bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 17: Analysis of Argument #4

MOVING ON TO KREEFT’S VERSION
In Peter Kreeft’s case for God, in Chapter 3 of Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), his fourth argument is based on the fourth way of Aquinas.  Kreeft’s Argument #4 is the Argument from Degrees of Perfection.  Because Aquinas’s version of this argument is clearer and more straightforward than Kreeft’s version, I began by analyzing and evaluating Aquinas’s fourth way (see Part 16 of this series).  I discovered some serious problems with Aquinas’s version of this argument, and rejected that argument.  It is now time to try to analyze and to understand Kreeft’s version of this argument.
 
THE INITIAL INFERENCE IN ARGUMENT #4
An important part of Argument #4 is implied by a single complex sentence in Kreeft’s presentation of this argument. Let’s call this premise (1):

1. But if these degrees of perfection pertain to being and being is caused in finite creatures, then there must exist a “best,” a source and real standard of all the perfections that we recognize belong to us as beings. (HCA, p.55)

Premise (1) can be cleaned up a bit, to make it more succinct:

1a. IF these degrees of perfection pertain to being and being is caused in finite creatures, THEN there exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being.

The word “But” at the beginning of the sentence is unnecessary.  The word “must” simply indicates a logical implication, and so it is unnecessary.  The phrase “a ‘best'” is unnecessary because it is immediately defined by the following phrase “a source and real standard of all the perfections…”.  The phrase “that we recognize belong to us as beings” can be replaced by the shorter phrase “that pertain to being”.
Premise (1a) has the following logical structure:

IF A and B, THEN C.

This suggests the logical structure of a key initial inference in Argument #4:

A

B

IF A and B, THEN C

THEREFORE:

C

Let’s put the appropriate statements into this structure:

A. These degrees of perfection pertain to being.

B. Being is caused in finite creatures.

1a. IF these degrees of perfection pertain to being and being is caused in finite creatures, THEN there exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being.

THEREFORE:

C. There exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being.

 
THE FINAL INFERENCE IN ARGUMENT #4
Kreeft’s versions of the Five Ways of Aquinas, especially Ways 1, 2, 3, and 5, are all complete FAILURES, because Kreeft does not bother to support the most important premises in those arguments, namely the premises that link the existence of some alleged metaphysical being (e.g. “unmoved mover” or “first efficient cause”, etc.) to the existence of God.  Kreeft hints at the most important premise of Argument #4 in another sentence; let’s call this premise (2):

2. This absolutely perfect being…is God.  (HCA, p.55)

This most important premise of Argument #4 is best stated as a conditional claim:

2a. IF an absolutely perfect being exists, THEN God exists.

This conditional claim is a key piece of the final inference in Argument #4:

2a. IF an absolutely perfect being exists, THEN God exists.

D. An absolutely perfect being exists.

THEREFORE:

E. God exists.

 
THE LOGIC IN THE MIDDLE OF ARGUMENT #4
We now know the initial inference of Argument #4, i.e. the sub-argument for (C), and we know the final inference of Argument #4, i.e. the sub-argument for (E), but we are missing the logic in the middle of this argument, the connection between the initial inference and the final inference.
The connection is clearly that premise (C), the conclusion of the initial inference, provides support for premise (D), a premise in the final inference. Since it is not immediately obvious that (C) logically implies (D), we should explicitly state a premise that asserts that there is this logical relationship between (C) and (D):

F. IF there exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being, THEN an absolutely perfect being exists.

So, the logic in the middle of Argument #4 goes like this:

F. IF there exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that that pertain to being, THEN an absolutely perfect being exists.

C. There exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being.

THEREFORE:

D. An absolutely perfect being exists.

 
THE LOGICAL STRUCTURE OF ARGUMENT#4
Now we can show the full logical structure of Argument #4, especially how the initial inference is connected to the final inference by an inference in the middle of this argument (click on the image below for a clearer view of the argument diagram):

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Note that out of the eight statements that make up this argument, only two statements were made explicitly by Kreeft.  Three-fourths of this argument was left UNSTATED.  Not exactly a great job of clarifying the Fourth Way of Aquinas.
 
NEXT STEPS
Now that we know the logical structure of Argument #4, the next steps are to figure out the meanings of the premises of this argument:

  • What is a “perfection”?
  • What sort of perfections are those that “pertain to being”?
  • What is a “finite creature”?
  • What does it mean to say that “being is caused in” something? 
  • What is an “absolutely perfect being”?
  • What constitutes “a source and real standard” of a perfection?

There is not a SINGLE premise in Argument #4 that has a CLEAR meaning.  Each and every premise in this argument uses odd or technical terms, and is thus UNCLEAR as it stands.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 15: Three More Thomist Arguments

