Thursday, September 30, 2010

Classical theism

The difference between classical theism on the one hand and various modern and popular conceptions of God on the other has been a central theme of many previous posts – of, for example, several posts dealing with divine simplicity (e.g. here and here) and of my series of posts on the dispute between Aristotelian-Thomistic (A-T) metaphysics and “Intelligent Design” theory. It will feature in several forthcoming posts as well. So I thought it would be useful to write up a post which spelled out the key points.

As I have indicated in earlier posts, the doctrine of divine simplicity is absolutely central to classical theism. To say that God is simple is to say that He is in no way composed of parts – neither material parts, nor metaphysical parts like form and matter, substance and accidents, or essence and existence. Divine simplicity is affirmed by such Christian, Jewish, and Muslim thinkers as Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Maimonides, Avicenna, and Averroes. It is central to the theology of pagan thinkers like Plotinus. It is the de fide teaching of the Catholic Church, affirmed at the fourth Lateran council and the first Vatican council, and the denial of which amounts to heresy.

The doctrine of divine simplicity has a number of crucial implications, which are, accordingly, also essential to classical theism. It entails that God is immutable or changeless, and therefore that He is impassible – that is, that He cannot be affected by anything in the created order. It entails that he is eternal in the sense of being altogether outside of time and space. It entails that He does not “have” existence, or an essence, or His various attributes but rather is identical to His existence, His nature and His attributes: He is His existence which is His essence which is His power which is His knowledge which is His goodness. (I have discussed some of these points in greater detail in the posts on simplicity linked to above.)

Why is divine simplicity regarded by classical theists as so important? One reason is that in their view, nothing less than what is absolutely simple could possibly be divine, because nothing less than what is absolutely simple could have the metaphysical ultimacy that God is supposed to have. For anything which is in any way composed of parts would be metaphysically less fundamental than those parts themselves, and would depend on some external principle to account for the parts being combined in the way they are. In that case, either the external principle itself (or perhaps some yet further principle) would have to be simple, and thus ultimate, and thus the truly divine reality; or there is no simple or non-composite first principle, and thus no metaphysically ultimate reality, and thus nothing strictly divine. In short, to deny divine simplicity is, for the classical theist, implicitly to deny the existence of God.

Now the classical arguments for God as first cause or first principle of the world (by which I mean those developed within classical philosophy, whether Neo-Platonic, Aristotelian, or Thomistic or otherwise Scholastic) are, when properly understood, precisely arguments to the effect that the world of composite things – of compounds of act and potency, form and matter, essence and existence, and so forth – could not possibly exist even in principle were there not something non-composite, something which just is Pure Actuality, Subsistent Being Itself, and absolute Unity. (We saw in an earlier post how this goes in Plotinus. David Braine, in his book The Reality of Time and the Existence of God, rightly emphasizes that it is the theme that underlies Aquinas’s cosmological arguments as well.) This seems to be what leads Brian Davies to suggest, in the third edition of his book An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, that the core of classical theism is the notion of God as cause of the world. But it seems to me that this is not quite right. Anselm is, after all, a classical theist, and he conceives of God (in his best-known argument, anyway) primarily as That Than Which No Greater Can Be Conceived, rather than as cause of the world. So, it seems to me that what is more fundamental to classical theism is the notion of God as that which is absolutely metaphysically ultimate – a notion that encompasses both Anselm’s conception of God and the God-as-cause-of-the-world approach of Aquinas, Maimonides, and all the others, and which accounts for the centrality of divine simplicity to classical theism.

But how exactly does this differ from other conceptions of God? Don’t they also think of God as metaphysically ultimate? No they don’t, at least not in the absolute sense in which classical theism does, which is why I added that qualifier. For example, take Richard Dawkins’ conception of God. Dawkins is an atheist, of course, but he thinks that if God did exist, He would be an extremely complex albeit disembodied designing intelligence, comparable to a human designer but with far greater knowledge and power. Dawkins would no doubt be happy to concede that if this intelligence existed and was the cause of the world, it would be more ultimate than the world. But he also says that if such an intelligence existed we should regard it as just as much in need of explanation as the universe itself. And he is quite right about that, for such a metaphysically complex being would have to be regarded either as the effect of some higher and more simple cause, or as an inexplicable brute fact, in which case chucking out this “designer” and taking the universe itself as the ultimate brute fact could (as Dawkins argues) be regarded as a position more in line with Ockham’s razor. Where Dawkins goes wrong is in thinking that this conception of God has anything to do with the conception that prevailed historically within mainstream theology and philosophy.

But it is not only atheists who take such a view. Davies contrasts classical theism with what he calls “theistic personalism” and what the Christian apologist Norman Geisler calls “neo-theism.” The theistic personalist or neo-theist conceives of God essentially as a person comparable to human persons, only without the limitations we have. The idea is to begin with what we know about human beings and then to abstract away first the body, then our temporal limitations, then our epistemological and volitional confinement to knowing about and having control over only a particular point of space and time, then our moral defects, and to keep going until we arrive at the notion of a being who has power, knowledge, and goodness like ours but to an unlimited degree. Theistic personalism or neo-theism also rejects divine simplicity and its implications; indeed, this is the motivation for developing a conception of God by abstracting from our conception of human persons, for the theistic personalist objects to the notion of God as immutable, impassible, and eternal – finding it too cold and otherworldly, and incompatible with a literal reading of various biblical passages – and typically has philosophical objections to the notion of divine simplicity. Davies identifies Alvin Plantinga and Richard Swinburne as theistic personalists. As I have suggested in earlier posts, the conception of God one arrives at via the reasoning of William Paley’s “design argument” or the arguments of “Intelligent Design” theorists is also essentially a theistic personalist conception. “Open theists” and process theologians are further examples of contemporary thinkers who reject classical theism and divine simplicity in favor of a more “personalist” conception of God (though they would, of course, differ from Plantinga, Swinburne, Paley, and ID theory on various other issues).

I have emphasized as well in earlier posts that divine conservation – the doctrine that the world could not exist even for an instant, even in principle, apart from the continuous sustaining action of God – is also central to classical theism. Just as the classical arguments for God as cause of the world are arguments for an absolutely simple first principle, so too are they (for the most part) arguments for God precisely as conserver or sustainer of the world. And just as divine simplicity is no less central to orthodox theology than it is to classical philosophy, so too is divine conservation. (Ludwig Ott’s well-known manual Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma classifies it too as a de fide doctrine of the Catholic Church.) For classical theism, to say that God creates the world is not merely, and indeed not primarily, to say that He got it going at some time in the past. It is more fundamentally to say the He keeps it going now, and at any moment at which it exists at all. As Aquinas says, to say that God makes the world is not like saying that a blacksmith made a horseshoe – where the horseshoe might persist even if the blacksmith died – but rather like saying that a musician makes music, where the music would stop if the musician stopped playing.

When combined with the doctrine of divine simplicity, divine conservation entails a very different conception of God’s relationship to the world than is entailed by theistic personalism. Theistic personalism tends toward a conception of God as an especially penetrating observer of the world, who learns what is happening in it via epistemic powers that are far more advanced than ours. For classical theism, though, since God doesn’t change, neither does he “learn,” not even in an extremely effective way. His knowledge of the world is far more intimate than that. He knows it precisely by knowing Himself as the sustaining cause of the world, in the very act of causing it. He is not like a machinist who is the keenest possible observer of the operations of a machine he has built. He is, again, more like a musician who knows the music he is playing, not by observing it, but precisely in the act of playing it.

The theistic personalist also generally takes God’s miraculous activity to amount to a kind of “intervention” in a natural order that would otherwise operate without him, like that of a machinist who steps in to alter the workings of a machine he had earlier set in motion but which was, before the intervention, carrying on independently of him. For the classical theist, that is simply not the right way to think about miracles, since there is no such thing as the world otherwise carrying on apart from God, given that He is already the sustaining cause of the ordinary course of events itself. If we pursue the musician analogy a bit further, we can say that for the classical theist, the world’s regular operations are like the music a musician plays according to a score he has before his mind, and a miracle is like the musician’s momentary improvisation or departure from that score. It is not an intervention in a course of events that would otherwise have carried on without God, but rather the suspension of the normal ordering of a course of events that would not in any case have carried on without Him.

As Davies has emphasized (at length in his book The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil), theistic personalists and classical theists also differ radically in their understanding of what it means to characterize God as good. For the theistic personalist, since God is a person comparable to us, only without our limitations, His goodness amounts to a kind of superlative moral virtue. Like us, He has moral duties; unlike us, He fulfills them perfectly. But for the classical theist, this is nonsensical. Virtue and duty have to do with habits and actions that allow us to realize the ends set for us by nature and thereby to perfect ourselves. But God, being pure actuality, cannot intelligibly be said to have ends He needs to realize or imperfections He needs to remedy. Accordingly, He cannot intelligibly be said to be “virtuous” or to have “duties” He needs to fulfill.

To say that God is good is for the classical theist to say something very different, and something that it is, frankly, not easy to summarize for readers unfamiliar with certain key metaphysical doctrines characteristic of classical, and especially Scholastic, philosophy, such as the doctrine of the convertibility of the transcendentals, the notion of evil as privation, and the principle of proportionate causality (all of which are explained in my book Aquinas). Briefly, though, according to the first of these doctrines, being is “convertible” with goodness, so that whatever is pure actuality or Being Itself is necessarily also Goodness Itself. Furthermore, evil is a privation rather than a positive reality – the absence of good, as blindness is merely the absence of sight rather than a positive attribute. Whatever is pure actuality, and thus Goodness Itself, therefore cannot intelligibly be said to be evil or deficient in any way. Finally, since according to the principle of proportionate causality, whatever is in an effect must in some way be in its cause (“eminently” if not “formally”), God as the cause of all possible good must have all possible good within Him, eminently if not formally.

Obviously this raises all sorts of questions. For example: “Does this entail that God must be green, or smelly, or short, since greenness, smelliness, and shortness are to be found in the world He causes?!“ The answer is No, it doesn’t entail that, but as I have said, there is no brief way to spell out the metaphysical background necessary to answering such objections here, and I have in any event done so at length in Aquinas, to which the interested reader is referred. The point for now is just to indicate how different the classical theist’s conception of divine goodness is from that of the theistic personalist – and, for that matter, from the conception taken for granted by atheists who suggest that the existence of evil shows that God, if He exists, must in some way be morally deficient. While God is not a Platonic Form, for the classical theist, to suggest that God is in some way morally deficient nevertheless makes about as much sense as suggesting that Plato’s Form of the Good might be morally deficient. The suggestion is unintelligible both because characterizing the God of classical theism as either virtuous or vicious is unintelligible, and because characterizing Him as deficient in any way is unintelligible. An atheist could intelligibly deny that such a God exists at all (just as he could intelligibly deny the existence of Platonic Forms), but to suggest that the God of classical theism might be morally deficient merely shows that such an atheist does not understand the view he is criticizing (just as an opponent of Platonism who suggested that the Form of the Good might be unloving or vicious would only show thereby that he doesn’t understand what sort of thing a Form is supposed to be).

Now, for the Thomist, a proper understanding of these various aspects of classical theism requires a recognition that when we predicate goodness, knowledge, power, or what have you of God, we are using language in a way that is analogous to the use we make of it when applied to the created order. It cannot be emphasized too strongly, though, that this has nothing to do with “arguing from analogy” after the fashion of Paley’s design argument; indeed, it is diametrically opposed to Paley’s procedure. It has to do instead with Aquinas’s famous “doctrine of analogy,” which distinguishes three uses of language: Words can be used univocally, in exactly the same sense, as when we say that Fido’s bark is loud and that Rover’s bark is loud. They can be used equivocally, or in completely unrelated senses, as when we say that Fido’s bark is loud and that the tree’s bark is rough. Or they can be used analogously, as when we say that a certain meal was good, that a certain book is good, and that a certain man is good. “Good” is not being used in exactly the same sense in each case, but neither are the senses unrelated, as they are in the equivocal use of “bark.” Rather, there is in the goodness of a meal something analogous to the goodness of a book, and analogous to the goodness of a man, even if it is not exactly the same sort of thing that constitutes the goodness in each case.

