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                   THE EXISTENCE OF GOD



                                          Paul Gerard Horrigan



                      COPYRIGHT © 2003 by Paul Gerard Horrigan, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved.

                      This HTML edition is provided free for noncommercial and educational use.




Other e-books by Dr. Paul Gerard Horrigan:

Introduction to Philosophy:  

A Short History of Philosophy:    

Philosophical Anthropology:

Introduction to Metaphysics:                           

Modern Philosophy: Descartes to Kant:

Philosophy of Knowledge:









1. The Nature of Philosophy of God


2. Agnosticism


3. Pantheism: Crypto-Atheism


4. Atheism


5. The Ontological Argument


6. The A Posteriori Quia Demonstration of the Existence of God


7. From the Motion of Things to God as Unmoved First Mover


8. From Secondary Efficient Causality to God as First Efficient Cause


9. From Contingent Being to God as Necessary Being


10. From Grades of Transcendental Perfections in Things to God as Supremely Perfect Being


11. From Order and Design in Natural Beings to God as the Supreme Intelligent Orderer of the Universe


12. Subsistent Being Itself (Ipsum Esse Subsistens) 









“The real, the deepest, the sole theme of the world and of history, to which all other themes are subordinate, remains the conflict of belief and unbelief.”[1]    Goethe 


I maintain that the root cause of the theoretical atheist world view lies in a particular type of epistemology called immanentism, which has as its founder the French rationalist philosopher René Descartes, and whose spirit has dominated the philosophical scene for almost four hundred years. When the immanentist position is adopted the obfuscation and eventual discarding of metaphysics (the science of being qua being, the queen of the human sciences) becomes inevitable. Once metaphysics is eliminated, access to a rational effect to cause demonstration of God’s existence is impeded and one either falls into the various forms of agnosticism (Humean, Kantian, Neo-Positivist) or takes one step further and subscribes to the atheistic position that God is nothing but a projection of man himself (Feuerbach, Marx, Nietzsche, Sartre), a mere idea that in no way corresponds to a real, extra-mental, extra-subjective, transcendent Supreme Being. A philosophical critique, which has become a classic in its field, documenting the genesis, rise and consolidation of the immanentist position throughout the history of modern and contemporary philosophy, is Cornelio Fabro’s monumental God in Exile: Modern Atheism From Its Roots in the Cartesian Cogito to the Present Day,[2] his magnum opus of more a thousand pages, which I warmly recommend for the serious intellectual. A number of thinkers believe that the rise of modern atheism is due primarily to affluence, to the consumerism of the “creature-comfort,” materialistic West, while others are of the opinion that the prevalence of naturalism is mainly to blame. Fabro, instead, holds that speculative or theoretical atheism’s roots lie in the epistemological revolution produced by the subjectivist Cartesian cogito, which has rendered man incapable of epistemological and ontological transcendence. While crass consumerism, horizontalist and monistic naturalism are all weighty factors that go into the making of the atheistic and nihilistic Zeitgeist that characterizes much of contemporary life, I believe that the predominance of the immanentist world view, in the first place among our intellectual elite who are its ideological purveyors and spiritual gurus, is the central factor, and that the solution for exiting from the mess that we find ourselves in lies in the refutation of the immanentist philosophical position by means of an authentic methodical, metaphysical realism open to real being (ens reale) and ultimately to the act of being (esse), act of acts and perfection of perfections.    


The solution to the problem of immanentism lies in a vigorous and healthy philosophical realism open to gnoseological and ontological transcendence. But what exactly is immanentism and what exactly do we mean by realism and transcendence? In philosophical usage, the term immanentism is derived from the concept immanence, which means to remain within oneself, which is opposed to transcendence, which means to go beyond oneself. In immanentism, what man knows in the first instance is that which remains enclosed within the sphere of the self, such as ideas, sensations and impressions, and not the extra-mental real thing, which is either only mediately known (Descartes’ mediate “realism,” a pseudo-realism, unsuccessful in its attempts at reclaiming reality) or is simply unknowable (Humean and Kantian phenomenalism). Realism, on the other hand, retains that what is known in the first instance is the extra-subjective thing (also called the object) which really exists extra-mentally (e.g., that real pine tree to the right of me, or that particular brown cat in front of me).[3] For the immanentist, who is incarcerated within the cell of his mind, unable to escape to a knowledge of noumenal reality, thought is prior to being. Cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am), that famous Cartesian dictum, is the name of the immanentist state penitentiary. Realism, instead, maintains that being is prior to thought. The actual dog that exists in reality is prior to the universal notion or concept “dog” that exists in the mind in an intentional manner. Dobermans and dachshunds are out there in reality and will continue to exist there whether we think of them or not. What is known in the first instance is the real dog and not the idea “dog.” Ideas are merely instruments by which we know things; they are that by which we know extra-mental objects existing in the world. For the immanentist, then, thought is the starting point of philosophical investigation, whereas for the realist it is being (ens), leading to the affirmation res sunt (things are). For immanentism, thought is prior to being, thought becomes the condition of being, and finally, as is the case with absolute idealism (Fichte, Schelling and Hegel) thought becomes identified with being, thought creates being. In Hegelian panlogicism, for example, all that is rational is real and all that is real is rational[4] (the identification of logic and metaphysics, between the logical order and the real order). Hegel’s pantheism and monism are the result of his denial of the objective validity of the principle of non-contradiction (a thing cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect) in the name of the very notion of being. The law of contradiction which is found, for example, in the traditional square of logical opposition is, for him, the law of the real or ontological order.[5]


Jean Weber, of the school of Bergson, sums up Hegel’s denial of the objective validity of the principle of non-contradiction in the name of the very idea of being[6]: “Being is the most universal of all notions, but for this very reason it is also the poorest and the most negative of notions. To be white or black, to have extension, to be good, means to be something; but to be without any determination, is to be nothing, is simply not to be. Pure and simple being is, therefore, equivalent to not-being. It is at one and the same time itself and its contrary. If it were merely itself, it would remain immobile and sterile; if it were mere nothingness, it would be synonymous with zero, and in this case also completely powerless and infecund. It is because it is the one and the other that it becomes something, another thing, everything. The contradiction contained in the notion of being resolves itself into becoming, development. To become is at the same time to be and not to be (that which will be). The two contraries which engender it, namely, being and non-being, are rediscovered, blended and reconciled in becoming. The result is a new contradiction, which will resolve itself into a new synthesis, and thus the process will continue until the absolute idea is reached.”[7] Garrigou-Lagrange objects to such dubious reasoning, writing: “To perceive the sophism contained in this argument, we need only to cast it into syllogistic form: Pure being is pure indetermination. But pure indetermination is pure non-being. Therefore, pure being is pure non-being. The middle term, ‘pure indetermination,’ is used in two different senses. In the major it means the negation of all determination, generic, specific, or individual, but not the negation of (ideal or real) being, which transcends the generic determinations of which it is susceptible. In the minor, on the other hand, pure indetermination is not only the negation of all generic, specific, and individual determination, but also implies the negation of any further determination of which being is capable. Therefore, the argument amounts to this: that pure being is undetermined being; but undetermined being is pure non-being. The minor is evidently false.”[8] Garrigou-Lagrange also adds: “Besides, there is no apparent reason why becoming should emerge from this realized contradiction, this identification of contradictories. On the contrary, we must hold with Aristotle that ‘to maintain that being and non-being are identical, is to admit permanent repose rather than perpetual motion. There is in fact nothing into which beings can transform themselves, because everything includes everything’(IV Metaph., c. v).”[9]    


Frederick Wilhelmsen explains why Hegel’s denial of the objective validity of the principle of non-contradiction, rooted in his identification of the real order with the logical order, is grossly erroneous. He shows that, although logical opposites can be entertained by the mind, real being cannot be self-contradictory. He writes: “Hegel identified the orders of thought and existence. Being functions the way thinking functions, taught Hegel, because being is a ‘concretization’ of absolute spirit. In thought, said Hegel, every proposition has its contradictory. Posit any judgment and you thereby posit its opposite. On this point, Hegel merely repeated a truth known to logicians since the time of Plato. Aristotle systematised this law of the mind in his well-known Square of Opposition: The proposition ‘every cow is black’ is contradicted by ‘some cow is not black’; ‘no academician is a fool’ is contradicted by ‘some academician is a fool,’ and so forth. Hegel pushed this opposition of judgments to the order of being itself. ‘Being is being’ is contradicted by ‘being is not-being.’ Given the first proposition, the second automatically follows. Therefore being contradicts itself, and this contradiction is the most fundamental law of the spirit. If we grant Hegel’s identification of spirit and reality, his position makes good sense. It was the only way he could account for progress in the universe, for change. If the real is basically the same thing as the rational, one of two conclusions follow: either the real is given once and for all or it is not. If we grant the first supposition, we must conclude – with Hegel – that spirit never gets anywhere at all; spirit does nothing but analytically dissect an order already given at the outset, an order of ideas and laws to which nothing new is ever added. Refuse the first supposition because of the fact of change in the world and it follows that reality could only advance by contradicting itself. Begin with a given – call it A – and assume that only A is given. How do we get from A to B, when B is not given? We move from A to B only if A contradicts itself. Fundamentally, B is nothing but A’s negation of itself; B is non-A. In this fashion we can move from one point in the real order to another. We can account for change, for the advance of spirit. If we refuse Hegel’s identification of spirit and reality, if we judge his position in the light of realism, we can easily see that his error consisted in treating the metaphysical order, the real order, as though it were the logical. But the whole point about being, in reality, is that it is being. The contradictory to being, not in the order of ideas but in the order of things, would be non-being. But in reality there is no such ‘thing’ as an existing non-being. A man does not need an armory full of logical and dialectical weapons to understand this; all he needs is some existing thing which he can contemplate for a short time. Concentrate for a moment on the piece of paper before your eyes; formulate the proposition, ‘the paper exists’; now contradict the first proposition with ‘the paper does not exist.’ The two judgments contradict each other in the logical order, in your mind. The contradiction exists mentally because the two judgments can be entertained as logical opposites. Now return your attention to the piece of paper itself, not as it exists in a proposition in your mind, but as it is in itself. What is the contradictory of the existence of the paper in the order of being? In that order, the order of things as they exist beyond your thinking of them, there simply is no contradictory to the piece of paper. The non-existence of the paper that exists is a metaphysical zero. To see this is to see that Hegel confused the two orders.”[10]            


