’ prime mover argument for the existence of God fails for multiple reasons, including: (a) Aquinas’ Aristotelian assumption that all Feffects are ultimately caused by some actual-F thing is unsupported; (b) Aquinas’ Aristotelian arguments against the adequacy of an infinite series of movers are insufficient; (c) Aquinas’ assumption that an unmoved mover would be God is both unmotivated and inconsistent with the nature of God as a personal, active/creative being. Ultimately, rather than appeal to God in an attempt to explain some element of nature or the universe itself for which we have no current natural explanation, we should resist such “God of the Gaps” reasoning and trust that natural phenomena have natural explanations even if they are currently beyond our ken. 2. Aquinas’ Prime Mover Argument Aquinas’ prime mover argument is directly adapted from Aristotle. As such it is important to keep in mind some Aristotelian context when contemplating Aquinas’ proof from motion. First, Aristotle believes (and attempts to prove) that the world is eternal in the sense of having no beginning or end. When Aristotle tries to prove that God is an unmoved mover of the universe, he does so by attempting to show that God causes motion by being a final cause or telos that initiates motion in the world via attraction rather than as an efficient cause. Aquinas, himself, believes that the universe was created by God in time though he insists that this is an article of faith that cannot be demonstrated:

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By faith alone do we hold, and by no demonstration can it be proved, that the world did not always exist… The reason of this is that the newness of the world cannot be demonstrated on the part of the world itself. For the principle of demonstration is the essence of a thing. Now everything according to its species is abstracted from “here” and “now” whence it is said that universals are everywhere and always. Hence it cannot be demonstrated that man, or heaven, or a stone were not always. Likewise neither can it be demonstrated on the part of the efficient cause, which acts by will. For the will of God cannot be investigated by reason, except as regards those things which God must will of necessity; and what He wills about creatures is not among these, as was said above. (ST I.19.3, I.46.2) Hence, Aquinas’ argument from motion, like Aristotle’s, is meant to be consistent with the possibility of an eternal universe in which motion has always existed. As such, a distinction is being employed, namely, that even if every motion (or change) in the world is partially explained by some prior moving cause, nevertheless, some unmoved mover must ultimately be logically responsible for the existence and sustenance of the whole chain of movements (Physics 1.9, 8.4-6, 10; Metaphysics 12.1-6, 8; also see Plato’s Laws, 893-6). Second, when Aquinas is speaking about motion it is important to keep in mind that he is using this term generally in an Aristotelian fashion. Aristotle defines motion as “the fulfillment of what is potentially, as such” (Physics 3.2, 201a27-29, 201b33-35, 202a5-6). On this understanding of motion, a thing can move in various ways including locomotion (change of location/place), increase or diminution (increase or decrease in size or magnitude), and alteration (change of property). Some of these changes are the result of the internal nature of an entity (e.g., the development of a child into an adult), while other changes are artificial (e.g., via the craft of house-building the bricks, mortar, etc., are transformed into a house by the builder). Generally speaking, for Aristotle, a change involves a privation (e.g., being non-musical), a subject of the change (e.g., the person or matter undergoing the change), and a form that is brought about contrary to the initial state (e.g., the musical person). Following Aristotle, Aquinas insists generally that changes happen when a thing that is in a state of actuality interacts with a thing that is in a state of potentiality and through this process the latter is moved toward a state of completion—e.g., someone with knowledge of medicine (in a state of actuality) transmits knowledge to the medical student in a state of potentiality (the student is a potential knower of medicine) so that the student transitions from being a potential knower to an actual knower of medicine (Physics 2.3, 8.5, 257a10-12; Metaphysics 5.2, 9.1, 1046a11-13). Having introduced these contextual points, we can now examine Aquinas’ argument in more detail. In responding to an opponent who doubts



our ability to prove God’s existence Aquinas states his proof, which we can outline Aquinas’ argument as follows: (1) There are things in motion in the world. (2) To be in motion means to move from a state of potentiality to a state of actuality; to move from being potentially F to being actually F. (3) The same thing cannot be potentially and actually F at the same time in the same way. (4) Nothing can move something from a state of potentiality to a state of actuality unless it is in a state of actuality itself. (5) Therefore, nothing can move itself. (6) Therefore, whatever is in motion is put in motion by another. (7) Assume that the chain of actual and potential movers goes on to infinity. If (7) then there is no first (ultimate) mover. (8) If there is no first mover, then nothing moves, contrary to (1). (9) Therefore, (7) is false, and there is a first (ultimate) mover “put in motion by no other.” This unmoved mover is God. We will first examine and analyze the initial proof that nothing can move itself—steps (1)-(5) above—before examining the latter claim that an infinite chain of movers is not possible. 3. Problems with the Argument In premise (1) Aquinas begins with an empirical observation suggesting that motion exists in the world. Whether one is considering locomotion as change of location or motion more broadly (including change of property or change of size, etc.), this empirical claim is confirmed by our observations of the world. One could, of course, push an a priori Parmenidean argument to challenge this premise (Barnes 1979). According to Parmenides we can know that all change is impossible because change involves non-being and non-being is itself impossible (for how could non-being be?). Yet most interlocutors, ourselves included, will readily accept that there is motion in the world. In terms of the second premise, Aquinas is introducing a specific Aristotelian construal of motion as change from a state of potentiality to actuality. Aristotle attempts to refute Parmenides’ view of a changeless world by accepting the principle that nothing comes from nothing simpliciter (that is, he denies creation ex nihilo), though denying that change (or motion) requires such. Instead, on Aristotle’s view all changes (or motions) require three things: (a) a privation, (b) the subject of change—the matter, and (c) the form or state of actualization toward which the thing is changing. So premise (2) is using this taxonomy of change (or motion) to give a universal account of that required for changes (or motions) to take place. To move—per alteration, change in size, or

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change in location—requires something in a state of potentiality to move or change into a state of actuality. This premise is open to more metaphysical dispute depending on how the key terms are understood and employed. However, at this juncture we will accept this Aristotelian framework as stated by Aquinas. Premise (3) is similar in some respects to the Principle of NonContradiction (and also similar to a principle employed by Plato in Republic IV 436b ff when he attempts to prove that the soul is divided into three parts). Aquinas’ point is that at any one time a thing is either in an actual F state or a potential F state but not both (or at least not both in the same respect). For example, at the same time any one thing cannot be both actually and potentially hot in the same respect. One might object that a person, say, John, can be both short and tall at the same time, e.g., relative to other people who are shorter and taller than John, but this plays off an ambiguity—namely, that shortness and tallness are relative terms. As long as we are precise about the respect in which something is said to have a given property—e.g., x is tall relative to y by surpassing y in height—then one and the same thing cannot be both tall and not-tall relative to the same object at the same time. With this distinction in mind, Aquinas’ Aristotelian principle stated in premise (3) is acceptable. Premise (4) states that nothing can move something from a state of potentiality to a state of actuality unless it is in a state of actuality itself. Aquinas illustrates this principle with the example of something that is actually hot (viz., fire) making something potentially hot (viz., wood) into something actually hot. As pointed out by Gideon Rosen (2014), this premise is crucially ambiguous. Aquinas could mean one of two things in this premise with respect to that which is doing the moving: (4’) the cause of motion must be actual in some respect in order to bring about change/motion in another entity. (4’’) to change something that was non-F to something actually-F requires that the cause of motion itself be actually-F. Per the first interpretation (4’), anything that is actual in any way could cause something else to become F (at least in principle). Per the second interpretation (4’’), for some thing x to cause another entity y to become F, x would have to be actually F itself (e.g., only hot things could bring about hotness, only dead things could cause something to become dead, and so on). The problem for Aquinas is that he cannot prove the conclusion he is after, namely, that nothing can move itself, unless he assumes the stronger principle stated in (4’’), a principle Bodnar (1997) calls causational synonymy. For even if something cannot be actually and potentially F at the same time, this does not show (and it cannot be shown) that something cannot be actually F and potentially G at the same time; for example, a person can be actually musical but potentially



athletic. Indeed, for any normal entity (we will leave God aside for now since for Aristotle and Aquinas God is completely actual and has no potentiality), the entity in question is a combination of certain actual properties and certain potential properties. Hence, per the weaker construal of (4), namely, (4’)—the cause of motion must be actual in some respect in order to bring about change/motion in another entity—the conclusion that nothing can cause itself to be in motion does not follow since the same entity can be actually F and potentially G and thus can cause a series of motions or changes within itself ad infinitum. Yet, the stronger principle (4’’)—to change something from non-F to actually-F requires that the cause of motion itself be actually-F—is problematic in myriad ways. Plato’s own metaphysics is challenged by this “selfpredication” assumption, which comprises one of the main premises in the notorious Third Man Argument, an argument used in Plato’s Parmenides 132a and by Aristotle himself to dispute the consistency of Plato’s theory of Forms. The Third Man Argument aside, it is implausible to suggest that heat can only be produced by something hot (e.g., a chemical reaction can cause heat without itself being hot), death by something dead (e.g., a living bacterium can cause death), and so on. Moreover, if we take this suggestion seriously, then God as a cause of all motion or change will necessarily entail contradictory properties (e.g., being both hot and cold, potent and impotent, etc.) and properties that are anathema to the concept of God’s nature (e.g., evil, ignorant, mutable, and so on). Indeed, per the prime mover argument, this stronger premise would require that God be in motion in order to cause other things to move, an interpretation that would contradict the substance of Aquinas’ proof. Hence, at the very outset Aquinas’ argument against self-motion is problematic. Another problem inherent in this early stage of Aquinas’ argument is his Aristotelian assumption that to be reduced from a state of potentiality to a state of actuality requires an actual mover. Without this assumption we cannot conclude that simply because something cannot move itself, therefore it must be moved by another. Yet though this assumption—related to the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which requires that everything have a reason or a cause—is intuitively plausible, it can be challenged both as an a priori principle, e.g., on Humean grounds, and as an empirical principle, e.g., based upon what we know from contemporary science. The general Humean objection is that we simply cannot know a priori that all changes or motions require something actual to bring them about (Hume [1739] 1896, I.2, I.5). Though a world explicable in this fashion might be more consistent with our search for rational order and explanation, there is no guarantee that our world will live up to our rational desires. Yet if we try to insist that this principle is known empirically then it can be challenged by quantum physics which insists that there are some motions and changes in the world that do not in fact require an actual cause in the manner envisioned by Aquinas and Aristotle. Some changes—such as certain radioisotope decay—simply do not adhere to this causal theory of the world

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(See Loewer 2004). Hence, even if something cannot put itself in motion, it does not follow that all motion is caused by another mover contrary to Aquinas’ conclusion. If we move to the latter stages of the argument, steps (7)-(10), we find a reductio ad absurdum argument against the possibility that motion in the world can be caused by an infinite series of movers. The steps, to reiterate, are as follows: (7) Assume that the chain of actual and potential movers goes on to infinity. If (7) then there is no first (ultimate) mover. (8) If there is no first mover, then nothing moves, contrary to (1). (9) Therefore, (7) is false, and there is a first (ultimate) mover “put in motion by no other.” This unmoved mover is God. The general claim here is that if the series of movers that cause motion in other things were to be infinite, then there would be no motion at all which we know (as stated in premise 1) to be false. Hence, there can be no infinite series of movers. Before analyzing the merits of this argument it must be reiterated what is and is not being stated here. Aquinas is iterating an Aristotelian argument and for Aristotle the world is eternal. Moreover, in an ordinary sense, for Aristotle the series of movers is infinite, e.g., a man begets a man who begets man through eternity. Aquinas believes that the universe is finite; though this is a point that rests on faith and so even Aquinas’ prime mover argument is meant to be consistent with the possibility of an eternal world. As such, when both Aristotle and Aquinas argue that the chain of movers cannot be infinite, they are not speaking of an infinite chain of prior temporal causes, but rather, a logical chain of sustaining movers who must be responsible for those things in motion to allow for them to be possible at all. Why does Aquinas believe, then, that an infinite series of movers logically requires such a sustaining cause or a prime mover as a logical terminus of motion? Aquinas himself simply argues that an infinite series has no first cause and thus concludes that without such, there would be no ultimate effects. Since we see motion in the world, we must conclude there is a first cause for motion. On the surface this argument merely begs the question. It may be granted that if one has a finite series of movers, e.g., billiard ball A moves ball B which moves ball C, then on the counter-factual condition that A had never moved, it would be true that C would not have been moved either (unless, of course, C were moved by something else instead of being moved by A). Yet the advocate of an infinite series of movers will reject this argument as assuming precisely the point at issue, namely, that we should treat all series of movers as if they were finite series that had initial causes. By contrast, if a series of movers is truly infinite then there never was a “first” mover that has been



removed, and so the absurdity to which Aquinas points is not manifest. Consider a hypothetical billiard table of infinite magnitude. On such a table we can imagine an infinite series of balls, one of which is the mover of another and so on. In this scenario, it is true by definition that there is no “first mover,” but it is not true that a “first mover” has been taken away (since there was no first mover to begin with), and so it is also not true that a series of movers of the sort imagined would lead to an impossibility. 4. The Summa Contra Gentiles Given the obvious problems with a superficial review of this argument, it is helpful to look deeper into Aquinas’ motivation for insisting that a logical infinite series of movers is impossible. In Summa Contra Gentiles (SCG) we find Aquinas’ reasoning fleshed out further via reference to arguments from Aristotle’s Physics. A. Argument 1 One Aristotelian argument that Aquinas states against an infinite series of movers from SCG is the following: 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. This Aristotle proves by induction in the various species of motion. 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]. (SCG 13) Aquinas approving cites Aristotle who appears to argue that if an infinite series of movers and things moved were possible, then given the assumption that the movers and things moved must exist simultaneously, and given the additional assumption that they must be continuous or contiguous, we can imagine these infinite movers and things moved as one single body infinite in magnitude. Yet an infinite whole cannot be moved in a finite time, it is alleged, and so if movers and things moved were infinite, no motion would exist. This is an abstract argument that would require more space than is available here to develop and analyze, but three quick responses are in order. First, even if a finite entity cannot move an infinite distance in a finite time, this in no way shows that an infinite entity cannot move an infinite distance in a finite time. If an entity is assumed to be infinite in size, the space in which the entity is located must be infinite and so any locomotion of said entity will

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involve an infinite distance even if the time in which the movement takes place is finite. Second, even in the scenario envisioned by Aquinas, it must be acknowledged that all finite parts of the mentally unified whole only move a finite distance in a finite amount of time, which is clearly possible. Finally, from an empirical standpoint one of Aristotle’s (and Aquinas’) key assumptions, that the movers and things moved must be contiguous or continuous for the mover to cause motion in the thing moved, is refuted by contemporary science, e.g., via the notion of quantum entanglement which allows for non-contiguous causal relationships (Siegfried 2014). Given such, the very bedrock of this argument against infinite series of movers is itself suspect. B. Argument 2 A second Aristotelian argument Aquinas gives against an infinite series of movers in SCG 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), 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. (13) It should be noted that this argument from SCG against an infinite series of movers most closely parallels Aquinas’ prime mover argument in the Summa. It insists that removing the first cause in a series results in the lack of a final effect from that series of causes or movers regardless of how many intermediate steps were involved between the first cause (or mover) and the final effect (or thing moved). There is obviously something intuitive about this argument. When we think of causes in contemporary experience, we often intuitively identify them counterfactually—e.g., if Mark hadn’t been texting then he would not have missed seeing the light change to red, and so he would not have hit the pedestrian. Yet, despite the intuitive plausibility of such simple cases, this argument is multiply problematic as anticipated above. To start, even in finite series of movers or causes, removing the initial mover or cause does not necessarily indicate that we would not have had the effect in question (e.g., even if Mark hadn’t been texting while driving, he still might have hit the pedestrian based upon some other factor; he was also inebriated at the time, or…). More importantly, one who accepts an infinite series of movers or causes need not accept Aquinas’ Aristotelian assumptions. As stated above, if we have an infinite series of movers, then there never was a first mover that has been



removed, so the use of the finite series which has a first mover is misplaced as an analogue for considering whether an infinite series is possible or not. If Aquinas merely insists that all series of movers must begin with some mover in a perfect state of actuality in order for motion to be produced, then obviously that is nothing more than begging the question against his opponent. C. Argument 3 A third Aristotelian argument against an infinite series of movers that Aquinas offers in SCG is as follows: 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. (13) Here, too, we see the Aristotelian assumption at play in Aquinas’ argument stated quite baldly. All chains of motion must terminate in a principal mover and a principal mover cannot be a thing moved (or else it will merely be an instrumental cause). Hence, it is argued, all motion terminates in a principal mover rather than extending infinitely per a series of movers or causes. Aquinas’ contemporary opponent can reasonably reject this argument in myriad ways. First, the starting assumption that there is a significant difference between instrumental and principal causes of motion in the manner envisioned is suspect. Aquinas (through Aristotle) has in mind the distinction between a woman who hits a ball and the tool she uses to do the hitting such as a bat. In this example, the woman is the principal cause of motion and the bat is merely an instrument in the chain of causation. Intuitively we are supposed to imagine that if the principal cause were removed then the final effect would be removed as well. A physicalist view of the world, however, need not make any such metaphysical assumption that distinguishes between principal and instrumental movers in this way. Take the example of a human being as an alleged principal cause in contrast to the tool that she uses. Though many of us like to think of ourselves as special, uncaused causes of our own actions, contemporary science typically does not privilege human action in this sort of way. Rather, human action is one more form of action that is reducible to further causes (e.g., genetic and environmental causes) which renders our actions as part of a continuum of causation rather than as the principal uncaused, cause of motion in the world. On this view, the woman who hits the ball is no more a principal actor than the bat or the ball, but rather, a very complex biological system which is merely caught up in a broader causal web but not distinct from the web itself.

The Prime Mover Removed


Additionally, when we look at other cases from contemporary science we find Aquinas’ Aristotelian framework suspect. Aristotle thought, for example, that individual members of species could only ultimately be produced by transmission of the actual form from one member of the species to another— e.g., it takes a human to beget a human. Contemporary evolutionary theory rejects this notion (Mayr 1992). There is no perfect form of human that must be transmitted from one human to the next for all eternity as Aristotle supposed. Rather, species evolve over time given various natural causes such as natural selection and genetic mutations that are not amenable to Aristotle’s metaphysical and biological thinking. This gives us further evidence that the Aristotelian assumptions upon which Aquinas builds his argument are suspect and that the need for some principal cause of motion to initiate all instrumental motions is not well motivated. In summary, Aquinas has not convincingly proven that motion in the world logically requires a principal, unmoved mover as its source. Many of his Aristotelian assumptions can be rejected as unsubstantiated and without them his conclusions for a prime mover simply do not follow. 5. Granting the Logical Requirement of an Unmoved Mover Yet what if we are wrong about this? What if Aquinas really could substantiate that the motion of the world logically requires a prime unmoved mover as its principal cause? Would this provide rational support for the existence of God? Here, too, we argue that Aquinas has not made his case. Recall that for Aristotle, whether we are speaking of motion in the world or of the existence of the world itself, God is not an efficient cause, i.e., the instigator of change as a sculptor who creates a statue. Rather, Aristotle’s universe is eternal and God causes motion by being a telos (a final cause or purpose) on par with objects of love which can produce motion or change in the beloved even when the object of love does not change itself. Indeed, given that Aristotle’s God is supposed to comprise pure actuality, it cannot change since change entails moving from a state of potentiality that involves a privation to a state of actuality in which the privation no longer exists. Hence, Aristotle’s God is a purely actual entity that is trapped into contemplating its own thoughts and nothing else. This supposed object of love moves the celestial spheres via their love for God but does not efficiently cause any changes in the world (Physics 1.9, 8.4-6, 10; Metaphysics 12.1-6, 8; also see Plato’s Laws, 893-6). This metaphysical system supporting Aristotle’s unmoved mover is highly dubious. Presumably no one today wants to support the claim that the celestial spheres’ movement is logically predicated on their desire for a God trapped in thoughts of its own thoughts. This criticism aside, Aquinas’ conclusions are, if anything, even more problematic than those of Aristotle. This is so because Aquinas wants to establish that God is a purely actual unmoved mover in an Aristotelian sense (and hence, that God has no



potentiality whatsoever and thus cannot change), but also that this God can be a creator who brought the universe into being via divine will. As stated above, Aquinas does not insist that the beginning of the universe can be proven, but he does insist that God as an unmoved mover is a being which could have created the world via its will. At this point, however, the case is logically untenable. Creation is an action and actions either have causes or they do not. If we give up on the notion that all actions have causes then we can just as validly reject the notion that all motions require movers. On this view, the contemporary critic can simply assert that the universe began, say, with the Big Bang and that this event had no cause and requires no cause. Indeed, given that the standard Big Bang theory suggests that the Big Bang initiated time and space as well as the material universe, many supporters contend that it makes no sense to ask what caused the Big Bang since this is not an event in time that had a prior temporal point in which it could have been caused. Yet if we accept, instead, that all actions have causes, then God’s actions must have causes as well. This itself could quickly lead to its own infinite series of causes just as readily within God as it would within the universe—e.g., if God causes the universe on the grounds of A, then A must be caused by something further B, and so on. Here God’s own reasons must be caused or explained by further reasons ad infinitum. On the other hand, if Aquinas’ supporters wants to claim that God is special and somehow explains his/her/its own actions through some form of necessary causation or explanation, then this is merely special pleading unless and until the case can be made that an entity or event being “self-explained” makes sense and that such a self-explanation is more tenable for a changeless God than for the Big Bang or some comparable natural event. Hence, if no infinite series of motions is possible, then appealing to God as a creative cause will not remove us from our difficulties. There is an additional problem with Aquinas’ appeal to a prime, unmoved mover. If God is absolutely changeless as Aquinas supposes, then such a God cannot go through the dynamic process of creation which entails a before and an after and which entails a dynamic process in the creative agent him, her, or itself. Indeed, if God were truly absolutely changeless then God would not be a personal being at all. Persons are necessarily dynamic entities that can respond to a changing world. God qua changeless would be static and unresponsive. Such a being is incapable of dynamic virtues such as love, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. As such, God could neither be construed as personal nor living. A being of such a nature, we conclude, might be an “unmoved mover” in an Aristotelian sense, but it would not be God in any important sense recognized by contemporary theists today. Finally, notwithstanding the importance of Aquinas’ prime mover argument, we find that despite its complex logic, it actually falls broadly under a fallacious God-of-the-gaps form of reasoning that should be rejected. Aquinas attempts to prove that God is necessary to explain motion in our world.

The Prime Mover Removed


Similarly, some contemporary supporters appeal to God as a last resort to explain the origin of the universe itself, e.g., a transcendent God must be introduced to explain the birth of the universe through the Big Bang (Craig 2014). Modern science, however, has made immense progress explaining our universe partly in virtue of employing methodological naturalism—i.e., assuming that natural phenomena have natural explanations even if they are ones of which we are currently unaware. We are employing the term natural to contrast with beings said to be supernatural in the traditional sense of being able to defy the laws of nature. Given the success of science in explaining our world, it is more natural to consider the origin of the universe and motion therein to be empirical questions that should be answered scientifically per the scientific method and by appealing to naturalistic answers. To insist, by contrast, that the origin of the universe itself (or the origin of motion in the universe) is something for which we have no current natural explanation, and hence, something requiring a supernatural cause, is a fallacious appeal to “God-of-the-gaps” reasoning which should be rejected for cosmology just as readily as it should be rejected in any other field of natural inquiry. Unexplained medical cures, unexplained fossils, unexplained genetic mutations and so on do not justify an appeal to a deity that allegedly “explains itself.” Rather, they present open, scientific questions that encourage further scientific, empirical inquiry. So, too, the origin of the universe and motion within merit scientific and philosophical inquiry rather than the introduction of a supernatural being in order to “explain” these natural phenomena. 6. Conclusion In summary, we have shown that Aquinas’ prime mover argument is logically flawed. Aquinas has not shown that an infinite series of movers with no prime mover is impossible as he attempts to do. Moreover, he has not adequately explained how an unchanging, non-spatial, non-temporal God actually explains the origin of motion in our world in a convincing fashion. Finally, appealing to God in order to explain motion in the world or the origin of the world itself is a fallacious God-of-the-gaps move that should be rejected. Current ignorance we might have about fundamental causes for the universe should be embraced as opening the doors to novel scientific theorizing and empirical testing rather than encouraging the introduction of some transcendent, supernatural being that would thwart scientific inquiry and our ultimate understanding of the world.

Three A RESPONSE TO GEENEN AND HUNT Heather Thornton McRae and James McRae In their chapter, Geenen and Hunt offer a thorough critique of St. Thomas’ Prime Mover argument. Their criticism moves forward on three fronts: (1) against the notion that things cannot move themselves; (2) against the impossibility of an infinite series of movers; and (3) against the notion that God is the Prime Mover. In what follows, we show that these counter-arguments are problematic, and thus the Prime Mover argument remains plausible. 1. Objection 1: The Notion that Things Cannot Move Themselves Geenen and Hunt criticize premise (4) of St. Thomas’ argument, which states, “Nothing can move something from a state of potentiality to a state of actuality unless it is in a state of actuality itself.” They argue that this is problematic because (a) things can move themselves, (b) if premise (4) is true, the Prime Mover’s attributes would be contradictory, (c) and the critiques of causality leveled by David Hume and quantum physics show that not everything has a cause. Consider two billiard balls: the cue ball must itself be in motion (its motion is actual) before it can impart energy to the eight ball (which is not yet in motion, but has the potential to move). A still cue ball cannot make the eight ball move because it lacks the energy to do so. When we apply this to cosmology, we see that the universe is in motion (as Hubble observed) and the galaxies could not have caused themselves to fly apart in this fashion, so there must have been a Big Bang to initiate the motion. The singularity was not itself in motion, but had the potential to explode, creating space-time, matter, and energy in the process. Thus, there must have been something that generated the singularity and caused it to explode. To bring about motion in another entity, the cause does not have to be fully actualized in all respects, nor does it have to be just like the object it is acting upon. It just has to be actual in respect to the ways in which it interacts with the other entity. For example, a child kicks a ball, causing it to move. The child does not have to be fully actualized as an adult to kick the ball, nor does he have to be ball-like in every way; he just has to be a physical body that is spatio-temporally proximal to the ball with the ability to kick it. The Prime Mover does not have to be just like the singularity in every way to create it; it just has to have the ability to interact with it. When the singularity first exists (prior to Planck time), it is so tightly compacted that matter, energy, space, and



time do not yet exist, so according to St. Thomas’ understanding of causality, the Prime Mover would not need to be spatio-temporal, material, or energetic to create it. Geenen and Hunt refer to Hume’s critique of causality and the challenges raised by quantum physics. Hume argues that there can be neither a priori nor a posteriori proofs of causality, which means we take it to be true based on custom and habit. However, if we use a pragmatic theory of truth, causality is true because it works: it has cash value when we put it into practice (it is simple, coherent, and has explanatory power). If something better comes along, we can embrace that; until then, causality is a good theory because it helps us make sense of the world around us. Quantum physics does raise challenges for causality, but these can largely be dismissed. Radioactive decay is not causeless: it is causally dependent upon a variety of different things. We need a Big Bang to create matter, energy, space-time, and the laws of physics. This allows hydrogen atoms to form and, via gravitational attraction, create stars. Solar fusion eventually leads to a supernova, which produces uranium, which begins to decay according to the laws of physics. So what caused the uranium to decay? Originally, the Big Bang. Furthermore, as indicated in our chapter, quantum physics is a veiled reality theory. It is our best guess at what is actually happening at the quantum level, and attempts to apply quantum principles to the macro world often lead to absurd conclusions. The weird phenomena we observe in the quantum world might arise due to the limitations of our investigative methods. The macro world certainly appears to adhere to causality. If causality did not exist, the scientific method would not exist, which would be disastrous for the discipline of quantum physics. 2. Objection 2: The Impossibility of an Infinite Series of Movers One of the core concepts driving the Prime Mover argument is the idea that an infinite series of movers is impossible. If the universe could have existed forever, there would be no need for a Prime Mover. We can offer two responses to this: an a posteriori argument that an actual infinity of causes of motion is physically impossible, and an a priori argument an actual infinity is logically impossible. Empirically, as indicated in our chapter, the universe had a definite beginning with the Big Bang. The Standard Model is almost universally accepted by scientists, so until another model replaces it, we can say that it is empirically true that the universe had a beginning. Before the Big Bang, there was absolutely nothing: no space, time, matter, or energy. St. Thomas and Aristotle were not privy to this information, so they used purely rational arguments. Because of Big Bang cosmology, it is no longer necessary to delve into a priori justifications. Nonetheless, it is logically impossible for time to exist as an actual infinite. Infinity is a mathematical concept that allows us to conceive of the

A Response to Geenen and Hunt


largest number imaginable. It is an intellectual placeholder that represents a concept, but is not a real number (not unlike imaginary numbers). In our chapter we mention Al-Ghazali’s illustration of planetary orbits, but several further examples illustrate this point. (A) In algebra, x+1>x. Any number we instantiate for x will illustrate that this inequality is true (e.g., 2>1, 1001>1000, etc.) except for infinity. Instantiating for infinity gives us ∞+1>∞, which is logically absurd. Since infinity is the greatest number that can be, infinity plus one must be equal to infinity, and yet this would be an equation, not an inequality. Thus, while infinity is a useful abstract concept in mathematics, we cannot instantiate actual infinities. (B) In geometry, a ray has a beginning point and continues infinitely in one direction, whereas a line continues infinitely in both directions. Which one is longer? Because the ray never stops, its length is infinity. The line also has a length of infinity. Yet it seems intuitively obvious that the line must be longer than the ray because the ray has a definite beginning point. Thus, it is logically impossible for an actual infinite to exist. (C) William Lane Craig (1993) gives the example of an infinite library in which there are an infinite number of books, half of which are red and the other half of which are black. How many books are there total? Infinity. How many red books are there? Infinity. How many black books? Infinity. This is absurd because the number of members of both subsets (the colored books) cannot be equivalent to the membership of the entire set (all books), so in an actual infinite library there are an equal number of red books as there are total books. Once again, we cannot have an actual infinite without logical contradiction. Because we cannot have actual infinites in reality, space-time cannot have existed infinitely prior to the Big Bang; it had to have a beginning point. Aside from these empirical and logical issues, there exists a still more fundamental epistemological problem. As Leibniz (1989) argues, the idea of an infinite chain of causes violates the principle of sufficient reason, which states that there is a rational explanation for everything. If we are asking the questions, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” or “Where did our universe come from?” the only sufficient answer is one that tells us the cause of the universe. Answering, “It’s always been there” simply waves the question aside without putting it to rest. Neither cosmologists nor philosophers should be satisfied with that answer. 3. Objection 3: The Notion that God is the Prime Mover Geenen and Hunt argue that it is a mistake to identify God with the Prime Mover because even if the argument justifies the existence of an initial cause for the universe, it does not follow that this cause is synonymous with the Christian God. We actually make this same point at the end of our chapter: it is



essential that we do not overstate the conclusion of the argument, which proves only that some supremely powerful and intelligent being that transcends space and time is the most plausible explanation for the existence of the singularity. While a Christian like St. Thomas might recognize this being as God, the argument does not justify the conclusion “the God of Abraham exists.” This would require further proof. However, Geenen and Hunt make an even stronger claim that the concept of God as a perfect, personal creator is flawed: “if we accept, instead, that all actions have causes, then God’s actions must have causes as well.” However, the conception of God used by St. Thomas and most contemporary philosophers of religion does not allow for this objection. God exists outside the space-time continuum (is transcendent/omnipresent), so causality does not apply to God and it is meaningless to ask what created God. This parallels the Kalam variation of the cosmological argument, the first premise of which states that “everything that comes into existence has a cause.” God is causa sui—a non-spatio-temporal, necessary being—and thus needs no causal explanation. Any being that was otherwise could not be the Prime Mover and we would get an infinite regress that offered no explanation about the origins of the universe. Geenen and Hunt argue further that if God is changeless, God cannot be a creative, personal entity, which means it would not be truly God-like, but only an impersonal Prime Mover. Our chapter’s conclusion is only that a powerful, intelligent, and transcendent Prime Mover exists. We say nothing about the other attributes of this “God.” As indicated above, other arguments— teleological, ontological, and axiological—are required to flesh out the nature of this entity fully. However, the Prime Mover argument is consistent with the notion of a personal God. As Craig argues, the Prime Mover is most plausibly understood as personal because only an “agent endowed with free will can have an eternal determination to operate causally at a (first) moment of time and thereby to produce a temporally first effect” (Craig 1994, 219). A mechanical creator without free will or creativity could not have generated a universe so finely tuned for the existence of intelligent life. It might be argued that the notion of a personal creator is self-contradictory because the characteristics of persons—such as memory, reflection, deliberation, anticipation, and decision—are temporal activities. However, while these notions are common properties of human persons (who are temporal), they are not the essential properties of persons, which are properly limited to self-consciousness and free will, which are atemporal (Craig 1999, 736). Thus, while God might not be a person in the human sense, it does not mean that God cannot be a personal creator of the universe.

Four A RESPONSE TO MCRAE AND MCRAE Richard Geenen and Roger Hunt In our original analysis we argued that Aquinas does not convincingly prove that God is a prime unmoved mover logically responsible for motion in the universe. The McRaes, however, attempt to supplement Aquinas’ reasoning by showing that the Big Bang is the best current cosmological explanation of the universe and that the Big Bang requires a prime mover as its cause. We object to two explicit premises of the McRaes’ argument: we challenge premise (2) with respect to the inductive strength of their conclusions about the Big Bang, and we challenge premise (3) with respect to their denial of an infinite series. We also further establish that their argument fallaciously appeals to God-of-the-gaps reasoning. 1. A Questionable Induction The McRaes attempt to prove that their neo-Thomistic prime mover argument is inductively strong. They state, “This chapter argues that the Prime Mover argument for the existence of God successfully demonstrates the existence of a non-spatio-temporal cause for our universe… Aquinas’ Prime Mover argument remains inductively strong, suggesting that the existence of a transcendent Creator is at least as probable as alternative explanations for the origins of the universe.” Their reasoning here assumes that if an explanation is at least as probable as alternative explanations, then it is inductively strong. However, consider the following counterexample: If one student has stolen a piece of candy from the teacher’s desk, then demonstrating that Susan is as likely to be the thief as any of her 19 classmates does not establish that Susan is the likely thief. Moreover, this is crucially important given the McRaes’ methodology. The McRaes rely heavily on a process of elimination argument to conclude that the Big Bang Theory caused by a prime mover is superior to rival, current cosmological theories of the universe. Yet even if this were granted, that would hardly demonstrate a prime mover’s existence. We argue that current scientific debates about the origin of the universe, dark matter, String Theory, and the like are in their scientific infancy and that new data are being collected all the time—e.g., consider the vast amounts of new data coming from CERN’s ATLAS experiment (now in its twentieth year) regarding particle physics that could have a bearing on our understanding of the universe (CERN 2015). As such, trying to establish a prime mover via empirical cosmological reasoning in the McRaes’ fashion is premature. Even if we were to grant that five current



cosmological theories are problematic, we simply have no idea how many additional theories will become available over the next 10 or even 100 years, or what data will become available that could exonerate the theories the McRaes attempt to dismiss (Merali 2013; Ali and Das 2015). Accordingly, Aquinas’ prime mover is not demonstrated through the McRaes’ rejection of the Big Bang’s current competitors. 2. Solving the Infinite Regress The third premise of the McRaes’ revised argument is the following: The causes of motion cannot go on infinitely because there was a definite beginning to the universe. The Standard Big Bang Model, which is almost universally accepted by scientists, indicates that there was a moment when the universe came into existence, before which there was absolutely nothing. The McRaes rightly realize that simply relying on Aquinas’ premise that infinite regresses are impossible is untenable. In fact, there are some non-vicious infinite regresses that do not result in contradictions. For example, when I say, “the ball is red,” I am essentially comparing it to all the red things I have seen before. This results in an infinite regress, since I will never end my exploration of red with the universal essence of red, so to speak; but this does not entail that claiming “the ball is red” is contradictory. Thus, while some infinite regresses may lead to contradictions, others do not—so simply iterating Aquinas’ argument on the impossibility of an infinite regress of movers is insufficient without additional independent support. Thus, rather than defending Aquinas’ rejection of an infinite series of movers per his Aristotelian assumptions or via a priori reasoning, the McRaes cleverly rewrite their premise empirically, insisting that the Big Bang theory demonstrates that the universe had a beginning. Yet there are multiple problems with the McRaes’ empirical argumentation. First, though the Big Bang may be widely accepted by scientists, it states that time itself was a product of the initial Big Bang. Given such, it is disingenuous to say that this model suggests that “before” the Big Bang there was absolutely nothing. Instead, there simply is no “before” per the Big Bang since this would inconsistently entail that there is a time before time came into existence. Indeed, it is precisely given this interpretation that many scientists are suspicious of insisting that there must be a cause to the Big Bang when the Big Bang is not an ordinary temporal event (Miller 2006; Bojowald 2013). Second, when the McRaes argue in favor of the Big Bang, they act as if they are contrasting the Big Bang with alternative models of the universe such as Oscillating Models and Vacuum Fluctuation Models. However, when exploring this issue we must be careful to distinguish two separate theories or explanations. The standard Big Bang theory suggests that an initial singularity with infinite mass resulted in the known universe via the Big Bang and the resulting expansion of the universe. However, the McRaes are ultimately not

A Response to McRae and McRae


merely relying upon this standard Big Bang theory. Rather, they are coupling this theory with Thomistic reasoning and an appeal to the Principle of Sufficient Reason and Occam’s Razor (which favors simpler adequate theories over more complex ones) to conclude that the universe had a beginning and that this beginning was produced from nothing by a changeless, personal, transcendent, unmoved mover. Let us call this theory the Prime Mover + Big Bang (PM+BB) model. Now, alternative models such as the Oscillating Model would provide a basis for a universe without any ultimate beginning and hence, no need for a prime mover. The McRaes reject this theory by saying that such a theory, among other things, violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Similarly, when speaking of Vacuum Fluctuation Models the McRaes say, “These models effectively pass the philosophical buck by shifting the question of the origin of our universe to a new question about the origin of the primordial vacuum.” We find these charges disingenuous on the grounds that they apply a double standard. The prime mover is either a supernatural being (i.e., one that can defy the laws of nature) or it is not. If it is supposed to be some natural “very powerful” and “very intelligent” agent that can create the universe out of nothing without violating the laws of the universe, then we have received absolutely no evidence that this suggestion is tenable or coherent. Indeed, to create matter out of nothingness is about as anathema to the laws of nature (and reason) as one can imagine. Accordingly, if one were to say, for example, that a super-alien created the universe out of nothing this “explanation” would be immediately rejected without incredible independent evidence that has yet to be provided. On the other hand, if the prime mover is alleged to be some supernatural agent which can defy all laws of nature, then: (a) the McRaes cannot consistently reject alternative theories per defying such laws themselves, and (b) there is no logical reason to take this “explanation” seriously on empirical grounds since such a being is empirically ungrounded (a supernatural being qua supernatural is untestable and provides no true explanation since such a being is consistent with any logically possible state of affairs). Finally, appealing to God as a supernatural explanation of the universe does not even avoid the infinite regress that motivated Aquinas’ original argument. If everything must have an explanation per the Principle of Sufficient Reason, then God’s actions must have an explanation as well. This either leads to an infinite regress (e.g., God’s existence and actions are explained by ever further causes) contrary to the McRaes’ argument, or God and God’s actions are “self-explained.” Yet no argument has been given to show how God’s actions can be “self-explained” that wouldn’t apply even more simply to the Big Bang itself, despite the amount of ink Thomists such as Brian Davies (2014, 34-6) and Edward Feser (2008, Ch. 1; 2009, 63-4) have spilt trying to say that critics of this argument—such as Harris (2005), Dawkins (2006), Dennett (2006), and Hitchens (2007)—are misguided. Thus, per Occam’s Razor, the simpler explanation should be preferred.


RICHARD GEENEN AND ROGER HUNT 3. God Remains in the Gaps

Finally, despite their avowals to the contrary, the McRaes are guilty of fallacious God-of-the-gaps (GOG) reasoning. The McRaes insist: “… there is a significant difference between the superstitious appeal to ignorance that is the God-of-the-gaps fallacy and the sophisticated rational argumentation used by the cosmological argument, which states that some Prime Mover is the only rational explanation for the origin of the universe ex nihilo.” We are not convinced. To see why, consider historical appeals to deities with respect to explaining the natural world. Demonic possession was used to explain seizures; Demeter’s grief was used to help explain the earth’s infertility during winter; and so on. Such appeals introduced personal and often supernatural agents to help explain that for which we had no natural, scientific explanation. As modern science made ever more progress, God was relegated to the “gaps” remaining between successful scientific theories. We agree with the multitude of thinkers who suggest that this general methodology—appealing to supernatural beings to “explain” phenomena for which no current natural, scientific explanation is available—is fallacious. The fallacy in question has nothing to do with appealing to any particular religious deity or tradition as implied by the McRaes in their defense, e.g., when they state, “There is no attempt to bootleg any particular religious tradition into the argument.” Rather, GOG is fallacious because it introduces an agent as an alleged “explanation” for some natural phenomenon: a) based upon our current inability to explain said phenomenon via a natural non-agent explanation; b) typically assumes that this agent is supernatural without providing any evidence for this extraordinary claim; c) typically offers no evidence of how this supernatural agent creates the natural phenomenon in question (other than a broad appeal to the agent’s unspecified “powers”). Per this last point the alleged supernatural “explanation” is no explanation at all in the same way that saying that the sun rises is explained because some unspecified deity uses its supernatural powers in unknown ways for unknown reasons to make it rise. Indeed, the McRaes’ insistence that some unknown prime mover with unspecified (supernatural?) powers creates the universe out of nothing is strikingly similar to other creationists’ appeals to GOG reasoning. Consider intelligent design theorist Michael Behe who argues that because evolution can allegedly not create entities such as the bacterial flagellum (a tail-like structure), therefore some unknown intelligent agent created the flagellum at some point in time for some unknown reason in some unspecified way. Like the McRaes, Behe and his fellow intelligent design theorists also claim that they are not arguing in GOG fashion though this is clearly false. Both groups fallaciously conclude that because we have no current scientific explanation for some natural phenomenon, some unspecified (supernatural) entity is the explanation for it instead. This should no more convince us with respect to the origin of the universe than it should convince us of the origin of biological species or other natural phenomena.

A Response to McRae and McRae


Science has proven again and again that often the best explanation for some natural phenomenon is merely some natural explanation that we are not yet privy to. Paraphrasing David Hume ([1748] 1985, sec. X) on miracles, we should not infer that the universe has some supernatural cause unless we can first establish that it would be even more miraculous for there to be no possible, unknown natural cause or explanation for this phenomenon. Neither Aquinas nor the McRaes have come anywhere close to meeting this standard, and, as such, we are better off remaining agnostic about the universe’s ultimate origins rather than concluding that it was created from nothing by some unspecified, supernatural, changeless agent.

The Second Proof Five THE RELEVANCE OF AQUINAS' UNCAUSED CAUSE ARGUMENT Gaven Kerr, OP God is typically understood to be the cause of all things and as such God is thought to be wholly uncaused, since if God is the cause of all things, there exists nothing that is not His effect, which is to say there is nothing that can act as His cause. This is what God is typically understood to be, but the argumentation by which one establishes that such a figure actually exists is not so straightforward. Thomas’ second way is one such argument that seeks to show that there is an absolutely uncaused efficient cause of all that is, and in so showing concludes that this is what we call God. The second way then seeks to establish the existence of what we typically take God to be. In this chapter I shall offer a reading of Aquinas’ second way that does three things: (i) firstly I shall present a précis of the argument highlighting its main argumentative moves; (ii) secondly I shall present an analysis of the argument highlighting the deeper philosophical issues involved and offering some justification thereof; (iii) thirdly I shall consider the kind of God to which the second way commits us and the consequences that that has for our thinking about the creator/creature relationship. 1. Précis of the Argument Let us begin with a preliminary presentation of the argument. Thomas writes as follows: The second way is taken from the nature of efficient cause. We find there to be in sensible things an order of efficient causes such that it is never found to be nor is it possible that something is the efficient cause of itself; for then it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now it is not possible to proceed to infinity in efficient causes, because in all efficient causes that are ordered, the primary is the cause of the intermediate and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate, whether the intermediate causes are many or only one. Now, remove the cause


GAVEN KERR and one removes the effect. Therefore, if there is no primary cause in efficient causes, there will be neither an ultimate nor an intermediate. But if one proceeds to infinity in efficient causes, there will be no primary efficient cause, and thus there will be no ultimate effect, nor intermediate efficient causes, which is evidently false. Therefore, it is necessary to posit some primary efficient cause, which everyone calls “God.”1

Thomas is clear from the outset, this proof will proceed from a consideration of the nature [ratio] of efficient causality; his intention then is to consider the order that is followed in efficient causes and ascertain whether or not the logic of that order entails that there cannot be an infinite regress in efficient causes. Accordingly, the order that is characteristic of efficient causes is such that the cause always precedes its effect, and this is because given the mode of causality the being of the effect is derived from that of the cause, so that it could never be the case that one could have the being of the effect without the cause from which it is derived. Having presented the order essential to efficient causality, Thomas then goes on to deny the possibility of proceeding to infinity in efficient causes that are ordered to each other. What Thomas means by efficient causes that are ordered is a series of efficient causes all of which work together to produce some effect. In a finite ordered series of efficient causes, the primary is the cause of the intermediate and the intermediate the cause of the ultimate thereby producing the effect; so all causes work together to produce the ultimate effect, and this is the case whether or not the intermediate causes are one or many. Having presented the order obtaining amongst ordered efficient causes, Thomas then goes on to connect the latter up with the nature of efficient causality itself. Recall that in efficient causality the being of the effect depends on that of the cause, so that the effect cannot precede the cause, but the being of the cause must precede that of the effect. It follows then that in efficient causality, without the cause there is no effect, i.e., remove the cause and one removes the effect. Consequently, when we consider an ordered series of efficient causes, the ultimate depends for its being on the intermediate and the intermediate on the primary, so that without the primary cause there is no intermediate, and without the intermediate there is no ultimate. But in an infinite series there is no primary cause; otherwise it would be finite. Therefore, if there were an infinite series of efficient causes, there would be neither intermediate nor ultimate causes, but this is evidently false. There must therefore be some primary efficient cause without which there is no intermediate or ultimate, and this we call God. This is a brief summary of the argument; in presenting it I have deliberately glossed over some of the important philosophical issues involved so as to give the reader a feel for the argumentative moves that Thomas makes.

The Relevance of Aquinas’ Uncaused Cause Argument


The deeper philosophical issues will be considered in our analysis of the argument, to which we now turn. 2. Analysis Thomas’ second way is a relatively straightforward argument. Beginning with a presentation of the order in efficient causality, he proceeds to consider the order in a series of efficient causes and thence connects the two together and denies an infinite regress of efficient causes thereby arriving at a primary cause, which we call God. In analysing the argument we shall begin with (i) the order of efficient causality, (ii) the order in a series of efficient causes, and (iii) the possibility of an infinite regress; as an addendum to (i) – (iii) we shall consider (iv) Thomas’ conclusion that this is what we call God. A. The Order of Efficient Causality In considering causality, Thomas had before him a fourfold framework within which causal relations were analysed. This was the framework of the four Aristotelian causes: (i) formal, (ii) efficient, (iii) material, and (iv) final. All such causes were taken to answer a particular type of why question so that they were posited as offering an explanation of some phenomena; this is why Thomas can maintain in his commentary on Aristotle’s Physics at 2.5.176: “We do not take it that we know something unless we have grasped the why? [propter quid], which is to grasp the cause.” An effect in any of the four causal contexts is taken to be derived from and to depend on the cause in question and given the causal context the derivation and dependency of the effect on the cause is contextualized accordingly. Again, from Thomas’ commentary on the Physics: “Those things are called causes on which things depend for their being [esse] or their becoming [fieri] (1.1.5)… A cause is said as that from which something comes to be” (2.5.183). And Thomas notes in his commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics at 5.2.763: “In one way a cause is said as that from which something comes to be.” With regard to efficient causality, the efficient cause is taken to be the first source of motion in a thing, so that without the efficient cause there would be no motion in the thing (In Metaphysicam Aristotelis Commentaria at 5.2.180, 5.2.765). Now, the motion that the efficient cause imparts is not to be interpreted exclusively in terms of local motion, in the way that one snooker ball imparts motion to another. Motion has a much richer meaning in Thomas’ metaphysical framework than simply local motion. What is essential to Thomas’ account of motion (and this especially so when the context is arguing for the existence of God) is the movement from potency to act. It is precisely this metaphysical interpretation of motion that Aquinas offers in the First Way, which immediately precedes the proof of God we are now considering (see



Owens 1980). The move from potency to act, i.e., the actualization of some potency signifies the essence of motion for Thomas, so that motion is the act of the thing existing in potency. In his commentary on Aristotle’s Physics at 3.2.285 Thomas notes: Motion is neither the potency of the one existing in potency nor the act of the one existing in act, but is the act of the one existing in potency; so the order that a thing has to its anterior potency is designated by that which is called act, and the order that a thing has to its higher [ulteriorem] act is designated by that which is called existing in potency. Thus, in considering the causality of the efficient cause as the source of motion in the thing, we need to consider it in terms of motion interpreted as the act of the thing existing in potency. The efficient cause therefore in imparting motion to the thing actualizes the thing existing in potency, so that the effect in question depends on the efficient cause for its actuality, and its actuality is derived therefrom. Now in considering actuality within Aquinas’ wider metaphysical thought, we must bear in mind Aquinas’ fundamental development over Aristotle in this respect, and that is the distinction and composition of essence and esse in the finite thing. The essence of a finite thing is related to its esse as potency to act, so that it is esse that actualizes the potentially existing essence. In his commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard at and, respectively, Thomas notes: “Esse is the act of the existing thing insofar as it is a being… Essence is said of that whose act is esse” (also see; ST I.76.6). And in chapter IV of De Ente et Essentia at n.147-152, p. 377: Everything that receives something from another is in potency with respect to that whence it receives, and that which is received is in that in which it is received as its act. It must be the case then that the quiddity itself or form, which is the intelligence is in potency with respect to esse which it receives from God, and the esse that is received is received through the mode of act. Without esse there is nothing, so that all things come to be through esse. All act then is derivable from esse, and esse is thereby the act of all acts (see De Potentia Dei 7.2.9; ST I.3.4). Given then that the efficient cause actualizes the effect so that the effect depends on the efficient cause for its actuality, the efficient cause is responsible for the esse of the thing, so that in Aquinas’ metaphysical framework it is the efficient cause that imparts esse to the thing in rendering it actual. The being of the effect, its very esse, is therefore derived from and dependent on the being of the cause.

The Relevance of Aquinas’ Uncaused Cause Argument


With this rich metaphysical background in mind, we can begin to appreciate Thomas’ thought on the order of efficient causality presented at the beginning of the secunda via. He tells us that it is not possible that an efficient cause could be the cause of itself, for then it would have to be prior to itself. When we consider the metaphysics of the matter, this stands to reason. The efficient cause is what actualises the effect and causes it to be through imparting esse. If an efficient cause were the cause of itself, it would be the effect of itself. As cause it would impart esse to itself; as effect it itself would be without esse awaiting to receive it from an efficient cause, in this case itself. But what is without esse is precisely nothing, devoid of all actuality, in which case the thing in question could not impart esse to itself, for it would be nothing, and thus requires a cause other than itself, already in possession of esse, from which to receive esse and to which it stands as effect to cause. Thus, in efficient causality, some distinct efficient cause is required to actualise the effect, in which case no efficient cause can be the cause of itself. Thomas says the same in his proof for the existence of God in De Ente at 4.377:131-135, wherein the causality of esse is explicitly to the fore: “It is impossible that the being itself [ipsum esse] of the thing is caused by its very form or quiddity, I speak in the manner of an efficient cause, because then something would be its own cause and bring itself into existence, which is impossible.” In The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas John Wippel (2000) also makes a conceptual connection between the second way and the proof of God in the De Ente, but he hastens to add that if one were to interpret the secunda via in such a fashion, one would be giving it a metaphysical reading not endorsed by its starting point in sensible things—as Wippel says concerning the cause of esse: “This is not the kind of efficient causality that is immediately given to us in sense experience” (460). Whilst it may be true that one does not immediately experience what could be called existential efficient causality, it is nevertheless the fundamental form of efficient causality, since the efficient cause is the principle of motion in the thing, and motion is the act of the thing existing in potency and, for Thomas at least, the act of the thing existing in potency is esse; thus the transfer of esse is involved in every instance of efficient causality, in which case experience of any instance of efficient causality is implicitly an experience of existential efficient causality. I thus submit that one can read the second way in a more existential sense, closer to the argument from De Ente without thereby distorting the argumentation. The logic of efficient causality entails then that the efficient cause be distinct from its effect and prior to its effect, since the being of the effect is derived from that of the cause. Behind the logic of efficient causality lies a more fundamental causal principle, at work in all other forms of causality, which is to the effect that something is caused insofar as it is dependent in some fashion, so that an effect is precisely an effect insofar as it is dependent on some cause. Thus, Thomas is not committed to the view that all beings require a cause, only



that those beings that are dependent in some way require a cause. This is an important point, since Thomas will seek to argue that there is some being dependent in no way and thus uncaused, which we call God; but if he were to lay down a causal principle that all beings require a cause, he would be contradicting himself in concluding that there is an uncaused cause. Thus, Thomas does not commit himself to the principle that all beings require a cause, which would be to rule out a priori the possibility of any uncaused cause, but to the more sober and parsimonious principle that all dependent beings require a cause. In the case of the second way, the dependency in question is a dependency for motion understood as act understood as esse, which is imparted by the efficient cause. Let us now consider an ordered series of efficient causes. B. Ordered Efficient Causes Having considered the order in the efficient causal relationship, Thomas then states that it is impossible to proceed to infinity in efficient causes, and from there proceeds to consider an ordered series of efficient causes. Perhaps a word of explanation is required for his move from a statement of the denial of an infinite series of efficient causes to a consideration of an ordered series of efficient causes. When considering an infinite series, Thomas is keen not to deny just any infinite series of causes, but an ordered series of causes. Elsewhere, Thomas distinguishes between (i) an essentially ordered series of causes and (ii) an accidentally ordered series of causes. An essentially ordered causal series is one such that all of the causes work in harmony to produce the effect whereas in an accidentally ordered series one cause works to produce one effect and so on. Thomas does not deny the possibility that the latter could be infinite but he denies that the former could be infinite (see De Veritate 2.10; ST I.4.46.2 ad. 7; Quaestiones Quodlibetales; also Brown 1966; Wengert 1971; MacDonald 1991; Kerr 2012a; 2015a, Ch. 5; 2015b). In the argument under consideration, Thomas points out that in an ordered series of efficient causes, the first is the cause of the intermediate and the intermediate the cause of the ultimate, whether the intermediate is one or many. Thomas’ point here is that the causal transitivity of the primary cause does not terminate in the intermediate cause(s), but in the ultimate cause responsible for the ultimate effect. So in such an ordered series of efficient causes, the ultimate would be causally inefficacious without the intermediate and the intermediate inefficacious without the primary. It follows then that not only is the primary cause the cause of the intermediate causes(s), but it is also the cause of their causality and thereby the cause of the ultimate cause and its causality. Effectively then, there is no ultimate effect without the primary cause. This serves to locate the causal series in question within what Thomas elsewhere characterises as an essentially ordered causal series and this as

The Relevance of Aquinas’ Uncaused Cause Argument


distinct from an accidentally ordered causal series; so let us now consider these distinct series. An essentially ordered causal series is one in which the causal transitivity of the primary cause does not terminate in its immediately succeeding effect, but is the cause of the causality of its effect thereby making the primary cause responsible for the effects in the series. There is thus an essential order in such a series insofar as if any preceding cause in the series were removed, the subsequent causal relata of the series would be removed. An accidentally ordered series is one in which the transitivity of the primary cause is terminated in its immediately succeeding effect; if there is a series of such causes, it would be simply a series of a single cause producing a single effect, and that effect producing its own effect, irrespective of its cause, and so on. There is thus no essential order in such a series, but the series is merely connected together with each link therein following one after another. Thomas’ examples of such causal series are as follows: (i) (ii)

Essentially ordered series: the mind moves the hand, which moves the stick, which moves the stone. Accidentally ordered series: a father produces a son who produces a son who produces a son and so on (see ST, Ia.46.2 ad. 7).

