Aquinas

  • Category: Philosophy
  • Words: 1168
  • Grade: 90
Saint Thomas Aquinas is most notably known for his Five Ways of Proving the Existence of God. Aquinas "believed that both faith and reason discover truth, and a conflict between them being impossible since they both originate in God" (Magee, http://www.aquinasonline.com/). Of Aquinas' strongest arguments is that of possibility and necessity. This includes the thought that to exist, means that something before it must have existed and generated it, and because this regress cannot go on forever, it is postulated that the very first being must be God.
                Aquinas notes that "in nature things that could either exist or not exist, since they are found to be generated, and then to corrupt; and, consequently, they can exist, and then not exist" (Bowie, 59). For instance, a butterfly could either exist, or not exist, it cannot be in limbo. All things in nature are also found to be generated, or found to be an offspring of a paternal or maternal being that holds the same characteristics. Aquinas goes on to explain that "for what which can one day cease to exist must at some time have not existed" (Bowie, 59). For all living things that do exist, there must have been some time when they were not in existence, a time when the first butterfly, for example, came into being. He proposes that butterflies weren't always fluttering about, but rather that a first butterfly was generated from which all subsequent butterflies were procreated. Hence, the bigger question turning to be what caused the formation of the first butterfly? He also stated that "if everything could cease to exist, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence" (Bowie, 59). This signifies that since all things in nature can cease to exist, or to never begin to exist, then at one time there would have been nothing in existence, since that the first thing came into being and procreated all successors. To this, Aquinas affirms that "if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing" (Bowie, 59). Consequently, this means that if there was nothing in existence, then there would be nothing in existence now, but we know this isn't true due to the immense amount of unique animals and plants on Earth, not to mention the vastness of space and surrounding galaxies.
                Also, "it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity cause by another" (Bowie, 59). As Magee so eloquently states:
"This regress obviously cannot go on forever and so it's proposed that there are two types of beings: those that owe their existence to what came before them, and those that don't. There must be at least one being who did not owe its existence to something that came before it. Beings are normally necessary to make other beings but such a being has its own necessity. This very first being, this first piece of stuff, is called God" (Magee, http://www.aquinasonline.com/).
Plainly stated, it is clear to understand that those beings that can't owe their existence to another being sharing the same characteristics, must then owe their existence to the very first being - God. With this, Aquinas discreetly implies that time does not go on forever, that there must have been an existence made by an intelligent designer - that the regress cannot go on forever.
                This is a strong argument on the premise that all living beings are created from other living beings, and that something, which is claimed to be God by Aquinas, is the cause of the first being coming into existence. Because it is impossible for a being to be in both potentiality and actuality at the same time, self-causation is impossible and this shows that only those caused by another is possible. This theory of possibility and necessity also incorporates the theory of efficient causation. In the same respect, "there is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself" (Bowie, 58).
                Consider, for instance, the evolutionary theory as the major objection to this theory. The evolutionary theory states that there is a gradual evolution by natural selection to beings who bear the following characteristics: (1.) they must be replicators, (2.) they must have variation that is heritable and (3.) their variations makes a difference in the rate of replication.
                Basic evolution teaches us that cells are formed from different chemicals and substances. According to the symbiotic theory, one cell would harbor inside the other, in a mutually benefiting situation, and this in turn made the now, eukaryotic cell, specialized for higher processes, due to the fact that each cell part was responsible for a certain task within the cell. These first cells clumped together to form higher beings and higher beings created even more complex higher beings. This method of science, proved that although a god might be responsible for the existence of beings, it was proved that one does not need a god to account for it.
                Aquinas argument isn't too weak to be worth considering for the fact that we still have no proof as to how that first cell came into existence. Being as that first cell is an effect, we have no due cause to explain for the cells existence. Not only that, but how do we account for the existence of terrain or water? What created the particles, chemicals and substances that could have landed a hand in creating a living cell and in turn a living being? If it were merely up to chance alone, would we be here right now? If the discrepancy and controversy is due to religious fallacies, one does not have to believe in either religion or evolution alone, there are many alternatives which allow the combination of both an evolution and creationism in a religion, which is more modern. For instance, the theory of the first cell - that God inseminated the first cell onto the Earth and had no other hand in the creation of beings.
                Aquinas' essay further investigates many of the conditions in which there could be a case in proving the existence of God. His third way, possibility and necessity, though written in the 1200's, is still relatable in this new millennium. Though many still argue the fact that evolution alone began the divergence of new species, could it be that Aquinas was begging for us to question, what caused the world to evolve the way it did? This possibly isn't an argument over whether God exists or not, but rather of whether we have a disposition to want to believe for personal reasons alone.         


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