For Garrigou-Lagrange, “this absolute intellectualism of Hegel is no less destructive of all knowledge than is the anti-intellectualism of Heraclitus and Bergson. All reasoning presupposes that every idea employed in the process represents a reality, the nature of which remains the same; but for Hegel, the principle of identity (non-contradiction) is merely a law of inferior logic, of the mind working with abstractions, and not a law of superior logic, of reason and reality. ‘From this it follows,’ as Aristotle remarked (IV Metaphy., c. iv), ‘that one can with equal right affirm or deny everything of all things, that all men tell the truth and that all lie, and that each one admits that he is a liar.’ For the rest, Hegel himself acknowledges ‘that if it is true to say that being and non-being are one and the same, it is also true to say that they differ, and that the one is not the other.’[11] It follows from this that, according to Hegel, nothing can be affirmed and everything can be affirmed. If this attitude does not destroy all science, it cannot at least be said to have more than a relative value, and hence to possess nothing more than the name of science.”[12]   


For Hegel, reality is not grasped in its concreteness, in its substantiality. Rather, substance and essence is negated in favor of contradiction and becoming. The fundamental principle of the Hegelian dialectic is that the essence of being is contradiction. For him, the antinomical dialecticism of contradiction is not something by which change is realized in a substance, respecting, of course, the concrete individuality of substance, nor is it a simple function or law of thought; rather, it is the very essence of reality itself and also of thought itself. Hegel not only makes the dialectic a law of thought; it also becomes a metaphysical principle of reality. He identifies metaphysics with logic and makes logic metaphysics itself. Each thing – a dog, rat, a cow, for example – is and is not itself, for its true being is becoming.    


Against immanentism, realism holds that all epistemology is founded upon the metaphysics of being; being is prior to thought, and thought is dependent upon being. The act of being (esse) is the radical act of a being (ens); it is, in every being (ens), the internal principle of its reality and of its knowability, and therefore, the foundation of the act of knowing. Knowledge is indeed a way of being, but the act of being is not an element or a dimension of knowledge. When we know an extra-mental thing, taking in its form in an immaterial way, we leave out not only the matter of the thing in question but also its act of being.


In philosophical immanentism, transcendence (first gnoseological, then ontological) is first emarginalized, then debilitated, and in the end, eliminated. In realism, on the other hand, both gnoseological and ontological transcendence is respected. There is a difference between gnoseological transcendence and ontological transcendence. The former regards the possibility of knowing reality distinct from consciousness and its representations; transcendence here is intended as extra-subjective. Ontological transcendence, on the other hand, regards the existence of realities that surpass the factual data of empirical experience, the most eminent of these realities being God, the absolutely transcendent Supreme Being. The history of modern philosophy, beginning with Cartesian rationalism, has shown that the refusal of a gnoseological transcendence (though not always in a direct and immediate way, as was precisely the case with the mediate “realism” of Descartes) impedes recognition of an authentic ontological transcendence.

The starting point of knowledge is not the Cartesian “I think, therefore I am” (Cogito, ergo sum), but rather: “things are” (res sunt). That “I think, therefore I am” is surely evidence, but it is not the first evidence. It is not the point of departure of knowledge. “Things are” is the first in the order of all evidence. The first intellectual evidence that we experience through our senses is the fact that there are things in this world that we inhabit composed of an amazing variety of things which in some way form a totality. These “things” correspond to the classical metaphysical term “beings.” We perceive these beings around us which appear to our immediate experience as individual, concrete, definite and limited, making up part of a whole referred to as the world, the cosmos, the universe. “Realism accepts reality in toto and measures our knowledge by the rule of reality. Nothing that is validly known would be so if its object did not first exist…The first thing offered us is the concept of a being thought about by the intellect, and given us in a sensory intuition. If the being, in so far as it can be conceived, is the first object of the intellect, that is because it is directly perceived: res sunt, ergo cogito (things are, therefore, I think). We start by perceiving an existence which is given us in itself and not first of all in relation to ourselves. Later, on inquiring into the conditions which make such a fact possible, we realize that the birth of the concept presupposes the fertilization of the intellect by the reality which it apprehends. Before truth comes the thing that is true; before judgment and reality are brought into accord, there is a living accord of the intellect with reality…”[13]   
The great twentieth century philosopher-historian Etienne Gilson defended the realist theory of knowledge against the immanentism underlying much of modern philosophy in many of his works, such as Thomist Realism and the Critique of Knowledge[14] and Methodical Realism.[15] In Methodical Realism he points out that it was in the thought of Descartes, and not Kant, where the “Copernican Revolution” took place for the first time: “Critical idealism was born the day Descartes decided that the mathematical method must henceforth be the method for metaphysics. Reversing the method of Aristotle and the medieval tradition, Descartes decided that it is valid to infer being from knowing, to which he added that this was indeed the only valid type of inference, so that in his philosophy, whatever can be clearly and distinctly attributed to the idea of the thing is true of the thing itself: when we say of anything that it is contained in the nature or concept of a particular thing, it is the same as if we were to say it is true of that thing, or could be affirmed of it…Indeed, all idealism derives from Descartes, or from Kant, or from both together, and whatever other distinguishing features a system may have, it is idealist to the extent that, either in itself, or as far as we are concerned, it makes knowing the condition of being…With Descartes the Cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) turns into Cogito ergo res sunt (I think, therefore, things are)”[16] Once trapped within the immanent sphere of one’s thoughts, initially doubting all reality perceived by the senses, and commencing from the cogito as the first certainty, we become unable to recuperate reality itself. All we will be able to do with the immanentist method is to conjure up a thought of reality, all the while remaining locked up within the prison of our minds. From mere mental representations we cannot reach the thing-in-itself which is doubted at the outset by the Cartesian universal doubt. If you have a hat stand painted on a wall, the only thing you will ever be able to hang on it is a hat likewise painted on a wall. Neither the principle of causality nor belief or assertion can get us out of the immanentist domain of the mind once we have initially doubted the existence of reality, and then commence from the cogito as the primal certitude.      

Gilson describes for us the futility of those pseudo-realists who make their starting point of knowledge the cogito and then attempt a recuperation of reality by means of the principle of causality: “he who begins as an idealist ends as an idealist; one cannot safely make a concession or two to idealism here and there. One might have suspected as much, since history is there to teach us on this point. Cogito ergo res sunt is pure Cartesianism; that is to say, the exact antithesis of what is thought of as scholastic realism and the cause of its ruin. Nobody has tried as hard as Descartes to build a bridge from thought to reality, by relying on the principle of causality. He was also the first to make the attempt, and he did so because he was forced to by having set the starting point for knowledge in the intuition of thought. It is, therefore, strictly true that every scholastic who thinks himself a realist, because he accepts this way of stating the problem, is in fact a Cartesian… If the being I grasp is only through and in my thought, how by this means shall I ever succeed in grasping a being which is anything other than that of thought? Descartes believed that it was possible, but even apart from a direct critique of the proof he attempted to give, history is there to show us that his attempt ends in failure. He who begins with Descartes, cannot avoid ending up with Berkeley or with Kant…It won’t do to stop at the man who took the first step on the road to idealism because we shall then be forced to go the whole of the rest of the road with his successors. The Cartesian experiment was an admirable metaphysical enterprise bearing the stamp of sheer genius. We owe it a great deal, even if it is only for having brilliantly proved that every undertaking of this kind is condemned in advance to fail. However, it is the extreme of naïveté to begin it all over again in the hope of obtaining the opposite results to those which it has always given, because it is of its nature to give them.”[17] “The absolute being that the Cogito immediately delivers to me can only be my own and no other. In consequence, whether the operation by which I apprehend the object as distinct from myself be a process of induction and therefore mediate, or an immediate grasp, the problem remains the same. If one’s starting point is a percipi, the only esse one will ever reach will be that of the percipi…‘Can we, or can we not arrive at things if we make our standpoint that of the Cogito?’ No, we can’t, and if the fate of realism depends on this question, its fate is settled; it is impossible to extract from any kind of Cogito whatsoever a justification for the realism of St. Thomas Aquinas.”[18] 