In the essentially ordered series, the mind is the primary cause not only imparting motion to the series but also in so imparting motion imparting causality to the series. Thus, the hand would not move without the mind, and the stick would not move without the mind’s urging the hand to move it, and the stone would not move without the stick’s being moved by the hand’s being moved by the mind. All causes in the series act as one so as to produce the ultimate effect, and would fail to act without the mind’s imparting motion to the series. Thus the cause of the effect is primarily the mind and secondarily the intermediate causes, so that if one were to remove the mind, one would remove the effect. The priority of the primary cause here is important; the primary cause is not only temporally prior but logically prior, such that remove the cause, the effect will be removed. What this then entails is that the secondary causes in the series do not just depend on the primary cause simply in virtue of coming after it, rather they depend on it for their very causality; without a primary cause for the series all subsequent causes would be secondary or intermediate and thereby lacking in causal efficacy. Thus, it is possible to divorce the temporal priority of the primary cause in such a series from its logical priority, so that what is essential is that the primary cause be logically prior as that without which the secondary causes would be lacking in causal efficacy, irrespective of whether the intermediate causes are finite or infinite (in II Metaphysics 2.3. n.



303). It is important to bear this clarification in mind, since failure to do so leads to misunderstanding and the charge that Thomas equivocates between a primary cause which is temporally prior and a primary cause prior to which there is nothing (cf., Kenny 1969, 44). In the accidentally ordered series the case is quite different. A father produces a son, but in producing a son the father is not the cause of the causality of the son. Doubtless without the father the son would not be, but the son can himself be a father without the help of his father. Thus, in the fathers/sons series, the father is not the father of his son’s son (the father’s grandson), rather the son is the father of the grandson, and the father is thereby the grandfather. The grandfather is the cause of his son, but not the cause of his grandson; the son can bring about his own son without the aid of his father. Thus, unlike the essentially ordered series, it is not the case that some primary cause is responsible for both the existence and the causality of the effect; rather, in an accidental series, the cause is simply responsible for the existence of the effect. This clarification of the causal series in question helps us to situate the second way, since Thomas is quite clear in the second way that he is considering only an ordered series of efficient causes. Now in the second way Thomas speaks of primary, intermediate, and ultimate causes in such an ordered series, and this goes to indicate that the series he has in mind is an essentially ordered series; for it is only within an essentially ordered series that considerations of the causality of intermediate and ultimate causes have their explanatory context, whereas in accidentally ordered series, there is no distinction between intermediate and ultimate causes, there are simply causes and effects heaped together accidentally. This clarification of the order of the causal series feeds into Thomas’ denial of an infinite regress of causes, as we shall see. Interestingly enough, whilst Anthony Kenny (1969), to his credit, recognizes that the causal series involved in the second way is of the essentially ordered kind, he nevertheless takes as a paradigm example of the causal series involved here that of human generation, as he says: “In human generation, if anywhere, we have a relation of efficient causality which will provide a premise for the Second Way” (41). It is odd that Kenny states this, since he goes on to point out that human generation is one of the examples that Thomas offers of the accidentally ordered series (41), in which case how could it be a premise for the second way when the second way is involved with the essentially ordered series? There is significant confusion here in Kenny’s consideration of the causal series involved in the second way, along with a failure to consider the metaphysics behind Thomas’ thought on essentially ordered series. Such weaknesses in Kenny’s treatment lead him to the absurd conclusion that the second way is based on medieval astrology (44) as opposed to a highly refined metaphysics of causality.

The Relevance of Aquinas’ Uncaused Cause Argument


C. Infinite Regress In the preceding section, the order of the efficient causal series was clarified, and this was to the effect that the primary is the cause of the intermediate and the intermediate the cause of the ultimate. This was further contextualised within Thomas’ wider philosophical position on the distinction between essentially ordered and accidentally ordered causal series, such that in the former the primary cause is cause of both the existence and the causality of the effects whereas in the latter the primary cause is cause only of the existence of the effect. When we come to consider Thomas’ denial of an infinite regress of efficient causes, he announces a principle that if applied to a series of essentially ordered causes is true, but when applied to a series of accidentally ordered causes is false. The principle that Thomas announces is: “remove the cause and one removes the effect.” Taken in isolation, this principle is subject to immediate counter example provided by Thomas himself later in the Summa (Ia.46.2 ad. 7); for in the case of a father and son, the father is the father of the son and thereby his efficient cause. However, having caused the son to exist, the father can cease to exist without the son thereby ceasing to exist, in which case we have a clear counter example to Thomas’ principle that if you remove the cause you remove the effect. Now, one could save the principle by interpreting it in a modal fashion such that if in some possible world the father were prevented from having sexual relations at the time which in the actual world brought about the conception of his son, then in that possible world his son would not have come into being. Such is one way of reading Thomas’ principle, and seems to be implicit in Kenny’s reading of the second way (1969, 43). However, this seems like a strained reading insofar as Thomas does not announce the principle in a modal context, but rather in the context of everyday sensible things. Furthermore, given that the alternative reading I am here proposing, to the effect that the principle is applicable to the essentially ordered series but not the accidentally ordered series, fits in with Thomas’ wider philosophical thought, one need not offer the modal reading of the principle. What this counter example shows is that Thomas’ second way is not to be read in the context of accidentally ordered series of causes, but in the context of essentially ordered series. Recall that in an accidentally ordered series a cause is simply the cause of the existence of its immediately succeeding effect, so that once the cause performs its causal duty, the cause can drop out and the effect remains. In that case, if one were to remove the cause, one would not thereby remove the effect; so Thomas’ principle is inapplicable to the accidentally ordered series. However, it is applicable to the essentially ordered series, since not only is the primary cause of that series the cause of the existence of its effects, but also of their causality, so that without the presence of the primary cause to the effects of that series the posterior causal relata would



fail; in other words, remove the cause and you remove the effect. Let us consider this with regard to the mind/hand/stick/stone example. The mind/hand/stick/stone series is unlike the father/son series insofar as one cannot remove the mind (the primary cause in this particular series) without thereby removing the causal efficacy of the remaining causal relata; for if the mind ceased to impart motion to that series, the motion of the posterior causal relata would cease—this is in effect the priority of the primary cause in such a series to all secondary causes, since qua secondary they are dependent for their causal efficacy on something prior to them. On the other hand, in the father/son series one can remove the father after he has brought the son into existence, and yet the son can remain in existence and act as a cause by bringing about his own son. Thomas’ principle then: remove the cause and you remove the effect, must be read in the context of essentially ordered series of causes, which is the reading that I am here proposing, otherwise the second way not only fails but is at odds with Thomas’ wider philosophical views. Taking the principle that if you remove the cause then you remove the effect, we can apply it to the essentially ordered series of causes and observe that if there were no primary cause in such a series, then the intermediate and the ultimate causes would be causally inefficacious with respect to the causal property of the series, since in an essentially ordered series of causes, the intermediate and ultimate causes depend on some primary cause not only for their existence but also for their causality. Returning thus to the mind/hand/stick/stone example, the causal property in question is motion - the mind induces motion to the hand, the hand to the stick, and the stick to the stone. Should the mind fail to induce motion to the hand, or in the course of inducing motion suffer some irreparable damage that it cannot see through the intention of such motion, the motion passing to the hand/stick/stone would end and the causal series of itself would fail. Thus, if there were no primary cause in an essentially ordered series there would be no intermediate or ultimate causes. This of course is not to say that without the mind the hand/stick/stone would cease to exist, only that they would cease to be in respect of the motion imparted to the series by the mind; but given that motion is not the only causal influence such things can undergo, they can be subject to different causal influences, one or many of which keep them in existence. But if it is the case that an essentially ordered series of causes must have a primary cause, otherwise the intermediate or ultimate members lose their causal efficacy, then there could not be an infinite series of such causes, since an infinite series is infinite precisely insofar as it has no primary cause. It follows that if there were postulated an infinite essentially ordered series without a primary cause, there would be no cause for the causality of the posterior causal relata. In that case, given an infinite series of essentially ordered causes, not only would there be no primary cause, but there would be no intermediate cause(s) and no ultimate cause, in which case there would be

The Relevance of Aquinas’ Uncaused Cause Argument


no causal series! Applying this then to the reasoning of the second way, Thomas denies that there is an infinite series of (essentially) ordered efficient causes, since he takes for granted that there are efficient causes that are ordered and are either intermediate or ultimate, in which case they point to some primary efficient cause. But do they? It is clear that Thomas’ strategy is not, as it is for Duns Scotus (Ordinatio I.2.1.2, nn. 48–54) and Occam (I Sententiarum 2.10. 342:17–354:14 [Contra Opinonem Scoti], and 354:15–357:9 [Responsio Auctoris]), to presuppose the impossibility of an actual infinity, infer that an infinite series of causes leads to an actual infinity, and that such a causal series must be thereby finite. Rather, his strategy is to argue that in an infinite series of essentially ordered efficient causes there is no primary cause and thus no intermediate nor ultimate causes, which Thomas takes to be absurd. Thus, Thomas holds that an infinite series of essentially ordered efficient causes would fail precisely as a causal series, note the following evaluation by Lawrence Dewan in “St. Thomas and Infinite Causal Regress” (2001): If the causal hierarchy is truly causal, positing an infinity of members negates the very causal structure. One might envisage a hierarchy of created pure spirits, and it might be posited to stretch to infinity, but it could not be an efficient causal hierarchy, even as regards some added perfection such as illumination. The structure of an infinite series cannot have a causal nature. (125) It should be clear also that considerations of the transfinite made acceptable by Georg Cantor (see Dauben 1977) do not affect Thomas’ reasoning, since Thomas is not here concerned with the mathematically infinite, but the causally infinite whose logic is spelled out in terms of the accidentally and essentially ordered series. D. This is What We All Name “God” Thomas has argued that the series of ordered efficient causes cannot proceed to infinity in which case there must be a primary efficient cause, and this is what we call God. However, we typically understand God to be an uncaused cause, supreme and absolute in Himself and everything subject to Him. Indeed this is what Thomas thinks he has arrived at in the second way. Nevertheless, it is possible to appreciate the causal reasoning in the second way and deny that we have arrived at some supreme uncaused cause. This is because Thomas has only established that there must be some primary efficient cause, not that such a cause is absolutely uncaused. Indeed Thomas has assumed that in establishing the primary cause, he has established an uncaused cause, and this we call “God.” But is this a safe assumption?



In order to appreciate why this may not be a safe assumption, consider Thomas’ example of the essentially ordered series: the mind moves the hand, which moves the stick which moves the stone. In such a series the mind is undoubtedly one of those things that can induce motion of itself; one can freely choose to move the stick and the stone out of nothing but sheer indulgence (think of somebody going to the golf course just to knock balls about). The mind then in such a series is primary and uncaused in respect of the causal property of the series (motion), but that does not entail that the mind is absolutely uncaused, since of course the mind has a cause for its existence (and indeed a final cause motivating the desire to move the stick to move the stone). Thus, whilst one can establish that there is a primary cause in some essentially ordered series and in thereby establishing a primary cause we establish that it is uncaused, such a cause is only uncaused in respect of the causality of that series, it is not absolutely uncaused. But God is typically taken to be a cause that is absolutely uncaused, in which case if the second way does not establish a primary efficient cause that is absolutely uncaused, then the second way has not arrived at what we call “God.” It should be noted that this captures Paul Edwards’s (1959) general objection to the cosmological argument, to the effect that those who endorse an infinite regress do not remove some primary cause, they simply deny its exalted status as uncaused. A similar issue is raised and addressed by Scott MacDonald (1991, 146). However, Thomas himself was aware that a primary cause in a series of causes is not automatically an absolutely primary cause, note in particular the following from ST IaIIae.6.1 ad. 1: It is to be noted that it happens that some principle of change is first in some genus but which is not first simply speaking; as in the domain of alterable things the first cause of alteration is the heavenly body, which itself is not the first source of change simply speaking but is moved with regard to local motion by a higher source of change. I think the key to overcoming this tricky evaluative issue is to remember once again the nature of efficient causality. An efficient cause is the primary source of motion for a thing, and motion is understood in terms of potency and act, so that an efficient cause is what actualises a thing. Now, as was indicated above, act is understood in Thomas’ metaphysical thought in terms of esse, so that nothing could be unless it has esse. Thus, esse is that act to which all other acts are subject – esse is the act of all acts. Efficient causality then essentially involves the causality of esse. Given the latter, when Thomas speaks of an ordered series of efficient causes, one can consider him as speaking of an ordered series of causes of esse. Thus, whereas in the mind/hand/stick/stone example, the causal property in question was motion, in the second way it is

The Relevance of Aquinas’ Uncaused Cause Argument


esse. Considered from the point of view of esse, the second way has some appeal in establishing an absolutely primary uncaused efficient cause. To be sure, all cases of efficient causality involve a transfer of esse at bottom, since esse is the act of all acts; but such transference of esse can be occluded by the particular causal property in question, e.g., motion. Thus, in the current context, I am focussing on esse as a causal property so as to show how a denial of an infinite series of efficient causes of esse leads to an absolutely uncaused efficient cause. Such an argumentative procedure is only implicit in the second way but is explicit in the proof of God in De Ente (see Kerr 2012a, 37; 2015a; 2015b). The essentially ordered series terminates in a primary cause of the causal property of that series, so that the primary cause is uncaused with respect to the property of that series. Now the objection is that such a cause may be primary with respect to that series, but not with respect to another series. Let us now consider that esse is the causal property of the series. In terminating an essentially ordered series of causes of esse, the primary cause is a primary uncaused cause of esse. As a primary uncaused cause of esse, such a cause is cause of all that has esse but is not itself caused to have esse (elsewhere Thomas argues that such a cause is pure esse). Anything other than the primary uncaused cause of esse either (i) has esse and is thereby an effect of this cause or (ii) is without esse and is thereby nothing. It follows then that the primary uncaused cause of esse cannot be caused in any respect since in order to be caused there must be something other than it acting as its cause, but what is other than it is either (i) an effect of it or (ii) nothing. Therefore, the primary uncaused cause of esse, which terminates the essentially ordered series of causes of esse is absolutely primary and uncaused. Interpreted in light of esse, Thomas’ second way establishes a primary uncaused cause, which is caused in no respect; in other words, the second way establishes an absolutely primary uncaused cause of esse. Everything other than this cause is either nothing or caused by it, in which case this cause is the cause of all that is, but uncaused in itself. And in Western philosophical theology, God has been understood to be an absolutely primary uncaused cause of all that is. Therefore, Thomas legitimately concludes that this is what we name “God.” 3. Conclusion In concluding this chapter on the contemporary significance of Aquinas’ second way, I do not wish to dwell on the fine detail of Aquinas’ wider philosophical thought on issues such as causality, esse, essentially ordered series, etc., and the significance of that for contemporary philosophy. This is because these are well-worn tracks in Thomistic studies that (i) would require independent chapters and (ii) would take me off the topic of the contemporary relevance of the second way. The second way is a heavyweight metaphysical argument for the existence of God, and so my concluding comments shall focus on the



contemporary relevance of the second way precisely as an argument for God’s existence. I noted above that if God has been understood to be anything within the Western tradition of philosophical theology, He has been understood to be an absolutely primary uncaused cause of all that is, i.e., that from which all things derive their existence. Everything stands to God then as creature to creator, and so a kind of creationism is implied in Thomas’ concept of God as a primary uncaused cause of esse. Creation is often viewed as some singular event that happened at the beginning of the universe, with God giving the universe its first nudge into existence. God is effectively thought of almost as the great cosmic finger that pushes the first in a row of cosmic dominoes. On this view, God’s creative causality is thought of in terms of God’s acting at the beginning of time to bring everything into existence. Working with such an understanding of creation, if one can deny that the universe had a beginning, one could deny that there is any role for God in relation to bringing the universe into existence. This is precisely Stephen Hawking’s (1998, 54) approach; for he argues that on his model of the universe, it is a finite enclosed system with no boundary or edge signifying its beginning. As a self-contained system with no boundary or edge signifying a beginning, we need not look into the conditions in place extrinsic to the universe that caused it to be; Hawking infers that this has significant repercussions for God’s role in the creation of the universe, as he says: The idea that space and time may form a closed surface without boundary also has profound implications for the role of God in the affairs of the universe. With the success of scientific theories in describing events, most people have come to believe that God allows the universe to evolve according to a set of laws and does not intervene in the universe to break these laws. However, the laws do not tell us what the universe should have looked like when it started – it would still be up to God to wind up the clockwork and choose how to start it off. So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator [my emphasis]. But if the universe is really completely selfcontained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator? (1998, 160-1) It is Aquinas’ concept of God that emerges from the second way that tells us precisely the place for a creator in a beginningless universe, as I have argued in the past (Kerr 2012b). In the Middle Ages, Aquinas was (in)famous for holding that a beginningless created universe is possible, and his reasons for thinking so emerge in the thinking implicit in the second way (see Wippel 1984). Now,

The Relevance of Aquinas’ Uncaused Cause Argument


when considering creation, we are considering the origin of things, and not the beginning of things. In the case of God and creatures, all creatures have their origin in God insofar as God is the cause of their esse. As cause of esse God creates not by presupposing anything from which to create, since outside of esse there is nothing. Rather, God immediately brings into existence the creature whole and complete, such that it is out of nothing other than His own resources that God creates. None of this entails that creation had a beginning; for creation could be like the illumination of the moon in the above example, never having had a beginning, but nevertheless having an origin. Thus, a beginningless created universe is not impossible, and Hawking’s insistence that a beginningless universe is an uncaused universe seems to employ a basic fallacy: if the universe had a beginning, then it had a cause/there is a role for the creator (PÆQ), but the universe does not have a beginning (-P), therefore the universe does not have a cause/there is no role for the creator (-Q) – and this is the fallacy of denying the antecedent. There is of course a disanalogy here, since in the sun and moon example, both sun and moon exist with the latter being illuminated by the former, whereas concerning God and creatures, creatures do not exist without the causal activity of God. However, what the analogy highlights is that we can distinguish between the temporal beginning of something and its origin, such that we can talk of its origin without thereby presupposing a beginning, in which case we can talk about creatures having their origin in God without creation thereby having a beginning. I introduce Hawking here merely as a foil to introduce the Thomistic notion of creation and to highlight how distinct the latter is from a more unreflective popular notion of creation. For Thomas, to create is to produce a thing in existence according to its total substance, which is to say the thing whole and complete is actualised in its existence by the creator (see In II Sent 1.1.2: “This is what it means to create: to produce a thing in existence according to its total substance.”) The concept of God that we saw emerge from the second way is a cause of the esse of things, so such a God creates by granting esse to things, and in so granting esse, God produces them in their existence according to their total substance. Creation thus presupposes nothing, but everything presupposes creation (see Summa Contra Gentiles 2.21: “Creation is the primary action, since it presupposes nothing and all things presuppose it”). Given the latter, creation is not a kind of change or making, since to change or to make something is to take something already existing and to modify it in some way. God does not take anything already existing, since as the primary uncaused cause of esse, if anything exists it has been caused to exist and is therefore created by God. Creation then is not change. As Aquinas notes in the Summa Contra Gentiles at 2.17:


GAVEN KERR Wherever the total substance of a thing is produced in existence, it is not the case that something the same is related to one thing and another; for that [which remains the same] would not be produced but presupposed by the production. Therefore, creation is not change. (also see De Potentia Dei 3.3; Tractatus de Substantis Separatis 9 n. 49, 10, n. 56)

With these foregoing remarks in mind, we can return to Hawking’s paradigmatic view that to create is to be somehow prior to the beginning of the universe and to give it its first nudge into existence. On Thomas’ account, this is not what it means to create. Creation is not simply giving the universe its first nudge into existence or winding up the clock. To create is to bring the creature into existence; and as a result of being created the creature depends on God for its existence. Returning to the second way, such causality and dependency is located within the essentially ordered series of causes of esse, so that the posterior causal relata in that series, the creatures, would neither exist nor be able to act as causes if not for the primary causality of God. Consequently, God’s creative causality is not simply an act that happened way back at the beginning, but is an act that embraces all that is and nothing that is not, so that anything that at all exists is being created by God. As I see things, the contemporary significance of the second way is twofold. Firstly, it establishes the existence of a primary uncaused cause of all that is without whose causal influence nothing would be, and this we call God. Secondly, this is a notion of God that does not lend itself to unreflective ideas about creation or God’s role before the Big Bang; rather, Thomas’ God is a God without whom none of the above would be, and is such that all things that exist, whatever their stage of development, must be present to God receiving their existence from God. The second way thus presents some metaphysically rich and philosophically challenging argumentation for its conclusion, and thereby merits consideration by contemporary philosophers. NOTES 1

Unless otherwise stated, all translations from the work of Aquinas will be my own.

Six THE IRRELEVANCE OF AQUINAS' UNCAUSED CAUSE ARGUMENT Herbert Roseman 1. Introduction In Philosophical Investigations Ludwig Wittgenstein (1958) introduces us to the radical concept of a language game (7), which weaves language into its accompanying activity. Speaking a language is part of an activity or a form of life. Some of Wittgenstein’s examples of language games include: giving orders and obeying them; describing the appearance of an object; praying, speculating about an event; forming and testing a hypothesis; and making up a story and reading it (23). Wittgenstein adds that there are many more examples and the tools of language often are not used in the ways indicated by logicians. In the Summa Thomas plays a Wittgensteinian language game as a part of the activity of exploring the question of whether God exists. He answers the question with five cosmological proofs of God’s existence. This chapter will focus on Thomas’ second proof, the so-called proof from causality (PFC), in which Thomas argues that God must be the first cause of events in the world. Professor of Historical Theology, Denys Turner, of Yale University suggests that Thomas himself understood that the immediate motivation for the composition of the Summa was principally a Dominican task undertaken in fulfillment of his superiors’ commission in Rome; specifically, to reform the theological training of Dominican preachers. (Turner 2013, 30) The Summa is a text that was used in university-level courses to advance training beyond practical pastoral activities—“at any rate that is what Thomas says it is meant to be” (30, italics his). If Turner is correct, the discourse of the Summa is not a language game woven into the philosophic activities of forming and proving hypotheses. Rather, the Summa accompanies the activity of educating Dominican preachers. The PFC is not to be taken as a conclusive, Euclidian proof of the existence of God, but is analogous to a text used to stimulate discussion in a modern classroom. The proof could have served as the foundation for discussion that reinforced the ability of the preachers to address theological questions in their pastoral duties. All the participants were Dominicans, who were unlikely to be atheists or need to be convinced that God



exists. A text proving the existence of God with full philosophical rigor would not serve as a good springboard for such a discussion. The use of the PFC in training explains its extreme brevity and rationalizes the logical problems that should have been obvious to a man of Thomas’ intellect. The language game played by the discourse in this chapter will be woven into the activity of philosophical analysis. Although this may not be completely fair to Thomas, philosophical analysis is the only way to answer the question posed by this book: Is Thomas’ PFC proof still relevant today as a metaphysical analysis? I will argue that it is not metaphysically relevant; I will not address its relevance as a pedagogical tool. In the next section of this chapter, after restating Thomas’ second proof to make its definitions, premises, and logic explicit, I go on to note the omission of an important category of causes, namely, mental causes. Finally, I argue that the conclusion that God exists is a logical consequence of simply granting the seemingly innocuous premise that God’s existence is merely possible. Then I examine the proof in the light of modern developments in philosophy. At the outset of the PFC, Thomas simply asserts: “In the world of senses we find that there is a sequence of efficient causes.” In this deceptively simple claim there are two complex metaphysical ideas, which have been the source of much controversy amongst modern philosophers: world and cause. Aristotle’s formulation of these ideas—ideas we can assume are accepted by Thomas and his readers—have been invalidated by modern philosophic investigation. Immanuel Kant demonstrates that Aristotle’s concept of world has no empirical reality, and David Hume ([1739] 1896, [1777] 1975) questions Aristotle’s (1984) notion of efficient cause. In the final section, I demonstrate that Thomas’ reliance on the impossibility of a regress to establish the existence of God is not conclusive. I conclude by summarizing Hobbes’ ([1651] 2008) and Kierkegaard’s (1962) arguments that the idea of proving the existence of God through his works is wrongheaded. Both of these thinkers believe that God exists; however, Hobbes argues that proofs of the existence of God tell us nothing about his nature, and Kierkegaard believes that the paradoxes that arise from Christianity are fundamental to his Christian beliefs and serve to reinforce and not diminish his faith. 2. Thomas’ Proof in the Summa In the Summa Thomas’ proofs of the existence of God conform to the format of Quaestio Disputata. As such, the statement of each proof is brief and omits some of the background assumptions that underpin it. Thomas neglects to tell his readers that he assumed the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR), which is fundamental to the idea of a sequence of efficient causes. In The Ethics (IP11) Spinoza states this principle as: For each thing there must be assigned a

The Irrelevance of Aquinas’ Uncaused Cause Argument


cause, or reason, both for its existence and for its nonexistence. Thomas also assumes that his readers understand that the idea of an infinite duration is logically impossible. A. Causal Sequence Thomas begins his proof with the following: “In the world of senses we find that there is a sequence of efficient causes,” but he never defines world and efficient cause. By world it is safe to assume that he adopts Aristotle’s concept of a contained world. Similarly, it is safe to assume that he believes his readers to be familiar with Aristotle’s definition of efficient cause in Book II, Chapter 3 of the Metaphysics. Aristotle defines cause as “that out of which a constituent thing comes to be” (194b24) and the efficient cause is the primary source of the change or staying unchanged…that which makes something of that which is made, and that which changes something of that which is changed. (194b29) Later it will be shown that Aristotle’s concepts of world and cause affect the validity of Thomas’ proof. Central to the proof is the idea of a sequence or order of efficient causes, but Thomas does not define this idea with sufficient precision for logical analysis. For Thomas, the result of an efficient cause is an effect. But an effect assumes a cause so Thomas’ formulation is tautological; what we observe are events that we can interpret as effects in the appropriate situation. A more precise definition of Thomas’ sequence is given by the following expression: S ≡ GE1C1E2C2E3…Cn-1En-1CnEnH where: G = the first cause, God Ci = the ith efficient cause in the sequence and Ei = the event caused by Ci or G H = the end of the sequence (Halt) Examination of this formulation of Thomas’ sequence reveals that it logically infers an explicit event terminating the sequence, H. Thomas does not include the halt in his brief description, but it must be included as a matter of logic. Just as the beginning event of S needs a cause (God) to initiate the sequence, the ending event needs an event to terminate the sequence. There is no logical guarantee that any sequence will terminate to satisfy Thomas’ implicit assumption that infinite durations are impossible. Just as the initial cause is unobservable, it is logically possible for a sequence to generate unobservable



events and causes that occur after the last observable event. As will be seen, the omission of a termination event can lead to a regress just as the omission of an explicit starting event does. The causes in Thomas’ sequence have three different logical forms: (1) intermediate causes, Ci (Ei Ei+1), relate two events Ei and Ei+1, (2) the first cause G(E1C1) relates to a single event and the first observable cause and (3) the terminal cause, Cn(EnH), relates a single event and the halt. The expression, S, defines Thomas ontological commitment to ordered sequences of efficient causes and events. In order to have a causal sequence, we must refine Aristotle’s meaning of efficient cause. Each efficient cause is assumed to be necessary and sufficient to cause the next event. A necessary cause means that the event would not have occurred if the cause had not occurred; were all causes not necessary the existence of the chain would not be necessary. One assumes that Thomas thinks that once God initiates a chain its completion is necessary. A sufficient cause means that if an event occurred then its cause occurred. Were this not true, the reasoning back through the chain to God’s initial cause would not be possible. Thomas aims to prove the existence of an object that is a “necessary being that exists in itself… and is the reason that all other things must be.” He asserts that “all men” call this being God. In the City of God (v.9), Augustine identifies this being as “the giver of all power of achievement” and as “cause and cause only,” which aligns with Thomas’ proof. For both Thomas and Augustine the being that all men call God is the Catholic god, who is also the creator of all nature, and who is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect and demands worship from humans. B. Thomas’ Proof Restated and Critiqued Thomas asks us to accept the following premises: a. b. c. d. e. f. g.

It is possible that a being that “all men call God” exists. There exists in the “world of senses” observable sequences of efficient causes, S. The sequence of causes within G and H comprises: an initial event and cause (E1C1), intermediate causes (Ci i≠ 1, n) and a last cause and halt Cn(EnH). Cause Ci causes Ei and Ci+1. t(Ci+1) > t(Ci), that is Ci precedes Ci+1 in time. The durations of Ci and Ei are finite and greater than zero. An infinite duration is impossible.

Thomas’ proof is a reducto: 1.

S exists (b)

The Irrelevance of Aquinas’ Uncaused Cause Argument 2. 3.

4. 5. 6.


S must have either a finite or infinite number of causes and events (tautology) Assume the number of causes and events was infinite. a. C1 would not exist. (The duration of a cause and its resulting event is greater than zero (f). Since the Ci’s and Ei’s don’t overlap in time (e), the duration of S would be infinite. There would be no possible start time for E1C1 ) b. There would be no Ci for i>1 (all causes are necessary and sufficient) c. S would be empty (d) d. This contradicts (1). Therefore, S is finite. (excluded middle) Thus, it is necessary to posit a first cause, G(E1C1) G(E1C1) is the being that all men call God (a) The being that all men call God exists (4)

The proof is formally correct; if one accepts Thomas’ definitions and premises, then God exists. But philosophic analysis exposes logical problems in Thomas’ definition of God and the causal sequence. Moreover, granting Thomas the seemingly innocuous first premise along with his definition of God guarantees the proof. The first cause Thomas deduces does not have to be the complex being that “all men call God.” The proof has nothing to do with a god that was crucified and resurrected for our salvation. Thomas’ proof has not even established monotheism. The proof requires only that one or a number of beings are the source of all causal strings or, as Augustine would have it, the source of all power of achievement. These beings are indeed powerful, but they may not be numinal. The proof offers no reason to worship such gods or think they demand we obey their moral precepts. These gods could be modified Epicurean Gods, who have no interest in affairs on earth except causal sequences. Manichaean gods and a perfectly evil group of gods who were the source of all causal sequences could also be the gods that satisfy Thomas’ proof. Occam’s Razor requires that a philosophic proof only introduce entities whose definitions do not go beyond the needs of the proof. Thomas extends his concept of a necessary being to something that all men call God. I assume that he is referring to what his Catholic readers call God, who has many more attributes than the giver of all power of achievement. It is strange that Thomas’ definition of God is an empirical statement that is patently false. All men do not call what is Thomas’ concept of God God. Thomas surely knew that Zeus was called god by the Greeks. He also knew of the Jews’ radically different concept of what they called God. The most Thomas can assert is that the being that all men of his acquaintance call God is the source of all causal strings. If infinite duration is impossible, both boundaries of the causal sequence in the PFC must not generate an infinite regress. Thomas is aware of this restriction and posits the logical form G(E1C1) as a special cause which



eliminates the infinite regress at the beginning of the sequence. But Thomas does not consider a potential infinite regress at the end of the sequence. To understand this problem, consider a causal sequence in Aristotle’s Physics (256a6): “Thus, a staff moves a stone, and is moved by a hand which is moved by a man.” The sequence does not end with the stone. The moving stone moves some soil, which moves air and soil molecules, which move other molecules, which move still other molecules and so on. The movement of the air and soil molecules may be too small to be detectable, Thomas must account for logical possibilities that may not be observable. Indeed G(E1C1) is not observable. A causal sequence could logically generate Epicurean-like particles whose movement would never terminate. It is also possible that the sequence could branch into a treelike structure or devolve to an endless loop. To fail to account for such possibilities allows the sequence to violate the basic assumption that a sequence of infinite duration is impossible. A regress at the termination of the sequence is analogous to the regress at the beginning of the sequence and must be resolved with still another posit. There are at least two possible posits. First, one can posit that God stops the regress, which suggests a different entity from what is “called God by all men.” Such an entity must also be the power that stops achievement, which was not recognized as an attribute of God by Augustine. Second, we can posit a special halting cause, H, which is not perceived “in the world of senses.” The latter notion is preferable to the former, but Thomas must then expand his understanding of cause beyond Aristotle’s. If H is the halting cause, Cn must “know” that En contains H, because it causes En, the last observable event in the chain. Moreover Cn-1 must “know” that Cn “knows” that En contains H and so on to G. Clearly, this understanding of cause is different from Aristotle’s. Thomas recognizes that a consequence of the PSR requires the first cause in the sequence to be different from the intermediate causes. Yet he failed to realize that the last cause in the sequence must also be different. A sequence of interlocking efficient causes is significantly more complicated than Aristotle’s notion of stand-alone efficient cause, and these complications are inherited by the PFC. To address these complications would increase the size of the PFC well beyond its single short paragraph and destroy its simplicity. There are further problems with Thomas’ use of Aristotle’s notion of cause which are a consequence of the epistemology of David Hume described later in this chapter. C. Mental Causes and Events Thomas Hobbes’ ([1651] 2008) position on the causal proof of the existence of God appears in two places in Leviathan. Hobbes likely had Thomas’ Summa when he describes the causal sequence:

The Irrelevance of Aquinas’ Uncaused Cause Argument


because every act of man’s will, and every desire, and inclination proceedeth from some cause in a continual chain (whose first link is in the hand of God, the first of all causes) they proceed from necessity. (XXI.4) Aside from a statement on free will, which is clearly beyond the scope of this chapter, Hobbes’ quotation raises the issue of mental causes and their concomitant events. In Hobbes’ formulation, there can be mental causes in a causal sequence. Setting aside the difficult and controversial question of how our ontology should include mental events (cf. Davidson 1980), Hobbes’ observation is hard to deny: there is human agency in many sequences of causes. It can be inferred from Aristotle’s example above that there was a mental event that caused the decision by the “man” to begin the sequence, which is related to a belief that the stone ought to be moved. Moreover, one cannot induce the mental cause of another person’s act from observation. In fact, it may not be possible to determine the mental cause of even our own acts. This is significant for Thomas because mental causes of others cannot be observed in the “world of sense.” They can only be induced from our own mental states. Thus, the foundation of Thomas’ cosmological proof, something evident to our senses, is called into question. D. The Inevitability of the Proof The modal premise that it is possible that the Catholic God exists is unstated by Thomas but is required for the proof. If it is not possible that such a God exists, it cannot be proven that God exists (as will be seen later, Kierkegaard raises this point). But agreeing to this premise and the definition of God as the entity that “all men call God” assures Thomas of the proof that God exists by the PSR. This unstated premise allows two mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive outcomes: (1) God exists or (2) God does not exist. Outcome (1) obviously is what was to be proven. Outcome (2) contradicts Thomas’ definition of God. By the Principle of Sufficient Reason there must be a cause of the world. The entity that “all men call God” is omnipotent and the “giver of all power of achievement,” to you Augustinian language. If God did not exist, there would be no efficient causes or events “in the world of senses.” Thus, there cannot be causes and events if there is no God. The excluded middle forces one to accept Outcome (1). The existence of an omnipotent being is questioned in J. L. Mackie’s (1955) classic critique of theism, Evil and Omnipotence. He defines the Paradox of Omnipotence: “can an omnipotent being make things which he cannot subsequently control.” After a considerable argument Makie concludes that the paradox shows that we cannot “ascribe to any continuing being omnipotence in an inclusive sense.” Naturally, many philosophers have responded to Makie’s argument. Nevertheless, if Thomas’ God is omnipotent, then the possibility of



his existence is controversial. We have given up too much by agreeing to the undeclared and seemingly innocuous premise that the entity that all men call God can possibly exist. All five arguments for the existence of God in the Summa are classified as cosmological. This pattern of argument applies logical inference to an obvious fact about the world in order to prove the existence of God. Thomas’ PFC fails as a cosmological argument because one can reasonably deny the fact about the world that he has chosen, the existence of sequences of efficient causes. Furthermore, the logical inference from this fact to the existence of the God is problematic. The idea of an efficient cause is problematic in itself. Stringing these causes together in an ordered sequence adds another layer of complexity necessitating further argument. What mechanism makes these causes adhere to one another? If an efficient cause “knows” its successor, then an efficient cause in a chain must be different from a cause that stands alone. If a cause knows nothing of its successor, how could there be a chain? Thomas’ development of the concept of a sequence of causes is inadequately developed. Moreover, Thomas’ formulation of the causal sequence is deficient because it neither eliminates the possibility of sequences of infinite duration nor does it account for mental causes. In what follows, we will see that David Hume’s critique of efficient cause virtually eliminates the causal sequence as a fact that can be observed in the world. The logical form of Thomas’ reducto is sound, but the final premise (Thomas’ step 5) is flawed. The entity that “all men call God” is not conclusively shown to be the first cause. All Thomas has proven is that an entity, which is the first cause in all causal sequences, exists. Thomas has not even proven the existence of monotheism let alone the existence of an allpowerful, omniscient, morally perfect God who sends his son to earth to save mankind. Finally, given Thomas’ Catholic definition of God, the implicit granting of the possibility that such a God exists, and the unstated PSR guarantees the logical proof of the defined God’s existence. 3. Thomas’ PFC and Modern Philosophy Thomas employs the metaphysical concepts of world and efficient cause in the second sentence of PFC. There is no further explanation of these concepts, so we can assume that Thomas thinks that they are not problematic and are understood by his readers. Since Aristotelian metaphysics is at the heart of medieval theology, we can also assume that Thomas has adopted Aristotle’s concepts for both cause and world. The idea of efficient cause is central to Thomas’ construction of the causal sequence and, as will be shown, Aristotle’s concept of world allows Thomas’ God to be external to a finite world. In the Enlightenment, Aristotle’s concepts of world and efficient cause are rejected by Immanuel Kant and David Hume ([1739] 1896, [1777] 1975) respectively (also

The Irrelevance of Aquinas’ Uncaused Cause Argument


Gaston 2013). The following two quotations will summarize Aristotle’s (1984) view of world for the purposes of this chapter. Therefore the first heavens must be eternal. There is therefore also something which moves them. And since that which is moved and moves is intermediate, there is a mover which moves without being moved, being eternal, substance and actuality. (Metaphysics, Book XII, 1072a23) It is because it surrounds that form is thought to be place, for the extremes of what surrounds and of what is surrounded are in the same spot. They are both limits, but not of the same thing: the form is a limit of the object, and the place of the surrounding body. (Physics, Book IV, 211b10-13) Aristotle’s concept of world, which begins with substance, and its relationship to God is foundational for the PFC. The universe as a whole is comprised of a primary substance, a general essence that is prior to both form and matter. There must also be substance that is eternal. The concept of the unmoved mover provides the framework for the medieval concept of a universe, which includes God, who in turn is external to the contained world of things. For Aristotle, the world is a place and the place of the world is the innermost boundary of the form that contains the world. The form and the place of the world comprise the container that bounds everything that is in the world. All things are in place within the container, some actually and some potentially, but heaven is not in place because “we must suppose no body contains it” (Physics, Book IV, 212b9). Thus, Aristotle’s concept of the world has three levels: the uncontained universe which contains the bounded world which contains all things. The events in the causal sequence involve things in the contained world, and the sequence necessarily requires an uncontained God, the first cause, who must be external to the world because he cannot be contained. Immanuel Kant ([1787] 1933), in The Critique of Pure Reason, rejects the concept of the world as a container with a necessary being either inside or outside of the world. Since we cannot have any sensory experience of the world as a whole, we cannot have a true concept of world. Any concept of the world is subject to a confusion forced upon us by pure reason. Kant argues that the world is merely a transcendental idea, a concept of pure reason (A311, B368). Possible experience is that which can alone can give reality to our concepts; in its absence a concept is a mere idea, without truth, that is, without relation to any object. The possible empirical concept is therefore the standard by which we must judge whether the idea is a mere idea and thought-entity, or whether it finds its object in the world (A489/B517). Since the world as a whole cannot be an object of experience, we fall into illusion when we use reason alone to give us the concept of world and the



external cause of the world. We fail to realize that the concept of the world and its cause are merely transcendental ideas and beyond all experience. Kant demonstrates this with his first antinomy, in which he uses reason to prove two contradictory facts: a world has both a beginning and no beginning in time and space. In Kantian terms, the idea of world is a regulative principle of reason, serving to clarify and systematize our use of the ideas of reason. Regulative is in distinction to constitutive or what is actually present in the object. Any concept of world exists only in our mind and must not be transposed into a representation of an object empirically given and subject to the laws of experience (A484/B512). Kant’s critical philosophy is devastating to the logic of Thomas’ proof. Thomas’ concept of a contained world with God outside of the world is a crucial metaphysical assumption in the PFC. The conclusion of the PFC is not an empirical fact: God exists outside of our “world of sense,” a container for all appearances that includes Thomas’ sequences of efficient causes. God could not exist within the container, because he would be limited, and the entity “all men call God” is not limited. Kant demonstrates that this idea of world cannot be known by experience. The world of sense is merely a regulative idea that Thomas’ uses to guide his reasoning because he believes his concept of world is empirical. But the idea of the world is regulative. Therefore positing a God (Step 4 in the proof) outside the world to serve as a first cause of sequences of efficient causes is a confusion forced on us by reason. Moreover, since a sequence of causes in Aristotle’s contained world must be finite, Thomas’ argument suffers from circularity. Thus, the only way one can accept Thomas’ proof is to accept his idea of world on the grounds of faith alone. A. Thomas’ Concept of Efficient Cause In the first sentence of the PFC Thomas employs the Aristotelian modal idea of an efficient cause: the cause necessitates the effect. In Aristotle’s words: “The cause changes or makes that which is changed or made.” Thomas’ uses the concept of cause in connection with effect, so that he assumes his readers accept this modal notion. Consideration of the following thought experiment will help in understanding why Thomas’ concept of a modal cause is a controversial assumption that needs justification. Suppose a young child is given a rubber ball which she frequently drops and observes the bounce. The child will instinctively believe that the dropping of the ball causes the bounce. If the child understood necessity, she would believe that the drop necessitates the bounce, because she believes that if she drops the ball, then the ball will bounce. Suppose she is then given a cloth ball. For the first drop of the cloth ball, the child, using her notion of modal causation will expect the ball to bounce. On the other hand, the child’s father, observing this first attempt, will believe that the drop will not cause the cloth ball to bounce.

The Irrelevance of Aquinas’ Uncaused Cause Argument


This thought experiment supports David Hume’s ([1739] 1896, [1777] 1975) famous and convincing argument that cause is a construction of the mind derived from the observation of regularities. The child’s notion of the cause of a ball’s bounce stems from her observations of the ball’s behavior in her repetitive drops, while the father’s notion is based upon his more extensive observations of the behavior of various materials. J. L. Mackie (1965) agrees with Hume that cause is derived from regularities, but adds that the causal judgments we make actually presuppose a background setting. What we identify as the cause is a component in a bundle of factors all of which must be in place for the event to occur. In the thought experiment, the child’s rubber ball would not bounce if the floor were not hard, the height of the drop not high enough, the temperature within certain limits, etc. What we understand as a cause occurs and results from an event or a state of affairs not simply an effect. For Mackie (1965), a cause occurs and results in a context. In the Treatise of Human Nature, Hume ([1739] 1896) begins his argument by stating that there are only two observable factors in the notion of cause: proximity of the objects and temporal priority. We say that one billiard ball striking another will cause the second to move because the balls are brought into proximity and the first ball’s movement is prior to the second ball’s movement. To observe a cause, we must observe a power associated with the cause, but there is no observable power in the event. Thus, the notion of power is constructed by the observer. The several instances of resembling conjunctions lead us to the notion of power and necessity…The efficacy or energy of causes is neither placed in the causes themselves, nor in the deity…but belongs entirely to the soul, which considers the union of two or more objects in all past instances. ‘Tis here that the real power of causes is placed, along with their connection and necessity. (128) And in the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Hume ([1777] 1975) defines cause in the world and in the mind as follows: “an object followed by another and where all the objects, similar to the first, are followed by objects similar to the second …an object followed by another, and whose appearance always conveys the thought to that other” (76-7). The above quotations show that the idea that one thing necessarily causes another is not reified in the nature we sense but is our mind’s construction, which depends on repeated observation of objects both contiguous and ordered in time. Thus, the idea of causation in a particular agent depends upon her experience and is not an a priori law. Hume’s view of causation has been attacked by those who have a modal conception of cause, but many philosophers agree with Hume. If Hume’s formulation of causality is correct, then the methodology of the PFC as a cosmological proof of the existence of God is erroneous. A cosmological proof



begins with an undisputable fact about the world, and for PFC this fact is that efficient causal sequences exist in the “world of senses.” If efficient causes are merely constructions of our minds, these sequences may not exist objectively, and the fundamental fact of the proof is false. Moreover, if causation of events is dependent upon background conditions, Thomas’ concept of a causal chain must include these conditions, which affect his formulation of God’s first cause. If God wills the conclusion of a sequence of causes, he must also ensure the appropriate background conditions. In the Treatise, Hume ([1739] 1896) also teaches us that “no kind of reasoning can give rise to a new idea…whenever we reason, we must antecedently be possest of clear ideas, which may be the object of our reasoning” (127). If he is correct, it is not possible to develop the idea of God by reasoning from a sequence of efficient causes. In fact, Thomas only shows that reasoning from efficient causes results in a contradiction, at which point Thomas posits God. A contradiction does not give Thomas the logical warrant for this posit. Cause is a difficult and controversial philosophic concept, and a sequence of causes only adds to the complexity. In this light, David Hume’s perspective on general causes is worth reflecting on: But as to the causes of these general causes, we should in vain attempt their discovery; nor shall we ever be able to satisfy ourselves by any particular explanation of them. These ultimate springs and principles are totally shut up from human curiosity and enquiry… The most perfect philosophy of the natural kind only staves off our ignorance a little longer: as perhaps the most perfect philosophy of the moral or metaphysical kind only serves to discover larger portions of it. ([1777] 1975, 30) Hume teaches us that Newton’s theory of gravitation doesn’t answer the question of why gravity exists. When Einstein discovered that gravity was equivalent to spatial curvature, he did not answer the question of why this is so. In the same way, even if Thomas’ is correct about his posit of God, our ignorance of the first cause is only postponed because the question of what caused God immediately arises. B. The Infinite Regress Philosophers have a strong aversion to the infinite regress. When an argument leads to a regress, something must be done to resolve the regress; the usual remedy is altering the conclusion. After all, it is impossible for there to be infinities in nature, and a process with infinite steps never terminates. However, in some instances infinities, while not resolved, can be accommodated. Georg Cantor’s work on the real number system and Augustin-Louis Cauchy’s definition of mathematical continuity are examples of accommodating infinities

The Irrelevance of Aquinas’ Uncaused Cause Argument


and infinitesimals by revising and clarifying these concepts. In physics, resolving infinities in quantum mechanics inspired renormalization, which encouraged the development of quantum electrodynamics, one of the most successful physical theories in history. Thomas exploits the impossibility of the existence of infinite duration as the ultimate argument in the PFC. His argument presents the choice of accepting either an infinite chain of causes or the existence of God: since he views the former as unacceptable, he must choose the latter (see step 3d of Thomas’ proof). But there is another way of thinking about the choice that accepts neither: the so-called tertium quid or third thing. This section will develop this choice beginning with a seemingly irrelevant argument. Consider the following two propositions (see Sanford 1975; Dennett 2003, 126-8): 1. 2.

Every mammal has a mammalian mother. There are and have been a finite number of mammals on earth.

