The Five Ways of Aquinas/Aristotle

Thomas

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The short black intro para is a brief precis.
The longer text is from Aquinas.

THE FIRST WAY: MOVEMENT
Everything that moves (and this includes change as well as spatial movement) is moved by something else. This involves a discussion of potentiality and actuality. Something cannot be potentially and actually something simultaneously.

Aquinas argues that if we trace it back, then something started everything moving, whilst that something was not itself moved.

The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our sense, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is moved is moved by another, for nothing can be moved except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is moved; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be moved from a state of potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality... it is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is moved must be moved by another. If that by which it is moved must itself be moved, then this also needs to be moved by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and consequently, no other mover, seeing as subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are moved by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is moved by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at the first mover, moved by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

THE SECOND WAY: CAUSE AND EFFECT
You cannot have an effect without a cause. Again, as above, if you trace the effects back to their causes, and what caused them, you end up with a First Cause that was not itself caused.

The second way is from the nature of efficient cause. In the world of sensible things we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or one only. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, or intermediate, cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.

THE THIRD WAY: NECESSARY AND CONTINGENT BEING
Things exist, but they need not exist. It is possible for a time to be when everything exists, and it is also possible for a time to be when nothing exists - but if nothig exists, what causes existence? Aquinas posits that only God is 'necessary being' - everything else is contingent.

The third way is taken from possibility and necessity, and runs thus. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to be corrupted, and consequently, it is possible for them to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which can not-be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything can not-be, then at one time there was nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist begins to exist only through something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence - which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has already been proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore, we cannot but admit the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.

THE FOURTH WAY: THE ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT
We can see in the world degrees of perfection and goodness. We know these degrees because we can compare them with the maximum in any genus (genus = group of things). As humans have the capacity for both good and bad deeds they cannot be the source of all goodness. Therefore, the maximum in the genus of morality must be God (the most perfect being), who is the 'first cause', or source, of all goodness and perfection.
[NB. Aquinas' argument here is similar to Plato's Forms and Immanuel Kant's noumenal realm.]

The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble, and the like. But more and less are predicated of different things according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest, and, consequently, something which is most being, for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being... Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus, as fire, which is the maximum of heat, is the cause of all hot things, as is said in the same book. Therefore, there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.

THE FIFTH WAY: THE ARGUMENT OF DESIGN
Everthing seeks to realise its own 'perfect good' Since we do not fully know or comprehend our origins, or our ends, we cannot know our own 'perfect good' – God alone knows, and thus the quest for God is 'inbuilt' into the organism as being the source of Absolute Good. (Or Beauty, or Truth, or Bliss, or Reality ... ie the Transcendentals)

The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack knowledge, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that they achieve their end, not fortuitously, but designedly. Now whatever lacks knowledge cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is directed by the archer. Therefore, some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.

Enjoy

Thomas
 
I'm so glad you posted this, Thomas. I was going to ask about this myself, seeing you referenced it on another thread.

The First Movement sounds like the argument about who started the Big Bang.
 
re: The Big Bang –

Fr Georges-Henri Lemaître (1894-1966) was a Belgian Roman Catholic priest, honorary prelate, professor of physics and astronomer who in 1931 proposed the 'hypothesis of the primeval atom'.

He based his theory on the laws of relativity set forth by Einstein, although Einstein, who approved his mathematics, but who held the view of an infinite or eternal universe, was a critic of this theory.

Fr. Lemaître's reputation received a significant boost when Edwin Hubble's observations seemed to endorse an expanding universe and, consequently, the Big Bang theory. In fact, Lemaître derived what became known as Hubble's Law in his 1927 paper, two years before Hubble.

Fr Lemaître was elected to, and died President of, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. So on this occasion, the Catholic Church led the way in scientiific research, which should silence those voices that insist that the Church stands against science and progress.

Thomas
 
BTW – these 'proofs' or rather 'Ways' or arguments in favour of the existence of God, but not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - so not arguments for the existence of a JudeoChristian God, but rather the idea of God, in principle.

Thomas
 
On the other thread that Thomas is referring to, he says:

On another tack - have you considered the 'Five Proofs' of Aquinas? They derive from Aristotle, and still stand, so their track record re integrity, intelligence and rationality is pretty well bullet-proof ...

Thomas

I’m not sure what he means by “still stand,” so I hope he will elucidate.

I also hope Thomas will explain what he means by “God” as the conclusion of the Five Ways when, as he explains, these Ways do not point to the God of the Bible.

So let’s look at the First Way - The Prime Mover.

