To continue our previous topic of philosophers trying to prove the existence of God, we should also talk about Thomas Aquinas, who gave one of the most popular philosophies when it comes to discussing God.
Anselm’s argument was considered weak by many. So just like others, Aquinas dismissed it. But to dismiss it, he knew he had to come up with a better argument because in philosophy you can’t dismiss somebody’s argument until and unless you can come up with a better one. He gave not one but five arguments, to prove the existence of God. Probably one wasn’t enough. Anyways, the arguments he gave depended on natural reasoning that humans can use to prove the existence of God. In an unscientific time, Aquinas argued for the existence of God through his understanding of science, and with the help of what he thought was physical evidence.
Aquinas’s first three arguments, motion, causation, and contingency are what is called the cosmological argument for divine existence. Each begins with a general truth about natural phenomena and proceeds to the existence of an ultimate creator of the universe. In each case, Aquinas identifies this source with God. In this blog, I would talk about the first three arguments.
- The First Way: Argument from Motion
Aquinas looked around and observed that some things world are in motion. Then he though that obviously movement is caused by movers — things that cause motion. Like, if you drive a car, you are the mover causing the motion. Aquinas believed that everything that’s in motion must have been set into motion by something else that was moving. By this logic, something must have started the motion in the first place.
In the case of physical motion, Aquinas wanted to trace the cause of the movement he saw in the world all the way back to its beginning. And he figured there MUST have been a beginning. Otherwise, for him, it would be like watching dominoes falling, one after another and being told that nothing ever pushed over the first domino. Instead, they had always been falling down forever. There must have been a time when nothing was in motion, Aquinas thought, and there also must’ve been a static being that started the motion. And that being, according to Aquinas, is God – the Unmoved Mover. Aquinas understood it as the God of Christianity.
So, his Argument From Motion ran something like this:
Objects are in motion Everything in motion was put into motion by something else There can’t be an infinite chain of movers So there must have been a first mover, itself unmoved, and that is God.
- The Second Way: Argument from Efficient Causes
Now, the second cosmological argument of Aquinas was a lot like his first one. In this argument, he tends to explain causes and effects, in general, all over the universe. The argument went along these lines: Some things are caused Anything that’s caused has to be caused by something else (since nothing causes itself). Nothing exists prior to itself. Because there cannot be an infinite chain of efficient causes, there must be an immutable static first causer of all the changes that occur in the world, and this first causer is God.
If you think about how you ended up reading this blog, you can trace the line of causation back, from moment to moment. You can think about how you were probably searching about philosophy and you found this blog or if you are my friend (most probably you are) opened the link I sent you out of generosity. However, If you think about it long enough, you can probably go pretty far back to maybe the day you got an internet connection set up in your house. But Aquinas said, again: It can’t go back forever. There had to be a First Thing that started off the chain of causes and effects. And that Thing is God.
- The Third Way: Argument from Possibility and Necessity
Argument number three was the Argument from Contingency. To understand this one, we need to understand the difference between necessary beings and contingent beings. In philosophy, A contingent being is any being that could have not existed. That includes you and me. Yes I exist, but I could not have. If I was never born, the world would go on. Sure, situations would be different, but it wouldn’t have any major effect on the world. Our existence is merely contingent on the existence of other things. We all can and cannot exist. But because no being can come into existence except through a being that already exists. Therefore, there must be at least one necessary being—a being that is not capable of not existing.
Aquinas believed that there had to be something that prevented an infinite chain of contingency. That would mean that the contingency on which everything existed would just keep going back in time. And we can’t have a world where everything is contingent, Aquinas said, because then by definition, it all could easily have never existed. So, he needed at least one necessary being –a being that has always existed, that always will exist, and that can’t not exist, in order to get everything going. And that necessary being is God.
These three arguments obviously weren’t perfect and received lot of criticisms which we will discuss in our next blog. So, turn your notifications on and Subscribe! To make sure you don’t miss out on more information about the best possible thing (Anselm reference) A.K.A God.