ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
Do you think the Universe has always existed or not?
Aristotle thought that the Universe had always been and always will be.
Because: FROM NOTHING COMES NOTHING
That seems very logical. This is exactly what Jews, Muslims, and Christians unitedly disagree with. They interpret
Genesis One as suggesting a creation ex nihilo.
If you are a 13th century thinker, you believe that the universe has not always bee▯. The world, to them, was not
perpetual. Aquinas got in trouble because he didn't believe this was provable by natural reason but only by faith.
All, including Aquinas, thought the Universe was new. But the question is not 'has the world always been?' (they all
think that it has NOT always been) but the question is 'can natural reason prove that the world has always bee▯.'
FIVE PROOFS OF GOD
FIRSTWAY: in order for their to be motion there must be something ﬁrst which is itself not moved. the common
conception is that we have a motion of days and god is behind them all pushing from the back. this cannot be what
Aquinas thinks though because he does not think that natural reason can prove that the world has always been.
Aquinas does not say that all things need a cause, he says all things in motion need to be moved, and god moves
but is not moved and is not caused.
There is a notion of causality in Aquinas that does not function by reasoning back to a ﬁrst moment in tim▯ or any
other linear causality, instead what we have here as a better analogy than this vulgar railroad analogy but an analogy
where God makes the rules of existence:
GOD SETS UP CAUSALITYAS SUCH, OUT OF NOTHING
GOD SETS UP MOTION AS SUCH, OUT OF NOTHING
THE VERY POTENTIALITYTHAT GETS INSTANCIATED IN VARIOUS ACTUALITIES ARE ALL
BEHAVING ACCORDING TO CERTAIN LAWS: THIS IS GOD.
causality cannot cause itself. god is full actuality and full potentiality at the same time. his essence is his being. no
potentiality at all in god. he is fully actual.
God cannot be deﬁnitively proven as 'the ﬁrst cause in tim▯' in Aquinas because he would be criticizing himself when
a few pages later he asserts that the-world-has-a-beginning can't be known by natural reason but only faith. He
believes there is a beginning in time, but he doesn't think natural reason demonstrates that so this model of
understanding his ﬁrst proof of God as God being the ﬁrst mover from the ﬁrst moment in time is incorrect,
because he doesn't think that is rationally provable. Creation ex nihilo is a faith claim for Aquinas.
Let's look at Bertrand Russell's disagreement: if a daughter has a mother, and that mother has a mother, and that
mother has a mother, etc. Does that mean there is a mother-of-humanity?
response: diﬀerent orders of explanation ie evolution, but there is a diﬀerent layer of explanation: the rules that
allow mother's t