For the Thomist, this is the key to understanding how it can be the case that God’s goodness is His power, which is His knowledge, which is His essence, which is His existence. Such a claim would be nonsensical if the terms in question were being used univocally, in exactly the same sense in which we use them when we attribute goodness, power, knowledge, etc. to ourselves (and as they are used in Paleyan “arguments from analogy”). But neither are the senses utterly equivocal. Rather, what we mean is that there is in God something analogous to what we call goodness in us, something analogous to what we call knowledge in us, and so forth; and in God, it is one and the same thing that is analogous to what are in us distinct attributes. From a Thomistic point of view, it is precisely because theistic personalists apply language to God and creatures univocally that they are led to deny divine simplicity and in general to arrive at an objectionably anthropomorphic conception of God. (It is only fair to note, however, that followers of Duns Scotus, who are classical theists, reject the claim that terms are applied to God and to creatures in analogous rather than univocal senses. For Thomists, the Scotist move away from analogy set the stage for the moderns’ move away from classical theism, but Scotists would deny this. But this is a large debate which cannot be settled here.)

In summary, then, classical theism is committed to a conception of God as that which is absolutely metaphysically ultimate – that is to say, as that which is ultimate in principle and not merely in fact – where this is taken to entail divine simplicity and thus divine immutability, impassibility, and eternity; to a doctrine of divine conservation on which the world is radically dependent on God for its existence at every instant; and (in the case of Thomists, anyway) to the doctrine that the terms we apply both to God and to the created order are to be understood in analogous rather than univocal senses. Its commitment to divine simplicity and to the implications of divine simplicity sets classical theism at odds with theistic personalism, “open theism,” deism, process theology, and other more anthropomorphic conceptions of God. Such rival views also sometimes reject the doctrine of divine conservation, though not in every case; and they also reject the doctrine of analogy, though some classical theists do so as well.

Since classical theism has, as I have noted, been the mainstream understanding of the divine nature through most of the history both of philosophical theology and of the main monotheistic religions, it follows that serious critics of theism ought to devote the bulk of their attention to understanding and rebutting the arguments of classical theists. That means that they ought to be focusing their attention on the arguments of classical writers like Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Maimonides, Avicenna, Aquinas, and Scotus, to name just some of them – and I don’t mean the out-of-context two-page snippets one finds in Introduction to Philosophy textbooks (nor quick summaries in blog posts like the one you’re reading now), but substantial chunks of their work, as well as the exegetical works of serious contemporary scholars who have written on these thinkers of the past. It means that they ought to familiarize themselves with the work of contemporary philosophers of religion who are working within the classical theist framework – writers like Barry Miller, David Braine, John Haldane, Brian Davies, David Conway, William Vallicella, David Oderberg, Christopher Martin, James Ross, and other writers in the Aristotelian, Neo-Platonic, and Thomistic and other Scholastic traditions. (If they want to read my stuff too, I won’t complain.)

And yet very few contemporary atheists show much familiarity with this tradition. Indeed, few even seem to be aware that there is a difference between classical theism and the theistic personalism that underlies so much contemporary writing in theology and philosophy of religion. For example, the atheist philosopher Keith Parsons, who recently made a big show of his abandoning philosophy of religion as no longer worthy of his attention, devoted his main book on the subject (God and the Burden of Proof) to rebutting the arguments of just two theists – Plantinga and Swinburne, who are theistic personalists rather than classical theists, and thus simply unrepresentative of the mainstream tradition in Christian thought and philosophy of religion. (In saying so, I do not mean to show any disrespect to Plantinga and Swinburne. You don’t need me to tell you that they are very important philosophers indeed. They just aren’t classical theists.)

In general, though at least some contemporary atheist philosophers may be said to have a solid enough grasp of the arguments of writers like Plantinga and Swinburne, their grasp of the mainstream classical theistic tradition tends to be at best only slightly better than that of vulgar pop atheist writers like Richard Dawkins (who, as I demonstrate both in Aquinas and, more polemically, in The Last Superstition, hasn’t the faintest clue about what writers like Aquinas really said). And if one hasn’t grappled seriously with the arguments of the great classical theists, then one simply cannot claim to have dealt a serious blow to theism as such. Not even close.

105 comments:

Rinku Mathew said...

As usual, great post Ed. Divine simplicity, by your lights, implies that God is eternal in the sense of being "altogether outside of time and space." I take it that this view contrasts with William Lane Craig's position that God is outside of time sans creation but within time since creation. Have you or other distinctively classical theists interacted with his work? I know of his exchanges with Norman Krutzman and Eleanore Stump, but it seems to me that he got the better of the exchange. And while both Stump and Krutzman are scholars of Aquinas, I'm not sure they would fit the "classical theist" designation. Feel to correct me if my impression is wrong.

Lastly, what is the intellectual history of classical theism in the twentieth century? As told by Wolterstorff at the recent Notre Dame conference honoring Plantinga's work, I know the usual story of philosophy of religion's ascent that attended the demise of logical positivism; but I don't anything about what was happening with the work of classical theists. What were they doing? I'm guessing the place to look is your series on Analytic Thomism, but if you have anything to add beyond what you say and cite there, I'd be much obliged. Keep up the great work.

Best,
RM

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Forsooth, the Perryman cometh.

Just Thinking said...

Ed

A VERY good post.

Can you say what is the origin of the term ' theistic personalism', and aren't the most recent two Popes theistic personalists?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this excellent post, Dr. Feser. I have a couple of (admittedly muddle-headed) questions, though, so please bear with me:


1) Are classical theists committed to being metaphysical realists about things like numbers and the various laws of logic? If so, what is the place for these things in the hierarchy of reality? Does God create them, are they metaphysically prior to Him, are they “co-eternal” with Him, do they simply “emerge” from His nature or essence, or is there some other, more water-tight conception available to us of the relation between God and these things that would preserve God’s absolute metaphysical ultimacy? I admit I’ve always had a nagging suspicion that numbers and the laws of logic, since they constrain His actions, are metaphysically prior to Him. (The doctrine of the Trinity, for example, has always stirred in me the annoying feeling that the number “3” is prior to God…)

2) I’m slightly uncomfortable with the music analogy as a vehicle for explaining the idea of divine conservation. When you say that God’s making of and sustaining of the world is “rather like saying that a musician makes music, where the music would stop if the musician stopped playing” this analogy, in spite of its aesthetic merit, makes it sound as if classical theism implies some sort of determinism, since every note, movement, cadenza, etc., is completely determined by the musician according to the plan in his mind. You also subsequently clarify the analogy by stating that the “world’s regular operations are like the music a musician plays according to a score he has before his mind.” If the equivalences here are “God=musician” and “all of the world’s regular operations=music,” then I see a dilemma: In order for God to sustain us, physical human bodies would have to be members of the list of worldly things completely subjected to the "music" or "all of the world's regular operations", in which case our actions would have been part of God’s “score” or plan from the beginning, and hence they are determined. But if we are genuinely free and can deviate from "all of the world's regular operations," then it seems that God can no longer sustain us.

How is divine conservation compatible with human freedom?

George R. said...

Ed, you write:
It means that they ought to familiarize themselves with the work of contemporary philosophers of religion who are working within the classical theist framework – writers like Barry Miller, David Braine, John Haldane, Brian Davies, David Conway, William Vallicella, David Oderberg, Christopher Martin, James Ross, and other writers in the Aristotelian, Neo-Platonic, and Thomistic and other Scholastic traditions.

William Vallicella? The guy's a dyed-in-the-wool Kantian. He doesn't even believe the existence of God can be proven by reason.

Anonymous said...

Suppose a bunch of creationists went around confidently asserting that the case for evolution was so awful that they needn't take it seriously. I think it would be significantly if the majority had never even heard of Darwin, adaptationism or punctuated equilibrium but had focused all of their criticism on Lamarck's theory instead. I think a lot of these cock-sure atheists like Parsons are in an exactly analogous situation.

The 27th Comrade said...

“The doctrine of divine simplicity has a number of crucial implications, which are, accordingly, also essential to classical theism. It entails that God is immutable or changeless, and therefore that He is impassible – that is, that He cannot be affected by anything in the created order. It entails that he is eternal in the sense of being altogether outside of time and space. It entails that He does not “have” existence, or an essence, or His various attributes but rather is identical to His existence, His nature and His attributes: He is His existence which is His essence which is His power which is His knowledge which is His goodness.”

Things like these make me really glad that I am not a classical theist. It does not help me win debates against the “disputers of this age”, but I know that the god from whom all attributes disconsonant with the neat, Aristotelico-logical thinking have been shorn is most-certainly not the God who says “The just shall live by faith.”
My God may be immutable, but if his attitude towards me is the same as Him, that means that He is mutable (or, at least, he’d better be—for “your sins I shall remember no more” is central to faith in the God I believe in, even though obviously not central to Classical Theism, when it is consistent).
My God had better be affected by creatures! I know that my God—not the one of Classical Theism, of course—is; for did He not say we should pray to Him? Or is Classical Theism merely Calvinism without the institutionalisation?

Divine Simplicity would imply that God is His simplicity. Well, of course. If Classical Theism was to be taken on faith, I would believe. But since it is about reason—in particular, a God bound to follow the axioms of Aristotelian logic—I do not accept.

Since God is His existence, on Divine Simplicity, is it that when we prove that He exists we have then also proven who God is? This does not chime with God being mystery, per article of faith. Would that Classical Theism left room for mystery! “Whosoever believeth in Him.”
Also, Prof. Feser: you are the coolest philosopher currently blogging. (I tell Dr. Chastek the same thing, but he is not here. I flatter who is listening.)

“For anything which is in any way composed of parts would be metaphysically less fundamental than those parts themselves, and would depend on some external principle to account for the parts being combined in the way they are.”

Why does our epistemological state have to affect who God is? Why should the insufficiency of an ape’s thinking be what draws the line God cannot pass? If we have two truths about God that we cannot reconcile, we should believe both.
Fuck Aristotelian logic: that is faith, in a few words. Sorry to be such a terrible instance of Søren; I am going to stand in the bad corner.

Edward Feser said...

Thank you for the kind words, folks. Some specific replies:

Rinku,

Re: other responses to Craig, I'd have to think about it, but in general the man to read vis-a-vis recent objections to divine simplicity and its implications is Barry Miller, especially his book A Most Unlikely God.

Re: classical theism in the 20th century, apart from the people I mentioned in the main post, the most important thinkers are neo-Scholastics and neo-Thomists (Garrigou-Lagrange, Maritain, Gilson, et al. -- especially Garrigou-Lagrange, IMHO). They get little or no attention from analytic philosophers because they weren't analytic philosophers themselves. That is not a good reason, of course, but it is pretty much the only reason.

JT,

No, they are not theistic personalists. They do take a "personalist" approach to ethics (JPII did especially), but that is not the same thing as theistic personalism.

Anonymous 1,

1. Yes, classical theists are typically realists, and the trend in the classical theist tradition was toward a middle ground position between Platonic realism and Aristotelian realism, according to which universals exist only in either things themselves or in intellects (as Aristotle held) but exist most fundamentally in the divine intellect, as the archetypes of the things God creates or could create (which captures the Platonist view that universals must transcend both the material world and finite intellects). This middle ground position is sometimes called "Scholastic realism."

2. Scholastics have debated this issue at length, but for Aquinas, the answer is that only other things going on within the created order (e.g. a mad scientist planting electrodes in your brain, someone hypnotizing you or putting drugs in your coffee) can meaningfuly be said to interfere with your free will. God is not one agent among others within the world, however, but rather that which sustains the world and all agents within it in being. This no more makes our actions less free than it makes the natural behavior of animals, plants and inanimate objects less natural.

George,

I don't know for sure why you would say such a thing. Bill has defended key aspects of classical theism, including the cosmological argument, in many of his publications, including his very fine book A Paradigm Theory of Existence. It may be that he thinks that the arguments for theism are less conclusive than I and many other classical theists think they are, but that does not make him a Kantian, dyed-in-the-wool or otherwise.

Anonymous 2,

Indeed. Google my article "The New Philistinism" from the online magazine The American, where I develop that very theme at length.

27th Comrade,

Prayer, forgiveness, etc. are all perfectly compatible with classical theism. It's just that we need to be careful in explaining what it means to say that God hears our prayers, forgives us, etc. These are big issues, and, naturally, writers like Aquinas deal with them at length (just browse through the Summa Theologiae), as have contemporary writers like Davies.

ConfusedOne said...

Just wanted to say thanks for your enlightening posts on the differences between classial and "personalistic" theism. I confess I used to be one of the many ignorant people who had no idea there was even a difference. I'd also like to say thanks for your book [i]Aquinas[/i], which I found a very clear and lucid introduction to Thomism. It played no small part in my renouncing my long-standing scientism.

