bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 16: Aquinas’s Way #4

WHERE WE ARE AT WITH THE FIRST FIVE ARGUMENTS
For the first five arguments in his case for God, Peter Kreeft makes use of the Five Ways of Thomas Aquinas.  Kreeft’s versions of four of those Five Ways are complete failures, because he does not bother to provide any support for the most important premises of those arguments.  Thus, we can reasonably toss aside Argument #1, Argument #2, Argument #3, and Argument #5, for this reason alone.
Kreeft does slightly better with Argument #4, the Argument from Degrees of Perfection,  because he provides at least a hint about a line of reasoning that could be used to support the most important premise of Argument #4:

D. IF an absolutely perfect being exists, THEN God exists.

Furthermore, in my view this key premise has significantly greater initial plausibility than the analogous key premises in the other arguments based on the Five Ways of Aquinas.  For this reason, Argument #4 is the ONLY argument in the Five Ways that has any chance of being a strong and solid argument for the existence of God.  So, I am going to take a closer look this argument, and will not toss it aside until I have examined it in more detail and found it to be a weak or defective argument.
 
THE ARGUMENT AS PRESENTED BY AQUINAS
Kreeft is supposed to be CLARIFYING the arguments of Aquinas, and making them understandable for a general audience, but in this case he makes the argument UNCLEAR and more difficult to understand.  The Argument from Degrees of Perfection is fairly clear as presented by Aquinas, and it is fairly UNCLEAR as presented by Kreeft, so I will begin by focusing on the argument as presented by Aquinas, and then move on to try to figure out what the hell Kreeft’s version of this argument means.
Aquinas’s statement of the argument is quoted in full in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition (see “Degrees of Perfection, Argument for the Existence of God” in Volume 2):
The fourth way is based on the gradation observed in things.  Some things are found to be more good, more true, more noble, and so on, and other things less.  But comparative terms describe varying degrees of approximation to a superlative; for example,  things are hotter and hotter the nearer they approach what is hottest.  Something therefore is the truest and best and most noble of things, and hence the most fully in being; for Aristotle says that the truest things are the things most fully in being.  Now when many things possess some property in common, the one most fully possessing it causes it in the others: fire, to use Aristotle’s example, the hottest of all things, causes all other things to be hot.  There is something therefore which causes in all other things their being, their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have.  And this we call God.   (Summa Theologica Ia, 2, 3)
 
Here are the main premises of Aquinas’s argument quoted above:

1. Some things are found to be more good, more true, more noble, and so on, and other things less. 

2. Comparative terms describe varying degrees of approximation to a superlative.

3. Something…is the truest and best and most noble of things.

4. When many things possess some property in common, the one most fully possessing it causes it in the others.

5. There is something…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have. 

6. This we call God.

As it stands, this argument is irrelevant to the question “Does God exist?”.  In order to make this argument relevant to the question at issue, we need to revise premise (6), and state the actual conclusion.  Here is the final inference in the clarified argument:

5.  There is something…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have. 

6a. IF there is something…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

A. God exists.

Premises (3) and (4) are given in support of premise (5):

3. Something…is the truest and best and most noble of things.

4. When many things possess some property in common, the one most fully possessing it causes it in the others.

THEREFORE:

5. There is something…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have. 

Premises (1) and (2) are given in support of premise (3):

1. Some things are found to be more good, more true, more noble, and so on, and other things less. 

2. Comparative terms describe varying degrees of approximation to a superlative.

THEREFORE:

3. Something…is the truest and best and most noble of things.

 
AMBIGUITY IN PREMISE (3)
Aquinas and his followers are, for some reason, unable to use the word “something” without committing the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION.  (Suggestion: Thomists should not be allowed to use this word in a philosophical argument for the next seven centuries.)  Aquinas uses the word “something” ambiguously in premise (3):

3. Something…is the truest and best and most noble of things.

This premise has at least four different meanings:

3a.  At least one thing is the truest of things AND at least one thing is the best of things AND at least one thing is the most noble of things.

3b.  At least one thing is the truest of things and is also the best of things and is also the most noble of things.

3c.  Exactly one thing is the truest of things AND exactly one thing is the best of things AND exactly one thing is the most noble of things.

3d.  Exactly one thing is the truest of things and is also the best of things and is also the most noble of things.

There are actually more meanings of premise (3) than just these four interpretations, because the terms “truest” and “best” and “most noble” are themselves ambiguous.  It is not clear whether there can be TWO or more “best” of things.  In other words, does Aquinas allow for a tie for first place?  On one interpretation of “best” there can be only ONE thing that is best, and so if two things are better than everything else, but neither one is better than the other, then there is NO best of things, on that interpretation of the word “best”.
Aquinas commits the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION in this reasoning, based on the ambiguity of premise (3).  The sub-argument is clearly insufficient to prove the strong claim made in (3d).  At best, the sub-argument supports the weak claim made in (3a).  But Aquinas needs the stronger claim made in (3d) for the rest of his argument to work.  Premise (3a) is too weak to provide support for premise (5).  The sub-argument for (3) is either INVALID and fails to prove the strong claim (3d), or else it is VALID but proves only the weak claim (3a), which is not adequate to support premise (5).  Therefore, either the sub-argument for (3) is INVALID, or else the sub-argument for (5) is INVALID.
 
CLARIFICATION OF PREMISE (5)
If we look at the wording of premise (5) taken by itself, ignoring the context, then it too uses the word “something” ambiguously, and it can be given at least two different interpretations:

5a. There is at least one thing…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have. 

5b. There is exactly one thing…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have. 

It does seem a bit odd, however, that there could be TWO (or more) things which cause “in all other things…their goodness…”, because then these ultimate causes of goodness would also be causing each other’s goodness, and there might be some logical contradiction involved in that scenario.  But there is another better reason to eliminate interpretation (5a).  In context, it is clear that Aquinas is referring to just ONE thing:
There is something therefore which causes in all other things their being, their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have.  And this we call God (emphasis added)
The pronoun “this” clearly implies that the word “something” in the previous sentence means EXACTLY ONE thing.  Furthermore, calling something “God” also implies that he is referring to EXACTLY ONE thing, because “God” is a proper noun, the name of an individual being.   So, in context, premise (5) clearly is making the stronger claim (5b).  In order to avoid a similar ambiguity with premise (6), that premise should be revised to use the same clear quantification language as in (5b):

5b. There is exactly one thing…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have. 

6b. IF there is exactly one thing…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

A. God exists.

 
THE SUB-ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (5b)
We can now clearly state the sub-argument for premise (5b):

3a.  At least one thing is the truest of things AND at least one thing is the best of things AND at least one thing is the most noble of things.

4. When many things possess some property in common, the one most fully possessing it causes it in the others.

THEREFORE:

5b. There is exactly one thing…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have. 

Now that we have clarified the meanings of premises (3) and (5), it becomes obvious that this sub-argument is INVALID.  All that can legitimately be inferred from (3a) and (4) is that the truest of things causes truth in other things that are less true, and that the best of things causes goodness in other things that are less good, and that the most noble of things causes nobility in other things that are less noble.  We cannot infer that there is EXACTLY ONE thing which causes ALL perfections in everything else.
Premise (4) is pretty obviously FALSE, as well.  Aquinas gives the example of fire causing heat in other things that are less hot than fire.  But this is clearly a HASTY GENERALIZATION.   First of all, the example doesn’t work at all, because fire is NOT a thing.  Fire is a KIND of thing.  There are many fires, many instances of fire.  Second, specific instances of fire are NOT the hottest thing there is.  Some instances of fire are hotter than other instances of fire.  Also, some physical objects can become hotter than some instances of fire.  Finally, fire is NOT the only cause of heat in things.  Heat can also be caused by friction, and by the flow of electricity.  Fire is basically a rapid form of oxidation, which is different from friction and from the flow of electricity.  The evidence that Aquinas gives in support of (4) FAILS to support (4), and we cannot reasonably draw a universal conclusion from a single alleged example.
Coaches are not necessarily the very best players of the sport they coach.  So, a football coach can be a worse football player than the players that he coaches.  But that means that a cause of the excellence of some of the best football players might well be a worse football player than they are.   
Charcoal can be used to filter water, to make water more pure.  But after using a charcoal filter to purify water for a while, the filter becomes less pure than the water.  Even so, the charcoal filter can continue to be used to purify the water, at least for some additional period of time.  In that period of time, the filter is less pure than the water that it is being used to purify.   
The cause of an oak tree is a tiny acorn.  The largeness of the oak tree is thus caused by something that is much smaller than the oak tree, not by something that is larger than the oak tree, and certainly not by the largest thing that has ever existed. The size of the blast from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima was much larger than the bomb that caused the blast.  Therefore, the largeness of the blast was caused by something much smaller than the blast, and not by something that was much larger than the blast.
There are many counterexamples to the universal generalization made in premise (4), so we can reasonably conclude that (4) is false.
Therefore, the sub-argument for (5b) is definitely UNSOUND, because it contains an INVALID inference, and because it is based on a FALSE premise.
 
EVALUATION OF PREMISE (3a)
Here is the sub-argument for (3a):

1. Some things are found to be more good, more true, more noble, and so on, and other things less. 

2. Comparative terms describe varying degrees of approximation to a superlative.

THEREFORE:

3a. At least one thing is the truest of things AND at least one thing is the best of things AND at least one thing is the most noble of things.

This sub-argument is clearly INVALID.  That is, as stated it is formally INVALID.  It might well be possible to re-state this sub-argument in a way that is formally VALID.  I think premise (2) can be reasonably viewed as support for an unstated premise that would make the argument VALID:

1. Some things are found to be more good, more true, more noble, and so on, and other things less. 

B. If one thing has more of quality X than another thing, then there is at least one thing that has the most of quality X.

THEREFORE:

3a. At least one thing is the truest of things AND at least one thing is the best of things AND at least one thing is the most noble of things.

