He recently spoke with first things junior fellow Connor Grubaugh about three of his favorite books in the field. This is the best book in print on the problem of evil. Second, you cannot properly understand the problem of evil if you conceive of God in anthropomorphic terms—as something like a human agent, only bigger and stronger. If the world is like a story, God is not a character in the story alongside other characters; he is like the author of the story. And just as it makes no sense to think of an author as being unjust to his characters, neither does it make sense to think of God as being unjust to his creatures.

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For example, the general question of whether "God" has a body or is composed of matter is answered in question three, immediately following the Five Ways. For example, while he would allow that in all creatures there is found the trace of the Trinity yet a trace shows that someone has passed by but not who it is.

Anselm of Canterbury. Source[ edit ] A summary version of the Five Ways is given in the Summa theologiae [7] The Summa uses the form of scholastic disputation i.

A subsequent, more detailed, treatment of the Five Ways can be found in the Summa contra gentiles. When Aquinas argues that a causal chain cannot be infinitely long, he does not have in mind a chain where each element is a prior event that causes the next event; in other words, he is not arguing for a first event in a sequence.

Rather, his argument is that a chain of concurrent or simultaneous effects must be rooted ultimately in a cause capable of generating these effects, and hence for a cause that is first in the hierarchical sense, not the temporal sense. An essential series of causes is one in which the first, and every intermediate member of the series, must continue to exist in order for the causal series to continue as such. Ordinatio I. The Five Ways[ edit ] Summary[ edit ] In the world, we can see that at least some things are changing.

Whatever is changing is being changed by something else. If that by which it is changing is itself changed, then it too is being changed by something else. But this chain cannot be infinitely long , so there must be something that causes change without itself changing. This everyone understands to be God. Since a potential does not yet exist, it cannot cause itself to exist and can therefore only be brought into existence by something already existing.

But it is not possible for something to be the cause of itself because this would entail that it exists prior to itself, which is a contradiction. If that by which it is caused is itself caused, then it too must have a cause. But this cannot be an infinitely long chain, so, there must be a cause which is not itself caused by anything further. For example, plant growth depends on sunlight, which depends on gravity, which depends on mass.

In other words, perishable things. But if everything were contingent and thus capable of going out of existence, then, nothing would exist now. But things clearly do exist now. Therefore, there must be something that is imperishable: a necessary being. But if everything were like this, then, at some time nothing would exist. Some interpreters read Aquinas to mean that assuming an infinite past, all possibilities would be realized and everything would go out of existence.

Since this is clearly not the case, then there must be at least one thing that does not have the possibility of going out of existence. To hold the alternative, namely that an infinite series of contingent causes would be able to explain eternal generation and corruption would posit a circular argument: Why is there eternal generation and corruption? Because there is an eternal series of causes which are being generated and corrupted. And why is there an infinite series of causes which are being generated and corrupted?

Because there is eternal generation and corruption. Since such an explanation is not acceptable, there must be at least one eternal and necessary being. Quarta Via: The Argument from Degree[ edit ] Summary[ edit ] We see things in the world that vary in degrees of goodness, truth, nobility, etc.

For example, well-drawn circles are better than poorly drawn ones, healthy animals are better than sick animals. Moreover, some substances are better than others, since living things are better than non-living things, and animals are better than plants, in testimony of which no one would choose to lose their senses for the sake of having the longevity of a tree.

But judging something as being "more" or "less" implies some standard against which it is being judged. For example, in a room full of people of varying heights, at least one must be tallest. Therefore, there is something which is best and most true, and most a being, etc. Aquinas then adds the premise: what is most in a genus is the cause of all else in that genus. From this he deduces that there exists some most-good being which causes goodness in all else, and this everyone understands to be God.

Rather, he is arguing that things that only have partial or flawed existence indicate that they are not their own sources of existence, and so must rely on something else as the source of their existence. For example, "true" presents an aspect of existence, as any existent thing will be "true" insofar as it is true that it exists. Or "one," insofar as any existent thing will be at least "one thing.

This premise does not seem to be universally true, and indeed, Aquinas himself thinks that this premise is not always true, but only under certain circumstances [21] : namely, when 1 the lesser things in the genus need a cause, and 2 there is nothing outside the genus which can be the cause.

When these two conditions are met, the premise that the greatest in the genus is the cause of all else in that genus holds, since nothing gives what it does not have. Since Aquinas is dealing specifically with transcendentals like being and goodness, and since there is nothing outside the transcendentals, it follows that there is nothing outside the genus which could be a cause condition 2.