George R. said...

Ed, here's a recent quote from Bill Vallicella at his blog:

"There are intellectually respectable cases to be made both for theism/anti-naturalism and for atheism/naturalism. I don't think there are any 'knock-down' arguments on either side. There are arguments for the existence of God, but no proofs of the existence of God. And there are arguments for the nonexistence of God, but no proofs of the nonexistence of God."

Is that what passes for classical theism these days?


Btw, the reason I called him a Kantian is because he suggested (in the same post) that the reason he considers Thomas's First Way to be not conclusive is because according to him the reduction of potency to act in motion is not abstracted from sensible objects, but is a post-analytic concept imposed on sensible being.

Ingemar said...

Of course Swinburne doesn't subscribe to Divine Simplicity. He's Orthodox.

Oh, and word verification is: logic. God am I lucky.

The 27th Comrade said...

“It's just that we need to be careful in explaining what it means to say that God hears our prayers, forgives us, etc.”

Ah, this god whose praise is not perfected in the lips of babes. How do you do, O Classical Theos! You are certainly not Yodh-Heh-Waw-Heh.

Prof. Feser: this god of whom you speak, is he Forgiveness Itself? —Answering of Prayer ipsum? Divine Simplicity Itself? Otherwise, after all, isn’t Simplicity, in whose terms you define Classical Theos, itself simpler than Classical Theos, thereby your description being self-refuting just by being possible? If Classical Theos is Divine Simplicity itself, have we not arrived again at the problem before which ape minds should be silent and ape faith—even the faith of ape children—should reach out? For “unless you make yourselves like one of these …”
I fear that X is ultimately ¬X itself. I would take it, if it did not commit itself to having to be reasonable.

My God—certainly not the one of Classical Theism, of course—is too grand for a description that has no faith in it. “For this the ancients were commended.”

Edward Feser said...

George,

If you would actually bother to read the many articles Bill has written on this subject, as well as his book -- instead of relying (as it seems you do) on a single combox remark -- you'll find that he often defends theistic arguments and never defends atheistic ones. Hardly what you'd expect of someone who thinks there is no good reason to believe one way or the other. Unlike me, he doesn't think that that the best theistic arguments are decisive, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't think there are strong rational grounds to favor the theist position.

Furthermore, you are not accurately characterizing his position on the act/potency distinction and the First Way. My sense both from his work and from having discussed the issue with him is that the reason Bill does not favor the Thomistic position is not that he is a Kantian, but rather because he leans closer to the broadly Neo-Platonic metaphysical tradition than to the Aristotelian one. (I am not saying that he is a Neo-Platonist full stop, BTW, just that his views vis-a-vis theism seem to fall more in that direction than in any other. Bill can correct me if I've misunderstood him.)

Edward Feser said...

is he Forgiveness Itself?

Sure, why wouldn't He be?

I fear that X is ultimately ¬X itself.

No, why would it be?

The 27th Comrade said...

You say that God is Forgiveness Itself. Good. But forgiveness implies change. Unless, of course, Classical Theism is just Calvinism with tenure. (Or shall we descend into summersaults of precision, so that “forgiveness” is disfigured so much that it is a lie, and nobody’s attitudes changed at all anyway? “Anything, as long as God is contained in that logic box”?)

If God is Simplicity Itself, because of the Divine Simplicity principle (surely not doctrine, is it?), then we have a case where X → ¬X ultimately, if it avoids ultimate circularity. I like to tell people that the entschiedungsproblem is not a problem: not everything should be comprehensible to those who are merely perfectly logical. Computers do not even understand sex! :o)

Anonymous said...

I think Anonymous 1 was looking more for an engagement with the more focused question of what the metaphysical status of numbers, logical truths, and mathematical truths in particular are, according to classical theism, rather than the general question of what the metaphysical status of universals in general are. I've been wondering about this too. Is it a one-size-fits-all type deal? Somehow I can't get rid of the intuition that numbers and logical truths are metaphysically prior to God. Too much mathematical training and not enough philosophy, I suppose.

Tom said...

Ed,

Can you please comment on the argument that William Lane Craig lodges against God's immutability: if God is immutable he does not know what time it is right now so God is not omniscient. God is omniscient therefore God is not immutable.

Bobcat said...

I wonder whether there is one sense in which Kant is a classical theist; although he doesn't think we can prove God exists, he does think we are morally obligated to believe that God exists. Moreover, he thinks that the God in which we're morally obligated to believe exists is simple, immutable, timeless, all-powerful, morally perfect, omniscient, necessarily existent, and has divine aseity (he never says that God is impassible, but I bet he thinks God is). So he's not a classical theist, but he thinks we ought to believe in the same God as the God of classical theism.

Anonymous said...

Bobcat,

Contrary to the popular philosophical conception of Kant's philosophy, didn't Kant in his final major work, the Opus Postumum, a work which readdressed virtually all the key problems of his critical philosophy, actually completely abandon his initial idea of God as being a necessary practical postulate?

Anonymous said...

I think one can be Orthodox and yet believe in divine simplicity - Palamite theology is not a dogma of the Orthodox church.

Brandon said...

didn't Kant in his final major work, the Opus Postumum, a work which readdressed virtually all the key problems of his critical philosophy, actually completely abandon his initial idea of God as being a necessary practical postulate?

The Opus Postumum is difficult to interpret because it's just fragmentary drafts and notes for a work that was never completed. But God as a necessary practical postulate still comes up repeatedly.

Brandon said...

Actually, thinking about it more, Kant does at one point deny that the postulate of divine existence is necessary for religion (what is necessary on his view is conscientiousness). But the postulate is still necessary for philosophy.

awatkins69 said...

Hi Dr. Feser. Good post. However, would you consider Bl. Duns Scotus a "neo-theist"? For instance, he said that when we predicate attributes of God we do so univocally. Thus, for him, God really IS like humans (though Bl. Duns did somehow believe in divine simplicity). Certainly we would consider Bl. Duns Scotus as being in the classical theist camp, no?

awatkins69 said...

I know you mentioned that in your post, but I'm interested in seeing how Bl. Duns still held to a view of divine simplicity and how he can be considered a "classical" theist.

Vlastimil Vohánka said...

Edward, what do you think about the dis/advantages of defending canonical Christian theism (instead of bare, or modern, or even classical theism), focused on in the writings of Wm. J. Abraham?

Cf. his http://books.google.com/books?id=mRXw-PR4wz8C , pp. 9ff.

Anonymous said...

Is there any room for poetic mystery within this highly rational classical tradition? Mystery -that which emerges directly from a belief that I can't know everything about God- is what keeps my faith healthy and my astonishment at the fact of existence strong. I suspect many others feel the same way I do. Why should God in His entirety be entirely comprehensible to, as Dostoevsky says, "the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man"?

Bobcat said...

Anonymous,

What makes you think Ed (or any classical theist) says that God is entirely comprehensible to us? Given that Ed (and, at the very least, Aquinas) thinks that we can generally talk about God analogically, this indicates to me that there are certain things about God's nature that are simnply beyond our ability to really get at.

Anonymous said...

I have read an account, perhaps only apocryphal, that when St. Thomas stopped working on his incomplete Summa, his personal secretary, named Reynalde, repeatedly urged him to continue. But to these urgings, Thomas always cryptically replied, "Reynalde, no possum" [Reynalde, I cannot]. When pressed a final time, he replied, "Everything I have written seems like straw to me compared to what I have seen and what has been revealed to me." What did he see that would cause him put aside so great a work? We do not know. However, according to the story, the only time after this that Thomas broke his silence was to write a commentary on the Canticle of Canticles, the Old Testament poem on the soul's love of God. Sadly the commentary, if ever written, has been lost.

Yours,
Johnny Lately

Anonymous said...

Anyone know of any good classical theistic commentary on the Old Testament, since a literal reading suggests a blatantly anthropomorphic conception of God? It's kind of hard for me to imagine Existence Itself conversing vocally with Moses and ordering the slaughter of various ethnic groups.

George R. said...

Btw, VJ Torley has gotten off the mat and is coming back swinging.

http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/thomas1.html

TheOFloinn said...

"a literal reading suggests a blatantly anthropomorphic conception of God'

Which suggests something about literal readings, no?

"It's kind of hard for me to imagine Existence Itself conversing vocally with Moses"

I dunno. He did call himself I AM, and what else would Existence Itself call himself?

The 27th Cpmrade said...

“Which suggests something about literal readings, no?”

Yes. That they are the correct reading. Jesus was not a philosopher. Our Father Who Art in Heaven, not some pap about our unmoved mover in the platonic realm or some such stuff.
God is to be understood anthropomorphically; if that is wrong, Jesus is wrong. But I do not care if it is not logical, because I do not (or, at least, should not) live by sight. It is only by understanding anthropomorphically—with faith—that God hanging on a tree can even make sense; and if we do not understand Calvary, we are entirely screwed—be we Caiphas or the Areopagite “disputers of this age”.

“I dunno. He did call himself I AM, and what else would Existence Itself call himself?”

“I Am That [Which] I Am” is not equivalent to ipsum esse subsistens. It is merely a failure to define Himself in terms other than Himself; it has nothing to do with existing. Moses was not asking whether God is, He was asking for a name. “Who shall I tell the Pharaoh sent me?”

Brandon said...

Btw, VJ Torley has gotten off the mat and is coming back swinging.

Torley is usually better than most ID theorists trying to coopt Thomism; I thought it rather amusing, though, even setting aside the typical equivocation on 'design' that arises in these discussions and the fact that his discussion isn't consistent on the question of whether Aquinas's discussion of creation is relevant to the question or not, that he spends so much time arguing that Thomism is not inconsistent with ID and then spends almost all of Part V giving arguments that, if followed through consistently, show that Thomism is inconsistent with ID.

George R. said...

Brandon,

That Thomism is inconsistent with what Ed calls “personalist theism” is without a doubt true. ID, however, is not personalist theism. And that’s because it’s no theism whatsoever. ID is neither theology nor metaphysics. It’s subject is physical realty; and it’s object is something (to wit, design) that is perceived therein. Therefore, it should be called an empirical science.


Does Torley get everything right about Thomas? No. Then again, who does? One thing, however, he does get right is that Thomism is completely and utterly inconsistent with the theory of evolution. And this is what certain Thomists (ahem) seem unwilling to clearly face.

Anonymous said...

How is Thomism inconsistent with evolution? Metaphysically naturalistic/materialistic evolution, sure, but evolution in general?

George R. said...

How is Thomism inconsistent with evolution?

I suggest you read Torley’s paper:
http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/st-thomas-aquinas-and-his-fifteen-smoking-guns-a-five-part-reply-to-professor-tkacz/

. . . or if you want my own really short answer:
Substances per se are not subject to motion, since they are ontologically prior to continuous quantity, which alone is subject to motion. (Read Aristotle’s Physics, Book V)

Brandon said...

And that’s because it’s no theism whatsoever. ID is neither theology nor metaphysics.

You'll have to take that up with Torley, who chooses not to take the route you are suggesting (and even explicitly notes that he is doing this in an aside in Part V), and whose arguments throughout require that your claim is false.

Crude said...

Brandon,

You'll have to take that up with Torley, who chooses not to take the route you are suggesting (and even explicitly notes that he is doing this in an aside in Part V), and whose arguments throughout require that your claim is false.

I have some strong disagreements with Torley at a glance, and I have this fear that a lot of what's being said is going to come down to 'You can't be a Thomist if you disagree with Aquinas about anything'. But I have to ask, where in V does Torley assert that ID is either theology or metaphysics?

Maybe you mean this part:

In the first part, I shall attempt to show that Intelligent Design theory is necessary, not only in order to explain what it means to say that God is intelligent, but also in order to establish that God is indeed intelligent.

I have no doubt that Torley thinks ID can be used for theological or metaphysical arguments to some degree, even a strong degree. But that doesn't seem to be the same thing as saying the field or subject itself is metaphysical or theological in strong enough of a sense for it to matter. Either way, maybe I picked the wrong quote - I'd like to see which aside you meant if so.

As an aside of my own, I'd like to see Ed address what he thinks of the charge that thomism is incompatible with (if I take Torley right here) species evolution, period. That's certainly not the stance I've seen from most thomists I've read. Though I sympathize with Ed, since he went back and forth with Torley over this a while ago, and this topic always seems explosive.