Premise (2) is a reason given in support of the unstated assumption (B), which makes the argument VALID.  (Actually, the argument still is not quite formally valid, but it is easier to see that this revised argument is deductively valid and that it could be revised to make it formally valid.)
Let’s suppose that Aquinas allows for there to be a tie for first place, that there could be two “best” things, for example.  It seems as if (B) is an analytic truth, and thus it would not matter whether premise (2) actually implies or provides a good reason for (B).
If there are various things that have quality X, and at least one of those things has more of that quality than one of the other things, then it seems like there MUST be one or more things in that set of things that has “the most” of quality X.  Some people are taller than other people, so there MUST be at least one person who is the tallest person (perhaps there are many people tied for being the tallest person).  Some cars are faster than other cars, so there MUST be at least one car that is the fastest car (perhaps there are several cars that would tie for being the fastest car).
Although (B) appears to be an analytic truth, it is actually an analytic FALSEHOOD.  It is an analytic falsehood, because it is a universal generalization that has a counterexample that is a necessary truth:
Some integers are greater than other integers, but there is no greatest integer.
So, (B) is a false universal generalization in all possible worlds.
Besides being a necessary falsehood, (B) also is clearly too weak to be of use in the rest of Aquinas’s argument, a weakness that is passed on to premise (3a), making (3a) inadequate to support premise (5b).
Suppose that only two persons exist, and that one person is Satan and the other is Adolf Hitler.  In this world, it would presumably be the case that Hitler was a better person than Satan, because Hitler is presumably not as wicked and evil as Satan.  Since Hitler is better than Satan, if these were the only two persons in existence, then Hitler would be the best person.  Big Freaking Deal!  In this world, there is a best person but that person is a horrible and very evil person, NOT a perfectly good person, and NOT God.
So, premise (B) and premise (3a) can only be used to show that there is at least one thing that has “the most” of some good quality, but that is logically compatible with this thing having only a tiny smidgen of that good quality,  and thus falling miles and miles short of divine perfection.
 
EVALUATION OF PREMISE (6b)
The single most important premise in the Argument from Degrees of Perfection as presented by Aquinas is the premise that links the idea of a single cause of all perfections to the idea of God:

6b. IF there is exactly one thing…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have, THEN God exists.

Aquinas provides no support for this premise in the Five Ways passage.  He does continue his case for God for over a hundred more pages after the Five Ways passage, so one could probably construct a line of reasoning from those later passages in support of (6b).  I won’t make that attempt here.  I’m just going to evaluate (6b) as it stands.
Premise (6b) is very dubious because, as we saw in our examination of premise (4), the cause of a property in thing X does NOT need to have that property to a greater degree than thing X.  A coach can cause a football player to become a better player than the coach is or ever was.  A charcoal filter can be less pure than the water it causes to become purified.  A tiny acorn can cause an oak tree that is much larger than the acorn.   A small atomic bomb can cause a blast that is much larger than the bomb.  Because (4) is clearly FALSE, (6b) is very questionable.  The cause of goodness in all things need NOT be better than any of the things it causes to be good.  The cause of knowledge in other beings need NOT have more knowledge than those beings it causes to have knowledge.  The cause of the power of other things need NOT be more powerful than those things to which it gives power.
Because (4) is FALSE, it appears to me that (6b) is also FALSE.  Premise (6b) implies a logically necessary connection between causing goodness in other things and possessing maximal or unlimited goodness, but there is no such logically necessary connection, at least none that I can discern.
 
CONCLUSION
Click on the image below for a clearer view of the argument diagram of the logical structure of Aquinas’s Way #4 argument:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Although Aquinas’s version of the Argument from Degrees of Perfection is clearer than Kreeft’s version, it still contains some serious ambiguities, and it turns out to be a very crappy argument, full of serious problems.
The sub-argument for (5b) is clearly UNSOUND; the inference is INVALID, and premise (4) is FALSE.
The most important premise of the argument is premise (6b), and because premise (4) is FALSE, this gives us good reason to believe that (6b) is also FALSE.
The final inference in the argument is VALID but this part of the argument is probably UNSOUND because (5b) is dubious (supported by an INVALID sub-argument with a FALSE premise), and (6b) appears to be FALSE:

5b. There is exactly one thing…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have. 

6b. IF there is exactly one thing…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

A. God exists.

 

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 2: How Many Arguments for God?

In Chapter  2 of When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Norman Geisler appears to present five different arguments for the existence of God.  However, there are some significant problems with this characterization of Geisler’s case for God.
 
NONE of the five arguments end with the conclusion that “God exists”.  In fact, only his first argument even mentions the word “God”, and it is precisely the reference to “God” in the conclusion of his first argument that makes that argument logically invalid!  So, if we correct the logic of the first argument, and remove the reference to “God” in it’s conclusion, then there is no mention of “God” anywhere in any of Geisler’s five arguments.  There is no mention of “God” in the premises of any of the five arguments presented by Geisler, and there is no mention of “God” in the conclusions of his arguments, with the exception of the first argument.
 
How can Geisler present five arguments for the existence of God, and yet NONE of the arguments ends with the conclusion that “God exists”?  This is bizzarre.  This is absurd. This is ridiculous.  What the hell is going on here?
 
Geisler is a professional philosopher who has specialized in the philosophy of religion and in Christian apologetics, and he has been writing books defending basic Christian beliefs for decades.  I remember reading his book Christian Apologetics in the early 1980’s, and that book was originally published in 1976.  He earned his PhD in Philosophy in 1970.  Here is a blurb on Geisler from his website:
 
Dr. Norman Geisler, PhD, is a prolific author, veteran professor, speaker, lecturer, traveler, philosopher, apologist, evangelist, and theologian. To those who ask, “Who is Norm Geisler?” some have suggested, “Imagine a cross between Thomas Aquinas and Billy Graham and you’re not too far off.”
 
Norm has authored or co-authored over 100 books and hundreds of articles. He has taught theology, philosophy, and apologetics on the college or graduate level for over 50 years. He has served as a professor at some of the finest Seminaries in the United States, including Trinity Evangelical Seminary, and Dallas Theological Seminary. He now lends his talents to Veritas Evangelical Seminary and to Southern Evangelical Seminary.
 
Geisler is well-educated, well-informed, has a PhD in philosophy, and has been writing and lecturing on philosophy of religion and Christian apologetics since at least the 1970’s.  So, how can it be that he thinks he is presenting five arguments for the existence of God, and yet ZERO of the arguments that he gives end with the conclusion that “God exists”?
 
One might doubt the claim that Geisler thinks he is presenting five arguments for the existence of God, but there is good reason to believe this is in fact, how he views his own case for God:
  1. The first section of of Chapter 2 is labelled “Does God Exist?” (WSA, p.15). The five arguments are presented in this section, indicating that these arguments settle the question about the existence of God, in Geisler’s view.
  2. The first sub-section in that first section is labelled “Arguments for the Existence of God” (WSA, p.15)  Note that Geisler uses the plural “Arguments” not the singular term “Argument”.  The five arguments are presented in this sub-section, indicating that each one of the five arguments is believed to be an argument “for the existence of God”.
  3. The opening sentence of this sub-section states that there have “traditionally been four basic arguments used to prove God’s existence.” (WSA, p.15).  Geisler then goes on to present his five arguments in terms of these four basic types of argument; he gives two “forms” of cosmological argument (or what he calls “the Argument from Creation”) and one argument for each of the remaining three types of argument.
  4. In describing the history of “the Argument from Creation” (his term for cosmological arguments), Geisler states that this argument is “the most widely noted argument for God’s existence” (WSA, p.16).  This is a clear indication that each one of the “Arguments from Creation”  presented by Geisler is thought to be an argument “for God’s existence”.
  5. In describing the history of “the Moral Argument” Geisler mentions that Kant “rejected all of the traditional arguments for God’s existence.” (WSA, p.22).  Note the use of the plural “traditional arguments” and that these were arguments “for God’s existence”.  This parallels nicely with the idea that Geisler is presenting a number of “arguments” which are arguments “for God’s existence”.  This is an echo of Geisler’s intial statement that there have “traditionally been four basic arguments used to prove God’s existence.” (WSA, p.15).
  6. In describing the history of “the Moral Argument” Geisler mentions that this argument has been refined “to show that there is a rational basis for God’s existence to be found in morality.” (WSA, p.22).   This is an indication that Geisler believes that “the Moral Argument” can be used as a stand-alone argument to show that God exists.
Finally, Geisler is a Thomist.  He was clearly influenced by the philosophy of religion of Thomas Aquinas, and Aquinas is generally believed to have presented five different arguments for the existence of God.  Geisler does not stick with the five arguments used by Aquinas, but he does use at least a couple of Aquinas’s Five Ways, and he also sticks with presenting five brief arguments, just like in Aquinas’s (alleged) case for God.
 
Thus, there are several good reasons to conclude that Geisler believed he was presenting five different arguments for the existence of God, and yet we have the very odd fact that NONE of these arguments ends with the conclusion that “God exists”.  How can this be?
 
One big clue comes when Geisler discusses the second argument, which is Geisler’s version of a cosmological argument by Aquinas:
 
This argument shows why there must be a present, conserving cause of the world, but it doesn’t tell us very much about what kind of God exists.  How do we know that this is really the God of the Bible?  (WSA, p.19, emphasis added)
 
This is a fairly clear indication that Geisler is working with at least two different senses of the word “God”.  Geisler thinks that his second cosmological argument proves the existence of “God” (in one sense) but does NOT prove the existence of “the God of the Bible”.  He believes that the second cosmological argument proves the existence of some sort of “God” but not the existence of some other sort of “God”. 
 
But this is very confusing.  What kind of “God” does Geisler think his second argument proves?  and how is that kind of “God” different from the “God” of the Bible?  Furthermore, what sort of “God” does Geisler think his first argument proves to exist?  Does the first argument prove the existence of the “God” of the Bible or some other kind of “God”?  If it only proves the existence of some other kind of “God” is that other kind the same as the other kind of God proven by the second argument or is the other sort of “God” proven by the first argument different from both the “God” proven by the second argument and different from the “God” of the Bible as well? Is there a third sense of the word “God” that is in play in the claim that the first argument proves the existence of “God”?  Are we now dealing with three different senses of the word “God”?  
 