The only way for us to get back to realism in philosophy (and in doing so be once again in a position to validly demonstrate God’s existence, departing from the things that we see in the world) is to stop subordinating metaphysics to epistemology, or logic, or mathematics, or for that matter, any other human science,[19] and let the former recover its pride of place as the queen of the human sciences, that is, of all the sciences discoverable by the lumen of natural reason alone. Metaphysics is first philosophy and any science of thought must ultimately be founded upon the metaphysics of being. “What we must do first of all, therefore, is free ourselves from the obsession with epistemology as the necessary pre-condition for philosophy. The philosopher as such has only one duty: to put himself in accord with himself and other things. He has no reason whatever to assume a priori that his thought is the condition of being, and, consequently, he has no a priori obligation to make what he has to say about being depend on what he knows about his own thought…I think therefore I am is a truth, but it is not a starting point…The Cogito is manifestly disastrous as a foundation for philosophy when one considers its terminal point. With a sure instinct as to what was the right way, the Greeks firmly entered on the realist path and the scholastics stayed on it because it led somewhere. Descartes tried the other path, and when he set out on it there was no obvious reason not to do so. But we realize today that it leads nowhere, and that is why it is our duty to abandon it. So there was nothing naïve about scholastic realism; it was the realism of the traveler with a destination in view who, seeing that he is approaching it, feels confident he is on the right road. And the realism we are proposing will be even less naïve since it is based on the same evidence as the old realism, and is further justified by the study of three centuries of idealism and the balance sheet of their results. The only alternatives I can see today are either renouncing metaphysics altogether or returning to a pre-critical realism. This does not at all mean that we have to do without a theory of knowledge. What is necessary is that epistemology, instead of being the pre-condition for ontology, should grow in it and with it, being at the same time a means and an object of explanation, helping to uphold, and itself upheld by, ontology, as the parts of any true philosophy mutually will sustain each other.”[20]









1. Definition of Philosophy of God


Also called natural theology,[21] theodicy,[22] philosophical theology,[23] and rational theology,[24] philosophy of God[25] is defined as the science of God as knowable by unaided human reason.[26] It is the philosophical science which sets forth all that unaided human reason can discover about God, His existence, nature, attributes, and operations. It is to be distinguished from sacred or supernatural theology which is based upon God’s revelation. The material object of philosophy of God is God. The formal object of philosophy of God is God as knowable by unaided human reason.[27]


2. Philosophy of God the Highest Branch of Metaphysics


Philosophy of God is an essential part of metaphysics. The former is a branch, and the highest branch at that, of the latter (which is divided into three principal parts: general metaphysics, gnoseology and philosophy of God). Metaphysics is the science of being as being (ens qua ens), and philosophy of God is the science of the Supreme Being, the First Cause of all things. Metaphysics’ goal is to demonstrate whatever it can concerning being qua being, especially the first and highest causes of being, whether those causes be intrinsic and constitutive of being (ens), like act of being (esse) and essence (essentia), or extrinsic and productive of being (ens), like its efficient and final causes. Now, God is the first and only proper cause of being as being, and hence to conclude to the knowledge of God’s existence is the proper goal of metaphysics. In fact, it is the principal and most important goal of metaphysics (which is divided into three principal parts: general metaphysics, gnoseology, and philosophy of God). God in His existence and nature is the principal object or term towards which the whole science of metaphysics tends. Philosophy of God is the most important branch of metaphysics: just as metaphysical knowledge is the crown of all natural knowledge (or knowledge gotten by means of the light of natural reason alone), so philosophy of God is the crown of all metaphysical knowledge.     


3. Philosophy of God and Sacred Theology


What is the difference between philosophy of God and sacred theology? Though both sciences have God as their material object, their formal objects are different. While the formal object of philosophy of God is, as was mentioned, God as knowable by unaided human reason, the formal object of sacred theology is God as He is known by faith from Divine Revelation. Sacred theology is the scientific exposition of the truths about God under the light of Revelation. Jacques Maritain writes that “the knowledge or science of God which is unattainable naturally by the unassisted powers of reason, and is possible only if God has informed men about Himself by a revelation from which our reason, enlightened by faith, subsequently draws the implicit conclusions, is supernatural theology or simply theology.”[28] Respecting the hierarchy of theoretical wisdoms, all knowledge from philosophy of God is ultimately ordered to the knowledge of sacred theology.


The existence of God is what is called a preamble of faith (praeambulum fidei). Praeambula fidei are those truths knowable by the unaided light of human reason that are the necessary a priori cognitive conditions that make the act of faith rationally possible. They are truths that prepare and bring the human person closer to faith. These truths include the existence of God, the spirituality and immortality of the human soul, human freedom and the natural law.


The existence of God is a preamble of faith, not an article of faith, but, nevertheless, is an object of faith for those believers who are unable to rationally demonstrate God’s existence. Gilson explains: “The existence of God is not an article of faith. But what is an article of faith? The object of faith properly so called is the believable – that is, the saving truth that God has revealed to man because, of itself, it escapes the light of reason unaided by faith. Strictly speaking, the believable is that which cannot be held as true otherwise than on faith. For the sake of brevity, let us say that, by definition, the object of faith is unseen. More precisely, the object of faith is the unseen concerning God. Where there occurs something that is unseen in a way of its own, it is called an article of faith. On the contrary, where several objects of faith are all related to a single one and can be comprehended under it, only the latter is an article of faith. This remarkable notion assimilates the articles of faith to the principles in the order of intelligible knowledge. Taken together, a principle and its consequences constitute a sort of believable unit, a single complex object of belief. For instance, that God has suffered is something that can only be believed, but if we believe that God has suffered, to believe that he died and was buried does not create a new difficulty. On the contrary, if we believe that God died and was buried, to believe that on the third day he rose again is a new unseen. Far from being includable under the preceding one, it rather looks like its denial; for to believe that God can suffer and die is a difficulty, but to believe that, after His death, God rose again only makes the first difficulty still more difficult to understand. Thus, the unseen about God distributes itself under a certain number of headings that are called the articles of faith. Since, of itself, the existence of God is philosophically demonstrable (as is seen from the fact that several philosophers have demonstrated it), it does not belong in the category of the unseen (the essentially invisible); consequently, it cannot be counted among the articles of faith. It cannot even be included under any article of faith. In Thomas Aquinas’ own words, truths of this sort are so many ‘preambles’ to the articles of faith (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 2, ad 1. Cf. II-II, q. 2, a. 10, ad 2). A well- chosen expression indeed, since, unless one knows there is a God, how can he believe anything about Him?…


“There is no doubt that the existence of God is demonstrable, but if somebody cannot understand the demonstration of this preamble to the articles of faith, which is the situation of each and every child, not to speak of quite a few adults, he can at least believe it. In other words, what can be known by some can also be believed by others. For the latter, the existence of God does not become an article of faith, something that it cannot possibly be, but it certainly is an object of faith” [29]  


4. Two Levels of Truth Regarding God


There are two levels of truth regarding God, or two possible ways of manifesting the truths regarding God: 1. There are certain truths that surpass the capacities of human reason like, for example, the Holy Trinity ; and 2. There are other truths concerning God that can be attained by the sole force of human reason, as is the case with the truth of the existence of God, and other truths like the fact that God is One, Absolutely Simple and Supremely Perfect. Now, the truths that come under the first level fall within the domain of sacred theology, while the truths of the second level fall under the sphere of philosophy of God. 


5. Why God Revealed His Existence to Be Believed by Faith 


If the existence of God can be rationally demonstrated by the light of human reason alone, why then has this truth regarding God (as well as other divine truths attainable by the lumen of natural reason alone, such as His Oneness, Goodness and Truth, etc.) been revealed by Him to be believed by faith? Isn’t reason sufficient enough with regard to these truths? Why can’t all men follow the path of philosophical reason with regard to these truths? In his Commentary on the “Trinity” of Boethius, St. Thomas Aquinas presents five good reasons why it is fitting that the truths about God, to which natural reason can attain, be nevertheless proposed to men for belief. He takes these reasons from the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides: “First, even though these truths are attainable by the light of natural reason, they are deep, subtle, and the reasonings required to establish them are difficult and not within the capacity of all men. Therefore, lest any man be without some knowledge of them, they are revealed so that all may hold them by faith at least. Second, no one can attain these truths by reason until he is mature; whereas some knowledge of them is required at all times. Third, the rational knowledge of God is the highest knowledge that human reason can attain, and much knowledge of natural things must precede it. Even this preliminary knowledge is never acquired by a great number of persons; yet all are required to know about God. Hence, revelation of these truths is necessary. Fourth, many men are not so fitted with intellectual gifts as to be able to attain rational knowledge of God. And, finally, most men are too occupied with the affairs of life in this world even to pursue the studies necessary to know God through reason.”[30]


6. Philosophy of God the Most Exalted, Satisfying and Difficult of the Human Sciences


Philosophy of God is the most perfect and sublime of all the human sciences, of all merely natural human knowledge, for in this science the highest of man’s operative powers or faculties, the intellect, is functioning in reference to the highest and most perfect of all intelligible objects, namely, God. It is the most satisfying and enjoyable of all human sciences, for though what our science can tell us about God may be small in quantity, the little knowledge that it does tell us gives our intellect greater joy and satisfaction and contributes more to its perfection than all the knowledge we can discover about finite beings and cosmos by means of the other human sciences (e.g., physics, biology, chemistry). Nevertheless, it is the hardest to learn of all the human sciences. Though this science begins with sensible intelligible experience, it goes on to penetrate into the ultimate causes of actual things, which cannot be sensed or even imagined. And since God is absolutely immaterial, any knowledge concerning Him will be but indirect and analogical.