George R. said...

Brandon,
Obviously a study of the compatibility of ID and metaphysics is going to involve metaphysics. Moreover, Torley writes as somewhat of a philosopher and a polemicist, so his papers are naturally, well, philosophical and polemical. All I’m saying is that ID per se is not any of those things, but is merely an empirical science.

David said...

Speaking of being fair and giving the best possible reading to one's opponents, I think that picking on ID for the bad philosophy it sometimes inspires is like picking on Thomism because of its bad physics. Now certainly Aquinas did not have modern science to refer to, whereas ID folks do have Scholastic philosophy. And without the obsolete physics, Thomism is a solid philosophy, while without the philosophical digressions, ID still has not got very far... but on the other hand, Aquinas had a millennium of giants' shoulders to stand on, while ID is pretty new. (If it's still this naive in another thousand years, then we can pick on it!) What I'd really like to see is scholastic philosophers working on a philosophically sound approach to ID, rather than merely pointing out flaws.

(Also, I don't see how Thomism could be incompatible with evolution (or ID). It's certainly incompatible with "Darwinism", if that means "random" or unguided evolution, because obviously nothing happens that isn't under God's control and providence. But as to how life developed, God naturally could manage it anyway He wanted to. (Pun intended.))

Jime said...

I'd like to know your opinion about the following:

Reading again "Aquinas", I'm a little bit confused about Parmenides' argument.

Dr.Feser writes: "Parmenides notoriously held that change is imposible. For a being could change only if caused to do so by something other than it. But the only thing other than being is non-being, and non-being, since it is just nothing, cannot cause nothing" (p.9)

Note the emphasis in black and read it carefully the whole argument.

It seems to me that Parmenides was equivocating "a being" with "being" simpliciter.

"A being" seems to suggest only one kind of being, i.e. a particular substance whatever. While "being" seems to suggest being in general, i.e. the what is grounding all reality.

If "a" being could only to change by another, then this another could be "another" being, not non-being. And this is what Aristotles and Aquinas would defend with the act and potency distinction (after all, only what is actual can actualize another's potential).

In other words, non-being contrast with being (in general), not with "a" being in particular.

As consequence, if Parmenides was arguing about "being" in general (not about "a" being in particular), then his point remains that non-being is the only alternative to being and therefore being couldn't change, and Aristotle's reply would miss the point. (Paradoxically, interpreted in this way, Parmenides' point would agree with Aquinas, because for Aquinas the being as such is God and God is changeless, what was Parmenides' original point regarding being).

Am I misreading Parmenides here, or forcing a weird interpretation of him?

Anonymous said...

This audio message was very helpful to me!

http://www.christurc.org/audio_files/adult_catechism/horton/systematic_theology/2009-01-18-horton-chm.mp3

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Dr. Feser:

My prediction about Perry Robinson's appearance in this thread came true only in an attenuated way, when he emailed me to say that, "nope," there is nothing with which to interact in this post, it being just another instance of "textbook [manualist] Thomism," and that ~"scholarship is passsing [Feser] by." I told Perry that you are the type of person who would seriously engage the scholarship if you believed it were worth your time, and when the time became available. Hence, I told him to re-alert you to his objections to ADS in this thread http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/05/davies-on-divine-simplicity-and-freedom.html , and even said I would do it for him, which I am now doing.

The reason I raise this point is because Perry is seen by not a few persons on the Internet (esp. Orthodox) as the end-all authority on why not only Thomism is defunct but also, in turn, why Catholicism is heretical: if God's act of being is absolutely identical to His act of creation, then creation is as necessary as God's existence, which fatally undermines the freedom of creation as Christian dogma. I encourage you to review Perry's objections and my own gestures toward a response in the thread I have noted. I will also be glad to provide some of the contents of the email exchanges Perry and I have had recently about this.

Also, did you get my email about a translation of Aquinas?

Best,

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

It is amusing to read some of the "anthropomorphic" rebuttals to Thomas, as if he hadn't the slightest inkling about such objections way back when.

Crude said...

Man, poor Ed. March of a dozen "Ed, could you answer this complicated question"s. At least the requests are polite and courteous more often than not, that hopefully makes it easier.

The perils of writing such good books.

Will said...

Some quotations on evolution from the 'Summa':

Summa Theologica I,4,I:
'The material principle which with us is found to be imperfect, cannot be absolutely primal; but must be preceded by something perfect ['perfect' = per-factum, 'completely made']. For seed, though it be the principle of animal life reproduced through seed, has previous to it, the animal or plant life from which it came. Because, previous to what which is potential, must be that which is actual; since a potential being can only be reduced into act by some being already actual'.

Thomas allows for evolution, or growth, to be a universal principle of nature, but not of all being universally. He could affirm the evolution of species and the cosmos if the evolution were preceded by generation and an actual First Cause.

But note ST II,90,2:
'The rational soul can be made only by creation; which, however, is not true of other forms'.

Even though other forms could come into existence by generation or perhaps evolution, rational souls cannot. Thomas argues for the falsity of any form of evolution that results in materialism about human beings, or appeals to the emergence of mind from matter.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Crude:

I know, right? We should enjoy our smallness. ;)

Edward Feser said...

Codge and Crude,

Yes, the questions and comments have snowballed -- both here and at WWWtW (where Robinson has been leaving some comments) -- and I'm afraid I don't have time to get to them since I'm trying to meet a writing deadline. But I will be writing a follow-up post on some of the issues my WWWtW co-bloggers Steve Burton and Lydia McGrew, and some of the folks here, have been raising.

Robinson and others who sometimes raise the issues you're referring to should keep in kind, though, that I haven't been trying to settle the East-West controversy here or in earlier posts. My targets have rather been atheists, and Western theists who are unfamiliar with the riches of their intellectual heritage. I've always got various people (Palamites, Whiteheadians, Scotists, et al.) complaining that I haven't addressed their pet issue, but I can't do everything at once! I'm only one man, with many irons in the fire already.

Codge, I did get your email and have been meaning to reply. I will do so soon.

Anonymous said...

"I'm only one man."

You can always clone yourself.

Just Thinking said...



I believe all commenting here will be quite interested in reading this article by the late metaphysian W. Norris Clarke.

Following on Cardinal Ratzinger's charge that Aquinas overlooked a profound insight in his ontology of God, Clarke pointedly addresses Aquinas' notion of God's Existence/Being and transforms it into theistic personalism.

http://communio-icr.com/articles/PDF/clarke19-4.pdf


I posted the above over at W4 as their combox on the same Classical Theism blog cross-post was more geared to theology than ID, so you guys here may not have see it.

I would be very interested in your comments on the article, and whether my takeaway was correct.

Ed,

From the article, it seems to me that adding Personalism to Thomism is just as much a matter of ontology as it is ethics.

If any Catholic theological development really grabs me, it is the personalism described here by Fr. Clarke.

Just Thinking said...

Ed,

From the article, it seems to me that adding Personalism to Thomism is just as much a matter of ontology as it is ethics.


On second thought, Thomistic Personalism is first and foremost about ontology - ethical issues are not at all primary in the theological development of personalism, they flow from it.

I really think it is hard to make the case that JPII and Benedict are not firmly in the theistic personalism camp.

Ed, I think your passion for A-T is incorrectly biasing your reason on this.

Brandon said...

Crude,

I'm not sure how you could have missed it; Torley says, "What's unusual about ID theology - and yes, I will call it that - is that it is tied to a specific conception of the Deity, as a Being Who not only understands but Who wants to be understood by His creatures, insofar as they are able to do so."

George,

Again, you'll have to take it up with Torley; if ID is just 'empirical science' then what he is talking about is not ID, and vice versa.

Edward Feser said...

JT,

The reason I said what I did was that JPII is well-known to be a "personalist" in ethics, so that when you asked whether he and B16 were theistic personalists I assumed that you were misinterpreting the common description of them as ethical "personalists."

Now that you've brought up the Clarke article, I see that you had more than that in mind, and it is certainly true that the popes in question are sympathetic to the expansion of the traditional Thomistic view that Clarke describes. But that still does not make them "theistic personalists" in the sense in which people like Davies use that term, because what is definitive of theistic personalism in that sense is the rejection of divine simplicity and its implications, and JPII and B16 do not reject those things.

Just Thinking said...

Thanks.

I had never seen the term 'theistic personalism' until in your recent post. I'd seen 'personalism' this or 'personalist' that - it seems quite a broad brush term, as evidence even in how you describe the thinkers that fall under 'theistic personalists'

Just Thinking said...

A bit more on personalism...

I do not like how humanism tends toward anthropocentrism,and believe as did Hartshorne, that humanism doesn't do justice to the other creatures.

The same charges have been leveled at personalism, but I see it as a much more robust philosophy of inter-relatedness which focuses on relational substances and theprofundity of the presence of subject to subject.

I was taken by its poetic flourish in the hands of JPII, but I see its promise for expansion to bridging inter-species divides and generating a richer appreciation for the experiencing subjectivity of all 'persons.'

Yeah, Ed, I know you're likely not now frantically figuring out how to bring animal consciousness into your next blog, but thought I'd mention why I am attracted to potential merits of personalist theology.

George R. said...

Again, you'll have to take it up with Torley; if ID is just 'empirical science' then what he is talking about is not ID, and vice versa.

Brandon,
The object of ID is the evidence of design in natural things. That makes it a physical science. But obviously it also has implications for theology. This leads many to confuse it with theology, including, evidently, some of the IDers themselves.

Crude said...

Brandon,

I'm not sure how you could have missed it; Torley says, "What's unusual about ID theology - and yes, I will call it that - is that it is tied to a specific conception of the Deity, as a Being Who not only understands but Who wants to be understood by His creatures, insofar as they are able to do so."

And I'm not sure how you're translating that into "ID itself is theology". I have zero doubt that Torley is taking findings of science, or ID perspectives, and making them part of a philosophical or theological perspective. What I question is the claim that Torley thinks ID is itself committed to these theological and metaphysical claims, or whether he thinks ID is divorced from this, and he's 'going beyond' ID.

But hey, you've piqued my curiosity here - so I'll just ask the man himself for clarification. Hooray for the conveniences of the internet!

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

To paraphrase Einstein, God is as simple as greatness requires but not simpler. Does this make greatness an “external principle” or “the metaphysically ultimate reality” or “the truly divine reality”? Of course not, for greatness is God’s.

It seems to me that ancient Greeks’ simplistic understanding of perfection has caused a lot of confusion. The way modern philosophers are starstruck with science, the ancients were starstruck with math. So, it’s certainly true that a perfect circle is immutable for any small change would destroy its perfection, but, if you actually think about it, it’s obviously untrue that the greatest conceivable being is immutable. Impassible persons are dead, and thus actually non-existing.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi everyone. A few quick comments.

First, my post is in five parts. Readers may agree with my argument that Aquinas and Darwinism don't mix (see Part Two especially, at http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/thomas2.html ), while disagreeing with my remarks about ID theology in Part Five.

Second, I've seen no serious attempt to rebut the arguments I made in Parts One, Two and Three of my post. Whatever you think of my views on ID, please read them. They're devastating.

Third, many ID thinkers would disagree with my views on theology and metaphysics.

Fourth, I argued in Part Five that my "ID theology" predicts God would make the world in a way that shows unambiguously that it is the work of a Mind. That means that we have to look for something in Nature that is written in language - e.g. programs, which can only be written by a Programmer. Where I part company with Aquinas is that I claim that final causation alone cannot adequately characterize intelligence, and therefore its existence in Nature is insufficient to demonstrate that God is intelligent. Form as well as finality is required to characterize intelligence; hence the need for ID.

Anonymous said...

Vincent Torley,

Does your definition of Darwinism encompass a mechanistic view or an Aristotelian view of matter and reality? If the former, then yes, Darwinism would be incompatible with Thomism. But who says we have to look at evolution from a mechanistic view? Thomism is not incompatible with evolution, just mechanism/a mechanistic conception of reality.

Vincent Torley said...