The same questions apply to each of the other arguments as well.  There is clearly an ambiguity in the way that Geisler uses the word “God”, but since he failed to provide any definition of the word “God”, we are at a loss to know what the hell he is talking about.
 
In spite of the great potential for confusion from using the word “God” in two or three different senses, Geisler never bothers to provide a definition of any sense of the word “God”. However, based on some additional reasoning and arguments that Geisler presents, it becomes fairly clear what he means when he speaks of the “God” of the Bible.  We will return to this point in a moment.
 
Geisler admits that there is a problem with considering his five arguments individually, as separate and independent arguments, and he suggests that we must somehow combine the five arguments together in order to arrive at the conclusion that “the God of the Bible” exists:
 
But what if we can combine all of these arguments into a cohesive whole that proves what kind of being God is as well as His existence?  That is what we will do in the following pages.
 
If we want to show that God exists and that He is the God of the Bible, then we need to show that all of the things in the arguments we mentioned are true.  Each one contributes something to our knowledge of God and, taken together, they form a picture that can only fit the one true God. (WSA, p.26, emphasis added)
 
Why bother to “combine all of the arguments”?  If Geisler has previously proven the existence of God four or five times, isn’t that enough?  In mathematics and in logic, you only need to give ONE proof and you are done.  Geisler gives five arguments, and then he continues on with some new hybrid argument that attempts to combine the previous five arguments “into a cohesive whole”.  Why not just quit after proving the existence of God four or five times?
 
Clearly, Geisler believes that his five arguments are NOT enough to prove that the “God” of the Bible exists. That is because the five arguments prove the existence of “God” in some other sense (or senses) of the word, a sense (or senses) of the word that Geisler fails to explain or define.
 
But it is clear what Geisler does think that he ends up proving with his combination of the five arguments “into a cohesive whole”, and so this gives us a fairly clear indication of what it is that he means by the “God” of the Bible:
 
We have said that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, infinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent.  (WSA, p.28)
 
We can construct a definition of the word “God” in accordance with the sort of “God” that Geisler thinks he has shown to exist:
 
X is God IF AND ONLY IF:
  1. X is all-powerful, and 
  2. X is all-knowing, and
  3. X is all-good, and 
  4. X is infinite, and 
  5. X is uncreated, and
  6. X is unchanging, and
  7. X is eternal, and 
  8. X is omnipresent.
Geisler admits that his first argument does NOT prove the existence of such a “God”, and that his second argument does NOT prove the existence of such a “God”, and that his third argument does NOT prove the existence of such a “God”, and that his fourth argument does NOT prove the existence of such a “God”, and that his fifth argument doe NOT prove the existence of such a “God”.  
 
Geisler admits that NONE of his five arguments is sufficient by itself to establish the existence of “God” in this sense of the word, which is (more or less) the ordinary sense of the word as used in the context of the Christian faith, Christian theology, and Christian-dominated cultures.
 
But then, what sort of “God” do his five arguments prove exists?  Geisler does not bother to spell this out, so we have to try to guess at what he means by the word “God” in this context.  In Geisler’s “combined” argument, he begins by using the cosmological arguments, his first two arguments, to prove that there is a being that caused the universe to begin to exist and to show that this being is very powerful (WSA, p.26).  
Geisler then uses his argument from design to show that:
 
…whatever caused the universe not only had great power, but also great intelligence. (WSA, p.26)
 
What connects these two arguments together is the idea of “whatever caused the universe” to begin to exist.  So, it would appear that the “God” that is proven to exist by the first argument is simply “whatever caused the universe” to begin to exist:
 
X is God IF AND ONLY IF:
X caused the universe to begin to exist.
 
But if this is what is meant by “God” in relation to what the five arguments can prove by themselves, individually, then it is still the case that most of the five arguments (with the possible exception of the first argument) FAIL to prove that “God” exists, even in this weak sense of the word.

The second cosmological argument allegedly shows the existence of a current sustaining cause of the universe, but this does not imply that the universe began to exist.  It is conceivable that the universe has always existed and that the sustaining cause has always caused the universe to continue to exist. (Avoiding the issue of whether the universe began to exist was precisely the reason that Aquinas favored this second cosmological argument and rejected the cosmological argument that Geisler gives as his first argument for “God”).  If the universe has always existed, then there is no X that caused the universe to begin to exist, so the truth of the conclusion of the second cosmological argument is compatible with there being no “God”, in the sense of something that “caused the universe to begin to exist”.
 
Geisler’s third argument allegedly proves the existence of a designer of the universe.  A designer of the universe is not necessarily the cause of the existence of the universe. The universe could have always existed, and at some point an intelligent being organized the matter of the universe into something like its present form.  In that case, there would be a designer, but no creator and no cause of the universe coming into existence.  
 
A moral lawgiver need not be the cause of the existence of the universe.  So, proving the existence of a supreme moral lawgiver FAILS to prove that “God” exists, in the sense of proving the existence of something that caused the universe to come into being.
 
Geisler admits that the fifth argument, an ontological argument, “fails to show that God actually exists.”  (p.25)  It is clear that by “God” here he means the weak sense of the word “God” (not the “God” of the Bible). So, argument number five is also a failure.
 
All of these failures of the five arguments to prove that “God exists” would have been evident from the start if Geisler had simply bothered to define the word “God” before presenting his five arguments, and if he had actually constructed clear arguments that ended with the conclusion that “God exists”.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways

Norman Geisler is a Thomist.  His case for the existence of God is basically a simplified, clarified, and somewhat modified version of the case for God made by Thomas Aqinas in Summa Theologica.  Geisler borrows the basic logical structure of the case for God made by Aquinas, as well as some of the specific sub-arguments of Aquinas.
The standard view of Aquinas has it that Aquinas presents Five Ways or five arguments for the existence of God.  Geisler apparently accepts this standard view of Aquinas, and he is thus led to believe that his own case for God rests upon five arguments for the existence of God.
But the standard view of Aquinas is completely mistaken, and the Five Ways of Aquinas are NOT arguments for the existence of God.  Similarly, Geisler mischaracterizes his own case for God as including five arguments for the existence of God.  The truth of the matter, however, is that NONE of the five arguments presented by Geisler is an argument for the existence of God.  Geisler literally does not know what he is doing.
In order for an argument to BE an argument for the existence of God, the conclusion of the argument must be that “God exists” or that “There is a God”.  None of the five arguments presented by Geisler in his case for God ends with the conclusion that “God exists”, and none of the five arguments ends with the conclusion that “There is a God”.  Thus, it is very clear that NONE of the five arguments presented by Geisler in his case for God is an argument for the existence of God.
We saw in the previous post about Geisler’s first argument, that the word “God” did appear in the conclusion of that argument.  But we also saw that the word “God” did not appear in any of the premises of the argument, and that the inclusion of the phrase “this cause was God” in the conclusion of that argument makes that first argument logically invalid.  In order for the first argument to be logically valid, we must remove the reference to “God” in the conclusion.
If we look at just the conclusions of the remaining four arguments that Geisler presents, it is clear that none of those conclusions contain the word “God”:
Argument #G2: The universe needs a cause for its continuing existence (WSA, p.18-19)
4. Therefore, there must be a first uncaused cause of every finite, changing thing that exists. (WSA, p.18-19)
Argument #G3: Argument from design (WSA, p.20-22)
3. Therefore, there must be a Great Designer of the universe. (WSA, p.20)
Argument #G4: Argument from moral law (WSA, p. 22-24)
3.  Therefore, there must be a supreme moral Lawgiver. (WSA, p.22)
Argument #G5: Argument from being (p.24-26)
3. Therefore, necessary existence must be attributed to the most perfect Being. (WSA, p.24-25)
Since the word “God” does not appear in any of the conclusions of the remaining four arguments presented by Geisler, it is clear that NONE of these four arguments ends with the conclusion that “God exists” or that “There is a God”.  Therefore, NONE of the four remaining arguments is an argument for the existence of God.
Geisler believes that in his case for God he has presented five arguments for the existence of God, but it is crystal clear that, in fact, he has presented ZERO arguments for the existence of God.  So, it appears, at least initially, that Geisler’s case for God is a complete and utter failure.
However, just as the standard view of Aquinas presents a mischaracterization of the case for God made by Aquinas, so because of Geisler’s own misunderstanding of what he is doing, he has mischaracterized his own case for God.  If we come to see what Aquinas was actually doing in Summa Theologica, that will help us to understand what Geisler is actually doing in his case for God.  
Just as I believe that the case for God in Aquinas is a serious one that deserves serious consideration and analysis, so I think that Geisler’s case for God is better than what my critique has indicated so far.  There is some real substance to Geisler’s case for God, but we need to reconceive the overall logic of his case.