Both propositions seem to be obviously true but are contradictory. Infinity aversion motivates us to reject the notion that there are an infinite number of mammals on the planet and accept only proposition 2. Are we forced to concede to the very unlikely idea that there was or is a mammal that does not have a mammalian mother, or is there a tertium quid? Before we discuss these propositions we need to understand the logical status of existential heredity. Suppose there is a relationship R. Existential heredity means that if x and y are related by R then there is another entity z which is related by R to x. If the assumption of existential heredity is true, then there are an infinite number of entities related by R. On the other hand, if the assumption of finitude of the entities is true, then existential heredity cannot hold for all entities. In PFC Thomas accepts existential heredity for the relationship “cause” and blocks the resulting infinite series of causes by positing a first uncaused cause. Thomas was unaware of another possibility developed by Professor David Sanford (1975) of Duke University. If the definition of R is vague, then it is possible for a series to have existential heredity and be finite because it has no first term. The above problem of mammalian mothers will illustrate this possibility. Evolutionary studies tell us that mammals gradually developed from reptiles through a bridge species, the therapsids. Before this species evolved into mammals there were creatures that were neither pure therapsids nor pure mammals: call them proto-mammals. Proto-mammals are borderline cases which have features of both mammals and therapsids and cannot be classified simply as mammals or non-mammals. At some point in evolutionary history, a proto-mammalian mother gave birth to offspring which could be unequivocally classified as a mammalian mother. The vagueness of the relationship “mammalian mother” allows us to classify this proto-mammalian



as a proto-mammalian mother. The proto-mammalian gave birth to a mammal but at the same time was not a mammal. Thenceforth, all offspring from the initial mammalian mother were mammals. Thus, the vagueness of the relationship mammalian mother allows us to state that the series of mammalian mothers had no first member. The first member was a proto-mammal. Thus we can assert both existential heredity of the relationship mammalian mother and the finiteness of mammalian mothers. As another example, we can apply Stanford’s ideas to the last member of the infinite regress involved with Aristotle’s example of a moving stone. For Aristotle, the sequence stops with the moving stone. But in reality the stone moves some pebbles which move some soil which moves an endless succession of movement of the gas molecules comprising the air. The collisions that cause the movements of the gas molecules are inelastic so the motion will be continually damped until there remains only infinitesimal motion, but motion nonetheless. The hereditary relationship is transfer of motion between molecules. If this relationship is precise, then there must be an infinite chain of molecules in motion: a phenomenon never observed in nature. But this conclusion is not necessary because there is vagueness in the relationship when the motion becomes very small. As the inelastic collisions proceed, the motion will become slower and slower until it becomes undetectable. The precise point when motion transfer becomes undetectable depends upon the measuring instrumentation which cannot be infinitely precise. And when the movement of the molecules becomes small enough, the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics guarantees that our measurement of motion will be imprecise. Therefore, the idea of motion transfer is vague: it is impossible to determine if motion transfer has stopped with infinite precision. When it is no longer possible to determine the motion it can be interpreted as the halting event. The series is both finite and has no last member. Finally we come to the PFC itself. If the causes in Thomas’ sequences have the property of existential heredity and the idea of a cause is vague, then the sequence can be finite and have no first term. Thomas’ definition of the sequence clearly gives the causes the property of existential heredity. To see that cause is a vague term, we need to understand Mackie’s (1955, 1965) influential extension of Hume’s non-modal notion of cause. Mackie’s analysis is far more detailed than presented here, but for our purposes we need only note that for Mackie what we understand to be a cause is a component in a bundle of factors. A cause obtains only in an appropriate context. An example will elucidate Mackie’s ideas. Suppose two horses are needed to pull a wagon to a destination. The bundle of factors for delivery in this simplified example is two sound horses and a load below a maximum. Suppose a possible cause for the stopping of the wagon is a lame horse. The lame horse is a component in the bundle of factors which includes the sound horse and the load. The lame horse would necessarily cause the wagon to stop if the weight of the load exceeded the capability of the sound horse. The lame

The Irrelevance of Aquinas’ Uncaused Cause Argument


horse becomes a necessary cause only in specific contexts. In addition, the lame horse may not be sufficient to stop the wagon because the wagon could have stopped if the load was too heavy and both horses were sound. Now suppose the stopping of the wagon is the initial cause in a causal sequence. The rest of the sequence is late delivery, postponement of another activity, further delays, etc. Further, assume the other horse was sound and the load was light so the lame horse would not necessarily cause the wagon to stop under ideal conditions. But a myriad of exogenous factors can make the lame horse necessarily stop the wagon: steepness of the road, fatigue of the sound horse, weather, traffic, skill of the driver, etc. If it snowed and the wagon stopped, the necessary cause of the stop was not the lame horse because the wagon would not have stopped in the absence of snow. Furthermore, the snow did not necessarily cause the wagon to stop, because the wagon wouldn’t have stopped if the horse was not lame. The vagueness of the specification of the bundle of factors enables us to state that there was no uniquely definable initial necessary cause in the sequence. The cause of stopping depends upon a bundle of factors that is virtually unlimited. Therefore, the cause of stopping the wagon is vague. Since the causes in the sequence started by the stopped wagon are related by existential heredity, the causal sequence can be finite and have no first member that is defined as the cause that started the sequence. To return to Thomas’ proof, recall the logical form of Thomas’ intermediate causes is Ci (Ei Ei+1). The causes in Thomas’ sequence, Ci, are necessary and sufficient single causes that change the event from event Ei to Ei+1. Note that the bundle of factors for Ci would involve both Ei and Ei+1. For simplicity, assume that Thomas is correct in his formulation of the intermediate causes. The logical form of the first cause in Thomas’ sequence is G(E 1C1), which necessitates the state of affairs resulting in C 1. The logical form of G (E1C1) is different from that of the intermediate causes and does not possess the property of existential heredity. But suppose it is logically possible to posit a proto-cause whose logical form is P(E1C1) which is different from the intermediate causes and also lacks the attribute of existential heredity. My claim is that Stanford’s and Mackie’s results support this logical possibility. Thomas defines a sequence of single necessary and sufficient causes but ignores their context. Mackie (1965) has shown that causes are components in bundles of factors. Whether any of the factors in the bundle P(E 1C1) is necessary to cause C1 is dependent upon other factors in P(E1C1). Consequently, none of the factors in the bundle can be identified as a necessary cause. Moreover, the causality of P(E1C1) may depend upon whether certain exogenous conditions obtain. Thus, the causality of the factors in P(E 1C1) is vague and P(E1C1) lacks existential heredity. Sanford’s result now allows us to assert that Thomas’ sequence of Ci (Ei Ei+1)’s can have no first member and be initiated by something other than G (E1C1). The sequence can be initiated by various combinations of factors in P (E1C1). No factor in the bundle P (E1C1) is strictly a necessary cause and



whether P (E1C1) is causal depends upon internal and exogenous conditions. In short, we can identify P(E1C1) as a proto-cause. It is logically possible for Thomas’ series to begin with G(E1C1), a necessary cause or the proto-cause P(E1C1), a contingent cause, both of which have logical forms different from all other entities in the sequence. Because Thomas has two alternatives to start his series of Ci (Ei Ei+1)’s, his use of the excluded middle is erroneous (Step 3d of the proof). To reinforce the vagueness of the idea of cause we need consider David Hume’s highly influential argument that the “efficacy … of causes belongs entirely to the soul, [my italics] which considers the union of two or more objects in all past instances” (Treatise, 128). For Hume, cause is a state of mind of an observer resulting from her experience. Thus, the belief that something is causal depends on the number and vivacity of regularities observed which differs among individuals. If Hume is correct, it is possible for observers “in the world of senses” to disagree whether or not a cause connects a pair of events. This reinforces the idea of the vagueness of a cause. Perhaps the most concise way to understand that Thomas could have posited an alternative to initiate the causal sequence is to consider the different modalities of the logical forms G (E1C1) and P(E1C1). Thomas’ causal sequence is comprised of necessary causes which have the property of existential heredity. To end the regress there must be an event that starts the sequence that does not have this property. Logically the starting event can be either necessary or possible. It is natural to assume that the modality of G (E1C1) is necessary. If an omnipotent God decides that a causal sequence should obtain, the event that initiates the sequence could hardly be contingent. On the other hand, the arguments of Sanford, Mackie, and Hume establishing the vagueness of the idea of cause warrant positing a starting event, P (E1C1) which lacks the property of existential heredity but whose modality is possible. Because of the difference in modality, G (E1C1) and P (E1C1) are fundamentally different kinds of events. This difference gives Thomas two alternatives to eliminate the regress of the logical forms Ci (EiEi+1). The use of the excluded middle is unwarranted. An historical example of this logical error was made by Charles Darwin’s mentor, Charles Lyell, the most important geologist of the 19th Century. Since Lyell disbelieved transmutation and could not conceive of a contingent process that caused the creation of mammals, he concluded that mammals were created by God. He believed the following proposition: since species are invariant, either they were necessarily created by God or they do not exist. Since mammals existed, the excluded middle dictates that they were created by God. Lyell eventually changed his view after becoming familiar with Darwin’s and Alfred Wallace’s discovery of the contingent process of natural selection. A well-known schema in modal logic is: if event A is possible, then event A is necessarily possible. This schema provides an alternative way to

The Irrelevance of Aquinas’ Uncaused Cause Argument


define God as a necessary being: he is the necessary cause of possible sequences. But that is a different argument than the PFC. In summary, Thomas was not forced to posit God to block the infinite sequence. He could have posited a proto-cause that would become necessary to start the sequence of intermediate causes when the appropriate exogenous context obtained. Obviously, this analysis does not answer the question of how P(E1C1) originates. It only demonstrates the possibility of a tertium quid and shows that Thomas’ rejection of the regress does not give him warrant to posit God. In fact, positing a proto-cause seems to be more parsimonious than positing God. The same argument may be applicable to any of Thomas’ cosmological proofs that rely on the impossibility of a regress. 3. Hobbes, Kierkegaard, and the Futility of Proving God’s Existence Two important thinkers, Thomas Hobbes ([1651] 2008) and Søren Kierkegaard (1962), have argued that the project of proving the existence of God by finite creatures is hopeless. In the Leviathan, Hobbes begins his argument by claiming that PFC is motivated by natural curiosity which draws someone to consideration of the causes of effects, and to seek the cause of that cause until there is no further cause except an eternal cause “which is it men call God” ([1651] 2008, XI.25). Hobbes goes on to say that it is impossible to make a profound inquiry into natural causes without believing that there is one God eternal, “though they cannot have any idea of him in their mind, answerable to his nature.” Hobbes then explains this metaphysical position with an analogy. A blind man who hears others talk of fire and feels its warmth, “may easily conceive, and assure himself, there is somewhat there, which men call fire, and is the cause of the heat he feels; but cannot imagine what it is like; nor have an idea of it, such as they that see it” (XI.25). The blind man can know that feeling of heat comes from the fire, but he can’t know the nature of the fire: its color, shape, constant motion, etc. This is analogous to Hobbes not being able to know the nature of God, but having an inchoate idea of his properties. Like Hume, Hobbes also argues that reason cannot be used to discover anything new. Rather reason is “nothing but reckoning of the consequences of general names agreed upon, for the marking and signifying of our thoughts” (V.2). We use reasoning to convince others of our positions, not to prove propositions that correspond to facts. Here Hobbes is reasoning by analogy to his deep knowledge of Euclidian Geometry, which cannot be used to prove the existence of a point, line or plane, all of which must be posited before proof begins. From these quotations, Hobbes makes it clear that he believes that God exists, but he also believes that the causal proof of his existence is otiose. Hobbes believes that God is the first cause, but the proof adds nothing to our understanding of God’s nature. Hobbes’ conception of God is like the blind man’s conception of fire. He knows very little of the nature of God and cannot



even imagine God in a way that reflects his true properties. But, at the same time, Hobbes is not reluctant to use the idea of God as first cause in philosophic argument. His belief in God as first cause is independent of the proof. Kierkegaard was a committed Christian. But, like Hobbes, he believed that proving the existence of God logically was both eccentric and futile. Kierkegaard remarks that he always reasons from existence instead of towards existence and asks rhetorically: What kind of procedure would one use to deduce Napoleon’s existence from his deeds? Napoleon’s existence explains his deeds, but his deeds do not prove his existence unless one also understands the word “his” which already assumes Napoleon’s existence: “If I call these deeds the deeds of Napoleon the proof becomes superfluous, since I have already named him; if I ignore this, I can never prove from the deeds that they are Napoleon’s” (1962, 50). Of the man who proves that God exists, Kierkegaard ironically says “what a rare man of wisdom is he!” and what a subject is he for the highest lunacy. A proof of God existence presupposes that he exists at the outset of the proof: if he did not exist, it could never be proven; if he does exist, it would be “folly” to attempt to prove it because he exists. And does God emerge at the conclusion of the proof, because when the proof is complete, his existence is there? In this brief moment is there a leap which must be included in the reckoning? Socrates did not have to prove God’s existence but presupposed his existence and used the idea to attribute purpose to nature. As for deducing the existence of God from his works, Kierkegaard asks: “Where are the works of God?” These works are not immediately given, so we have the terrible temptation to doubt. Furthermore, the works that can be used in the proof are apprehended through ideal interpretation. But, in that case, they are not the works of God, but the ideals that are presupposed, and these ideals are used to overcome all objections to God’s existence. So when we begin a proof of the existence of God we really begin with confidence in God. This insight of Kierkegaard applies to Thomas’ approach for all five proofs of God’s existence. Thomas knows the objections that he sets out at the beginning of the Question, that God does not exist, will be disproven in the argument to follow. But for Kierkegaard, Thomas’ lack of success is not a negative thing. Proofs of the existence of God immerse one in the paradox of reason, attempting to discover something that “thought cannot think.” And paradox generates passion which is foundational for the Christian form of life. 4. Conclusion The PFC is an ideal tool for supporting the pastoral duties of a Dominican preacher. Virtually everyone has an intuitive concept of cause, can understand that an infinite series of almost anything is impossible and intuitively accepts the PSR. Once this foundation is accepted by someone who holds the Catholic conception of God, this short proof is easily understood and cannot be rebutted

The Irrelevance of Aquinas’ Uncaused Cause Argument


without accepting that there are infinite series of causes or developing complex philosophical arguments. Moreover, I believe we have a bias to accept an easily comprehended proof of God’s existence. It would be nice to be able to settle a metaphysical question of supreme import that has evaded men for millennia. But the proof is a heuristic one, which cannot withstand philosophic scrutiny. The proof involves several deep, controversial philosophical issues that have face validity but are glossed over by Thomas. Thomas surely was familiar with the nature of God formulated in the monotheism that is foundational to Christianity: Judaism. The Jewish God is unknowable and cannot be understood by rational analysis. As he says to Moses in Exodus: “I am what I am,” and that is the end of it. Christian elaborations on the nature of this God do not change this fundamental Jewish conception. The application of Aristotelian/Platonic metaphysics to yield knowledge of the attributes of such a God is, as both Hobbes and Kierkegaard suggest, entering a blind alley. I hope I am not being too presentist to believe that a man of Thomas’ intellect did not at least suspect that his proof was heuristic and far too brief to philosophically establish such a profound metaphysical entity as God. I also believe that he realized his chain of reasoning was problematic. The best explanation of this apparent puzzle refers one back to the introduction of this chapter: the proof is a pedagogical tool for nascent Dominican preachers, and is not meant to be an ironclad philosophical proof. A good pedagogical tool is brief and easily grasped and necessarily omits confusing detail. Paradoxically, the source of the philosophical weakness of PFC, its simplicity and elegance, continues to encourage philosophical discussion after almost 1,000 years. This is the measure of Thomas’ genius.

Seven A RESPONSE TO ROSEMAN Gaven Kerr, OP Roseman subjects Aquinas’ second way to sustained criticism in his denial of its relevance for us today. I find Roseman’s objections problematic, and in order to explain why this is so, I shall treat of Roseman’s argumentation in a threefold manner: (i) his exposition of the second way, (ii) the non-modern philosophical framework of the second way and (iii) the form of life within which Aquinas developed his natural theology. 1. Exposition of the Argument There are three pivotal components of the second way all of which Roseman justly treats but none of which he treats justly. These are: (i) causality, (ii) causal series, and (iii) the affirmation of God. Let us deal with each in turn. Concerning (i), causality for Thomas is a dependency relation whereby the effect stands in potency to its cause and is actualised thereby. Specifically with regard to efficient causality, we saw that it involves, fundamentally, the transfer of esse, so that nothing can be the efficient cause of itself, for then it would precede itself in existence. Roseman fails to convey this metaphysics of causality that Thomas adopts, and this affects his reading of the proof. Contrary to Roseman, Thomas neither assumes the principle of sufficient reason (PSR) nor a pure Aristotelian account of causality. For Thomas, we can only posit a cause for an actualized potency, whereas according to the PSR, as Roseman presents it, we posit a cause for simply anything. Hence, pace Roseman, Thomas did not assume the PSR. Now, it is well known that Thomas’ implementation of the Aristotelian act/potency distinction went significantly beyond the thought of Aristotle, particularly in his (Thomas’) introduction of esse as the act of all acts (see Kerr 2015a, Ch. 3; 2015b, § 1). Given that efficient causality fundamentally involves the causality of esse and that Aristotle recognised no such principle, it cannot be that Thomas is simply regurgitating Aristotle’s notion of efficient causality, as Roseman states, but he has his own metaphysics of causality that he deploys in the second way. Concerning (ii), the distinction between essentially ordered and accidentally ordered series of causes is key to the second way, exploiting as it does the metaphysics of the essentially ordered series in order to arrive at its conclusion. Roseman fails to articulate this important aspect of Thomas’ thought. In place of this, Roseman offers a causal sequence of his own construction wherein each cause and effect relation is an event in itself, so that



the sequence strung together will be a sequence of discrete events. But this fails to engage with the metaphysics of the causal series operative in the second way, i.e., the essentially ordered series. Pace Roseman, the latter is not a series of many causal events, but a single causal event made up of various causal components (the primary, intermediate, and ultimate causes), all of which are ordered for the production of the effect (see Kerr 2012; 2015a, Ch. 5). In the causal sequence he proposes, Roseman seems to be approximating to Thomas’ notion of an accidentally ordered series, which is indeed made up of a number of discrete causal events strung together in a sequence. In failing to make this important distinction, Roseman is led to the conclusion that there is no logical guarantee that the sequence will terminate. And indeed, if it is an accidentally ordered series that Roseman is considering, as appears to be the case, then Thomas agrees, there is no logical guarantee that the series should terminate, such a series is potentially infinite. But this is not threatening to Thomas’ argumentation, since it is not the accidentally ordered series whose infinity Thomas denies, but the essentially ordered. Concerning (iii), Roseman claims that Thomas intends to conclude to a necessary being that exists in itself and is the reason that all other things must be. But there is no evidence for this, and indeed the actual text of the second way concludes to a primary efficient cause that everyone names God. Now, Roseman rightly points out that this is not the Catholic understanding of God, though contra Roseman’s later assertions, in being the primary efficient cause of all that is, it is single and unique, since anything other than it receives its esse from it, in which case there is nothing that exists that is not an effect of it and which could be like it. So at best this establishes monotheism, but not Catholicism; Roseman is surely right to point out the latter. Thomas would agree that he has not established Catholicism in the second way, for if he had he could have ended the Summa there and then. The second way merely establishes a primary efficient cause of all that is, the remainder of the Summa shows—among other things—that this primary efficient cause is God as Catholicism interprets it. Thus, Thomas’ conclusion, to the effect that this is what we call God, is merely making the point that if we understand God to be anything, it is a primary cause of all that is. So there is no assumption of a Catholic God in the second way. All of these misunderstandings entail that in presenting the argument, Roseman puts forward an argument for God’s existence, but not Thomas’. It follows then that any criticism of the argument presented by Roseman will not necessarily be a criticism of Thomas’ second way. And indeed none of Roseman’s initial objections touch on Thomas’ argumentation: Thomas does not require a prior commitment to the God of Catholicism, the ordered causal series as Thomas articulates it is not as Roseman conceives it, the existence of mental causes does not preclude an essentially ordered efficient causal series, and as far as the second way goes, the paradox of omnipotence does not apply,

A Response to Roseman


though of course, later in the Summa Thomas will offer an account of omnipotence which, I submit, escapes such paradox (see Kerr 2011a, § 1). 2. Engagement with Modern Philosophy Roseman critiques the philosophical framework within which the second way is situated by appeal to the patronage of (i) Kant, (ii) Hume, and (iii) Mackie et al. Kant offers us a position in which representations are subject to the a priori forms of space and time and the categories of the understanding. As such our knowledge is of representations formed by us whose matter is garnered from the world. On that account the worldhood of the world is subject dependent. We can never form a concept of the world independent of ourselves and our own conceptual structuring thereof. Consequently any proof of God on the back of our conceptual engagement with the world is suspect. Similarly, Hume sees our conceptual engagement as one based on the gathering of empirical input formed by principles of association. Accordingly, matters of fact are established by a posteriori experience whereas matters of necessity pertain to the relation of ideas. The necessary connection between cause and effect, not being something we can experience, is a relation of ideas and one that we supply ourselves. Hence causality is reinterpreted as the regular succession of events bringing about the inference of their continued succession in the future. Assuming a Humean outlook, Mackie analyses the conditions involved in causal events, and he is led to conclude that there are insufficient but necessary parts of a condition that we take to be sufficient but unnecessary for the effect in question. The question then of the necessary and sufficient conditions for an effect becomes a rather messy issue requiring thoroughgoing analysis. With that in mind, it becomes difficult to generate the kind of clear cut causal sequences operative in the second way, in which case Thomas’ causal reasoning therein is considerably weakened. These are considerable objections; nevertheless, they are not insurmountable. The first point I should like to make is that throughout Roseman simply presupposes that the positions elaborated above are correct; he offers no argumentation for their being so. Thus, his critique merely amounts to the fact that if Kant/Hume/Mackie et al are correct, then Thomas is incorrect. Thus, the reasoning here is hypothetical at best. The key to overcoming these objections is to reject the mind/world relationship that generates them. That framework is one in which mind is separated from world, so that goings on in a private mental space are intrinsically such that they share nothing in common with the world. But if that is the case, then none of our beliefs can be justified by our sensory experience, because sensory experience on this account, taking in what the world gives us, is inherently non-conceptual, in which case it does not supply the norms for justification (see McDowell 1994, lecture 1). Consequently, thought remains



shut within a mental space and can never attain any knowledge of the world. Whilst such a framework gives rise to the foregoing criticisms, it also isolates man’s thought from the world and makes knowledge of the world impossible. Given the latter, it is a problematic position since any attempt to defend it would presuppose the knowledge of the world that the position denies. Hence, it and the philosophical positions it engenders (Hume, Kant, Mackie et al.) is not as innocent as Roseman would have us believe. If the position that generates such criticisms of Aquinas is not philosophically innocent, then it and the criticisms need only be accepted if sufficient argumentation is provided to buttress it, argumentation that Roseman does not provide (see Kerr 2011b, 2015a, Ch. 4; 2015c). 3. The Project of Natural Theology and the Form of Life Turning then to the Hobbesian and Kierkegaardian criticisms of Thomas’ proof. The conclusion of the second way is simply that there is a primary cause that we call God. Such knowledge of God is quite meagre, but not negligible, since at least we know that He exists. The immediately succeeding questions of the Summa go on to detail God’s nature, so the second way cannot be taken to be Thomas’ final word on God. It follows then that the Hobbesian objection that the second way does not tell us much about God is nugatory, since Thomas does not intend to tell us much about Him here, only that He exists. I agree with Kierkegaard that the one who demonstrates God’s existence is a person of rare wisdom, and such was Aquinas as Roseman grants. However, I deny that Thomas was the subject of any kind of lunacy. When we attempt to prove something, we seek to offer reasons that would justify our belief in some state of affairs. Such reasons entail that our belief in that state of affairs is not mere opinion, but grounded in something independent of that belief, and thus justified. When we seek to prove God’s existence, we do no less. We seek to offer reasons that God exists, and such reasons justify our belief that He exists. Hence it is not folly to prove the existence of something that exists, since we may not know that it exists, and proof is offered precisely to overcome such lack of knowledge. The man of science (scientia) must offer such proofs for what he takes to exist, and this is what Thomas does in the second way. With all of this in mind, I must respectfully disagree with Roseman and re-present my own conclusion to the effect that the second way is a metaphysically heavyweight argument for God’s existence whose reasoning is valid and whose premises have some serious philosophical argumentation in support. Its conclusion, that there is a primary cause we call God, is justified, and that is a matter of some relevance for us today.

Eight A RESPONSE TO KERR Herbert Roseman Science is an overwhelming and important presence in modern culture, and contemporaries are attuned to the relatively straightforward concept of truth in the natural sciences. Scientific truth relies on empirical evidence and logical or mathematical reasoning. Despite complications, scientific truths must generally produce predictions that correspond to reality (Ellis and Silk 2014). The problem with Thomas’ Proof from Cause (PFC) is that he attempts to adopt a scientific-like approach to truth of the existence of God. Unlike scientific truths, the proof of the existence of God is unverifiable in principle; consequently, Thomas’ arguments create intractable problems. Thomas’ PFC begins with what he purports to be an empirical observation, causal sequences. Given this observation, he reasons logically and mathematically to the existence of God. A fundamental problem with the proof is philosophic analysis shows that causal sequences are not observable but are structures we place on reality to help organize our perceptions. Since the scientific approach to truth must proceed from empirical evidence, Thomas’ proof can only be an analog of the scientific approach to truth. Gaven Kerr attempts to defend the contemporary relevance of Thomas’ proof. In doing so, he elucidates Thomas’ thinking by introducing interesting refinements to Thomas’ proof. But these refinements also fail to provide an empirical basis for the proof. Kerr formulates additional claims to bolster Thomas’ proof, but, as I show in the first section of this response, the claims do not resolve the problems of the PFC because these address belief in God, and arguments about belief are not relevant to the ontological question of the existence of God: they beg the question of whether God exists. In the second section of this response, I argue that Kerr’s refined categorization of Thomas’ causal sequences is inimical to Thomas’ proof. Moreover, the essential sequence, which is the sole causal sequence that Thomas allows for his proof, is too restrictive to encompass modern causal mechanisms. Another refinement to Thomistic thought used by Kerr in the defense of the PFC is the concept of esse. In the third section of this response, I argue that esse is derived from essentialism, a philosophic doctrine which Darwin showed was irrelevant for living things. In the final section, I respond to Kerr’s use of esse to develop a cosmogony based upon the Thomistic conception of God. I show that the cosmogony Kerr derives from Thomistic principles is unverifiable in principle and conflicts with contemporary science.


HERBERT ROSEMAN 1. Claims about God

Gaven Kerr makes two claims that are essential to his argument that the PFC is relevant in contemporary philosophy: C1: God is typically understood to be the cause of all things and, in being such, God is thought to be uncaused. C2: And if God has been understood to be anything in the history of Western philosophical theology, He has been understood to be an absolutely primary uncaused cause of all that is. Kerr uses these claims in defense of Thomas’ final claim in the PFC: C3: Therefore, it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God. C1 and C2 are claims not about God, but about an agent’s understanding of God’s role. C1 is a descriptive statement about a typical agent’s understanding of a property of God. Since the claim is descriptive, justification must be derived from empirical evidence. If typical means representative, is there survey data that supports this claim? I feel confident that this claim accurately described the beliefs of Thomas’ Dominican readers. However, a contemporary reader can surely ask whether those who have a different conception of God see God in the same way. Is a Buddhist or an atheist atypical? C2 is structurally a hypothetical statement. Yet, I take Kerr to be writing in a colloquial style, wishing the meaning of the claim to be that the understanding of the great preponderance of participants in Western philosophical theology is that God is the absolutely primary uncaused cause. C2 is also a descriptive statement about the beliefs of these participants. One wonders whether there is sufficient evidence to support this claim and what the form of this evidence might be. Kerr states in the opening of his chapter that there needs to be argumentation to establish C1. But if C1 is a descriptive statement of the beliefs of agents, argumentation needs to be supported by empirical evidence. Western philosophical theology includes multiple radically varied understandings of God’s properties. Nietzsche, Spinoza, and Epicurus are examples of philosophers whose conception of God’s properties is radically different from Thomas’. In any case, we are given no empirical evidence to support this claim. Kerr uses C2 to establish C3, Thomas’ stronger version of C1. Although there is surely some overlap, the participants in the history of Western philosophical theology are clearly a small subset of everyone. Thus C2 cannot be used to support Thomas’ conclusion. To argue in this way is an example of

A Response to Kerr


the fallacy of composition: inferring that something is true of the whole from the fact that something is true of some part of the whole. The second prepositional phrase C3 is patently false. An atheist would not give anything the name of God, and atheists must be included in the class everyone. In any case, C3 is a claim about a societal convention, even though Thomas’ five arguments in the Summa are purported to prove the ontological claim that God exists. All of Kerr’s claims address propositional attitudes related to the existence and properties of God. As mentioned previously, they are not ontological claims but are descriptive statements about beliefs. Even if they are demonstrably correct, they cannot be used to support the ontological claim that God exists. 2. Causation and Causal Sequences Kerr accepts Thomas’ reductive assumptions that all sequences of causes are linear and that complex causes can be broken down into a series of interlocking causes of lesser complexity. Kerr teaches us that Thomas’ formulates two types of causal series with examples: S1: Essentially ordered series, as in the mind moves the hand which moves the stick which moves the stone. S2: Accidentally ordered series, as in a father produces a son who produces a son who produces a son, and so on. In an accidental series the causes act in an uncoordinated fashion. In an essential series, “all of the causes work in harmony to produce the effect,” and the primary cause is “responsible for the effects in the series.” Before determining whether these series have contemporary relevance, we need to outline briefly the two main classes of contemporary theories of causation: regularity and entailment. These theories are still being debated in philosophy and science. Philosophers who are empiricists tend to adopt the regularity theories of causation. First argued by David Hume, regularity theorists identify causation with the perception of a regular sequence. Event A causes event B if B always or usually follows A. To say that A causes B implies an additional power which is never observed. Hume added that A and B need to be physically contiguous to rule out such causal claims as “when the whistle blows at noon in London the workers in Birmingham return to their jobs.” Regularity is the view of the “majority of those working on the metaphysics of causation” (see Loux 2001, 254). The second major class of theory, entailment theory, is closely aligned with the folk view of causation, and is the one adopted by Thomas. This theory adds a notion of necessity to the empirical observation of sequence. The cause necessarily entails the event by an underlying valid inference. Thomas’ version



of entailment is distinguished from contemporary versions because he further classifies the entailment of causal series as accidental or essential. In either case the cause entails the event: there cannot be an event without a cause. The main objection to entailment theory is that there is no logical connection between cause and event in the physical world. The so-called necessity of the cause/event relationship is merely an analogy of logical necessity. The analogy must not be taken too seriously because there are differences between logical and causal necessity. Most significantly, logical necessity is independent of time, but in entailment theory the cause and necessitated event must occur at different times with the cause preceding the event. Thus, the causal connections of both classes of theory are empirical facts grounded in inductive and not deductive reasoning. If we apply either causal theory to a causal sequence, the reason we intuit the logical necessity of the sequence is our experience. The necessity of the order in these series is causal and not logical. To return to Thomas’ example of the essentially ordered theory (S1), it is logically possible that the stick adheres to the stone rather than moving it, but such an event is outside our experience. Kerr tells us that the primary cause, the mind, is “not only temporarily prior but logically prior.” But there is no strictly logical connection between cause and event. It is logically possible that an involuntary muscular reaction not involving the mind moved the hand, etc. It is also logically possible that the involuntary motion and the decision were approximately simultaneous; consequently, if either cause is removed the effect will remain. The logical alternatives that I have suggested are indeed unlikely. In fact, the likeliness and simplicity of Thomas’ sequence make the example explanatory. But the necessity claimed for an essentially ordered series is causal and not logical. Consequently, the PFC, which is supposed to be a logical proof, is a proof whose foundational method is induction based upon human observation of regularities. Thomas’ arguments are therefore in the realm of the natural world, and he provides no transition to the metaphysical question of God’s existence. Thomas’ example of an accidental series is a set of causes defined by a schema. Kerr states “Doubtless without the father, the son would not be…” which is true for virtually all observations in the world. However, in this age of artificial insemination and stem cells it is logically possible for there to be a son without a father. Parthenogenesis is a logical possibility. Even in Thomas’ time the idea of a son without a father was logically possible but never observed. Thomas is correct in stating that the restriction on infinite regress does not apply to accidental series. Since the series is simply a set, it may logically be of any magnitude including infinite. Thomas’ test for whether a series is essential is that it has the following property: “remove the cause and one removes the effect.” This test fails, even on Thomas’ terms. He argues that although the father is the efficient cause of the son, “the father can cease to exist without the son thereby ceasing to exist.”

A Response to Kerr


But in his example of an essential causal series, if the stone moves for a considerable period of time (e.g., rolls down a mountain) the mind can cease to exist (the person whose mind it is dies) with the stone continuing to move. Further, it is hard to know what Thomas means by remove. From the two examples, we can guess that Thomas’ notion of remove varies depending upon the temporal juxtaposition of the cause and the event. For causes closely juxtaposed in time, it means physical removal from the location of the remaining causes. For causes not closely juxtaposed in time removal, can be merely logical. Perhaps most divorced from contemporary thought is Thomas’ formulation of an essentially ordered series of efficient causes “one such that all of the causes work in harmony to produce an effect.” If causes are to work in harmony, there must be information passed from cause to cause. Absent this, the primary cause and the nth cause in the series could work in disharmony. Thomas gives the reader no description of this mechanism; so all one can assume is that God must provide the harmony. C1 supports this resolution, but the contemporary reader would ask how God achieves this harmony without violating the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. The first law roughly states that the total energy of a closed system must be constant, and the Second Law states that a closed system can only become more disordered (Shankar 2014). For God to create harmony in an essential series he must impart some detectable energy to the efficient causes in a series (the closed system), which they can employ to regulate themselves and other causes to create harmony. Thus, the measurable energy of the series would exceed the sum of the energy of the causes. Although Hume was unaware of the laws of thermodynamics, he understood this problem when he argued that there was no observable power associated with cause. Most significantly, Thomas’ classification of causal series as essential or accidental is inimical to his argument. According to Kerr, Thomas’ proof deals only with essential series claims, which must be finite. There is no restriction on the finitude of the accidental series. This claim is a key premise in his proof. Thomas argues that since an essential series cannot be infinite, there must be a primary cause. To avoid the regress, Thomas posits this cause to be God (C3). Since it is logically possible that the last in an infinite series of accidental causes be the primary cause of an essential series, Thomas no longer has warrant to argue that there must be a first cause to prevent a regress. Returning to Thomas’ examples, the mind in the essentially ordered series, which Kerr suggests is the primary cause in an essential series, could belong to one of the sons in the accidental series. Logically, the primary cause in any series could be an accidental series. Thus, the principle of the excluded middle that logically allowed either a first cause or an infinite essential series and no other alternative is not applicable.



The only causal system relevant for the PFC is the essential sequence of causes (S1). In this reductive system simple events follow causes in strict temporal succession to build a linear sequence. In the example of the stick and stone, the events are conflated with the next cause. In S1 the mind causes the event movement of the hand which becomes the cause of the event movement of the stick, etc. Because S1 is a linear sequence, an implicit assumption of the essential series is that something cannot be the cause of itself. An essential series also assumes that one can always identify the cause of an event. The formulation cause/effect, used by both Thomas and Kerr, also makes this identification assumption because an effect must necessarily have an identifiable separate cause. Richer contemporary ideas of causality deny the premise that something cannot be the cause of itself. An example of this can be seen in recursive processes: those processes in which each part of a process is comprised of multiple steps of the process itself. Recursion is common in modern computer systems. A program can cause itself to operate as a subprogram. When the subprogram completes its operation, it returns to itself, the same program that caused the operation. In modern computer systems there can be many levels of such recursion. A simple example of such a program is one that calculates the factorial of a number. The program uses itself repetitively to update a temporary answer by multiplying the temporary answer by the next lower number. Two examples will show that both of Thomas’ formulations of causation, S1 and S2, are inadequate to model causation in phenomena that are known to contemporary science. The first example involves the dependence on recursion of quantum electrodynamics, a branch of physics that describes the particles that underpin the physics of our universe. The recursion can be illustrated if we limit ourselves to two particles: electrons and photons. The electron cannot be defined without referring to the photon which refers back to the electron, which in turn refers back to the photon, and so on, in an endless loop. If an electron interacts with a photon it can emit and absorb so-called virtual photons, and the photons can emit and absorb virtual electrons. Further, the emitted virtual photons and electrons can emit and absorb virtual electrons and photons (Thomson 2013). Theoretically, this process can go on indefinitely, resulting in enormous complexity from a seemingly simple processes. Theoretical physicists deal with the complexity by ignoring all but the most probable of these interactions. But even with these approximations, quantum electrodynamics predicts some parameters with accuracy of one part in a billion. The second example of contemporary science that does not fit either of Thomas’ models for causal sequences are the natural cycles of the earth’s systems, which regulate our planet and the atmosphere. There are numerous cycles involving water, nitrogen, life, biochemicals, etc. A simplistic description of the complex water cycle will make the point. In the water cycle,

A Response to Kerr


clouds cause rain that penetrates into the soil and is absorbed by plants or flows into bodies of water. The water in the plants transpires and the water in the bodies of water evaporates. This water vapor from the plants and bodies of water rises and forms clouds, which cause rain. This sequence is repetitive and cyclical; consequently, they cannot be described by the linear causal sequences offered by Thomas. The linearity of S1 prevents one from specifying whether the clouds cause the rain along with some intermediate events or the rain and the intermediate events cause the clouds. S2 is not applicable to natural cycles because it fails Thomas’ test: in the case of the water cycle if you remove the rain you remove the clouds. The water cycle fails to fit either of Thomas’ categories of causality. Why is this relevant to a discussion of Thomas’ PFC? Thomas’ models fail to account for the causality of phenomena that encompass an enormous range of orders of magnitude. Our most successful physical theory demonstrates that Thomas’ causal model, the essential series (S1), is inadequate to account for the causal interactions of the most fundamental entities comprising the matter and energy of the universe. Moreover, S1 and S2 are both inadequate to model the causality of the earths and the atmosphere’s regulative cycles, which are fundamental to our understanding of human impact on the environment. Thomas’ models also fail to explain the causality of everyday computer systems such as the one that was used to compose Kerr’s chapter. Yet we are asked to believe Thomas’ model of causality is the theoretical basis for proof of God’s existence. 3. Essentialism Kerr argues that in Thomas’ metaphysics “the effect in question depends upon the efficient cause for its actuality.” The efficient cause produces the effect to exist by imparting esse to a thing. According to Thomas, esse “actualizes the potentiality of the existing essence.” For example, an actual dog and an imaginary dog both have the same essence, their dogness. This dogness makes a dog different from everything else that exists. But an actual dog is different from an imaginary dog, and esse is that which makes the dog actual, and the efficient cause of a dog, its father, imparts esse to the dog. Something that does not exist cannot impart esse to itself. To do so would be to impart esse without having esse, i.e., without being actual. The metaphysics of esse reinforces the conclusion that it is logically impossible for something to be the efficient cause of itself. This logic is key in Kerr’s argument that God must be an uncaused cause. But while this argument may have been convincing in the 13th Century, it does not hold when one considers contemporary views of essentialism and the variety of contemporary causal systems. Aristotle’s theory of essences was a great improvement over Plato’s Theory of Forms, according to which each particular on earth was an imperfect



copy of an unchangeable, unknowable Form, which was created by Form of the Good. For Aristotle, things had essential properties, which determined the kind they were and accidental properties, which could vary within the kind. A dog’s color was an accidental property, but having four-legs was an essential property. A thing could not be a dog if it had two legs but could be a dog if its color was not brown. Thomas further improves upon Aristotle’s theory of essence by adding the idea of esse to his metaphysics. But Thomas’ theory of esse depends upon Aristotle’s notion of essentialism, which has become a controversial doctrine in contemporary philosophy. Darwin overthrew the idea that living things could not change their essential properties and new properties could not evolve. All members of a species vary in some properties, and Darwin argued that determining which properties were essential is arbitrary. He also showed that over time new species are created through natural selection by accumulation of new properties that increased fitness. Determining whether an accumulation of new properties warranted the identification of a new species with a new essence was arbitrary. Reptiles evolved into birds, who possess different essential properties, but the first creature to be identified as a bird was an arbitrary classification of a fossil by a human observer. On the other hand, some kinds such as hydrogen have properties that can be usefully thought of as essential (e.g., the number of protons in the nucleus). Yet it is clear that essentialism can be appropriately applied only to a restricted subset of kinds. It is not a universal principle as formulated by Aristotle and Thomas. There is considerable contemporary philosophic controversy on essentialism. The most common understanding of essentialism is the doctrine that at least some objects have at least some essential properties (Fine 2005; Della Rocca 1996). There are several refinements and caveats to this characterization. The salient point for this discussion of Thomas’ use of esse in the PFC is that esse depends upon essentialism, a doctrine which does not universally quantify its referents and does not apply to living things. At most, esse only imparts actuality to a subset of things that are not living. It is hard to resolve this limited concept with Kerr’s statements such as “God grants esse to the potentially existing essence whole and complete.” Kerr claims that “Everything stands to God then as creature to creator and so a kind of creationism is implied in Thomas’ concept of God as a primary uncaused cause of esse.” It is difficult to know what Kerr means by “a kind of creationism.” Reading the statement charitably, I will assume that Kerr is not proposing the creationism that is associated with intelligent design or scientific creationism which denies the modern synthesis of Darwin’s and Wallace’s theories of evolution. In the 20th Century, science accepted evolution as a fact. Since the initial discovery of evolution, a massive amount of evidence has accumulated showing that all creatures on earth have arisen from earlier forms over billions of years. The theory of evolution arguably has stronger empirical verification than almost any other scientific theory. If settled science, such as the fact of evolution, and Thomas’ concept of esse are incompatible, a

A Response to Kerr


contemporary philosopher or scientist ought to deny the latter concept. Naturally, scientific theories are all subject to revision, but whoever accepts creationism or accepts esse over evolution will not be convinced by any of the arguments in this response. I will assume that Kerr is using the concept of esse to explore an area in which science is currently unsettled, the beginning of the universe. Kerr sets up his argument by quoting Steven Hawking (1988): So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place then for a creator? (140) Steven Hawking, who predicted black hole radiation, is one of the most important theoretical physicists in the history of physics (see Susskind 2006, 440; 2008) and is the author of acclaimed, best-selling books that make relativistic cosmology understandable to the general public. In spite of these credentials, Kerr sees Hawking as committing the elementary logical error of denying the antecedent. A more charitable reading of this quotation would recognize the modal character of Hawking’s statements. I take Hawking to mean in his first sentence: “Necessarily, if the universe had a beginning, then necessarily we could conclude that it had a creator.” In the second sentence he adds: “but according to science it is only possible that the universe had a beginning.” Therefore, we cannot conclude that necessarily there was a creator. Furthermore, Kerr misreads Hawking. Hawking is not claiming that the universe is finite and enclosed with no four dimensional boundary; rather, he is proposing a mathematically possible model of the universe that conforms to Einstein’s general theory of relativity and has the unintuitive property of being finite in size but not having a boundary or edge. But the boundary is not a three-dimensional physical boundary in the sense of Aristotle’s contained world. It is a mathematical construction in four-dimensional space/time, in which time is mathematically imaginary and is treated in a way that eliminates the difference between time and space. In everyday intuitively observable space/time, in which Thomas formulated his cosmological ideas, it is easy to tell the difference between space and time. Hawking emphasizes (Hawking’s verb): this idea that space and time should be finite without boundary is just a proposal… it may initially be put forward for aesthetic or metaphysical reasons…but the real test is whether it makes predictions that agree with observation (italics mine). (136) According to the measurements of astrophysicists, whether the actual universe has a boundary remains an open question. Empirical measurements of the



geometry of the universe indicate that it is unbounded and flat within the accuracy of experiments. But at the same time the amount of mass in the universe appears to be five times too small to make the universe flat (see Liddle 2015; Susskind 2006). Moreover, for the universe to have a boundary the mass of the universe would need to be even larger than the mass for a flat universe. Modern cosmologists agree upon the so-called Standard Model of cosmology: that the universe had a beginning some 13.8 billion years ago with the Big Bang followed by an infinitesimally short period of inflation (see Krauss 2014). Describing this cosmology is clearly beyond the scope of this chapter, but suffice it to say that this model makes predictions, which agree remarkably with modern observations. With these very brief remarks, I have not given the reader any indication of the enormous effort by some of the best minds in history to develop and verify the complex mathematical models of the Standard Model of cosmology. The model was developed over the past forty years by literally thousands of scientists (see Krauss 2014; Ellis and Silk 2014; Roos 2014; Penrose 2004). Kerr’s characterization of Hawking’s and other’s work on the Big Bang as a “more unreflective popular notion of creation” as compared to Thomas’ notion seems to be misjudged, to say the least. In contrast to the Standard Model, which is supported by empirical results, Thomas’ cosmological theory is merely assertoric. Kerr tells us that Thomas’ concept of God tells us “precisely the place for a creator in a beginningless universe.” According to the Standard Model, the universe had a beginning, and empirical measurements have determined the beginning of the universe to a high degree of precision. The beginning was just prior to the epoch of cosmological inflation which began at 10-36 seconds after the Big Bang and lasted until 10-32 seconds after the Big Bang. If God is the creative force of the universe, then he or she must have acted in the period beginning at the Big Bang and ending at 10-36 after the Big Bang. The evolution of the universe from this point onward can be explained by the laws of physics (Krauss 2014; Ellis and Silk 2014; Roos 2014; Penrose 2004). Thus, the period for God’s creative action is quite precise, but a period of 10 -36 seconds seems too restrictive to cohere with Thomas’ concept of God. Alternatively, God could have acted prior to the Big Bang, if one could define the notion of prior in a period in which time is undefined. Supporters of Thomas’ cosmogony need to explain how God’s creative causality fits into this temporal framework, or deny the Standard Model. If they choose to deny the Standard Mode, then they need to account for its empirical success. Kerr also claims that “God’s creative causality is not simply an act that happened way back at the beginning but is an act that embraces all that is and nothing that is not, so that anything that exists is being created by God.” This claim differs with the Standard Model of cosmology in two ways. First, the Standard Model constrains God’s action to the period prior to the epoch of inflation, which is indeed way back at the beginning. If there are unobservable

A Response to Kerr


universes, Thomas’ foundational premises about the world of sense need modification. Second, the distinction between what is and is not is not at all clear. “What is not” cannot mean empty space because empty space is seething with particles coming into and going out of existence in accord with the laws of quantum mechanics. Moreover, the preponderance of the mass of the universe is comprised of dark energy and dark matter, both of which cannot be observed. The latest theoretical and experimental results suggest that our universe may be one in an arbitrarily large number of unobservable universes. Are unobservable matter and universes what is or what is not? The distinction between what is and what is not is blurred, so it is reasonable to ask if God’s creative causality embraces empty space, dark matter, dark energy, and unobservable universes. Of course Thomas had no knowledge of the complexities of modern cosmology. It is unreasonable to expect that his theological claims about God’s creative powers can explain deep, difficult unresolved scientific problems on the nature of the universe. That being so, it is also unreasonable to expect contemporary philosophers and scientists, who are inclined to naturalism, to accept claims about the creation of the universe derived from Thomas’ metaphysics. 4. Conclusion In the mid-17th Century, when Leeuwenhoek discovered the microscope and performed his experiments, humans extended their knowledge to a microscopic world teeming with heretofore unknown life and matter. Similarly, in the 21 st Century revolutionary instrumentation introduced humans to an observed universe that is unimaginatively vast. This instrumentation also demonstrated the existence of matter, energy and universes that we cannot see that dwarf the size of the observed universe. Metaphysics and epistemology depend crucially the perception, and perception depends upon the picture produced by the instrumentation available to explore reality. To a 21st-century philosopher or scientist, Thomas is analogous to a prisoner in Plato’s cave. Just as the shadows on the cave wall created the language and perceptions of reality of the prisoners, Thomas developed his perception of the “world of sense” and his language from the restricted view of reality available to 13th-century instrumentation. Thomas’ radically different perspective lacked knowledge of the features of the universe that we know to be true. Although our knowledge of the universe if far from complete, we are “outside of the cave” as compared to Thomas. We cannot expect Thomas’ ideas of causality or cosmology to cohere with the far more complete contemporary knowledge of reality. Unless there is strong evidence to the contrary, it seems misdirected for a contemporary naturalistic thinker to accept Thomas’ ideas of reality over contemporary ones.



Moreover, Thomas’ metaphysical concept of God and God’s role is heavily influenced by his limited, 13th-century perception of reality and the language that is dependent upon this perception. A thinker who is unaware of the Big Bang, who thinks the universe’s structure consists of concentric spheres, and who is unaware of the Darwinian revolution will have different ideas of God and his role than a contemporary thinker. Thomas’ ideas about God and causality, insofar as they involve explanations of reality, are not relevant to contemporary thinkers who are most convinced by explanations that can be empirically verified. As Gaven Kerr has demonstrated, Thomas is a brilliant and interesting thinker well worth studying. But it is confused to think that one of Plato’s prisoners can help those outside the cave to understand better the “world of sense” and God’s role in it.

The Third Proof Nine FROM CONTINGENCY TO NECESSARY BEING Adam Barkman There is some truth to the charge that Thomas Aquinas’ theological system is at times needlessly complex and obscure. Yet when the Angelic Doctor comes to his five arguments for God’s existence, he is refreshingly straightforward, as is proper of a preacher and teacher, beginning from a very common sensical starting point and then working carefully from there. Indeed, his arguments are intended not so much for the mature philosopher but for the novice (Copleston 1955, 116)—something we must always keep in mind. Yet, if in this spirit we are tempted to dismiss these popular arguments of Aquinas due to their popularity (what we might call the snobbery fallacy) or even due to their age (perhaps the chronology fallacy) we should pause, for even if the arguments as they stand are in places inadequate in a modern analytic context, yet even so, I believe they, and especially the Third Way, to be valuable and even persuasive—persuasive, but not undefeatable as they stand. Some modification will need to occur. 1. Aquinas’ Third Way Aquinas’ Third Way develops an argument with roots in Aristotle and Averroes (Craig 1980, 182, 201). The argument has two stages, proceeding from contingent beings to a necessary being, and then from there to a causeless necessary being. Aquinas states his argument thus: We find some things that are possible both of existing and not existing since some things are found to be generated and corrupted, and therefore to be possible both of existing and of not existing. But it is impossible for everything of this kind to exist always since what is possible of not existing at some time does not exist. Therefore, if all things were capable of not existing, at some time no thing would exist. But if this were true, even now nothing would exist since what does not exist does not begin to exist except through something else which exists; so that if no being existed, it would be impossible for anything


ADAM BARKMAN to begin to exist, and thus nothing would now exist, which is plainly false. Therefore, not all beings are contingent or possible; there must exist some thing which is necessary. But every necessary being either has a cause of its necessity from elsewhere, or it does not. But it is not possible to proceed ad infinitum in necessary beings which have a cause of their necessity, just as this was not possible in efficient causes, as was proved [in the Second Way]. Therefore, it is necessary to posit something which is necessary through itself, not having the cause of its necessity from elsewhere, but is the cause of necessity to other things, which is what everyone calls “God.”

Breaking down Aquinas’ argument, we begin with our common sensical premise, namely, that contingent or possible beings exist. Here we should immediately notice the defeatibility of the Third Way if one is willing to pay a high enough intellectual price. Most of us, it is true, admit the existence of some contingent beings and in fact take this belief to be rightly or properly basic belief in that our senses seem to tell us this and our senses should be generally trusted to give us accurate knowledge of the world around us (see Plantinga and Wolterstorff 1983, 58; Swinburne 2011, 54). However, many Hindus, for example, would deny the real existence of contingent beings since all apparent contingency is maya or illusion, and all that is, is the eternal or everlasting being, Atman (see Cush, Robinson, and York 2008). But noting this unlikely possibility, let us return to more pressing matters. To begin with, it is proper that we first ask what a contingent or possible being is according to Aquinas. And it seems a being is contingent if at some point in time (past, present, or future) that being would not exist due to material corruption; that is, a contingent being is materially corruptible. Aquinas, following Aristotle and Averroes, implicitly understands that all sublunar beings (beings below the moon) are of such a sort, and therefore all sublunar beings are contingent. Examples of such are rocks, trees, animals and humans—they have a material aspect and so are contingent. Yet because the heavenly bodies beyond the moon were understood by Aristotelians not to possess matter, they were understood to be incapable of coming to be and ceasing to be materially, and so were (for Aristotle) or could be (for Aquinas) eternal, incorruptible or necessary. Yet because the heavenly bodies moved (as any astronomer knew), their movement needs an explanation and cause. These necessary beings need a cause of their motion (as per the Second Way), meaning that they need some uncaused necessary being standing further behind them. And since this cause standing further behind them cannot itself be caused by anything else (or else we would have an infinite regress), we need an uncaused necessary being. And part of our understanding of God is that He is an uncaused necessary being (Wippel 1984, 2000, 2006, 2007).

From Contingency to Necessary Being


2. Problems with Aquinas’ “Contingent” and “Necessary” I indicated in my introduction that I intend to defend Aquinas’ Third Way, but not without critique and modification. To begin with, one could argue that Aquinas’ allegiance to Aristotle caused him trouble in his understanding of a contingent being, for while Aristotle could not imagine a human soul existing without a human body, Aquinas should have been able to, and certainly I am able. And if, for a moment, we grant the possibility of the human soul existing independent of the human body, we would have an instance of an immaterial being—a being not obviously admitting of material corruption—that is sublunar. To problematize this further, just because the human soul could well be an instance of a being that does not admit material corruptibility, it hardly follows that it is necessary or eternal. Plato, of course, argued that the soul is unqualifiedly immortal (Republic 607a-614b)—we might say eternal or necessary in Aristotle’s sense—because moral evil does not destroy it (whereas physical evil does destroy the body). Nevertheless, at best Plato’s argument only establishes the qualified immortality of the soul, not the unqualified sense that he thinks. In other words, even if the soul is not corruptible as the body is, it hardly follows that the soul is unqualifiedly immortal or incapable of destruction. Perhaps, as the ancient Egyptians thought, the evil soul could be unmade or annihilated after its judgement in Tuat or the underworld. So, here we have problems not only with Aristotle and Aquinas’ understanding of what is contingent (a materially corruptible being) but also what they think is contingent in their sense (human beings, for example). Furthermore, because Aristotelian physics or at least astrophysics has so clearly been debunked in that the heavens or the planets beyond the moon are now understood to be material things, there is no reason to think them anything but contingent. Indeed, it is generally agreed upon by both theist and naturalist alike that materiality is contingent and so the heavens are contingent as well. Few would now argue that Mars, Jupiter, or the Andromeda Galaxy are necessary beings; I certainly would not. Of course, in fairness to medieval Aristotelians, one might try to modify this by asserting that though the materiality of the planets or the heavenly bodies are material and so contingent, immaterial gods or angelic guardians stand at the heart of each of these spheres, and so these angels are necessary in Aristotle’s sense. But even if one argues thus, one is back to asserting that immateriality cannot be destroyed or unmade, and it is not obvious to me that immaterial beings like angels and human souls are incapable of destruction. It seems that if God exists and if He made immaterial beings like angels and humans then, all things being equal, He could unmake them. Immateriality per se is not equal to indestructibility.


ADAM BARKMAN 3. Possible Worlds

I understand a contingent being to be one that comes to be (and so could cease to be) in time, and a necessary being is one that does not come to be (and so could not cease to be) in time. Contingent beings might be mortal (have a beginning and end in time) or immortal (have a beginning but no necessary end in time), while necessary beings are everlasting or eternal (having no beginning or end in time). Put in the language of modern metaphysics, we could say that a contingent being is one that exists in some but not all possible worlds, whereas a necessary being is one that exists in all possible worlds including, necessarily, the actual world (since it is possible). Here we can see that angels and human souls certainly could exist—there is a hypothetical world where they could exist—though there are also hypothetical worlds where they might not exist, and we need not argue here whether they exist in the actual world or not. Without crossing too far back into the Way or transgressing too far into the Fifth Way, we can see that a contingent being cannot cause itself and so all contingent beings that actually exist need some cause. Insofar as the physical—that is, contingent—universe taken as a whole exists, it needs a cause, and the cause of this one grand physical thing is a being that cannot ultimately be caused by anything else. We might call this being God. Yet we should not put more stock in this than we are able. Even if the physical universe can be taken as a whole and points back to one cause beyond itself, who we call God, if there are things that exist that are not physical but contingent—things like human souls or angels—then it is logically possible that there could be multiple uncaused causes of these immaterial beings. Speaking purely in terms of logical possibility, there could be countless uncaused causers—one for each contingent immaterial being that exists, for example. Moreover, are there necessary beings that are not themselves causes of anything else? The metaphysical materialist generally assumes (1) everything that exists is material or comes from a material cause, and (2) all materiality was itself caused by the Big Bang, before which there was nothing. If one simply assumes the truth of these two propositions, then one might feel compelled to deny the existence of any necessary beings since for the typical materialist everything is contingent—at least in generation. Indeed, most things also seem to be contingent in that they could cease to be as well since mass or matter can be converted into energy, and many also believe the physical universe is heading toward a Big Crunch. Now I sympathize with the materialist who was raised to believe (1) and (2)—after all, it is difficult to reflect upon beliefs that one was taught to be more or less basic. But the materialist, like us all, eventually ought to reflect upon his or her basic beliefs and see if these are rightly basic or not. And if these beliefs cannot adequately stand against defeaters raised against them, then they ought to be rejected. That is, if the existence of some necessary beings could be shown, then both (1) and (2) would be very difficult to hold rationally

From Contingency to Necessary Being


(irrationally, that is another story). This would not necessarily give us theism, but it certainly could increase the probability of theism, which is something that the Third Way seeks to establish. 4. Mathematical, Logical, and Moral Principles 1 + 1 = 2, modus ponens, and the proposition “It’s always wrong to torture a child simply for the fun of it” are generally agreed to be necessary truths. It is not that they are necessarily true if they exist, but rather that they have necessary existence. When we say 1 + 1 = 2 is a necessary truth we are saying the proposition, not the linguistic express, is a necessary truth and one whose existence is necessary in every possible world. Of course, we could easily substitute a different set of linguistic symbols for “1” “+” “=” and “2,” yet the truth of the proposition would remain unscathed. A numeral or name is not the same as a number; a proposition is not the same as a sentence; a rose by any other name is still a rose. The linguistic expression “1 + 1 = 2” is contingent to be sure, but the proposition 1 + 1 = 2 is necessary: 1 + 1 = 2 obtains in all possible worlds and so, necessarily, in the actual world. Ditto, I would claim for modus ponens and the proposition “It’s always wrong to torture a child simply for the fun of it.” Now since we could well imagine a world that is not purely material or a world that does not include angels and humans, we should admit that the aforementioned necessarily true propositions are neither material beings nor are angel-made or man-made. And since the truth of 1 + 1 = 2, modus ponens and so on is truer than the alleged truth of the materialist’s propositions (1) and (2), we should conclude that (1) and (2) are, as they stand, false, and to continue to believe them as they stand is irrational. In his Third Way, Aquinas does not mention 1 + 1 = 2, modus ponens or “It’s always wrong to torture a child for fun” as instances of necessary beings or entities, yet he could have. Certainly these propositions seem beyond material corruption and beyond contingency in any sense, and so are much better candidates for necessity than even the heavens. Additionally, while there could be countless uncaused causers and is very likely at least one, there are many necessarily true propositions. If Aquinas’ argument is taken to show with 100% certainty that God—here taken as the unique, supreme and only uncreated being—exists, then it fails. There are too many holes in it. But Aquinas should not be seen arguing for decontextualized certainty—the premises of his argument are established by a posteriori knowledge after all. Rather, in context, his argument seeks to establish probability—for a belief above 51% if you like. And this, I believe can be done.


ADAM BARKMAN 5. God, a Necessary Being

Before moving forward, let me highlight three conclusions I have reached so far. First, contingent beings do not seem able to generate themselves—even spontaneous generation on the quantum level requires the pre-existence of a vacuum—and so contingent beings likely require an external cause. The physical universe both is contingent in virtue of its physicality and can be taken as one thing (starting at the Big Bang); thus, it seems likely that the physical universe needs exactly one external, non-material or immaterial necessary cause, and we can call this necessary cause God qua the Creator of the Physical Universe. Second, just because some religious texts tell us that immaterial beings like the angels and human souls were created by God qua the Creator of the Physical Universe, it does not make it so. Now, it seems clear that angels and human souls are contingent beings—we could imagine possible worlds where they do not exist. Nevertheless, it does not follow that if they exist that God qua the Creator of the Physical Universe necessarily caused them to be. There could be a whole host of uncaused necessary beings who caused these contingent immaterial beings to exist. However, logical possibility is not what is most desired, but logical probability. The question is if angels and human souls exist, how probable is it that they were caused by necessary beings distinct from God qua the necessary being who created the physical universe? Third, there seem to be a whole host of beings, such as necessarily true propositions, that necessarily exist or are necessary beings which themselves do not cause anything else to be. And again, it is logically possible that these beings are independent of God qua the Creator of the Physical Universe; indeed, some Platonists have argued thus. Yet as with the proposition that there might be necessary causes who created angels and human souls and which are not God qua the Creator of the Physical Universe, here, too, I am not so much concerned with mere possibility, but probability. That is, what is a more probable—that a number of necessarily true propositions are independent of God qua the Creator of the Physical Universe, or that they are a part of God qua the Creator of the Physical Universe? Decontextualized, the Third Way cannot help us decide between these probabilities, and decontextualized it simply suggests that God—in much more limited sense than Aquinas would like to admit—exists and does so necessarily. This is, one should note, enough to suggest that the Third Way is at least partly successful, for it does sufficiently establish that God is a necessary being. But to show that He is the necessary being is another matter.

From Contingency to Necessary Being


6. God, the Necessary Being In order for God to create the entire physical universe, we should expect that He would have ideas in His mind—indeed, ideas of everything He might want to make. Since God qua the Creator of the Physical Universe is a necessary being, there has never been a point where He has not had or been a mind, though there was a point where He had not yet made the physical universe. Since it is next to impossible to imagine a necessarily existent mind that failed to have an idea, it is very likely that God, a necessarily existent mind, would always have had some ideas in His mind. And an idea that God, a necessarily existent mind, always knows would likely be an idea that necessarily exists, such as 1 + 1 = 2, modus ponens or “It’s always wrong to torture a child simply for the fun of it.” Thus, although it is logically possible that these necessary truths are things that God qua the Creator of the Physical Universe has not always known and are not eternally in His mind, it seems more likely than not. Certainly we have no precedent to imagine propositions—ideas—independent of minds, and so even if this were possible, it is not likely. This is to say that it seems likely not simply that some but all necessarily true propositions—these necessary beings—are actually part of the necessary being who created the physical universe, God. Moreover, although it is possible that angels and human souls (if they exist) were caused by a necessary being other than God qua the Creator of the Physical Universe, this does not seem at all likely. If, after looking at the evidence, we were to deny the existence of contingent immaterial beings like angels and human souls, then we could also deny that they had a cause. Given what was argued in the previous paragraph, this would leave us with exactly one necessary being that we know of—God. And even if we were to argue that angels and human souls exist, it would still be more probable to assume that these were made by God—the one necessary being who we have very good reason to think causes things—rather than by any number of other alleged necessary beings who cause immaterial beings to exist. Here Occam’s Razor should be put to use. So in conclusion, the modified Third Way that I argued for here shows not the necessity of God to explain reality, but rather that God is very likely a necessary being who is also very likely the necessary being, and so is also very likely the explanation of all reality.