7. The Method of Philosophy of God


The third operation of the mind,[31] reasoning can either be inductive or deductive. Induction is defined as the reasoning process whereby we conclude from individual cases to the existence and establishment of general principles or laws (in short, it goes from the particular to the general or universal),[32] while deduction is defined as the reasoning process whereby we conclude from a general principle or law to a particular instance falling under the general principle or law (in sum, it goes from the general or universal to the particular).[33] Philosophy of God is both an inductive and deductive science. It is neither exclusively inductive nor exclusively deductive; rather, it utilizes both induction and deduction in varying proportions. The a posteriori (effect to cause) demonstration of God’s existence as well as the establishment of God’s metaphysical essence uses, for the most part, induction, while the establishment of God’s various attributes (with the nature of God as its point of departure) utilizes deduction to a large extent.     


8. The Presuppositions of Philosophy of God


The presuppositions of a science are certain truths or enunciations not proved by the science in question but are presupposed by it. They are by no means unwarranted assumptions but rather truths borrowed from other sciences (e.g., general metaphysics, gnoseology, logic) whose province it is to investigate and establish them. The presuppositions of philosophy of God include the real existence of the physical world, the trustworthiness of human reason and the validity of first principles, such as the principles of non-contradiction, sufficient reason and causality.      


9. The Importance of Philosophy of God


Philosophy of God is by far the most important of the human sciences discoverable by the light of natural reason alone. This is so by reason of the sublimity of its subject matter (or material object), namely, God. Glenn writes: “Regarded absolutely, or in itself and independently of its relationships with other sciences, philosophy of God is far and away the most important of all human sciences. For it deals with the most sublime subject that can engage the mind of man. And when philosophy of God is viewed in its relations to other sciences, it still maintains its place of preeminence. For every other science rests ultimately upon certain assumptions which philosophy of God does not assume, but proves; every other science is based upon notions of primal causality, of an ordered universe (and hence an Orderer), of an arrangement and balance, of a consistency and constancy in nature. Let scientists ignore this fact as they may, it remains a fact beyond dispute. St. Augustine was voicing no pious sentiment but expressing the clearest of reasoned conclusions when he said that those who try to philosophize, or play the scientist, while ignoring or denying God, only succeed in entangling themselves in a net of contradictions. It is manifest, therefore, that philosophy of God, in view of its supreme object and of its fundamental relations to other sciences, is a most important study.


“Not only is philosophy of God the most important of philosophical sciences in its object and in its relationships with other sciences; it is important because it meets the highest and strongest tendencies of the human mind; because its certain conclusions are a satisfaction to the noblest emotional yearnings; because it gives meaning to the bewildering universe of sentient experience; because it makes intelligible the resistless human bent and bias for moral conduct…We need the discipline of philosophy of God for our minds, and we need its conclusions for our lives. Not that it is all-sufficing. It is the best that natural powers can do for us, but man needs more than nature; man needs supernature. Nor, for us who have the divine gift of faith, is philosophy of God meant to supplant faith or to rationalize it into a cold and mathematical formula. Philosophy of God supplements faith, rendering service by showing how reasonable and even inescapable are the first truths of faith; and it equips us for the task of showing others, who have not the faith, the first inviting reaches of the straight path that leads through reason to certainty and security of life in the one Institution on earth where men can really be at home.”[34]    


10. The Division of Philosophy of God


Philosophy of God is divided into two parts, namely, the existence of God and the nature of God. The first part begins by examining the various errors concerning the existence of God as expressed, for example, in agnosticism, atheism, ontologism and the ontological argument. Then, the valid demonstration of the existence of God is examined, which is the a posteriori quia (effect to cause) demonstration. In the second part, God’s essence, attributes, as well as His immanent and transient operations, are all examined.     


11. Spontaneous Knowledge of God’s Existence


We are indeed able to demonstrate the existence of God by the light of human reason alone, departing from His effects in the world. But there is also what is called a spontaneous knowledge of God’s existence, which is pre-scientific, which mankind possesses, and which is the basis for a further rational investigation in our highest branch of metaphysics, namely, philosophy of God. Gilson writes that “there is a sort of spontaneous inference, wholly untechnical but entirely conscious of its own meaning, in virtue of which every man finds himself raised to the notion of a transcendent Being by the mere sight of nature in its awesome majesty. In a fragment from one of his lost works, Aristotle himself observes that men have derived their notion of God from two sources, their own souls and the orderly motion of the stars. However this may be, the fact itself is beyond doubt, and human philosophies are belatedly discovering the notion of God…mankind does have a certain notion of God; for centuries after centuries men without any intellectual culture have obscurely but powerfully felt convinced that the name God points out an actually existing being, and even today, countless human beings are still reaching the same conviction and forming the same belief on the sole strength of their personal experience.”[35]


We see the evidence all throughout history of men coming to the spontaneous conclusion of the existence of a transcendent Being. Such a spontaneous knowledge is not to be taken lightly; in fact, it constitutes the verification of the correctness of a particular metaphysics. Philosophy works upon the certainties of common sense,[36] and a mark of an erroneous philosophy lies in its distancing itself from these first certainties. What philosophy does to man’s pre-scientific, spontaneous certainty of God’s existence is to perfect it, give it greater precision, and to render it more explicit. It should be noted that the spontaneous knowledge of God’s existence is not immediate but rather mediate and discursive, though not being a scientific demonstration in the strict sense proper to philosophy.


12. God’s Existence is Not Self-Evident to Us


That God exists is self-evident in itself, but is not self-evident to the human mind in this life. Thus, a demonstration of His existence is needed departing from the things that are more known to us, namely, His effects. St. Thomas writes: “A thing can be self-evident in either of two ways: on the one hand, self-evident in itself, though not to us; on the other, self-evident in itself, and to us. A proposition is self-evident because the predicate is included in the essence of the subject, as ‘Man is an animal,’ for animal is contained in the essence of man. If, therefore the essence of the predicate and subject be known to all, the proposition will be self-evident to all; as is clear with regard to the first principles of demonstration, the terms of which are common things that no one is ignorant of, such as being and non-being, whole and part, and such like. If, however, there are some to whom the essence of the predicate and subject is unknown, the proposition will be self-evident in itself, but not to those who do not know the meaning of the predicate and subject of the proposition. Therefore, it happens, as Boethius says (Hebdom., the title of which is: ‘Whether all that is, is good’), ‘that there are some mental concepts self-evident only to the learned, as that incorporeal substances are not in space.’ Therefore I say that this proposition, ‘God exists,’ of itself is self-evident, for the predicate is the same as the subject, because God is His own existence as will be hereafter shown (q. 3, a. 4). Now because we do not know the essence of God, the proposition is not self-evident to us; but needs to be demonstrated by things that are more known to us, though less known in their nature – namely, by effects.”[37]


The fact that there are atheists who deny the existence of God shows that His existence is not self-evident to us, for if His existence were naturally implanted in all such an erroneous position (the negation of God’s existence) would not be possible. Why then does the history of philosophical speculation reveal not a few thinkers maintaining the self-evidence of God’s existence to the human mind? One main reason is that they most probably grew up in a religious environment where the notion of God had been instilled in them from the earliest age by means of catechism and preaching. They later on came to the conclusion that the notion of God that they had was somehow innate in them from the beginning. Our religious upbringing may indeed account for the fact that the notion of God that we possess appears to us to be innate; however, it is precisely because of this reason that His existence stands in need of being rationally demonstrated. 









1. Definition of Agnosticism


Agnosticism,[38] a term first proposed in its modern sense by Thomas H. Huxley (1825-1895) in 1869, is etymologically derived from the Greek word agnostikos which means not knowing, ignorant. It is the philosophical doctrine which professes that the human mind is incapable of reaching a knowledge of anything immaterial (in particular, any knowledge regarding the existence, nature and attributes of God). Agnosticism is different from atheism. The agnostic does not explicitly negate the existence of God, as does the atheist. The agnostic position is that the human mind, restricted to the level of sensible phenomena, simply cannot rationally demonstrate the existence of God by means of speculative reason. Many agnostics deny that they are atheists. Kant, for example, retains that, although man cannot demonstrate God’s existence through pure reason, He, nevertheless, is a postulate of practical reason. The modernists or syncretists claim that, though God’s existence cannot be rationally demonstrated, one can instead arrive at His existence by means of religious sentiment.


2. Forms of Agnosticism


There are two main forms of agnosticism: 1. Agnosticism of unbelief or skeptical agnosticism ; and 2. Agnosticism of belief or dogmatic agnosticism.


1. Agnosticism of Unbelief or Skeptical Agnosticism. The skeptical agnostic holds that one simply cannot know if God exists or not. This is so because it is simply beyond man’s cognitive capacity (which is restricted to sensible phenomena) to give an answer to the question as to whether or not there corresponds in extra-subjective reality anything which resembles the common notion we have concerning God. The skeptical agnostic does not deny that there may in fact exist something in reality corresponding to the common notion that we have of God, but what he indeed stubbornly affirms is that we can never know if this reality exists as fact, since all we know are material-sensible phenomena. Though these thinkers profess agnosticism instead of atheism their agnosticism is evidently one of unbelief in that they refuse to hold the existence of this unknowable reality on faith, religious sentiment, feeling or any other extrinsic reason.