bookmark_borderAquinas’ Argument for the Existence of God – Part 6

A key part of Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God in Summa Theologica is found in Question 14, Article 1: “Whether There Is Knowledge in God?”.  In that article, Aquinas argues for the conclusion that “In God there exists the most perfect knowledge.”  The word “God” here is a misleading translation, and I take this claim to mean the following:
(MPK) In the first principle there exists the most perfect knowledge.
Aquinas provides only ONE argument for this conclusion (at least in Summa Theologica), and this conclusion is essential to Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God, so if that ONE argument fails, then Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God (in Summa Theologica) also fails.
NOTE: Aquinas might have other arguments for the existence of God in other writings; I’m only concerned here about his argument for God in Summa Theologica.
This conclusion (MPK) is critical to the success of Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God, because it is the basis on which Aquinas argues for three key divine attributes:
(AKB) The first principle is an all-knowing being
(see Question 14, Articles 2 through 6)
(PLB) The first principle is a perfectly-loving being.
(see Question 20, Articles 1 through 4, and Question 19, Article 1)
(PJB) The first principle is a perfectly-just being.
(see Question 21, Article 1, and Question 19, Article 1).
Thus, if Aquinas fails to prove (MPK), then he also fails to prove that the first principle is all knowing, and fails to prove that it is perfectly loving, and fails to prove that it is perfectly just.  If Aquinas fails to prove that these divine attributes apply to the first principle, then he fails to prove that God exists, because these are basic and essential divine attributes.  If Aquinas cannot show that these divine attributes apply to the first principle, then he cannot show that the first principle is God (in the ordinary sense of the word “God”), and thus cannot show that God exists.
Aquinas’ ONE argument for (MPK) concludes with these words (from Question 14, Article 1):
Since therefore God is in the highest degree of immateriality, as stated above (Q. VII, A. I), it follows that He occupies the highest place in knowledge.
This means that the ONE argument that Aquinas gives for (MPK) is based on the following assumption (because the word “God” is a misleading traslation here, I have rephrased the premise using a more generic term):
(HDI)  The first principle is in the highest degree of immateriality.
Aquinas indicates that (HDI) is argued for in Question 7, Article 1.  But Question 7, Article 1 is specifically about “Whether God Is Infinite?”.   The conclusion of that article is that “God is infinite.”  The word “God” is a misleading translation here, and I take this conclusion to mean this:
(FPI) The first principle is infinite.
Again Aquinas gives only ONE argument for the conclusion (FPI).  Presumably, Aquinas believes that (FPI) implies (HDI), or that (FPI) can be used as a premise in an argument for (HDI), making the conclusion of Question 7, Article 1 relevant to the assumption (HDI), which he needs in order to prove the key claim (MPK).
The ONE argument given by Aquinas for (FPI) concludes with these words (from Question 7, Article 1):
Since therefore the divine being is not a being received in anything, but He is His own subsistent being as was shown above (Q. III, A. 4), it is clear that God Himself is infinite and perfect.
The word “God” here is misleading; the phrase “the divine being” is better, but to be consistent with how the other key claims have been phrased I take this premise to mean this:
(OSB)  The first principle is its own sufficient being.
Here is the logical structure of the core argument within the overall structure of Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God (in Summa Theologica):
(OSB)–>(FPI)–>(HDI)–>(MPK)
If Aquinas fails to prove (OSB), then Aquinas fails to prove (MPK), and if Aquinas fails to prove (MPK), then Aquinas fails to prove the existence of God, because (MPK) is needed to establish that the first principle has three key divine attributes (i.e. is all knowing, perfectly loving, and perfectly just).
Furthermore, if any of the inferences here are mistaken or illogical, then Aquinas fails to prove (MPK), and thus fails to prove the existence of God (note that additional premises are often stated and required).  Therefore, this chain of reasoning is essential to Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God as given in Summa Theologica.
In the passage quoted above, Aquinas indicates that (OSB) is proven in Question 3, Article 4:  “Whether Essence and Being Are the Same in God?”.  In this article, Aquinas gives THREE arguments in support of (OSB).
The first argument connects back to the 2nd of the Five Ways.  Here is a key part of this first argument (from Question 3, Article 4):
Therefore that thing whose being differs from its essence must have its being caused caused by another.  But this cannot be said of God, because we call God the first efficient cause.  Therefore it is impossible that in God His being should differ from His essence.
The word “God” is a misleading translation, so I take the key premise here to mean this:
(FEC)  The first principle is the first efficient cause.
So, (FEC) is a key premise in an argument that Aquinas offers to prove (OSB):
(FEC)–>(OSB)
The second argument for (OSB) ends this way (from Question 3, Article 4):
Therefore, since in God there is no potentiality, as shown above (A. I), it follows that in Him essence does not differ from His being.  Therefore His essence is His being.
The word “God” is a misleading translation; I understand the key premise here this way:
(HNP) The first principle has no potentiality.
So, Aquinas uses (HNP) as a premise in an argument to prove (OSB):
(HNP)–>(OSB)
The third argument for (OSB) concludes this way (from Question 3, Article 4):
But God is His own essence, as shown above (A. 3); if, therefore, He is not His own being He will be not essential, but participated being.  He will not therefore be the first being–which is absurd.  Therefore God is His own being, and not merely his own essence.
A key premise in this argument is that “God is His own essence”.  The word “God” is a misleading translation, so I take this premise to mean this:
(IOE)  The first principle is its own essence.
Aquinas takes (IOE) to be a key premise in an argument to prove (OSB):
(IOE)–>(OSB)
Now we can take the core argument in Aquinas’ overall argument for the existence of God and add the three main conclusions on the back end, and add the three main reasons/premises for (OSB) on the front end (click on the image below to get a clearer view of the chart):
Aquinas Argument for God -RevA
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1. This entire chain of reasoning exists OUTSIDE of the Five Ways passage (which is found in Question 2, Article 3).
2. This chain of reasoning is ESSENTIAL to Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God in Summa Theologica. (If this chain of reasoning fails, then Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God in Summa Theologica fails.)
THEREFORE:
3. The Five Ways passage does NOT contain any proof of the existence of God (not even just one proof).
Furthermore, although there are three separate arguments given in support of (OSB), there is only ONE chain of reasoning from (OSB) to the key claim (MPK), and there is only ONE chain of reasoning from (MPK) to the conclusion that God exists, namely to arrive at the conjunction of  (AKB), (PLB), and (PJB), plus a few other key divine attributes.  Thus, although one could technically construct three different proofs based on the structure of the logic shown in the chart above, the reasoning in those three proofs would be identical starting from the point at which one concludes that (OSB) is the case.
That is to say, about 80% of the proof or chain of reasoning would be identical between the “three proofs”.  The only difference between the proofs would be how one initially proves or argues for the key claim (OSB).  It seems more reasonable to me to say that there is just ONE argument for the existence of God in Summa Theologica, but that a key premise of that argument is supported by three different sub-arguments.  It would certainly be very misleading to assert that “There are three separate and distinct arguments for the existence of God in Summa Theologica.”
So, I still hold the view that there are ZERO proofs of the existence of God in the Five Ways passage, and that there is just ONE argument for the existence of God in Summa Theologica.

bookmark_borderAquinas’ Argument for the Existence of God – Part 5

In order to prove that God exists, Aquinas must prove that there exists a being that has ALL of the following divine attributes:

  • a person who is the creator of the universe
  • an eternally bodiless person
  • an eternally omnipotent person
  • an eternally omniscient person
  • an eternally perfectly morally good person

I don’t believe that Aquinas actually proves that there is a being with even just ONE of these key divine attributes, so I certainly don’t believe that Aquinas proves that there is a being that possesses ALL of these divine attributes.  I believe that Aquinas failed to prove that “God exists.”
But an argument for God need not PROVE that God exists.  An argument for God could simply provide evidence or support for the existence of God without proving that God exists.  So, if Aquinas had managed to prove only that there is a being who possesses one or two of the above divine attributes, that would fall short of proving that God exists, but it would still be a significant philosophical accomplishment because that would provide evidence or support for the claim that “God exists”.
My understanding of Aquinas’ book Summa Theologica is that in Part I of this book Aquinas attempts to prove that there exists a bodiless person who created the universe, who has full knowledge of everything that exists, who is perfectly loving and perfectly just, and who is eternal.  So, Aquinas does not exactly attempt to prove the existence of a being who has all of the divine attributes that I mention above, but the being that he attempts to prove is very similar to the sort of being that I think he needs to prove exists in order to prove that “God exists”.
So, if Aquinas was successful in his attempt to prove the existence of a bodiless person who created the universe, who has full knowledge of everything that exists, who is perfectly loving and perfectly just, and who is eternal, then Aquinas would have come close to proving that “God exists” and he certianly would have provided powerful evidence or support for the claim that “God exists.”
The traditional view of the Five Ways passage in Summa Theologica (Part I, Question 2, Article 3) is that Aquinas presents five proofs for the existence of God in that passage.  But this is a completely mistaken view of what Aquinas is doing in that passage.  There are actually ZERO proofs for the existence of God in that passage.
In the Five Ways passage Aquinas is attempting to prove the existence of five metaphysical beings:

  1. an Unchanged Changer  (UC)
  2. a First Efficient Cause  (FEC)
  3. a First Necessary Being (FNB)
  4. a Most Perfect Being (MPB)
  5. an Intelligent Designer of Nature (IDN)

Proving the existence of one of these beings is NOT the same as proving the existence of God.  In order to use these metaphysical conclusions to prove the existence of God, one must add another premise to each of the Five Ways:

  • IF an Unchanged Changer exists, THEN God exists.
  • IF a First Efficient Cause exists, THEN God exists.
  • IF a First Necessary Being exists, THEN God exists.
  • IF a Most Perfect Being exists, THEN God exists.
  • IF an Intelligent Designer of Nature exists, THEN God exists.

