Aquinas and the Five Ways

Aquinas and the Five Ways - Aquinas and the Five Ways I...

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Aquinas and the Five Ways. I. Refutation of Anselm It is important to note at the outset how Aquinas differs with Anselm on how we can get to know that there is a God. First, According to Aquinas it is not self-evident that God exists: “that there is a first- being which is the cause of every being is not evident … neither is it self-evident that the truth of all things derives from the first truth.” ST Ia 2. 2 Cf. Aristotle Metaphysics 4.3. This says simply that ultimate Being is not immediately known. The ontological argument begs the question by assuming that the meaning of ‘God’ is immediately known by the human mind. Aquinas argues, on the contrary, that knowledge of God comes to be known through reflection based on empirical evidence rather than an a priori intuition. Second, Nothing can be proved by simple definition. No lexical-graphical definition will suffice to prove the existence of God. The ontological argument is hopelessly circular. “Even if the word ‘God’ were generally recognized to be ‘that than which nothing Greater can be conceived’, nothing thus defined would thereby be granted existence in the world of fact, but merely as thought about. Unless one is given that something in fact exists than which nothing greater can be thought- and this nobody denying the existence of God would grant- the conclusion that God in fact exists does not follow.” Ia 2 I ad 2 II. Method of Theology: the Five Ways i. Aristotle’s empiricism: a word on Aquinas’ theory of knowledge . Aquinas accepted Aristotle’s theory of how we come to know first principles. In that theory, the experience closest and prior “to us” is the empirical, from which we deduce the first principles, the prior “by nature”. This may be described as such: 1. Prior for us is posterior in nature 2. Prior in nature is posterior for us. ii. A word on Knowledge of God Just as in Aristotle’s method of knowing, where the prior in nature is known to us a posteriori lit. ‘after experience’ so too, Aquinas’ five ways will all begin in the here and now, attempting to deduce the nature of the first principle from empirical knowledge of this world. Although we can know that God exists, we cannot know precisely what God is because God is not a material object. Our knowledge that God exists is not empirical, but deduced by reflection upon the preconditions for the existence of our material world. Any knowledge of the nature of God, viz. what God actually is , on the other hand is achieved via remotion , or by the stripping away of false statements about him. (Ex. Changeable cannot be predicated of God, therefore God is Unchangeable.) Accordingly,
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we cannot say positively what God is, but rather what he is not . We have here an instance of Natural Theology , which is the knowledge of God deduced by means of his effects in the cosmos. This differs from Dogmatic Theology , in that it is derived by a consideration of the metaphysical qualities of the first cause, rather than the
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Aquinas and the Five Ways - Aquinas and the Five Ways I...

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