2. Agnosticism of Belief or Dogmatic Agnosticism. The dogmatic agnostic professes to know nothing concerning the real existence and nature of God but maintains that, to the common notion that we have of God, there does in fact exist a corresponding reality, but the existence of this reality is held on purely subjective or dogmatic grounds. According to the dogmatic agnostic doctrine the existence of God can never be rationally demonstrated by speculative reason for any such argument would reveal something about the very nature of God, whereas such a nature is simply unknowable by means of human reason. In spite of this difficulty, the dogmatic agnostic blindly asserts the existence of God for some non-rational motive, whether it be a need, sentiment, feeling, etc. While the radical empiricist David Hume belongs to the category of skeptical agnostic the transcendental idealist Immanuel Kant professes a dogmatic agnosticism.  


3. The Agnosticism of Hume


Hume’s Theory of Knowledge. With the empiricist gnoseology of David Hume[39] (1711-1776) we find human knowledge restricted to the level of the senses. For Hume, all man’s knowledge consists of perceptions, which can either be strong (impressions) or weak (“ideas”).[40] All these impressions and ideas have their origin in sense experience. Impressions, for him, are very vivid and immediate, the first products of the mind. Ideas, on the other hand, would be of a derivative and inferred character, mere reproductions or copies of those original impressions or elaborations of them, and can be manipulated and ordered among themselves by the imagination, according to the “law of association” (resemblance, contiguity in time and place, and causality). These laws of association of ideas are purely psychological laws.


For Hume there are no universal concepts, only general ideas, “ideas” being simply blurred images expressing a resemblance common to a collection of particular sense perceptions. Therefore, all the contents of our experience must be particular and contingent, the consequence being that we would be unable to have a basis at all for any universal and necessary knowledge.


The core of Humean empiricist epistemology is that what we know are our perceptions, not external, extra-mental reality. What the human mind knows is not something existing outside consciousness, but merely facts of consciousness. What is known are not real things but only our perceptions which are subjective modifications produced in us by sensible experience. Hume writes: “Now since nothing is ever present to the mind but perceptions, and since all ideas are derived from something antecedently present to the mind, it follows that it is impossible for us so much as to conceive or form an idea of anything specifically different from ideas and impressions. Let us fix our attention out of ourselves as much as possible; let us chase our imagination to the heavens, or to the utmost limits of the universe; we never really advance a step beyond ourselves, nor can we conceive any kind of existence, but those perceptions which have appeared in that narrow compass. This is the universe of the imagination, nor have we any idea but what is there produced.”[41]


Hume’s Attack on the Principle of Causality. Then comes the attack on the objective validity of the principle of causality[42]: Hume denies the objective, universal and necessary validity of this principle. It is simply not objectively, universally, and necessarily true, he argues, that every effect has a cause, since in human perception cause and effect are in fact two phenomena with two separate existences, one following after the other. We cannot therefore conclude that the latter phenomena is due to the causality of the former just because it comes after it. The only conclusion that we can come up with is that, owing to the laws of the association of ideas,[43] it is believed (felt) that a certain phenomenon is caused by another, because, by habit, we have grown accustomed to believe it. For him, causality does not truly occur in extra-mental reality but is rather a subjective phenomenal complex idea, a creation of the human mind. With this doctrine Hume dismisses the traditional a posteriori demonstrations of the existence of God as being devoid of demonstrative capacity.[44]    

So, in Hume’s system we simply do not have a perception of a cause. All that is perceived, experienced, are successive sensations. There is no intrinsic connection between these sensations nor any necessity for such a connection. So, what is this principle of causality that the scholastics boast about? Simply a subjective product of habit. We have gotten so used to seeing fire burn that, by habit, we say that fire causes the burning; but since Hume states that we cannot sense this causing, this causing can be but a subjective product of the imagination.


The Consequences of Hume’s Radical Empiricism: Agnosticism. There is nothing we can know beyond our sense perceptions, says Hume, whether noumena in the world or God. All we can do is believe as our imagination fancies. We are unable to prove the existence of God by means of the metaphysical principle of causality for causality has no objective value. With the empiricist doctrine of the inability of the mind to ascend from the level of experience to the establishment of the existence of a cause that exists and operates on a level of reality above the level of the senses, Hume has wiped out (from his own skeptical mind) metaphysics and, with it, philosophy of God, the highest branch of metaphysics. For Hume, one cannot rationally demonstrate the existence of God for there is no power of insight and understanding in man different in kind from the bodily senses. Such is Humean skeptical empiricist agnosticism.


Hume and Religion. How then does he explain the fact that so many people have a notion of a Supreme Being, whom they do not hesitate to call God? His answer: that too is a product of the imagination, something concocted out of many varied sense impressions. He does not deny its psychological value and use, as does the psychological utility of many of our other products of the imagination. But the simple fact is that the real existence or non-existence of God is outside the mind’s power to know.


Hume did not want to be branded an atheist and, at times, admitted religion’s utility and practical value for society. Nevertheless, his writings reveal his philosophical views that describes supernatural Christian religion as nothing but a creation of man’s fertile imagination, and that even a deistic “illuminist” religion founded on the rational metaphysical principles of philosophy of God had no experiential or rational foundation. All religions are of equal value for they all lack any empirical basis. Religious beliefs and their habits of association are explained through instinct and in the habits of association which arise from it. A religion may be permitted if it has practical utility: as a source of consolation, altruism, fraternity, etc. Naturally, the permitted religions should be devoid of all unreasonable fictions of the imagination, such as belief in mysteries and miracles; the only useful “religion,” according to Hume, would be a purely earth-bound social work and philanthropy wholly devoid of the supernatural.[45] 


A General Critique of Hume’s Philosophy. A detailed refutation of Hume’s skeptical empiricism properly belongs to the field of epistemology (philosophy of knowledge), not natural theology. His main problem lies with his reduction of human knowledge to the level of the senses (sensism), thus denying that man has the power of intellectual understanding (including the power of abstraction).[46] For Hume, sense experience was the ultimate source of valid human knowledge. Thrown out together with metaphysics are substance and causality. Having done this he remained agnostic concerning God’s existence, a natural consequence of his sensism. Criticizing Hume’s radical empiricism, Celestine Bittle notes a number of things: “First, Hume’s explanation of ideas as faint images of sense-impressions is totally inadequate. Since both are of a sensory character, they are concrete and individualized. Our ideas, however, are abstract and universal. There is, as we have shown, a radical difference between ‘sensations’ and ‘images’ on the one hand and ‘intellectual ideas’ on the other. To ignore or deny these differences is a serious error. Second, Hume’s explanation of universal ideas is totally inadequate. The process of forming universal ideas is not at all the way Hume pictures it. We acquire them by a process of abstraction, taking the objective features common to a number of individuals and then generalizing the resultant idea so that it applies to the whole class and to every member of the class. It is not a question of merely labeling objects with a common name. Intellectual insight into the nature of these objective features, not ‘custom’ or habit, enables us to group them together into a class. Third, Hume’s explanation of the origin and nature of the necessarily and universally true axioms and principles, such as the principle of causality and the principle of non-contradiction, is totally inadequate. He explains their necessity and universality through association. Now, the laws of association are purely subjective laws with a purely subjective result. Consequently, the ‘necessity’ which we experience relative to the logical connection between subject and predicate in these principles would not be due to anything coming from the reality represented in these judgments, but solely to the associative force existing in the mind. It is a subjective and psychological, not an objective and ontological, necessity. The mind does not judge these principles to be true because it sees they cannot be otherwise; it cannot see them to be otherwise because the mind in its present constitution must judge them to be true. So far as objective reality is concerned, 2 + 2 might equal 3 or 5 or any other number; and there might be a cause without an effect, or an effect without a cause. If Hume’s contention were correct, that our observation of ‘invariable sequence’ is the reason for assuming an antecedent event to be the ‘cause’ of the subsequent event, then we should perforce experience the same psychological necessity of judgment in all cases where we notice an invariable sequence in successive events. Experience, however, contradicts this view. For instance, day follows night in an invariable sequence; but nobody would dream of asserting that the night is the ‘cause’ of the day. In an automobile factory one car follows the other on the belt line in invariable sequence; but this association does not compel us to think that the preceding car is the ‘cause’ of the one following. Reversely, when an explosion occurs but once in our experience, we search for the ‘cause’ of this ‘effect’ and are convinced there must be a cause present; here, however, there can be no question of an ‘invariable sequence’ of events. Fourth, Hume’s theory, if accepted as true, must destroy all scientific knowledge. The very foundation of science lies in the principles of non-contradiction, sufficient reason, and causality. If these principles are valid only for our mind and do not apply with inviolable necessity to physical objects in nature, the scientist has no means of knowing whether his conclusions are objectively valid. His knowledge is nothing but a purely mental construction which may or may not agree with extra-mental reality. But science treats of physical systems and their operations, not of mental constructions. Since, according to Hume, we can know nothing but our internal states of consciousness, we could never discover whether the external world and other minds exist at all; driven to its logical conclusions, such a theory can end only in solipsism or in skepticism.”[47]   


4. The Agnosticism of Kant


Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” and the “Copernican Revolution.” In his Critique of Pure Reason, the German transcendental idealist Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)[48] sought out the value of the human sciences, especially that of metaphysics. In order to do so he believed that it was necessary to inquire into the origins of scientific knowledge, searching the reason why such knowledge is formed in us. The point of departure of his inquiry would be the scientific judgments of mathematics, physics, and first principles such as the principle of causality, foundation of scientific knowledge. He asks: How are such universal and necessary judgments possible? There were two historical solutions: the first was the rationalist claim that science has a totally a priori origin in us through a pure analysis of one or more primitive concepts. Such scientific judgments were called analytic judgments. The second solution was the empiricist claim that science has its absolute origin from sensible experience through a posteriori synthetic judgments. But Kant was unconvinced by these explanations since he observed that scientific judgments had the following essential characteristics: universality-necessity and increment of new knowledge. In the case of the rationalist claim, yes, universality and necessity were explained but not increment of new knowledge. As to the empiricist claim, yes, increment of new knowledge was accounted for but not universality and necessity since all that comes from sense experience can only be particular and contingent. What was needed was a union between the necessity and universality of the analytic judgments of the rationalists and the increase of new knowledge provided by the synthetic a posteriori judgments of the empiricists.