But Aquinas makes no effort to prove or support any of these additional claims, at least not in the Five Ways passage.  Therefore, there are ZERO proofs of the existence of God in the Five Ways passage in Summa Theologica.
Furthermore, NONE of the five beings for which Aquinas argues in the Five Ways passage is defined as possessing even ONE of the divine attributes.  None of these beings is (defined as) an eternally bodiless person, an eternally omnipotent person, an eternally omniscient person, or an eternally perfectly morally good person.
Proving the existence of an Intelligent Designer of Nature comes close to proving the existence of a person who is the creator of the universe, but further argumenation would be required to show that the existence of an Intelligent Designer logically implies the existence of a person who created the universe.
So, the existence of the five metaphysical beings would NOT immediately entail the existence of a being who possesses one of the primary divine attributes.  The Five Ways not only fall short of proving the existence of God, they also fall short of proving the existence of a being who possesses even just one of the main divine attributes.  Thus, the Five Ways are complete and utter failures as proofs of the existence of God.
However, I think it is a great mistake to view the Five Ways passage as containing five attempts to prove the existence of God.  This is unfair to Aquinas, an insult to one one of the greatest defenders of theism in the history of philosophy.  Aquinas uses the existence of the five different kinds of metaphysical beings as the foundation of an extensive and complex case for the existence of God, a case which extends for over one hundred pages (not just the Five Ways passage, which occupies less than two pages in the English translation that I’m using).
My view is that there is only ONE proof for the existence of God in Summa Theologica, and that proof relies heavily on the Second Way.  The complex proof for the existence of God presented by Aquinas requires the assumption that a First Efficient Cause (FEC) exists, that there is a being that is an FEC.  Without this assumption, Aquinas’ complex proof for the existence of God fails.
There might be one or two other metaphysical beings from the Five Ways that Aquinas’ proof also requires to be successful, but I have not identified such a logical dependency yet.   Since the success of the 2nd Way is essential to the success of Aquinas’ complex proof of the existence of God, there are NOT five different ways of proving the existence of God in the Summa Theologica; there is just ONE attempted proof of the existence of God.
In Part I, Question 14, Article 1, Aquinas argues that “there is knowledge in God”.  This would be better translated as “there is knowledge in the first principle” or “there is knowledge in the god of Aristotle”.  This is a very important claim in Aquinas’ attempted proof of the existence of God.  It is the first step towards establishing that there is a being who has full knowledge of everything that exists (which comes close to the divine attribute of omniscience), and it is also an important step towards establishing that this being, this god of Aristotle, has will and is perfectly loving (which comes close to the divine attribute of a person who is perfectly morally good).  So, if Aquinas fails to prove this point about there being knowledge in the first principle, then his proof for the existence of God fails.  Aquinas gives only ONE argument for this claim and that argument, so far as I can tell, requires the assumption that there exists a First Efficient Cause (the conclusion of the 2nd Way).
Aquinas argues that “there is knowledge in God” (better: “there is knowledge in the first principle”) on the grounds that “God is in the highest degree of immateriality, as stated above (Q. VII, A. I)…”  (better: “the first principle is in the highest degree of immateriality…”).  If we then take a look at the argument for that premise, we find it is based on the assumption that “the divine being…is His own subsistent being as was shown above (Q. III, A. 4)…”  If we then take a look at the arguments (three of them) for that assumption, they are based on the existence of three kinds of beings (respectively):

  1. First Efficient Cause
  2. A being that is pure act
  3. The First Being

The argument for the existence of a being that is pure act is found in Question 3, Article 1:
…the first being must of necessity be in act, and in no way in potency.
Therefore, both the second and third kinds of being mentioned above refer to the existence of  “The First Being”.  This is an ambiguous technical expression used by Thomas to refer to some being that is discussed in the Five Ways passage.  But there are three different “first” beings discussed in the Five Ways:  [the first] Unchanged Changer,  the First Efficient Cause, and the First Necessary Being.  Based on various details in the text, I have concluded that the expression “The First Being” refers to the “First Efficient Cause”.  Thus, all three arguments for the claim that “the divine being…is His own subsistent being…” require the assumption that there exists a First Efficient Cause.  Therefore, the key claim by Aquinas that “there is knowledge in God” (better: “there is knowledge in the first principle”) requires the assumption that there exists a First Efficient Cause.  Aquinas’ attempt at a complex proof of the existence of God rests upon the success or failure of the 2nd Way of the Five Ways.
Why have so many people wrongly believed that the Five Ways passage contains five proofs for the existence of God?  The main problem is that the word “God” is a mistaken or very misleading translation of the Latin text of the Five Ways passage.  Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Aquinas wrote in Latin, not in English.  
  • Aquinas was heavily influenced by Aristotle.
  • Aristotle wrote in Greek before the English language existed, and before Christianity existed.
  • The English language has been heavily influenced by Christianity.

The word “God” is a word in the English language, and it’s meaning is based in Christian thought, because the English language developed in countries that were predominantly Christian.  The word “God” is a proper noun, a name, not a category.  But since we cannot see “God” or meet “God”, the meaning of this name is based on a description of this (alleged) person in terms of various divine attributes (see the list of key divine attributes at the beginning of this post).
But when Aquinas used the Latin word that is translated as “God” in the Five Ways passage, it is clear that Aquinas was referring to the god of Aristotle, who spoke Greek, and who was not a Christian (because Christianity did not yet exist).  The god of Aristotle is NOT the same as the God of the Christian religion, and was NOT the same as the being referred to by the ordinary use of the word “God” in the English language.  Aristotle’s god was something like a “first principle”, something like a First Efficient Cause.  The word “God” in the English language does NOT mean “first principle” or “First Efficient Cause”.  But that is what Aristotle and Aquinas have in mind in their arguments that are presented as “arguments for the existence of God”.
Thus, people take the word “God” in English translations of Summa Theologica to mean what this word means in the ordinary use of the word, but that is clearly a mistake.  The Latin word that is translated as “God” in English, does NOT mean “God” in the ordinary sense of the word.  In the Five Ways passage (at least), it only means something like a “first principle”; it only refers to the god of Aristotle, which is different than the God of the Christian religion.
Aquinas first attempts to prove the existence of the god of Aristotle in the Five Ways passage, and then on the basis of that assumption he goes on to attempt to prove the existence of the God of the Christian faith in a complex proof that extends over one hundred pages in Part I of Summa Theologica.

bookmark_borderAquinas’ Argument for the Existence of God – Part 4

NOTE: I began to reconstruct Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God in the post I Don’t Care – Part 4, and continued that effort in  I Don’t Care – Part 5, and I Don’t Care – Part 6.   I am changing the title of this series to better reflect the content, so I consider the previous posts numbered as Parts 4, 5, and 6 to constitute Parts 1, 2, and 3 (respectively) of this new series called “Aquinas’ Argument for the Existence of God”.  That is why I’m calling this post “Part 4”.
The first “half” of Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God can be summarized like this:
(MC2)–>(MC6)–>(MC9)
Here are the key metaphysical claims from that first part of his argument:
(MC2) There exists an FEC being.   (FEC = First Efficient Cause)
(MC6) There exists an IES being.    (IES =  ipsum esse subsistens)
(MC9) There exists an IES being that is in the highest degree of immateriality and that has perfect knowledge. 
There are arguments for each of these claims, and there are intermediate steps between each of these claims, so the actual argument is more complex and involves several other claims, including several other metaphysical claims.  Click on the diagram below for a clearer image of a more detailed summary of this first “half” of Aquinas’ argument for God:
Flow of Reasoning from MC2 to MC9
 
For more details on this first part of Aquinas’ argument, see the previous post in this series.
 
The second “half” of Aquinas’s argument can be summarized like this:
(MC9)–>(MC22)
(MC9)–>(MC23)
(MC9)–>(MC28)
Metaphysical claim (MC22) asserts there is an IES being who is omniscient (i.e. who knows all things by proper knowledge – See Summa Theologica PI, Q14, A6).
Metaphysical claim (MC23) asserts there is an IES being who is perfectly just (i.e. who always acts justly – See Summa Theologica PI, Q21, A1).
Metaphysical claim (MC28) asserts there is an IES being who is perfectly loving (i.e. who loves all things and who always loves the better things more – see Summa Theologica PI, Q20, A4).
There is a final step (or phase?) that goes from the conjunction of (MC22), (MC23), and (MC28) to the conclusion that God exists.
This final step requires that Aquinas either prove that there can be only one IES being, or else that there can be only one IES being that has these three properties.  Also, Aquinas needs to show that other divine attributes belong to this being (i.e. omnipotence, bodilessness, and eternality).  But for now, I have mapped out the flow of Aquinas’ reasoning from (MC9) to the conclusion that God exists, with focus on (MC22), (MC23), and (MC28):
Flow of Reasoning from MC9 to God
 
 
 
Click on this image to get a clearer view of the diagram.
 
I have now completed a high-level flow of some important parts of Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God.  I have skipped over many details of his specific arguments for each of the many metaphysical claims referenced in the above diagrams, and I have not yet attempted to determine the reasoning for other parts of the argument (concerning the divine attributes of being creator of the universe, a bodiless person, omnipotence, and eternality).  I have also not yet attempted to figure out how Aquinas argues that there is only one being that possesses all of these various divine attributes, so the above diagrams leave out important and essential parts of Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God.
Note that the very first metaphysical claim (MC2) is the ONLY claim (out of the many metaphysical claims referenced in the above diagrams) that Aquinas argues for in the famous “Five Ways” passage.
It should be plainly obvious at this point that the “Five Ways” passage represents only the very beginning of a long and complex argument for the existence of God, and therefore the traditional view that Aquinas presents five arguments for the existence of God in the “Five Ways” passage is utterly and completely wrong, and is utterly and completely STUPID.
Aquinas does NOT give five arguments for the existence of God in just a couple of pages; rather, Aquinas gives ONE argument for the existence of God that takes up over one hundred pages of Summa Theologica (the material included in my diagrams starts near the beginning of Summa Theologica and goes up to Question 21, Article 1, which in my copy is on page 125), and that involves literally dozens of inferences and sub-arguments.
Here are the metaphysical claims referenced in the above diagram of the flow of reasoning from (MC9) to the conclusion that “God exists”:
(MC18) There is an IES being that has a will.   (see Q19, A1)
(MC19) There is an IES being that understands itself.  (see Q14, A2)
(MC20) There is an IES being who perfectly comprehends itself.   (see Q14, A3)
(MC21) There is an IES being who knows all things.   (see Q14, A5)
(MC22) There is an IES being who knows all things by proper knowledge.  (see Q14, A6).
(MC23) There is an IES being who always acts justly.    (see Q21, A1).
(MC24) There is an IES being in which love exists.    (see Q20, A1)
(MC25) There is an IES being with a will that is the cause of things.  (see Q19, A4)
(MC26)  There is an IES being that loves all things.   (see Q20, A2)
(MC27) There is an IES being that loves all things, but loves some things more than others.   (see Q20, A3)
(MC28) There is an IES being who loves all things and who always loves the better things more.  (see Q20, A4).