Moreover, if something has less than the maximum being or goodness or truth, then it must not have being or goodness or truth in itself. For example, how could what has circularity itself be less than fully circular? Therefore, whatever has less than the maximum being or goodness or truth must need a cause of their being and goodness and truth condition 1. Quinta Via: Argument from Final Cause or Ends[ edit ] Summary[ edit ] We see various non-intelligent objects in the world behaving in regular ways.

This cannot be due to chance since then they would not behave with predictable results. So their behavior must be set. But it cannot be set by themselves since they are non-intelligent and have no notion of how to set behavior. Therefore, their behavior must be set by something else, and by implication something that must be intelligent.

However, it is not a "Cosmic Watchmaker" argument from design see below. Instead, as the Dominican translation puts it, The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world [2]. Aristotle argued that a complete explanation of an object will involve knowledge of how it came to be efficient cause , what material it consists of material cause , how that material is structured formal cause , and the specific behaviors associated with the type of thing it is final cause.

For example, acorns regularly develop into oak trees but never into sea lions. The oak tree is the "end" towards which the acorn "points," its disposition, even if it fails to achieve maturity. The aims and goals of intelligent beings is easily explained by the fact that they consciously set those goals for themselves. The implication is that if something has a goal or end towards which it strives, it is either because it is intelligent or because something intelligent is guiding it.

Proofs or Ways? This is not to say that examining them in that light is not academically interesting. Reasons include: Purpose: The purpose of the Summa theologica "is to help Dominicans not enrolled in the university prepare for their priestly duties of preaching and hearing confessions" [24] by systematizing Catholic truth utilizing mainly Aristotelean tools.

Precis: Aquinas subsequently revisited the various arguments of the Five Ways in much greater detail. The simple list in the Summa theologica is not written to be clear to a 21st-century reader and complete, and should be considered a sketch or summary of the idea, suitable for presentation in a lecture or a quick browse.

Via negativa: Aquinas held that "we are unable to apprehend the Divine substance by knowing what it is. Yet we are able to have some knowledge of it by knowing what it is not. It invites logical fallacy to use the statements as positive definitions rather than negative exclusions. In other words, the Five Ways do not attempt to prove God exists, they attempt to demonstrate what we call God, which is a subtly different thing.

Some commentators[ which? Scientific knowledge is knowledge not simply that something is the case, but why it is the case, what causes bring it about. Perhaps we would do better to call it a scientific understanding of the fact known. This means that one may have cognition that something is true which is quite certain without having scientific knowledge In Article II, he says that the approach of demonstration a postiori can be used to go trace back to assert the a priori existence of God.

Article III i. Fuller arguments are taken up in later sections of the Summa theologiae, and other publications. For example, in the Summa contra gentiles SCG I, 13, 30, he clarifies that his arguments do not assume or presuppose that there was a first moment in time. A commentator notes that Thomas does not think that God could be first in a temporal sense rather than ontological sense because God exists outside of time.

Philosophical[ edit ] Criticism of the cosmological argument , and hence the first three Ways, emerged in the 18th century by the philosophers David Hume and Immanuel Kant.

In Why there almost certainly is a God: Doubting Dawkins, philosopher Keith Ward claims that Richard Dawkins mis-stated the five ways, and thus responds with a straw man. For example, for the fifth Way, Dawkins places it in the same position for his criticism as the Watchmaker analogy - when in fact, according to Ward, they are vastly different arguments. Ward defended the utility of the five ways for instance, on the fourth argument he states that all possible smells must pre-exist in the mind of God, but that God, being by his nature non-physical, does not himself stink whilst pointing out that they only constitute a proof of God if one first begins with a proposition that the universe can be rationally understood.

Nevertheless, he argues that they are useful in allowing us to understand what God will be like given this initial presupposition. Admittedly, those last two are a bit difficult for modern persons, but he might have asked all the same.


Taking Aquinas Seriously

Tozilkree Craig PayneJuly 9, at 7: However, the quotes I provided contained references to the primary sources that one could easily verify if one was interested. Ok, so if an essential causal series can occur over time, and if we consider an infinity of such causal steps, then we are considering an infinity of time, in this case, an infinity of past time. Fesed an act in the will, frser an act of willing needs to be explained by a cause, and in willing the good which God has initiated, the explanation is already present. Coming back to Aristotelian metaphysics, I am not sure what the implications are. For the Thomist, the real, the aquimas, the good, and the beautiful are all really the same thing looked at from different points of view. This has been going on for a long time.


Aquinas: A Beginner's Guide

Lecture, Dr. Feser is an associate professor of philosophy at Pasadena City College. Sam Harris as a philosophical Borat or Ali G. Then, with Daniel Dennett, I got a little mean. As I think anyone who has read my book can tell you, this abuse was not gratuitous, but well-earned by its targets. Dawkins and Co.




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