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Aquinas Five Proofs for the Existence of God

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Scientific reasoning has brought humanity to incredibly high levels of sophistication in all realms of knowledge. For Saint Thomas Aquinas, his passion involved the scientific reasoning of God. The existence, simplicity and will of God are simply a few topics which Aquinas explores in the Summa Theologica. Through arguments entailing these particular topics, Aquinas forms an argument that God has the ability of knowing and willing this particular world of contingent beings. The contrasting nature of necessary beings and contingent beings is at the heart of this debate.

Aquinas sets up this argument in his discussion of whether or not God exists. His five proofs set up the framework for much of his later writings in the Summa Theologica. As with the five proofs in their entirety, most of Aquinas' reasoning stems from the third proof concerning the existence of God. The first two proofs lead to the third's conclusion that God is "esse a se", or to be of itself. From this conclusion of God as an infinite being, Aquinas moves to the third question, concerning the simplicity of God. In article four of question three, Aquinas determines that God is ultimately simple in that his essence does not differ from his being. He writes, "Therefore, since in God there is no potentiality, it follows that in Him essence does not differ from being. Therefore, His essence is His being." God is an unchanging, infinite being. There is no conceivable way in which he could have parts, such as a separate being and a separate essence. From these proofs and others, Aquinas determines that God is an all knowing, perfectly good, perfectly powerful being. Moving back to the third proof of the existence of God, Aquinas determines that God is the ultimate being and that his existence precludes the existence of contingent beings. The notion entails the idea that without infinity, finite beings would not exist.

Aquinas also addresses the issue of the simplicity of God. From a series of logical steps, he concludes that God is altogether simple. He says, God is "neither a composition of quantitative parts, since He is not a body; nor composition of form and matter; nor does his nature differ from his suppositum." It only makes logical sense that God, not existing in any physical sense, could not have physical parts or even have any parts at all. I cannot physically separate my thoughts inside my head because they do not exist in space. With these conclusions in mind, Aquinas determines that God is completely simple.

From the conclusion that God is ultimately simple, Aquinas goes on in Question 14 to discuss the knowledge of God. In article three, Aquinas discusses whether or not God comprehends himself and he arrives at the idea that God does. Since God is altogether simple, then his intellect as well as his being are one and the same. Therefore, God must know himself perfectly. The intellect must perfectly comprehend all of the other elements of God. Through this concept, God must be all knowing because it is the nature of his being to do so. God's knowledge extends to contingent beings and everything else insofar as he is the first cause of all of them. The argument follows that if anything is perfectly known, then its power must necessarily be known as well. The conclusions are as follows: God must understand himself and understand all other things besides himself and that this understanding must not differ from his being.

Free will is a hotly debated concept. There are many plausible rejections to the notion that God gave human beings free will. For example, if God knows everything and everything that is to be, then are human beings really truly free to make their own decisions? Many other contradictions exists. The idea of a necessary being giving rise to contingent beings, the existence of a perfectly good being and evil in the world that being created, and the effects that human beings have on God are just some of these questions. In his discussion of free will and the concept of evil, Aquinas makes attempts to answer these questions and others.

The ideas that God is altogether simple and that he has complete knowledge of himself and all things form the foundation for much of Aquinas' arguments for the existence of a world of contingent beings, deriving from a necessary being. Aquinas continues this line of reasoning in his argument that God's knowledge is the cause of things. Aquinas likens this relationship to the artificer and the art. The artificer, working through his intellect, creates the art. As Aquinas says, "Hence the form in the intellect must be the principle of action." Aquinas also says, "Now it is manifest that God causes things by his intellect, since his being is his act of understanding; and hence his knowledge must be the cause of things, insofar as his will is joined to it." Aquinas is saying here that if God's intellect creates things, i.e. human beings, then he must also be the cause of those things because his intellect is the same thing as his will. Keeping in mind that God is altogether simple, this conclusion naturally follows a logical sense of reasoning.

Following article 8, Aquinas delves into a new topic in article 9 concerning whether or not God knows things that are not, or rather things that have never happened. Aquinas is referring to possibilities that never actually came into being. Aquinas argues that God does indeed know all of these things. God does not exist in any sense of time, therefore he doesn't see things in chronological succession. Aquinas writes, "for since God's act of understanding, which is his being, is measured by eternity, and since eternity is without succession, comprehending all time, the present glance of God extends over all time, and to all things which exist in any time, as to objects present to him." God knows all possibilities and these possibilities are real because God has willed them. The previous quote from article 9 explains God's concept of knowledge quite well and shows how God can know everything that is and everything that might have been. God does not exist in time, making any notion of time concerning knowledge irrelevant.

At this point, Aquinas has established the idea of God as an all knowing, altogether simple, first cause infinite being. The intellect and will are the same thing in God, as well as everything else in this altogether simple being is the same. Aquinas has also established that God's knowledge causes things, mainly contingent beings on our planet. God is indeed all knowing but he still gives human beings a choice to determine their future, considering that God knows all the possibilities

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