bookmark_borderI Don’t Care – Part 6

Aquinas is often thought of as a rigourously logical and systematic thinker.  This is only half-true.  There is a good deal of vaguness, ambiguity, and illogical thinking in his book Summa Theologica, as far as I can see.
Here is a cautionary note from a philosopher who is an expert on Aquinas:
From the concept of God as ipsum esse subsistens, Thomas deduces certain other properties which must belong to God [i.e. in order to prove that “God”, in the ordinary sense of the word, exists].  The precise logical structure of the series of deductions undertaken by Thomas is very difficult to ascertain.  It is a very complicated structure for one thing; and although it resembles a series of proofs for theorems in a calculus, this comparison is probably not fair.  Thomas does nowhere systematically and exhaustively set out his equivalents of the definitions, axioms, and rules of inference of which he makes use.  The order in which he proves his “theorems” is no order of strict logical dependence. …Nor is it certain that he was absolutely clear in his own mind about the precise nature of his undertaking.  Thus, when we say that Thomas tries to deduce the other properties of God [i.e to prove that God exists] from the notion of ipsum esse subsistens, this must be taken as a kind of reconstruction of his intentions.  He nowhere says in so many words that this is what he is about to do.
(Knut Tranoy, “Thomas Aquinas”, in A Critical History of Western Philosophy;hereafter: CHOWP, p.111, emphasis added)
The first hint that Aquinas is something less than a rigorously logical thinker is his misuse of the word “God”.  Many people mistakenly think that Aquinas produced five arguments for the existence of God in the famous Five Ways passage from Summa Theologica (the Christian philosopher and apologist Peter Kreeft makes this mistake, for example).  That is probably because Aquinas claims to be proving the existence of God in that passage, but Aquinas is using the word “God” in an odd and non-standard way, and thus his arguments in the Five Ways are actually just a tiny piece of his long and complicated argument for the existence of God (in the ordinary sense of the word):
…it may appear that Aquinas is unjustified in describing the first efficient cause as God, at least if by “God” one has in mind a person possessing the characteristics Christian theologians and philosophers attribute to him (for example, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, love, goodness, and so forth.).  Yet Aquinas does not attempt to show through the previous argument that the demonstrated cause has any of the qualities traditionally predicated of the divine essence.  He says:  “When the existence of a cause is demonstrated from an effect, this effect takes the place of the definition of the cause in proof of the cause’s existence” (ST Ia 2.2 ad 2).  In other words, the term God—at least as it appears in ST Ia 2.2—refers only to that which produces the observed effect.  In the case of the second way, God is synonymous with the first efficient cause;  it does not denote anything of theological substance.  
(Shawn Floyd in “Aquinas: Philosophical Theology“, section 2b, from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Aquinas fails to grasp this basic principle of philosophical reasoning:
Before we can try to prove anything at all we must, of course, have some idea of the nature or properties of the being whose existence we want to prove. (Knut Tranoy, CHOWP, p.110)
Aquinas works ass-backwards by first proving the existence of “God” and THEN proving that “God” has various divine attributes.  So, in order to understand his argument for the existence of God, we must constantly replace the word “God” in his arguments, with the appropriate metaphysical concept for that particular phase of his argument.  For example, in the Five Ways passage, the conclusion of the 2nd Way is NOT that “God” exists but that “a first efficient cause” (an FEC) exists.
My attempt to begin to reconstruct the “very difficult to ascertain” structure of Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God starts in the middle of Aquinas’ argument, when he infers the existence of a being that has PERFECT KNOWLEDGE from the existence of a being that is IMMATERIAL:
Since therefore God is in the highest degree of immateriality, as stated above (Q. VII, A. 1), it follows that He occupies the hightest place in knowldege.  (Summa Theologica, Part I, Question 14, Article 1)
When I take a look at the section where Aquinas claims to have previously shown that “God is in the highest degree of immateriality” it turns out that the section is arguing for God being INFINITE (Q 7, A 1), not for God being IMMATERIAL.  There is mention of materiality in the argument, but it is difficult to take an argument for God being infinite and to try to revise the argument to be about God being “in the highest degree of immateriality”.
So, this is another bit of confusion and unclarity from Aquinas.  I’m NOT impressed by this sloppy presentation of a supposed “proof”, where the reader is expected to take a proof given for one thing and reformulate it so that it works as a proof for something else.  Also, the argument about infinity is a rambling one and its logic is difficult to discern.  If the argument for God’s infinity was more clear, I might be able to figure out how to reshape it into an argument for God being “in the highest degree of immateriality”.  But the argument is not very clear, and I’m not going to spend lots of time (at this point) trying to make sense out of it.
In any case, the argument for God’s infinity rests upon the concept of an IES (ipsum esse subsistens) being:
Since therefore the divine being is not a being received in anything, but He is His own subsistent being as was shown above (Q. III, A. 4), it is clear that God Himself is infinite and perfect.  (Summa Theologica, Part I, Question 7, Article 1)
Presumably since the derivation of God’s infinity is based on the concept of an IES being, the derivation of the conclusion that “God is in the highest degree of immateriality” is also based on the concept of an IES being.  In that case, we can at least summarize the flow of Aquinas’ logic:
(MC6) There exists an IES being.
(CC2) If there exists an IES being, then there exists an IES being that is in the highest degree of immateriality.
Therefore:
(MC8) There exists an IES being that is in the highest degree of immateriality.
(CC3) If there exists an IES being that is in the highest degree of immateriality, then there exists an IES being that is in the highest degree of immateriality and that has perfect knowledge.
Therefore:
(MC9) There exists an IES being that is in the highest degree of immateriality and that has perfect knowledge.
Now we can work forward from the five metaphysical claims (that Aquinas argues for in the Five Ways passage) to get to the metaphysical claim of the existence of an IES being, (MC6), and thus complete the line of reasoning from the Five Ways to the existence of an IES being that has perfect knowledge.
The key passage about the existence of an IES being appears to be Question 3 , Article 4 (which Aquinas references in the above quotation).  In that passage, there are three different arguments to establish the existence of an IES being, which can be summarized in terms of three conditional claims:
(CC4) If there exists an FEC (first efficient cause) being, then there exists and FEC being that is also an IES being.
(CC5) If there exists an AP (actus purus, i.e. purely actual) being, then there exists an AP being that is also an IES being.
(CC6) If there exists a First being that is its own essence, then there exists a being that is its own essence and that is both a First Being and an IES being. 
The First Line of Reasoning Supporting (MC6)
The existence of an FEC being was argued for in the Five Ways passage, so that particular line of reasoning has been traced back to its starting point: the 2nd Way, which is an argument for this metaphysical claim.  We can combine that metaphysical claim with one of the above conditional claims to form a modus ponens:
(MC2)  There exists an FEC being.
(CC4) If there exists an FEC (first efficient cause) being, then there exists an FEC being that is also an IES being.
Therefore:
(MC10) There exists an FEC being that is also an IES being.
Therefore:
(MC6) There exists an IES being.
Here is a simple diagram showing the flow of this first line of reasoning:
FEC–>FEC & IES–>IES
 
The Second Line of Reasoning Supporting (MC6)
The second argument for the existence of an IES being is based on the following key metaphysical claim:
(MC7) There exists an AP being.
This metaphysical claim is argued for in Question 3:
Secondly, beause the first being must of necessity be in act, and in no way in potency. …Now it has already been proved that God is the First Being.  It is therefore impossible that in God there should be anything in potency.  (Summa Theologica, Question 3, Article 1, in the second argument)
The reasoning can again be put into the form of a modus ponens:
(MC11) There exists a First Being.
(CC7) If there exists a First Being, then there exists a First Being that is also an AP being.
Therefore:
(MC12) There exists a First Being that is also an AP being.
Therefore:
(MC7) There exists an AP being.
However, because Aquinas is somewhat careless in his reasoning, it is unclear what he means by a “First Being”.  This is a technical term, and Aquinas introduces it without providing a definition, and without providing any explanation or clarification of what this term means.
Since the passage I quoted that refers to “the First Being” occurs immediately after the famous Five Ways passage, this new technical term presumably refers to one of the following “first” beings discussed in the Five Ways passage:
(MC1) There exists a UFC being.  
(“a UFC being” = a being that is an unchanged first changer – often misleadingly translated “unmoved first mover” )
(MC2) There exists an FEC being.  
(“an FEC being” =  a being that is a first efficient cause)
(MC3) There exists an FN being.
(“an FN being” = a being that is a first necessary being, a being that is necessary but does not get its necessity from another being)
The 4th and 5th Ways do not speak of a being that is “first”, and unlike the other three Ways, they do not make use of the rejection of an infinite regress (to establish the existence of a being as the “first” in a chain of dependency), so the COP (cause of all perfections) being, and the IDN (intelligent designer of nature) being, do NOT seem to be good candiates for the referent of the expression “the First Being”.
My best guess is that when Aquinas speaks of “the First Being” in Question 3, he is referring back to the being that he tries to prove exists in his 2nd Way:  an FEC being.  The expression “the First Being” suggests the idea of “the First thing that exists”, and it is the 2nd Way that focuses in on the cause of the existence of beings in general.  The 1st Way is focused on the cause of changes, and the 3rd Way is focused on the cause of necessary beings, which is a special category of beings.  So, only the 2nd Way relates to the cause of the existence of beings in general.  I’m not certain of this interpretation of “the First Being”, but it seems to be the best of the three main alternatives.
Assuming my interpretation of “First Being” is correct, we can trace this line of reasoning back to the 2nd Way:
(MC2) There exists an FEC being.  
(CC8) If there exists an FEC being, then there exists an FEC being that is also an AP being.
Therefore:
(MC13) There exists an FEC being that is also an AP being.
Therefore:
(MC7) There exists an AP being.
(CC5) If there exists an AP (actus purus, i.e. purely actual) being, then there exists an AP being that is also an IES being.
Therefore:
(MC14) There exists an AP being that is also an IES being.
Therefore:
(MC6) There exists an IES being.
Here is a simple diagram showing the flow of this second line of reasoning:
FEC–>FEC & AP–>AP–>AP & IES–>IES
 