Ten PROBLEMS WITH AQUINAS' THIRD WAY Edward Moad 1. Introduction Of Thomas Aquinas’ five proofs of the existence of God, the Third Way is a cosmological argument of a specific type sometimes referred to as an argument from contingency. The Aristotelian argument for the existence of the First Unmoved Mover was based on the observation that there is change (or motion), coupled with the principle that nothing changes unless its specific potential to change is actualized by an actual change undergone by some other thing. It then arrives at the conclusion that there exists something in a constant state of pure activity, which is not itself moved but sets everything else in motion. The operative sense of contingency this argument turns on, then, is that of motion. That is, things have the potential to change in certain ways (depending on the kind of things they are), but may or may not do so; whether they actually do being contingent on whether they are acted on in the right way by something else. For this reason, Aristotle’s argument delivers a first mover, which brings about the motion in all that exists, but not a being that brings about the very existence of everything else. The argument referred to specifically as the argument from contingency, by contrast, turns on the idea of the contingency of the very existence of anything at all. That is, if something exists which may not have existed, and the fact that it does exist rather than not is contingent on the action of other existing things which are themselves contingent, then the existence of the whole lot of contingent things, taken together, is also contingent. From this, the argument ultimately concludes that there is a necessary existent— something that exists, for which it is not the case that it might not have existed, and the existence of which does not therefore depend on any other existing things, but on which the existence of all other things depends. The object of this chapter is not, however, arguments from contingency in general, but specifically Aquinas’ Third Way as it appears in his Summa. I will raise three objections to this argument. First, the argument depends on the premise that if everything were contingent, then there would have been a time during which nothing exists; but this is not self-evident, and no argument is given for it here. Secondly, Aquinas tells us that a key premise in this argument, that an infinite order of things necessary through one another is impossible, has been proven just previously (in the Second Way) with respect to an infinite order of efficient causes. But this argument fallaciously



equivocates between two different senses of the term first, and the fallacy does not disappear when applied to the Third Way. Thus, in this argument Aquinas not only fails to prove the existence of a thing necessary in itself, but he also fails to prove that anything is necessary at all. Lastly, this argument suffers from a puzzling ambiguity as to the meaning of the term necessity, and either way of interpreting the term consistently in the argument raises difficulties. Aquinas’ Third Way in the Summa at I.2.3 is as follows: We find some things that are possible both of existing and not existing since some things are found to be generated and corrupted, and therefore to be possible both of existing and of not existing. But it is impossible for everything of this kind to exist always since what is possible of not existing at some time does not exist. Therefore, if all things were capable of not existing, at some time no thing would exist. But if this were true, even now nothing would exist since what does not exist does not begin to exist except through something else which exists; so that if no being existed, it would be impossible for anything to begin to exist, and thus nothing would now exist, which is plainly false. Therefore, not all beings are contingent or possible; there must exist some thing which is necessary. But every necessary being either has a cause of its necessity from elsewhere, or it does not. But it is not possible to proceed ad infinitum in necessary beings which have a cause of their necessity, just as this was not possible in efficient causes, as was proved [in the Second Way]. Therefore, it is necessary to posit something which is necessary through itself, not having the cause of its necessity from elsewhere, but is the cause of necessity to other things, which is what everyone calls “God.” The argument breaks down as follows: (1) Some things are found to be generated and corrupted. (2) Anything that is generated and corrupted is possible both of existing and not existing (implicit). (3) Therefore, there are things that are possible of both existing and not existing (1 and 2). I have inserted here, as the implicit premise (2), what is minimally necessary to take us from (1) to (3). But this leaves open the question as to whether we are also to understand here that anything that is possible both of existing and not existing is generated and corrupted so that, essentially, the contingent just is the generated and corrupted; or whether the category of the contingent might include that which is not generated and corrupted. That is, can there be something that is everlasting, without beginning or end, and yet is such that it might not have existed? From the next premise, it appears not.

Problems with Aquinas’ Third Way


(4) What is possible of not existing at some time does not exist. (5) Therefore, if all things were capable of not existing, at some time no thing would exist (4). 2. A False Inference This seems to entail that all that is contingent is either generated or corrupted, if not both. But is the inference from (4) to (5) valid? In purely formal terms, from the premise that, for everything, there is some time at which it is nonexistent, it does not follow that there is a time at which everything is nonexistent (see Kelly 1981). For this inference to be valid, certain other conditions must obtain. First, the number of existing things must not be potentially infinite. If it is, then things can begin and cease to exist in succession perpetually. Then, for each thing, there could be a time at which it does not exist, and yet no time at which nothing exists. So the inference is invalid unless the potential number of existing things is finite (and, as we might safely assume, the self-same thing cannot begin and cease to exist repeatedly). Secondly, it must be the case that time is ontologically independent of contingent things (e.g., time cannot be the measure of motion). Otherwise, though it is possible for nothing to exist, there can be no time at which nothing exists. But let us for now assume that true premises can be established, which will make the inference valid. Then it should also follow that, if everything other than God is capable of not existing, then at some time nothing other than God exists. And that, it seems, would constitute a philosophical proof that the world as a whole is not eternal. But as is well known, Aquinas himself argues that this cannot be proven philosophically, but only by reference to divine revelation. But if he is right about that, then it follows that (5) is false. And this means that either the inference from (4) to (5) is fallacious, or that premise (4) itself is false. What role, then, do these premises play in the overall proof? (6) What does not exist does not begin to exist, except through something else which exists. (7) Therefore, if nothing existed, it would be impossible for anything to begin to exist (6). (8) Therefore, if at some time nothing existed, then nothing would exist now (7). (9) Therefore, if all things are capable of not existing, then nothing would exist now (5, 8). (10) But something does exist now. (11) Therefore not all beings are capable of not existing (i.e., contingent or possible) (9, 10). (12) Therefore, there exists something which is necessary (i.e., not capable of not existing) (11).



The inference from (5) to (9) is valid. But aside from premise (5)—the truth of which, as we note, has not been established—it also depends on the truth of premise (6). This is, of course, a key premise. Much of the discussion over cosmological arguments in general has focused on the principle of sufficient reason, this being taken to be a key premise in such arguments, generally (Craig 1980; Wiggins 1996; Pruss 2006). It is important to point out then, that premise (6) is not the principle of sufficient reason. For as it stands, premise (6) is entirely compatible with the proposition that there is an infinite series of things, each of which begins to exist through a previous existing thing (or things) in the series, and it is just this proposition that is normally taken as ruled out by the principle of sufficient reason, on the grounds that in such a case, there will not be sufficient reason for the existence of any member of the series. Of course, if the principle of sufficient reason is true, then premise (6), quite intuitively, follows. If there is sufficient reason for the existence of something, it is hard to see how this would not involve reference to some already existing thing. One might be audacious enough to suggest that it is simply a law of nature that some things pop into existence out of nothing, and then offer that as sufficient reason, but they would have to avoid the implication that it is the existence of such a law that constitutes the reason (whatever the existence of a law of nature, in itself, is supposed to consist in). But premise (6) does not entail the principle of sufficient reason. And this fact relieves me of the unenviable choice between attempting to defend the principle on the one hand, or of trying to conceive doing philosophy under the pretense of its falsehood, on the other. Premise (6), as distinct from the principle of sufficient reason, also has the advantage that it does not raise the same question to the coherence of the notion of a Creator endowed with voluntary will. For if the existence of the world is a consequence, as a cosmological argument traditionally aims to show, of voluntary creative choice on the part of God, then it seems to follow that there is no sufficient reason to be given for its existence, if this is to be understood as something in virtue of which He could not have done otherwise. So here, I will be content to grant premise (6), and avoid the unpleasant suggestion that it is possible that something pop into existence out of nothing. And, since something does evidently exist now, the inference to premise (12) is valid. 3. Ambiguity in Modal Terms With (12), this section of the argument arrives at the existence of something that is necessary; that is, something for which non-existence is impossible. Consequently, it is not capable of generation or corruption, since the premise (2) implicit in the inference from (1) to (3) has it that anything that is generated and corrupted is contingent (i.e., something for which non-existence is possible). Thus, that which is necessary exists at all times. So, if (6) provides the only condition by which a thing needs a cause for its existence, then that

Problems with Aquinas’ Third Way


which is necessary needs no cause for its existence. So, in (12), we will have arrived at an uncaused cause of the existence of other things. With an additional proof that there can only be one uncaused cause of existence, we might be justified in identifying that as God. The fact that everything else is contingent could be a premise for an additional proof that the necessary existent causes the existence of everything else by a voluntary act of will (i.e., it might not have created any of them). And premise (4), again, would entail that the world is not eternal. But this is not what Aquinas does here. Instead, he goes on to argue that: (13) Every necessary being has a cause of its necessity from elsewhere, or it does not. (14) But it is not possible to proceed ad infinitum in necessary beings which have a cause of their necessity, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. (15) Wherefore, it is necessary to posit something which is necessary through itself, not having the cause of its necessity from elsewhere, but is the cause of necessity to other things, which is what everyone calls God. Here, we are presented with a distinction between a necessary being, the necessity of which is caused by something else, and a necessary being that is necessary through itself. For a thing to be necessary, is for it to be impossible that it not exist. So, the cause of its being necessary will be the cause, not only of its existence, but also of its being impossible not to exist. Avicenna had also distinguished the necessary through another from the necessary in itself, but the former was just the contingent—the possible in itself—where its being caused to exist was just its being necessary, given the cause (Rizvi 2000). In this case, the cause of a thing’s being necessary could be understood just as the cause of the existence of that which is contingent in itself, but necessary through that which caused it to exist. But here, Aquinas distinguishes the contingent thing that is caused to exist by something else, from the necessary thing the necessity of which is caused by something else. But what does this mean? We might say—contra Avicenna—that a contingent thing might be caused to exist by something else, and yet not be necessary through that cause, if it remains that it might not have been caused to exist by it. By contrast, something is necessary through another, if it is caused to exist by another, and it is not the case that it might not have been. In the latter case, the cause would have to be something that is itself necessary, and necessarily causes the existence of its effect. In the former case, however, even if the cause itself exists necessarily, it must at least be a contingent matter that it caused its effect—it has to remain the case that it might not have caused its effect. This leaves the way open for the traditional understanding of God, as creating the universe by a voluntary act of will. For even though God Himself



is understood to exist necessarily, it need not be the case that He necessarily creates this world, or any world at all. All that is caused to exist by His voluntary act would remain ultimately contingent, since His causing them to exist does not entail causing them to be necessary. Conversely, if being caused to exist were equivalent to being made necessary through another, as in Avicenna’s system, then the argument would lead us, not only to a being that exists necessarily, but one who necessarily causes the existence of exactly that which does exist, and who could not have done otherwise. This would rule out creation as a voluntary act of will, and that would not be the sort of God that Aquinas aims to prove. So there is good reason for Aquinas to want to distinguish the contingent that is caused to exist (but remains contingent), from that which is made necessary through another. But if there is something that is necessary through another, in this sense, then it follows that there is something that God causes involuntarily, because again, if he created it voluntarily, then it would remain contingent. Now, the only reason we have been given here to believe in the existence of the necessary at all, is the fact that contingent things exist, and their existence depends on the existence of the necessary. Thus, the only necessary through another, which we have been given reason to believe exists, is one on which the existence of contingent things depends. But, if these things depend on the existence of this necessary through another, and they remain contingent, then it would be as if God involuntarily causes the existence of another voluntary creator (or at least a random existence generator if such a thing is possible). Conversely, if this necessary through another is not another voluntary creator or random existence generator, involuntary caused by God, then those things on which it depends are not contingent after all, but additional things made necessary through another. In that case, according to premise (2) they are not susceptible of generation and corruption, and should presumably exist at all times. But according to the first (and strongest) premise in this argument, that is false. Then anything necessary through another, for which we have any reason to believe exists, will be a voluntary creator or random existence generator that God involuntary causes to exist for all time. According to premise (14), it is not possible to proceed ad infinitum in these things. But there could still be quite a large number (you might call it a pantheon). Of course, however many they may be, it would be argued, they all ultimately depend, for their existence, on the necessary through itself (which we call God). The troubling thing remains that, their being necessary, He would not have any choice in the matter. Assuming that Aquinas is committed to an omnipotent God Who has complete voluntary control over what else exists, he would not want to admit the existence of any such things necessary through another, in this sense. Of course, premise (13) does not entail the existence of such. It merely acknowledges the logical possibility of it. But to be effective in proving the existence of the sort of God that Aquinas presumably wants to prove, an

Problems with Aquinas’ Third Way


additional argument ruling out this possibility is required, and the fact that this is missing here constitutes a weakness of this argument. But another possible explanation is that by necessary here, Aquinas really means, not that it is impossible for the thing not to exist, but simply that it is not subject to generation and corruption. In this case, the necessary through another connotes a thing that exists at all times (angels, immortal souls, etc.). But, since they exist at all times by the voluntary will of God, of course, we cannot strictly say that it is impossible for them not to exist, unless we simply define the possibility of a thing’s non-existence as the actual non-existence of the thing at some time. In this case, what Aquinas means by necessary through another is really just “everlasting” while true necessity (as in, non-existence really being impossible for a thing) is limited to the necessary in-itself (which in this case really means, everlasting through itself, but arguably amounts to the same thing). The problem with this interpretation is that it contradicts premise (4), that what is possible of not existing at some time does not exist. Because the necessary through another, understood this way, is possible of not existing and yet, there is no time at which it does not exist. But if, to resolve this, we understand the possibility of not existing as simply that which is generated and corrupted, then the premise is a tautology: that which at some time does not exist, at some time does not exist. Likewise, for the whole inference from (1) to (3): premise (2) essentially becomes “anything that is generated and corrupted is generated and corrupted” and therefore (3) “there are things that are generated and corrupted.” So, on this interpretation, we purchase consistency with premise (4) at the cost of making it, along the first section of this argument, largely vacuous. So the problem here is that there is an ambiguity in the meaning of the modal terms in the argument. If we understand a necessary thing as that the existence of which is impossible, then the argument fails to prove the existence of the kind of voluntary creator that it presumably aims to prove. On the other hand, if we understand a necessary thing as simply everlasting, then either premise (13) contradicts premise (4), or everything from (1) to (4) on the argument is rendered vacuous. 5. Fallacy of Equivocation But whichever way that goes, why is it not possible to proceed ad infinitum in things necessary through another? This has been proved, says Aquinas, in the case of efficient causes, which was dealt with in his Second Way. It appears then, that the force of the Third Way proof depends on that of the Second Way: In the world of sensible things, we find that there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes


EDWARD MOAD it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate cause is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or one only. Now, to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be any ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore, it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.

Here is how this argument breaks down: (1) In the world of sensible things, we find that there is an order of efficient causes. (2) It is impossible for a thing to be the efficient cause of itself. (3) In all efficient causes following in order, the first cause is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate cause is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or one only. (4) To take away the cause is to take away the effect. (5) Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor intermediate cause (3 and 4). (6) If, in efficient causes, it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause. (7) If, in efficient causes, it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes (5 and 6). (8) There are ultimate effects and intermediate efficient causes. (9) Therefore, in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity (7 and 8). (10) Therefore, there is a first efficient cause. The conclusion of this argument is that there is a first efficient cause, which is absolutely first in the sense that it is not the effect of any prior cause. In premise (3) however, we are told that, in all efficient causal orders, the first cause is the cause of the intermediate cause, etc. So either this is a circular argument, or the term first is to take a different sense in the premise, from that which it takes in the conclusion. The efficient causal orders that have been shown to exist are those we observe among sensible things. Among these, obviously, we do not observe the first cause referred to in the conclusion. Otherwise, there would be no need for a proof. In the causal orders we do observe, we find first causes in a relative sense, that is, first in relation to an intermediate cause or causes, and an ultimate effect, in a circumscribed series

Problems with Aquinas’ Third Way


of causes, and not first in the absolute sense, of not being the effect of any prior cause. So, when we get to (5), the inference is valid, so long as we mean by first the same thing we mean in (3). But when we come to (6), the meaning of shifts. It is true that an infinite causal series would have no first cause in the absolute sense (that is, of a cause that is not the effect of any prior cause), but not that there would be no first cause in the relative sense in which the term is used in the previous premises. If we were to stick with this sense of first cause, as the prior cause in any circumscribed set of causes within a larger series, then it would be more plausible to say that, if the series goes on to infinity, there are an infinite number of first causes. Thus, when Aquinas infers (7) from (5) and (6), it is based on an equivocation in the operative sense of the term first. So this argument is invalid. Will it make a difference, if this argument were given in terms of things necessary through another rather than in terms of efficient causes? It does not look promising. The first premise would go “in the world if sensible things, we find there is an order of things necessary through another.” This is manifestly not the case. What we observe of sensible things is subject to generation and corruption. And even if we did observe something that is everlasting, we could never observe it as such. Our first premise, rather, would have to be, “from what we observe of the world of sensible things, we may deduce the existence of something necessary.” But this premise would only hold, if the first section of the Third Way—namely, the inference from premise (4) to (5)—is valid, and we have seen that it is not. That is, it has not been proven that, if everything is non-existent at some time, then there is some time at which everything is non-existent. The second premise of the Second Way was that “it is impossible for a thing to be the efficient cause of itself.” In that context, the premise is sound. But in the context of the Third Way this premise will say “it is impossible for something to be necessary in itself.” And this, of course, is in direct contradiction to the very conclusion of the Third Way. So there must be some substantial differences between the argument for premise (13) of the Third Way, against an infinite order of things necessary through one another, and the argument against an infinite order of efficient causes, as given in the Second Way. Following the pattern of the latter as closely as possible, however, our argument for premise (13) of the Third Way would be: (1) In all things necessary through one another, following in order, the first necessary thing is that through which the intermediate necessary thing is necessary, and the intermediate necessary thing is that through which the ultimate necessary thing is necessary. (2) To take away that, through which a thing is necessary, is to take away the necessity of that thing.


EDWARD MOAD (3) Therefore, if there were no first necessary thing among things necessary through one another, there would be no ultimate, nor intermediate necessary thing (1 and 2). (4) If in things necessary through another, it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first necessary thing.

Not surprisingly, the same equivocation in the sense of the term first appears here, as in the previous case. Premise (4) is true so long as we mean an absolute first necessary thing (for which there is no prior thing through which it is necessary). But that is not the same sense in which the term appears in the premises. In that sense of first—that is, a first necessary thing in relation to any given order of three things necessary through one another—premise (4) is arguably false. If it is possible to go on to infinity in the order of things necessary through one another, then arguably there are an infinite number of first necessary things. Thus, to infer, on the basis of (3) and (4), that with an infinite series of things necessary through one another, there will be no such things at all, would constitute the same fallacy of equivocation that we found in the argument against an infinite order of efficient causes. So this argument is no more effective in proving premise (13) of the Third Way than it was in the case of Second Way. Thus, there is no valid inference, given here, to the conclusion that there exists a thing necessary in itself.

Eleven A RESPONSE TO MOAD Adam Barkman In many ways, Dr. Moad’s objections to Aquinas’ Third Way are objections that I myself have already raised or, if not, would agree with to some extent. Indeed, if taken unmodified and decontextualized, I tend to agree with Dr. Moad that the Third Way does not do what people have wanted it to do. But taken in a larger context of knowledge and with some modifications, I think it can play a small role in helping establish the likely existence of God. Yet conceding all this, I do think that Dr. Moad and I still disagree about some minor issues concerning two of his broad objections, which I will try to address briefly. 1. Objection 1: “A Time during Which Nothing Exists” One of Dr. Moad’s objections is that “the argument depends on the premise, that if everything were contingent, then there would have been a time during which nothing exists, but this is not self-evident—no argument is given for it here.” Four comments can be made: First, if Aquinas assumes a kind of temporal stretching out of contingent beings, then—depending on how strongly he phrases things—he might indeed commit a kind of quantifier fallacy insofar as he insists the causal chain must come to an end. But if, as it is possible, Aquinas assumes an atemporal ordering of contingent beings, then it is not that he would think that there would literally be nothing if a cause in time were absent, but rather that everything in time would fail to exist. Here committing oneself to a temporal or atemporal view of things could play a role in the revised argument and so in its overall probability. Second, although it may be beyond the scope of the Third Way, Aquinas might be able to develop an argument showing that an infinite stretching out of contingent beings, which could be construed as an actual infinite, is nonsense. For example, if we were to define an actual infinite as a set of things that neither gains nor loses its members, then any infinite subset of this set would equal that of the entire set, which seems wrongheaded. Something like this might be able to help Aquinas out here if he needed it. Third, even on a temporal reading, Aquinas’ argument can be modified such that it could produce some evidential fruit. In our world, we have no examples of effects whose cause we cannot trace. It seems reasonable, then, that if there were no causes for these effects, then there would be no effect. If



Dad and Mom did not get together, then there would be no Baby Lilly so-tospeak. In this way, though Aquinas’ statement is not “self-evident” as Dr. Moad requires it to be, it is still—modified slight—a reasonable claim to make, namely, “if everything were contingent, then likely—based on the kinds of experience we have in our world—there would have been a time during which nothing existed.” Fourth, Dr. Moad argues that the infinite or temporal nature of the universe cannot be resolved by natural evidence but rather requires supernatural (biblical, qur’anic, etc.) evidence to resolve the matter. I do not think this is true for the reasons stated above. Yet, since I think the project of a broad, cumulative, inductive argument for God’s existence is the way to proceed, I’m happy to allow biblical statements, for example, as potential evidence to consider in support of the temporal or infinite nature of the universe. Here, of course, I think that one must reason carefully about the claims made by alleged religious texts, and this reasoning should be such that it neither assumes without good evidence the claims of religious texts to be either true or false. But still, religious texts should be potentially allowed as evidence in the broader argument of which the Third Way is just one component. 2. Objection 2: “The Nature of Necessities” Another of Dr. Moad’s objections concerns the potential problem of saying that if God must be the cause of the universe, then He was not free to make it. Dr. Moad seems to suggest that this would diminish God’s sovereignty, which would mean that philosophy proves God’s existence at the expense of diminishing the glory of the God of revealed religion. I agree with Dr. Moad that Aquinas would—or should—want the Third Way to support, not undermine, the existence of a God. To this end, my suggestion is that we need to understand some different senses in which the word necessary can be used (see Shoemaker 1998; Fine 2002). For example, we might say that if God is perfectly good, then, necessarily, He cannot do any evil; that is, He is not free to do any evil. But this type of necessity—which is eternally fixed, so-to-speak—is different than nomic necessity or necessity based on certain conditions being met. I would argue that while God is not free to violate His own moral nature, for example, yet He was free to create or not create the universe—the choice to create or not create the universe being not a moral one, for example. And so if God had not made the universe, then no contingent beings would exist and we would not be here talking about it. But we are here and so we argue that given our existence a being like God necessarily created us, and the type of necessity expressed here is not the strong type that Dr. Moad suggests, but rather a weaker sort.

Twelve A RESPONSE TO BARKMAN Edward Moad It is somewhat unclear, whether Adam Barkman intends to argue that Aquinas’ Third Way is an inductive argument, or that it is a failed deductive argument that, with modifications, can be converted into a strong inductive argument. He begins by apparently describing it as an inductive argument, but this is straightforwardly false. The Third Way, as Aquinas offered it, is a deductive metaphysical argument seeking to establish the existence of God with certainty. Yet other things Barkman says here indicate that he intends to modify the argument, producing an inductive version of it, which establishes the probability of God’s existence. The fact Barkman advances quite a bit of his own argumentation, which he claims establishes that probability, but which seems to have little, if any, relation to Aquinas’ own argument, also weighs in favor of that interpretation. Thus, I will proceed on this basis. In general, a deductive argument cannot be converted into an inductive argument with modifications, and yet remain the same argument. These are two completely different orders of reasoning. We cannot very well keep the premises of a deductive argument intact and transform it into an inductive argument simply by inserting “it is likely” in front of the conclusion. There is a difference between an inductive argument and a deductive argument that something is probable. “All men are mortal, and Socrates is probably a man, therefore Socrates is probably mortal” is just a deductive argument with a more modest conclusion. An inductive argument requires an altogether different sort of premises. But if we alter the premises, then we have an altogether different argument. So if we really modify the Third Way so as to be inductive, are we still even talking about the Third Way? That seems rather dubious. For example, Barkman argues that since there are necessary truths (e.g., 1+1=2), then some necessary beings exist, which renders it more probable than not that God exists. Is a necessarily true statement a necessary being in the relevant sense? And if it is, then does the fact that there are necessary beings make it probable that God exists, any more than the fact that there are animals make it probable that unicorns exist? At any rate, this line of reasoning has nothing to do with the Third Way. Elsewhere Barkman asserts that, “contingent beings likely require an external cause.” This is more plausibly a modification of the Third Way, at least insofar as the premise, that everything that comes to be requires an external cause, is a premise of Aquinas’ argument. But for Aquinas, this premise is a metaphysical principle. But inserting the qualifier likely does not merely make



the claim more modest—it fundamentally alters the nature of the claim. Barkman’s argument here is that “contingent beings do not seem able to generate themselves—even spontaneous generation on the quantum level requires the pre-existence of a vacuum—and so contingent beings likely require an external cause.” That a contingent being cannot generate itself is necessarily true: to generate itself it would have to exist before it exists. That is not just something that seems to be the case. The question, instead, is whether any contingent being can come to be without an external cause. If there is spontaneous generation at the quantum level, and spontaneous generation is understood as a coming into existence without a cause, then it follows that there are contingent things that come into being without a cause (see He, Gao, and Cai 2014). The supposed requirement of the pre-existence of a vacuum does not constitute a cause of its coming to be, only a necessary condition. An inductive argument, for the conclusion that it is probable that nothing can come to exist without an external cause, would have to be based on a premise to the effect that everything that we have observed coming to exist, has had an external cause, and that therefore it is probable that nothing can come to exist without one. But for it to be inductive, it cannot rest on a metaphysical principle to the effect that nothing can come to be without an external cause (PSR or principle of efficient causality). If we accept such a principle, then it is not just probable, but necessary. The empirically motivated reasons for denying any philosophical justification for such a principle, of their very nature preclude any philosophical justification for the claim that we have never observed anything come to be without an external cause, since they lead to skepticism about efficient causality in general. On that view, everything we observe coming to be might have come to be without an external cause. And if, for the sake of argument, we are justified in believing that everything we have observed has come to be through an external cause, then we still have the three options: infinite regress of contingent causes, unobserved uncaused contingent causes (which came to be without a cause), or unobserved necessary causes (which do not come to be). Now which is more probable on the basis of the fact that every observed coming to be was observed to require an external cause? If any of them could be considered more probable on that basis, it would have to be the infinite regress, since though we have never observed an infinite regress of causes, that is just the supposition of the continuity of that which, presumably, is all that we have observed. The second most probable would be that there are unobserved uncaused contingent causes, since that accords, at least, with the fact that everything we have observed has been contingent. Are we to argue that, since everything we have observed has been contingent and required an external cause, it is therefore probable that something exists, which is not contingent and requires no external cause? The only argument against an infinite regress of efficient causes is a deductive argument to the effect that such a thing is metaphysically impossible:

A Response to Barkman


the deductive, straightforwardly metaphysical argument against an actually infinite series of efficient causes. “Big Bang” theory here does not constitute an inductive argument against such a regress, since it is silent on whether the Big Bang itself had an external cause or not (Stumpe 2015; Liddle 2015). Indeed, many would say that the Big Bang theory is neutral on the very existence of efficient causality, since physics can dispense with the notion of efficient causality altogether. So it is hard to see what kind of argument could be mounted, to the effect that it is probable that everything that comes to be needs an external cause. If such a thing can be established, it could only be by means of a deductive, properly metaphysical argument. In conclusion, Aquinas’ Third Way is an essentially deductive argument, in that it turns on a priori metaphysical principles, key among them being the principle of efficient causality and the impossibility of an actually infinite series of efficient causes. If one feels that this sort of philosophical reasoning is no longer sustainable, then the only option is to discard the argument. An alternative, inductive argument given in its place is just that—a different argument and not a modified version of the same. Any argument that purports to be a modified version of the Third Way must at least be a cosmological argument, and the existence of a strong, genuinely inductive cosmological argument is less probable than not.

The Fourth Proof Thirteen A FOURTH WAY TO PROVE GOD’S EXISTENCE David Beck 1. Introduction Of Thomas Aquinas’ Quinque Viae, surely the Fourth Way of the Summa (ST), though perhaps the least discussed, is the one that creates the most controversy. There are at least four larger reasons for this. For one, this argument is often branded as a moral argument that brings with it a commitment to some form of absolute morals, and so it dies the death of all current moral arguments, precisely because of that apparent commitment to an objective axiology. Second, this argument appears more broadly to involve a host of metaphysical commitments, many of them deceptively Platonic ideas, which we simply cannot handle in the 21st Century. Third, of course, this argument is cloaked in an Aristotelian philosophy of science, especially ideas of formal and even final causality, which have been unacceptable for centuries now. We can include here the frequent allegations, some clearly correct, of just plain bad science in both Aristotle and Thomas. And finally, to top it off, some commentators have freely admitted that they simply cannot make sense of, or do not so much as understand the argument. C. F. J. Martin (1997), for example, says, “I don’t think I understand the Fourth Way… I console myself by the consideration that I am in good company: both Kenny and Geach seem to give up on the Fourth Way” (171). Even Etienne Gilson (1960) remarks that it is “the deepest one from the point of view of metaphysical knowledge” (76). So our concern in this chapter is to determine what value, if any, this argument might still have for us today. I begin by looking at the text itself. I consider possibilities for translation and give consideration to other similar arguments in Thomas’ corpus. This section concludes with an examination of proposals for sources of the Fourth Way, and I argue that Plato is not an option. Then, in the following section, I explain the argument itself. This involves a careful exposition and examination of each part of the argument. I argue here that, given Aristotelian realist metaphysics, there is good reason to hold that the argument’s premises are all true. The final section of this chapter concludes by considering the value of this Fourth Way for our current philosophical



discussion, in particular by attempting to situate it within the context of the other four. I argue that it does play a valid role, though granting that it takes last place in terms of congeniality with current thought. First place no doubt goes to the Fifth, with the Second a close follow-up. There are, however, specific instances of this argument that do seem to resonate in the 21st Century, such as C. S. Lewis’s Moral Argument. 2. The Text of the Fourth Way A. Translation First, the original Latin text of Thomas: Quarta via sumitur ex gradibus qui in rebus inveniuntur. Invenitur enim in rebus aliquid magis et minus bonum, et verum, et nobile, et sic de aliis hujusmodi. Sed magis et minus dicuntur de diversis secundum quod appropinquant diversimode ad aliquid quod maxime est, sicut magis calidum est, quod magis appropinquat maxime calido. Est igitur aliquid quod est verissimum, et optimum, et nobilissimum, et per consequens maxime ens, nam quæ sunt maxime vera, sunt maxime entia, ut dicitur II Metaphys. Quod autem dicitur maxime tale in aliquo genere, est causa omnium quæ sunt illius generis, sicut ignis, qui est maxime calidus, est causa omnium calidorum, ut in eodem libro dicitur. Ergo est aliquid quod omnibus entibus est causa esse, et bonitatis, et cujuslibet perfectionis, et hoc dicimus Deum. A literal, mostly word-by-word translation, my own, runs as follows: A fourth way concludes from the measures (degrees, levels, gradations), which in things can be found. It can be found, namely, in things some more and less good, and true, and distinguished (noble, outstanding), and so with others [properties] of this kind. However, more and less are said about different [things] according as they resemble (are alike, come close to) in different ways something which is the most (maximum), just as [something is] more hot as it more resembles most hot. There is therefore something which is most true (truest), and most good (optimal), and most noble (noblest), and as a result (consequence) most being, for those that are most true, are most being, as it says in Metaphys[ics] II. But what is said to be the most amount in any kind (genus, sort) is the cause of all [things] that are in that kind (genus, sort) just as fire, which is most hot, is the cause of all hot [things], as is said in the same book. Therefore there is something which of all beings (entities) is the cause of [their] being, and

A Fourth Way to Prove God’s Existence


goodness, and such as you will perfections (properties), and this we call (say is) God. The standard Dominican Fathers translation, from which all further quotations in this chapter are taken: The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But “more” and “less” are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as it is written in Metaph. ii. Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum heat, is the cause of all hot things. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call “God.” There are here several translation matters, though for our purposes, none that have any great bearing on the outcome of my thesis. Nevertheless, a few comments: 1. The use of huiusmodi and cuiuslibet in relation to the list of properties clearly indicates that Thomas is speaking of a very specific kind or type of property. This argument is not about just any property, but only those like good, true, noble, and possibly others that are similarly related to being. Thomas refers to these as transcendent and hereafter I will refer to these properties as transcendentals as many commentators now do. This term as a noun appears to originate with Suarez, but Thomas uses the adjective in relation to multiplicity beyond the genus (see ST I.31.3c). More on this below. 2. The use of heat and fire is placed in the text as an illustration of how both of the Aristotelian metaphysical principles actually work. It is never included as a token of the type of properties to which Thomas refers here. 3. It is noteworthy that the text is pleasantly free of arcane metaphysical jargon. It is intended to be an argument we all understand about something we all observe. Granted, for us today the use of being, good, perfections, etc., needs some clarifying. 4. I have retained the more literal reading of the fourth sentence, as opposed to the Dominican Fathers. This seems more in line with Thomas’ point that good, true, etc., flow together in being (see Elders 1990, 113-4).


DAVID BECK B. Similar Arguments

Similar arguments appear throughout the Thomistic corpus. In fact, it is precisely the wealth not only of other versions of this argumentation, but also of the metaphysical principles employed here, that gives rise to a longstanding—it starts already with his contemporaries and reaches an early peak in Cajetan—as well as a highly technical discussion. In the 20th Century it continued unabated after the renewal of Thomistic discussion prompted by the two papal encyclicals, Aeterni Patris in 1879 by Leo XIII and Studiorum Ducem in 1923 by Pius XI, and has certainly not yet concluded. We shall have to return to the issue of the principles employed here later. For now we will look at only the two most critical passages in which Thomas uses this same type argument. Foremost here is certainly the parallel passage in Summa Contra Gentiles (SCG): Another argument may also be gathered from the words of Aristotle. In Metaphysics II he shows that what is most true is also most a being. But in Metaphysics IV 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. (I.13; also see II.15) Most notable about this argument is that it makes use of only the first principle in the Summa argument to infer the existence of (what we call) God. Another critical argument is that found in De Potentia at 3.5. This version is very similar in structure to that in Summa: Whenever something is found to be in several things by participation in various degrees, it must be derived by those in which it exists imperfectly from that one in which it exists most perfectly: because where there are positive degrees of a thing so that we ascribe it to this one more and to that one less, this is in reference to one thing to which they approach, one nearer than another: for if each one were of itself competent to have it, there would be no reason why one should have it more than another. Thus fire, which is the extreme of heat, is the cause of heat in all things hot. Now there is one being most perfect and most true: which follows from the fact that there is a mover altogether immovable and absolutely perfect, as philosophers have proved. Consequently all other less perfect beings must needs derive being therefrom. This is the argument of the Philosopher (Metaph. ii, I). There are others. There are arguments similar to the Fourth Way in the Commentary on the Gospel of John in the Prologue (n.5), in the Compendium Theologiae (n.68), in the Commentary on the Apostolic Creed (n.878), and

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several other places. In addition there are 15 or 16 discussions of Thomas’ first metaphysical principle which is unique to this argument, about half of them in the SCG (see Urban 1984, 281; Elders 1990, 112). C. Sources Finally, we must look at the matter of Thomas’ sources for the Fourth Way. Generally Thomas is quite explicit about his sources, and the Summa is certainly a prime example of this practice. A cursory examination of the text will make this evident. And as we have seen, this paragraph twice refers to Aristotle’s Metaphysics as the source of both principles on which the argument turns. So it is somewhat surprising that there is any question here. Nevertheless, there are alternate proposals. Most notable among them is Anthony Kenny’s argument that this Fourth Way has Platonic origins, most notably advanced in Chapter V of his 1969 The Five Ways: Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Proofs of God’s Existence. Though widely dismissed, this proposal seems to have maintained some credence at the more popular level of philosophical discussion. Leo Elders’ (1990) refutation is perhaps the best here—although, he does not refer specifically to Kenny—and my brief discussion is much indebted to it. Kenny begins by noting that all agree that in this Way, Thomas “comes closest to Platonism” (71). Curiously that is all he gives as an argument. The next sentence then begins a lengthy exposition of Plato’s Doctrine of Forms. The chapter then comes to the conclusion that Thomas’ Platonic understanding of esse leaves this fourth argument useless. It merely proves that what, in the conclusion, all men call God, is no more than the Platonic idea of Being (95). There are a number of good reasons to think that Kenny’s thesis is just wrong. First, and most obvious, Thomas elsewhere is quick to point out Platonic agreements with his discussions, most frequently, of course, Augustine. However, he here explicitly refers us to Aristotle and that twice. Apart from some good reason to the contrary, Thomas ought to be accorded credence. In any case, Kenny’s argument appears to be circular at best. He begins with the thesis, left unproven, that this argument is Platonic and concludes with the complaint that it does not escape those Platonic confines. Second, understood as a Platonic participation of the forms in the Form, we are left deprived of a truly causal argument as Thomas clearly intends here, analogous to the other four Ways. As most every commentator, including Kenny himself (35) agrees, the Five Ways are all based on the four types of causality in Aristotle. When Thomas concludes at the end of the argument that some real being is the cause of all other real beings, this must refer to efficient, not formal causality. For Thomas, God is not the formal cause of the existence of beings in a Platonic (or any other) sense, but rather the creator ex nihilo of real objects that are ontologically distinct from their real cause.



Third, the notion of participation, key to this argument, is in Thomas fundamentally different from that of Plato. This argument is about the relationship of entia: real existents. It is not about forms but form/matter substances that are beings. The notion that Thomas could have slipped back into some sort of Platonic alter ego attributes to him a level of inconsistency simply not worthy of a careful mind like his. So it seems to me that this proposal is unlikely at best and quite uncharitable at worst. The same holds for other suggested sources like Augustine and Anselm. Certainly they are both frequent partners in the dialogue of both Summas and one can find in both some familiar sounding arguments and identical metaphysical terminology, but these sources all use Platonic or even Neo-Platonic metaphysical conceptualizations and so the similarities in terms are only superficial (see Esser 1954). The most frequently mentioned Neo-Platonic source is Dionysius (Copleston 1962, 340ff). After all, Thomas wrote a commentary on his De Devinis Nominibus, and mentions him specifically in a parallel argument in the prologue to Super Evangelium S. Joannis. However, the same considerations as above apply here as well. The metaphysics of the Fourth Way is clearly different, especially since Dionysius’ argument depends on God being material, formal, efficient, and final cause of all Being. Thomas, of course, rejects the notion of God as material cause, but also rejects Dionysius’ specific understanding of God as formal cause (see Urban 1984, 281). In conclusion, it seems best to regard this argument as a distinctly Thomistic reworking of Aristotelian ideas, though certainly embedded in the context of previous and contemporary Platonic vocabulary and discussion of these themes. The principle of charity certainly demands it. It is simply unthinkable that Thomas would be so inconsistent. Further, not surprisingly, most commentators have agreed on this. 3. The Argument of the Fourth Way A. General Structure The Fourth Way is much like the other four, both in structure and content. They are, after all, five ways to pursue the same argument (see Davies 2014, section 3.4; Elders 1990, ch. 3; Wippel 2000). They appear as one in the same section, introduced by the same thesis and objections, and followed, of course, by the same responses. They are all forms of the Cosmological Argument (see Elders 1990, 83ff), based each on a different type of contingency that may be observed, available to all persons by means of the senses. Jacques Maritain (1954), for example, says of the Five that they are distributed in a certain order in which the depth of thought and the complexity of the discussion increase. In proportion as the mind delves

A Fourth Way to Prove God’s Existence


deeper into the world of experience in order to reach the first starting point of its thinking, it discerns in the First Being more and more meaningful aspects, and richer perspectives are disclosed to it. (63) In turn, the different modes of contingency direct us to different aspects or attributes of the concluding cause. What differentiates each of them as “ways” is that their respective type of contingency is related to a different type of causality within the Aristotelian fourfold distinction (see Buijs 2009). The logical pattern of each of the five is roughly the same. Each begins with a general observation available to everyone. This observation, the we-see premise, always identifies a pattern that contingency takes in the real world. What follows then each time is a general metaphysical principle. This principle will have specific roles to play in each case, but one of them is always to narrow the contingency nexus in a manner that forces us to a non-infinite series, and, most importantly, an infinite conclusion. This is the infinite-regress-terminator premise. Finally, the argument compels us to draw a conclusion directly related to the type of contingency observed, from which Thomas deftly infers each time that we all call this God. In this Fourth Way the logical flow is the same, with the exception that here Thomas has need of two general principles of metaphysics, and this is because he must invoke two types of causality. So this argument is patterned as follows: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Base observation of contingency First metaphysical principle Initial conclusion Second metaphysical principle Final conclusion … which we all call God

We will follow this outline of premises in discussing the actual content of the argument in the next section. B. The Content of the Argument What is immediately striking in the literature on the Fourth Way is how diverse the interpretations are (see Mitchell 2012). There are really only two points, however, where the disagreement has a real effect on the viability of the argument. The first has to do with exactly what properties Thomas has in mind here, and the second with what type or types of causality are referenced in the two principles. As I indicated above, there are some discussions based on highly technical distinctions and readings of the argument by Thomistic scholars. For the most part I will here stick to the central issues of broader interest, and focus on what most commentators in recent years have agreed on.


DAVID BECK 4. The Observational Base: More and Less

This argument begins with a straightforward observation. It is clearly intended to be an empirical, sensory finding, available to everyone. It is simply that we find things, at least some things, occurring in degrees, amounts, or measures: ordinary things or res. They are found, Thomas says, as more and less. And this, of course, sets up the first controversy about this argument: more and less what? Actually, for now it will be enough to say simply more and less of whatever properties we happen to observe. His point is simply that things, Thomas would say substances, have properties, and they have them in different degrees, or measures, amounts, gradations, and so on. The daisies in the garden outside my window all have mostly the same properties, but each is a different size, has a different shade of white, has a different length of stem, and so on. And so, each one has more and/or less of some property in comparison to the others. Thomas seems to mean this in a quite common sense way. There are, of course, some properties that cannot be thought of as having degrees. The property F of X where F = “had two eggs for breakfast on July 23, 2014”, does not come in degrees. It is a simple bivalent or non-graded property. Either F is true of X or it is not. Clearly, however, a property like E: “has the color red”, does come in degrees: call it a graded property. Some surface is more or less red in relation to some standard red surface, say, as defined by having a wavelength of 650 nm. Thomas himself frequently uses the property hot. The reason for this is pure conjecture and, in any case, irrelevant to our discussion, even if it turns out, as is likely, to be bad science (see Urban 1984, 283). Different surfaces have different temperatures as defined by some standard of heat, say, the freezing point or the boiling point of water, or the hottest known fire. This is critical to Thomas’ understanding of the real world. It indicates that the ordinary things we encounter in the world are both limited, that is, they might have been more or less of whatever property we are attributing to them, and also that they have potentiality. They can or could be different from what we observe them to be. This, of course, is a way of saying that things are contingent. So we are back to the point that this is a fourth way of five of drawing conclusions from different indicators of contingency. What here designates contingency is that things, or at least some things, by being more and less, indicate their limitations in reference to the properties they possess. One might be tempted to give this notion of gradations some sort of value interpretation, but that seems unwarranted, given both the general nature of Aristotelian formal causality, and specifically of Thomas’ “heat” example (see Aristotle’s Metaphysics II, (a) 993, b 24). Being hotter or colder is not a matter of propinquity to some Ideal or separately existing Form, as in Plato. Rather, the set of properties of X, that is, the Form of X, specifies its potential.

A Fourth Way to Prove God’s Existence


It is “good for” certain functions and not others, though some functions are more important or desirable to us in a particular context. Again, we should note especially, and it will be crucial to the whole argument, that this is not a matter of Platonic participation in a Form. Finally, we must ask the critical question of Thomas’ specific referent in this discussion of properties. While he states the observation as well as the principle in the most general terms, it becomes clear that he is actually interested in the application only to certain properties, a specific subset within the set of graded properties, when it comes to the conclusion. Some have made the mistake of arguing that Thomas means to refer to all, or at least all graded properties. Surely the most notorious example is Richard Dawkins (2006), whose argument ad absurdum here uses the property smelliness from which he thinks one should conclude that God must be a “preeminently peerless stinker” (79). No doubt there is a sense in which Thomas’s observation works here: stinky surely is something of a graded property we find in the world, but nothing follows about God. There are several reasons to think that Thomas wants to draw a conclusion about only properties like good, true, noble, and others of this kind. First, he goes on to summarize them as referring to being. That is, referring to them has the direct consequence of referring to the property of being. So this designates the specific kind of property they are. Second, in the remainder of the argument he uses the noun ens instead of res. We are not just thinking of ordinary things, we are now thinking of things as existents, as items in the actual world. Finally, this kind of property has a special status for metaphysics. Understood in their Aristotelian/Thomistic sense, they are the properties of all things, of every item in the actual world. And so only they will allow the argument to go forward in the way Thomas intends. Other properties will permit perfectly valid applications to the two principles, but they lead to relatively uninteresting conclusions. If there are real measured degrees of smelliness in things, then there is a standard for stink, but nothing of interest follows. So it is clear, as virtually all commentators agree, that Thomas here refers to transcending properties. These are the constituent properties of being. Now, again, it would be easy to slip into a Platonic understanding of Being. Thomas’s being, however, is neither a self-existent Form, nor is it a separate substance at all. It is simply a general term for the set of all items in that possible world which is the actual world. And so its properties are those properties that all members of that set have in common. Hence they are transcending properties (see Wippel 2000, 470; Aertsen 1996). In fact they are not separate properties per se, but connotations of the property of being. Elders (1990) refers to them as “modes of being rendering explicit what is already contained in things” (114). Here Thomas mentions three, though he indicates there are others like these. In De Veritate at I.1, for example, he mentions good, true, and unity as



properties convertible with being. It is critical then that we are clear on their specific referents. A. Good What does Thomas mean by “good”, understood as a connotative or constitutive property of being? “Being and goodness are the same in reference (rem), but differ only in sense (rationem),” as we are told at ST I.5.1. To begin, we must be clear that he refers to ontological goodness or excellence (see Mirus 2013). This is neither an axiological nor a propositional term, though, no doubt, it is the basis for Thomas’s, and of course Aristotle’s meta-ethics. This is so, because Thomas sees the good of a being as related to its desirability (see SCG I.37). The good of any being, hence its good for me, is its being what it can be, that is, what its form determines as its potential that, in turn, defines its finality or telos. This differs for each being and for each category of being, nevertheless it is a property of all beings and hence constitutive of being. It is most obvious for us in living things. Micah Lott puts it like this: “The goodness of parts and activities in a living thing is determined by their role in enabling the organism to realize the characteristic flourishing, or good, of its kind of life” (353-54). In human beings this natural goodness shows up as rationality: our formal constitution and hence set of properties that allows us to operate on reasons. This provides the basis for moral virtues, but is itself a natural property. How this works can be seen, for example, in Philippa Foot’s Natural Goodness (2001) or Michael Thompson’s Life and Action. (2008). In general, though, we recognize natural or ontological goodness whenever we recognize of some thing that it is good for something and, hence, desirable. That is, its property set (form) provides potential to cause some end. And so we observe that for something to be a being or ens includes its beinggood in this sense. We can also define more or less good in terms of the degree to which something is achieving its telos, or functioning according to its potential, or, simply, is good for something. B. True Again, we must think of true as an ontological, not an epistemic or propositional property and as a constituent of being. It is the facticity or actuality of a thing. Now the facticity of something’s being, that is, the existing of a thing, is defined by its causal effectiveness. Thomas, in his commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics (II Metaphysics 1.2, n. 294-297), says that the more some things are causes of other things, the more they are available to be known; that is, the more facticity or knowability (see Feser 2011) they possess. Thus they are the greater in ontological truth. So again, the true-property of some being is constituted by the natural qualities of its being. Hence they are observable to us and are the very basis of

A Fourth Way to Prove God’s Existence


our conduct of science. Clearly as well, facticity comes in degrees: namely, the extension of something’s causal nexus, and so its level of availability to our observation. C. Noble This is certainly the most difficult of these three constituting properties to get clear on. The most likely interpretation stems from the fact that this term appears most frequently in comparative contexts, typically in discussions of Thomas’s understanding of a chain of being, in which some things are ‘higher’ than others. Again, this must be understood in an ontological and natural sense, not directly axiological or even normative. Perhaps the best we can say here is that, in Thomas’s observation, the property set of dolphins is more sophisticated or more able to effect its environment functionally for good or ill than that of dandelions. We use the term ‘higher’ in biology in just this same way when we refer to higher and lower life forms. One could, for example, give this an evolutionary interpretation in which each stage from proton to person is increasingly complex and better able to achieve the primary mandate of reproduction. For example, Michio Kaku, in The Future of the Mind, (2014, ch. 1) notes that we can quantify consciousness and produce a sequence of lower/higher by counting feedback loops. Thermostats and similar simple machines have one, plants have about ten, reptiles, mammals, and ultimately homo sapiens have exponentially more. This defines and differentiates a natural quality, occurring as more or less, that allows us to quantify this Thomistic notion of nobility or perfection. D. Being One can easily see how these constituents are closely related and come together in the general property of being. For Thomas it is the case that being per se is not knowable by us in the degrees in which it occurs in things. It is, however, knowable in or through the transcendentals. And they coincide with being (see De Veritate 21.1). Just a comment is in order regarding Thomas’s definition of being, in this context, as a property, lest the Kantian objection rear its ugly head. Being, as a noun, refers simply to the totality of beings, that is, the composite reality that is the universe (I am avoiding the word substance since substances are the primary example of beings but they also include much more; see In Metaphysica, IV.1). Here, however, being appears as a property. It is that ultimate property of being that follows from the fact that being is actuality: it is act. Thomas says this in De Veritate: “[T]he term being is taken from the exercise of being, and not from the thing to which the exercise of being belongs” (QDV 1.1, ad 3). So being is also the property of being, and hence all



beings, of acting in existence, or of having a context of causal relations to its environment. In this sense at least, Kant must be mistaken: being is a predicate (see Miller 2012). On this Aristotle and Thomas are together. Thomas, however, will take this basic notion in two directions Aristotle does not, though it can be argued that his system is easily extended to include them. For Thomas it is the doctrine of creation that pushes him. First, he concludes that God must be seen as efficient cause of all beings, himself the prime being. This will play an important role in the second principle in this argument discussed below. Second, Thomas clearly distinguishes the act of being, existence or esse, from essence or form. This is crucial to this first principle. A being, every being, has the property of existence. “[O]ne man and being a man and a man are the same…” (see Aristotle, Metaphysics IV.2). This indicates the sense in which unity is also a constituent property of being. This act is good, true, and noble—at least to some degree, and some more and some less. And so they are seen by us as contingent things in the world. 5. The First Metaphysical Principle: More Implies a Maximum We now move to the second step in the argument: the Principle of the Maximum (PM), which will convert the base observation into an initial conclusion. “‘More’ and ‘less’ are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum” (ST I.2.3). Weingartner’s (2010) wording is: “If such comparative terms like more or less are truly predicated of beings, then they describe varying degrees of approximation with respect to an existing maximum of being” (92). We should note first that PM pertains to actual-world existence. So the translation “beings” or “things” is correct. It is a principle of realist metaphysics, obtained by repeated observation/abstraction at the level of physis, then generalized into metaphysis. So the conclusion that Thomas will then draw at step 3 can and will assert, likewise, actual-world existence. But what kind of relationship is being asserted here? This is clearly not about efficient causality, though some have thought so (see Wippel 2000, 473). The if-then (Weingartner) or secundum quod in Thomas has to do with approximating or resembling. Not surprisingly, this has also been misunderstood as Platonic participation (Elders 1990, 116). However, this is a standard principle in both Aristotle and Thomas and must express formal causality, in particular, exemplar or extrinsic formal causality. He explicitly denies that God can relate to us as inherent formal cause (ST I.3.8.). So the relationship consists of this: If A has property F, and if B has F, then A and B are identical in respect to having or being F. That is, they resemble, likely in varying degrees, some standard X (S) or maximal X for F. If F is red, then there is an ens, S, that is maximally red, reddest, namely light at a wavelength of 650 nm. Note that this is a real relation between real things,

A Fourth Way to Prove God’s Existence


and it is a relation of formal causality. A and B are like each other in virtue of both being like S. Thomas here clearly does not mean to refer to a standard or maximum as some being that just happens to have F more than any other being (cf. Morreal 1979). This is not simply most-F but maximal-F. That is, that which is the very definition of F. The more difficult point to understand is the sense in which an exemplar formal cause is, in fact, a cause. Well, just in the sense that the blueprint of my house is not only the model of which the house itself is an approximation to some measureable degree, but is also the defining cause of its being just the house that it was designed to be. If we see two model airplanes (see Bobik 1987, 34-5), both models of the same plane, one could be said to be a better, more faithful or more exact copy of the original. And just so, it is the original that determines that it is a copy and to what degree it is a copy. It is thus the cause of its being what it is, namely a model of the original to some identifiable degree. The red bricks on my fireplace are red to the degree that they approximate light at 650 nm. That is, without the standard, something is not what it is. Again, this is not a reference to that it is but to what it is. One possible objection here: Could PM give rise to Third-Man or infinite regress problems? Do standards have standards? The key here, I would argue, is to distinguish Thomas’ discussion of participation from Plato’s. PM is not about the relations between ideas or between instances and model forms. In this context, we can easily see how such problems arise. Here, however, they do not. Thomas speaks of actual things in relation with actual things, including a standard actual thing. So, if the original Mona Lisa is the standard by which all copies and reproductions are graded, it is not possible to proceed to ask of what it itself is a copy, and so there is no further regress possible. As Bobik (1987) says: Since it is the standard, can it also be a copy of some prior standard? But, if there are standards for standards, then, it seems, there can be no standard at all… The conclusion seems to be that if there are things which are better and worse (more and less), then there must be a best (a most) such that there can be none better… and a standard must be the best (the most), in the sense that none better is possible. (35) This sort of metaphysical principle about form that allows logical inferences about the real world seems foreign to a naturalist or empiricist philosopher in the 21st Century. No doubt there is an easy objection to PM here. But PM is simply an abstracted generalization. Thomas argued vehemently that his contemporary nominalists could not explain the science of the real world without the use of reason (see Stump 2003, 212-6). Kant would do the same for 18th-century Humean empiricists, just as Nagel has done to current Quineans.