Kant’s solution was that man obtains scientific knowledge through synthetic a priori judgments. Scientific judgments have their origin by way of synthesis between something caused in us by something external to us and subjective elements which the mind possesses by force of its very constitution. He believed that the ultimate root of the errors of the rationalists and the empiricists was their erroneous conception of human knowledge. The rationalists claimed that all knowledge comes from the subject, while the empiricists held that all knowledge is derived from the object. Because of these errors, Kant claimed that scientific knowledge would be impossible because the object would only supply an increment of new knowledge and the subject would give only universality-necessity. Knowledge, for him, is not the fruit of the subject solely or of the object solely, but rather, it is a synthesis of the combined action of subject and object: the subject procures the form and the object the matter. Knowledge would be the result of an a priori element (the subject) and an a posteriori element (the object). The resulting judgments would not just be only analytic or only synthetic but would be synthetic a priori. Synthetic a priori judgments would be a sufficient guarantee for the validity of the sciences which acquires increment of new knowledge from the object and universality-necessity from the subject.   


This new relationship between subject and object in the knowing process is Kant’s Copernican Revolution. Realism claims that man can really know extra-mental things, obtaining immaterial ideas (which are universal) by abstraction from sense experience. It believes that it is the mind that revolves around things in the extra-mental universe. Truth would mean the conformity (adequation) of our minds or judgments to real things. Kant rejects this realism as illusory and naïve. His claim is that it is not the mind that revolves around the thing but rather the thing that revolves around the mind. “It has hitherto been assumed that our cognition must conform to the objects; but all attempts to ascertain anything about these objects a priori, by means of conceptions, and thus to extend the range of our knowledge, have been rendered abortive by this assumption. Let us then make the experiment whether we may not be more successful in metaphysics, if we assume that the objects must conform to our cognition. This appears, at all events, to accord better with the possibility of our gaining the end we have in view, that is to say, of arriving at the cognition of objects a priori, of determining something with respect to these objects, before they are given to us.”[49] “According to Kant, it is the intellect which imposes its conditions upon sense phenomena and not vice versa. This is precisely the Copernican revolution which Kant carried out: instead of the subject attending to objects, it is the objects which depend on the thinking ego. In broader terms, we are facing a transfer of the foundation from being to thought: now it is thought which founds being…For Kant, nature is no more than a set of formalized phenomena whose laws are not given by the structure of things as they are in themselves, but rather are prescribed to nature by the intellect. It is we, says Kant, who introduce order and regularity into natural phenomena, and we would not be able to discover this order and regularity if it had not originally been placed there by the nature of our minds.”[50]   


To answer the basic question, “What can I know with scientific certitude?,” Kant wrote The Critique of Pure Reason. In this work he examines in a critical way the very structure of human reason, assigning to man a threefold knowing power: sensibility, intellect and reason. Out of the threefold knowing power of man arises, respectively, the three parts of the Critique: the transcendental esthetic, the transcendental analytic, and the transcendental dialectic.


The Transcendental Esthetic. Kant calls “transcendental” every knowledge that has something to do with the way the human mind knows objects. “Transcendent” is that which goes beyond all experience. The transcendental esthetic’s scope is to examine how mathematics and geometry are possible. He retains that these sciences are possible because the mind is endowed with two a priori forms that have the characteristics of universality and intuitivity: space and time. Space and time are not, for him, rooted in extra-mental reality, but are rather a priori forms of the human mind.[51] Kant writes: “In a phenomenon I call that which corresponds to the sensation its matter; but that which causes the manifold matter of the phenomenon to be perceived as arranged in a certain order, I call its form. Now it is clear that it cannot be sensation again through which sensations are arranged and placed in certain forms. The matter only for all phenomena is given us a posteriori; but their form must be ready for them in the mind (Gemüth) a priori, and must therefore be capable of being considered as separate from all sensations…In the course of this investigation it will appear that there are, as principles of a priori knowledge, two pure forms of sensuous intuition (Anschauung), namely, space and time.”[52] Bittle observes that “bearing in mind Kant’s axiom that nothing necessary and universal can be derived from experience, but must proceed exclusively and a priori from the mind itself, Kant finds that sense-perception contains a double element: the ‘manifold’ of sense impressions, which is derived from experience, and ‘space’ and ‘time,’ which are pure forms of the mind. External to the mind there exists a world of things-in-themselves (Dinge-an-sich) or noumena; they are real physical beings. These make impressions on the sense-faculty, and the faculty responds with an ‘intuition’ or perception. These impressions are unarranged, chaotic. This chaotic ‘manifold’ must be arranged in a certain order, and this is done by means of the two sense forms ‘space’ and ‘time.’ Space and time are in no way attributes of the things-in-themselves,[53] but merely ‘cause the manifold matter of the phenomenon to be perceived as arranged in a certain order,’ i.e., as arranged in the order of ‘space’ or in the order of ‘time.’ Since all intuitions or perceptions appear as arranged in a spatial and temporal order, ‘space’ and ‘time’ are universal and necessary conditions of sense-perception and as such must exist a priori in the mind. They are like mental molds into which the unarranged raw materials of sense are poured, so that, after the molding process of cognition is completed, all phenomena appear arranged and molded in ‘space’ and ‘time.’ The objects themselves are, so far as we know, spaceless and timeless.”[54]


In the transcendental esthetic, Llano observes that Kant “develops a theory of sensation and of the phenomena of experience understood as the indeterminate object of an empirical intuition. The matter of the phenomenon is sensation, the subjective reaction of consciousness to having the senses affected. The matter of phenomena is given to us a posteriori since it comes from exterior reality, whose existence Kant must admit, in some way, as the origin of the empirical data passively received by our senses. The primal characteristic of empirical data is their multiplicity, because they come from multiple stimuli. In contrast, the forms of phenomena – space and time – are the unifying and ordering structures of empirical intuitions. Space and time are conditions for the possibility of empirical phenomena. These a priori or pure forms are imposed upon phenomena by the nature of our senses: space is the form of the intuitions of the external senses and time is the form of the intuitions of the internal senses. As forms of all phenomena, space and time are universal and necessary; thus scientific (synthetic a priori) judgments are possible in geometry (constructed upon the pure spatial form) and in arithmetic (built upon pure temporal structures).”[55]


The only form of intuition that man is endowed with, says Kant, is sensible intuition. Thus the mind can reach only phenomena (things which appear to us) and not noumena (things-in-themselves). We only know things as they appear to the human mind and not extra-mental reality as it is in itself. In The Critique of Pure Reason and in the Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics Kant affirms the existence of noumena (things-in-themselves) that are the cause of the phenomena, but as to what noumena are in themselves, we simply do not know.[56] Bittle explains Kantian noumenal agnosticism, writing: “Do we really perceive external objects, so that the objects of sense actually exist, as we perceive them, outside our person? We do not. The real objects of the physical world can never be perceived; we know absolutely nothing about the noumena or things-in-themselves: ‘All our intuition is nothing but the representation of phenomena…Nothing which is seen in space is a thing-in-itself, nor space a form of things supposed to belong to them by themselves, but objects by themselves are not known by us at all, and that what we call external objects are nothing but representations of our senses (phenomena).’[57] All we can know, then, are phenomena or appearances, and these are always subjective in character, without any resemblance to the things-in-themselves. Even man’s perception of his own body is thus seen to be only ‘phenomenal’; whether any extra-mental reality corresponds to what he perceives to be his ‘body,’ man can never know. Kant admits the existence of things-in-themselves as the exciting cause of sense-perception on the grounds of inference; but they remain an unknown and unknowable X…Since all our knowledge in sense-perception is limited to intra-subjective phenomena, he is a transcendental idealist. He failed to overcome the Cartesian antithesis between mind and matter; the mind remains imprisoned in its conscious states and can know nothing of the external world and non-ego objects.”[58]          


The Transcendental Analytic. Just as phenomena stir the sensibility to act, so the finished products of sensation stir the next knowing power, the intellect, to act. The intellect takes in these finished products of sensation, which are empirical intuitions, and conforms them to its shape, its inborn a priori forms. These forms are four sets of triple judgments called the twelve categories. These categories are like molds into which the molten metal of empirical intuitions is poured, and the resulting piece of knowledge is, in each case, a judgment. The four master categories (each of which has three branches) are: quantity, quality, relation, and modality. Thus the judgment “A comes from B as effect from cause” is not the objective knowing by the human mind of a state of fact, as it is in realism; rather, it is merely the result of the action of the intellect putting the empirical intuitions of A and B through the mold or category of relation, and through that branch of relation called cause-effect. Causality is not, for Kant, something that occurs in extra-mental reality between things but is rather subjective and immanent to human consciousness.  