The Third Line of Reasoning Supporting (MC6)
The third line of reasoning involves another reference to the “First Being”:
(CC6) If there exists a First being that is its own essence, then there exists a being that is its own essence and that is both a First Being and an IES being. 
If we interpret the expression “First Being” as a reference to an FEC being, then this conditional claim (CC6) can be stated more clearly:
(CC9) If there exists an FEC being that is its own essence, then there exists a being that is its own essence and that is both an FEC being and an IES being. 
We have part of what is needed to show the truth of the antecedent of this conditional claim:
(MC2) There exists an FEC being.  
But it needs to be shown that such a being “is its own essence” in order for us to be able to affirm the truth of the antecedent of (CC9).  Aquinas argues for the existence of a being that “is its own essence” in Question 3, Article 3: Whether God Is the Same As His Essence or Nature?  The argument in that section is based on another metaphysical concept:
Since God then is not composed of matter and form, He must be His own Godhead, His own Life, and whatever else is thus predicated of Him.  (Summa Theologica, Part I, Question 3, Article 3)
This suggests the following conditional claim:
(CC10) If there exists a being that is not composed of matter and form, then there exists a being that is its own essence.
Since Aquinas needs to prove the existence of a being that is both an FEC being and that is its own essence, he needs to prove the following modified version of the above conditional claim:
(CC11) If there exists an FEC being that is not composed of matter and form, then there exists an FEC being that is its own essence.
Aquinas argues that God is “not composed of matter and form” in Question 3, Article 2: Whether God is Composed of Matter and Form?  He gives three different arguments to support this claim, and the third argument is based on the concept of an FEC being:
Now God is the first agent, since He is the first effecient cause as we have shown (Q. II, A. 3).  He is therefore of His essence a form, and not composed of matter and form.  (Summa Theologica, Part I, Question 3, Article 2).
So we can now trace this line of reasoning back to the 2nd Way, because Aquinas has argued for this conditional claim:
(CC12) If there exists an FEC being, then there exists an FEC being that is not composed of matter and form.
Add to this the metaphysical claim from the 2nd Way for a modus ponens:
(MC2) There exists an FEC being.
Therefore:
(MC15) There exists an FEC being that is not composed of matter and form.
(CC11) If there exists an FEC being that is not composed of matter and form, then there exists an FEC being that is its own essence.
Therefore:
(MC16) There exists an FEC being that is its own essence.
(CC9) If there exists an FEC being that is its own essence, then there exists a being that is its own essence and that is both an FEC being and an IES being. 
Therefore:
(MC17) There exists a being that is its own essence and that is both an FEC being and an IES being. 
Therefore:
(MC6) There exists an IES being.
Here is a simple diagram showing the flow of this third line of reasoning:
FEC–> FEC & not composed of matter and form–>FEC & is its own essence–>is its own essence & FEC & IES–>IES
=======================
If we ignore the conditional claims and focus on just the metaphysical claims in the above arguments, we can depict the flow of Aquinas’ reasoning from the conclusion of the 2nd Way (MC2), to the conclusion that there is an IES being with PERFECT KNOWLEDGE (MC9).  Click on the image below for a clearer view of the diagram:
Flow of Reasoning from MC2 to MC9
 
 
 

bookmark_borderI Don’t Care – Part 5

The famous Five Ways passage by Aquinas in Summa Theologica does not contain five arguments for the existence of God. Rather, it contains ZERO arguments for the existence of God.  There is actually only one argument for the existence of God in the Summa Theologica, and the reasoning in the Five Ways passage only represents a tiny piece of that very long and complicated argument.
The Five Ways passage presents arguments for these five metaphysical claims:
(MC1) There exists a UFC being.  
(“a UFC being” = a being that is an unchanged first changer – often misleadingly translated “unmoved first mover” )
(MC2) There exists an FEC being.  
(“an FEC being” =  a being that is a first efficient cause)
(MC3) There exists an FN being.
(“an FN being” = a being that is a first necessary being, a being that is necessary but does not get its necessity from another being)
(MC4) There exists a COP being.
(“a COP being” = a being that is the cause of all perfections)
(MC5)  There exists an IDN being.
(“an IDN being” = a being that is an intelligent designer of nature)
=================
NOTE:
The above list of five metaphysical claims is a revised version of the list of five metaphysical claims that I spelled out in Part 3 of this series of posts.   There are two key metaphysical claims by Aquinas that are derived from one or more of the above five metaphysical claims, but I jumped the gun by including those two key claims in the previous list of five metaphysical claims that Aquinas argues for in the Five Ways passage.  The two additional key metaphysical claims are argued for by Aquinas in other passages that occur later in Summa Theologica:
(MC6) There exists and IES being.
(“an IES being” = a being that is ipsum esse subsistens, i.e. its own self-subisting existence)
(MC7) There exists an AP being. 
(“an AP being” = a being that is actus purus, i.e. pure actuality, with no potentiality)
=================
Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God can be summarized this way:
(MC6) There exists an IES being.
(CC1) IF there exists an IES being, THEN God exists.
Therefore:
(G) God exists.
The Five Ways passage comes close to providing an argument for (MC6), but some additional reasoning is required.  The Five Ways passage, however, makes no attempt to prove the conditional claim (CC1).  Several (at least a dozen) other passages in Summa Theologica provide a long and complex line of reasoning in support of (CC1), as we shall see.
I had initially thought that I would use the strategy of working backwards from the main conditional premise that Aquinas needs to support:
(CC1) IF there exists an IES being, THEN God exists.
The argument for (CC1) needs to be something like this:
ARGUMENT FOR (CC1)
(P1) IF there exists an IES being, THEN there exists exactly one being that is the creator of the universe, an eternally bodiless person, an eternally omnipotent person, an eternally omniscient person, and an eternally perfectly morally good person.
(P2) IF there exists exactly one being that is the creator of the universe, an eternally bodiless person, an eternally omnipotent person, an eternally omniscient person, and an eternally perfectly morally good person, THEN God exists.
Therefore:
(CC1) IF there exists an IES being, THEN God exists.
I was planning to work backwards from various conditional claims linking the existence of an IES being to the existence of an IES being with a divine attribute:

  • IF there exists an IES being, THEN there exists an IES being that is the creator of the universe.
  • IF there exists an IES being, THEN there exists an IES being that is an eternally bodiless person.
  • IF there exists and IES being, THEN there exists an IES being that is an eternally omnipotent person.
  • IF there exists an IES being, THEN there exists an IES being that is an eternally omniscient person.
  • IF there exists an IES being, THEN there exists an IES being that is an eternally perfectly morally good person.

However, Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God is even more lengthy and complicated than I first thought, so it is a bit discouraging to use the strategy of working backwards from (CC1) to reconstruct his reasoning.  So, I am changing my strategy, and I will be starting in the MIDDLE of his reasoning and working my way both forward, to arrive at the conditional claim (CC1), and backwards to the initial five metaphysical claims made in the Five Ways passage.
The middle of Aquinas’ reasoning occurs when he shifts from discussion and argument about abstract metaphysical properties of God to the more recognizable religious properties of God.  The core religious property of God is KNOWLEDGE, in Aquinas’ view, and this religious property is derived from the metaphysical property of IMMATERIALITY (although I include “eternally bodiless person” as a basic defining divine attribute).
Here is the passage where Aquinas makes the shift from the derived metaphysical property of IMMATERIALITY to the core religious property of KNOWLEDGE:
I answer that, In God there exists the most perfect knowledge. … Therefore it is clear that the immateriality of a thing is the reason why it is cognitive, and the mode of knowledge is according to the mode of immateriality. … Since therefore God is in the highest degree of immateriality, as stated above (Q. VII, A. 1), it follows that He occupies the highest place in knowledge.
(Summa Theologica, Part I,  Question 14, Article 1: Whether There is Knowledge in God?)
By starting in the middle of Aquinas’ reasoning, I break the complex task into two main pieces: (1) working backwards from the conclusion that an IES being is IMMATERIAL to the metaphysical claims made in the Five Ways passage, and (2) working forward from the conclusion that an IES being has PERFECT KNOWLEDGE to the derived religious/theological properties of God:  the creator of the universe, an eternally omniscient person, and an eternally perfectly morally good person.
The religious property of omnipotence is derived not from PERFECT KNOWLEDGE but from some of God’s metaphysical properties.  So, I will also have a third task: (3) working backwards from the existence of an eternally omnipotent person to the metaphysical claims made in the Five Ways passage.
Since being IMMATERIAL appears to imply that God is bodiless, if I can trace the reasoning for the claim that an IES being is IMMATERIAL backwards to the metaphysical claims in the Five Ways passage, then that will cover the property of being bodiless (though Aquinas needs to show that God is eternally bodiless, so some additional reasoning will probably be needed).
The following diagram shows the general flow of the reasoning (click on the image below for a clearer view of the diagram):
Reconstructing Aquinas Argument
 