Now it appears that Thomas frequently uses but never really justifies the actual principle itself. This is so, even though in some examples of this argument he concludes directly to God from PM (see SCG I.13). Perhaps the best we can do here is to assume that he thought PM to be so immediately obvious as to need no further justification—he certainly does not hold it to be self-evident in the technical sense. We should note that in this Summa we have only a very brief development, even of the argument. The same is true of all the other instances except in Summa Contra Gentiles. Even here, though, we are not given any really extensive development. Indeed, it does just seem obvious that there can be no comparison of finite amounts without there being some maximum in respect to which the comparison is made. This is Maritain’s (1954) view, and it seems to me clearly to be the best understanding of Thomas. He says: “This principle is self-evident inasmuch as it expresses in an entirely general way the logical requirements of the concept of comparative relation” (53). Joseph Bobik’s (1987) study of PM in the Fourth Way provides a comprehensive treatment of the varying interpretations. What they have in common is, first, that we must understand this as a principle regulating real things. The principle is an abstraction, but neither the copies nor the originals are. Second, we must maintain the distinction between this principle about exemplar formal causality and the second one, which we discuss below that operates within efficient causality. Only with this in mind do we correctly understand Thomas’ initial conclusion. 6. The Initial Conclusion: More Being Implies Maximum Being If beings which approximate in varying degrees to some standard have the consequence that a standard being actually exists, then PM has a most critical conclusion for good, true, and noble and most importantly for being itself. It follows that there must exist in the actual world an ens which is most good, most true, most noble, and ultimately, is maximal being. If there are multiple reproductions of the Mona Lisa, done by different painters, perhaps even in different media, then they all have an approximating relation in different degrees to that which has the form maximally, that is, the original Leonardo da Vinci Mona Lisa (see Brady 1974, 223). There cannot be varying degrees without there being a maximum. And clearly this is a matter of extrinsic formal, not efficient causality. That is, we can coherently say that without the maximum or standard there would be no approximating instances. Just so, the original is the cause of the others. It is, of course, not the efficient cause. It does not produce their existence. It is the formal cause. These instances could not be what they are without there being a standard that defines them as what they are. In Thomas’ example there are no instances of different degrees of heat unless—and I will

A Fourth Way to Prove God’s Existence


alter this to improve the science—there is a standard entity, for example, a unit of water at the boiling point, which defines their formal identities. So much, then, for the PM in general. It seems to work fine, though of course only for that subset of properties, which are graded. These conclusions, however, are uninteresting. Thomas uses the heat example just as an illustration so that we understand the principle. But little of larger importance follows from the existing of boiling water or of light waves at 650 nm. There is, however, another class of graded properties, which provide far more intriguing conclusions. Some properties can occur only in finite quantities or degrees. Properties like red, hot, reproducing the Mona Lisa, and so on, are clearly not capable of occurring infinitely. We can, though, conceptualize what it would mean to be infinitely powerful, loving, or just. I should clarify that neither I nor Thomas mean by conceptualize the empiricist notion of impression, idea, or picture-in-the-mind. While we cannot imagine or picture what infinite love would look like in a person, we certainly have a concept of what it would be like to love without bounds—any bounds at all. We can call these properties infinitizable properties. Now we can take the last step. Among the infinitizables are the transcendentals to which we have referred above: the properties of all beings – all possible beings, and therefore of being itself, but only in the Aristotelian not the Platonic sense. As we argued above, these are the specific properties about which Thomas draws a conclusion here, and one of monumental significance: there must exist maxime ens (SCG I.13), maximal being, or better: a maximal being (MB). This MB, as the principle dictates, is the formal cause of all other beings. Every entity, in turn, is an entity precisely as it approximates MB and to the varying degree that it approximates MB. By itself this may seem too abstract to be meaningful, but if we turn to the transcendentals that compose being, then this initial conclusion begins to take on more character. An MB must be that which is of maximum goodness: that which defines and is the very essence of what good is. The same is the case for truthfulness or facticity as defined earlier, and perfection or nobility as well. Thomas refers to the argument Aristotle provides in Metaphysics II, 1, one that is specifically concerned with true. “Things which are truest are also most being.” Thomas takes this the other way around to make the point that standards and maximums have the most being since they cause things to be what they are. Therefore, they are the most true or truest. So ultimately Thomas wants to understand this conclusion in reference to being itself. We need to illustrate this a bit. What exactly does he mean by degrees of being, and maximal being? This is, of course, an essential component of Aristotelian/Thomistic metaphysics: the idea of the chain of being to which we referred above. Substances are composed of form and matter. Form configures matter. We could understand form as the set of all properties possessed by, or the



identity conditions that define a thing: what a thing is. This set, in turn, also determines what a thing can become, that is, what powers and liabilities it has. And that, in turn, defines its telos. So the telos or finality of a thing is a perfectly natural quality of beings (see Oliver 2013). We can think of it simply as what something is good for, can be used to accomplish, or, in some cases like rational beings, can make of themselves. For example, we might ask what a particular abandoned building could be used for. The answers are based on its form, and note that the respective properties are natural qualities and quantities: the types of building materials, the size of the footprint, the placement of electrical conduit, and so forth. The final step in this metaphysical progression is to note that when we compare the finalities of natural things (see Urban 1984, 291-2), we can observe varying degrees of transcendental properties, and therefore of being. Some beings just be more than others. We can understand this in terms of how a being’s natural properties exemplify transcendentals. Says Leo Elders (1990): [T]here are differences in transcendental perfections which things possess: we observe that animals have more perfection or content than plants and minerals. The problem is that some will place themselves at the level of the sciences and speak of the greater complexity of a chemical compound or of a biological organization, but refuse to acknowledge such a thing as ‘goodness’ or ‘perfection’. Aquinas’ answer to this difficulty is that goodness and perfection must not be conceived as special forms added to these things, but as signifying these things themselves. (112) This natural progression of perfections then can be pictured as a chain of being (see Weingartner 2010, 93-4) from simple particles to complex organisms and ultimately to rational, hence free, beings capable of forming, changing, and destroying whole cultures and civilizations. If there are degrees of being, then we can conceive of an infinite maximum that is the standard that defines the degrees. MB exists. Now Thomas thinks this conclusion to be so substantial that the SCG version of the argument ends here and then moves us directly to God. More commonly, though, he proceeds to a second part that depends on a second principle, the Principle of Causality (PC), as he does here in ST.

7. The Second Metaphysical Principle: More Is Caused by Maximum Having concluded, then, that MB exists, Thomas now injects a second principle. This is critical, it seems to me, in order to take this argument where

A Fourth Way to Prove God’s Existence


it needs to go as a fourth way to do the Cosmological Argument. Ending with the third premise does give us an argument for God’s existence, but not one that fits the mold of the Five Ways. Specifically, it says nothing about God’s real and ongoing creating relationship to the real things. The SCG argument, and with it the first part of the ST argument, have at times been compared to Anselm’s Ontological Argument. It is, however, a very different move that Thomas makes here. Anselm attempts to move from definition to real thing, but Thomas clearly moves from real thing to real thing. This implies, as I have argued, a very different sort of metaphysics: one that is, to use the current vernacular, externalist. It is neither Platonic nor Quinean (see the papers in Tahko 2013b). The Five Ways, after all, are about the continuous creation of the real world (see Mitchell 2012, 370-1). They argue for God’s existence certainly, but always in the context of going beyond that to demonstrate aspects of the contingency relation of creation back to God. Hence they always tell us about the nature of God such that his act of creatio can be understood. So if this argument is to take its proper place here among the Five, Thomas must transition to a principle that relates MB to efficient causality. Thomas states PC here in ST as: “Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus.” Mitchell (2012) words it: “[T]hat which is by participation is caused by that which is per essentiam” (372). If something is hot, then it must be caused to be so by heat. If something is red then it is so by being caused to be so by light at 650 nm. In general: That which becomes Fish, is caused to be F-ish by that which is F, that is, has F as an essential property. This is easily understood in relation to ordinary changes in physical things. But in what sense are copies of a painting or toy models of an airplane efficiently caused by the original? We need to note here Aristotle’s and Thomas’s broad understanding of this type of causality. An efficient cause refers to all acts, including conditions, without which there would be no occurrence of the effect (see Elders 1990, 116). That there are Mona Lisa copies occurring is the result of the act of existing of the original Mona Lisa. Of course, there may be other intermediate causes, and there are also other efficient causes in play here, including the act of the copyist, the art of painting, the powers and liabilities of canvas as well as of oil paint, and many more. In a very clear sense, however, the original Mona Lisa event plays a uniquely initiatory role in its efficacy (see In V Metaphysica 1.2.n.763ff). Thomas’s own example of heat seems obvious enough as well. Something which is to some degree heated must be caused to be so, at least ultimately by something that just is hot. There may, again, be intermediaries as well as other causal links involved, but that has no effect on the conclusion. Now this seems innocuous enough, but, just as with PM at this level, rather uninteresting in the larger scheme of things. How are we to understand it to work in relation to the transcendentals, and most importantly, being itself?



The principle works the same. If good, true, and noble are found to be in things in degrees, and hence there is a maximum, then it follows that the maximum must be the cause of contingent goodness in those things. That is, without the real existence of that which is good, there could not be occasions of things, which have goodness. Ultimately, this applies to being. If something has a degree of being, then it is contingent and must, therefore, have received being from that which is being, and so there must be a Maximum Causing Being (MCB). That would truly be highly interesting! Now finally, what is Thomas’s specific argument for PC? In this case, Thomas is quite explicit: Like causes produce like effects. So it follows that, in reverse, one can also draw conclusions from effects back to causes. That is, of course, the logic of all five of the arguments. They move from seen effects back to unknown cause. This simple and basic principle appears at least one hundred times in the Thomistic corpus (see Urban 1984, 285). “For since every agent reproduces itself insofar as it is an agent, and everything acts in accord with its form, the effect must in some way resemble the form of the agent” (ST I.4.3). So several things follow about efficient causality. First, it is the form of the cause that is effected or reproduced, at least in some way and to some extent. An example might help. Teleportation, which we all first imagined watching Star Trek, continues to be an ongoing project. Physicist Charles Bennett (1993) and a team of IBM researchers confirmed that quantum teleportation was possible, but only if the original object being teleported was materially destroyed. The teleported copy becomes the actual surviving object. The structure (i.e., the information) is scanned and reproduced but using other atoms at the target location. So the same object is caused to reoccur at a distant location by teleporting the information, that is, the form, but not the matter. Second, the efficient causing is an act. The substantial form of the cause actualizes the substantial form of the effect. The original Mona Lisa as information, not the artist per se, initiates a traceable historical sequence of events that gives rise to the information coding the copy by the hand of the copyist. It is this point that explains why the effect must be like its cause (see Urban 1984, 285). The most detailed justification of PC, beginning with the basic principle above, that effects resemble causes, can be found in SCG at II.15.3: Furthermore, whatever a thing possesses by its own nature, and not from some other cause, cannot be diminished and deficient in it. For, if something essential be subtracted from or added to a nature, another nature will at once arise, as in the case of numbers, where the addition or the subtraction of the unit changes the species of the number. If, however, the nature or quiddity of a thing remains integral, and yet something in it is found to be diminished, it is at once clear that this diminution does not derive simply from that nature, but from something else, by whose removal the nature is diminished. Therefore,

A Fourth Way to Prove God’s Existence


whatever belongs to one thing less than to others belongs to it not by virtue of its own nature alone, but through some other cause. Thus, that thing of which a genus is chiefly predicated will be the cause of everything in that genus. This justification, as I understand it, consists of the following steps (cf. Urban 1984, 285): (1) If X has an essential property F, then X has F completely and not to some degree. (2) If F in X is changed, then that entity is no longer X, but Y. (3) If F in X is changed, that can only occur by some other entity, Z, causing it. (4) If X has any property F to some degree, then X is caused to be F by Z. (5) Since there can be no infinite regress of contingent causes [hidden premise], if X has F to some degree, then it is caused to be so by A which has F essentially. Urban (1984) summarizes the justification this way:” [W]here a property is possessed in degrees by many objects, none of them can possess the property intrinsically. The property must be caused in them by something having the property per se and thus maximally” (288). The only alternative to (4) would be that X “just happens” to contingently be F (see Drum 2002, 414). That, however, amounts to asserting that some change in a contingent being occurred without cause and that is not a reasonable conclusion. The application of this justification to being therefore allows Thomas the conclusion that follows in Step 5: There must be a being which has being essentially and is the cause of graded being in all entities within its scope. A final note: I confess that I do not know how to restate PC, including its justification, in the terms of a Humean view of causality. We can only explicate it in Aristotelian powers/liabilities language. We must be able to speak of the logic of real relations abstracted as metaphysics, and the resources of current atomistic views of causality are just insufficient. 8. The Final Conclusion: A Maximum Causing Being Exists in Reality Thomas now can conclude that a Maximum Causing Being actually exists. This move proceeds, as we have seen, by efficient causality. It is notable that he first refers to the MCB as cause of being of the things, but does then add a reference to the transcendentals, though mentioning only good by name. This conclusion to an MCB is in line with the other four Ways. They each specify a dimension of contingency and then proceed to conclude the existence of the corresponding causing non-contingent. The arguments themselves, and the Fourth is no exception, do not bother to spell out any



implications of the denial of limitation or dependency to this unmoved, first, necessary, maximal, and intelligent being. We are simply left with a relational claim between finite beings and their not-finite causal source. This relation is, in fact, the subject matter of the entire Summa. Thomas will first spell out what it is to be not-finite, and then elaborate on the nature of the finite creation, especially of persons in God’s image. In just that sense, the Five Ways form the starting point of Thomas’s argument in ST (also see ST I.1.1-10). And just so, we can say it is the starting point of any realist theology. Here he leaves us with the cause of beings, itself being (actuality) at its maximum. To be precise, the conclusion appears to have a universal range only because of the extent of being as referring to all things. However, the argument began, as do all five, with a specific observation of a limited range of things. The result is twofold. First, we do not have to fear an objection that the argument oversteps its limited evidence. It is important to note that this argument contains no claims to universality of range or singularity of conclusion. It has no need of a principle of sufficient reason, let alone some vague claim that “everything has a cause.” It simply operates on a restricted and well-defined set of observations. From that set it draws a conclusion. Since there are other sets of observations, it is at this point at least plausible that there are more than one MCB. Second, there are no problems that can arise here in relation to MCB as a Necessary Being. The concept of MCB is nothing beyond what the premises imply. Within the Fourth Way itself we do not have to elaborate on the meaning or possibility of a necessary being or how that concept, in turn, might relate to God. Even if Kant were right that there cannot be a necessary being as he understood it, that would have no relevance to the Thomistic argumentation. There are two matters, in particular, that are not addressed in the conclusion or anywhere else in the argument for that matter. My assumption is that both have been sufficiently dealt with in the Second Way’s argument from efficient causality. First, there is the specter of infinite regress as an option that would block any conclusion to an infinite first cause. That is a possibility here too, but Thomas would bring in the same counter that an infinite number of contingent intermediate causes prevent any initiation of efficient causality. Second is the matter of explaining the meaning of maximal. This, too, is parallel to his handling of first in the Second Way. We are simply left with the notion of existing on its own. Just so, in the Fourth Way we have no further explication other than its self-sufficiency in being. Then there is also, of course, a third matter, one that is frequently raised as an objection to this and all five Ways, namely that there is no argument for the singularity of MCB here. The Fourth Way seems to have the strongest built-in case for singularity by way of its application to anything that has the property of being. There is, however, no explicit argument for singularity made here.

A Fourth Way to Prove God’s Existence


What we can conclude in reference to the MCB is that it is not simply a member of the set of contingent things. While it must belong to the set of beings – real things – it cannot be part of the more-and-less set. Here, of course, Thomas’s doctrine of analogy comes into play when we affirm being of the MCB itself. It does not exist in reality in the same way as do contingent things. In that sense MCB is not just another thing in this world. As Weingartner (2010) puts it: These premises would not be convincing however, if the greatest thing… is a thing of this world. In this case it would not be plausible to say that it is the cause of all the other less perfect things of this world. Only when the most perfect being is outside (i.e., does not belong to) the world (universe), then being its creator and causing all the perfection and being of the things in the world (universe) makes sense. (94) Nevertheless, while Thomas does not here in ST fill in the gap, some would say the chasm, between the specific conclusion to MCB and the infinite and singular God of Theism, he does do so in SCG at I.15.4 and following. There he first gives a summary form of the Cosmological Arguments of the previous section, which include the version of the ST Fourth Way noted previously, as follows: We see in the world some things which are possible to be and not to be. But everything that is possible to be has a cause: for seeing that of itself it is open to two alternatives, being and not being; if being is to be assigned to it that must be from some cause. But we cannot proceed to infinity in a series of causes: therefore we must posit something that necessarily is. Now everything necessary either has the cause of its necessity from elsewhere, or not from elsewhere, but is of itself necessary. But we cannot proceed to infinity in the enumeration of things necessary that have the cause of their necessity from elsewhere: therefore we must come to some first thing necessary, that is of itself necessary; and that is God. Therefore God is eternal, since everything that is of itself necessary is eternal. We see Thomas at the end of the argument already beginning to draw conclusions about what is “of itself necessary.” In SCG at I.16-28 we then find an extended series of subsequent arguments, each concluding to a further attribute of this Being that necessarily is. This discussion identifies attributes such as timelessness, immateriality, simplicity, omnipotence, and many more. I count a total of nineteen more after the initial inference to eternality. And at the end he has fully justified the presumption that we may call this Being “God,” since there is clearly no other candidate that fills the attribute



requirements. Of course, this still seems to lack the sorts of personal qualities that identify the Christian God, and so this is only the God of Theism, and then only the extensions of the Cosmological Argument—that is to say, there are of course further attributes that follow from the Teleological, Moral, Experience, Miracle, and other arguments. While he does not take the time to walk through these extensions of the Ways in ST, we can hardly hold that against him. In any case, the missing links are easily located, and we may safely call the conclusion of the Fourth Way God, understood in a theistic sense at least, and perhaps a minimally Christian one as well. What many would argue is missing here and is essential to merit calling it Christian, is its lack of any personal relational qualities. But Thomas can pull a great deal out of the causal relationship, omniscience in particular (see Stump 2003, 159ff). 9. Assessing the Value of the Fourth Way What then can we say as to the value of the Fourth Way for us today? I shall try to draw some final conclusions, though this is extremely difficult given the number of recent evaluations on the table. What makes objectivity even more difficult is that for the most part, negative assessments come almost without exception from philosophers whose specializations do not include late medieval thought or Thomas Aquinas and/or whose philosophical leanings are not inclined toward Aristotelian/Thomistic metaphysics. One, surely the most notable, exception is Antony Kenny. On the other hand, most positive evaluations are from philosophers who would identify themselves as “Thomist” in at least some sense. I confess that I belong to both the set of positive evaluators and that of Thomists. Let me begin by claiming that the argument certainly appears to be formally valid. Weingartner (2010, 88-9) has done us the favor of reducing the Fourth to symbolic notation. The six premises of the Fourth Way according to Weingartner’s symbolization then read as follows: 1) There are beings, which are “more”good, true, noble, etc. (in short: more perfect) than others. 2) If such comparative terms like more or less are truly predicated of beings, then they describe varying degrees of approximation with respect to (w.r.t.) an existing maximum of perfection. 3) According to Aristotle an existing maximum of perfection (or a maximum of truth) is also a maximum of being. 4) The maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus; i.e., the maximum of perfection and being is the cause of all things w.r.t. to perfection and being. 5) There is a thing, which is the cause of all things w.r.t. perfection and being.

A Fourth Way to Prove God’s Existence


6) This we call God.

The Fourth Way, then, is a quite proper sequence of hypothetical syllogisms. So I see no questions to be raised as to the logical form of the argument, nor can I find any commentators who have alleged otherwise. Next, it also seems to me, as I have argued above, that the premises are all true. The base observation is unassailable and hardly controversial when taken in its most straightforward sense. Both principles, PM and PC, when understood as I have argued, also appear to me to be plainly true. So, I conclude that the Fourth Way is a sound argument. One might object that even if sound, this argument at best scores a Pyrrhic victory. It merely draws conclusions regarding conceptual relationships. But that is clearly not what Thomas intends. This is realist metaphysics in reference to the real world of real things. So, one way to reject this argument certainly is to reject the entire project of realist metaphysics. We must, however, say something about the persuasiveness of the argument in its general form in regards being itself. And this, it appears, is rather low. I have suggested repeatedly that the problem here is that Aristotelian/Thomistic talk of being involves us in a sort of metaphysics that is simply foreign to the contemporary naturalistic and empiricist mindset, even when it does allow for a sort of realist metaphysics. Whether the renewal of Aristotelian metaphysics will change the climate of understanding, I would not dare to predict (see Beck and Andrews 2014). Nevertheless, I would argue that this rejection of Thomas’s metaphysics by the naturalist involves a misconception of his methodology as being Platonist. It clearly is not (see Tahko 2013b; Novotný and Novák 2014).



The other four of the Five Ways are less encumbered by this dense metaphysics and seem much more easily made comprehensible to a naturalistic worldview. In particular they are more amenable to scientific presentation. The Fifth Way, understood as a Teleological or Fine-tuning Argument, is likely foremost among them. The Second is probably easily next in line. While, however, the Fourth Way as a general argument seems to have little subjective convincingness to it, I want to conclude this discussion by offering that there might be more specific instances of it that fare better in the current mindset. I will mention only one possible example. The Fourth Way is not itself a Moral Argument. Nevertheless, it is possible to think of certain types of the Moral Argument as instances of it. I suggest that C. S. Lewis’ (1942) popular form is a case in point. I summarize it as follows: (1) We observe people disagreeing, accusing and excusing on moral obligations. (2) Therefore, there must be (we presuppose) a standard law for moral behavior. (3) Moral law cannot be natural law because it is prescriptive and subject the free decisions of persons. (4) Moral law cannot be social convention because it is normative and decided individual persons. (5) Therefore, there must be a personal moral determiner (judge) who is the source of moral law. Lewis’ argument begins with an observation of more and less good, seen as a natural quality of the universe, which we understand as obligation. It is just better that some things are and some are not, and we betray this in our conversations all the time, all of us. Lewis’s intermediate conclusion is that there must be a maximum or standard of the degrees of good, that is, a Moral Law. Finally, the Moral Law must act as cause of graded goodness. And this we all call God. We should add that Lewis spends a great deal of space filling in the missing links to the conclusion, specifically, to God, unlike Thomas in the Summa. However, the basic argument seems to flow just as does Thomas’: the observation of degrees of goodness, the conclusion of Moral Law by way of PM, and then the final conclusion to God as source by way of something like PC. My point is just that while the Fourth Way as a general metaphysical argument about being is, as I have argued, sound, it may not sound convincing to contemporary ears. However, specialized observation-based argument instances may fare much better. This would be true not just for Moral Arguments about good, but also Teleological or Fine-Tuning arguments about perfection as well as Arguments from Truth about true. For example, see Alvin Plantinga’s argument in Warrant and Proper Function (1993, 216ff.) and

A Fourth Way to Prove God’s Existence


Thomas Nagel’s argument in Mind and Cosmos (2012, 24-5, 74ff). Though both are stated as primarily anti-naturalist arguments, they might also be thought of as abductive theistic arguments from truth. Nagel would not want to go quite this far, of course. On the other hand, Plantinga clearly does want to make this extension from virtually the same argument. Ultimately, one could hope for the return to something like an Aristotelian externalist and realist metaphysics to recapture not only professional philosophical discourse but the current worldview as well. Time will tell.

Fourteen NOT SO SUPERLATIVE: THE FOURTH WAY AS COMPARATIVELY PROBLEMATIC Benjamin W. McCraw Introduction Aquinas’ Fourth Way inspires much debate amongst philosophers and Thomistic interpreters. Issues as to the overall significance of the proof, Aquinas’ own assessment of the argument, and inquiries into its philosophical genesis all contribute to differences in understanding and evaluating Thomas’ fourth demonstratio. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange (1953) takes the Fourth Way as the paradigm and most exemplary theistic argument Aquinas gives. But P. T. Geach (1967, 116), in examining the argument at length, has a much more guarded assessment of the Way’s force. And Anthony Kenny (1969, 94) explicitly rejects the argument as a failure. Many view the proof as decidedly Platonic or Neoplatonic (Kenny 1969; Gilson 1956, 70-4), whereas others see more of Augustine’s influence in the argument (Esser 1954). One can also find Aristotle’s doctrine of four causes underpinning Aquinas’ reasoning (Urban 1984). Aquinas himself (SCG I, 13) even claims that the argument has its roots in Aristotle more generally. Certainly much ink is spilt in developing and defending a proper interpretation of the Fourth Way. I, however, wish to avoid all of these interpretative melees and focus on the general philosophical requirements of the proof. In this chapter, I raise a series of objections to the sort of argument Aquinas gives in his Fourth Way. My target is not any specific philosophical thesis that Aquinas assumes or requires in the process of his particular argument, but to attack the roots of the general line of reasoning. In avoiding the particular details of Aquinas’ proof, we can focus exclusively on the general philosophical features that his argument or any other like it will utilize. To put it somewhat differently, I analyze the core of the Fourth Way as a general type of argument or reasoning rather than the specifics of Thomas’ own reasoning. Taking such a route will provide an analysis with more breadth in its application beyond the details of Aquinas. If my criticisms hold, then they will apply to any argument reasonably resembling that of Aquinas’ Fourth Way. And in criticizing the core of the argument, we have more leeway to detach from its historical roots for an approach more conducive to general philosophical arguments, positions, and views.



Here is how the chapter unfolds. The first section focuses on Aquinas’ argument in order to clarify the general features essential to the proof. There, I contend that the Fourth Way requires three basic claims: (1) there exist gradations of properties, (2) those gradations require a maximum, measure, or paradigm explaining them, and (3) God serves as an adequate explanation for those gradations. I argue that (1)-(3) form the core philosophical reasoning or structure behind the proof and, therefore, these are the proper targets of any general philosophical assessment of the argument. The second section addresses (1), and there I provide some arguments denying what Aquinas takes to be plainly obvious: that there are qualitative gradations of certain properties possessed by objects. However plausible (1) may seem, we still have philosophical resources capable of casting doubt upon it. Moving on to the third section, I discuss (2). In order to move from (1) to (3), there must be something needing an explanation for which God serves as well as a general stance on how that explaining is to be done. If no such explanation must be given, then we can undercut the motive to posit God’s existence qua Explanation in the first place. Unsurprisingly, the fourth section provides objections to (3), and here I examine arguments claiming that God does not serve as an adequate explanation for the qualitative properties or gradations posited in (1). The final section ends assesses the prospects of a Fourth Way-type argument, concluding that it will not suffice as an adequate argument for the existence of God. 1. The Fourth Way In this section, I examine the Fourth Way closely in order to distill its general structure. This structure provides the various targets of criticism in the rest of the chapter, so we must be careful here. To begin, let us examine the proof at length in Aquinas’ own words in the Summa (ST) at I.2.3: The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble, and the like. But more and less are predicated of different beings according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest, and, consequently, something which is most being… Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus, as fair, which is the maximum of heat, is the cause of all hot things… Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God. The argument may be short but there is a great deal to unpack in all of this.

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Aquinas begins with the obvious: there are things possessing properties comparatively. That is, for a certain property, φ, there is some X that is φer than some Y. His examples are goodness, truth, nobility, and being: there is something better (=more good) than something else, there is something truer than something else, there is something more noble than something else, and there is something more real (with more being) than something else. These are the gradations found in things. For these perfections, there are different degrees to which different things possess them. We can understand comparative properties in this manner of gradability—i.e., the unequal possession of some given φ by different objects. The gradability of these properties is a given for Aquinas and probably not something he thinks any reasonable person could or would deny. Degreed comparative properties, then, seem to be an empirically given fact for Aquinas and it is where the argument begins. Let us say this is the first general philosophical commitment of the Fourth Way: there exist gradations (i.e., graded properties). Call this claim (1). There might be some debate about whether all properties are gradations or not. This sounds like a view a Platonist about properties would accept and there’s some reason for Aristotle to accept it (given certain claims make about genera and measurements in Metaphysics X). Aquinas’ argument, however, does not require this for all properties. So long as there are some properties that are graded, the argument follows at least for them. Similarly, the First Way does not require that all things move, only that there are some things in motion, the Second Way does not require that all things have efficient causes, only that some do, and so forth for each of the Five Ways. Next, Aquinas discusses a principle concerning gradations and comparative properties. In particular, the principle concerns how we predicate degreed properties of the objects possessing them. He gives an example: we say that X is more or less hot to the degree it resembles the maximum of hotness. In this example, the maximum of heat is fire, but we can generalize this principle beyond the particular case of fire: for any given graded property, φ, we say that X is more or less φ according to how X resembles the maximum of φ-ness. To say that something is more or less red, for instance, is simply to say that X is more or less like or resembling the maximum redness. What makes sense of comparative properties, then, is some maximum or measure that determines the degree to which an object possesses any of those features via resemblance. Correlated to each gradation, therefore, will be some measure— let us call it—that possesses that property maximally. This measure qua maximum accounts for the varying degrees to which any object possesses the property in question. Thus put, we have a conjunction of two principles. Call one the Maximal Principle: (MP) For a graded property, φ, there exists an object, X, that is maximally φ. Call the other the Resemblance Principle:



(RP) For any X possessing a graded φ, X possesses φ according to X’s resemblance with the maximum of φ. We must take care to keep MP and RP distinct. Although RP entails MP, the reverse does not hold. One might accept that there exists some measure, maximum, or paradigm of some property and yet affirm that something else explains the qualitative or graded possession of that property. I doubt this maneuver would be popular but it is certainly possible. However, one cannot accept RP without accepting MP. RP explicitly commits itself to the existence of a measure or maximum for any given graded property. But Aquinas’ position is clear: MP and RP together serve to account for comparative or graded properties and how various objects possess them to unequal degrees as explanatory principles. Given the existence of gradations in (1), we see the conjunction of MP and RP as a principle about how to explain those gradations. Call this conjunction claim (2). In particular, (2) asserts that there must exist a measure or maximum for each gradation and it is that measure that explains the graded property in (1) by how closely gradations resemble it. In short, we should understand (2) as Aquinas’ way of explaining or accounting for (1). Next, it appears that there is a separate discussion of how the measure or maximum causes objects to have graded properties. We might think that Aquinas is proposing a second, distinct principle about causation, but I think that need not be the case. If we think about the term “cause” in a more Aristotelian sense (as is plausible given a Thomistic background), then we are ultimately talking about how something explains or accounts for something else (see Annas 1982; Hocutt 1974). Taking this reading here, Aquinas’ talk about how a measure causes all things in its genus simply becomes talk about how the measure or maximum explains objects falling under that genus. Thus, Aquinas’ discussion of the cause of a genus becomes RP: the measure of any given property explains how objects possess it (in a graded way). So, we can think about the cause simply as a measure and refer to our previous discussion of RP. Finally, we come to the denouement of the Fourth Way and what is probably the most obvious maneuver Aquinas makes: identifying God as the measure used to explain gradations and the graded possession of certain properties. For each of the gradations Aquinas discusses—goodness, truth, being, nobility—he now posits God as the measure for each of them. Any given X is good only by reference to God qua measure or paradigm of goodness itself and X is good only to the degree that X resembles God. And the same goes for truth, being, nobility, and any other perfection. Call the claim that God explains gradations (3). The final point is that (3) explains (1) by functioning in the way specified in (2): God explains gradations as the measurement or paradigm to which all objects possessing those properties must refer and resemble.

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So, let us take stock here. On the general reading of Aquinas’ argument proposed here, it requires three key general philosophical claims: (1) There are gradations (i.e., graded properties). (2) For any gradation, there exists a measure or maximum for it, such that any object having that gradation, it has it to the degree that it resembles that measure. (3) God is the measure for certain (perfect) gradations. I take this to be a general framework. We have not said anything about the nature of a measure or how exactly we should understand the resemblance relation in (2). Nor have we committed ourselves to any particular philosophical position on properties or how they are possessed—aside from the vague claim that there are graded ones. There are many different ways to answer and understand each of these issues, but this chapter remains silent on any of those specifics. Filling in the details gives content to the skeleton I’ve provided so far. So, I take (1)-(3) to be fairly bare bones—as it were—on the level of specificity regarding philosophical commitments. Attacking this skeleton thereby attacks the general framework of the Fourth Way without becoming entrenched in a quagmire of particular Thomistic claims, theories, influences, or interpretations. Given (1)-(3), one has a generic version of the Fourth Way (or a cousin, what have you) and that skeleton serves as my target in the rest of the chapter. Each of the next three sections takes (1), (2), and (3) as its target; offering objections to each general claim in turn. Let us turn to (1) now. 2. Are There Really Gradations? Aquinas takes (1) to be obviously true, I think, given that he never makes any attempt to justify it. Just look at the world and you can see that things exemplify of a certain property more or less than other things. And certainly (1) is the most intuitive of the three claims at the core of a Fourth Way-style argument—(1) seems so obvious whereas (2) and (3) intuitively appear to be easier targets of criticism. With objections to (2) and (3), thus, being more straightforward, more focus is required in objecting to that which seems prima facie unobjectionable. But there remain ways to challenge it and, therefore, points of criticism to which any defender of the Fourth Way must attend. How can one possibly contest the claim that there are gradations found in properties? Well, first consider what sort of gradations one would need to posit with an eye towards eventually concluding that God measures them. Clearly, and for Aquinas explicitly, we are concerned with good properties: i.e., perfections. Consider Aquinas’ examples: goodness, being, truth, and nobility. Certainly these are not just any properties but ones with necessarily positive value. That provides us a place to start. Let us see how one might contest the claim that there exist gradations of perfection: goodness, being, and truth. In



particular, Aquinas needs the claim that there are facts about gradations of perfections—it is a fact that there exist different degrees of goodness, being, and truth. And, for any theistic argument akin to the Fourth Way, facts about such gradations are necessary. Hence, objecting that there are no such facts about graded properties can motivate the rejection of (1). So, we can divide this section into three parts: objections to facts about each of these three gradations. Let us take goodness first and examine being and truth thereafter. A. Axiological Problems with Gradations Here, we are concerned with objections to gradations of goodness; that is, criticizing (1) with respect to goodness as a degreed or comparative property. And in order for such gradations of goodness to be explained, there must be graded facts about goodness. Facts about gradations of goodness require certain objective axiological bases in order to provide the explanandum of the argument. And turning to axiological questions and metaethical issues, we see several positions contesting such alleged facts (about goodness). The most extreme view obviously in conflict with (1) is value antirealism. (1) requires that there be objectively true facts about goodness in the world for which we posit God as an explanation. Denying that there exist such facts is tantamount to denying the reality of goodness as an objective, graded property. And this denial is supported by several approaches in metaethics. J. L. Mackie (1977) offers a few anti-realist arguments to this effect. Saving one argument (his Argument from Relativity) for a bit later, we can now focus on his Argument from Queerness (also see Harman 1977). This argument has two poles: one metaphysical and one epistemic. The metaphysical pole concerns the ontological status of values like goodness. If there are such facts about goodness (and its gradations), then they must be very odd or queer in Mackie’s usage. When we think about normal, everyday properties, they are typically empirical or physical. Looking around at the world, we can just easily “see” these empirical features. But we cannot “see” goodness in the same way, at least intuitively. It seems plausible then that values (axiological properties) would have a fundamentally different metaphysical or ontological basis than the straightforwardly empirical properties we consider normally. Thus, “[i]f there were objective values, then they would be entities or qualities or relations of a very strange sort, utterly different from anything else in the universe” (Mackie 1977, 38). The realist about such values (including goodness) has a heavy burden of proof to explain why there are such metaphysically odd properties beyond the normal, empirical ones. Similarly, Mackie argues that supposing that there exist such odd properties, our epistemic situation with respect to them must be queer again. Our cognitive relation to empirical features seems to present less difficulty: I can see the redness of a cup, feel its weight, taste the liquid within, etc. Our faculties (operating normally in standard conditions) put us in cognitive contact

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with these sorts of properties. But, how do our faculties let us see or feel the “goodness” of a person or action? This sort of “seeing” would require a different sort of faculty altogether; one that is odd compared to our normal senses. Just as with the metaphysical argument above, it seems as though that there is something very odd or strange about how we perceive these values in an epistemic or cognitive way. Thus, Mackie (1977, 38) again: “if we were aware of [objective values], it would have to be by some special faculty of moral perfection or intuition, utterly different from our ordinary ways of knowing everything else.” As with the metaphysical pole, this places an explanatory burden on the realist. How can s/he explain the “queer” epistemology necessary for “seeing” moral facts? Mackie’s upshot is this: the dual poles of the Queerness Argument place a heavy onus on the realist to explain how such values have a metaphysical as well as an epistemological basis. It is far more plausible, Mackie thinks, to just give up these values than accept such a burden. All things being equal, Mackie argues that there is better reason to deny that such values exist. Thus, there are no facts about goodness. As should be evident, I do not intend my discussion of Mackie to be exhaustive of all possible anti-realist approaches to values (like goodness). Instead, I use him as a representative in order to make a few points. First, I want to show that there are fairly plausible and philosophically important ways to deny that there are any such things as values in the first place (whether they be goodness or any other property with an axiological flavor). Second, given these views, any defender of (1)—especially with respect to goodness—cannot take its truth for granted. It is an open philosophical issue that requires argument in order to defend (1), and hence the rest of the proof, off the ground. Finally, I discuss Mackie’s Queerness Argument at length as a positive argument against (1) rather than a mere suggestion of positions inconsistent with it. Not only does the defender of (1) need to justify that claim against competing non-realist views but also justify the view against objections such as Mackie’s aimed directly at it. But value anti-realism is not the only way to deny (1). One can take it that there really are moral facts or truths about goodness but accept this claim in a way that is still inconsistent with (1). I here have in mind moral or value relativism. According to such relativism, there are facts about moral values. So, the relativist can agree that statements like “φing is morally good” express truths or facts about the world. But, the key point is the truth-maker(s) for such facts. Different versions of relativism can vary but they all agree on the point that the truth-maker(s) for values are dependent in some way on our thoughts, beliefs, cultures, traditions, or in some human/thinker-dependent way. How is relativism inconsistent with (1)? As we have discussed and philosophers like Aquinas assume, the facts expressed in (1) are not just any facts. In particular, they are facts about the world and if relativism is true, then moral facts are not really about the world objectively but about human culture



or thought. Let us focus on a particular value judgment to clarify the incompatibility for which I am arguing here. Take a given purported fact about goodness: “it is good to be kind to one’s neighbors.” Different sorts of relativists treat this claim somewhat differently. For example, a cultural relativist would claim that, for cultures like ours, this statement is true. In those societies, it expresses a fact about the value of kindness. However, different cultures view others as potential enemies, constantly striving to undermine everyone else (see Benedict 1934, Ch. V). In that society or ones like it, the proposition above turns out to be false—in those cultures it is a fact that the statement is not true. Thus construed, there are facts about the goodness of kindness but those facts vary across cultures or people. So, even though the proposition above expresses a fact, it expresses it only about the cultures involved—it is not a universal or objective fact about the world requiring explanation. Or if one does take it as a fact requiring explanation, that account will eschew both (2) and (3). It is human culture or belief that explains axiological facts for a relativist: we need no measure or perfect Being to account for relativistic gradations of goodness. As such, the relativist cannot use (1) as a way to provide an explanandum calling for God as an explanation. Value relativists may affirm facts about goodness but those facts are not of the right sort the proponent of (1) requires. Here is where Mackie’s Relativity Argument becomes crucial. Mackie begins with what he, like others, takes to be obvious after slight reflection: the huge amount and depth of moral diversity we see in the world. But, Mackie is quick to note that the diversity claim is simply a descriptive fact. It does not entail that the moral truths described by different moral codes vary. Showing the diversity of actual moral truths is not Mackie’s point; rather his point is that the fact of moral diversity decreases our confidence that any of those codes prescribe objective moral truths. We can interpret his Relativity Argument similar to the Argument from Queerness: if there are objective (=non-relative) moral truths, then the objectivist has a fairly high explanatory burden to carry given the obvious fact of moral diversity. We can see this argument as laying a heavy abductive obligation on the defender of objectivism about values and thereby on the proponent of claims like (1). In order to defend that claim, one must be ready with arguments explaining diversity in ways that make truths about values like goodness coherent when there exists so much trenchant disagreement across peoples, cultures, and times. As with his Queerness Argument above, Mackie’s Relativity Argument provides a criticism to which any value objectivist must respond. And since we have seen that a relativist account of value cannot underpin (1), a defender of (1) must be ready to answer Mackie’s objection as well. Again, as with the anti-realist positions above, my comments here are not an exhaustive analysis of relativism. But the general features of Mackie’s argument and the commitments of generic relativism, I have suggested, provide tools to contest (1) via objections to goodness as an objective, graded property. And, as such,

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they provide a core line of reasoning attacking one of the Fourth Way’s primary assumptions and a premise key to any argument bearing a likeness to it. So, we have seen a few different positions on value or axiology that imply serious problems for the graded goodness required by (1). If any of the non-objectivist arguments used in defending anti-realism or relativism turn out to be sound, then (1) looks to be in trouble. B. Metaphysical/Ontological Problems with Gradations (1) is not restricted to gradations of goodness. It also extends to gradations of being. On the Fourth Way, God is maximally real; thus serving as a measure for being parallel to goodness. Metaphysical gradations factor into (1), just as value or axiological gradations. And to contest this version of (1), we can employ some important metaphysical arguments and positions to cast doubt on that central claim. Before we can get into the details here, let us get clearer on the notion of being as a gradation. I am going to suppose that what Aquinas and anyone following his usage means by “gradations of being” something akin to “is more or less real.” The details of what exactly “more or less real” means I will leave to specific versions of the argument. “More or less real” is said in many ways and I intend what follows to apply to as wide of a cross-cut of these ways as I can manage. This could be a Platonic-Neoplatonic-Augustinian possession of a form of Being, Aristotelian categorical talk, Thomist complete activity of an esse, Berkeleyan being perceived, Quinean being a bound variable, or whatever one prefers. A parallel with the previous section bears notice here. As we examined above, a value anti-realist denies the objective reality of values. Similarly, a metaphysical anti-realist denies the objective reality of, well, reality. The antirealist denies that the world or reality in general is in some way independent of human thought, belief, logic, category schemas, conceptual frameworks, or what have you. William P. Alston (1979, 779) describes realism as “the view that whatever there is is what it is regardless of how we think of it.” And, simply enough, anti-realism is just the denial of that. At bottom then, the anti-realist is committed to the view that human activity, in various ways depending on the specifics of the theory, determines the world or makes reality real. Let us suppose that anti-realism is true and that reality is not determinate without human activity in some fashion. How does that claim prove (1) problematic? The answer is similar for the anti-realist problem with gradations of goodness. If there is no “fact of the matter” regarding reality, then how can there be objective facts about gradations of being for which we require God as an explanans? So, if anti-realism is true, then (1) is false. Let us consider some versions of anti-realism and their motives. Again, I do not have any intention to give an exhaustive list here: only views philosophically important and interesting.



Another note that needs mention: Alvin Plantinga (1982) distinguishes between existential and creative anti-realism. The former he reserves for folks denying the outright existence of whatever one is an anti-realist about. Nominalists are existential anti-realists about universals, Mackie (as discussed) is an existential anti-realist about values, and so forth. Creative realists, on the other hand, admit the bare existence of the thing(s) in question but deny that they have a determinate ontological status apart from human activity. Kant, for instance, would be a creative metaphysical anti-realist. He affirms that there really is a world containing computers, chairs, daisies, and ducks, but their determinate metaphysical status is due to our concepts and conceptual activity. My concerns here are with creative anti-realism, since I take it that no one seriously accepts that there is literally nothing (metaphysically speaking). A contemporary approach by Rudolf Carnap has been used to motivate anti-realism. For Carnap, “different sorts of entities exist, and that while some frameworks may be more useful than others for some purposes, there is no fact of the matter as to which framework is correct (emphasis mine)” (in Chalmers 2009, 78). Thus, for Carnap, there is no determinate structure to reality independent of our conceptual frameworks’ organizing of it (cf. Alston 1979). Here, we have a logical/semantic motive for anti-realism. We have no privileged framework applying universally across all domains. Thus, there are many such ways of slicing up reality and reality itself has no determinate lines along which to cut. In a contemporary version of Carnap-influenced reasoning, David J. Chalmers (2009) argues for anti-realism on the basis of quantification problems. He affirms that statements of the form “X exists” express genuine, non-trivial claims to the existence of X—use of what he calls the absolute quantifier. Use of this absolute quantifier is defective, however, since it “does not have a determinate extension: something (a class of properties, say) that would combine with the extension of otherwise unproblematic expressions to yield a determinate truth value” (Chalmers 2009, 102). The absolute quantifier (∃α) asserting real existence, on Chalmer’s argument, can be used to apply to literally everything and the conjunction of anything with anything else (or perhaps even everything). It countenances an indefinite, or perhaps indeterminate, and thus problematic extension—it does not really mean or pick out anything. And if our existence quantifier is defective, then we have no way to coherently express existence claims. If (∃α) is nonsense, then using the existential quantifier for any term whatsoever is nonsense as well. But, without a coherent existential quantifier and without meaningful existence statements, then indeterminacy infects reality. Like Carnap’s appeal to frameworks, we have no objective way to carve up the world (metaphysically speaking) due to the deficiency of the absolute quantifier. That is, there is no privileged way of existentially quantifying over all domains coherently. And, if Carnap or folks in his camp (like Chalmers) are correct, then there is no real “fact” about reality. Thus, there cannot be a fact about what is

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“more or less real,” implying that there are no facts about gradations of being. On different frameworks, the ontology of the real changes and because of that metaphysical indeterminacy a position like Carnap’s implies that (1) is false. Also, contemporary anti-realists have found resources from contemporary physics. On the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum physics, a particle exists in all states (superposition) until measured or observed. Taking a cue from the physics of the quantum world, some have urged wider metaphysical implications of the theory. Moving from a particle, one can hold that the “macro” elements of the world exist in a superposition until determined by human observation or determination. The world itself, on this view, exists in all states simultaneously until made definite—the state of the world is not objective or definite in itself outside of human influence. The implication for (1) is clear: if the world exists in a state of quantum indeterminacy, then there is no objective fact regarding what is or is not real and to what degree. One can also consider an argument against the being component of (1) without positing metaphysical anti-realism. Taking “being” equivalently as “existence” or “reality” in (1) requires that there be different “levels” of being existing to varying degrees. Certain ontologies like a form-based Platonism make talk of “levels of being” coherent, but that is far from obvious. Take, for example, the (in)famous Kantian dictum that existence is not a property. It is rather the condition for the possession of any properties to be possessed but it is not a property possessed itself. If being or existence is not the sort of “thing” that can be possessed at all, it seems absurd to claim that it can be possessed in a graded way by degrees so that God can measure it. And that is exactly what (1) seems to require: that being or existence can be “had” in various ways and to varying degrees. But, if we accept Kant’s intuitive dictum, then (1) looks groundlessly implausible. So, we can deny the gradations of being involved in (1) even if we think anti-realism false or implausible. Thus, we have anti-realist arguments from Carnap/Chalmers as well as one eschewing anti-realism against (1). According to anti-realism, the world does not have an objective or definite state or structure independently of us and our agency. And, further, we have an argument derived from Kant that there cannot be gradations because one cannot “possess” being at all—even in a comparative manner. We have two different motives against (1)—one set arguing that there are no metaphysical or ontological facts to be graded and another of Kantian heritage that being cannot be the sort of “thing”—namely, a property—that can be graded in the first place. C. Alethic Problems with Gradations The alethic or truth-based aspect of (1) implies that there exist gradations of truth: things are more or less true. I intend “things” here to be as vague as possible so that I do not exclude any putative truth makers. “Things” can refer to beliefs, propositions, sentences, or whatever you wish. In this section, I



discuss several ways to contest the claim that there are facts about different gradations of truths. Again, our focus must be on truth-related facts. Since the Fourth Way uses God as an explanation for these gradations, it seems evident that facts about gradations must be the required or appropriate explanandum. The first and probably most obvious objection to the gradability of truth would be a fairly intuitive logical principle: bivalence. Assuming for the moment that propositions are primary truth-bearers (but one can change this example for whichever truth-bearer is preferred), the principle of bivalence asserts that all propositions have a truth value of either true or false. If bivalence is true, then for any p, p is either true or false simpliciter. We have no room to account for degrees or grades of truths—it is an “on/off” without degrees in between. Bivalence implies that “more or less true” has no logical sense but that a proposition is either true or not (full stop). If bivalence is true and there exists only two truth values, then the varying grades of truth in (1) imply its inconsistency with the principle. Also, a pragmatic theory of truth poses problems for (1) as well. Let us examine a few ways to think about truth from a pragmatist point of view. Famously, John Dewey associates what is true with what can be asserted with warrant: for him, truth just is warranted assertability. C. S. Pierce (1901) claims that truth is the end of inquiry. Given endless investigation, truth is an ideal point generating “scientific” belief. And, finally, Hilary Putnam (1981) thinks of truth as that in which we are epistemically justified in believing under ideal conditions. Each view denies an objective approach to truth; more akin to an anti-realist approach. The facts about what is (more or less) true come about via human inquiry, warranted assertability, or epistemic justification. In short, on a pragmatic approach to truth, the facts about truths are facts about us: our investigations, assertions, or cognition rather than objective facts about the world. And if there are no objective facts about gradations of truth, then (1) turns out to be false again. We have seen some motives from logic and pragmatism to contest the gradations of truth. Both sorts of arguments imply that there are no facts corresponding to different grades or degrees of truth in different ways—one attacks alethic facts and the other alethic degrees. And, if an argument akin to the Fourth Way seeks to employ (1) as an explanandum, then its defender will have to engage these objections in order to ensure that there are the right kinds of facts about truths God must explain. D. Gradations in the Fourth Way We’ve seen that (1) involves controversial axiological, ontological, and alethic claims about the gradations of certain properties. And, in the course of our discussion of (1)’s commitments, we have addressed several motives militating against the possibility that there are facts about such gradations as (1) would have it. In particular, I hve focused on the specific gradations mentioned by

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Aquinas in goodness, being, and truth. However, I think that similar considerations provided against these specific gradations can be modified to apply to any graded perfections to which one might appeal. Thus, the objections discussed do not just apply to the specifics of Aquinas’ argument but will apply to graded perfections to which any argument akin to his must appeal. I take it that the second section provides several arguments and competing positions making (1) problematic. Either we have reason to reject it outright or else I have provided reasons to think that the defender of (1) has more arguments to give before plausibly using it. Having discussed gradations, we can move to system of measurement explaining such comparative facts proposed in (2). E. Explaining Gradations Via Measurement and Resemblance This section is devoted to objections to (2). Recall that (2) is composed of two principles: MP and RP. MP asserts that, for each gradation there exists some measure or maximum for it, and RP asserts that all objects possess those gradations precisely to the degree to which they resemble that measure or maximum. Now, since (2) is a conjunction of these two principles, we can attack it by attacking either one or, in our case, both. So, we shall address various objections to both MP and RP. To show that MP is false, we need to show that there does not exist some measure or maximum for gradations. We address three arguments making a case for this in different ways appealing to pluralism, indefinite extensibility, and a Platonic/Wittgensteinian problem with measures. These discussions form subsections one through three. To show RP false, we need to contest the use of resemblance or likeness as a way of explaining gradations or comparative possession of certain properties. We consider a regress argument against this principle in the fourth subsection.

3. The Pluralist Objection to MP MP requires that there be one measure or maximum/paradigm for a gradation. This section objects to the claim that there is one single measure for these properties. As we discussed above, we can consider three different kinds of gradations at work in the Fourth Way: axiological, metaphysical, and alethic. And, here we look at pluralist approaches to these gradations; accepting that there is more than one measure for these sorts of properties rather than the one maximum presupposed in MP and, hence, (2). First, we can consider value pluralism. Value pluralists claim that there exists more than one primary, irreducible value in the world. I restrict my talk to value sources being plural. As we discussed in the second section, one of the gradations key for the Fourth Way is goodness. MP claims that there is one and



only one ultimate measure or standard for goodness. MP thus implies what is called value monism—the position that only one thing (type or source of thing) has primary, irreducible, or ultimate value. Monism, and by implication MP, are plainly inconsistent with value pluralism. There is a fairly straightforward Aristotelian objection to monism. Nicomachean Ethics I: 6 raises the issue of a Platonic form of Goodness (an instance of value monism if there is any). But, Aristotle claims that goodness is said in many ways. What sort of single, univocal property of goodness underpins the discrete, seemingly diverse goodnesses of humans, manatees, jet skis, computers, and boulders? We predicate goodness of each of these and it seems very implausible to think that their goodness consists in the exact same feature (shared in common with the Good). Aristotle suggests that there might be some analogy of goodness unifying them; a proposal that sounds very attractive to me personally. But an analogy is not a single, univocal measurement, so it will not help the proponent of MP at any rate. So, given the plausibility of Aristotle’s comments here, we have good reason to reject value monism. Generalizing on this criticism of Platonism, it seems, we have an Aristotelian argument against any sort of wide-ranging monism overall. Second, Martha Nussbaum (1986, 113-117) and David Wiggins (1980) reject value monism because it cannot explain weakness of the will (akrasia). Let us take akrasia as a datum and accept that people often fail to do what is morally good even when they know that to be the case. An easy explanation for this sort of moral failure is value pluralism: an agent fails to do good option A because some other good option B is inconsistent with A. Pluralism can explain this sort of dilemma by appealing to two sorts of values represented in the conflict between A and B. The details of their arguments aside, both Nussbaum and Wiggins claim that akrasia, a fact of our moral lives, is better explained by value pluralism than monism. Of course, many arguments for pluralism or against monism remain, but these are a few plausible ones. At any rate, MP requires a monistic measure for gradations and pluralism denies just that. Accordingly, defending MP makes a response to these objections necessary and the denial of value pluralism essential. We can turn to Aristotle again for another sort of pluralism. Motivating his analogy of being, Aristotle (in)famously claims in the Metaphysics that being “is said in many ways.” That is, exists is not used univocally in all contexts—the being of a substance is different from that of a relation and that of a quantity, and so forth. There is no science of being qua being, strictly speaking, since being fails to denote some determinate genus, concept, object, or set of objects. Now, he goes on to argue that all existence is said of or in a substance, or else a primary substance itself, thereby unifying metaphysics but the point remains that there is no single genus, form, or category of “being” or “existence.” Instead, there are many different types of beings (e.g., substances, qualities, relations, quantities, etc.) that do not reduce to some single, more

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general category of reality or being. We cannot get any more unified than a set of several fundamental ontological categories. MP requires a unity of being in order to posit a maximum that measures it. Hence, if Aristotle is right about the non-univocal status of being, then MP’s insistence on a single measure fails. Finally, we can consider alethic pluralism as an objection to MP. Value pluralists claim that there are many ways of possessing value and “ontological pluralism” (we might call it) claims that there are many different ways of being. Similarly, pluralists about truth claim that there are many different ways that something is true. Considerations akin to Aristotle’s, yet again, work for us here. For example (Pedersen and Wright 2013): some theories—such as correspondence theories—seem intuitively plausible when applied to truths about ladders, ladles, and other ordinary objects. However, those theories seem much less convincing when applied to truths about comedy, fashion, ethical mores, numbers, jurisprudential dictates, etc. Conversely, theories that seem intuitively plausible when applied to legal, comic, or mathematical truths—such as those suggesting that the nature of truth is coherence—seem less convincing when applied to truths about the empirical world. Given this line of reasoning, it would seem that different domains and different types of statements would be made true differently. But if there is no single measure of truth, then MP turns out to be false again. In various ways, we can raise pluralist objections to the single measure or maximum required by MP. And, if we end up rejecting MP, then (2) must go along with it. However, we must bear in mind the qualifications made already: I do not intend these pluralistic objections to apply only to the specific gradations emphasized by Aquinas but rather as models for any appeal to gradations of perfections. Our examination of these specific gradations is simply a model upon which to construct similar criticisms for any such comparative property or gradation. A. The Indefinite Extensibility Objection to MP MP requires that there be one maximum measuring a gradation. In this section, we examine an argument that there is no maximum for these properties: they extend indefinitely. In order for MP to be true, there must be some intrinsic maximum for a gradation. If there is no maximum, then there is no measure to explain the graded possession of that property by non-maximal objects. Einar Duenger Bohn (2012) has argued against such intrinsic maximality of perfections. Crucial to his argument is his notion of indefinite extensibility. Precisely,


BENJAMIN W. MCCRAW a concept C is said to be indefinitely extensible just in case it is impossible to universally quantify over all Cs because for any way W of trying to capture the entire extension of C, there is something that is C, but not captured by W. (Bohn 2012, 675)

Take the series of ordinal numbers: no matter how one “captures” or groups them, one can take the last number of the grouping and add one. Thus, there is no possible capturing of all such numbers and, hence, there is no “maximal number” ending the series. If gradations work as a serial ordering by comparative degrees (as is plausible), then there seems no intuitively plausible reason to think that such a serial ordering has a definite upper bound. That is, we take the gradations in question, at least metaphorically, to fit the image of a number line: X is “higher” on the line of goodness than Y because X is better (=more good) than Y. But, it seems possible to imagine an X+1 degree of goodness for any X you like. Thus, there will be no end, boundary, or uppermost point on the scale of goodness—no measure/maximum. When the argument is framed this in way, it bears a marked resemblance to the long-standing debate in philosophy of religion regarding the possibility (or actuality) of a “best possible world.” Indeed, we can capture a great deal of Bohn’s objection in a comment by Leibniz (1985, 249) though one Leibniz would clearly deny: “[s]omeone will say that it is impossible to produce the best, because there is no perfect creature, and that it is always possible to produce one which would be more perfect.” Let us fill the world with as many goods in their diversity and depth as we wish: it still seems possible to increase the sum total of those goods at least incrementally. Thus, some have argued that the very notion of a single best possible world is impossible. Plantinga (1973, 539) draws the implication nicely: “is there such a thing as the best of all possible worlds, or even a best? Perhaps for any world you pick there is a better.” Similarly, one can ask: is there such a thing as the best, most real, or truest of all possible beings, or even a best, most real, or truest? And perhaps for any being you pick there is a better, more real, truer. Bohn’s indefinite extensibility gives the theoretical underpinning to make good on our modified Plantingan suggestion. So, this section objects to MP on the grounds that the notion of having a maximum measure or standard is incoherent. Even if one demurs on the positive argument from Bohn against the maximum here, we can still raise this objection as a point requiring argument if (2) is to stand. The defender of MP, (2), or the Fourth Way in general cannot just presuppose that the notion of an intrinsic maximum (qua measure) makes sense—it is a point requiring argument and defense. There is no reason to presuppose that the gradations of being, truth, goodness, or what have you have an upper bound and thus, we need more argument for MP as a principle underpinning (2).