EVALUATION OF KREEFT’S CASE SO FAR
In Part 1 through Part 8, I reviewed the last ten arguments in Peter Kreeft’s case for God in Chapter 3 his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), and I concluded in Part 9 that they provided ZERO evidence for the existence of God:
Of the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case,  I have shown that eight arguments (80%) were AWFUL arguments that are unworthy of serious consideration.  Only two of these ten arguments seemed worthy of serious consideration: Argument #12 and Argument #19.  After careful analysis and evaluation, I concluded that Argument #12 was a BAD argument that provided ZERO support for the claim that God exists, and I concluded that Argument #19 was based on a FALSE premise and also on a dubious premise.  Thus, all ten arguments in the second half of Kreeft’s case for God (i.e. 100%  of those arguments) are BAD arguments, and they fail to provide any good reason to believe that God exists.  
Starting in Part 9, I began to examine the first five arguments in Kreeft’s case for God, which Kreeft appears to believe are among the strongest and best arguments for the existence of God.
In Part 12, I concluded that Argument #1 (the Argument from Change) was another bad argument:
In short, the Argument from Change, one of the five first arguments for the existence of God in Kreeft’s case for God, an argument which is presumably one of the strongest and best arguments for God (in Kreeft’s view), is an UNSOUND argument that is based on two key premises that are both FALSE.
In Part 14, I concluded that Argument #2 (the Argument from Efficient Causality) was yet another bad argument:
Argument #2 clearly FAILS, because Kreeft fails to state or to support the single most important premise of the argument…and because Kreeft supports the second most important premise of the argument with a dubious inference that appears to be invalid, namely the inference from (5a) to (6a).
I have examined twelve out of the twenty arguments in Kreeft’s case for God, and ALL twelve arguments are bad arguments and they FAIL to provide a good reason to believe that God exists.
 
EVALUATION OF THE THREE REMAINING ARGUMENTS FROM AQUINAS
Given Kreeft’s pathetic track record, it appears that he is clueless as to what sort of argument would constitute a strong and solid argument for the existence of God, so I did not expect him to do any better with the remaining three arguments that he borrows from Aquinas.
In Argument #3, the Argument from Time and Contingency, Kreeft argues for the existence of “an absolutely necessary being.”  He does also strongly hint at the single most important premise of this argument:

This absolutely necessary being is God.  (HCA, p.53)

The most important premise of the argument is best stated as a conditional claim:

A. IF an absolutely necessary being exists, THEN God exists.

Kreeft provides NO SUPPORT for premise (A), so Argument #3 is another FAILED argument for the existence of God.
In Argument #5, the Design Argument, Kreeft argues for the existence of “an intelligent designer” of the universe.  The conclusion of Argument #5 is stated as follows:

Therefore the universe is the product of an intelligent Designer.  (HCA, p.56)

Note that the word “God” doesn’t appear in this stated conclusion.  So, in order to make Argument #5 relevant to the question at issue, we have to fill in an unstated premise, and make the ultimate conclusion of this argument explicit:

6. The universe is the product of an intelligent designer.

B. IF the universe is the product of an intelligent designer, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

C. God exists.

The most important premise in Argument #5 is premise (B), but Kreeft provides NO SUPPORT for the unstated premise (B).  Thus, Argument #5 is yet another FAILED argument for God.
Argument #3 and Argument #5 FAIL for the same reasons that Argument #1 and Argument #2 FAILED:  Kreeft does not bother to SUPPORT the most important premise in each of these arguments, namely the premise that links his stated conclusion to the conclusion that actually matters: “God exists.” Based on Kreeft’s pathetic track record, and based on the fact that he continues to repeat the same huge blunder as he did in Argument #1 and Argument #2, we can quickly toss aside Argument #3 and Argument #5.
In Argument #4, the Argument from Degrees of Perfection, Kreeft argues for the existence of an “absolutely perfect being”.  He does strongly hint at the single most important premise of this argument:

This absolutely perfect being…is God. (HCA, p.55)

The most important premise of this argument is best stated as a conditional claim:

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

Kreeft provides very little support for premise (D), so Argument #4 could reasonably be set aside as yet one more FAILED argument for the existence of God.  However, Kreeft does briefly hint at a line of reasoning that could be used to support (D), and it seems to me that (D) is more plausible than any of the other key premises that Kreeft failed to support in the other four Thomistic arguments:

  • IF there is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of  change, THEN God exists.
  • IF there is an uncaused cause of the present existence of other beings, THEN God exists.
  • IF an absolutely necessary being exists, THEN God exists.
  • IF the universe is the product of an intelligent designer, THEN God exists.

The very long, very convoluted, and very implausible reasoning that Aquinas provides in support of these four key premises related to four of his Five Ways has almost no chance of being sound.   Kreeft doesn’t even make an attempt to provide a rational justification of these four key premises; thus Kreeft’s versions of these four arguments are complete and utter FAILURES.
 
THE HINT OF AN ARGUMENT FOR (D)
The most important premise in Argument #4 is a premise that is not clearly stated by Kreeft:

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

Probably because Kreeft fails to clearly and explicitly state this premise, he fails to provide an argument to show that premise (D) is true.  However, he does hint at a line of reasoning that could be used in support of (D):
In other words, we all recognize that intelligent being is better than unintelligent being; that a being able to give and receive love is better than one that cannot; that our way of being is better, richer and fuller than that of a stone, a flower, an earthworm, an ant, or even a baby seal. (HCA, p.54-55)
This suggests a line of reasoning that could be used to argue that “an absolutely perfect being” would be an intelligent and loving being, because having such attributes makes something better than, more perfect than, something that lacks them.  This line of thought was used by Anselm to derive the Christian concept of God from the concept of a being “than which nothing greater can be conceived”, or what is called Perfect Being theology.  There is a nice brief introduction to Perfect Being theology by Thomas Morris in Chapter 2 his book Our Idea of God (hereafter: IOG).
In the end, the reasoning in Perfect Being theology might turn out to be just as convoluted and implausible as the usual Thomistic BS given in support of the four key premises of the other four Ways or proofs of the existence of God, but in my view, (D) has significantly greater initial plausibility, in comparison to the four other key premises.  So, I plan to take a closer look at Argument #4, in the next post in this series, because it appears to be the only argument among the Five Ways that has any chance of being a strong and solid argument for God.

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.