The Transcendental Dialectic. In this final part of The Critique of Pure Reason Kant analyzes the function of “reason” (understood as a faculty that inquires into the unconditioned) so as to ascertain if metaphysics as a legitimate science is possible. The “ideas” of reason are three in number: 1. the soul, which is the unconditioned lying at the foundation of psychical phenomena; 2. the world or cosmos, which is the unconditioned lying at the foundation of physical phenomena, and 3. God, the unconditioned lying at the foundation of all reality. Kantian transcendental idealism retains that metaphysics arises from a legitimate exigency but nevertheless concludes that it is impossible for us to demonstrate the objective noumenal value of these ideas of reason. The idea of soul can only be the result of paralogisms, the idea of cosmos or world falls into a pit of antinomies, and the idea of God is grounded upon three proofs which are all invalid since they are all reducible to the erroneous ontological argument. Thus, the three ideas of reason possess only a regulative use, indicating a point of problematic convergence, and not a constitutive use as they do not in any way represent objects to us. Regarding the existence of God Kant was an agnostic, a logical consequence of his transcendental idealist gnoseological immanentism where one is trapped in appearances within human consciousness and incapable of transcending to extra-mental reality and knowing things-in-themselves.  


A Critique of Kant’s Transcendental Idealism. Kant’s philosophical system is plagued with numerous contradictions and errors. For one thing, he affirmed the existence of the noumenon but added that it was impossible to know anything about it. But if we know that it exists then Kant’s claim that we know nothing of the thing-in-itself (noumenon) is not true. He also claimed that the noumenal world is a chaotic mass. It is the mind that eventually structures the object and not the mind conforming to the laws of extra-mental reality. But how can we know that the noumenal world is a chaotic mass since the Kantian claim is that we can know nothing of the thing-in-itself (the noumenon)? Again, he is inconsistent.


Kant claimed that existing extra-mental things-in-themselves (noumena) are the causes of the phenomena that appear to us. Phenomena would be effects of their causes which are noumena.[59] In the Prolegomena we read that things-in-themselves are unknowable as they are in themselves but that “we know them through the representations which their influence on our sensibility procures for us.”[60] But this is making use of the objective metaphysical principle of causality and acknowledging causality in the extra-mental world. This is a plain violation of his philosophical system that claims that causality is not something of the extra-mental real world but rather something rooted in the very structure of the human mind as a category.[61] In order to rectify this blatant error Kant revised his doctrine on the noumenon in the second edition of The Critique of Pure Reason which came out in 1787.[62] His second new doctrine claimed that the noumenon should not be thought of as an extra-mental thing existing in reality but merely as a limiting concept.[63] In its negative sense, which should be adopted, the noumenon is that which is not the object of sense intuition.[64] What does he do here? He denies the objectivity of the thing-in-itself thus correcting his own violation of his own principle of causality immanent to the human mind. But though he gives us a new doctrine on the noumenon, even now affirming that we do not know if it exists or not, there are still many parts of his work in his critical period that clearly affirm the existence of noumena and their being the causes of phenomena, as B 34 of the second edition of The Critique of Pure Reason and Prologue 13, remark 2 of the Prolegomena attest to. Kant could not, even with his new doctrine of the noumenon, free himself from contradictions in his philosophical system.      


It is not true, as Kant claims, that man is endowed only with sense intuition. We are endowed with intellectual intuition as, for example, when we know ourselves. And to maintain that the knowledge of mathematics and geometry is due solely to sense intuition is palpable nonsense.


Bittle lists a host of other problems with Kantian transcendental idealism: “Kant’s theory is contrary to the science of psychology. He maintains that ‘space’ and ‘time’ are subjective ‘forms’ of the mind, given prior to all experience. The findings of psychology are definitely opposed to this claim. Sensory experience contributes its share to our perception of ‘space’ and ‘time,’ as experimental psychology has definitively established. We acquire our knowledge of space and time from a perception of objects which are larger or smaller and which are at rest or in motion. Persons suffering from a congenital cataract have no antecedent knowledge of visual space; after a successful operation, they must acquire knowledge of space through experience and perception. If the subjective mental form of ‘space’ were, as Kant claims, a necessary condition for perception, making the perception of phenomena possible, then there seems to be no valid reason why the mind cannot impose the form of ‘visual space’ upon the incoming impressions, even though a person be congenitally blind. The evidence, however, points clearly to the fact that the knowledge of space on the part of the mind is conditioned by the perception of objects, and not that the perception of space is conditioned by some a priori form present in the mind antecedent to experience. But if ‘space’ is an attribute of bodies, then so is ‘time,’ because both are on a par in this respect.”[65] 


“Kant’s theory is contrary to the fundamental principles of the physical sciences. Kant evolved his theory for the expressed purpose of revindicating scientific knowledge and freeing it from the bane of Hume’s skepticism. He failed. Science treats of the physical objects of the extra-mental world and not of mental constructions; Kant’s world, however, is a world of phenomena, and these phenomena are mental constructions which give us no insight whatever into the nature and reality of things as they are in themselves. According to Kant’s conclusions, the physical, noumenal world is unknown and unknowable. Science is convinced that it contacts and knows real things outside the mind. Science is based on the objective validity of the principle of cause and effect operating between physical objects and physical agencies; according to Kant, this principle is an empty a priori form merely regulating our judgments and applying only to phenomena. The laws which science establishes are considered by scientists to be real laws operating in physical bodies independent of our thinking; according to Kant, these laws merely relate to phenomena within the mind and not to nature at all. Kant states: ‘It sounds no doubt very strange and absurd that nature should have to conform to our subjective ground of apperception, nay, be dependent on it, with respect to her laws. But if we consider that what we call nature is nothing but a whole (Inbegriff) of phenomena, not a thing by itself, we shall no longer be surprised.’[66] We are indeed surprised that Kant would accept this conclusion of this theory rather than see therein the utter fallaciousness of the theory itself which could consistently lead to such a ‘very strange and absurd’ conclusion. That such a conclusion destroys the validity of science in its very foundations, must be obvious.”[67]


“Kant’s theory destroys the foundation of all intellectual knowledge. Ideas and judgments are supposed to reflect and represent reality; they are supposed to tell us ‘what things are.’ Truth and error reside in the judgment. In forming judgments we first understand the contents of ideas and then have an intellectual insight into the relation existing between the subject-idea and the predicate-idea. According to Kant, we do not make judgments because we perceive the objective relation of the subject-idea and the predicate-idea, but because a blind, subjectively necessitating law of our mental constitution draws certain sense-intuitions under certain intellectually empty categories prior to our thinking, and we do not know why these particular categories, rather than others, were imposed by the mind on these sense-intuitions. Our ‘knowledge’ is as blind as the law that produces it. Intellectual knowledge is thus utterly valueless, because it gives us no insight into the nature of the reality our ideas and judgments are supposed to represent.”[68]


Kant claimed that nothing universal can come from experience. This is false since the universal can come from experience by way of the realist doctrine of abstraction.[69]


Kant on the Existence of God. Regarding the question of the capacity of man’s reason to demonstrate the existence of God Kant replies that, since all our experience is limited to what is in our sensibility and if the categories of the human understanding can operate only on the objects given to our understanding in and through the forms of sensibility, then all theoretical knowledge of God is rendered impossible. God, who is supra-sensible, is not given in the mass of sense impressions that we receive and is incapable of being an object of theoretical knowledge to the human mind. He “applies to God the conditions required of all objects of experience and hence of all knowable realities. The judgments constitutive of philosophical knowledge are only possible ‘when we relate the formal conditions of a priori intuition, the synthesis of imagination and the necessary unity of this synthesis in a transcendental apperception, to a possible empirical knowledge in general.’[70] Those things alone are knowable which are temporal, subject to some finite, concrete pattern of imagination, included within the order of appearances, and given through empirical, sensuous intuition. On all four counts, God (as conceived by Western theists) lies patently outside the scope of speculative knowledge. He is eternal and not temporal; His being is infinite and unimaginable; He is not an appearance but the supreme intelligible reality or thing-in-itself; He lies beyond all sensuous intuition, and man is endowed with no intellectual intuition for grasping His intelligible reality. Not only His existence but also His nature and causal relation with the world remain intrinsically impenetrable to our speculative gaze. Natural theology has no possibility of providing us with true knowledge about God and should be abandoned.”[71]