The two problems are these:
  1. “But this cannot go on into infinity…” Why not? What necessitates a Prime Mover, other than the arguer’s desire to postulate one?
  2. My cat lies around all day as a potentiality. What moves it into actuality? Sometimes it’s the kids, but sometimes it moves without any outside influence. Living things move all the time without being moved by something else. Of course the cat’s brain could have been the result of a long chain of actions since the “beginning of time” but that leads to…
The Second Way – The Argument from First Cause

Here’s the same error as above: “But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false.” Why is it plainly false that there will be no first efficient cause?

The Third Way – Why is there something rather than nothing?

This question often referred to as the last resort of the theist who seeks to argue for the existence of God from science and finds all the other arguments fail.

Bede Rundle wrote a whole book to answer the question. He concluded that the physical properties of “something” require that there be something rather than nothing, and, conversely, that the physical properties of nothing preclude that there be only nothing. If anyone wanted to read it and give us a review, please go ahead. But I don’t think most believers believe or non-believers disbelieve because of the latest results from cosmology or subatomic physics (or even biology).

More, later…
 
The Fourth Way – The Ontological Argument

Thomas correctly points out “Aquinas' argument here is similar to Plato's Forms and Immanuel Kant's noumenal realm.” I would say it’s so similar to Plato as to be indistinguishable.

I was looking at Absolute Zero – the point at which all energy has left atoms and all energy-induced motion stops – as a temperature at which there is no colder temperature, but the references I looked at refer to it as “Theoretical Absolute Zero.” And that is one of the problems of the Ontological Argument: Just because something theoretically could be, does not mean that it is. (Yes, I’m using two meanings of theoretical here.)

I don’t know where people see “degrees of perfection and goodness” in the world - outside of human behavior, and there are lots of other threads in this forum and around the world discussing the pros and cons the idea that “goodness” is an inherent attribute of people.

What’s The Perfect Apple? Is it a Braeburn? A Macintosh? A Granny Smith? What diameter does it have? How thick is the skin? What is the ratio of juice to pulp? What kind of soil must it be grown in? What kind of bee must pollinate its flowers? What temperature range should it be subject to through the year? At what age should it be picked?

The arguer’s claim of “degrees of perfection” in the world doesn’t hold water. Things are what they are. If you like something, you call it “perfect” and “good,” if you don’t, you call it “imperfect” and “evil.”

The Fifth Way – The Argument from Design

The Argument from Design is an argument from the result. The arguer wants there to be a designer and so argues that things must be designed. This argument is superfluous. It adds nothing to the discussion. We are quite capable of describing how natural processes work without postulating that they “work for an end.”
 
Hi thomas,


you end up with a First Cause that was not itself caused.


Here we are breaking things up into a fragmented examination of the world which itself rolls smoothly along. 'There are no absolute divisions between things', so we are speaking in metaphoric terms when considering things as arranged in a portioned and fractionalised sequence [like a row of boxes].


Secondly we are seeing it in terms of linear time, perhaps we should step out and visualise reality from the perspectives of universal and all-time. Hmm and a lack of time.


there are no beginings nor endings

.

 
Hi libertylover76 –

You ask, of the Five Ways:
I’m not sure what he means by “still stand,” so I hope he will elucidate.

What I mean is that they are still viable arguments, and they are still the subject of philosophical inquiry.

I also hope Thomas will explain what he means by “God” as the conclusion of the Five Ways when, as he explains, these Ways do not point to the God of the Bible.

I mean 'God' as a philosopher would understand the term. The Five Ways are Cosmological arguments, arguments from nature for an intellectual idea of 'God'. What Aquinas stated in the Summa was the 'ways' do not reveal God as He reveals Himself in Scripture and, ultimately, the Incarnation – Revelation transcends cosmology and thus the cosmological sciences.

So one might say the God of the Five Ways (there are another twenty odd, in fact) derive from the objective consideration of the data of experience. The God of the Bible is a Revelation that transcends the world and the senses – and for this very reason can neither be proved nor disproved intellectually.

So let’s look at the First Way - The Prime Mover.

"But this cannot go on into infinity" Why not? What necessitates a Prime Mover, other than the arguer’s desire to postulate one?
The objective data of experience led philosophy to suggest that all movement is caused. The data of science supports it.

My cat lies around all day as a potentiality.
I must correct you here, it's a misreading of act and potentcy. Your cat, in whatever state it is in, is the act or actuality of the cat, at that given moment in time – it exists.

What moves it into actuality?
You mean what moves it from one actuality to another. A: How it moves is the potentiality to be other than it is at that moment.

Sometimes it’s the kids, but sometimes it moves without any outside influence.
If it moves without outside influence, why was it not already moving? What you're saying is that is changes, with no reason for the change. That, I suggest, is impossible to prove. The fact that the cat chose a particular moment to move, does not infdicate that there was no reason, simply that you cannot aduce the reason.