Professor Feser, I enjoyed reading your excellent article. You assert that God knows the world precisely by knowing Himself as its sustaining cause. But God cannot know of Satan's rebellion or Adam's Fall in this way. By knowing Himself, God could only know what is good. You also claim that God is incapable of being influenced by any creature, even atemporally. That's how you interpret the word "impassible." But this flies in the face of the faith of common folk, who have always believed that "God is watching you." What they believe is this: "God doesn't have eyes, but He is nonetheless watching with the eye of the Mind. And although He isn't in time, He can see the future." This way of thinking goes back to Boethius, who likened God to a watcher in a high tower. He can see the whole parade, while the people below can only see a small part of it. This influential metaphor makes God dependent on His creatures for His knowledge of the future - but why is that a problem, if He chooses to be dependent in that way? Finally, Aquinas used the same metaphor in his "Commentary on the De Interpretatione," Book I, lectio 14, sections 8-24. If it’s fine by him, it's fine by me.

Vincent Torley said...

Anonymous,

For my definition of Darwinism, please see http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/st-thomas-aquinas-and-his-fifteen-smoking-guns-a-five-part-reply-to-professor-tkacz/#comment-365049 .

I'm amazed that your verdict on whether Thomism and Darwinism are compatible hinges on one question: is Darwinism mechanistic? Even a Darwinist might admit that hearts are for pumping blood. Is that enough final causality for you?

I have argued in Part Two of my post ( http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/thomas2.html ) that there are four reasons why Thomism and Darwinism don’t mix. 1. Thomism is wedded to essentialism. 2. Aquinas taught that all of God's works are perfectly made, in relation to their proper ends. 3. Aquinas taught that everything in Nature has a purpose: nothing is in vain. 4. Aquinas taught that for each and every kind of organism in the natural world, each and every one of its characteristic features was personally designed by God. Finally, I show in http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/thomas2.html#section4 that Aquinas' belief that the world contains just the right amount of natural evil is incompatible with Darwinism.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Torley: "…I claim that final causation alone cannot adequately characterize intelligence, and therefore its existence in Nature is insufficient to demonstrate that God is intelligent. Form as well as finality is required to characterize intelligence; hence the need for ID."

I would like to hear more about how to divorce finality from form. In my understanding, finality rests on an order between (at least) two substantial beings, and substance of course includes form. Hence, I might rephrase my question by asking, How do you see Thomas's emphasis on finality not including evidence of form?

Best,

Vincent Torley said...

Codgitator:

I'll respond by quoting an excerpt from
http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/thomas5.html :

"Intelligence requires concepts. You can't be said to understand something unless you have a concept of it. And to have a concept of a natural entity, you need to know its form, and not just its ends.

"The concept of a natural entity cannot be adequately characterized in terms of that entity's ends alone. (That would be like trying to define a flower as something that grows and is nourished by sunlight, water and minerals: it still doesn't tell us what a flower is.) The entity's form also has to be specified; without this, there can be no concept of an entity. (For instance: a flower is something that has roots, a stem, leaves and petals.) Hence in order to show that God, the Necessary Being, is intelligent, it is not enough to demonstrate that He assigns ends to natural entities. We also need to show that He is acquainted with the forms of these entities."

I go on to discuss Aquinas' argument for God's intelligence in his "Summa Contra Gentiles," Book I, chapter 44, paragraph 7. If I've missed something in Aquinas' argument, I'd be grateful if you could let me know.

Brandon said...

And I'm not sure how you're translating that into "ID itself is theology".

Crude, I don't know what you mean by "ID itself". The point, as I noted to George R., was that ID as Torley means it is explicitly not, in George R.'s words, "no theism whatsoever", neither theology nor metaphysics. If because of this it doesn't, for whatever reason, get to count as "ID itself" then Torley simply isn't talking only about "ID itself" when he says "ID" and therefore there's no point in a discussion of Torley's argument in taking "ID" to mean only "ID itself"; and if it does count, then "ID itself" theism, theology, metaphysics, &c.

Crude said...

Crude, I don't know what you mean by "ID itself".

ID itself. As in ID, rather than ID plus (excessive) metaphysics, theology, etc. I don't see where "ID, as Torley means it" is not "ID, as Dembski, and others means it." - which maintains a distinction between things like ID and talk of theology. But Torley is talking not only about ID, but ID and thomism, ID and metaphysics, ID and God.

Whatever the case, this all is seeming pretty damn tortured. Torley's here now, apparently, so I'll just shoot the question his way. In another comment, for better clarity. (God knows we could use some of that.)

Crude said...

Vincent Torley,

Greetings. I'd like for you to settle a dispute going on here.

In case you missed it, here's George R. from earlier:

And that’s because it’s no theism whatsoever. ID is neither theology nor metaphysics.

And Brandon's reply.

You'll have to take that up with Torley, who chooses not to take the route you are suggesting (and even explicitly notes that he is doing this in an aside in Part V), and whose arguments throughout require that your claim is false.

So I've gotta ask you: Is ID, in your view, either or both of "theology and metaphysics"? Is it not clear-cut, such that there's ID stripped of theology and metaphysics, and then say.. an ID 'wing' of theology and metaphysics that itself is distinct from the ID (which I would see as being more 'mainstream ID' - the ID of Dembski, Behe, etc)? Or is it that ID itself is bound up in theology and metaphysics right at the heart?

I ask this because, clearly, your 5-part series touches on theology, on metaphysics, etc. And clearly you see a role for ID when considering those things. But the impression I've gotten from every other ID proponent was that ID concerns itself merely with identifying design in nature, and that going on the speculate or identify the designer, the ultimate purposes (if any) of the design, or to talk of theology and metaphysics was to go beyond ID proper.

Your input would be appreciated.

Leo Carton Mollica said...

Torley:

[Feser] assert[s] that God knows the world precisely by knowing Himself as its sustaining cause. But God cannot know of Satan's rebellion or Adam's Fall in this way. By knowing Himself, God could only know what is good.

I think Dr. Feser would say, rightly in my view, that God knows evil only inasmuch as He fails to know the good deprived and thus perceives evil "through" the good, which alone constitutes the proper object of His knowledge.

As to the watchtower metaphor, of course it is handy as a rough explanation of the Divine omniscience. But even good metaphors have definite limits (cf. John 16:25).

Vincent Torley said...

Crude:

Thank you for your request. George R. is correct: ID itself is neither theology nor metaphysics. It's the search for patterns in Nature which can be unambiguously identified as the product of intelligence.

That said, certain world-views are much more ID-friendly than others. To understand why, I suggest that you read Part Four of my post, where I discuss Professor Tkacz's 'mere conservationism,' which rules out all but the extreme 'front-loading' version of ID, and contrast it with Aquinas' concurrentism, which gives God the freedom to manipulate His cosmos as He sees fit. That makes it very ID-friendly.

In Part Five, I go on to ask: what kind of Deity would make it easiest for scientists to do ID research? My answer is: a Being Who not only understands but Who wants to be understood by His creatures, insofar as they are able to do so. Such a Being would be guaranteed by His very nature make a science-friendly cosmos, if He made one at all. That's what I mean by "ID theology."

Do I know that God is like that? No. This is my speculation, and mine alone. Other ID thinkers may well disagree with it.

Crude said...

Vincent Torley,

Thanks for the response and clearing that up. One other question.

ID itself is neither theology nor metaphysics. It's the search for patterns in Nature which can be unambiguously identified as the product of intelligence.

I'm not sure "unambiguously" is a requirement, is it? My readings of Behe, Dembski and company are that they see ID in terms of inferences, not set-in-stone conclusions or proof that could never be revised.

Minor point, I know, but I bring it up anyway. And thanks again for wading in on this one. I have a lot of disagreements with you on this subject (still rereading your views) but you've never failed to be a polite guy over at UD, or anywhere else.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Crude,

Just a quick clarification: "unambiguously" does not necessarily mean "with 100% certitude." I'd be happy with "beyond reasonable doubt." That said, there are a few ID thinkers (e.g. Don Johnson) who I believe think we can attain 100% certitude.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

V. Torley:

Your objection to teleology without "design" strikes me as a false dichotomy. Precisely to speak of "natural entities" with a recognition of their ends, is at least to limn a grasp of their form. As most ancients and scholastics say over and over again, things are known by what they do, causes known by their effects. Likewise, for Thomistotelians, finality is the preeminent mode of causation and *includes the others*. Grasping the causal link between entities is exactly what teleology amounts to, and is a key way we differentiate among formally distinct natural entities. Hence, cosmic teleology for Thomas is how he accounts for formal regularities in entia naturalia. He does not therefore lack form in his doctrine of teleology, but situates and explains it.

Further, your objection seems seriously skewed by suggesting the problem of "recognizing design" is on God's side. Rather, it is on our side and Thomas' account of teleology is meant as the preeminent grounding for our awareness that formal order is both intelligibly and intelligently ordered (i.e., "under God's wisdom").

http://www.corpusthomisticum.org/cpe.html#80444 :

"Sed Deus est omnino extra ordinem temporis, quasi in arce aeternitatis constitutus, quae est tota simul, cui subiacet totus temporis decursus secundum unum et simplicem eius intuitum; et ideo uno intuitu videt omnia quae aguntur secundum temporis decursum, et unumquodque secundum quod est in seipso existens, non quasi sibi futurum quantum ad eius intuitum prout est in solo ordine suarum causarum (quamvis et ipsum ordinem causarum videat), sed omnino aeternaliter sic videt unumquodque eorum quae sunt in quocumque tempore, sicut oculus humanus videt Socratem sedere in seipso, non in causa sua."

I think this misconception ties in with your more basic conception of God's knowledge. You argue that God's knowledge of futuribilia compromises His simplicity, invoking the scholastic metaphor of a viewer taking it all in, but in fact in the same text (on De Interpretatione), only paragraphs later, Thomas argues that God's view of reality is unlike ours (i.e., the metaphor breaks down!) because God transcends the might/must distinction in our conditioned knowledge of futuribilia and actualities. Likewise, your claim that God can't know other things, and much less evil things, is directly addressed and refuted by Thomas in ST I, 14.

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1014.htm

You may find his account unsatisfactory but you certainly can't claim that the former metaphor and his account of divine simplicity are at odds, since he himself clearly held both.

Best,

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

NOTE:

The quotation in Latin from Expositio in Peryermeneias should have come after my comments about futuribilia to present Thomas' views on the timelessness of divine knowledge.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Vincent wrote: “ID itself is neither theology nor metaphysics. It's the search for patterns in Nature which can be unambiguously identified as the product of intelligence.

Or to be more precise, ID is to search for patterns in the physical phenomena that science studies which can unambiguously identified as the product of non-human intelligence.

In relation to Darwinism though it seems to me that this project is doomed to failure. Here’s why: Suppose that Darwinian evolution of humankind has in fact been guided by some intelligence. This does not imply that there must be patterns that reveal this fact. In other words it is possible that a sufficiently great intelligence could guide human evolution in a way that is indistinguishable from unguided evolution. In fact it is possible that the propositions “we are designed and created by God” and “we are the result of a purely random/unguided Darwinian process” are both true.

What is worse even the best possible case for ID might fail to amount to a demonstration. Here is an example: Define H as the probability that in a physical universe just like ours (i.e. with the same physical laws and initial conditions) organisms with the complexity we possess would evolve by unguided Darwinian processes. Nobody today knows what the value of H is (and that’s why those naturalists who claim that Darwinism explains the evolution of humankind are making claims beyond what science says). Now suppose that science succeeds in estimating the value of H, and it turns out that it is vanishingly small, in other words suppose that science would demonstrate that it would take a sheer miracle for us to be the result of unguided Darwinian evolution. One would think that this would demonstrate to naturalists that our evolution has been intelligently guided. Not so, for the naturalist may use his multiverse hypothesis, and claim that there must exist a huge number of parallel universes with exactly the same physical parameters ours has, and that we simply happen to exist in a universe that won the complex life lottery and in which improbably complex organisms did evolve by unguided evolution.

My larger point here is this: Given that science has already demonstrated the apparent fine-tuning of the fundamental constants, it is simply a waste of time to try to discover signs of intelligence in human evolution. Even if successful it would only amount to a fact of similar epistemic worth as a fact we already know about.

Anonymous said...

@ Torley (October 5, 2010 8:12 AM)

The definition for Darwinism which you use as per Coyne, which I will post just to be sure, does not appear to be incompatible with Thomism or strictly wedded to a mechanistic view. Correct me if I am wrong.

Darwinism (Coyne):
1) “There is only one going theory of evolution, and it is this: organisms evolved gradually over time and split into different species, and the main engine of evolutionary change was natural selection.”
2) “Like all species, man is a product of both chance and lawfulness.

With regards to point 1 and the Thomistic notion of substantial and accidental change, I don not see a problem. Adaptation can be described in terms of accidental change while the gradual change of species can be described in terms of substantial change.

