Critique On Whether God Exists Essay, Research Paper
“Whether God Exists”
Countless philosophers since the beginning of recorded history have pondered the question of whether God exists. One such philosopher, Saint Thomas Aquinas, put forth his own theory on the existence of God. In his text “Whether God Exists”, he stated that through his five arguments he could prove God’s existence. His five arguments are from motion, from first efficient cause, from possibility and necessity, from gradation, and from design.
Aquinas begins his text with two objections as to why God does not exist. The first states that God does not exist because the word “God” has the meaning of infinite goodness. Therefore, if God actually existed there would be no evil in this world. Because there is evil, God cannot exist. The second objection states that all natural things can be attributed to reasons other than God’s existence. The objection states that natural things are the result of human reason or will, without need for God’s existence.
Aquinas then goes on to explain his first argument, the argument from motion. In this he states that it is evident to everyone that certain things are in motion, and were put into motion by something. He defines motion to be “…the reduction of something from a state of potentiality into a state of actuality…” (Bowie, 58, Col.1). Aquinas gives an example of this in his text. He states that something that is actually as hot as fire will make the potentially hot piece of wood actually hot. Furthermore he states that it is not possible to be in a state of actuality and potentiality at the same time from the same point of view. From different points of view, however, this is possible. In the case of the wood, it can be actually hot while at the same time being potentially cold. With this he is basically saying that nothing has the ability to move itself. According to Aquinas, everything has been put into motion by an original force or first mover, and this he believes to be God.
Aquinas’ second argument is the argument from the formality of efficient causation. In this he states that there is an order of efficient causes in things that occur. Aquinas says that there is no evidence “…in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself…” (Bowie, 58, Col.2). He states that there must be a first cause, which creates one or more intermediate causes, which then in turn creates an ultimate cause. According to Aquinas, without a cause, there can be no effect. Therefore without a first cause, there cannot be an intermediate or ultimate cause, or an ultimate effect. So according to Aquinas, there must have been some First Efficient Cause, which he claims is God.
Aquinas’ third argument is from possibility and necessity. In this Aquinas states that things that can one day cease to exist could not have always existed. Aquinas says “…if everything could cease to exist, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence.” (Bowie, 59, Col.1). He stated that if this were true then there would be nothing in existence now. This is because according to Aquinas, if nothing had existed, there would be nothing there to begin to exist. So therefore, according to Aquinas, there must be some being in existence that has always been there. This something has its own necessity and causes necessity in others. This being he believes to be God.
Aquinas’ fourth argument is from gradation. Aquinas says that “Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble, and the like” (Bowie, 59, Col.1). But he states that more and less are dependent on the degree of most. An example he gives was that to be hotter, there has to be something that is hottest to judge it by. Aquinas also says “as fire…is the most complete form of heat…there must also be something which to all beings is the cause of their being…” (Bowie, 59, Col.2), and according to him, that something is God. He is thought of as the best, truest, and noblest being who is the cause for us being here.
Aquinas’ fifth and final argument is from the governance of the world, or simply put, design. He states that things in nature that lack intelligence act in a certain way to obtain the best result, which is to survive. As Aquinas says, “…not fortuitously, but designedly…they achieve their purpose.” (Bowie, 59, Col.2). He states that these things that lack intelligence cannot achieve their purpose without being directed by “…some being endowed with intelligence and knowledge.” (Bowie, 59, Col.2). Aquinas concludes that this being which gives purpose to certain things in nature must exist, and according to him this being is God.
After proposing his five arguments, Aquinas offers his reply to the two objections as stated in the beginning. To the first objection, he states that the evil in the world is all a part of His plan. He says that “…He [God] should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.” (Bowie, 59. Col.2). To the second objection, he states that everything in nature must be traced back to a first cause, which is God. He then states that human reason is changeable and things that change can only come from an immovable unchanged first principle, which he states is God.
Although Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote five arguments on the existence of God, to me all but one of them seemed to reiterate the same theory. His writings about the first mover, First Efficient Cause, possibility and necessity, and design all seem to say that nothing can be without Being first. I am not convinced by this theory. I believe that Aquinas’ text ignores the question of who is responsible for the creation of this “first mover”. I feel that science better explains why nature is the way it is. The theory of evolution gives a more plausible reason why things are the way they are. The environment wasn’t designed for everything in it. All living things in nature adapted to their surroundings.
As for the remaining idea of gradation, I believe that this does make some sense. I agree that there are different grades of people, best to worst. Since no one is perfect, I feel that there must be a perfect being of some sort. I can see that this is still relevant in today’s, and feel that this is Aquinas’ only valid reason whether God really exists. Since no one will ever know for sure whether or not He exists, anything said can only be opinion and everyone is entitled to his or her own. Without solid evidence, there can never be an agreement on this topic.
Bowie, Michaels, Solomon. Twenty Questions. Orlando: Harcourt College Publishers, 2000
St. Thomas Aquinas. “Whether God Exists”. Pp. 57-59