The argument is saying a thing cannot be what it is, and what it potentially can be (ie something else), simultaneously. You cannot be running, jumping and standing still, simultaneously.

Living things move all the time without being moved by something else.
Again – what moves a thing might lie outside your comprehension, but daily science offers more and more evidence to suggest that no effect is 'spontaneous' any more than the existence of your cat is spontaneous.

The Second Way – The Argument from First Cause

Here’s the same error as above ... Why is it plainly false that there will be no first efficient cause?
That's not what Aquinas is arguing - rather "There is no case known (neither is it, indeed possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible." So what he;s saying is, if a thing can self-cause itself to be something other, why was it not that thing in the first place?

The Third Way – Why is there something rather than nothing?

This question often referred to as the last resort of the theist who seeks to argue for the existence of God from science and finds all the other arguments fail.
I think that's an opinion. It's a statement of what we bring to the argument, rather than the argument itself.

The Fourth Way – The Ontological Argument

And that is one of the problems of the Ontological Argument: Just because something theoretically could be, does not mean that it is.
Aquinas actually states that the ontological argument is insufficient for that very reason.

The arguer’s claim of “degrees of perfection” in the world doesn’t hold water.
Better take that up with the Darwinians. A fair part of Darwin's theory of evolution presumes that there are 'degrees of perfection' towards which evolution is headed. Likewise the whole idea of 'progress'.

The Fifth Way – The Argument from Design
The Argument from Design is an argument from the result.
All science is such. So is all philosophy.

In short I would say an attempt to 'disprove' the Five Ways is currently doomed, because philosophy still uses them, and the foundation of science as such depends upon them. One can offer a contra view, or another thesis, but that does not prove the Five Ways wrong, it says they are 'ways' and not 'proofs'.

Thomas
 
Hi Z

The Kalam Argument posits the impossibility of an infinite universe in the light of experience – it's one of my favourites:
The Kalam Cosmological Argument: A Summary

We can posit the infinite, and we can posit an infinite universe, but we have to match our theory with the perception of 'reality' – a theory is an explanation, and a proof is an infallible explanation, in the sense that it can be relied upon.

The advances of science reveal more, and in light of which we can revise proofs to the point of rewriting them, but this does not alter the material fact. The ancients knew that we can see – and explained how we can see, but they were wrong - they saw sight as a ray that illuminates the world, because they didn't understand optics – but the material proof is that we can see.

The foundation of material fact, that "nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses" (Aquinas) still stands. We can fantasize – but it is unwise to base one's life on a fantasy.

Thomas
 
Thomas,

I have to say the most of what you wrote is so obscure I have no idea what the meaning is.

Two statements you wrote that are patently false are these:

A fair part of Darwin's theory of evolution presumes that there are 'degrees of perfection' towards which evolution is headed.

Evolution is not "headed" anywhere. Organism become more complex, or less, or change their complexity not at all as a result of environmental pressure working on genetic drift. No evolutionary biologist ever claims that there is a goal to evolution.

I have to clarify that when I wrote "and argument form the result" I meant an argument from the conclusion. That is, the arguer wants a certain conclusion to appear true, so formulates the arguments accordingly.

If you understood this meaning when you wrote that "all science" is an argument from the result, then what you wrote is false.

I don't know how you could claim that "the foundation of science" depends on the Five Ways. You'd have to show me some form of science that does. I never referred to the "Five Ways" when I was biologist, and none of the biologists I worked with ever did. My friends using electro-magnetic theory in their work do not refer to the "Five Ways" either.

I'm sure that juantoo3 will pipe in at this point to refer us to the previous "science vs religion" threads. That's fine, and we can sort through those to pick and choose arguments to our liking.

Using your specific meaning of "still stand" or the claim that philosophers still use the "Five Ways," I suppose that's true: People who want to use them to support the notion of god/gods refer to them and claim "they have never been refuted" and people who have refuted them continue to do so. Please take a look at the Fernandez-Martin debates over on Internet Infidels, the and book The Impossibility of God.


More later...
 
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Kindest Regards, Liberty!

I'm not Thomas but since my name is mentioned I figure that's pretty much an invitation anyway.
Evolution is not "headed" anywhere. Organism become more complex, or less, or change their complexity not at all as a result of environmental pressure working on genetic drift.
I'm not a biologist, nor do I play one on TV. However, I have read a little on the subject, and I agree the teleological argument has long been removed from evolutionary theory. Of course, it does seem just a bit suspect to a theist...like perhaps an overt overture towards removing what could be implied as G-d behind the scenes. I understand organisms becoming more complex, but this is the first I have heard of an organism becoming less complex...:D Even Stephen J. Gould, the avid proponent of single celled critters, trended towards complexity in the material of his I have read. Ever hear of Epigenetics, and how environmental influences can affect generations *without* affecting the genome?