With regards to natural selection, well, "natural selection is the necessary outcome of discernible and often quantifiable causes." - Will Provine. I don't see how natural selection is incompatible with the Thomistic understanding of causation.

With regards to "lawfulness". It can be argued that a necessitarian (http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/l/lawofnat.htm) view is most compatible with a Thomistic view. It is unclear from your description of Darwinism which view you hold.

You are right to argue that Darwinism is incompatible with Thomism if Darwinism is strictly non-essentialist. But, there is no reason to not view evolution from an essentialist perspective.

With regards to your assertion that Aquinas argued that everything is perfect. From what I understand, Aquinas' conception of perfect and perfection is intimately related to his conception of good and goodness and how it is intelligible in reference to an end or purpose of a thing. Coffey: "A being is good whose nature is equipped and adapted for the realization of its natural end or purpose." and "The realization of this tendency of things towards the absolute good, or ultimate end, is what constitutes the goodness of those things, and it does so because it perfects their natures." and "The good which is the end of the being, the good towards which the being by its nature tends. This good, which is the term of the being's natural tendency which is, in other words, its end is the fundamental principle which perfects the nature of the being, is the source and explanation of the process whereby this nature is perfected : bonum est perfectivum: the good is the perfecting principle of reality." When viewed in this way, I don't see how Aquinas' notion of perfection is incompatible with reality.

With regards to Aquinas' assertion that nothing is in vain and that each and every feature is designed, well, from my understanding it is just a description of the irreducible teleological nature of all substance and accidents. All substances and accidents from a Thomistic point of view have and end, a final cause, intrinsic directionality, that is kept going at any moment which it exists.
Vestigial organs and junk DNA seems irrelevant to Aquinas' view of perfection, design and purpose.

Well, that is how I understand it.

Anonymous said...

@ Torley (October 5, 2010 8:12 AM)

The definition for Darwinism which you use as per Coyne, which I will post just to be sure, does not appear to be incompatible with Thomism or strictly wedded to a mechanistic view. Correct me if I am wrong.

Darwinism (Coyne):
1) “There is only one going theory of evolution, and it is this: organisms evolved gradually over time and split into different species, and the main engine of evolutionary change was natural selection.”
2) “Like all species, man is a product of both chance and lawfulness.

With regards to point 1 and the Thomistic notion of substantial and accidental change, I don not see a problem. Adaptation can be described in terms of accidental change while the gradual change of species can be described in terms of substantial change.

With regards to natural selection, well, "natural selection is the necessary outcome of discernible and often quantifiable causes." - Will Provine. I don't see how natural selection is incompatible with the Thomistic understanding of causation.

With regards to "lawfulness". It can be argued that a necessitarian (http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/l/lawofnat.htm) view is most compatible with a Thomistic view. It is unclear from your description of Darwinism which view you hold.

You are right to argue that Darwinism is incompatible with Thomism if Darwinism is strictly non-essentialist. But, there is no reason to not view evolution from an essentialist perspective.

With regards to your assertion that Aquinas argued that everything is perfect. From what I understand, Aquinas' conception of perfect and perfection is intimately related to his conception of good and goodness and how it is intelligible in reference to an end or purpose of a thing. Coffey: "A being is good whose nature is equipped and adapted for the realization of its natural end or purpose." and "The realization of this tendency of things towards the absolute good, or ultimate end, is what constitutes the goodness of those things, and it does so because it perfects their natures." and "The good which is the end of the being, the good towards which the being by its nature tends. This good, which is the term of the being's natural tendency which is, in other words, its end is the fundamental principle which perfects the nature of the being, is the source and explanation of the process whereby this nature is perfected : bonum est perfectivum: the good is the perfecting principle of reality." When view in this way, I don't see how Aquinas' conception of perfect is incompatible with reality.

With regards to Aquinas' assertion that nothing is in vain and that each and every feature is designed, well, from my understanding it is just a description of the irreducible teleological nature of all substance and accidents. All substances and accidents from a Thomistic point of view have and end, a final cause, intrinsic directionality, that is kept going at any moment which it exists.
Vestigial organs and junk DNA seems irrelevant to Aquinas' view of perfection, design and purpose.

Well, that is how I understand it.

Anonymous said...

Apologies for the double post :(, I thought it did not go through.

Anonymous said...

Apologies for the double post :(, I thought it did not go through.












[jk, this is Codgitator. A hard prank not to pull.]

Vincent Torley said...

Anonymous:

Thank you for your post. With the greatest respect, I think your understanding of neo-Darwinian evolution is a little faulty.

You write that "there is no reason to not view evolution from an essentialist perspective." Neo-Darwinian evolution is by definition anti-essentialist. To see why, you might like to read Mayr, E. 1996. "What is a Species and What is Not?" at http://darwiniana.org/mayrspecies.htm (originally published in "Philosophy of Science," Vol. 63, June 1996, pp. 262-277). Ernst Mayr was an evolutionary biologist who was second to none, in his day. He explains why Darwinists gave up the typological definition of a species in section 5 of his essay.

I'll quote from Charles Darwin himself, in "The Descent of Man": "In a series of forms graduating insensibly from some apelike creature to man as he now exists, it would be impossible to fix on any definite point where the term 'man' ought to be used." (Penguin edition, 2004. Chapter 7, p. 210.) Essentialize that, if you can!

You quote from Will Provine, but you provide no references, so I will: "The Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics," University of Chicago Press, 2001 edition, p. 199 (Afterword). Your quote ("natural selection is the necessary outcome of discernible and often quantifiable causes") does not establish what you want it to prove. The fact that the causes underlying natural selection have necessary outcomes does not entail that the species generated by natural selection are the outcome of a law-governed process. When a meteorite from outer space crashed into the Earth 65 million years ago, the extinction of most dinosaur species was a necessary outcome; but that does not mean that the subsequent proliferation of mammalian species was the result of a law-governed process.

I can think of only one evolutionary scientist who would assert that if you rewound the tape of evolution, Homo sapiens - or something like him - would still emerge, and that's Simon Conway Morris. The vast majority of biologists disagree, siding with Stephen Jay Gould's claim in his bestseller, "Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History" (W. W. Norton, 1990) that if you rewound the tape of evolution and played it again you would end up with a radically different result to what we see in our world today.

This is the end of Part One of my reply to Anonymous.

Vincent Torley said...

Hello again Anonymous:

Contrary to what you asserted, I did not claim that "Aquinas argued that everything is perfect." What I said was: "Aquinas taught that all of God's works are perfectly made, in relation to their proper ends." That's quite a different claim.

You quote from "Coffey." Which one? I initially thought you were referring to Reginald or David Coffey (both of whom wrote about Aquinas) - or perhaps even the Irish poet Brian Coffey, who did his doctoral dissertation on Aquinas. Finally, after Googling your quote, I found that it came from a book by Peter Coffey, written in 1914! (Ontology: or, The theory of being; An Introduction to General Metaphysics. Longmans, Green and Co., 1914. 439 pages.) But you didn't provide the title of the work you were quoting from, or the publishing company, or the edition, or the page number (p. 168). It's nice to provide these little details.

Truth be told, I thought Coffey's discussion of the good could have been a lot more rigorous. You quote Coffey's statement: "A being is good whose nature is equipped and adapted for the realization of its natural end or purpose." However, in the entire chapter from which you quoted (chapter VII), Coffey has very little to say about the different parts of a thing - except for a brief reference to stomach cancer on pages 179 and 183. The parts of a thing have ends of their own, which are subordinate to the good of the thing they belong to. Hearts are for pumping blood; lungs are for breathing. Consequently, if even one part of a thing is poorly made, then that thing is imperfect. Now, the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution tells us that our eyes, our backs and our reproductive systems are all poorly made from a design perspective - they are all riddled with flaws, according to Darwinists. Don't take my word for it - read Jerry Coyne's "Why Evolution Is True" (2009, Oxford University Press).

End of Part Two of my reply to Anonymous.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi again Anonymous,

The neo-Darwinian theory of evolution tells us that our eyes, our backs and our reproductive systems are all poorly made from a design perspective - they are all riddled with flaws, according to Darwinists. Don't take my word for it - read Jerry Coyne's "Why Evolution Is True" (2009, Oxford University Press). If this doesn't disturb you, then it should. It would have bothered Aquinas. Have a look at his "Summa Theologica," I, q. 91, art. 3 at http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1091.htm#article3 . The only defects Aquinas would have been willing to tolerate in human beings were those that were unavoidable if humans were to achieve their proper end. Thus Aquinas acknowledged that humans had a poor sense of smell, but he argued that because humans required large, moist brains to stand upright and in order to think, their sense of smell would necessarily be poor, as smell requires a dry brain. But he would have been horrified at the suggestion that the brain itself is a poorly wired "kludge" of parts (as modern evolutionists claim that it is), or that the eye is badly designed for seeing (which is the very thing it is meant to do). He would have answered, "On the contrary, It is written (Ecclesiastes 7:30): 'God made man right.'"

Likewise, your claim that Aquinas wouldn't have been bothered by junk DNA doesn't withstand scrutiny. He doesn't make that claim merely of substances as a whole, but of each and every one of their parts: they all serve a purpose.

I'm not in the mood to rehash what I've written in my lengthy reply to Professor Tkacz - a work which took me seven months of painstaking research and careful verification of my facts. Anyway, I suggest you have a look at the following sections in particular, where you'll find I've anticipated and responded to most of the objections you make regarding the perfection of god's works, and things in Nature not being in vain.

http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/thomas1long.html#smoking13
http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/thomas1long.html#smoking14
http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/thomas1long.html#smoking15

http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/thomas2.html#section2
http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/thomas2.html#section3

Happy hunting!

Vincent Torley said...

Codgitator:

Thank you for your post. I don't read Latin. I'm sure you know how to write "in entia naturalia" in English. Please do. I don't use funny words like "limn" and "futuribilia" either. (I'm no fan of Molinism, by the way.) Why not just say "outline" and "counterfactuals"? Finally, may I kindly suggest that you simplify your syntax: it is extremely dense. Perhaps my brain is going soft in my old age, but I had to read most of your sentences two or three times in order to understand them.

You seem to have attributed a number of bizarre propositions to me, which I never held.

1. You write: "Your objection seems seriously skewed by suggesting the problem of 'recognizing design' is on God's side." But where did I ever say this? God knows everything. He would therefore have no problem in recognizing a design.

2. You write: "You argue that God's knowledge of futuribilia compromises His simplicity." Not true. I believe in God's simplicity, and I said nothing about futuribilia. I would maintain, however, that if God had a comprehensive knowledge of all counterfactuals regarding human choices, they would not be free - and hence they would not be choices at all. That's a criticism of Molinism, and not of Aquinas, who was not a Molinist. If you want to know what I think about Divine foreknowledge, please click here:

http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/whybelieve1.html#god-omniscience

3. You refer to my "claim that God can't know other things, and much less evil things." I never made such a claim. God knows everything. I do maintain, however, that God cannot know about our bad choices simply by "looking inwards," so to speak, and knowing Himself. There must therefore be another way in which God knows our bad choices. I maintain that God is timelessly made aware of what we do, by virtue of the fact that we do it. Thus we cause God to know what He knows about our choices. I don't think this debases God; He freely chose to make us capable of influencing Him in this way.

4. You write: "you certainly can't claim that the former metaphor [of the viewer taking it all in] and his [Aquinas'] account of divine simplicity are at odds, since he himself clearly held both." But I don't dispute Aquinas' account of Divine simplicity. What I dispute is the notion that God is impassible, in the sense defined by Ed: incapable of being influenced by His creatures, even outside time. What I accept of course is that creatures are incapable of changing God or of making Him suffer.

More to come.

Vincent Torley said...

In other points:

(a) You write that "finality is the preeminent mode of causation and *includes the others*." If that's right, then we should be able to deduce the form of a flower from a sufficiently detailed account of its ends. Clearly this is impossible. "X needs sunlight and water in order to grow" does not entail "X has roots, a stem, leaves and petals." It would be more correct to simply say that the other three modes of causation are unintelligible without finality. In that sense, the final cause is preeminent. However, in order to properly understand a thing, I would maintain that you need to know its form as well as its ends.