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B. The Self-Reference Dilemma for MP Previously, I have contested the claim to there being one measure for a genus and the notion of a maximum. However, in this section, we discuss an argument contesting the very notion of a measure itself. The argument has roots in the Parmenides of Plato but we see an instructive parallel in the past century with comments from Ludwig Wittgenstein. The idea in general is that considerations involving the self-reference of measures or paradigms show that the very notion of a measure is problematic at best and incoherent at worst. Let us begin with a question at the core of the notion of measurement: do measures or paradigms self-refer—do they measure themselves? Comments from the Platonic corpus seem to suggest an affirmative answer here. In the course of his youthful discussion with Parmenides, Socrates balks as the elder philosopher’s question as to whether there exist Forms of hair, mud, or dirt. There is much discussion on why Socrates rejects their status as Forms and whether he should in the first place. But, a plausible explanation here appeals to the self-reference of Platonic Forms. The Form of the beautiful self-refers—it is beautiful itself. The Form of the truth is true itself. But, if this reasoning holds, then the Form of Mud is muddy and the Form of Dirt is dirty— both of which are absurd implications. And this absurdity, on the interpretation I am suggesting, motivates Socrates to claim that there are no forms of mud, hair, and dirt. Underpinning this rejection, then, is a commitment to the selfreference of Forms qua paradigms or measures. So, let us say that measures do self-refer, following this interpretation Platonic Forms. The measure of goodness is good itself, the measure of truth is true itself, the measure of being is real, and so on. But affirming self-reference leads to the infamous Third Man argument. Suppose that there are a plurality of good things: G1, G2, G3, .., Gn. Call this set of goods G. There must be some measure for the elements of G: Goodness itself. But, since measures self-refer, Goodness itself is a member of G. Call this new set with Goodness as an element G*. G* qua set of goods is another plurality requiring some kind of higher-order or meta-Goodness to unify it. But if that higher-order goodness self-refers, as we suppose it must, then we have a new set with the original {G1-Gn}, Goodness, and MetaGoodness: namely, G**. Therefore, on pain of infinite regress, there is no such thing as a single measure, maximum, or paradigm for good things in the first place. Or, rather, there is an infinite number of goods but no final measure. So, assuming that measures self-refer, we have good reason to think that the very notion of a measure is absurd because of such a regress. So, one might backtrack and deny that measures self-refer. This, presumably, is Wittgenstein’s point in Philosophical Investigations §50: [t]here is one thing of which one can say neither that it is one metre long, nor that it is not one metre long, and that is the standard metre in Paris. But this is, of course, not to ascribe any extraordinary property


BENJAMIN W. MCCRAW to it, but only to mark its peculiar role in the language-game of measuring with a metre-rule.

One can take Wittgenstein as denying the self-reference of measures. The meter stick suffices as the measure or paradigm for all meter-lengths, and Wittgenstein flatly denies that the standard meter is itself a meter long. And, by denying the self-reference of measures, we can avoid the regress threatened by the version of the Third Man Argument above. But this maneuver has some very unpalatable results. One must bear in mind that God is the eventual target of MP and (2). For any Fourth Way-type argument, God is the measure or maximum for the graded perfections discussed: goodness, being, truth, etc. But, if measures do not self-refer, then the gradations discussed do not refer to God. Consider the following statements: (A) God is good. (B) God is real. (C) God is truth. Any Fourth Way argument requires (A)-(C) to be true. Yet each of these statements requires that the properties God measures refer to God (and maximally at that). If we deny self-reference, then none of these statements has any sense. They work exactly as Wittgenstein says of the standard meter: it is not the case that God is good, real, or true. Of course, this is not to say that God is not-good, but it still remains absolutely essential for any proponent of the Fourth Way or any traditional theist in general to affirm that God has these properties. Denying self-reference, then, has consequences that any theist should find clearly objectionable. This section sets up a dilemma for the measures assumed in MP: they either self-refer or they do not. If measures self-refer, then MP is open to a Third Man sort of infinite regress. And if measures do not self-refer, we cannot predicate of God any of the perfections God is supposed to measure. Either we have got an infinite regress or we must claim that “God is good” has no coherent sense. Both horns impale the defender of the Fourth Way and, therefore, it seems that the notion of measurement at work in MP fails. And if MP fails, so does (2) and the Fourth Way overall. C. The Regress Problem for RP We are concerned here to contest RP. Recall that RP asserts that gradations are explained by the resemblance to the measure or maximum detailed in MP. Denying RP, then denies that we can explain graded properties via resemblance. That is, the current section and next examine ways to deny the resemblance relation holding between gradations and the maximum or measure explaining how objects possess them. In this section, we address another sort of regress

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that causes problems for RP. The first step in this criticism is to clarify just what is meant by “resemble” or “be like” in RP. Without unnecessary specificity, we can construe “X resembles Y” as a kind of relation holding between X and Y (in some respect or another). If resemblances were not relations, then we could conceive of them as monadic relations of the form Rx. But, it is obviously incoherent to say that “X resembles (full stop)”—there must be always be some Y involved in X’s resembling. And, probably, there is no way to think of resemblance as a dyadic relation: there must be two relata (X and Y) and some third property, characteristic, or feature according to which X is like Y. My weaker point remains: resemblances are necessarily (and, if I am right, obviously) a sort of relation. And this point about resemblances as relations opens up the objection in this section. The argument I shall develop has roots in F. H. Bradley (1893, Ch. 3) and David Armstrong (1978; 1989). The argument bears a kinship to the Third Man’s use of a regress as well but that is not essential here. Consider some resemblance: the shape of my son’s head resembles mine. Metaphysically speaking, we have a relation connecting two things; namely, my son’s head and my own. And, specifically, that relation is one of similarity. Bradley’s regress gives us motive to think of such relations with suspicion. Let us examine any generic relation, R, holding between any two objects X and Y: something of the form R(X, Y). This relational state of affairs, clearly, involves three things: R, X, and Y. But, we cannot just posit these three things, Bradley suggests, but rather we must ensure that X, for instance, is appropriately related to R. There cannot just be the three things—the right connection between R and its relata must obtain, too. We must make sure, in order words, that the relation R is related to its constitutive relatum in X. We need R*, then, connecting X to R. But, R* is another relation; so now we have R*(R, X). We can apply the same reasoning as above. There must be some R** connecting {R, R*, and X}. But R** is a relation just as R and R*--giving us R**(R, R*, X). Generalizing on R, R*, and R**, we will have to posit an infinite number of relations to ensure the right metaphysical connections asserted by the original R(X, Y). How does Bradley’s Regress apply to RP? We have opened up this maneuver already by construing resemblance as a sort of relation. If Bradley’s Regress attacks relations, then it will be problematic for resemblance as well. Suppose that some object, a jet ski let us say, is good because it resembles Goodness. Here we have a relation of the form above: R(J, G). Applying exactly the same reasoning and we have a regress looming as above. We can think about the same point in a somewhat different way. David Armstrong (1989, 1978) offers what he calls his Relation Regress. Armstrong’s point concerns relations, universals, and instantiation, but we can modify his reasoning for resemblances. Resemblances are not just relations but they are gradations. Things can resemble other things to different degrees: there is a more and less involving resemblances. MP implies, then, that there is some measure for the gradations of resemblance and RP implies that gradations of



resemblances must resemble this maximum or measure. But that higher-order resemblance measure encoded in RP is still resemblance and, as such, is a gradation. So, the second-order resemblance relations according to which graded resemblances resemble the measure must bear a resemblance to that measure, too. And that second-order resemblance is a gradation, implying a third-order resemblance. By this reasoning, we get the same result: an infinite regress of resemblances following the application of RP. Thus, RP turns out to be in hot philosophical water by appealing to the notion of resemblance. So, given arguments inspired by Bradley and Armstrong, it seems plausible to give up RP on the basis of it implying an infinite regress. And with such a regress, that means it cannot do the explanatory work it requires in the argument. Defenders of (2) in a Fourth Way-type argument need it to explain gradations but RP fails in this respect if the principle generates absurdities. D. MP and RP and the Fourth Way In this section, I have objected to (2) by way of attacking its constituents in MP and RP. We have examined pluralist accounts of value, metaphysics, and truth in the attempt to cast doubt on MP’s claim that there is one single measure for gradations. And I developed an argument from indefinite extensibility against MP’s insistence that a measure is the maximum of that property. Claiming MP, then, requires defense of the claim that such graded perfections do not or cannot extend indefinitely or infinitely. And, we finally contested the very notion of a measure by appealing to arguments involving self-reference. I have contended that the defender of MP has a dilemma with dual unattractive horns: selfreferring measures generating Third Man regresses or non-self-referring measures implying the senselessness of claims like “God is good” or “God is truth” Either way, MP forces us into nasty positions. The last subsection objects to RP by using arguments showing that the resemblance relation key to the principle involves theoretically unappealing regresses. Taken together, we have a series of arguments against the constitutive principles of (2) in MP and RP. 4. God as an Explanation for Gradations In this section, I shall develop two types of objections to (3)—i.e., the claim that God serves as the adequate measure or maximum to explain the gradations of (1) via the principles in (2). First, I argue that God is not philosophically adequate as an explanation for gradations. Variants of naturalism provide very plausible competitors to (3) and it is that general thesis that Aquinas himself takes to be a serious rival for explaining gradations in ST I.2.3. So, we examine some ways to explain these properties naturally in either a reductive or nonreductive way. If either version of naturalism can explain gradations, then (3) fails. And, secondly, I provide another line of argument to show that God does not suffice as a theologically adequate explanation. I argue here that explaining

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gradations ultimately ends up with the theist in a stalemate versus a person positing a bad maximum or measure. Gradations by themselves and the principles involved in (2) do not provide the quick and easy theistic answer proposed in (3). Degreed properties are value-neutral: there are negative as well as positive gradations that (1) seem to posit as requiring explanation. If bad gradations imply a bad measure by (2)’s operation on them, then we have a serious parity of reasoning problem for the theistic conclusion the argument reaches. Thus, we can see (3) failing in two different ways: as a philosophical explanation and as a theological one. A. Naturalistic Explanations of Gradations In this section, we ask: how can naturalism explain gradations? The question seems simple but it really becomes several questions—depending on the gradation to be explained. Plausibly, different sorts of phenomena require (or, minimally, can require) different sorts of explanations. Thus, we should not expect one, monolithic account applying to all gradations from a naturalistic standpoint. So, I propose we take a cue from our earlier discussion and focus on the three sorts of gradations that look like strong candidates for God’s explanatory power: goodness, being, and truth. And we retain the earlier caveat that the consideration proposed here applies mutatis mutandis for other sorts of gradations or comparative properties. There are several candidates for naturalistic explanations of value simpliciter that we can modify to explain gradations in those values. On this view, value properties (like goodness) are identical to or supervene upon natural properties. And there are many such natural reduction bases that have been proposed: pleasure (by hedonists), desire/self-interest satisfaction (by philosophers like Richard Taylor and Thomas Hobbes), eudaimonistic accounts of human well-being, David Hume’s sentimentalism, and evolutionary accounts on value (e.g., social Darwinism) are just a few proposed naturalist theories that attempt to explain values. Accounting for gradations is thereby easy: take the natural base in question and analyze it in degrees—e.g., how much pleasure or desire is satisfied, how ideal well-being or fitness is approximated, and so forth. This maneuver accounts for comparative values based on the natural properties in question. And we can appeal to an argument already discussed to motivate this sort of approach to value. Recall Mackie’s Queerness Argument. Mackie uses the argument to claim that there is no such thing as objective moral values but we can modify the argument here. Naturalism claims that there really are such values insofar as they are grounded in natural properties. Mackie’s claim, however, is that moral values must be metaphysically or epistemologically queer—the sorts of things that must be metaphysically and epistemically out of place in a plausible ontology or requiring a far-fetched kind of dedicated moral faculty to know them. But, if we suppose that moral or value properties reduce



to or supervene on pleasure, desire satisfaction, or something like that, then those values lose the queerness that Mackie uses to motivate his moral error theory. Thus, given a modified argument from queerness, it seems more plausible to favor a naturalistic basis explaining value gradations. So, (3) will be false with respect to gradations of goodness. We can consider more metaphysically based accounts of value competing with (3). In particular, we can think of such values as lacking a supernatural basis but also lacking a reductive or supervenience base as we discussed above. For example, Erik J. Wielenberg (2005) has recently argued for objective moral values independently of any sort of reductive naturalism or theism. On his view, naturalism is simply the view that no supernatural entities exist; rather than a stronger, positive commitment to some kind of materialistic, scientific, and/or physicalistic reductionism. He argues that values are naturalistic in this modified non-supernatural sense even though they lack basis in empirical facts or physical properties or scientific theories or things of that sort. He thinks of value or moral truths as metaphysically necessary: “what makes…ethical claims true? my answer is that it is the same sort of thing that makes other necessary claims true—namely, the essential nature of the entities that those claims are about” (Wielenberg 2005, 51). There is no reductive or supervenience base to these values because they are essentially true in themselves. Thus: “[t]he foundation of morality is a set of axiomatic necessary ethical truths. No being, natural or supernatural, is responsible for the truth of or has control over these ethical truths” (Wielenberg 2005, 66). Thus, we have a version of naturalism explaining gradations of goodness non-reductively. Just like the reductive accounts of goodness above, Wielenberg’s theory obviously conflicts with (3). Moving on to the gradations of being, let us suppose that there are different levels or degrees of being as posited in (1). Must we appeal to a necessary being like God to explain them? Not necessarily. Let us begin with points from Aristotle. In the Categories, he discusses the various sorts of ontological genera of reality and their modes of existence. He can agree that the way a substance or object exists differs from the way that a relation or quantity exists. And here is the key point: the mode of existence characteristic of substances is metaphysically primary. In short, substances are more real than other categories. This is because properties (qualities, relations, quantities, etc.) metaphysically depend on substances for their existence. Call this claim about the ontological primacy of substances the Aristotelian Assumption. However, it may seem to accept (1) but not in a way requiring (3). What ultimately explains the differing modes of existence between substances and other categories for Aristotle is not some necessary Existent but the metaphysical status of those substances themselves. The Aristotelian Assumption sets concrete objects or substances as the metaphysical basis for reality. He famously claims that all existing things (however they may exist) are all said to be “of” or “in” substances. Though

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qualities have a different way of being than substances, saying this does not mean that they possess some property of being less than objects but only that they have a metaphysical dependence on objects. The redness of a cup, for example, depends on the cup for its being (red). And that sort of metaphysical dependence explains the claim that qualities (for instance) have a different mode of being than substances—not an appeal to some necessarily existing particular Being. Thus, given the Aristotelian Assumption, we can explain the gradations of being in (1) without positing a supernaturalistic explanation as in (3)—concrete objects or substances do that work on their own. Finally, we can address degrees of truth. How can we explain them naturalistically? Actually, I find this answer the easiest and most obvious of the three in this section. One may take talk of degrees of truth in a way consistent with non-classical fuzzy or infinite valued logic or, even accepting bivalence, as closer or further approximations to what is true simpliciter. But, in either case, we can explain truths naturalistically. Most theories of truth get classed into three types: correspondence, coherence, and pragmatic. Now, we discussed the pragmatic theory of truth earlier, arguing that it is inconsistent with (1). But, neither of the remaining two will be of help here. The correspondence theory sees truth as a matter of just that—correspondence with actuality. Any proposition “p” is true just in case p. One can cash the correspondence bases out in several ways: facts, states of affairs, Tarski schemas, etc. but the point remains that actuality itself explains truths and, hence, its degrees (if there are alethic comparatives, after all). The world itself—taken in a naturalistic way— explains truth gradations on a correspondence theory. A coherence theory of truth claims that any proposition p is true by virtue of its logical coherence with a set of other propositions [q, r, s, …]. Thus, it is logical coherency on this view that grounds the truth of any proposition. Given this theory, all we need are certain logical relations holding between propositions—not some supernatural Truth Itself (=God) to explain the alethic gradations in question. So far, we have seen in this section various naturalistic ways to explain the gradations in (1) and all of them are rival candidates to the supernaturalism presupposed in (3). Clearly, I cannot offer anything like a robust argument for naturalism here—the concept itself it is far too slippery and the issue is too massive for quick treatment—but I do think that the explanatory rivals in this section decrease the probability of the supernaturalism in (3). And that decrease in probability is enough for the points here to serve as objections. So, this section provides a series of naturalistic explanations for gradations. Ultimately, these naturalistic theories imply that the graded features we see in the world have explanations in that world itself either reductively or non-reductively. In short, the world composed of gradations itself explains those gradations without appealing to a supernaturalistic, transcendental explanation as posited in (3).


BENJAMIN W. MCCRAW B. Explaining Gradations of Imperfections

This subsection moves on to address a theological objection to (3). Let us begin by considering just what sorts of gradations we include in (1). In particular, we can ask the following question: should we take God as the explanation for all gradations or just some? That is, do we take (3) as an explanation for all actual or possible gradations in (1)? Each answer has a line of reasoning motivating it and I argue below that neither line terminates in a theologically adequate place. On the one hand, it seems that we should posit God as an explanation for all gradations. God, on any classical theistic perspective, creates everything and qua Cause ultimately explains everything that is not God. So, God must explain all gradations. But, on the other hand, it seems impossible that God measures certain gradations. That is because there are plausible graded imperfections. How can God qua Perfect Being explain degrees of malice, hatred, failure, etc.? Given that there are imperfections or, in particular, really nasty or bad properties that come in degrees, it would seem absurd to think of God as a measure for them. So, if we take (3) to explain all gradations, then it would appear that God must be maximally malicious, hateful, and so forth. Accepting this claim, however, I take to be tantamount to rejecting theism—at least of a classical sort. A way to sidestep this objection would be to restrict (1). In this vein, Joseph A. Buijs (2009, 29) claims that “[i]n Aquinas, the scope of the argument is restricted; it applies only to qualitative differences in perfections. The argument is directed to the value dimension of entities and their properties, whether and to what extent these are good or bad, noble or ignoble, just or unjust.” On Buijs’ proposal, we should read (1) in the Fourth Way as applicable to only positive gradations or perfections. Certainly there exist negative or imperfect gradations, but we should not include them in (1) and, hence, we should not think of God as explaining them. But this response will not quite work. Let us grant the point and restrict (3) to explain only positive gradations thereby limiting the scope of the gradations picked out in (1). We are accepting that there are gradations of imperfections and we can still use MP and RP in (2) to generate conclusions unpalatable to the theist. Taking (2) universally and applying it to imperfect gradations from an unrestricted (1), we seem to get the following: (4a) There exists some being maximally malicious. (4b) There exists some being maximally hateful. (4c) There exists some being maximally failing. And we can think of (4a)-(4c) as simply a short list of the imperfections to be measured. By (2), therefore, there must be maximally bad measures of those negative properties or gradations. The reasoning behind the Fourth Way seems to imply that there must exist maximally bad measures—a being that than which nothing worse can be conceived as a parallel explanation to the Perfect Being

Not So Superlative


of (3). Essentially, this is a parity of reasoning argument against the Fourth Way: given an assumption amenable to it (i.e., that there are imperfect gradations) and its own key principles (i.e., MP and RP), we generate a conclusion that is unacceptable to the theist in (4a)-(4c). Following Wes Morriston (2004), let us call this view Demonism. So far, it seems as though the reasoning crucial to the Fourth Way implies Demonism as well as theism. And, again, I take it for granted that no classical theist as such would countenance Demonism—any argument implying it must turn out to be theologically inadequate in the final tally. But, the theist schooled in certain Platonic or Augustinian doctrines might have a response here. As we saw already, Socrates denies that there exists a Form (or measure or exemplar) for all properties. But how in that case can we explain nasty things if there is no corresponding measure? Classically, we explain these features not by positing a Form of the Bad or Unjust or Hateful but by using privations of positive Forms (like the Good or the Just). Bad things do not refer to a maximally bad measure but they refer to a lack of a maximally good measure. Badness as such is non-existent and bad things are bad only by not being good. Thus, the classical view coming out of Augustine and his Platonic inspiration takes evil or badness to be a privatio boni—a privation of the Good—rather than a possession of the Bad. Perhaps there is a parallel maneuver here: we do not need to posit a maximally bad measure for imperfections. Instead, we account for graded imperfections by their dissimilarity or lack of resemblance to God. So long as you have got the positive maximum or measure in (3), we can simply negate it comparatively to get imperfections. Hence, we can preserve the reasoning in the argument without implying Demonsim. However, again, this maneuver ultimately will not suffice. Buijs and the Augustinian responder of the previous paragraph presuppose that perfection is more primary than imperfection—that we should move from that which is Perfect to that which is imperfect (literally, not-Perfect via some limitation). But this assumption does not seem obvious and would require argument. In other words, why think that (3) is any more likely than the demon asserted in Demonism or the omnimalevolent measure from (4a)-(4c)? We can apply the same response to explain degrees of goodness as privations of the maximally bad demon. The demonist, we can imagine, gives a privation account of goodness in exactly the same way that the theist gives a privation account of evil. Given that there are good and bad gradations, it would seem like an open question as to whether we begin with a positive or negative maximum or measure. And, therefore, taking (3) for granted begs some vital theological questions about the fundamental axiological states of the world (to be explained) and presupposes what sorts of explanations are fundamental (and which are not). Earlier, we discussed a parity argument that the Fourth Way entails Demonism as well as (3), but we can think of the reasoning involved as



implying Demonism instead of theism. A privative approach to measures implies that a good measure cannot coexist with a bad. (If the bad is just a lack of the good, then there really is not a bad substantially at all and vice versa if one takes the good to be a privation of the bad.) So, both theism and demonism cannot both be true. But, without an argument for the primacy of the positive, we have a philosophical stalemate absent any reason to think that a positive measure (implying theism) is intrinsically more plausible or likely than a negative measure (implying demonism). Whether the argument implies (3)— theism—or demonism seems neutral given the bare, value-neutral fact of gradations. The theist will clearly take (3) and positive gradations as his/her point of departure but that does not stop the demonist from doing the same with negative degrees. Now, why is this a theological rather than a philosophical objection? Well, the answer is that the anti-demonist motive is a religious one. The theist, in giving a Fourth Way-type argument, is not just expressing that there exists a measure or maximum for positive gradations but s/he claims this to the exclusion of views like demonism because of a theistic motive for perfect being theology and the rejection of theistic metaphysical dualism. It is the theistic motive behind the Fourth Way that rules out Demonism and, thus, generates the problematic parity argument. I have not argued in this section that there is a philosophical problem with positing (3)—only that the same commitments used in implying that conclusion also seem to imply conclusions theologically at odds with it. C. Can God Explain Gradations? In this section, we hve examined philosophical and theological problems with (3). Theistic arguments provide infamous battlegrounds for the supernaturalism or non-naturalism versus naturalism debate, and our first subsection considers ways that a naturalist might go about rejecting the theistic conclusion in (3). Moving on, we hve seen that the reasoning at the core of the argument can be manipulated to argue for a maximally wicked, malicious, or hateful explanation or measure for nasty gradations just as a Perfect Being explains or measures positive gradations. And given the theistic rejection of anything like Demonism out of hand, any argument that would appear amenable to that view would be theologically inappropriate or inadequate. 5. Prospects for a Fourth Way-Styled Argument We have discussed many objections to the general philosophical commitments required by a Fourth Way-styled argument. In this final section, I shall assess what I consider such an argument’s prospects at defending against these objections and, thus, the overall prospects for the success of some version of the proof.

Not So Superlative


How shall we assess the prospects for (1)? Overall, I find (1) the most plausible of the claims necessary to the argument (as one would expect, I imagine). I do not find any version of value anti-realism or relativism compelling. Of course, I cannot give any definitive argument regarding such a heated debate in the space allotted, but I see realism as far more likely (and sensible, to boot). The fact that there even is such a heated debate between realists and non-realists on value gives some kind of evidence, to my lights, that there is a good bit to speak for realism. Though earlier discussions have provided strong arguments against the value or axiological element of (1), I still think that the proponent of the Fourth Way has room to respond. Similarly, I find metaphysical anti-realism quite implausible. Certainly when Carnap/Chalmers argues that reality is somehow minddependent, one can interpret this claim as a realistic assertion. In short, antirealists quite often sound as though they are claiming that anti-realism really is the case (in a realist fashion). But if the anti-realist’s assertions (of anti-realism) do not intend to capture reality as it is in itself objectively, then its hard to see how their claims contradict or amount to a denial of those of the realist. If they do not intend such objectivity, then the realist framework will turn out to be correct (for the realist). And since that framework (or quantification) really holds, then that gives us enough at minimum to motivate (1) and perhaps even undermine anti-realism itself. In either case, I do not see the anti-realist arguments as fatal to the metaphysical realism required by (1). However, I am sold on the principle of bivalence. Given this very intuitive logical metaprinciple, an alethic version of (1) looks very implausible. But, overall, the strength of (1) is its weakness. Adhering to it does not commit one to very much—only that there are gradations. As we saw, (1) needs to be restricted to positive gradations but, even with this modification, a weak interpretation of (1) does not say much about which (positive) gradations there are or how extensive degrees are among the various properties exemplified in the world. Thus, (1) does not assert very much or, to put it differently, it asserts what it does in a fairly vague fashion. And that weakness, I am suggesting here, contributes to whatever intrinsic probability we find in (1). Claim (2) is the hinge for the argument. It involves the principles expressing how measures explain gradations, and it is those principles that drive the internal logic of the argument and the reasoning involved in giving it. I find (2) the most problematic of the main claims (1)-(3) and the arguments against it the most plausible here. The only criticism I do not consider successful in some fashion is the indefinite extensibility argument. The mathematical analogue to infinite extension does not quite fit the metaphysical properties to be explained. A numerical metaphor gains traction by thinking of gradations akin to points on a number line and, holding to that metaphor, it really would extend indefinitely. But the number line is a metaphor and that point should be kept in mind.



The pluralisms discusses earlier strike me as a plausible. Aristotle’s claims that goodness and being “are said in many ways,” in particular, work nicely. The goodness of a jet ski really does seem different from that of a computer or a squirrel and the way of being of an object differs from that of its qualities. Aristotle’s analogical approach to being and goodness provide enough unity to make them intelligible as an object of study for metaphysics but there is still no single, univocal genus measuring them. As such, we cannot accept MP’s requirement that gradations have single maximum or measure. Given Aristotle’s considerations, then, the motive for pluralism strongly opposes or clashes with the MP of (2). Finally, I think the self-reference dilemma for MP and the regress problem for RP are entirely successful. If we take the notion of a measure to be coherent, as required in MP, then we must settle the issue as to whether they self-refer. In either case, we have very unattractive prospects: either we must deny that “God is good” makes any sense or else admit an infinite regress of measures. Certainly one can accept either implication but neither of those options would be a bullet easy enough to bite without breaking one’s jaw (so to speak). And the regress is devastating. The Fourth Way is primarily about explanation and an infinite regress essentially undercuts the possibility of any final, satisfactory explanation. Finally, (3) looks plausible but problematic. I side against naturalism in general but that issue overall remains beyond the scope of the current chapter. As with the moral realism/anti-realism debate, its intractability provides evidence that each side has some argumentative merit. And if naturalism has some argumentative force, then it counts against the supernaturalism in (3). Ultimately, though, the problem of naturalism gets one close to the question of ultimate explanation. The naturalist explains natural phenomena by appealing to other natural phenomena. Can this adequately explain them or does explanation extend beyond the natural order to something non-natural? This is where the naturalist and the non-naturalist must part ways and it is where the core of this objection lies. If a wholly naturalistic explanation can suffice, the naturalistic arguments gain traction. Perfect being theology does a very nice job in appropriating lessons from Plato about privative measures. However, it makes pretty hefty assumptions about the ultimate values involved in those measures. But, at the end of the analysis, any argument or view, I suggest, carries with it some bedrock commitments so fundamental that they buck debate without lengthy and sustained examination. The theist essentially commits him/herself to the positive value of the created order and anything contesting that commitment would be equivalent to tossing the whole of theism aside. So, while there are problems with this commitment, one must take certain things for granted at the fundamental level to have a meaningful dialogue. Denying this commitment to positive values would effectively deny even the possibility of significant discussion. Thus, I would suggest that the privative account of perfections

Not So Superlative


should be something granted for the sake of meaningful philosophical debate even in the face of problems. So, where do we end on the analysis and prospects of Fourth Way styled arguments? We have seen that the Fourth Way requires several general commitments: (1) There are gradations (i.e., graded properties). (2) For any gradation, there exists a measure or maximum for it, such that any object having that gradation has it to the degree it resembles that measure. (3) God is the measure for certain (perfect) gradation. I have provided several arguments against (1), but I have suggested that there are possible responses from the theist to these objections. Several of the arguments against (2) are compelling and that gives us good reason to reject it. And the results of our analysis of (3) are mixed—the objections are plausible but cut to the core of the issue. And these are so fundamental that we cannot really expect an easy, short, or decisive objection against them. Ultimately, we have a mixed bag of objections: (1) remains plausible, (3) has some force but faces problems as well, and (2) ultimately fails. So we have a mixed evaluation of the Fourth Way: we have some plausible points but too many of the key claims necessary to it—especially (2)—fail, so the argument as a whole must be ultimately unsuccessful.

Fifteen A RESPONSE TO MCCRAW Edward N. Martin Everyone knows the Fourth Way is the hardest to understand and appreciate among Thomas’s Five Ways. Ben McCraw applies several contemporary authors’ insights against some of the inner workings of the Fourth Way, and he does so admirably. However, I am not convinced that Thomas does not have an answer for McCraw’s various objections. In this short response to McCraw’s chapter, I try briefly to indicate how a Thomistically inclined theorist might reply to the objections McCraw has offered to the Fourth way. It seems that God, according to Thomistic Theism, can both be said to measure or be the standard of Being and Goodness of dependent creatures without God's self measuring that kind of Being toward God. Let us ask this question: Can an X be F in relation R to Y, but not be intrinsically F? This might be the same as asking: Can an X bear relation R to Y while X does not bear R to X ? Doesn't this happen or obtain all the time? I am my son's father without being my father, or that is, being the father of myself. I could cause another to be cold; yet, could I cause myself to be cold, without reference to any other thing? Not likely. I could cause another to be happy without causing myself to be happy. Possible? Certainly. What if: 1. God is the source, creator and reason why for the existence of any other thing apart from Himself, but not of Himself. 2. Thus, with Anselm, all other beings are ex alio (out of or from another), but God is ex se (out of or from himself). 3. All other things are per alio (through another), but God is per se (through himself). 4. All other things bear a resemblance to God in their being, because they receive their existence, according to Theism, from God. If you applied Leibniz’s Law to this situation, the indiscernibility of identicals—namely, if, for every property P, object a has I if and only if object b has I, then a is identical to b—and its contrapositive, one would get that showing a difference in properties would be sufficient to show that the two things were not identical (see Forrest 2010). Thus, if a certain X could always be the source spoken of in any relation, “being the ontological source of,” but it was not possible for any X to be the ontological source of itself, then two things follow of note. First, it appears to be straightforwardly the case that it is coherent to hold that God could



both always be (according to Theism) the X term in any relation of being the ontological source of some Y not identical to X. Here we can employ Leibniz’s Law, which leads to consideration two. Second, then, we note that while God could be the ontological source of anything non-identical to God, God cannot be the ontological source of God. Now it turns out that Y cannot be its own ontological source, also, so that would be an irreducible resemblance between God and any Y one cared to identify, whatever Y’s metaphysical category, whether state, condition, relation, concrete reality, person, animal, plant, mineral bit, jet ski, manatee, cheeseburger, top 40 hit, dead elephant, abstract reality, etc. (so long as we could make sense of the claim that any abstracta, in a theistic universe, is in fact ontologically dependent on God, even though it might be logically independent of God, a position which many contemporary theists do in fact defend.) That is, God bears the relation of being the ontological source of anything not identical to God, resulting in a property in those things that are related to God by way of being ontologically dependent upon God. But of course God does not have, nor could God have, that same property. In this way, other things that have being resemble (but do not and necessarily do not coinstantiate) the being of God. There is thus an analogy of being (though not a univocity of Being) between God and any other X that is related to God in the relation of ontological dependence. Seeing that God is ontologically independent, but all other things are ontological dependent, and in fact, ontologically dependent on God, according to Theism, the relation of resemblance would be true of any Y compared to X, but not X compared to Y, nor X compared to X, nor Y compared to Y. Here the relation of ontological dependence holds if there would always be a difference in some property in X (here taken to be God) and any Y (that is, anything not identical to X or God). Thus, for any Y not identical to X, according to Aquinas, X would be ontologically the source of Y, where it is impossible both that X be its own ontological source and Y to be its own ontological source. Finally, then, would (or at least could) Aquinas not hold the following basic picture of the perfect qualities of God? If a property instance I of any P is found within a perfect being, calling such an instance I of P, then for any intrinsic property of God, P, I of P is a perfect instance of P. What qualifies for a perfect property instance of P? P must be the intrinsic property of a perfect being. What is it to be an imperfect being? It is one that has one or more limitations enumerated among its essential properties. God has no such imperfect properties; however, any being not identical to God would have one or more such properties, and would have them essentially. If some being B is not identical to God, then there must be at least one essential property that God has that B lacks. I take it here that even in the case where God is essentially omnipotent, and B is only contingently omnipotent, that would be enough to show that God and B were not identical, since a difference even in modal properties is, by Leibniz’s Law, a difference in beings or substance.

A Response to McCraw


The point here is this: the properties that God has essentially are those that a perfect being must have, namely, the perfections or the great-making properties. It is not so clear which of these might admit of intrinsic maxima, and which are intrinsically without limit, but let us pass on that particular issue for now, assuming that someone like Aquinas can make sense ultimately of that issue regarding whether each of the perfections admit of maxima, each of the perfections are taken together co-instantiable, and the like. It seems to follow that God would have each of these perfections: being maximally being, good, true, noble, pious, loving, and the like. I do not know what to say of certain qualities, such as bumpiness, or loudness, or smoothness, or roughness, for that matter, besides these ultimately come back to the limitation of imperfect beings, whereas God is a perfect being, so that those qualities, while residing in a substance that is dependent on God, and thus by extension are also dependent on God, and thus resembling of God in his being, still we cannot say nor can we expect to find that such properties are somehow just as important as, philosophically or theologically speaking, these fundamental categories as goodness, being, truth, nobility, holiness, and the like. We do seem, by intuition or from some source, to acknowledge these properties as canonical properties of the first order of importance. Why is that? According to Theism, it is because these properties admit of intrinsic maxima or attunement in God, and they are all convertible with being, whereas bumpiness or roughness, smoothness or loudness, are already contextually situated within a relative state description. The essential properties in God, however, form an absolute state description, as it were. That is, bumpiness and roughness, loudness, greenness, etc., are properties of substances that are themselves bearers of the property of being ontologically dependent on God, and this dependence that can be found within the nature of the thing (since it is an essential property of the thing) thus leads us to conclude that each dependent substance God creates or originates, according to Theism, is ontologically dependent on God, but is (it seems right to say) logically independent of God. That is, certain states of dependent substances might obtain quite apart from God's directly causal input, given a Theistic framework. This seems to fit with Theistic intuitions, e.g., about God not being the cause of many events within the natural world. However, as being necessarily or essential ontologically moored to God, finite substances necessarily bear the relation of 'having being' in a way that resembles how God has God’s being. Now, if we somehow could earn the conceptual notion that goodness, being, truth, nobility, and holiness, for example, were convertible one with the other—as Thomas holds—and that these properties ultimately thus come down to the Being of God, then one would have the following Thomistic reason to think that McCraw’s Third Man arguments may not be telling. For consider this: there is a relevance criterion that must be met here in each instance in which we compare the way a finite thing has some property p to the way God has some property p. We do see that there is only a similitude,



a resemblance, and likeness, of the way ~G has p to the way G (God) has p. The relevant state description of ~G must be that of limitations being present; that is not the case with G. Do the limitations present change the way p is instantiated? Yes. The way that being is instantiated in jet skis vs. manatees vs. cheeseburgers in Alpha is itself limited and contextualized by the very make up of the features of each context in which p obtains in the different substances. Yet, notice that if naturalism is true, jet skis and manatees have the same ontological source, ultimately, namely, they are both ontologically dependent on the same source (which is something like nothingness, or the like). So, whether naturalism is true or Theism is true, both camps should be committed to the minimal resemblance between any two objects that are compared to one another that they bear a resemblance relation of Being one to the other. Now this property, like the force of gravity, is pretty weak tea, intrinsically. But, just as the force of gravitational attraction is exponentially higher as the mass of just one of the relata is greatly increased, so also the weightiness (if you will), that is, the significance, of the property being purposed by God, in league with the property ontologically dependent on God, takes on a great significance indeed for the Theist. In the Theistic universe, rather like moving one from Thomas’ Fourth Way next to his Fifth Way, there are other properties also tracing their origins to God that allow for the special usefulness in God’s economy of each item of creation taken individually, as well as the whole lot of physical objects, taken as an interlocking whole. They are all part of the uni-verse, all being turned to some one purpose of God, yet each having the property intrinsically, essentially, being purposed by God. So, Thomas seems in the Fourth Way to be starting something that he brings further along in the Fifth Way, and that is an attempt from a Theistic perspective to answer a traditional part of the One and the Many problem: what is the one essential key property shared among each substance (namely, having Being or being), and how do what appears to be the many key properties among substances (e.g., Goodness, Truth, Nobility, and the like) relate to that one underlying unifying property? Thomas’ picture is this: even cheeseburgers and snowmobiles have qualities that usually we would prima facie identify as ethical properties, because they are irremediably connected with an essentially existent, good, noble, truthful Being. To cut to the chase: like Hick’s (1966) criticisms of Augustine in Evil and the God of Love, saying that Augustine’s notion of goodness is too metaphysical and not a moral conception of the good, we have to see Aquinas here, I submit, as presenting strictly metaphysical properties good, truth, being, and the like, in God. Again, God is not purposed of God, but human artifacts are, token existent things within natural kinds—each of these is purposed of God, and is ontologically dependent on God, in a special oneway relation of resemblance to the existence, or the being of, God. Again, consider this argument:

A Response to McCraw


1. The substance of any created being is dependent upon God. 2. Yet, the properties of any created being are dependent upon their substance. 3. Thus, the properties of any created being are dependent upon God. Now this only holds if we put in the adverb ontologically in front of dependent. What we have held is that substances are logically independent of God, but ontologically dependent on God. Thus, with a bit of Chisholming, the argument reads: 1'. The substance of any created being is ontologically dependent upon God. 2'. However, the properties of any created being are ontologically dependent upon their substance. 3'. Thus, the properties of any created being are ontologically dependent upon God. And, having said this, I think one can then carve out some coherent Thomistic notion about how the essential properties of created substances could resemble the properties of God, even the properties had by God of essential nobility or truth or goodness or piety, reading those properties as metaphysical properties. My conclusion from this is that I am not convinced just yet that McCraw's question, “What sort of single, univocal property of goodness underpins the discrete, seemingly diverse goodnesses of humans, manatees, jet skis, computers, and boulders?” (he must have been thinking of Windowsbased units there and not Apple) is correctly framed just yet. It strikes me that it is not clear that Aquinas cannot meet the demand for sufficient theory to undergird something like the analogy of being and goodness, and the like, though it appears that there is only a sense in which there is such a single measurement. Self-referential and Euthyphro-like concerns are still in the air; they would have to be addressed, for sure, in a longer treatment. One response: To stop an infinite regress, like the Third Man argument, I think Thomas would simply say that God is the infinite being against which all other things are comparable, and that once God is one of the things compared for some property in a set or collection of comparables, God stops any further comparisons, because there is no other state, condition, property, or state of affairs that could support a property or relation of comparison with God that is not already accounted for in the infinite richness of God’s cognitive capacity or God's metaphysical being. That is, if God is the source of all abstracta, whatever Third Man, and the Fourth Man, is added to the set, it is ontologically dependent on God, anyway, according to Theism, and if God is the exemplar and standard of those things, ontologically speaking, nothing fruitful can be added to the set (except, perhaps, to talk about some imperfection) once God is there. At least I think Aquinas might have something like this open to him, and I thank Ben McCraw and Dave Beck for their fine efforts regarding the Fourth Way.

Sixteen A RESPONSE TO BECK Benjamin W. McCraw David Beck does an excellent job in clarifying, extending, and defending the notorious Fourth Way. Generally, I do not contest his reading of the argument as Aquinas’ version. That is, for the most part, I think he is correct that his take on the proof is Aquinas’ own take on how the argument works. I do have concerns that there is more of Platonism or Neoplatonism in the proof than Beck sees, but I will not really belabor the point. Accordingly, I shall have nothing to say in this commentary on the first section of his chapter and, where I do offer some critical thoughts, I generally intend them to point towards potential flaws in the argument itself rather than Beck’s interpretation of Aquinas’ proof. Of course, one might think that any flaws that may come are just are results from a bad reading of Thomas, but that is another issue entirely. In this short commentary, instead, I will try to press on some specific points in Beck’s reconstruction and defense of the Fourth Way. Let us begin with what Beck terms the observational base of his chapter. Here, Beck is clear about a move that I think any reasonable defense of the Fourth Way must make: namely, that the proof concerns only certain kinds of graded properties. As he notes, we should not take the proof’s unrestricted talk of gradations (simpliciter) to imply that there is a maximum of stink (something than which nothing smellier can be conceived). Instead, Beck sees Aquinas’ argument dealing with only those transcendental properties like being, truth, nobility, etc., and presumably including others like unity as well. Following the doctrine of the convertibility of the transcendentals, what you say of truth, for instance, you must say of the rest. Thus, Beck is clear that Aquinas “is actually interested in the application [of principles regarding gradations and maxima] only to certain properties, a specific subset of graded properties.” I agree that the Fourth Way must take only these properties or properties like them as the root of the proof as it is given, and I agree that Aquinas clearly takes only these transcendentals as the target for his proof. But, if we move beyond simply clarifying what Aquinas intends with the argument outside of it being a mere historical artifact, one might simply say so what to this response. Aquinas focuses on the good rather than the bad; the true rather than the false; the noble rather than the ignoble, but why should we? That is, suppose that one buys the “principle of maximum” (PM) Beck pulls from the proof: X is more/less φ only insofar X approximates the maximum of φ. And, suppose further, that one sees that badness, falsity, ignobility, etc., vary in ways



roughly parallel to the degrees of goodness, truth, nobility, etc. Does the PM imply some maximum of falsity, badness, and the like? We have a few options. First, one could simply accept that there are maxima for these lessthan-perfect gradations. That is, one could bite the bullet and affirm that there is a maximally bad object, for example. However possible this position may be, it seems remarkably implausible as a live option here (to put it as mildly as I can). Indeed, if this were the best option for the argument to take, it would probably serve more as reductio than rebut the question. Accordingly, I want to take this option off the table immediately as it is placed there. Second, one might give some argument that the PM applies only to transcendentals. For instance, classical privation accounts of nasty properties might be appealing. There just is no falsity—only privation of the true. There is no ignobility—just a privation of the noble. So, there really are no such gradations of the kinds of properties mentioned at the outset. And with no “observational base” there is literally nothing for the PM to restrict. And this seems plausible, and even attractive, as a response to those properties directly contrary to transcendentals. But I do not see how it helps across the board. We might agree that more/less smelly is not measured by the PM and, thus, there’s no pre-eminently peerless stinker as Beck rightly argues. We agree, I suspect, that Dawkins really does miss Aquinas’ point pretty severely in this objection. Even with this rejoinder in hand, I am worried that the PM might still prove too much. Stink may be privative on the positive good smell or perfume. Certainly there are degrees of nice smelling things. Thus, we have a non-privative but also non-transcendental gradation. Does the PM measure it? Intuitively, the answer is no, for it would be absurd, I think, to have the principle imply the real existence of some maximally sweet smelling object. But how can we rule this implication out? I can see the privation theory as a way of resisting the implication from gradation to maximum for all gradations—some just do not have a maximum. But saying that the PM does not hold for all graduations does not imply that it will not hold for a great many—including something that it, intuitively, should not cover. We are missing an argument showing that the transcendentals are the only sort of gradations that fall under the scope of the PM otherwise it seems to prove too much; demonstrating the real existence of maximally sweetly odorific objects. That is, I grant that the Fourth Way will not imply the existence of maximally evil, false, ignoble, etc., being; however, it is not so obvious that it will not imply the existence of a maximally sweet smelling, a maximally hairy, etc., object. I suspect that most (all?) classical theists would scoff at this sort of implication, but the fact remains that some argument excluding this implication is needed otherwise the principle would seem to cherry-pick only those properties helping the proof. Next, I want to move from the “observation base” that is measured to the account of measuring used. Beck is clear that the PM “is a standard principle in both Aristotle and Thomas and must express formal causality, in particular

A Response to Beck


exemplar or extrinsic formal causality.” This sort of point underpins Beck’s insistence that the Fourth Way, pace many interpreters, is not really Platonic. It, like much of Aquinas’ philosophical views and arguments, espouses a thoroughgoing Aristotelianism (cf. Hankey 2012, 56; Lowe 2003; Wippel 2000, Introduction; 1984, 33; Owens, 1993). And that seems right insofar as the focus remains on formal causation/explanation. And yet some Aristotelian details on measurement will, I argue, cause some pretty serious problems for any Thomist buying the Aristotelian story on measurement. And the cause is Aristotle’s analysis of measurement in Metaphysics I. Speaking of measurement and unity, Aristotle claims that measures are “homogenous” or “of the same kind” as the things they measure (1053a25). That is, measurement is always intra-generic: it happens within a genus as the most complete thing of that type measures what is less complete/perfect within it. And the completion or perfection sort of talk seems to fit nicely with Aristotelian talk of actuality and potency. Now, given all of that, things sound better for Thomas: God is perfectly actual without any potency. Thus God is the First Cause, Perfect Being, a se, etc. Aquinas sees God’s perfection in God’s perfect actuality—a unique identity between being (esse) and essence (essentia) that is true only of God. And what is more, Aquinas takes the same Aristotelian claim of measurement discussed above as proof of Divine Perfection (SCG I, 28). It seems, then, perfect consistent and productive even to analyze Aquinas here as conforming to the Aristotelian system of measurement. But Aristotle’s claim is actually quite problematic. And that is because Aquinas, following Aristotle ironically enough, denies that God exists in any genus (ST I.3.5). If God falls under no genus and measurement is intra-generic, then God cannot measure anything. Indeed, one may take this point out of its theological basis. The Aristotelian position on measurement denies that any transcendental can measure. For Aristotle, there is no genus of being (Metaphysics B, 998b22) and, thus, the same goes for any transcendental. They are trans-categorical, lying in all genera, so there is no single genus for them. Such reasoning, combined with the talk of measurement from Metaphysics I, implies that no transcendental can measure—including Aquinas’ use of them in arguing for God’s measurement in the Fourth Way. So, it seems we have dilemma: give up the claim that God falls under no genus or reject the Aristotelian system of measurement. Neither tack is attractive. Arguing that God comes under a genus would do significant violence to the transcendence of God and would close the gap between the Divine and the creature in a worrisome way. If God really is infinite, then falling under a genus would be tantamount (or very nearly tantamount) to a limit on God’s Nature. And a result like that would, on my view, give up something essentially Thomist. But if we give up the Aristotelian system of measurement, it is hard to see how this does not ultimately slide back into the Neoplatonism Beck argues we should excise from our interpretation of Aquinas. The (Neo)Platonist has a natural way to measure the being, unity, truth, etc. of a thing in the abstract



forms of Being, Truth, etc. From there, it is a quick step to identifying Being, Truth, etc. with God for those leaning towards Neo-Platonism like Augustine. So, it seems as though the Thomist has a serious choice to make. Giving up the “God falls under no genus” claim seems to work against the transcendence and infinity of God whereas giving up Aristotelian measurement seems to motivate a slide towards a Neoplatonic bent for the Fourth Way. The fourth section of Beck’s chapter moves from talk of maxima and gradations to the specific point of the Way: God qua Cause of gradations. And there is a shift from the formal causality emphasized in the PM to the new principle about God’s causality. Beck’s Principle of Causality (PC) links the maximum to the cause for the objects of which that thing measures. And the causality in question is now efficient causality. The PC asserts that the maximum becomes the cause of the existence of the object measured and not simply its having the property in question. I just do not see how using cause here as efficient cause can work. If we are following Aristotle, as is surely plausible for Aquinas, then the efficient cause of X is the cause of X’s coming to be. Indeed this meaning just is what many folks following modern usage intend. But Aristotelian causes are really explanations and efficient causes are simply explanations for how something comes to be what it is. Now, in a way, this can sound right for the maximum: the principle of goodness qua goodness itself explains how X comes to be good qua good. But I do not see how this explains the coming to be element of efficient causality. Suppose that the PM conjoins with the “observation base” to yield the claim that there is some maximal Good. Given an Aristotelian approach to causation as explanation, that would seem likely to serve as an explanation for the goodness of any good object. It would, in a word, explain the goodness of a thing. But I do not see how it could explain the coming to be of the goodness of a thing. The maximal Good explains X’s being good—not its becoming good. That sort of movement sounds much more at home in, for example, the First or Second Way. Basically, then, it seems a though the principles in the proof work to show how X is F rather than how X becomes F. The Fourth Way, along with Beck’s analysis, can explain how X is F (via the maxima/measurement points) but I do not see how the principles can explain how X comes be F—aside from merely stipulating in ad hoc fashion that the causality of the PC is efficient causality. Consider the fire and heat analogy. The maximum of heat—fire— explains the heat of whatever is hot. But fire itself does not explain how anything—a cooked steak, for instance—comes to be hot in the first place. At this point, Beck/Aquinas might respond that, while the fire may not cause the steak to become hot, it does cause the skillet to be hot and, thereby, indirectly causes the steak to become hot. This might be Beck’s point in saying that “[w]e need to note here Aristotle’s and Thomas’s broad understanding of this type of causality. An efficient cause refers to all acts, including conditions, without which there would be no occurrence of the effect.” But certainly this is too

A Response to Beck


broad: we may (in a very loose sense) say that the presence of oxygen in a house is a cause of the fire. However, we should find it very strange, at least, to think of oxygen as the cause of the fire. Calling oxygen a cause of the fire is not what we want to capture by saying that God is the Cause of some good, truth, being, etc. Beck can account for this, though, by claiming that the fire example sees oxygen simply as a member of the set of events necessary for the fire. God, on the other hand, is not simply a member of the things necessary for some good/true/noble thing; instead, God is the primary First Cause—not just any member or other of the set. God is the infinite-regress-terminator and that is what makes it more appropriate to think of God as the cause rather than simply a member of the set of all causes conjunctively. If we follow this route, then the Fourth Way begins to look just like a version of the First or Second Way. Trying to imbue the Fourth with the sort of efficient causality needed to make sense of Beck’s reading of the PC shifts the argument away from the formal causality distinctive of it. If the causality in the PC is efficient causality, then the “observational bases” about goodness, truth, being, and there rest would seem to fall under the things are in motion/chance and there is efficient causation “observational bases” from the First and Second Ways, respectively. Thus, seeing the PC as the PEC (“principle of efficient causality”) ultimately means that the Fourth Way is merely a variant or extension of the First or Second Ways. The Fourth Way would, in that case, fail to be a proof on its own. Better, then, that we keep to the exemplar or extrinsic formal casualty Beck highlights in the proof from the beginning. Thus, we should take the Fourth Way as explaining the goodness of a thing rather than its coming to be good. I will end with my only general commentary. Frequently Beck sets a Thomistic adherent to the proof against naturalist/empiricist philosophers (in the 21st Century). No doubt: (a) there are such philosophers who would take all sorts of objection to the general philosophical maneuvers and positions Aquinas takes for granted and (b) Beck would certainly grant that there are more than two options here between Thomistic theism and empiricist naturalism. But even though I recognize (a) and (b), I find the rhetoric here often quite unfair. There are more ways to reject many of the Thomistic theses than 21st-century empiricism and/or naturalism. The variety of theological, philosophical, etc., approaches and positions relevant to God, the transcendental gradations discussed, the nature of causation, and the rest are staggering. And I have no doubt that Beck will agree with this point, but the rhetoric of “empiricist/naturalist philosophers will not grant this point” seems to unduly beg the question against the adequacy of those potential views and also delegitimize any other potential objections or criticisms that fall outside of those two narrow domains. My worry is that the terms here unfairly gerrymander the landscape of the positions relevant to assessing the argument. There is much left to be said here regarding Beck’s impressive reconstruction and defense of Aquinas’ Fourth Way. I have emphasized a few



points that could pick out some interesting discussion on the argument in the spirit of disputation that this collection tries to capture. I thank David Beck for his admirable and truly extraordinary efforts on behalf of Aquinas’ demonstratio. I only hope my comments here help to move that conversation forward in some small way.