bookmark_borderI Don’t Care – Part 4

I have previously argued that, contrary to popular opinion, there are ZERO arguments for the existence of God in the famous Five Ways passage by Aquinas in Summa Theologica (Part I, Question 2, Article 3: Whether God Exists?).
Now I’m getting into what I do care about, namely the ACTUAL argument(s) that Aquinas gives to prove the existence of God.  Here is one argument (possibly the only one) for the existence of God from Summa Theologica:
THE IES ARGUMENT
(MC3) There exists an IES being.
(CC1) IF there exists an IES being, THEN God exists.
Therefore:
(G) God exists.
(“an IES being” = a being that is ipsum esse subsistens, i.e. its own self-subisting existence) 
The argument supporting (MC3) is found in the Five Ways passage.  But the arguments supporting (CC1) are found in various OTHER passages in Summa Theologica.  
In order to successfully prove (CC1), Aquinas needs to make an argument that is something very close to the following argument:
ARGUMENT FOR (CC1)
(P1) IF there exists an IES being, THEN there exists exactly one being that is the creator of the universe, an eternally bodiless person, an eternally omnipotent person, an eternally omniscient person, and an eternally perfectly morally good person.
(P2) IF there exists exactly one being that is the creator of the universe, an eternally bodiless person, an eternally omnipotent person, an eternally omniscient person, and an eternally perfectly morally good person, THEN God exists.
Therefore:
(CC1) IF there exists an IES being, THEN God exists.
It is premise (P1) that Aquinas argues for in various other sections of Summa Theologica outside of the Five Ways passage.
Aquinas argues for the existence of an omnipotent being in Part I, Question 25: “The Power of God” (especially in Article 2).
Aquinas argues for the existence of a being has “the most perfect knowledge” in Part I, Question 14: “Of God’s Knowledge” (especially in Article 1).  This appears to be an argument supporting the view that an IES being must be omniscient.
While Aquinas does not appear to argue specifically that there exists a being that is a perfectly morally good person, he does argue for the existence of a supreme being who has the moral virtues of love and justice in Part I, Question 20: “God’s Love”, and in Part I, Question 21: “The Justice and Mercy of God” (especially in Article 1).  If Aquinas can prove that an IES being has the virtues of love and justice, then that comes close to the claim that an IES being is a perfectly morally good person.
Aquinas argues for the eternity of an IES being in Part I, Question 10: “The Eternity of God” (see Article 2: “Whether God is Eternal?”).  But even if a being exists eternally, and is omnipotent and omniscient now, that does not mean that this being will be eternally omnipotent and eternally omniscient.  So, I suspect that in order to show these (and other) divine attributes to be eternal, Aquinas has to establish that the IES being is IMMUTABLE, which he attempts to do in Part I, Question 9: “The Immutability of God”.
Aquinas argues, I believe, that there can be only ONE being that is an IES being in Part I, Question 11: “The Unity of God” (see Article 3: Whether God is One?”).
Aquinas argues for the immateriality of an IES being in Part I, Question 3: “Of the Simplicity of God.”  This would support the claim that an IES being is bodiless.
Aquinas does not have a section that explicitly argues that an IES being is the creator of the universe, but there is a section in Part I, Question 14: “Of God’s Knowledge” that appears to address this: Article 8: “Whether the Knowledge of God Is the Cause of All Things”.  In that section, Aquinas argues that “God is the cause [of natural things] by His knowledge.”
NOTE: If Aquinas argues somewhere that an IES being must also be an IDN being (the intelligent designer of nature), then the Fifth of the Five Ways could also be used to support the claim that an IES being is the creator of the universe.
So, in order to piece together Aquinas’ ACTUAL argument for the existence of God, we must study the reasoning he lays out in at least the following sections in Part I of Summa Theologica:
Question 3: “Of the Simplicity of God”
Question 9: “The Immutability of God”
Question 10: “The Eternity of God”
Question 11: “The Unity of God”
Question 14: “Of God’s Knowledge”
Question 20: “God’s Love”
Question 21:  “The Justice and Mercy of God”
Question 25: “The Power of God”
Furthermore, in order to link some of these properties back to the concept of an IES being, reasoning from other sections of Part I of Summa Theologica will also be required:
Question 4:  “The Perfection of God”
Question 7:  “The Infinity of God”
Question 19: “The Will of God”
So, in order to reconstruct Aquinas’ ACTUAL argument for the existence of God, one must study his reasoning from at least a DOZEN different sections (“Questions”) of Part I of Summa Theologica, not just the reasoning found in the Five Ways passage which is in the section called Question 2: “The Existence of God.”
No wonder most people want to interpret the Five Ways passage as presenting five arguments for the existence of God!  To try to figure out Aquinas’ ACTUAL argument for the existence of God is a royal pain in the ass.  It is so much EASIER to just grossly distort and completely misinterpret the Five Ways passage, and then quickly move on to some other topic.

bookmark_borderI Don’t Care – Part 3

According to the Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft, and many others, Aquinas gives five different arguments for the existence of God.  In the Handbook of Christian Apologetics (IVP, 1994; hereafter: HCA) by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, there is a chapter that lays out twenty different arguments for the existence of God, and the first five arguments are versions of Aquinas’ Five Ways:
A word about the organization of the arguments.  We have organized them into two basic groups: those which take their data from without–cosmological arguments–and those that take it from within–psychological arguments.  The group of cosmological arguments begins with our versions of Aquinas’ famous “five ways.” (HCA, p.49)
Kreeft is Catholic, so it is not surprising that he puts these arguments by Aquinas at the front of his list of arguments.  On pages 50 through 58 of HCA, Kreeft and Tacelli lay out five different arguments for the existence God that they take to be versions of five different arguments for the existence of God presented by Aquinas in Summa Theologica (Part I, Question 2, Article 3: Whether God Exists?).
I believe, however, that Kreeft and Tacelli are WRONG on this point, and that Aquinas has only ONE argument for the existence of God, or possibly TWO arguments.  I will need to study the details of Aquinas’ case for God a bit further in order to make a final determination on whether he has ONE argument or TWO arguments for God.  (Note: This alternative way of understanding the Five Ways passage is presented by Knut Tranoy in A Critical History of Western Philosophy; see pages 110-112).
Kreeft and Tacelli, I suspect, were deceived by the misleading title of the famous Five Ways passage in Summa Theologica:  “Whether God Exists?”.   Since Aquinas gives five different arguments in that passage, this makes it seem as though he was giving five different arguments for the existence of God.  But this is a gross distortion and a serious misunderstanding of the Five Ways passage.  There are exactly ZERO arguments for the existence of God in the Five Ways passage.
The problem is that Aquinas does not define what he means by “God”, and that what he apparently means by “God” is NOT what the word “God” means in the English language, especially in relation to the Christian religion and Christian theology.  So, in the Five Ways passage, Aquinas does NOT argue for the existence of “God” in the ordinary sense of the word, as used by Christian believers and Christian philosophers and apologists.
The word “God” is a proper noun, the name of a single being.  The meaning of this name is based on a definite description, a list of properties or characteristics that (allegedly) belong to one, and only one, person.  A bare-bones definite description of this person would include the following properties (at least in relation to the use of the word “God” by Christian believers, and especially Christian philosophers and apologists):

  • the creator of the universe
  • an eternally bodiless person
  • an eternally omnipotent person
  • an eternally omniscient person
  • an eternally perfectly morally good person

Although the ordinary use of the word “God” probably does not entail the possession of each and every one of these properties by the being in question (because the ordinary use of famous names typically is criterial  and thus allows some wiggle room, allowing the name to be properly applied so long as the being in question possesses MOST of the properties in the definite description and no other being possesses MOST of the properties), it is clearer, logically cleaner, and more theologically conservative to treat the list of properties in this definite description as necessary conditions for the proper application of the name “God” to a particular being, and to take them jointly as a sufficient condition for the proper application of the name “God” to a particular being.
What Aquinas actually argues for in the Five Ways is the following five metaphysical claims:
(MC1) There exists an AP being.  
(“an AP being” = a being that is actus purus, i.e. pure act)
(MC2) There exists an FEC being.  
(“an FEC being” =  a being that is a first efficient cause)
(MC3) There exists an IES being.
(“an IES being” = a being that is ipsum esse subsistens, i.e. its own self-subisting existence)
(MC4) There exists a COP being.
(“a COP being” = a being that is the cause of all perfections)
(MC5)  There exists an IDN being.
(“a IDN being” = a being that is the intelligent designer of nature)
Aquinas goes on in OTHER passages of Summa Theologica to use (MC3) as the basis for an argument for the existence of God (in the ordinary sense of the word that I have outlined above), and one could argue that he has a second argument for the existence of God that is based on (MC1).  Each argument can be summarized as a modus ponens that contains a metaphysical claim as the first premise and a conditional claim that links the metaphysical claim to the existence of God:
THE IES ARGUMENT
(MC3) There exists an IES being.
(CC1) IF there exists an IES being, THEN God exists.
Therefore:
(G) God exists.
 
THE AP ARGUMENT
 (MC1) There exists an AP being.
(CC2) IF there exists an AP being, THEN God exists.
Therefore:
(G) God exists.
It might be the case that Aquinas intended for the two key metaphysical claims to function together in a single argument for God (or possibly although this was not his intention, this might be an improved way to make use of Aquinas’ reasoning about God to formulate an argument for the existence of God):
THE COMBINED IES & AP ARGUMENT
(MC6)  There exists a being that is both an IES being and an AP being.
(CC3) IF there exists a being that is both an IES being and an AP being, THEN God exists.
Therefore:
(G) God exists.
Whether Aquinas gives ONE argument or TWO arguments for the existence of God, it is clear that the Five Ways passage contains arguments for only five metaphysical claims, and contains ZERO arguments for the conditional claims in the above modus ponens arguments for the existence of God.  Crudely speaking, the Five Ways passage is concerned with only HALF of Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God: the metaphysical claim but not the conditional claim.
But, more accurately, MOST of Aquinas’ reasoning about the existence of God is found in later sections of Summa Theologica that contain a lengthy and complex chain of reasoning consisting of four or five phases (see  post 2 of the I Don’t Care series for a chart that lays out the phases) in order to support the conditional claim(s) in the above argument(s).  So MOST of Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God is found OUTSIDE of the Five Ways passage.
Each of the conditional claims in the above modus ponens arguments is a summary of a lengthy and complex line of reasoning by Aquinas and can be broken down further into a series of conditional claims of the following form:
(P1) If there exists a being with property W, then there exists a being with properties W & X.
(P2) If there exists a being with properties W & X, then there exists a being with properties W & X & Y.
(P3) If there exists a being with properties W & X & Y, then there exists a being with properties W & X & Y & Z.
Therefore:
(P4) If there exists a being with property W, then there exists a being with properties W & X & Y & Z.
(P5) If there exists a being with properties W & X & Y & Z, then God exists.
Therefore:
(CC) If there exists a being with property W, then God exists.
Aquinas provides reasoning in support each of the conditional claims in this more complex argument, but he does so OUTSIDE of the Five Ways passage.  Thus, MOST of the reasoning that Aquinas provides in support of the existence of God is OUTSIDE of the Five Ways passage.
This means that Kreeft and Tacelli (and many others as well) have completely misunderstood Aquinas’ argument(s) for the existence of God and have only touched upon a small portion of the actual reasoning that Aquinas puts forward for the existence of God in Summa Theologica.
Given this point of view, let me re-state and clarify the meaning of the title of this series of posts:
I DON’T CARE about the first five arguments in Chapter 3 of HCA by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, because those arguments are gross distortions and serious misunderstandings of the actual argument(s) for the existence of God given by Aquinas in Summa Theologica.
HOWEVER, I am very much interested in the actual argument(s) that Aquinas gives for the existence of God in Summa Theologica, and I plan to study his reasoning on this issue more closely and then present it in greater detail in future installments of this series.