(b) I'd like to quote from Aquinas' "Commentary on the De Interpretatione", Book I, lesson 14, paragraph 20 at http://dhspriory.org/thomas/PeriHermeneias.htm#14 :

"20. God, however, is wholly outside the order of time, stationed as it were at the summit of eternity, which is wholly simultaneous, and to Him the whole course of time is subjected in one simple intuition. For this reason, He sees in one glance everything that is effected in the evolution of time, and each thing as it is in itself, and it is not future to Him in relation to His view as it is in the order of its causes alone (although He also sees the very order of the causes), but each of the things that are in whatever time is seen wholly eternally as the human eye sees Socrates sitting, not in its causes but in itself."

You say that "only paragraphs later, Thomas argues that God's view of reality is unlike ours." Well, of course; we can't see the future. But I see nothing in the paragraphs following which indicates that "the metaphor breaks down," as you claim. All I can find is a reference to the fact that God has arranged necessary, invariant causes for effect He wishes to happen necessarily, and contingent, fallible causes for effects that He wishes to happen contingently.

One more short post.

Vincent Torley said...

(c) I am quite aware of what Aqinas wrote in "Summa Theologica," I, q. 14, thank you. Here's a quote from article 13 (Whether the knowledge of God is of future contingent things?) at http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1014.htm#article13 :

"[W]hoever knows a contingent effect in its cause only, has merely a conjectural knowledge of it. Now God knows all contingent things not only as they are in their causes, but also as each one of them is actually in itself. And although contingent things become actual successively, nevertheless God knows contingent things not successively, as they are in their own being, as we do but simultaneously. The reason is because His knowledge is measured by eternity, as is also His being; and eternity being simultaneously whole comprises all time, as said above (Question 10, Article 2). Hence all things that are in time are present to God from eternity, not only because He has the types of things present within Him, as some say; but because His glance is carried from eternity over all things as they are in their presentiality. Hence it is manifest that contingent things are infallibly known by God, inasmuch as they are subject to the divine sight in their presentiality; yet they are future contingent things in relation to their own causes."

Sounds pretty Boethian to me. Don't you agree?

Best wishes,

Vincent

Anonymous said...

Dr. Torley, thank you for coming and replying.

I would hope that when I get in debates of this nature I'm able to be as gracious and considerate as you.

Crude said...

Vincent Torley,

The neo-Darwinian theory of evolution tells us that our eyes, our backs and our reproductive systems are all poorly made from a design perspective - they are all riddled with flaws, according to Darwinists. Don't take my word for it - read Jerry Coyne's "Why Evolution Is True" (2009, Oxford University Press). If this doesn't disturb you, then it should.

I think it's real important to keep some perspective here. Darwinism as envisioned and defended by Coyne differs strikingly from the Darwinism as envisioned and defended by, say.. Stephen Barr. (Now, I know some ID proponents say 'If Barr is serious about his view of Darwinism, he is at odds with Darwin himself, and not a Darwinist.' But Barr would reply that the word has changed in meaning, and the common understanding backs his view of Coyne's.)

What's more, your statement here doesn't really seem to have much to do with evolution itself. Evolution could be flat out false, yet someone could still insist that our eyes and backs and such are all 'flawed from a design perspective'. Mind you, I'd disagree with them sharply, but it just seems to me that this has little to do with evolution. Maybe it has something to do with some weird, atheist article of faith style Darwinism.

And finally, Jerry Coyne is the Shemp Howard of the New Atheists. I have trouble taking him very seriously when he touches on questions like this. Give the man his due, but no more than that.

Vincent Torley said...

Crude,

Thank you for your post. I don't doubt for a moment that Stephen Barr is a highly intelligent man. However, he is a physicist, not a biologist. Jerry Coyne is a professor of biology at the University of Chicago in the Department of Ecology and Evolution. He has published three papers in "Nature" and two in "Science." He is the author (with H. Allen Orr) of "Speciation." If I wanted to know what the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution teaches, I'd go to Coyne, not Barr.

Many of the arguments made by Coyne in his book, "Why Evolution Is True" (OUP, 2009) are echoed by Dr. Douglas Theobald in his "29+ Evidences for Macroevolution." I refer you to the following link: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section2.html . Coyne's book is described as "outstandingly good" by Richard Dawkins in his review at http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/the_tls/article5707143.ece .

I see the modern scientific attack on Design as nothing less than an assault on God's honor. It mystifies me that many Thomists show little inclination to defend it.

Show John and Jane Smith a badly designed organ, and they will (quite reasonably) chalk that up as a piece of evidence against the existence of God. Attempting to combat this slide into atheism by telling them that the organ still works, after a fashion, will not impress them. It's a weak answer. Yes, it is a remarkable thing that things work at all. Nevertheless, evidence that they work badly ought to count as evidence against God. The only ways to discredit this argument are: (i) to show that things are in fact well-designed and do indeed work as they should; or (ii) to show that any current design flaws are not part of God's original design.

We've got a fight for people's souls on our hands. I say: let's get militant.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Dr. Torley: “Thank you for your post. I don't read Latin. I'm sure you know how to write "in entia naturalia" in English. Please do. I don't use funny words like "limn" and "futuribilia" either. … Why not just say "outline" and "counterfactuals"?”

Codgitator: Onegai shimasu (as I think they say in your neck of the woods). I took/take it as an acceptable “work hazard” that some Latin will get thrown around in a discussion of classical theism and Thomism, but apologies for seeming obscure. I cited the Latin of Thomas on Peryermeneias because I found that reference faster than an online English version of the work. Again, sorry to appear obfuscatory. I am nonetheless reminded of Boethius’ prologue to the Hebdomads. Funniness in diction is a matter of taste, but these are quibbles. Thanks for being gracious.

T: “You write: "Your objection seems seriously skewed by suggesting the problem of 'recognizing design' is on God's side." But where did I ever say this? God knows everything. He would therefore have no problem in recognizing a design.”

C: Earlier you cited yourself as having written, “We also need to show that He is acquainted with the forms of these entities." We need to show this? What? Hence, my confusion.

...

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

...

T: “I don't dispute Aquinas' account of Divine simplicity. What I dispute is the notion that God is … incapable of being influenced by His creatures, even outside time. What I accept of course is that creatures are incapable of changing God or of making Him suffer.”

C: I struggle to see more than a distinction without a difference in saying that creatures do influence/effect God but that they don’t change Him (i.e. make Him passible). Accept it as a deficiency of intellect on my part, unless you feel obliged to enlighten me. For now, I am mindful of SCG I, 16 and 23 as two arguments, among others, that pit Thomas against God’s (shall we say) “counterfactual possibility.” Allow me to quote SCG I, 71 as an even more apt teaching:

“[3] … The notion, therefore, by which evil is known is not opposed to the good but belongs, rather, to the notion of the good. Hence, if all the notions of goodness are found in God because of His absolute perfection, as was proved above, it follows that there is in Him the notion by which evil is known. And thus God also knows evils. …

[11] … [O]n the knowledge of evil and privation the divine intellect and our own are differently disposed. For, since our intellect knows singular things through singular species that are proper and diverse, that which it is in act it knows through an intelligible species through which it is made an intellect in act. Hence, it can also know potency in so far as it is sometimes in potency to such a species; so that just as it knows act through act, so likewise it knows potency through potency. …

[12] The divine intellect, on the other hand, which is in no way in potency, does not know privation or anything else in the above given way. For, if it knew something through a species that is not itself, it would necessarily follow that its proportion to that species would be as the proportion of potency to act. God must therefore understand solely through the species that is His own essence. It follows, consequently, that He understands only Himself as the first object of His intellect. But in understanding Himself He understands other things, as was proved above. And He knows not only acts, but also potencies and, privations.

[13] … [The divinity] does not know privation by the fact of being in potency to something else; it knows privation because it knows itself and is always in act.

[14] Moreover, we must observe that, if God knew Himself in such a way that, by knowing Himself, He did not know other beings, which are particular goods, then in no way would He know privation and evil. For to the good that He is there is no contrary privation, since privation and its opposite bear on the same thing, and thus to that which is pure act no privation is opposed. And, consequently, neither is evil. Hence, granted that God knows only Himself, by knowing the good that He is He will not know evil. But because, in knowing Himself, He knows the beings that are by nature subject to privations, He must know the privations and the evils that are opposed to particular goods.

[15] … [I]t is not necessary that His knowledge be discursive if He knows the evil through the good. For the good is as the principle of the knowledge of what is evil.”

...

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

...

T: “…in order to properly understand a thing, I would maintain that you need to know its form as well as its ends.”

C: Again, I see no meaningful way to consider a “thing”—as a distinct, functional natural entity (“ens naturale”)—without grasping its form in the very acting of grasping its ends, and vice versa. Hence, I agree with you about the interconnectedness of form and finality, but, as a result, I don’t see how you fault a lack of form in Thomas’ argument about finality. I have every intention of reading your multi-part article and studying the portions of SCG you cite, so I’m not asking you to write it all out again. But do you see how our agreement about finality-cum-form makes it hard for me to accept that Thomas’ doctrine of finality lacks form?

T: “I'd like to quote from Aquinas' "Commentary on the De Interpretatione", Book I, lesson 14, paragraph 20 at http://dhspriory.org/thomas/PeriHermeneias.htm#14 : …”

C: Hot dog, this is the English for the Latin I posted.  As such, I think we might be arguing at cross-purposes, since I think we both agree God’s knowledge is coextensively simple with His eternal existence (cf. again ST I, 14, 5, co.). We differ on the point of “where” or “how” God knows the actualities of things beside Himself. I side with Thomas that He knows them by virtue of knowing Himself, basically because there is no way a thing can be known that does not exist (ST I, 14, 10, co.), and anything that exists, does so in relation to God, who is the very form of Being. God does not know what is not true, because nothing untrue exists. Hence, all that God knows exists—is true—by participation in His one simple act of being. I have difficulty seeing how God could see counterfactuals outside of the realm of being, which is of course to wonder how He could see anything outside Himself. This disposes of what I think is another perhaps superficial dispute between you and me about ST I, 14, though I think you are confused about how that question’s conclusions relate to Thomas’ larger teaching on God’s aseity.

Best,

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Dr. Torley:

I would like to direct your attention to a recent article by Steve Talbott about a seeming revolution in genetics, a revolution that, by my lights, seems to being shifting towards teleology. A quotation (in light of your recent comment about junk DNA):

"We need a more living understanding. It is not only that noncoding DNA is by itself inadequate to regulate genes. What we are finding is that at the molecular level the organism is so dynamic, so densely woven and multidirectional in its causes and effects, that it cannot be explicated as living process through strictly local investigations. When it begins to appear that, as one European research team puts it, “everything does everything to everything,”[1] the search for “regulatory control” necessarily leads to the unified and irreducible functioning of the cell and organism as a whole — a living, metamorphosing form within which each more or less distinct partial activity finds its proper place."

http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/getting-over-the-code-delusion

Happy reading! :)

Crude said...

VJ Torley,

If I wanted to know what the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution teaches, I'd go to Coyne, not Barr.

Really depends on what you mean, doesn't it? Would you go to Coyne to ask if the evolutionary process was designed or not? Would you go to Dawkins to ask whether or not this or that biological structure was designed? The rest of your reply indicates no.

Now, I may go to Coyne for other, philosophy-free data. I may use Coyne as a kind of bellwether for the opinions of others in his field (actually, probably not, since again - he's Shemp). But I'm only going to be so interested in his philosophical speculations, or his views on the impact of his field on topics outside of it. This goes double for Dawkins, whose reputation as a scientist is, shall we say, overblown. Even downright illusory.

That said, I'm sympathetic to ID. Greatly so, in fact, even though I lean more towards a thomist understanding of things. But as I said - give these guys their due, but no more than that.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

What I fail to understand in this discussion is the special importance given to Darwinism. In the context of theism, what is so radically different between the evolution of the species and, say, the falling of an apple? In particular, why should Darwinism be a special challenge to Thomism and not the laws of gravity? Consider:

The evolution of the species is a complex physical phenomenon. Darwinism explains that phenomenon through a particular physical process. Whether that process is guided by God’s will (as theism has it) or not (as naturalism has it) is indifferent to science.

The falling of an apple is a simple physical phenomenon. The theory of gravitation explains that phenomenon through a particular physical process. Whether that process is guided by God’s will (as theism has it) or not (as naturalism has it) is indifferent to science.

There is no relevant difference I can see. If the way that science explains the falling of an apple comports with Thomism, what is it in the way that science explains the evolution of the species that is problematic?