The Fifth Proof Seventeen AQUINAS’ FIFTH WAY AND THE POSSIBILITY OF SCIENCE Michael Hayes 1. Introduction St. Thomas Aquinas argues in his “Fifth Way” that the natural order of the cosmos serves as evidence for God’s existence. Today, we recognize that our understanding of the order of the cosmos has changed drastically since the 13th century, when Aquinas was writing. For this reason, it has become common to dismiss Aquinas’ argument as either a “god of the gaps” argument, or just another “argument from design” grounded in outdated science. Neither of these are accurate characterizations of the “Fifth Way,” when properly understood. In fact, the very possibility of scientific knowledge that is often used in attempts to discredit Aquinas’ argument and others like it is precisely what grounds Aquinas’ “Fifth Way” in the first place. Contrary to popular belief, the success of the scientific method over the past few centuries is evidence for, not against, God’s existence. It is argued within this chapter that the order within the universe, which itself is what makes scientific knowledge possible, is either caused or uncaused; if uncaused, then the universe is unintelligible and therefore knowledge is not possible, and if caused, the cause must be God. There is unquestionably order in the universe. Flames rise, bodies fall, mass and energy are conserved—the world in which we live is governed by natural laws, causal regularities, and intelligible order. We can provide a scientific account of many of the phenomena that we encounter. Those explanations that elude us, we as philosophers and natural scientists hold, are at least knowable in principle, even if they lay practically outside of our collective grasp. This fact—that the universe is ordered and intelligible, that it can be known through philosophical reasoning and scientific investigation—is the keystone to St. Thomas Aquinas’ Fifth Way for demonstrating the existence of God. This is not, of course, to take up the position that cause of every event is supernatural; that it is God, and not gravity, which is responsible for falling objects. The fact that objects fall to earth with such regularity is easily explainable using Newtonian physics. Few people wish to claim that it is the



active will of God that makes objects fall, as opposed to whatever natural forces exist within this world. But it is just such forces, such physical laws, such causal order, from which St. Thomas Aquinas derives his “Proof from the Governance of the World.” This Fifth Way is perhaps the most succinct and defensible “Argument from Design” that has been presented within the history of Western philosophy. Later philosophers have attempted to provide more detailed arguments from design, William Paley’s watchmaker analogy being among the most well-known. Despite these attempts at clarification by lesser philosophers (or perhaps because of them), misinterpretations and strawman-bashing abound within both philosophical dialogue and popular discourse. This chapter is an attempt to provide a strong, fair and honest interpretation of St. Thomas’ Fifth Way, so that we can better see the argument from design as it really is—solid evidence for the existence of God. If we cared to boil St. Thomas’ argument down even further than its already wonderfully succinct form, we might say simply this: order exists in the universe. The universe (and/or its constitutive parts) itself cannot be an ordering principle, as it is unintelligent. Therefore, there must be some other cause of the order of the universe. This is what we call God. It is important to note that this is a metaphysical issue, not a scientific one. The order of the universe cannot be explained by electromagnetic fields, bosons, string theory, or some yet undiscovered more basic, fundamental feature of reality; rather, it is ultimately the order of such fundamental features of reality that requires an explanation. A brief point of clarification: throughout this chapter, I will use the words science and scientific in the general modern sense, referring to our understanding of science as a method of inquiry grounded on empirical observation. In St. Thomas’ day, the word science would not have referred to a method of inquiry grounded on contingent facts. 2. Thomas’ Argument Explained St. Thomas’ argument is commonly translated as the “Proof from the Governance of Things.” It seems evident that the universe is governed in such a way that it—or at least that which constitutes the universe—works towards certain ends. The sort of language that St. Thomas uses within this argument is largely foreign to modern thinkers—he talks of natural bodies (i.e., inanimate objects, lifeless beings, and plants) acting for the sake of ends. It is clear to nearly everyone that humans and other sentient beings certainly do act for the sake of some end—we act in order to realize some good that we desire. However, we rarely speak of natural bodies acting in order to obtain some good. Natural bodies are not conscious; how can it be that they strive to attain certain ends? Here many attempt to write off St. Thomas’ proof as naive and perhaps confused due to medieval scientific theories. One must resist this temptation— St. Thomas’ argument, when properly understood, is not refutable by “science,” so long as scientific knowledge is possible.

Aquinas’ Fifth Way and the Possibility of Science


Before we examine the relationship between the Fifth Way and scientific inquiry, we must first examine more closely this teleological language that St. Thomas uses. St. Thomas states, perhaps too matter-of-factly for modern readers, that natural bodies strive for certain ends, “in order to achieve what is best.” There is a temptation, among both proponents of design arguments and their critics, to interpret this with an anthropocentric bent. That is, one may take up the position that the natural bodies of the universe, and perhaps the universe itself, work out in a certain way to achieve what is best for humans. If humans are the highest material creatures for whom the physical universe was created, we would expect that an intelligent designer would create a world in which its components cater to human life. Natural bodies are attracted to one another by gravity; such bodies tend towards forming planets and stars (which, so far as we know, is necessary for life). Primordial sludge somehow (we can only speculate) acted towards the end (i.e., goal) of life; ultimately, human life. The world in which we live has all the resources necessary for life, even for human flourishing (though it is true that we as humans have historically failed to distribute these resources to achieve such an end). This anthropocentric thesis strikes many people as intuitive, and it would be a safe assumption that many theists would endorse such a view. However, while the anthropocentric thesis may certainly be true, it is hardly scientific. It seems to me that it cannot be known or inferred unless one already believes in a provident creator. Otherwise, one’s anthropocentric view of the world may be criticized by the story about the puddle in the pothole in the road. “Look at how perfectly I fit in this pothole,” the puddle says to itself with wonder and awe, “I fit in this pothole so perfectly, this pothole must have been created specifically for me!” The joke, of course, is that the pothole is not the way it is for the sake of the puddle, but the puddle is the way it is simply because of the shape of the already existing pothole. We see that, without recourse to revealed religion, this position reduces to that of the naive meatlover who says, “If humans weren’t meant to eat animals, why are they made out of food?” But this view, regardless of its truth or falsity, is irrelevant to the Fifth Way. St. Thomas is not arguing that natural bodies always act in a way that is best for humans. Rather, he is arguing from a more scientifically tenable perspective—one that does not place any special status on humans or any revealed purpose of creation. In fact, his argument depends on the accuracy and dependability of science itself; as we shall see, it would be difficult for one to deny St. Thomas’ conclusion without also denying that scientific inquiry is a reliable method for obtaining knowledge. The first premise of the argument is that there is final causality immanent within natural bodies. This is not a premise that St. Thomas felt the need to argue for; it was widely accepted that final causality was a necessary feature of the universe. As many philosophers over the course of the past few centuries have misunderstood the nature of final causality and for this reason



have attempted to discredit it, it behooves me to present an argument for the existence of finality within nature. The argument for finality is quite simple. It can be put into the following syllogism: 1. 2. 3.

If final causality does not exist, then the universe is unintelligible. The universe is intelligible. Therefore, final causality exists.

The argument is valid. Since no one who cares about discovering truth, gaining knowledge, or acquiring an understanding of the universe would deny the second premise (and furthermore, since those that would deny the second premise would have no cause to read this book), it is the first premise that I will defend here. The argument for the first premise rests primarily on the claim that, in order to understand what something is and why it exists, we must understand its causes. In other words, the intelligibility of something entails that it has a causal explanation. Most contemporary philosophers will concede this point, though they will claim that the causal explanation need only be given in terms of efficient causality; that final causality is not essential for an adequate explanation. After all, if the efficient cause can explain how something was brought about, requiring a final cause as well seems to “multiply entities (e.g., causes) beyond necessity,” as the phrase goes. But this is a misunderstanding of the nature of finality. Final causality is simply the other side of the efficient causality equation. Insofar as efficient causality exists, and causes are always directed towards their effects, finality is evident within nature. Take, for example, the cause/effect relation between a flame and heat. The flame is the efficient cause of the heat; this we understand without question. This is not to say that all causes ordered to certain effects actually obtain their ends; rather, all causes are directed towards certain effects so long as they are not impeded. For example: an animal may have the final cause of reproducing, but some other causal chain may have rendered the animal sterile and unable to reach this end. But, one might ask, what is it that causes the flame to produce heat, rather than cold, or the annihilation of the universe? One could, of course, provide a micro-level physical description of the flame, but this only pushes the question back a step. The answer is that natural bodies, insofar as they can be causal agents, are inherently directed towards their natural ends. The only way that one could establish a causal relationship between the flame and the heat is if the flame was inherently directed towards the heat. Even David Hume seemed to conclude this much. As St. Thomas himself says at ST I.2.3, “every agent [i.e., efficient cause] acts for an end: otherwise one thing would not follow more than another from the action of the agent, unless it were by chance.” Obviously, Hume took this in a very different direction than did St. Thomas. Hume used this fact to argue that the principle of causality is not provable through empirical methods—but this is to get things backwards. The principle of causality is a

Aquinas’ Fifth Way and the Possibility of Science


metaphysical principle (not an empirical discovery), the truth of which is necessary for the acquisition of empirical knowledge. How could we say that a particular fire is the cause of the heat in the room, if fire is not directed towards the production of heat? If you say that it is due to the laws of nature, physics, or thermodynamics that the fire heats the room, then you have affirmed the presence of finality, as it is such laws that provide a description of how a certain cause (fire) is directed towards a certain end (heat). One could also claim that it is merely a brute fact about fire that it causes heat—but this is the same as saying that fire is inherently directed towards the production of heat, and finality is once again reaffirmed. Edward Feser (2009), who has recently defended St. Thomas’ Fifth Way in the face of many contemporary misunderstandings, explains this in the following passage: For Aquinas, the fact that A regularly brings about B, as B’s efficient cause, entails that bringing about B is in turn the final causee of A. For if we did not suppose that A inherently “points to” or is “directed towards” the generation of B as its natural end, then we would have no way to account for the fact that A typically does generate B specifically, rather than C, or D, or E, or indeed rather than no effect at all. (213) Final causality is then not some sort of strange, mysterious intentionality possessed by inanimate objects; its existence is evident from the fact that there are causal regularities within nature, a fact that no human with a shred of common sense could deny. No one will deny the fact that there are causal regularities within the world—that is, the world has a certain order to it; heat is brought about by flame, objects are attracted to each other through gravitation, bread nourishes human bodies, and so forth. Depending on whether you approach this from a metaphysical or epistemological standpoint, the intelligibility of the universe is either entailed by the principle of causality, or final causality is entailed by the intelligibility of the universe. A. The Shortcut Argument Once finality within nature is established, there are two ways to proceed. The first of these I will call the Shortcut Argument, as it eliminates some of the more tedious metaphysical demonstration that would be required for a full explanation of St. Thomas’ argument. In the Shortcut Argument, I will argue from the premise that the universe, as a whole, is intelligible, by which I mean that the principle of causality permeates the whole of creation. Everything within the universe that moves from potency to act must have sufficient cause for that movement—and as shown above, sufficient cause includes final cause. If anything can move from potency to act without sufficient cause, then that movement—as well as the universe as a whole—is rendered unintelligible. To



put it bluntly, all hope of philosophical or scientific knowledge rests on the premise that the universe is intelligible; given this, I suspect few would deny that the world is intelligible. Furthermore, it is not simply that our understanding of the universe as a whole is in jeopardy if we deny the principle of causality—rather, our understanding of anything at all is in jeopardy if the principle of causality is denied. This is because we would then have no way to discern (because it would then become an empirical matter) whether or not a particular substance or event had a cause. Therefore, it is clear that we must admit that the universe is intelligible; after all, the word “cosmos” denotes an ordered universe. If one accepts that there is order in the universe that is discernible to the human intellect (i.e., intelligible), then the Shortcut Argument may suffice as an explanation of St. Thomas’ Fifth Way. Take the three following propositions: 1. 2. 3.

The order of the universe is a brute fact (i.e., has no cause/explanation). The order of the universe is cosmological accident. The order of the universe is the product of some ordering intelligence.

The Shortcut Argument maintains that, if one is committed to the thesis that the universe is intelligible—that we can gain scientific knowledge of the natural world, that humans can gain an understanding of the world around them, that philosophy and science track important truths—then the first of these two propositions must be denied. The first possibility must be denied because, if the order of the universe is itself uncaused and therefore has no explanation, the universe is unintelligible. The reason is simple: if there is something in the natural world (e.g., its causal regularities) that violates the principle of causality, and the principle of causality is the essential feature of an intelligible universe, then the universe is indeed unintelligible. Furthermore, since what it is that violates the principle of causality is the very basis for our initial credence in the principle of causality, we have no reason to endorse the principle of causality in the first place and therefore all possibility of understanding is foiled. Surely the first proposition must be denied. The second proposition is no better. Order that is accidental is not order at all, but is in fact random, though perceived as ordered by us. It may be “as if” the universe were ordered, but this perceived order is an illusion, since all that appears ordered to us is the product of disorder. A universe without order—however orderly it may appear—is also unintelligible. This is because there is no explanation for why the universe is “ordered” the way it is—and if there is an explanation (say, more fundamental laws of physics, causal chains that just “worked out this way,” etc.), then it is precisely this order that requires an explanation for the intelligibility of the universe, and we are back to square

Aquinas’ Fifth Way and the Possibility of Science


one. Provided that one means to endorse the premise that the universe is intelligible, the third proposition is the only option. Of course, one might object and argue that the order of the universe may have been brought about by something else—perhaps the laws of nature from a prior universe, or something else I failed to enumerate in the above propositions. But this merely pushes the question back a step; for that which brought about the order of the universe either is subject to causal order or is not, and we return to the above trilemma. It can therefore be concluded that the order of the universe is the product of some ordering intelligence. I will not pursue the question of “how do we know there is only one ordering intelligence here, instead of many, or how do we know their character?” because I believe that, given our conclusion, St. Thomas’ other arguments can get us to a single intelligence. B. The Expanded Argument In the Shortcut Argument, I took as an initial premise that the universe is intelligible. Few people would deny this premise. However, there is another way to reach the same conclusion. In order to avoid objections might claim the above argument relies on a Part/Whole Fallacy, I will present what I will call the Expanded Argument. Much like St. Thomas’ Second Way, which does not require the universe as a whole to have a temporal beginning in order to reach the first cause, the Fifth Way does not require that the universe as a whole be intelligible to reach a divine intellect. I should add, however, that the Shortcut Argument in no way depends on the Expanded Argument. Readers may find the Shortcut Argument more intuitive than the Expanded Argument, as the latter requires a deeper grasp of Aristotelian-Thomstic metaphysics than many contemporary philosophers possess. If the Shortcut Argument is sufficiently convincing, one need not pursue the following argument. I will add that the Shortcut Argument does not commit a Part/Whole fallacy. I would only be guilty of the Part/Whole fallacy if I had used the premises of the Expanded argument (i.e., that certain individual objects have certain ends) and concluded from this that the universe as a whole has certain ends. Another fault would be if I had begun with the premise that the actualization of certain individual potencies were intelligible and concluded that the universe as a whole is intelligible. I do neither. Let us take a single example of final causality; one of the most common examples used when teaching Aristotle’s causal theory is the example of the acorn and the oak tree (see Feser 2013). It has been established above that finality is immanent within natural bodies. If the acorn did not have the oak tree as its final cause, there would not be sufficient cause for its becoming an oak tree. This raises the question—if the acorn becomes an oak because the acorn’s final cause is the oak, how is the oak, as a final cause, causally efficacious? After all, before the acorn actually becomes an oak, the oak does not yet exist. This truly would be a puzzle, if we ourselves did not experience



the causal efficacy of final causes on a daily basis. This question, unfortunately, creates many skeptics of final causality. As we have shown, however, final causality is necessary for the intelligibility of the universe, as well as any particular causal event. To use an example from Edward Feser (2013): A builder builds a house, and he is able to do so because the effect, the house, “exists” as an idea in his intellect before it exists in reality. Or rather, the form of the house exists in the builder’s intellect, and that very same form comes to exist in the matter that makes up the house…. In that way the house can serve as the final cause of the actions of the builder even as those actions are the efficient cause of the house…. The form already exists in his intellect, and for that reason can be efficacious. (734) It may seem like a jump to many readers to apply this same example to the acorn and the oak, but for final causality to be efficacious, the final cause must somehow exist—after all, ex nihilo nihil fit. From nothing comes nothing. Since it does not exist yet in reality, the oak must exist formally. Unless one is a Platonist, the form of the oak must exist in an intellect—this is the only way that substantial forms can exist when not instantiated in matter. Therefore, the ordering principle guiding natural bodies to their respective ends is some intelligence. I will not, however, pursue the further task of establishing the fact that it is a single intelligence, or an intelligence with divine properties, or an intelligence that is pure act—though such conclusions can be reached with other Thomstic arguments. The conclusion that natural bodies are directed towards their final causes by a non-human intellect is sufficient for my purposes; for most readers, I presume that the God of which St. Thomas writes—the God of Aristotle and/or the Monotheistic religions—is the most obvious “live option,” to use William James’ phrase. 3. Anticipating Objections: Gods and Gaps There is frequently an objection made whenever one argues that God is the cause or explanation of some aspect of reality—in this chapter I have argued that God is the cause of the order in the universe. Before addressing the objection itself, first a little background—typically, using God as a scientific explanation is a philosophical sin. We must not adopt a theory that resorts to the existence of a “god of the gaps.” In its crudest form, a god of the gaps is a god of mythology, whose convenient existence explains various phenomena that current science cannot. We do not know what causes lightning and thunder; it must be wrath of Zeus or Thor. We do not have an explanation of the seasons; it must be the presence of Persephone in Hades. As humans, we are finite knowers—it is simply impossible to know everything. Thus, there will likely

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forever be gaps in our knowledge; it is almost certain that there are phenomena that we simply cannot give a complete scientific account of. When we ask, “Why does A happen?” or “What caused B?” we may not be able to discover the answer—but this does not warrant plugging God in for the solution and saying, “because God made it so.” The fact that we do not know something is no evidence for God’s existence. We cannot merely use God to fill gaps in our scientific understanding. Apart from being a deadly non-sequitur, an invocation of the God of the gaps is problematic in another way. Namely, as time progresses, the gaps get smaller. Science fills in the gaps we have in our understanding. Gravity, not Poseidon, causes the tides. Electrical fields cause lightning, not Thor. If we put our God in a gap, he is in danger of getting squeezed out—or at very least, his importance will diminish at the same rate as the amount of our scientific ignorance. The point is, we cannot treat God as a scientific explanation in competition with other hypotheses. To do so is to miss the point of St. Thomas’ argument from design. St. Thomas’ Fifth Way is not a god of the gaps argument—at least, not in the philosophically dangerous way that I have been describing. It seems to me, however, that there are some gaps that cannot be filled scientifically in principle. Rather, there are some gaps so large that only God could fill them. But to prevent me from being misinterpreted: at a certain point, we need a metaphysical explanation, not a scientific one. When we are inquiring into the possibility of scientific explanation itself, as we are when we are discovering the cause of order within the natural world, a scientific explanation cannot suffice in principle. We can answer the question, “Why do objects fall?” in terms of the theory of gravitation, but we cannot answer the question, “Why does gravity exist?” Any attempt to provide an answer through the scientific method can only result in a more detailed account of the gravity itself; it can never reach the principles on which the possibility of science rests. Perhaps gravity can be reduced to interactions between certain fields and subatomic particles, or perhaps there is some other scientific explanation—but this does not answer our “why” question, it merely answers the “how,” or perhaps the “what.” When we observe that what goes up often comes back down, we are in fact looking at a phenomenon that could not fully be explained by all the physical facts in the universe. There remains a teleological gap in our understanding that science simply cannot address. In this case we must seek a metaphysical explanation, for a scientific (empirical) explanation is not applicable. 4. The Possibility of Science So rather than using God as a scientific explanation in a god of the gaps argument, we should, if we are to understand St. Thomas’ argument properly, take science very seriously. While the modern scientific method was not yet



developed at St. Thomas’ time, he had the utmost faith in the human ability to discover truth about the universe in which we live through rational inquiry. But this is the primary objection to arguments from design—that they do not take science seriously enough. It may be true that some such arguments are guilty of intellectual dishonesty or premodern scientific naiveté, but it seems impossible to read St. Thomas this way. Rather, it seems quite clear, if one is familiar with St. Thomas’ work and style, that he expects that the best science we have will affirm his philosophical positions. I believe this to be the case. Nevertheless, can we truly say that our best science can be used as evidence for an ultimate designer of the universe? In his extremely popular 1986 book The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins argues that it cannot. The book is largely a response to an argument from design made by William Paley, often referred to as the Watchmaker Analogy. Whereas St. Thomas’ argument from design is incredibly succinct, Paley’s argument from design is full of colorful analogies and rhetoric to articulate his point as compellingly as possible. Like St. Thomas, Paley argues that the great amount of order found within the universe is evidence for the existence of God. The biological world (which is Paley’s primary concern) works beautifully, just like a complex machine, such as a watch. It would be foolish, Paley argues, to assume something as complex as a watch would come about without a watchmaker. Should we not therefore reach the same conclusion about the universe and a universe-maker? Dawkins acknowledges that this is a tempting position to take in a preDarwinian worldview, but it cannot be held by an intellectually honest individual, given our modern scientific understanding of the biological world. His objection is simply this—the Darwinian account of evolution (and subsequent modifications of his theory) adequately explains the order of the biological world. Consequently, there is no more gap for believers to wedge their God into, nor is there a reason to invoke God when accounting for such biological diversity, á la Occam’s Razor. Occam’s Razor is a philosophical principle often attributed to William of Occam, a 14th-century philosopher, even though applications of this principle can be found in the works of earlier philosophers (including St. Thomas). The main idea is that a theory ought not to endorse superfluous explanations. If natural selection does indeed explain all the phenomena within the biological world, then “natural selection plus God” is an inferior theory, as the inclusion of God is superfluous. (One should be careful about misapplying the principle, however. Most theists believe that natural selection is sufficient explanation of biological diversity from a scientific perspective, and therefore do not violate Occam’s Razor.) For some reason, this objection is often applied to St. Thomas’ Fifth Way, even though Dawkins (wisely) does not do so in his book. While it may indeed be a fitting critique of Paley’s argument, St. Thomas is certainly not guilty of violating Occam’s principle. One reason for this is obvious—unlike Paley, St. Thomas is not talking about biological diversity, but about natural

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bodies. St. Thomas claims that there is natural order in nonliving things—such order cannot be accounted for through evolution. Tides go in and out, flames rise, and bodies fall. It should be plainly obvious that things behave in certain ways; what’s more, they behave in predictable ways (if our science is up to snuff). This, as a matter of fact, is precisely the ground for science in the first place—if natural bodies did not behave in intelligible patterns, we should not expect to discover anything meaningful about reality through empirical observation. In fact, St. Thomas raises this objection as a possible objection to his own view. St. Thomas’ response is that one cannot coherently argue that the cause of the order in nature is nature itself, for this would not give an explanation at all (see ST I.2.3, ad 2). This is one reason that objections such as Dawkins’ cannot be raised against St. Thomas’ Fifth Way. The possibility of science—such as the study of evolution—necessarily presupposes the intelligible order of the universe. To deny such an order is to deny the possibility of scientific knowledge. So we cannot say that arguments from design are a result of naive ignorance of certain scientific truths. The success of science is perhaps one of the most impressive facts that support St. Thomas’ argument. Einstein summarized this principle by stating simply that “the most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible” (Vallentin 1954, 24). The ultimate curiosity of the universe is that our curiosity can be satisfied. While there certainly may forever be gaps in our understanding of the universe, there are no gaps within the universe itself. As the curious beings that we are, we must ask ourselves why this is. What we have is order in the universe. What is its cause? To deny that there is one is to throw out the possibility of scientific understanding, as understanding depends on the principle of causality being true. Can things come to be without a cause? If so, then a full, scientific understanding of the universe or anything in it seems impossible. Of the vast many worlds we could imagine, we are in one where the behavior of objects is regular and understandable. What is the reason for this? We cannot look to science for the answer, since we are questioning the cause of the possibility of science in the first place. The implicit assumption for both the Thomistic and scientific worldview is that effects have causes, many of which are discernible by humans. That is, order exists in the universe. The cause of this cannot be anything within the ordered universe itself; this cause of the universe’s order is something “we call God.” 5. Final Remarks To conclude: First, St. Thomas’ claim that the universe is ordered need not be interpreted with an anthropocentric bent. However, we should perhaps look past the fact that the universe is intelligible to the even more interesting fact that the universe is intelligible to humans (certainly something to chew on). Additionally, we must also keep in mind that St. Thomas’ argument is not a



mere god of the gaps argument. Rather, God seems to be the only explanation for the lack of gaps in the universe (though it is our finite intelligence that explains the gaps in our knowledge). And finally, we must remember that St. Thomas intends his argument (as he does with all his arguments) to be fully compatible with the best science available, whatever that might be. His argument turns on the governance of nature—the fact that there are certain laws of nature, certain philosophical and scientific truths made possible by the order of the universe. Insofar as we can arrive at a true causal explanation of anything, it follows from St. Thomas’ argument that God exists. In a final note, I must say this: I am not so naive to think that all good arguments are convincing, nor are all convincing arguments good ones. Relatively few souls have been won and lost through reason and argument, for what that’s worth. In any case, the issue of teleology and design is quite curious. The only possible cause of the order in the universe—the possibility of science—is something outside the universe itself. But, as St. Thomas often reminds us, chasing this trail of causes inevitably leads to a first cause of some kind—in this case, the order in the universe cannot be explained by some scientific fact or principle, since this is what we need explained in the first place. Perhaps this is why teleology is not taken seriously anymore—because we all know how it ends. For some, the only way to avoid the conclusion that God exists is to deny the order of the universe. But if one were to do so, and thereby reject the possibility of arriving at any scientific or philosophical truth—what, I may ask, is the point of reading this chapter?

Eighteen SCIENCE AND NATURE WITHOUT GOD Kevin S. Decker 1. Introduction The Fifth Way of St. Thomas Aquinas is an example of an argument toward the existence (and to a certain extent, the nature) of God from apparent design in nature. As an a posteriori argument, it begins with certain types of observations of the world, observations that can be distinguished by saying that “artifacts are objects made by intelligent agents; organisms—most of them, at least—owe their construction to no agent” (Lewens 2004). Natural theology’s approach to this distinction and design arguments, if successful, have the surprising result that the universe and everything in it are artifacts—and thus the artifact/organism distinction collapses. Naturalistic strategies, relying as they usually do upon the theory of natural selection by adaptation, have the equally interesting result that everything we know about artifacts and their intelligent designers can be explained in terms of complex functions of organisms. The Fifth Way argument hinges on an empirical generalization about things that “lack knowledge” (plants and animals) that nonetheless often act “so as to obtain the best result.” This generalization was first set down, so far as we know, by the fifth century BCE thinker Empedocles of Acragas, who claimed, in the observation of Aristotle, that: Wherever, then, everything turned out as it would have if it were happening for a purpose, there the creatures survived, being accidentally compounded in a suitable way; but where this did not happen, the creatures perished and are perishing still. (Kirk 1983) Tracing the history of such design arguments, Barrow and Tipler (1986) consider that the inclusion of the element of divine creation as the cause of teleological functioning should lead us to think that there must be a difference between older teleological and more recent “eutaxiological” arguments in explanations of nature. They write that teleological arguments (in Aristotle, Stoicism) “argue that because of the laws of causality order must have a consequent purpose,” while eutaxiological claims “argue that order must have a cause, which is planned. Whereas teleological arguments were based upon the notion that things were constructed for either our immediate benefit or some ultimate end, the eutaxiological arguments point just to their co-present, harmonious composition” (Barrow 1986, 29). Perhaps the most famous design



or eutaxiological argument is that of William Paley in Natural Theology (1802). “Many find this evidential approach more persuasive than the ontological or cosmological arguments,” to quote one summary, “[since] it appeals to concrete instances of order common to our experience, so that few are inclined to dispute the premises” (Garcia 1997, 339). Both Aquinas’ Fifth Way and contemporary intelligent design arguments rest on the two premises that distinguish this type of argument from teleological appeals, namely: P1: Nature exhibits many striking examples of harmony, order, and/or complexity; P2: The precise purpose or function of this harmony, order, and/or complexity may not be immediately intelligible to us. Design arguments share with teleological arguments the conclusion that the most likely explanation for the existence of apparent purpose, harmony, order and/or complexity is the existence of a creative or designing intelligence. Current versions of the design argument reinforce the flexibility of applying P2, as Garcia points out, by avoiding the analogical reasoning favored by Paley and criticized by Hume in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779). Currently, eutaxiological arguments appeal “not only to the remarkable interrelationships between aspects of the environment and the functioning of living organisms, but to the wonderful simplicity and universality of the laws of Nature that governed the motions of the Earth and the planetary bodies” (Barrow 1995, 18). According to F. R. Tennant in his two-volume Philosophical Theology (1930), there are six distinct ways in which the apparent design of nature manifests itself. I will not argue for or against any of these, but instead arrange them into two useful groups: teleological and eutaxiological adaptations: Eutaxiological (adaptations display seemingly harmonious composition): 1. The intelligibility of the world to the human mind. 2. The adaptation of living organisms to their environment. 3. The beauty of nature. Teleological (adaptations seem to have a consequent purpose): 4. The ways in which the organic world is conducive to the emergence and maintenance of human and animal life. 5. The ways in which the world is conducive to the moral development of human beings. 6. The overall progressiveness of the evolutionary process. (Martin 1990) Tennant claims that adaptation types 1 through 5 can be treated naturalistically, but 6 is quite different, for “when [the first five] are taken as a whole they indicate a cosmic purpose that has used nature for the making and development

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of human beings” (67, also see Martin 1990). In both biological and physical terms, the force of contemporary design arguments is found in the “…claim that the theistic hypothesis of an intelligent creator is a better explanation of these data than is the naturalistic hypothesis that the features of the universe are due to the chance operation of blind natural forces” (Martin 1990, 67; also Garcia 1997, 338). In this chapter, I present the most compelling naturalistic hypothesis for biological evolution of “things that lack knowledge” by natural selection (naturalistic hypotheses for the existence and development of the physical universe I take to more appropriately belong in responses to Aquinas’’ First, Second and Third Ways). This presentation shows that is at best a partial characterization to say that these hypotheses are characterized by “the chance operation of blind natural forces.” In this respect, it is a valid criticism to say that a design argument that tests only two inferences as to which is the best explanation (theism or naturalism) rests on a false dilemma. The god I have in mind is the God of Judaism, Islam and Christianity (following Plantinga 1993), whose traits include omniscience, omnipotence, moral perfection, and freedom (Martin 1990). This familiar yet unsubstantiated either/or opposition between naturalism and theism is a natural concomitant of a priori reasoning that presupposes the concept of an infinite and perfect God (but of course, this is to be proved). I then show why two versions of the theist’s God—that of biblical revelation and this abstract, so-called “philosopher’s god”—cannot be treated as satisfactory explanations for order, complexity, or harmony. I conclude with an application of these arguments to Aquinas’’ Fifth Way. Robert Pennock (1999) frequently references deistic and non-theistic, supernatural creative forces as possibilities, While David Hume (2007) famously invokes the possibilities of multiple gods and “bungling” divinities. 2. Retrodictive Explanatory Power Two of Tennant’s adaptation types that concern us in working out the most compelling naturalistic hypothesis for apparent purposiveness in the functions of biological organisms are “the adaptation of living organisms to their environment” and “the ways in which the organic world is conducive to the emergence and maintenance of human and animal life.” The extent to which we see organisms as distinct from, versus as continuous with their environment will determine the degree to which we are willing to entertain naturalistic hypotheses. For example, adopting a functionalist-relationalist stance toward nature that eschews both materialistic and teleological approaches, John Dewey (1998) claims that The difference between the animate plant and the inanimate iron molecule is not that the former has something in addition to physicochemical energy; it lies in the way in which physico-chemical energies


KEVIN S. DECKER are interconnected and operate, whence different consequences mark inanimate and animate activity respectively. For with animate bodies, recovery or restoration of the equilibrium pattern applies to the complex integrated course or history. In inanimate bodies, “saturation” occurs indifferently, not in such a way as to tend to maintain a temporal pattern of activity. (198)

Furthermore, what makes it possible to coherently discuss the development of organisms and their transactions with their environment—and what necessitates that this study must be resolutely empirical and not speculative—is the fact that both physical laws and biological functions may only be known as statistical regularities. To an underappreciated extent, the success of any design argument with reference to biological organisms rests on the closeness of analogical fit between “the processes that go into the construction of organisms and artifacts.” Yet Lewens (2004) points out that “natural selection is essentially a populationlevel, statistical phenomenon” while “intentions, on the other hand, can have influence on individual entities.” Further, human intentions contain potentiality in the sense of their directedness toward an object together with an attitude taken toward that object. “When the idea that development is due to some indwelling end which tends to control the series of changes passed through is abandoned,” Dewey writes, “potentialities must be thought of in terms of consequences of interactions with other things. Hence potentialities cannot be known till after the interactions have occurred” (81). The theory of evolution by natural selection’s remarkable retrodictive explanatory power, contrasted with its relatively weak predictive power, is partially explained by its reliance on these two stochastic considerations. However, Mayr (1988, 31-3) discusses four areas in which prediction in biological explanation using principles of adaptation through natural selection is often used. I stated in the introduction that characterizing the biological evolution of species as “the chance operation of blind natural forces” is infelicitous. In fact, most explanations in Darwinian theory are couched in terms of the familiar and broadly uncontroversial Aristotelian view that chance is represented in the production of an intended effect or consequence by multiple, independent causal chains. Chance is certainly important in Darwin’s take on evolution, and the primary factor in distinguishing it from both rival biological theories and teleological and eutaxiological worldviews. Zinser (2009) summarizes Darwin’s contribution in this way: Darwin described a natural process, relying on chance mutations and natural selection, which could account for the adaptive complexity of the biological world. In this process, individuals of a species exhibit chance variations, some of which are beneficial and others deleterious. Bearers of successful traits are more fit than their competitors, thus they reproduce and pass on their genes to offspring at a higher rate.

Science and Nature without God


Over time, the successful traits spread to all members of the species. (212) It is correct to say that the “chanciest” part of contemporary biology is “random drift,” whether in the form of the random genetic sampling that limits variations according to the finite numbers of a given generation of a population, or in the case of “nonselective biasing” like environmental catastrophes. However, evolutionary mechanisms like natural selection and environmental selection do not operate by chance but rather by probabilistic processes; survival and reproductive success are anything but randomly determined outcomes of environmental pressures. So we have no reason for a general skepticism regarding the outcomes of their use any more than we have for the application of stochastic processes in social scientific and economic analysis. The appearance of chance in the generation of biological functions—which continues to lead many toward a preference for intelligent design, however mistakenly—is also explained by a general lack of understanding of cumulative change and the vast timescales upon which evolution operates (see Dawkins 1986, ch. 3). None of this argues that it is impossible that there exists a personal God or gods who has had a hand in the processes described so far. Although the polytheistic creation stories of non-Abrahamic religions are seldom considered as live options in debates about design, they are successful at avoiding questions about why, for example, an omnipotent designer would have created the natural conditions for deleterious variations, the preponderance of which militates against the easy acceptance that natural bodies act “nearly always…so as to obtain the best result.” Unflinchingly anthropomorphic in their acceptance of the products of design as limited by exigencies of time and materials, polytheistic religions can exploit the role of divine designer without incurring various logical contradictions. In fact, Michael Martin, in his exhaustive consideration of arguments for the existence and nature of God (Martin, 1990), claims that even if design arguments were successful, they never point to the traditional theistic God as the necessarily entailed author of the cosmos. 3. Empirical Argumentation However, St. Thomas at ST I.2.3 states that the fact of teleological “design” proves the existence of God. In the context of the current discussion, it is unlikely that this designer is the creator named in the first book of Genesis. This is unlikely for exegetical reasons (there is significant dissonance between the evidence of natural history and the creation stories presented in Genesis 1 and 2) as well as for historical ones (parallels between the earlier Babylonian Enuma Elish creation story—likely known to Moses, the writer of Genesis). If we are to follow on the path of empirical, rather than a priori argumentation for this



conclusion, and if reasonable people disagree for many good reasons as to whether nature can be seen as an uncontroversial revelation of God’s power, then what is left? Perhaps it is best to consider whether or not humans are well qualified to judge the difference between artifacts and organisms in complex cases (particularly those in which we are tempted to lean on an “artifact model” of understanding organisms too heavily), and additionally whether or not the “philosopher’s God” can be the explanation for nature as an artifact. Tim Lewens (2004) suggests that Kant was right to note that we humans are not particularly good at judging whether something is an artifact or an organism in complex cases. The Kantian approach from the Critique of Judgment that Lewens calls “weak reverse-engineering” is a heuristic method that “organizes and directs our inquiry to teasing out the details of how some system is orchestrated, but whose truth is not essential to the inquiry itself” (42). The question that weak reverse-engineers rely on is “Why would this part be here?” and typically, the answer would be in terms of the contribution that the part makes to fitness. From an evolutionary standpoint, it seems strange and counterproductive to ask the further question, “Since this part serves the organism’s fitness in X way, why should the organism be more or less fit?” The designer’s answer, “God willed it to be so,” adds nothing to our knowledge. However, there is a use of the weak reverse-engineering heuristic that is immediately telling in considering Aquinas’ claim that natural bodies almost always “act for the best result.” Lewens (2004) continues, “Suppose we are trying to understand a clearly maladaptive phenomenon, such as the spread of cancer cells. Here we might take spreading of cells as the capacity to be analyzed, and we can ask for any part of the system in which cancer cells spread how it might contribute to that capacity” (42-3). Returning to the comparison of organisms and artifacts, it is worth considering the old Aristotelian saw, “Nature does nothing in vain.” This suggests (as does Aristotle’s philosophy of the productive arts in general) that the ideals a masterful designer strives for are efficiency of operation and economy of design, and that nature is the model for these ideals. However, it took science far in advance of Aristotle’s or Aquinas’ time to realize that fact that 99.9 percent of all species that have ever existed on Earth are now extinct. Is it more likely that this fact can be explained by the precariousness of living environments and nonselective biasing, like the five mass extinctions in the last 439 million years of natural history, or by the “philosopher’s God”? The latter is a being who is omniscient, omnipotent, morally perfect, and free. To this list, William Lane Craig (2013) adds the qualities: uncaused, without a beginning, changeless, immaterial, timeless, and spaceless, and yet also a person. Martin (1990) presents a number of arguments that the first set of these is incoherent, but this is not the appropriate place to examine these. From an empirical and a posteriori metholodogical perspective, it is worth asking whether or not any design argument, whether by analogy or by inference to the best explanation, can establish a hypothesis of divine creation on the basis of

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the traditional list or Craig’s list of qualities. This limitation emerges from the universal constraints on experiences of design and creation in the human (and, to some extent, non-human animal) world: that is, all designers in our experience are embodied and thus situated in time and space; all designed things have an efficient cause whose abilities and functions have themselves been caused; all design occurs through the intelligent manipulation of change. There is also the question of the naturalization of intelligence itself. All the uncontroversial evidence of intelligence in our collective experience is mundane in nature. Since cognitive capacities are, like eyes and bacterial flagellae, intriguing features of nature that demand explanations, we ought not to leap to features of an intelligence beyond experience to explain intelligence. Since those who deploy intelligent design claims are interested in versions of the argument that explanatorily unify uncontroversial observations of nature— like the fossil record or the appearance of new species—it is difficult for them to maintain that God created everything that existed, exists, or will exist in a timeless, Leibnizian “fulguration.” Creationists such as Philip Johnson of the Discovery Institute or intelligent design theorists like Michael Behe therefore attempt to point to diverse features of biological nature, like bacterium flagellae and mammalian eyes, as evidence of complexity that can be explained only through the introduction of a supremely powerful force. Now, one of the functions of genuinely explanatory theories is the unification of apparently diverse beliefs, as Kitcher (1998) has shown. But Kitcher has used the term “spurious unification” to refer to theories that successfully use “a few patterns of argument to generate many beliefs,” but fail the test of stringency: “stringent patterns are not only to have instantiations with similar logical structures; their instantiations are also to contain similar nonlogical vocabulary at similar places” (198). At base, design arguments use explanatory structures in which two premises (“God wants it to be the case that a”; “What God wants to be the case is the case”) lead to the conclusion a, where “a” can be replaced by any accepted sentence describing the physical world. The problem here is that the nonlogical vocabulary imposes no constraints on the expressions we can substitute for the dummy symbols, so that, beyond the specification that a place by filled by expressions of a particular syntactic category, the structure we impose by means of filling instructions is quite incidental. Thus the patterns in question do not genuinely reflect the contents of our beliefs. The explanatory store [of the two premises] should present the order of natural phenomena which is exposed by what we think we know. To do so, it must exhibit connections among our beliefs beyond those which could be found among any beliefs. (198)


KEVIN S. DECKER 4. Conclusion

In short, any theory of the origins of complex adaptations in nature that offers no constraint on what can be considered to be true-according-to-the-theory is worse than non-scientific; it is simply not an explanation in any sense of the word. While it is undoubtedly correct to say that the current biological evidence before us underdetermines the truth of Darwinian evolution by natural selection, its replacement by a divine designer is both empirically unsustainable and scientifically unhelpful. Another way of putting this is that the current biological evidence before us much more radically underdetermines the hypothesis of divine design. As St. Thomas Aquinas favored the reconciliation of faith and reason, it seems as though it is left up to those who advocate for both creation and evolution to decide the relative importance of these two human capacities in this case. However, Catholic scholar Marie George (2013) acknowledges that the arguments of intelligent design creationists like Behe and Johnson “lose ground each time science discovers natural causes that can account for the formation of systems that [they] could see no natural explanation for” (13). She suggests instead that acknowledging Thomas’ sympathy with Aristotle’s teleological naturalism should push us in the direction of emphasizing the good of biodiversity, and that natural causes are simply the means to furthering this good preferred by God: We see then that we can adjust Aquinas’ argument to take in account the evidence for evolution. Aquinas in light of this evidence would say, yes, there is chance involved in the production of new species; without chance like would keep reproducing like, and no new species would emerge. However, part and parcel of evolution is a tendency towards something good, the wondrous diversification of life forms. Evolution, then, substantiates the first syllogism in the Fifth Way. (669) While George is correct to point out that the operation of intelligence through natural causes provides yet another nuance to the debate about design and evolution, her shift of focus to the production of novelty in nature and to biodiversity seems ad hoc. After all, Thomas’ work in metaphysics and theology rests on natural kinds, not the production of novelty, and the term “biodiversity” (and more importantly, its role as a norm of conservation) only emerged in 1968 in Raymond F. Dassman’s book A Different Kind of Country. What is needed in philosophy of biology that considers the impact of Thomas’ Fifth Way is the acknowledgment, supported by empirical evidence, that adaptation through natural selection is resolutely value neutral in that its mechanisms serve in both beneficial and deleterious ways individual organisms, species, and indeed the entire living environment itself. In one way

Science and Nature without God


of speaking, this uncertain combination of risk and comfort is simply what we call “nature”—and the greatest practical goal of the intelligences in it is to ameliorate the worst effects of its operations.

Nineteen A RESPONSE TO DECKER Michael Hayes Kevin Decker’s chapter is a fine analysis of many theological arguments from design. However, the difficulties that Decker raises for many such arguments do not touch St. Thomas Aquinas’ Fifth Way. I wish to make three main points in this response. First is that St. Thomas’ argument is not an argument to the best explanation, as Decker suggests. Second is that, because the Fifth Way is not an empirical hypothesis, Decker’s chapter does not actually address the argument itself. The third is a minor clarification about what St. Thomas means when he claims that “natural bodies act so as to obtain the best result,” since the Scholastic terminology is not entirely familiar to most contemporary readers. 1. The Hypothesis Assumption Decker proposes to “present the most compelling naturalistic hypothesis for biological evolution,” as if this hypothesis were in competition with St. Thomas’ teleological argument. Decker does not make the mistake of assuming—as many people do—that the two hypotheses are mutually exclusive. Yet, there are two major problems here: the first is that St. Thomas’ argument has little to do with biological evolution. In fact, his argument runs perfectly fine without mentioning living organisms. Decker diverts his attention to a small subset of natural bodies, as if the explanation of biological diversity through evolution could suffice in showing that no final causes need a supernatural explanation. Furthermore, as I point out in “St. Thomas Aquinas’ Fifth Way and the Possibility of Science,” biological evolution is itself evidence for the finality immanent within creation—it is the fact that organisms have the telos of passing their genes on to the next generation that makes the study of evolutionary biology possible. So it does little good to present evolutionary theory as somehow opposing St. Thomas’ argument. More importantly, however, Decker’s analysis rests on a faulty assumption: that the conclusion of St. Thomas’ Fifth Way is a hypothesis. This is not true. St. Thomas is providing a metaphysical demonstration; if the premises are true, and the argument is valid, then the conclusion is not merely probable—it is certain. St. Thomas does not ask, “Whether it is probable that God exists?”; rather, he asks, “Whether God exists?” Obviously, he answers the latter question in the affirmative. Given that the argument is valid, and that the premises (that the universe is intelligible/ordered and that the principle of



causality is true) cannot be denied without the simultaneous denial of the possibility of scientific knowledge, the conclusion is certain. I think the problem is this: Decker claims that St. Thomas’ Fifth Way “hinges on an empirical generalization about things that ‘lack knowledge’… that nonetheless often act ‘so as to obtain the best result’,” as if St. Thomas’ example of the arrow and the archer were all the evidence he needed to warrant such a broad generalization. This is a poor characterization of the argument, however. Edward Feser (2010), in his article “Teleology: A Shopper’s Guide” makes this point rather forcefully: It is not an inductive generalization at all, nor an argument from analogy, nor an argument to the best explanation. Again, Aquinas’ claim is a very strong one; he is saying that an unintelligent object cannot move toward an end—cannot have a certain outcome as its final cause—unless directed by an intelligence. This is a metaphysical assertion, not an exercise in empirical hypothesis formation. (150) Many teleological arguments for the existence of God are indeed empirical generalizations; such arguments have many flaws. St. Thomas’ argument is not one of them. I have no other way to say it: to assume that St. Thomas’ argument is an empirical generalization, an analogy, or an argument to the best explanation is to misunderstand the Fifth Way completely. Likewise, the Humean points that Decker adopts in response to St. Thomas’ Fifth way do him little service. Yes, it is true that the designers that we encounter in our human, everyday experience, are all temporal, mortal, contingently existing beings. What of it? St. Thomas’ argument is not an argument from analogy or experience, it is not a search for a hypothesis, it is not a generalization about the relationship between complexity and design. It is a metaphysical demonstration. Given the fact that the universe is intelligible, and the fact that the intelligibility of the universe requires a causal explanation, we arrive at the fact that the intelligibility of the universe has a causal explanation—and the only possible cause of intelligibility is intelligence. To deny that the intelligibility of the universe needs a causal explanation is just to deny that the universe is intelligible. It is for this reason that monkeys with typewriters could never compose Hamlet, even if they did hit all the right keys in the right order, or why an ant cannot depict Winston Churchill, even if the path it makes as it walks along the sand resembles Winston Churchill. 2. Addressing the Argument There are, I think, only two points of departure from my argument; one may disagree that there is finality immanent in nature, or one may disagree that this finality—if it does exist—must come from God. It is not clear from Decker’s article whether or not he denies the presence of finality within natural bodies.

A Response to Decker


He presupposes it, of course, as he believes a naturalistic account of some phenomenon (evolution) can be given, which demonstrates his confidence that the universe is ordered and intelligible. But Decker never makes his acceptance or denial of finality clear. I suspect this is due to the unwarranted assumption that all finality must be artificial; that is, that there can be no natural finality inherent to things by virtue of their nature. Perhaps this is a misreading on my part, but it seems that Decker’s claim that, from a teleological standpoint, “the universe and everything in it are artifacts—and thus the artifact/organism distinction collapses,” argues for this much. But this is simply not the case; first of all, the distinction is between natural bodies and artifacts, not organisms and artifacts, since there are a great many natural bodies that are not organisms. But more importantly, the fact that there is finality within nature does not mean that all of nature is artificial. We need not stray from Aristotle’s explanation of the distinction in Physics II.1: Some things exist by nature, others are due to other causes. Natural objects include animals and their parts, plants and simple bodies like earth, fire, air and water. . . . The obvious difference between all these things and things which are not natural is that each of the natural ones contains within itself a source of change and of stability, in respect of either movement or increase and decrease or alteration. On the other hand, something like a bed or a cloak has no intrinsic impulse for change—at least, they do not under that particular description and to the extent that they are a result of human skill, but they do in so far as and to the extent that they are coincidentally made out of stone or earth or some combination of the two…The nature of a thing, then, is a certain principle and cause of change and stability in the thing, and it is directly present in it—which is to say that it is present in its own right and not coincidentally. This is the difference between artifact and natural body—the behavior of natural bodies are intrinsic to its nature; its essence. Not so with artifacts. And this is precisely the point of Aquinas’ argument—he argues from natural bodies, not artifacts (though here I will concede that his arrow/archer example may have been poorly chosen). But the fact is simply that there is finality within nature. If one accepts that the universe is intelligible, then he also affirms that the universe is imbued with finality. I have argued that the only cause of intelligibility can be an intelligence. One could also argue that the (potential) final cause must exist formally in an intellect external to natural bodies and imposed from without, because if the final cause existed formally within the natural bodies themselves, they would be in their final state of perfection, which they are not. And it would be absurd to say that it is a human intellect that has causal efficacy over the teleology immanent in the natural world.



3. Values, Standards, and Final Causality One may object, as Decker seems to have, that even if there is finality in nature, the claim that natural bodies “act for the best result” is unwarranted. As Decker points out, mass extinctions and cancer surely are natural phenomena—can we really say that such events were directed towards the best result (without banking on the anthropocentric view I mentioned in “Possibility of Science”)? But this is a simple misunderstanding of the metaphysical terminology employed by St. Thomas. When he states that natural bodies “act for the best result,” St. Thomas is saying nothing about “values.” Rather, he is simply affirming that things are directed towards their final causes. The final cause of something is, to use the Scholastic phraseology, its perfection. Something’s perfection depends on the kind of thing that it is. So it is no difficulty to say that the “perfection” or “good” of cancer is to proliferate without regulation. That is what cancer is at its most cancer-y. Assuredly, cancer is bad for any organism in which it resides—but this is simply because one of the final causes of an organism is health of body, to which cancer is antithetical. St. Thomas’ claim in no way affirms that “things always work out for the best” for any particular thing or organism, humans included. He simply states that substances, unless impeded, are directed towards their perfection. This is only to affirm the reality of final causality, not to affirm that any particular thing in itself is good, nor is it to affirm that any particular thing is good for humans. 4. Conclusion To conclude: there is no reason to think that the naturalistic account of any given phenomenon provided by the empirical sciences is in any way contrary to the argument St. Thomas gives in the Fifth Way. Rather, the fact that such accounts can be given provides support for his argument. As for the argument itself, it does not stand or fall with any generalization or analogy, nor do any of the Humean objections to design arguments apply. It is not a hypothesis to be tested empirically, as its premises form the metaphysical framework upon which all empirical science rests. The reliability of the empirical sciences depends on the truth of the principle of causality, not the other way around. It is the metaphysically prior truth that the universe is intelligible that makes the empirical explanations of the various natural phenomena that Decker mentions possible in the first place. And it has been shown that this metaphysical truth— the principle of causality (and in this case final causality)—entails the existence of God.

Twenty A RESPONSE TO HAYES Kevin S. Decker Michael Hayes defends the “argument from design” not by reference to William Paley’s problematic use of analogies (happily!), but rather by reference to the order that exists in the universe. It is impossible for scientific endeavor to deny this order, he claims, since this denial would be self-defeating: “…if natural bodies did not behave in intelligible patterns,” he writes, “we should not expect to discover anything meaningful about reality through empirical observation.” Scientific experimentation, explanation and prediction attempt to lay bare the intelligible order of the universe, but there are gaps—current obstacles to our full knowledge—that are the result of our finitude, our “natural human limitations.” I take Hayes to be saying that of all the ways to explain natural phenomena, those that merely make use of (efficient) causality do not and cannot answer reasonable, well-formed questions about the origins of order (his example is “Why does gravity exist?”). Since, in our experience, goal-directed attitudes or behavior (sources, or perhaps components, of teleological causality) also serve to bring about order, certain natural phenomena may only be explained through the invocation of teleology, the original source of which is divine. The conclusion of Hayes’ epistemic argument is that “it would be difficult for one to deny Aquinas’ conclusion without also denying that scientific inquiry is a reliable method for obtaining knowledge.” As Aquinas himself puts it in the Summa Contra Gentiles, “It is necessary that the entire work of nature be ordered from some knowledge, and this certainly must be reduced to God in an immediate or mediate way” (SCG III.64). Marie George (2013, 699) helpfully explains that God not only is responsible for the ordering of means to ends in creatures (mediated, systems design) that allow them to function—and often thrive—despite a risk-filled environment; He is also (immediately) responsible for the order that allows creatures to survive and reproduce through the functioning of these systems. Now, Aquinas says that the explanation for natural order “certainly must be reduced to God” and Hayes likewise says at several points that the only acceptable reason for the general intelligibility of the world must lie in divine teleology. So, in what follows, if I can show that there is at least one plausible naturalistic explanation for intelligible order, this will be enough to cast doubt on Hayes’ argument. First, however, I would like to point out two empirical difficulties raised by Hayes’ chapter that are not central to my response, but that lessen the plausibility of the argument from divine teleology. Hayes claims that “we would expect that an intelligent designer would create a world in which its



components cater to human life,” a statement that would have been well supported by the limited natural knowledge of Thomas’ thirteenth century, limited as it was to the flourishing Earth. Cosmology in the 21st Century, however, acknowledges that more than 99.9 percent of the universe—whether immense void, stars, or diverse planetary bodies—is inimical to human life. This is certainly telling against the efficiency of divine creation, if not its plausibility in the first place. Second, Hayes says that when questions such as “Why does gravity exist?” are posed, “any attempt to provide an answer through the scientific method will only result in a more detailed account of the phenomenon of gravity itself ….” This is simply not true, since many concepts once taken as “first principles” of physics can themselves be reduced. We see this happening in numerous examples, perhaps most prominently James Clerk Maxwell’s interrogation of the concept of gravity in 1875 using the leading question, “Why does the energy of the system increase when the distance increases” (Dear 2006)? However, Hayes’ argument must be met as an epistemic one, and in particular, one that relies on the principle of sufficient reason. For Hayes as for Aquinas, God provides the only sufficient reason why, out of all many unintelligible worlds among the logically possible worlds, ours is intelligible. For Hayes, as it would have been for rationalists like Descartes and Leibniz, “it seems … that there are some gaps that cannot be filled scientifically. Rather, there are some so large that only a god could fill them.” In cases where we are looking for foundations for, say, causal principles, the principle of sufficient reason works to assuage doubts that the whole system of causes is foundationless. In contemporary science, however, we precisely are not looking for foundations, but rather for ways to bridge gaps between “multiple packages of internally coherent laws” (Rosenberg 2012)—as those seekers of a “Theory of Everything” today look for principles to bridge general relativity and quantum mechanics. This was not a conception of science that was available to St. Thomas. Instead, today the question about how best to bridge gaps is one of methodology and, ultimately, of common sense: should we continue to labor at mathematical-experimental work to cement these “multiple packages” together, or should we leap directly to a speculative endpoint which the armchair philosopher assures us is the only possible explanation for the scientific intelligibility of the universe? Although Hayes assures us that “we must remember that Aquinas intends his argument… to be fully compatible with the best science available, whatever that might be,” good intentions cannot assure compatibility given the passage of time and the change of paradigms, and as Thomas Kuhn reminds us, radical changes in the conception of scientific methodology and the object domain of scientific endeavor can make what previous generations called “science” a mere historical curiosity today. It seems to me that what is needed for a compelling naturalistic account of the world’s intelligibility is one that retains the semantic significance

A Response to Hayes


of “intelligible”—for if everything is intelligible, the word does not mark off one class of things from another, and therefore becomes an empty term. Furthermore, a genuinely naturalistic account will include mind and intelligence themselves as things requiring explanation of their origins—as I state in my chapter, “Since cognitive capacities are, like eyes and bacterial flagellae, intriguing features of nature that demand explanations, we ought not to leap to features of an intelligence beyond experience to explain intelligence.” Now, Aquinas’ account in the Fifth Way assumes, rather than proves, that the world as “all that is the case” is ultimately intelligible; what we want is an empirically supported explanation that can account for (a) errors; (b) the fact that the many gaps in our knowledge seem unintelligible (like that between quantum mechanics and general relativity); and (c) the idea that, following Kuhn, our very notion of intelligibility as a framework for what counts as science (among other things) changes radically and can be counted on to do so in future. First, a distinction: since there is, in human experience at least, no experience of the world that is completely unintelligible, no part of the world that is completely disordered, we must be content to frame our understanding in terms of greater or lesser degrees of intelligibility and similar degrees of order. Given this, Nicholas Rescher claims that the explanation for the intelligibility of nature rests on answers to two questions: “Why is mind so well attuned to nature?” and “Why is nature so well attuned to mind?” (Rescher 1990) Intelligent humans are “connected into nature’s scheme of things as an intrinsic component thereof,” Rescher (1990) claims, and so “it is no more a miracle that the human mind can understand the world through its conceptual resources than that the human eye can see through its physiological resources.” Leaving aside for a moment speculations about possible worlds, intelligible or unintelligible, it seems to Rescher that the “why” of nature’s intelligibility is a kind of brute fact that emerges from the study the world through the evolutionary lens. He writes: For a world in which intelligence emerges by anything like standard evolutionary processes has to be pervaded by regularities and periodicities in the organism-nature interaction that produces and perpetuates organic species. And this means that nature must be cooperative in a certain very particular way; it must be stable enough and regular enough and structured enough for there to be appropriate responses to natural events that can be “learned” by creatures. (90) The suitability of mind to know nature and of nature to be known is a circular relationship, but this is not a vicious circle. For one thing, the historical development of both the human species and its individuals assures us that the regularities of nature are explanatorily prior to the rise of any given intelligence. For another, the circle often fails to come full circle—this is the wider meaning



of (a) errors in making things understandable, (b) of the appearance of unintelligibility, and (c) of changes in paradigms of intelligibility, like that from Aristotelian-Ptolemaic science to Newtonian science. Most importantly, the circle is not vicious because it incorporates both epistemic-explanatory components—what Peter Dear (2006) calls “natural philosophy”—as well as practical components of trial-and-error interface with the world (the “instrumentality” or practical efficacy of scientific theories, again following Dear). It is worth quoting the at length from Dear to make it clear why philosophers concerned with science ought not to settle with an argument about scientific intelligibility as undemanding as that offered by Aquinas’ Fifth Way: To imagine that the efficacy attributable to modern science flows directly from the truth of its representations of the world, that is, from its natural-philosophical content, is unrealistic. It would do a grave injustice to the work and intellectual content of technical and engineering practices. Such accomplishments, frequently and routinely attributed to something called “science,” in fact result from complex endeavors involving a huge array of mutually dependent theoretical and empirical techniques and competences. There is usually only a tenuous path back to a natural-philosophy component located amidst the tangle. (26) I have no doubt that Aquinas, like Aristotle, wanted his Five Ways to be compatible with the best science humanity was capable of. But that endeavor has surpassed Aquinas’ fundamental presuppositions about teleology and foundations, and has no need of them.