No evolutionary biologist ever claims that there is a goal to evolution.
No, not now. That would be silly, they would be laughed out of a job...(for not toeing the party line). 60 years ago, maybe, even certainly. But not now, not again.

I have to clarify that when I wrote "and argument form the result" I meant an argument from the conclusion. That is, the arguer wants a certain conclusion to appear true, so formulates the arguments accordingly.
I don't understand. Great minds, minds far greater than all of us here combined, have argued the "God exists / no He doesn't" argument for at least 300 years, and have come to the conclusion that there is no way to *logically* prove, nor disprove, G-d. Therefore, for an atheist to *presume* G-d does not exist, and formulate their arguments (and attitudes) accordingly, would according to this here be an argument from the conclusion. By contrast, I argue and have so stated a number of times, from the position that I *do not know*, but that it appears the bulk of the circumstantial evidence is on my side. Quite a bit different than the atheist position of arguing from the conclusion that G-d does not exist, therefore He cannot exist, and here is why...

I'm sure that juantoo3 will pipe in at this point to refer us to the previous "science vs religion" threads. That's fine, and we can sort through those to pick and choose arguments to our liking.
Nah. You've got your hands full with what I have already put on your plate.

Please take a look at the Fernandez-Martin debates over on Internet Infidels, the and book The Impossibility of God.
Fernandez-Martin, who is s/he? Ah, a book...how about "Mere Christianity" for starters, C.S. Lewis. Like I said, this argument has been going on since the "so-called" higher critical movement about 300 years ago, and you think one debate and one book are sufficient to prove everything beyond doubt? For every argument there is a counter argument, and *all* of the evidence is circumstantial! Is circumstantial evidence "proof" to you? Me, I go with the preponderance of circumstantial evidence, but at least I admit that is my biased leaning in accord with my personal experience. I do not argue from the top down...Look around, I have never said in this argument (or any like it) "G-d said, therefore it must be." But that is the way I see atheists *typically* argue..."Oh well, if there's a god, then have him do this or that *for me.*" Argument from the conclusion, placing themselves in the role of god (by commanding god to do *their personal* bidding). :rolleyes:

Sorry Liberty, but you're gonna have to do a bit better than this. By the way, I'm still waiting for a response on the other thread. :D
 
libertylover76 -

I have to say the most of what you wrote is so obscure I have no idea what the meaning is. Two statements you wrote that are patently false are these:

Well I'm not sure, if you don't follow the premise, that you can declare anything 'patently false' in the context within which it is offered?

But OK. Discount that aspect, it's not central.

All I was saying is that the Five Ways are still debated philosophically – the ontological argument, posed in the 12th century, is still alive and well, as are the cosmological arguments.

I'm not saying they are 'proofs' – nor is Aristotle and nor is Aquinas, but I am saying they cannot be 'disproved' – they are not 'wrong', any more than an alternative is 'right' – they are all arguments.

The God of Scripture is not accessible to science – it's way beyond that. It's a matter of faith, and faith lies outside the arena of science.

Thomas
 
However, I have read a little on the subject, and I agree the teleological argument has long been removed from evolutionary theory.

Why do you believe that the teleological argument has been long removed from evolutionary theory? By who? The evolutionists?
 
Hi Thomas,

As a disinterested observer of this topic, it does seem that you are trying to “have your cake and eat it”. You originally (in the Word of God thread) referred to “Five Proofs”, and these you described as “pretty well bullet-proof”. As to them being proofs, this is how they are described in their entry on Wiki: “The Five Ways are proofs of the existence of God”.

Quinquae viae - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Now you are saying “I’m not saying they are ‘proofs’ – nor is Aristotle and nor is Aquinas, but I am saying they cannot be ‘disproved’…”

I don’t think you can have it both ways; they either are or are not proofs. If you think they are proofs then they are falsifiable (not necessarily false, but open to disproving); if they are not proofs, then they are unfalsifiable philosophical arguments, which, like faith is, as you say, outside the remit of the scientific method but should not, I would contend, be described as “pretty well bullet-proof.”

s.
 
Hi Snoopy –

Well that's an interesting point.

Obviously we cannot say they are 'proofs' because people are free to accept them or not, but those who accept them regard them as 'proof' in that no counter argument exists as a 'proof' to the contrary.

For example, the second way - Cause and Effect - was argued against by Berekey, Locke and Hume in the abstract sense for example, but in 'real life' we take it for granted – when we turn on a tap, flick a switch, we expect something to happen – science works on the principle of cause and effect in its demand that a 'proof' can be examined, tested and demonstrated.

My point is that, although maybe not 'proofs', they are the fruits of philosophical reflection which are still viable today.

Thomas
 
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