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. Torley,
Your original definition of Darwinism did not explicitly state that it was anti-essentialistic. Like I said, if that is the case, then yes, Darwinism and Thomism are not compatible IMO. Also, I am not disagreeing with you that Darwinism (neo or otherwise) is anti-essentialistic. My point is that Thomism is not incompatible with evolution. And by evolution I simply mean the following;
From http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/evo_02:
A) Biological evolution is descent with modification and all life on Earth shares a common ancestor.
B) This definition encompasses small-scale evolution (changes in gene frequency in a population from one generation to the next) and large-scale evolution (the descent of different species from a common ancestor over many generations).
C) Biological evolution is not simply a matter of change over time.
D) Biological evolution involves descent through genetic inheritance.
E) With regards to the mechanisms of change see http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evo_14 and http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evo_16.
There is nothing in this definition (unlike [neo]-Darwinism) that explicitly states that evolution is anti-essentialistic. Mayr seems to have given up the typological definition of species based on Platonic essentialism whereby the essences of species are constant over time and are sharply demarcated. This objection has little force against Aristotelian realism and essentialism. In fact, if you look at systems biology and basic formal ontologies, it is especially geared towards some form of modest realism and a definition of species that is certainly compatible with essentialism, albeit not specifically Thomistic or real essentialistic as described in Oderberg’s Real Essentialism.
To give an example, have a look at basic formal ontology. Here are a few good presentations: http://ontology.buffalo.edu/smith/IntroOntology_Course.html, or the complete series here http://ontology.buffalo.edu/smith/courses09/Handout.pdf. The Aristotelian concepts of substance and accident (as well as universals and particulars and potentiality and actuality) are crucial and that is why I said in the previous post that adaptation can be described in terms of accidental change while the gradual change of species can be described in terms of substantial change.
When I referred to Will Provine’s assertion that "natural selection is the necessary outcome of discernible and often quantifiable causes”, it had nothing to do with the “rewinding the tape of evolution” to see it happen in exactly the same manner. It was merely related to the Aristotelian conception of causation and a necessitarian view of the laws of nature.


In parts two and three of your replies, you assert that “the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution tells us that our eyes, our backs and our reproductive systems are all poorly made from a design perspective - they are all riddled with flaws, according to Darwinists.”. This assertion seems to be based on the Platonic idea of design and teleology where the design and source of change is from an external agent. At best it seems to be a subjective assertion on the part of Darwinists. To put it differently, what the Darwinist seem to be doing here is look at a particular feature, judge its design based on some external agent’s design criteria, and then conclude it is badly designed. They then seem to go further and conclude the external source of change is either a bad designer (a theological conclusion based on Platonic teleology) or no external designer at all and then invoke natural selection as a better option. It appears that Darwinists (as you describe them) are stuck on attacking Platonic teleology and paley’s theology. Continued...

Anonymous said...

...continued.
Here again, the notion of goodness and perfection in relation to substances and accidents need to be fully appriated (IMO anyway) in order to see why Darwinist assertions of so-called bad designs (based on Platonic teleology anyway) simply misses the point from an Aristotelian and especially essentialistic point of view.
Accidents (parts as you say) inhere in substances and have their own intrinsic ends or final causes and it does not imply that they exist for the sake of the substance they inhere. To take junk DNA as an example (if there are still people that would like to assert that junk DNA is a scientific view, so be it, it is irrelevant). It would, from an Aristotelian perspective be an accident (quantity with a certain quality), i.e. it is has being albeit accidental, with its own ends (i.e. purpose), good and perfection. Whether or not it contributes to the perfection and good of the substance it inheres in is simply irrelevant, since the substance itself (a human in this case) has its own ends, good and perfection.
So an Aristotelian can still look at junk DNA or whatever Darwinists claim to be bad design and still say that substances and accidents (or parts as you say) serve a purpose since they all have their own ends, good and perfections, even if accidents do not exist for the sake of the good or perfection of the substance they inhere.
On a side note, one interesting observation is that t is argued that Darwin was in fact a teleologist (read Lennox’s “Darwin was a teleologist and his subsequent defense as well as Ariew’s article in “Functions: new essays in the philosophy of psychology and biology”) and it is analogous to an Aristotelian version of intrinsic teleology, albeit with distinct differences. He was of course no Aristotelian though.

Vincent Torley said...

Anonymous

Thank you for your posts. I'm rather busy today, so just a few quick comments:

1. You write: "Accidents (parts as you say) inhere in substances." Parts are not accidents. My arm is a part of me, a substance. To be sure, my arm is "my" arm, but is certainly not an accident of mine. It does not inhere in me the way that my height does. The length of my arm is an accident of mine, on the other hand.

2. You write that "Accidents ... have their own intrinsic ends or final causes and it does not imply that they exist for the sake of the substance they inhere." I'm puzzled. If accidents don't exist for the sake of substance, then what do they exist for?

3. You suggest that junk DNA "has being albeit accidental, with its own ends (i.e. purpose), good and perfection." But according to neo-Darwinists, junk DNA doesn't have any purpose at all. It had a purpose millions of years ago; now it has none. Hence the name "junk." That's why it doesn't fit into the Aristotelian worldview.

4. Finally, you suggest that Mayr's criticisms of essentialism work well against Plato's version, but leave Aristotle's version untouched. I'll take a look at Barry Smith's presentation, but I have to say I'm skeptical. What about Aristotle's insistence that plants and animals that are "generated from seed" always reproduce after their own kind, so that like begets like? That doesn't square with microbe-to-man evolution, in my book.

Sorry for the brevity of my remarks, and thank you once again.

Vincent Torley said...

Codgitator

Thank you very much for the article in "The New Atlantis." It's pretty mind-blowing stuff. I'll have to digest it carefully, but what it suggests to me is that: (i) life is ineluctably complex, at every level; (ii) no single metaphor drawn from our experience can do it justice, or even manageably simplify its complexity; (iii) top-down as well as bottom-up causation is rife within the cell; (iv) the 3-D geometry of DNA (and of the chromosomes that contain it) matters at least as much as the code; (v) the old idea of a master program is obsolete; (vi) we can nevertheless speak of not one but many languages within DNA. However, these languages are much richer than languages composed of words - they are melodic, like music.

What are the implications for Intelligent Design? I'd say it dramatically strengthens the case for ID. First, as I argued in Part Five, the possibility of being able to unambiguously identify Intelligence at work in Nature depends on our ability to identify language in the natural world. Now we have it in spades - and it's so complex that even our best scientists can't get their heads around it. Second, our inability to construct a single metaphor to capture the essence of life suggests to me that it was not the work of a finite mind but of an Infinite Being, Who wanted to show us that no matter how smart we think we are, we can never fully understand His designs. Third, ID should avoid nailing its flag to the mast of bad or inadequate metaphors. The code metaphor barely scratches the surface, as we've seen. But the presence of a Mind at work in Nature is more evident than ever. Fourth, the possibility of arguing that natural processes lacking foresight, working on simple organic chemicals, could have produced the stupendous complexity of the cell, appears more remote than ever. Clearly, life was produced by a Mind.

You might like to read the paper, "The Front-Loading Fiction," by physicist Robert Sheldon at http://procrustes.blogtownhall.com/2009/07/01/the_front-loading_fiction.thtml .

Thanks again.

Vincent Torley said...

Codgitator:

I've been reading your remarks about God's knowledge of creatures' choices and actions. I've been looking at Aquinas' "Summa Theologica" I, q. 14, art. 10. Two quick comments:

1. I think I misunderstood Ed's remark earlier that God knows things by His essence. I understood him to mean that God knows all things simply by knowing Himself, as God. Obviously that wouldn't do, as our choices are contingent and sometimes bad. By knowing Himself, the most God could know is what kinds of bad choices a human being could make, rather than which bad choices this human being actually makes. However, I now realize that what Ed actually meant was that God knows our choices by His act of sustaining things in being. This fits in with what Aquinas writes in S. T. I, q. 14, art. 10, where he says that "since God is the cause of things by His knowledge, as stated above (Article 8), His knowledge extends as far as His causality extends." But this won't do either. Given that our choices are contingent, the most God could know from His act of sustaining each individual in being is which bad choices this human being could make, rather than which bad choices this human being actually makes. Without "feedback" from His creatures, God could never know whether we chose to do good or evil, on a particular occasion.

2. I interpreted certain passages in Aquinas' S. T. I, q. 14, art. 13 and the "Commentary on the De Interpretatione" (Peri Hermeneias), Book I, lesson 14, paragraph 20 to mean that Aquinas believed that God does indeed receive feedback (timelessly) from His creatures. In view of the quote above from S. T. I, q. 14, art. 10, I'm not so sure now whether this was indeed his view, or whether he was merely employing the "high tower" analogy very loosely.

3. Bannezians interpret Aquinas as saying that God knows our evil choices by (negatively) determining them - i.e. by withholding His efficacious grace - and they commonly cite S. T. I, q. 23, art. 5, Reply to obj. 3 in support of their views. However, Aquinas says elsewhere (S.T. I-II q. 79 art. 3) that God only withholds grace from already hardened sinners. In S.T. I-II q. 79 art. 4, though, He does seem to talk like a Calvinist when he writes of God blinding some sinners because He reprobates them.

4. For my own thoughts on God's foreknowledge and why I reject the Bannezian view, see http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/whybelieve1.html#god-omniscience .

Mike Crahart said...

Ed I'm interested in where you would place Hindu Theism in your scheme? To me Saivite and Visnavite theologies appear to parallel Western philosophical Theism.

Anonymous said...

Just found you and am edified by what I have read. At some time would you consider commenting on the work of William A Wallace, O.P. author of Modeling Science and other works?

Michele Arpaia said...

Dr. Feser,
how would you reconcile the doctrine of divine simplicity with the Incarnation of the second person of the Holy Trinity?
The Incarnation was not "apparent" and hence God IS his body/soul which was "assumed" at some point in time.

Jay Kay said...

"Davies contrasts classical theism with what he calls “theistic personalism” and what the Christian apologist Norman Geisler calls “neo-theism.” The theistic personalist or neo-theist conceives of God essentially as a person comparable to human persons, only without the limitations we have. The idea is to begin with what we know about human beings and then to abstract away first the body, then our temporal limitations, then our epistemological and volitional confinement to knowing about and having control over only a particular point of space and time, then our moral defects, and to keep going until we arrive at the notion of a being who has power, knowledge, and goodness like ours but to an unlimited degree."

Wow. What scripture always did all along is "neo" to the academic theologians. Not surprising at all. They think only in medeival categories and aren't really capable of understanding the thoughts of the OT or gospel writers. Paul they can approximate just a tad, but the rest of the Bible is beyond the explanatory power of their pagan philosophies.

Jay Kay said...

"For example, take Richard Dawkins’ conception of God. Dawkins is an atheist, of course, but he thinks that if God did exist, He would be an extremely complex albeit disembodied designing intelligence, comparable to a human designer but with far greater knowledge and power. Dawkins would no doubt be happy to concede that if this intelligence existed and was the cause of the world, it would be more ultimate than the world. But he also says that if such an intelligence existed we should regard it as just as much in need of explanation as the universe itself. And he is quite right about that, for such a metaphysically complex being would have to be regarded either as the effect of some higher and more simple cause"

The very concept of any being (or whatever you want to call it) capable of creating the world, whether 'simple' in the sense of classical theism, or not, would be considered by atheists as something that must be explained, because they're atheists. I don't think the logic holds at all though, that if God is 'complex' that he would require a creator and if he is 'simple' he would not. Nothing can exist without a creator, whether 'simple' or 'complex.' God will always break that rule. That's just how it works. To argue otherwise, is to be an atheist.

Pedro Lopes said...

Dr. Feser,

I think one of the best thomistic arguments for divine simplicity (and for His immateriality) is in the Summa Theologica, where Aquinas asks whether God is a body. He answers:

"First, because no body is in motion unless it be put in motion, as is evident from induction. Now it has been already proved (2, 3), that God is the First Mover, and is Himself unmoved. Therefore it is clear that God is not a body."

From what I've been told, a best translation would say that "no body moves [sets others into motion] not having been [itself] moved".

Unfortunately, Aquinas doesn't prove this exact proposition. Dr. Feser, how could one prove on purely metaphysical grounds that "no body moves [sets others into motion] not having been [itself] moved"?

I think this is a very important argument to refute pantheistic and immanentist errors.

Thank you very much.

Pedro