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Chapter One Heather Thornton McRae and James McRae Aczel, Amir. 2014. Why Science does not Disprove God. New York: Harper Collins. Anselm of Canterbury. 1979. Prayers and Meditations of St. Anselm with the Proslogion. Translated by Benedicta Ward. New York: Penguin Classics. Aquinas, St. Thomas. 1945. Basic Writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Translated and edited by Anton C. Pegis. London: Random House. ———. 1963. Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics. Translated by Richard J. Blackwell, Richard J. Spath, and W. Edmund Thirlkel. New Haven: Yale University Press. ———. 1967. Codices Manuscripti Operum Thomae de Aquino. Rome: Leonine Commission. Aristotle. 1984. The Complete Works of Aristotle. Edited by Jonathan Barnes. 2 vols. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Baker, Joanne. 2014. “Cosmology: First Light.” Nature 509: 7500. Ball, Phillip. 1999. “Physics at the Planck Time.” Nature 402: 6761. Barrow, John, and Frank Tipler. 1986. The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Borde, Arvind and Alexander Vilenkin. 1994. “Eternal Inflation and the Initial Singularity.” Physical Review Letters 72 (21): 3305–8. Cartlidge, Edwin. 2010. “No Evidence of Time before Big Bang.” Nature, December 10. Cowen, Ron. 2014. “Telescope Captures View of Gravitational Waves.” Nature 507: 281–3. Craig, William Lane. 1993. “The Caused Beginning of the Universe: A Response to Quentin Smith.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 44: 625. ———. 1999. “The Ultimate Question of Origins: God and the Beginning of the Universe.” Astrophysics and Space Science 269-270: 723–44. ———. 1980. The Cosmological Argument from Plato to Leibniz. London: Macmillan. ———. 2006. “J. Howard Sobel on the Kalam Cosmological Argument.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 36: 565–84. Crocker, Lawrence. 2011. “The Existence of God: Two New Proofs.” Philosophy Now 82: 25–8. De Frachet, Gérard. 1955. The Lives of the Brethren. Translated by Bede Jarrett. London: Burns, Oates, and Washbourne. Dine, Michael. 2007. Supersymmetry and String Theory: Beyond the Standard Model. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Ellis, George, and Joe Silk. 2014. “Scientific Method: Defending the Integrity of Physics.” Nature 516: 321–23. Gibney, Elizabeth. 2014. “Quantum Cloud Simulates Magnetic Monopole.” Nature, January 29. Hartle, James, and Stephen Hawking. 1983. “Wave Function of the Universe.” Physical Review D 28 (12): 2960.



Haskins, Charles Homer. 1927. The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Hawking, Stephen. 1994. Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays. New York: Bantam Books. ———. 2001. The Universe in a Nutshell. New York: Bantam Books. Hawking, Stephen, and Leonard Mlodinow. 2005. A Briefer History of Time. New York: Bantam Books. Hubble, Edwin. 1929. “A Relation between Distance and Radial Velocity among ExtraGalactic Nebulae.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 15 (3): 168– 73. Ibn Sina. 2014. Ibn Sina’s Remarks and Admonitions: Physics and Metaphysics: An Analysis and Annotated Translation. Translated and edited by Shams Inati. New York: Columbia University Press. Jastrow, Robert. 1977. Until the Sun Dies. New York: Norton. Kaku, Michio. 1994. Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the Tenth Dimension. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. 2005. Parallel Worlds: A Journey through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos. New York: Anchor Books. Liddle, Andrew. 2015. An Introduction to Modern Cosmology. 3rd ed. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons. Linde, Andre. 1984. “The Inflationary Universe.” Reports on Progress in Physics 47: 925–86. Magueijo, Jose. 2001. “Stars and Black Holes in Varying Speed of Light Theories.” Physical Studies D 63: 043502. Norsen, Travis. 2011. “John S. Bell’s Concept of Local Causality.” American Journal of Physics 79 (12): 1261–75. Novikoff, Alex J. 2013. The Medieval Culture of Disputation: Pedagogy, Practice, and Performance. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Penrose, Roger. 1988. “Big Bangs, Black Holes and ‘Time’s Arrow.’” In The Nature of Time, edited by Raymond Flood and Michael Lockwood, 36–62. New York: Basil Blackwell. ———. 1989. The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. 2004. The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe. London: Vintage Books. Poplawski, Nikodem J. 2010. “Cosmology with Torsion: An Alternative to Cosmic Inflation.” Physical Letters B 694 (3): 181–5. Roos, Matts. 2014. An Introduction to Cosmology. London: John Wiley & Sons. Shankar, R. 2014. The Fundamentals of Physics: Mechanics, Relativity, and Thermodynamics. New Haven: Yale University Press. Sharov, Alexander S., and Igor D. Novikov. 1993. Edwin Hubble, The Discoverer of the Big Bang Universe. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Silk, Joseph. 1999. “The Fundamental Parameters of Cosmology.” Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 111 (757): 258–63. Singh, Simon. 2004. Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe. New York: Harper Collins. Spitzer, Robert J. 2010. New Proofs for the Existence of God. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmands Publishing Company.

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Chapter Two Richard Geenen and Roger Hunt Aquinas, St. Thomas. (1270) 1924. Summa Contra Gentiles [Summation against the Unbelievers]. Translated and edited by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. New York: Benziger Brothers Publishing Co. ———. (1265-1274) 1948. Summa Theologica [Summation of Theology]. Translated and edited by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. New York: Benziger Brothers Publishing Co. Aristotle. 1984. The Complete Works of Aristotle. Edited by Jonathan Barnes. 2 vols. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Ayala, Francisco. 2006. Darwin and Intelligent Design. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. Barnes, Jonathan. 1979. “Parmenides and the Eleatic One.” Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 61: 1–21. Beckwith, Francis J. 2010. “How to Be An Anti-Intelligent Design Advocate.” University of St. Thomas Journal of Law and Public Policy 4 (1): 35–65. Bodnár, István M. 1997. “Movers and Elemental Motions in Aristotle.” In Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, edited by C. C. W. Taylor, 81–117. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Carroll, William E. 2000. “Creation, Evolution, and Thomas Aquinas.” Revue des Questions Scientifiques 171: 319–47. Craig, William Lane. 2014. “Beyond the Big Bang.” Be Thinking, June 1. Dawkins, Richard. 2006. The God Delusion. London: Bantam Books. Dembski, William, and Michael Ruse, eds. 2004. Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Gregory, Brad S. 2009 “Science v. Religion? The Insights and Oversights of the ‘New Atheists,’” Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 12 (4): 41. Hume, David. (1739) 1896. A Treatise of Human Nature, edited by L. A. Selby-Bigge. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Loewer, B. 2004. “Determinism and Chance.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 32: 609–20. Mayr, Ernst. 1992. “The Idea of Teleology.” The Journal of the Hostory of Ideas 53 (1): 117–35.



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Chapter Three Heather Thornton McRae and James McRae Craig, William Lane. 1993. “The Finitude of the Past and the Existence of God.” In Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology, edited by William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith, 3–23. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. 1994. “Creation and Big Bang Cosmology.” Philosophia Naturalis 31: 217–24. ———. 1999. “The Ultimate Question of Origins: God and the Beginning of the Universe.” Astrophysics and Space Science 269-270: 723–44. Leibniz, Gottfreid Wilhelm. 1989. Philosophical Essays. Translated by Roger Ariew and Daniel Garber. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.

Chapter Four Richard Geenen and Roger Hunt Ali, Ahmed Farag, and Saurya Das. 2015. “Cosmology from Quantum Potential.” Physics Letters B 741: 276–79. Bojowald, Martin. 2013. “Back to the Beginning of Quantum Spacetime.” Physics Today 66: 35. CERN. 2015. XXIII International Workshop on Deep-Inelastic Scattering and Related Subjects, 27 April - 1 May 2015, Dallas, Texas. CERN, May 1. http://cds. Davies, Brian. 2014. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae: A Guide and Commentary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dawkins, Richard. 2006. The God Delusion. London: Bantam Books. Dennett, Daniel. 2006. Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. New York: Penguin Books. Feser, Edward. 2008. The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism. South Bend: St. Augustine’s Press. ———. 2009. Aquinas. Oxford: Oneworld. Harris, Sam. 2005. The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. New York: W. W. Norton. Hitchens, Christopher. 2007. God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. New York: Hachette. Hume, David. (1748) 1985. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Edited by Antony Flew. LaSalle, IL: Open Court Publishing Company. Merali, Zeeya. 2013. “Theoretical Physics: The Origins of Space and Time.” Nature 500: 516–19.

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Chapter Five Gaven Kerr, OP Aquinas, St. Thomas. (1252-1256) 1976. De Ente et Essentia [On Being and Essence]. Translated and edited by Leonine Commission. Rome: Editori di San Tommaso. ———. (1277) 2001. De Malo. In The De Malo of Thomas Aquinas, edited by Brian Davies. Translated by Richard Regan. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. (1255) 1927. De Principiis Naturae ad Fratrem Sylvestrum [The Principles of Nature to Brother Sylvester]. Translated and edited by P. Bazzi, M. Calcaterra, T. S. Centi, E. Odetto, and P. M. Pession. Turin: Marietti. ———. (1270) 1935. In Metaphysicam Aristotelis Commentaria [Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics]. Translated and edited by M. R. Cathala. Turin: Marietti. ———. (1268-1271) 1961. In Octo Libros Physicorum Aristotelis Expositio [Commentary on the Eight Books of Aristotle’s Physics]. Translated and edited by Richard J. Blackwell, Richard J. Spath, and W. Edmund Thirlkel. Notre Dame: Dumb Ox Books. ———. (1265-1268) 1927. Quaestiones Disputatae de Potentia Dei [Disputed Questions on the Power of God]. Translated and edited by P. Bazzi, M. Calcaterra, T. S. Centi, E. Odetto, and P. M. Pession. Turin: Marietti. ———. (1265-1268) 1927. Quaestiones Disputatae de Spiritualibus Creaturis [Disputed Questions on Spiritual Creatures]. Translated and edited by P. Bazzi, M. Calcaterra, T. S. Centi, E. Odetto, and P. M. Pession. Turin: Marietti. ———. (1252-1256) 1929. Scriptum Super Libros Sententiarum [Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard]. Translated and edited by R. P. Mandonnet. Paris: P. Lethielleux. ———. (1252-1256) 1957. Scriptum Super Libros Sententiarium [Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard]. Translated and edited by Joseph Kenny. New York: Hanover House. ———. (1270) 1924. Summa Contra Gentiles [Summation against the Unbelievers]. Translated and edited by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. New York: Benziger Brothers Publishing Co. ———. (1265-1274) 1948. Summa Theologica [Summation of Theology]. Translated and edited by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. New York: Benziger Brothers Publishing Co. ———. (1268) 1962. Tractatus de Substantiis Seperatis [Tractatus on Separate Substances]. Edited by Francisco Lescoe. West Hartford: Joseph College Publications. Brown, Patterson. 1966. “Infinite Causal Regression.” The Philosophical Review 75 (4): 510–25. Dauben, Joseph W. 1977. “Georg Cantor and Pope Leo XIII: Mathematics, Theology, and the Infinite.” Journal of the History of Ideas 38 (1): 85–108. Dewan, Lawrence. 2001. “St. Thomas and Infinite Causal Regress.” In Idealism, Metaphysics and Community, edited by William Sweet, 119–30. London: Ashgate.



Duns Scotus, John. 1950. Ordinatio. In Opera Omnia, vol. II. Civitas Vaticana: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis. Edwards, Paul. 1959. “A Critique of the Cosmological Argument.” In The Rationalist Animal, edited by Hector Hawton, 63–77. London: Pemberton Publishing Co. Kenny, Anthony. 1969. The Five Ways: St. Thomas Aquinas’ Proofs of God’s Existence. London: Routledge. Kerr, Gaven. 2012a. “Essentially Ordered Series Reconsidered.” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 86 (4): 541–55. ———. 2012b. “A Thomistic Metaphysics of Creation.” Religious Studies 48 (3): 337– 56. ———. 2015a. Aquinas’ Way to God: The Proof in De Ente et Essentia. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. 2015b. “Thomist Esse and Analytic Philosophy.” International Philosophical Quarterly, forthcoming. MacDonald, Scott. 1991. “Aquinas’ Parasitic Cosmological Argument.” Medieval Philosophy and Theology 1: 139–46. Ockham, William. 1970. I Sententiarum. In Opera Theologica, vol. II. New York: St Bonaventure. Owens, Joseph. 1980. “Actuality in the ‘Prima Via’ of St Thomas.” In St. Thomas Aquinas on the Existence of God: The Collected Papers of Joseph Owens, edited by John R. Catan, 192–207. Albany: State University of New York Press. Taylor, Richard. 1975. “The Metaphysics of Causation.” In Causation and Conditionals, edited by Ernst Sosa, 39–44. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Wengert, R. G. 1971. “The Logic of Essentially Ordered Causes.” Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 12: 406–22. Wippel, John F. 1984. Metaphysical Themes in Thomas Aquinas. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press. ———. 2000. The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas: From Finite Being to Uncreated Being. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press.

Chapter Six Herbert Roseman Aristotle. 1984. The Complete Works of Aristotle. Edited by Jonathan Barnes. 2 vols. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Gaston, Sean. 2013. The Concept of World from Kant to Derrida. London: Rowman and Littlefield. Davidson, Donald. 1980. Essays on Actions and Events. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Dennett, Daniel. 2003. Freedom Evolves. New York: Penguin Books. Hobbes, Thomas. (1651) 2008. Leviathan. Edited by J. C. A. Gaskin. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hume, David. (1739) 1896. A Treatise of Human Nature. Edited by L. A. Selby-Bigge. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ———. (1777) 1975. Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals. Edited by L. A. Selby-Bigge. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press. Kant, Immanuel. (1787) 1933. Critique of Pure Reason. Translated by Norman Kemp Smith. London: St Martin’s Press. Mackie, J. L. 1955. “Evil and Omnipotence.” Mind 245 (64): 200–12.

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———. “Causes and Conditions.” American Philosophical Quarterly 2: 245–64. Kierkegaard, Søren. 1962. Philosophical Fragments. Translated by D. F. Swenson. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Sanford, David. 1975. “Infinity and Vagueness.” Philosophical Review 84: 520–35. Turner, Denys. 2013. Thomas Aquinas, A Portrait. New Haven: Yale University Press. Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1958. Philosophical Investigations, Third Edition. Translated by G. E. M. Anscombe. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

Chapter Seven Gavin Kerr, OP Kerr, Gaven. 2011a. “A Thomistic Response to the Problem of Evil.” In Yearbook of the Irish Philosophical Society, edited by Susan Gottlöber, 192–207. Dublin: Irish Philosophical Society. ———. 2011b. “Kant’s Transcendental Idealism: A Hypothesis?” International Philosophical Quarterly 51 (2): 195–222. ———. 2012. “Essentially Ordered Series Reconsidered.” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 86 (4): 541–55. ———. 2015a. Aquinas’ Way to God: The Proof in De Ente et Essentia. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. 2015b. “Thomist Esse and Analytic Philosophy.” International Philosophical Quarterly, forthcoming. ———. 2015c. “Modern Philosophy and the Space of Reasons.” In Yearbook of the Irish Philosophical Society, forthcoming McDowell, John. 1994. Mind and World. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Chapter Eight Herbert Roseman Aquinas, St. Thomas. (1270) 1924. Summa Contra Gentiles [Summation against the Unbelievers]. Translated and edited by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. New York: Benziger Brothers Publishing Co. ———. (1265-1274) 1948. Summa Theologica [Summation of Theology]. Translated and edited by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. New York: Benziger Brothers Publishing Co. Della Rocca, Michael. 1996. “Essentialists and Essentialism.” Journal of Philosophy 93: 186–202. Ellis, George, and Joe Silk. 2014. “Scientific Method: Defending the Integrity of Physics.” Nature 516: 321–23. Fine, Kit. 2005. Modality and Tense: Philosophical Papers. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hawking, Stephen. 1988. A Brief History of Time. Toronto: Bantam Books. Krauss, Lawrence M. 2014. “A Beacon from the Big Bang.” Scientific American 311: 58–67. Liddle, Andrew. 2015. An Introduction to Modern Cosmology. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons. Loux, Michael J. 2001. Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings. London: Routledge.



Penrose, Roger. 2004. The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe. London: Vintage Books. Roos, Matts. 2014. An Introduction to Cosmology. London: John Wiley & Sons. Shankar, R. 2014. The Fundamentals of Physics: Mechanics, Relativity, and Thermodynamics. New Haven: Yale University Press. Susskind, Leonard. 2006. The Cosmic Landscape. New York: Little, Brown and Co. ———. 2008. The Black Hole War. New York: Little, Brown and Co. Thomson, Mark. 2013. Modern Particle Physics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Chapter Nine Adam Barkman Aquinas, St. Thomas. (1270) 1924. Summa Contra Gentiles [Summation against the Unbelievers]. Translated and edited by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. New York: Benziger Brothers Publishing Co. ———. (1265-1274) 1948. Summa Theologica [Summation of Theology]. Translated and edited by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. New York: Benziger Brothers Publishing Co. Copleston, Frederick C. 1955. Aquinas: An Introduction to the Life and Work of the Great Medieval Thinker. London: Penguin Books. Cush, Denise, Catherine Robinson, and Michael York, eds. 2008. Encyclopedia of Hinduism. London: Routledge. Plantinga, Alvin, and Nicholas Wolterstorff. 1983. Faith and Rationality. South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press. Swinburne, Richard. 2011. Faith and Reason. 2nd edition. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Wippel, John F. 1984. Metaphysical Themes in Thomas Aquinas. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press. ———. 2000. The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas: From Finite Being to Uncreated Being. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press. ———. 2006. “The Five Ways.” In Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae: Critical Essays, edited by Brian Davies, 45–110. London: Rowman & Littlefield. ———. 2007. Metaphysical Themes in Thomas Aquinas II. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press.

Chapter Ten Edward Moad Aquinas, St. Thomas. (1270) 1924. Summa Contra Gentiles [Summation against the Unbelievers]. Translated and edited by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. New York: Benziger Brothers Publishing Co. ———. (1265-1274) 1948. Summa Theologica [Summation of Theology]. Translated and edited by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. New York: Benziger Brothers Publishing Co. Craig, William Lane. 1980. The Cosmological Argument from Plato to Leibniz. London: Macmillan. Kelly, Charles J. 1981. “Some Fallacies in the First Movement of Aquinas’ Third Way.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 12 (1): 39–54.

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Pruss, Alexander R. 2006. The Principle of Sufficient Reason: A Reassessment. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Rizvi, Sajjad. 2000. “Roots of an Aporia in Later Islamic Philosophy: The Existenceessence Distinction in the Philosophies of Avicenna and Suhrawardi.” Studia Iranica 29: 61–108. Wiggins, David. 1996. “Sufficient Reason: A Principle in Diverse Guises, both Ancients and Modern.” Acta Philosophica Fennica 61: 117–32.

Chapter Eleven Adam Barkman Shoemaker, Sydney. 1998. “Causal and Metaphysical Necessity.” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 79: 59–77. Fine, Kit. 2002. “The Varieties of Necessity.” In Conceivability and Possibility, edited by Tamar Gendler and John Hawthorne, 253–82. Oxford: Clarendon.

Chapter Twelve Edward Moad He, Dongshan, Dongfeng Gao, and Qing-yu Cai. 2014. “Spontaneous Generation of the Universe from Nothing.” Physics Review 89: 083510. Liddle, Andrew. 2015. An Introduction to Modern Cosmology. 3rd ed. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons. Stumpe, Laura. 2015. “The Big Bang Theory.” In Re-Vision: A New Look at the Relationship between Science and Religion, edited by Clifford Chalmers Cain, 17– 34. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

Chapter Thirteen David Beck Aertsen, Jan. 1996. Medieval Philosophy and the Transcendentals: The Case of Thomas Aquinas. Leiden: Brill. Aquinas, Thomas. (1265-1274) 1948. Summa Theologica [Summation of Theology]. Translated and edited by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. New York: Benziger Brothers Publishing Co. Beck, W. David and Max Andrews. 2014. “God and the Multiverse: A Thomistic Modal Realism.” Philosophia Christi 16(1): 101–15. Bennett, Charles, Gilles Brassard, Claude Crépeau, Richard Jozsa, Asher Peres, and William K. Wootters. 1993. “Teleporting an Unknown Quantum State via Dual Classical and Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Channels.” Physical Review Letters 70(13): 1895. Bobik, Joseph. 1987. “Aquinas’s Fourth Way and the Approximating Relation.” Thomist 51(1): 17–36. Brady, Jules. 1974. “The Method of ‘Resolutio’ and the Structure of the Five Ways.” New Scholasticism 48: 339–80. Buijs, Joseph. 2009. “On Misrepresenting the Thomistic Five Ways.” Sophia 48(1): 15– 34.



Copleston, Frederick C. 1962. A History of Philosophy. Volume II, New York: Doubleday. Davies, Brian. 2014. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dawkins, Richard. 2006. The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. Dewan, Lawrence. 1995. “St. Thomas’ Fourth Way and Creation.” Thomist 59(3): 371– 78. Drum, Peter. 2002. “The Fourth Way–Mystery, Myth or Meaning?” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 76(3): 411–415. Elders, Leo. 1990. The Philosophical Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas. Leiden: E. J. Brill. Esser, Gerard. 1954. “The Augustinian Proof for God’s Existence and the Thomistic Fourth Way.” Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 28: 194–207. Feser, Edward. 2011. “Existential Inertia and the Five Ways.” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 85(2): 237–67. Foot, Philippa. 2001. Natural Goodness. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gilson, Etienne. 1960. Elements of Christian Philosophy. New York: Doubleday. Harvanek, Robert. 1954. “Commentary on Father Esser’s Paper.” Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association (28): 207–12. Kaku, Michio. 2014. The Future of the Mind. New York: Doubleday. Kenny, Anthony. 1969. The Five Ways: St. Thomas Aquinas’ Proofs of God’s Existence. London: Routledge. Lewis, C. S. 1942. “Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe.” Part I in Broadcast Talks. London: Centenary Press. Lott, Micah. 2012. “Have Elephant Seals Refuted Aristotle? Nature, Function, and Moral Goodness.” Journal of Moral Philosophy 9: 353–54. Maritain, Jacques. 1954. Approaches to God. Translated by Peter O’Reilly. New York: Macmillan. Martin, C. F. J. 1997. Thomas Aquinas: God and Explanations. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Miller, Barry. 2012. The Fullness of Being. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. Mirus, Christopher. 2013. “Excellence as Completion in Aristotle’s Physics and Metaphysics.” The Review of Metaphysics 66(4): 663–90. Mitchell, Jason. 2012. “The Method of the Resolutio and the Structure of the Five Ways.” Alpha Omega XV(3): 339–80. Morreal, John. 1979. “Aquinas’ Fourth Way.” Sophia 18(1): 20–8. Nagel, Thomas. 2012. Mind and Cosmos. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Novotný, Daniel D. and Lukás Novák, eds. 2014. Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives in Metaphysics. New York: Routledge. Oliver, Simon. 2013. “Aquinas and Aristotle’s Teleology.” Nova et Vetera 11(3): 849– 70. Plantinga, Alvin. 1993. Warrant and Proper Function. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Stump, Eleonore. 2003. Aquinas. New York: Routledge. Tahko, Thomas. 2013a. “In Defense of Aristotelian Metaphysics.” In Contemporary Aristotelian Metaphysics, edited by Thomas Tahko, 26–44. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

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———, ed. 2013b. Contemporary Aristotelian Metaphysics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Thompson, Michael. 2008. Life and Action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Urban, Linwood. 1984. “Understanding St. Thomas’ Fourth Way.” History of Philosophy Quarterly 1(3): 281–95. Weingartner, Paul. 2010. God’s Existence: Can it Be Proven? A Logical Commentary on the Five Ways of Thomas Aquinas. Frankfurt: Ontos Verlag. Wippel, John F. 1984. Metaphysical Themes in Thomas Aquinas. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press. ———. 2000. The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas: From Finite Being to Uncreated Being. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press.

Chapter Fourteen Benjamin W. McCraw Alston, William P. 1979. “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Real World.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Association 52: 779–808. Annas, Julia. 1982. Aristotle on Inefficient Causes. The Philosophical Quarterly 32: 311–326. Aquinas, Thomas. (1265-1274) 1948. Summa Theologica [Summation of Theology]. Translated and edited by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. New York: Benziger Brothers Publishing Co. Armstrong, David. 1978. Nominalism and Realism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ———. 1989. Universals. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Benedict, Ruth. 1934. Patterns of Culture. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Bradley, F. H. 1914. Appearance and Reality. New York: Macmillan. Buijs, Joseph A. 2009. “On Misrepresenting the Five Ways.” Sophia 48: 15–34. Chalmers, David J. 2009. “Ontological Anti-realism.” In Metametaphyics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology, edited by David Chalmers, David Manley, and Ryan Wasserman, 77–129. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Esser, Gerard. 1954. “The Augustinian Proof for God’s Existence and the Thomistic Fourth Way.” Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 28: 194–207. Garrigou, Reginald. 1953. The One God. London: B. Herder Book Company. Geach, P. T. 1967. Three Philosophers. Oxford: Blackwell. Gilson, Etienne. 1956. The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. Harman, Gilbert. 1977. The Nature of Morality. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hocutt, Max. 1974. “Aristotle’s Four Becauses.” Philosophy 46: 385–399. Kenny, Anthony. 1969. The Five Ways. London: Routledge. Leibniz, G. W. 1985. Theodicy. Edited by A. Farrer. Chicago: Open Court. Mackie, J. L. 1977. Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong. Gretna, LA: Pelican Books. Morriston, Wes. 2004. “The Evidential Argument from Goodness.” Southern Journal of Philosophy 42: 87–101. Nussbaum, Martha. 1986. The Fragility of Goodness. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.



Pedersen, Nikolaj Jang Lee Linding, and Cory Wright. 2013. “Pluralist Theories of Truth.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta. Peirce, C. S. 1901. “Truth and Falsity and Error.” In Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology, edited by James Mark Baldwin, 716–720. New York: Macmillan. Plantinga, Alvin. 1973. “Which Worlds Could God have Created?” Journal of Philosophy 70: 539–552. ———. 1982. “How to Be an Anti-realist.” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 56: 47–70. Putnam, Hilary. 1981. Reason, Truth, and History. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Urban, Linwood. 1984. “Understanding St. Thomas’s Fourth Way.” History of Philosophy Quarterly 1: 281–295. Wielenberg, Erik J. 2005. Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Wiggins, David. 1980. “Weakness of the Will, Commensurability, and the Objects of Deliberation and Desire.” In Essays on Aristotle’s Ethics, edited by A. O. Rorty, 15–22. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Chapter Fifteen Edward N. Martin Forrest, Peter. 2010. “The Identity of Indiscernibles.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta. Hick, John. 1966. Evil and the Love of God. New York: Macmillan.

Chapter Sixteen Benjamin W. McCraw Hankey, Wayne J. 2012. “Aquinas, Plato, and Neoplatonism.” In The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas, edited by Brian Davies and Eleonore Stump, 55–64. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Lowe, Elizabeth. 2003. The Contested Theological Authority of Thomas Aquinas: The Controversies between Hervaeus Natalis and Durandus of St. Pourçain. London: Routledge. Owen, Joseph. 1993. “Aristotle and Aquinas.” In The Cambridge Companion to Aquinas, edited by Norman Kretzmann and Elonore Stump, 38–59. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Wippel, John F. 1984. Metaphysical Themes in Thomas Aquinas. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press. ———. 2000. The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas: From Finite Being to Uncreated Being. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press.

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Chapter Seventeen Michael Hayes Aquinas, Thomas. (1265-1274) 1948. Summa Theologica [Summation of Theology]. Translated and edited by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. New York: Benziger Brothers Publishing Co. Dawkins, Richard. 1986. The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. Feser, Edward. 2009. Aquinas. Oxford: Oneworld. ———. 2013. “Between Aristotle and William Paley: Aquinas’s Fifth Way,” Nova et Vetera 11(3): 707–49. Vallentin, Antonina. 1954. Einstein: A Biography. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Chapter Eighteen Kevin S. Decker Aquinas, Thomas. (1265-1274) 1948. Summa Theologica [Summation of Theology]. Translated and edited by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. New York: Benziger Brothers Publishing Co. Arp, Robert. 2008. Scenario Visualization: An Evolutionary Account of Creative Problem Solving. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Barrow, J. D. 1986. The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. New York: Oxford University Press. ———. 1995. The Artful Universe. New York: Clarendon/Oxford University Press. Boudry, M. 2011. “Where the Design Argument Goes Wrong: Auxiliary Assumptions and Unification.” Philosophy of Science 78: 558–78. Capps, John. 2000. “Naturalism, Pragmatism, and Design.” Journal of Speculative Philosophy 14(3): 161–78. Craig, William Lane. 2013. A Reasonable Response: Answers to Tough Questions on God, Christianity, and the Bible. Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishers. Dawkins, Richard. 1986. The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. De Cruz, Helen. 2010. “Paley’s iPod: The Cognitive Basis of the Design Argument within Natural Theology.” Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science 45(3): 665–84. Dewey, John. 1998. The Essential Dewey (Vol. 1). Edited by Larry A. Hickman and Thomas M. Alexander. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Garcia, Laura. 1997. “Teleological and Design Arguments.” In A Companion to the Philosophy of Religion, edited by Charles Taliaferro, Paul Draper, and Philip L. Quinn, 338–44. Malden, MA: Blackwell. George, Marie. 2013. “What Would Thomas Aquinas Say about Intelligent Design?” New Blackfriars 94(1054): 676–700. Hume, David. 2007. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion and Other Writings. Edited by Dorothy Coleman. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Kirk, G. and J. E. Raven, eds. 1983. The Presocratic Philosophers. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Kitcher, Philip. 1998. “Explanatory Unification.” In Introductory Readings in the Philosophy of Science, edited by E. Klemke, Robert Hollinger, and David Rudge, (pp. 278–301). Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books.



Lewens, Timothy. 2004. Organisms and Artifacts: Design in Nature and Elsewhere. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Martin, Michael. 1990. Atheism: A Philosophical Justification. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Mayr, Ernst. 1988. Toward a New Philosophy of Biology: Observations of an Evolutionist. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. O’Connor, Timothy. 1994. “An Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism?” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 24(4): 527–40. Pennock, Robert T. 1999. Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Peterfreund, Stuart. 2012. Turning Points in Natural Theology from Bacon to Darwin: The Way of the Argument from Design. New York: Palgrave MacMillan. Plantinga, Alvin. 1993. Warrant: The Current Debate and Warrant and Proper Function. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. 2011. Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ruse, Michael. 2003. Darwin and Design: Does Evolution Have a Purpose? Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ———. 2006. Darwinism and Its Discontents. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ———. 2012. “How Not to Solve the Science-Religion Conflict.” The Philosophical Quarterly 62(248): 620–25. Weingartner, Paul. 2010. God’s Existence. Can It Be Proven? A Logical Commentary on the Five Ways of Thomas Aquinas. Frankfurt: Ontos Verlag. Zinser, Jason. 2009. “Chance and Evolution.” In Evolution: The First Four Billion Years, edited by Michael Ruse, 475–79. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Chapter Nineteen Michael Hayes Feser, Edward. 2010. “Teleology: A Shopper’s Guide.” Philosophia Christi 12(1): 14959.

Chapter Twenty Kevin S. Decker Dear, Peter. 2006. The Intelligibility of Nature: How Science Makes Sense of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. George, Marie. 2013. “What Would Thomas Aquinas Say about Intelligent Design?” New Blackfriars 94(1054): 676–700. Rescher, Nicholas. 1990. A Useful Inheritance. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. Rosenberg, Alex. 2012. Philosophy of Science, 3rd ed. New York: Routledge.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS Robert Arp, PhD, is a research analyst working for the US Army at Ft. Leavenworth. He was reared on Thomism as an undergrad, then grad student, at The Catholic University of America in the early 1990s. He was exposed to more Thomism while studying for the PhD in philosophy at Saint Louis University. His work in philosophy of religion has appeared in Religious Studies, History of Philosophy Quarterly, International Philosophical Quarterly, Journal of Philosophical Research, and American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly. With Benjamin W. McCraw, he is co-editor of Philosophical Approaches to the Devil (Routledge), The Concept of Hell (Palgrave Macmillan), and The Problem of Evil: New Philosophical Directions (Lexington). See Adam Barkman, PhD, is an associate professor of philosophy and chair of the philosophy department at Redeemer University College (Canada). He is the author of five books, most recently Making Sense of Islamic Art & Architecture (Thames and Hudson, 2015), and the co-editor of four other books, including The Philosophy of Ang Lee (University of Kentucky Press, 2013). W. David Beck, PhD, is Professor of Philosophy at Liberty University, where he served for many years as Dean of Graduate Studies. He teaches courses in ancient and medieval philosophy and in philosophy of religion, and has published numerous articles, primarily on the cosmological argument. His current interests include the relationship between science, philosophy, and theology and Aristotelian metaphysics. Kevin S. Decker, PhD, is Professor of Philosophy at Eastern Washington University. He has published widely in the areas of pragmatism and classical American philosophy, applied ethics, and philosophy and popular culture. The latter includes Who is Who? The Philosophy of Doctor Who (I. B. Tauris, 2013). He also serves as managing editor for the online journal William James Studies. Rich Geenen, PhD, is Professor of Philosophy at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. His publications, teaching, and research interests span philosophy of religion, ethics, and the philosophy of science. Some of his works include a chapter on Intelligent Design for a forthcoming co-authored monograph: Re-Vision: A New Look at the Relationship between Science and Religion and “Pascal’s Wager: A Bad Bet.” Michael Hayes is completing his PhD in philosophy at the University of Kansas. He also currently works with the Humanitas liberal arts program for undergraduates at the St. Lawrence Institute for Faith and Culture, where he



teaches philosophy and natural theology. He has interests in philosophy of religion, contemporary ethics, and the intersection between classical metaphysics and ethics. Roger Hunt studied philosophy at Montana State in Bozeman, then Boston University and the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, NZ before beginning psychoanalytic training in Boston. He works as a school counselor and consultant, in addition to running several independent programs teaching philosophy to pre-college students. He cconducts scholarly work in philosophy of religion and the intersection of topics in psychoanalysis and philosophy. Gaven Kerr received his PhD from Queen’s University Belfast. He has published in Religious Studies, International Philosophical Quarterly, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, Journal of Philosophical Research, and The Thomist. He is the author of Aquinas’s Way to God: The Proof in De Ente et Essentia (Oxford, 2015). He currently teaches philosophy at Queen’s University Belfast and St Malachy’s Seminary Belfast. Edward Martin got his PhD at Purdue University under William Rowe. He is Professor of Philosophy at Liberty University, where he serves as co-chair of the department and director of the Master of Arts in Philosophical Studies program. He has written articles and reviews appearing in journals such as Sorites, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, and Global Journal of Classical Theology. He has contributed several essays to anthologies including to The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012) and a Festschrift for J.W. Montgomery (Broadman & Holman, 2008). His current research interest is on Hume and Kant on God and teleological judgments. Benjamin W. McCraw, PhD, is instructor of philosophy at University of South Carolina Upstate. He is the author of articles in International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Social Epistemology, and Logos & Episteme, as well as co-editor of Philosophical Approaches to the Devil (Routledge), The Concept of Hell (Palgrave Macmillan), and The Problem of Evil: New Philosophical Directions (Lexington), all editions forthcoming. His research focuses on epistemology and philosophy of religion, especially religious epistemology. Heather Thornton McRae is a PhD candidate in medieval intellectual history currently completing a dissertation on Albertus Magnus at the University of Missouri (Columbia). She is the author of Making Sense of Christian Art and Architecture (Thames & Hudson, 2015) and has presented papers at national and international conferences such as the Sewanee Medieval Colloquium, the International Congress on Medieval Studies, and the Western Society for French History.



James McRae, PhD, is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion, the coordinator for Asian Studies, and the chair of the Classics, Philosophy, and Religious Studies Department at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. His book publications include Environmental Philosophy in Asian Traditions of Thought (SUNY Press, 2014), The Philosophy of Ang Lee (University Press of Kentucky, 2013), and Japanese Environmental Philosophy (Routledge, forthcoming). Edward Moad holds a PhD in philosophy from University of MissouriColumbia. He is currently Associate Professor in the Department of Humanities, Qatar University. He has published several articles on Islamic philosophy, along with others in philosophy of religion, metaphysics, metaethics, and comparative philosophy, which have appeared in Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophy East and West, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, and Sophia, among others. Herbert Roseman has retired from teaching philosophy. His is the author of Altruism, Evolution and Optional Games (Verlag, 2008) and David Hume Meets Viagra: The Misuse of the Science of Erectile Dysfunction in the Philosophy of Viagra (Rodopi, 2011). He also has interests in philosophy of religion. He is currently working on a model of the logic of Spinoza’s Ethics.

INDEX accidentally ordered causal series, 76– 80, 107–8, 113–8 act, see actuality, actuality, 7, 16, 17, 21, 30, 31, 49–52, 56–7, 61, 74, 95, 117–8, 157–8, 166, 188, 195–6, 211 agnosticism, 1, 9, 69 akrasia, 186 all-goodness of God, see omnibenevolence of God all-knowingness of God, see omniscience of God all-powerfulness of God, see omnipotence of God all-presence of God, see omnipresence of God analogy, 5, 6, 12, 18–21, 56, 84, 87, 92, 103, 111, 114, 121, 151, 167, 186, 199, 200, 204, 207, 212, 216, 224, 228, 230, 232, 238, 240, 241 Anselm of Canterbury, 21, 29, 30, 44, 152, 163, 203 anthropocentrism, 217, 225, 231, 240 anti-realism, 178–84, 201 a posteriori knowledge, 19, 20, 47, 62, 79, 80, 85, 109, 127, 227, 232 a priori knowledge, 19, 20, 50, 52, 62, 66, 75, 77, 79, 97, 109, 145, 229, 231 Aristotle, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 26, 31–3, 35, 48–58, 73–4, 88–96, 100, 107, 118–9, 123–4, 131, 147–51, 155–9, 162, 169, 173, 175, 186–7, 195, 200, 211–3, 222, 227, 232, 234, 239, 244 atheism, 1, 9, 24–6, 43–5, 87, 112–3 Augustine of Hippo, 2, 6–8, 15, 27, 90, 92, 151–2, 173, 181, 197– 8, 206, 212

belief, 15, 24, 25, 44, 88, 93, 102, 104, 109–13, 124, 179, 180, 181–4, 215, 233 basic, 124, 126 evidence and, 25–6, 31–2, 37–8, 40, 45, 57, 67–8, 109–13, 118, 121, 129, 142, 166, 199– 200, 215–6, 223–4, 231–4, 237–8 justification and, 102, 109–13 science and, 45, 108, 111–2, 231–4 Bible, see scripture, Christian Big Bang, 29, 32, 36–40, 42–4, 47, 58–9, 62–3, 65–7, 86, 120, 122, 126, 128, 145 bivalence, 184, 195, 199 Boethius, 15, 31 causality, 3, 4, 6, 16–8, 20, 22, 23, 29, 33, 38, 42–3, 47–9, 51–8, 61– 3, 71–85, 86–105, 107–10, 111–22, 123–8, 131, 135–40, 141–5, 149, 159–61, 163–70, 174–6, 196, 203, 211–3, 215– 26, 227, 232, 234, 237–40 Aristotle and, 21, 73, 147, 152, 212 bundling and, 97–103 finality (teleology) and, 5, 21, 26, 48, 57, 64, 81, 147, 152, 168, 171, 217–20, 222, 224, 226, 227–35, 238–40, 241, 244 God and, 5, 21, 26, 48, 147, 152, 168, 171, 217–20, 222, 227– 35, 238–40, 241, 244 Hume and, 52, 61–2, 69, 94–8, 100, 102, 109–10, 113, 218– 9, 238, 240 causation, see causality cause, see causality changeless, see immutability Christianity, 4, 9, 11–3, 17, 22, 29, 30, 32, 34, 43–5, 63–4, 88, 104– 5, 168, 229



contingent being, 17, 32, 45, 90–1, 95, 100–3, 108, 109, 123–9, 129– 40, 141–5, 166–7, 194 creation, 3, 13, 16, 19, 33, 38, 40, 50, 58, 83–5, 120, 126, 138, 158, 163, 166, 206, 217, 219, 227, 231–3, 237, 242 creationism, 68, 83, 118–9, 233–4 creative act, 2–7, 10, 12–9, 32–45, 47–50, 57–69, 71, 80, 83–5, 90, 99, 102–3, 111, 115, 118– 21, 127–9, 134–7, 142, 147, 152, 158, 166, 167, 182, 188, 196–207, 211, 217–9, 222, 227–34, 237–43 dark energy, 38, 121 dark matter, 65, 121 Darwin, Charles, 103, 112, 118, 122, 194, 224, 230, 234 deductive reasoning, 2, 8, 114, 143–5 degree (gradation, level), 7, 120, 148, 150, 154–65, 169–70, 175–8, 183–5, 188, 191, 193–201, 210, 229, 243 demonism, 15, 68, 197–8 demonstration, 22–3, 73–8, 179–80, 192–3, 196, 229–31, 233–4 quia, 22–3, 73–8 quid, 20, 22–3, 73–8, 165 dependency of beings on God, 19, 36, 45, 74–5, 79, 84–5, 107, 109, 128, 166, 203–7 Descartes, René, 29, 242 design, 47, 68, 73, 74, 118, 159, 215– 7, 223–6, 227–34, 237–40, 241 Dominicans, 23, 30, 34, 87, 104–5, 112, 149 esse (being), 21, 22–3, 73–8, 82–5, 107–8, 111, 117–9, 148, 151, 158, 181, 211 essentia (essence), 12, 16, 18, 22–3, 49, 73–8, 107–8, 117–9, 158, 204–5, 211, 220

Divine, 12, 16, 18, 22–3, 49, 73–8, 107–8, 117–9, 158, 204–5, 211 essentialism, 111, 117–8 essentially ordered causal series, 73– 83, 107–8, 111–7 ethics, 45, 88, 156, 178, 183–7, 194– 5, 199, 206 evil, 1–13, 23–4, 52, 91, 93, 125, 142, 197, 206, 210 horrendous, 8, 24 moral, 3, 4, 6, 8, 125 physical (natural), 3, 6, 24, 125 evolution, 38, 57, 68, 100, 118, 119, 120, 157, 194, 224–6, 228– 34, 237–8, 243 extensibility, 185–92, 199 faith (religious), 9, 11, 15–8, 21, 33, 34, 44, 48, 49, 53, 88, 96, 234 Fifth Proof (Way) for God’s existence, 126, 170, 206, 215–26, 227–36, 237–40, 241–4 finitude, 99, 115, 241 First Proof (Way) for God’s existence, 17, 21, 29–46, 47–60, 61–4, 65–70, 73, 175 Fourth Proof (Way) for God’s existence, 147–72, 173–202, 203–8, 209–14 free will, 4, 64, 93 God of the Gaps argument, 48, 222–6 good, 1–10, 15–6, 149, 156, 160–2, 164–5, 178–81, 188–94, 196– 201, 203, 206–10, 212–3, 216, 234, 240 all-good, see, omnibenevolence of God Form of, 117–9, 151–2, 156–7, 189, 197 greater, 2, 4, 8 Hawking, Stephen, 37, 41–2, 83–5, 119–20 heaven, 9, 12, 13, 49, 81, 95, 124–7

Index Hobbes, Thomas, 88, 93, 103–5, 110 Hume, David, 52, 61–2, 69, 94–8, 100, 102, 109–10, 113, 218– 9, 238, 240 hypothesis, 14, 18, 36, 39, 40, 54, 87, 109, 112, 126, 169, 223, 229, 232, 234, 237–40 Ibn Rushd (Averroes), 15, 32–3 Ibn Sina (Avicenna), 15, 32–3 immateriality, 21, 26, 43, 125–9, 167, 231 immutability, 21, 26, 50, 58, 64, 67, 69, 232 imperfection, 5, 7, 11, 12, 45, 117, 150, 195–7, 204–5, 207 inductive reasoning, 29, 44, 54, 65, 114, 142, 143–5, 238 infinity, 1–2, 17–20, 31–3, 37–45, 48, 50–9, 61–4, 65–7, 72–4, 78– 82, 89–93, 99–100, 105, 114– 6, 131–40, 141–5, 153, 161, 165–8, 190–2, 200–1, 207, 211–3 intelligence, 44, 64, 67–8, 74, 166, 216–7, 220–2, 226–9, 233–5, 238–9, 243 Intelligent Design, 47, 118, 231–4, 241 Judaism, 105, 229 Kant, Immanuel, 30, 88, 95–6, 109, 158, 160, 166, 182–4, 232 Kierkegaard, Søren, 88, 93, 103–5, 110 Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm von, 45, 63, 188, 203–4, 233, 242 Leibniz’s law (indiscernibility of identicals), 203–4 Mackie, J. L., 94–110, 178–82, 194 materialism, 126–7, 168, 194, 229 medieval thought, 20, 26, 29–35, 36, 78, 95, 125

271 metaphysics, 6, 7, 15, 17, 45, 48, 51, 52, 56, 57, 73, 74, 75, 78, 81, 82, 85, 88, 94, 96, 98, 103, 105, 107, 108, 110, 113, 114, 117, 118, 119, 120, 122, 126, 143–5, 147–8, 149–53, 156, 159, 161–5, 168–71, 178–85, 187–95, 198–200, 204–7, 216, 219, 221, 223, 234–8, 240 Metaphysics of Aristotle, 16, 32, 49, 57, 73, 77, 89, 95, 148–9, 150, 151, 156, 158, 159, 161, 175, 186, 211 model, 22, 36–42, 66–7, 83, 116–7, 119, 120–1, 159, 187, 232 causal, 116–7, 159, 187, 232 cosmological, 22, 36–42, 66–7, 83, 119, 120–1, 232 Multiverse, 39–43 No Boundary Condition, 39–43 Oscillating, 39–43 Steady State, 39–43 Vacuum Fluctuation, 39–43 modernity, 4, 14, 17, 27, 30, 34–5, 45, 59, 68, 87, 88, 94–7, 109–10, 111, 116, 118, 120–3, 126, 212, 216–7, 223–4, 244 monotheism, 29, 91, 94, 105, 108, 193, 222 motion, 16, 18, 29–45, 47–59, 61–4, 65–9, 73–5, 79–82, 100, 131– 3, 212–3 naturalism, 14–5, 25–6, 59, 121, 193– 6, 199, 201, 206, 213, 229, 234 necessary being, 17, 32, 45, 90–1, 95, 100–3, 108, 109, 123–9, 129– 40, 141–5, 166–7, 194 Neoplatonism, 7, 15–6, 173, 209, 212 non-contradiction, principle of, 51 nothing, 7, 40–5, 50–3, 61–2, 63, 66– 9, 74–5, 82, 84–6, 123–4, 131–4, 141–2, 143–4



Occam’s Razor, 40, 67, 80, 91, 129, 224 omnibenevolence of God, 8, 9, 11, 16, 26, 45, 90, 226 omnipotence of God, 2, 8–11, 24, 26 45–7, 64, 67–8, 90, 93–4, 102, 108–9, 137, 161, 204, 229, 231–2 omnipresence of God, 45, 64 omniscience of God, 8, 9, 11, 26, 45, 90, 94, 137, 204, 229, 232 Parmenides, 50, 52, 159 participation, 16, 150–2, 155, 158–9, 163 perfection, 2, 5, 7, 11, 12, 21, 33, 44– 5, 56–7, 64, 80, 91, 94, 98, 117, 142, 148–50, 155, 157, 161–2, 167, 169–70, 174–80, 185–88, 190, 192, 196–201, 204–7, 210–11, 217, 229, 232, 237, 239–40 physicalism, 14–5, 56, 99, 126–9 Physics of Aristotle, 16, 17, 21, 31, 32, 49, 54, 57, 73, 95, 239 Plato, 7, 15–6, 33, 49, 51–2, 58, 105, 118, 121–2, 125, 128, 147, 151–2, 155, 159, 161, 163, 170, 173, 175, 181, 183, 185– 6, 189, 197–8, 201, 209, 212 pluralism, 25, 186–8, 189, 190, 192, 200 potency, see potentiality potentiality, 16, 21, 30, 31, 36, 40–2, 49–52, 57, 61, 73–5, 82, 107, 211, 220 power, explanatory, 42, 44, 62, 78, 114, 176, 179–80, 192–3, 196, 229–31, 233–4 power of God, see omnipotence principle of sufficient reason, 52, 63, 88–93, 107–10, 166, 242 probability of God’s existence, 44, 127–8, 141, 143, 195, 199, 231

problem of evil, 1, 4, 8, 9, 11, 13, 23, 24 quantum, 14, 36, 39–42, 52, 55, 62, 99, 100, 116, 121, 128, 164, 183, 242–3 electrodynamics, 99, 116 mechanics, 42, 62, 99, 100, 121, 164, 183, 242–3 physics, 14, 39–42, 52, 55, 61–2, 128, 164, 183 vacuum, 44, 128, 144 realism, 147, 158, 166, 170–1, 178– 84, 199–201 regression, infinite, 25, 31–4, 44–5, 64, 66–7, 72–3, 78–82, 88, 90, 92, 99–103, 114–5, 125, 144–5, 153, 160, 165, 167, 185, 190–3, 200–1, 208, 213 relativity, general theory of, 36, 119, 178, 180, 242–3 religion, 14, 23–4, 29–30, 33, 45–6, 68, 142, 198, 217, 222, 231 resemblance, 175–7, 185, 188, 190–2, 197, 203–6 revelation, 23, 33, 133, 229, 232 scripture, Christian, 13, 21, 30–5, 45 Second Law of Thermodynamics, 38– 9, 67, 115 Second Proof (Way) for God’s existence, 17, 71–86, 87–106, 107–10, 111–22, 124, 126, 131, 137–40, 167, 170, 175, 212–13, 221, 229 self-reference, 189–200 sin, 3, 223 Spinoza, Baruch, 89, 112 space, 36–7, 39, 42–5, 55, 61–4, 83, 96, 119–21, 233 spirit, 18, 29–30, 80, 214 suffering, 2, 4, 6–9, 23–4 syllogism, 22, 169, 218, 234

Index teleology, see causality, finality (teleology) and theism, 29, 43–5, 58, 91, 93–4, 105, 108, 125, 127, 167–8, 170, 173, 178, 190, 193–200, 203– 10, 213, 217, 222, 224, 229, 231 Third Man argument, 59, 189–92, 205, 207 Third Proof (Way) for God’s existence, 15, 17, 123–30, 131–40, 141–2, 143–6, 229 time, 32, 35–7, 39, 42–5, 54–8, 62–4, 66, 68, 83, 90, 91, 96, 109, 119–20, 123, 126, 131–3, 137, 142, 233 transcendence, 10, 12, 22, 29, 32, 44, 45, 48, 59, 64, 65, 67, 95, 96, 149, 154–8, 161–2, 164–5, 195, 209–13 Transcendentals, 154–8, 161–2, 164– 5, 209–13 truth, 42, 62, 67, 103, 111, 184, 187– 90, 195, 200, 242 coherence theory of, 62, 67, 187– 90, 195, 200, 242 correspondence theory of, 42, 62, 67, 103, 111, 187, 195,

273 pragmatic theory of, 62, 67, 184, 195, Uncaused (First, Prime) Cause, 17, 22, 56, 57, 71–86, 87–106, 107–10, 111–22, 124, 126, 128, 131, 135, 137–40, 144, 167, 170, 175, 212–13, 215, 220, 221, 229, 232 universe, 2, 5–7, 11, 14–23, 26, 29, 31–3, 36–45, 48–50, 53, 57– 69, 83–5, 95, 116–22, 126–8, 142, 157, 167, 170, 178, 204, 206, 215–26, 227, 229, 237– 42 Unmoved (First, Prime) Mover, 17, 21, 29–46, 47–60, 61–4, 65– 70, 73, 131, 166, 175 virtue, 8, 58, 156 watchmaker analogy, 216, 224 William of Occam, 40, 67, 80, 91, 129, 224 Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 87, 185, 189– 90