Kant could not formulate a valid demonstration of the existence of God because of his negation of abstraction, the metaphysical value of our primary concepts in favor of a reduction of knowledge to what appears to the senses, and his inevitable negation of the objective validity of the principle of causality, which is at the foundation of every valid a posteriori demonstration of God’s existence. All this because of his acceptance of sensism and his absolutization of Newtonian physics that would replace metaphysics as first philosophy. Kant criticizes the a posteriori demonstrations of the existence of God, namely, the cosmological and teleological arguments as formulated by certain rationalists, and concludes that they are but variants of the invalid ontological argument and should be rejected. But these are not the a posteriori demonstrations of St. Thomas (in particular, the third and fifth ways), which are by no means reducible to the ontological argument, a type of argumentation which Aquinas himself refutes many times. Rather, the Thomistic five ways are valid effect to cause quia demonstrations that have as their starting points extra-mental objects given in sensible experience, which are then interpreted metaphysically. Using the objective metaphysical principle of causality and the impossibility of infinite regress in a per se series of subordinated efficient causes, one successfully arrives at God. From a real starting point one concludes to a real Supreme Being. There is no question here of an illegitimate transfer from the logical order to the existential order of being (which the ontological argument does). Why then does Kant erroneously dismiss all possible a posteriori arguments for God’s existence? It is because he is operating within the framework of his immanentist theory of experience and theory of existence, which excludes a realist point of departure, as Collins explains: “The Kantian explanation of the three stages in any a posteriori demonstration of God’s existence rests upon his theory of experience and his conception of existence. The steps in the process impose themselves upon human intelligence not through any necessity inherent in the human intellect itself or in God’s own being but only on condition that the intellect is operating within the framework of the Kantian view of experience and existence. What has been described, then, is the way an a posteriori inference to God must adapt itself to the exigencies of this view, not the way in which such an inference must always develop. Thus the analysis has a sharply limited scope. Kant’s four empirical criteria (temporality, synthesis in imagination, limitation to appearances, and presence through sensuous intuition) are determinants of the objects studied in classical physics. It does not follow that they are the defining marks which characterize everything we can either know experientially or infer from experience. They constitute the empirical principle operative within Newtonian physics, but they are not identical with the experiential principle operative within our ordinary acquaintance with the existing world and our metaphysical analysis of this world. Human experience and its existentially based causal inferences are not restricted to the factors required for the construction of the physical object of Newtonian mechanics. Kant’s fourfold empirical principle is a univocal rule for testing the validity of scientific reasoning. By its nature, it can extend only to objects which already belong to the world of the physicist’s investigation. Hence it cannot be used to answer the question of whether experience contains causal implications, leading to the existence of a being distinct from the world of physics. It can settle nothing about whether our inferences, which start with the sensible world, must also terminate with this world and its immanent formal conditions. Hence, Kant’s use of the empirical principle to rule out the a posteriori demonstration of God’s existence is unwarranted. Granted that the starting point is found in sensible things, it cannot be concluded, by the deductive application of such a principle, that these objects are the only things we can know from causal analysis of experience…It is because Kant failed to grasp the precise starting point of the realistic argument from changing and composite sensible existents that his account of the general procedure of a posteriori demonstration is inapplicable to the realistically ordered inference.”[72]                   


But it is true that man forms his notion of God and can ask a great many questions regarding a Supreme Being, the First Cause of all reality. How is this so? The reason for this, according to Kant, lies in the very structure of the human mind, for its categories of understanding (of cause, substance, etc.) enable the mind to posit questions about a first cause, a necessary substance, etc. But there can never be a real answer to these questions for here the mind’s categories are working without anything, without content. Now, categories can only work on content, and that content must come in and through the forms of sensibility. Content without form is unintelligible and, likewise, is form without content. Thus, questions regarding the existence, nature, attributes, etc., of God are, for him, empty questions, for it is simply impossible to provide an answer to them in terms of theoretical or speculative knowledge. Man can only speculate about, organize and make causal relations with objects of experience, and such objects are strictly limited, for speculative theoretical knowledge, to the phenomena given to the understanding through the a priori forms of sensibility. So, Kant rejects the existence of God as an object of speculative reason. Yet, he believes that His existence is a postulate of practical reason.                       


For Kant, God is postulated as something practically necessary to the carrying out of our moral obligations, so that we may be happy in the doing of our duty; He is a postulate of man’s practical reason, posited by the will of man, and held by a blind faith. God is not inferred by the practical reason, He is postulated. He answers a need. Did Kant believe in the extra-mental real existence of God, as postulated by practical reason? How could he possibly do so since his faith was blind. He could say that there was a God, or think there was a God, but the simple fact is that he truly did not know if there was a God. Is knowledge through faith possible? Yes in as much as faith is an act of the intellect moved to assent by the authority of another. We know, for example, that Julius Caesar was murdered by Brutus and his co-conspirators. This is not a postulate or an hypothesis but an historical fact. But we know this only on faith, our intellects being moved to assent by the authority of another (in this case written testimonies, historical documents, historians of eminent professional standing and competence). But this is not Kant’s faith in God for he postulates Him by a sheer act of the will, and hence he can never be sure whether there really is a God or not. His position is that of agnostic, and a dogmatic agnostic at that. So, what exactly is this “God” that he writes about in his critical period? A simple postulate of practical reason that does not transcend the domain of his own mind. Kant writes: “The subject of the categorical imperative…is God. That such a being exists cannot be denied but it cannot be affirmed that it exists outside of the man thinking according to reason.”[73] “There is a God in the moral practical reason, i.e., in the idea of the relation of men to right and duty. But not as a being outside of men.”[74] “The categorical imperative does not presuppose a highest command-giving substance that is outside of me but lies in my own reason.”[75] “The categorical imperative does not presuppose a highest commanding substance which would be outside of me but is a command or prohibition of my own reason.”[76] “God,” for him, is not the extra-mental reality of the Supreme Being, but a subjective certainty made up by the mind that serves or is useful towards man’s practical or moral life.


In the final position of Kant, as found in his Opus Postumum, we find a “God” reduced to the immanent self-legislating practical reason itself: “The concept of God is the idea of a moral being which as such is directing and commanding overall. This is not a hypothetical thing but pure practical reason itself.”[77] “The concept of such an essence (God) is not that of a substance, i.e., of a thing that exists independent of my thinking but the idea (self-creation) thing of thought ens rationis of a reason constituting itself as a thing of thought which produces a priori according to the principles of the transcendental philosophy synthetic propositions an an ideal from it…”[78] “God is the concept of a personality of a being of thought and ideal being which reason creates for itself.”[79] “The concept of God is the idea of a moral being which as such is directing and commanding overall. This is not a hypothetical thing but pure practical reason itself.”[80] The Kantian position on God is the bridge that links agnostic phenomenalism with the crypto-atheist pantheistic systems of absolute idealism, which in turn would pave the way for the openly atheistic philosophies of Feuerbach, Nietzsche, and Marx, the architects of the horrors of the twentieth century.  


5. Neo-Positivist Agnosticism


The neo-positivism of the Circle of Vienna,[81] basing itself on the principle of verification, had declared metaphysics and theology to be meaningless, reducing them to the level of irrational sentiment. For the neo-positivist or logical positivist, all philosophical problems must be resolved through a sole analysis of language. Linguistic analysis is identified as the proper task of philosophy; in fact, it is identified with philosophy itself. The only propositions that make sense are experimental, factual or scientific propositions. Thus, metaphysical propositions like “God exists”, as well as the propositions of theology, are deprived of content inasmuch as every content must be derived from empirical experience. Affirmations like “God is infinite,” “God is Goodness,” “God is Truth,” “The human soul is immortal” and “The rational soul is spiritual,” are, for the neo-positivist, nonsensical, that is, meaningless, for they fail the test of verifiability proposed by the principle of verification, which states that all meaningful propositions must be verifiable in empirical experience.


Neo-positivism or logical positivism is an attempt to establish the validity of what man knows by an analysis of what he says. Since man’s knowledge of reality is expressed in propositions, a linguistic analysis should reveal whether a given enunciation is meaningful or simply verbal manipulation. Neo-positivists agree that the Humean view of causality and empirical induction are givens, and that all philosophy is, in fact, logical analysis consisting in the analysis of the language which ordinary people speak. There is also a common point of agreement in the fact that such a linguistic verification eventually leads to the rejection of metaphysical propositions such as those that regard causality, substance, and so forth. Such metaphysical enunciations are to be declared meaningless, at least in their original intent. A certain proposition can only be sensical, and therefore “true,” if its elements, after a linguistic analysis, can be reduced either directly or indirectly to some sense experience or sense data. If this is not possible, then the proposition is rendered nonsensical or meaningless.


An example. What does the common expression “apples exist” mean? This philosophical system will answer that there are no such things in reality as “apples,” for this is simply a verbal constant applied to what is an almost unlimited number of sense impressions and sense references, organized and focused upon by the thinker. The logical positivist declares that there can be no such thing in reality as a substance “apple,” and since this is a fact, “apples” do not exist in noumenal reality. Locked up in an anthropocentric immanentism and empirical phenomenalism, it is not possible to apply the existential metaphysical word “exist” to “apples,” but only to the conglomeration of what is sensibly perceived when we see what we “call” an apple. Ideally, a proposition like “apples exist” would have to read: “there is something such that this something is an apple.” But can the expression “apples exist” have any meaning? Yes, for such an expression can be directly reduced to sense experience and sense data.


But what happens when logical positivism’s principle of verification is applied to the problem of the existence of God? To ask the question “Does God exist?” is to ask whether the expression “God exists” has any meaning; whether it is possible to reduce it, either directly or indirectly, to sense experience. The answer, says this system, is an obvious no, for it is impossible to have an experience of the verbal elements in any way; the proposition cannot be transcribed in terms of any known experience. Therefore, the expression “God exists” is meaningless; not true or false, but simply nonsensical, mere verbiage, for it fails to pass the test of verifiability posited by the principle of verification.


Critique of Neo-Positivism. Now, the only trouble with such a principle is that it fails to pass its own test: the principle of verification is itself unverifiable in sense experience, it being a metaphysical principle grasped in intellection (which is the domain of the abstract and universal; as one cannot bind the universal idea “justice” with a cotton rope, nor can one place the abstract idea “eagle” in a tin can, neither can we drop a principle in a goldfish bowl and have the satisfaction of looking at it).   









1. Definition of Pantheism


Pantheism (from the Greek pan, meaning all, and Theos, meaning God) is the philosophical doctrine that teaches the identity of God with either a part (partial pantheism) or the whole (total pantheism) of the world. It negates the absolute transcendence of the infinite God with respect to the finite world. Since God is basically reduced to the world, which is then divinized, pantheism is, in reality, nothing but a masked atheism (a “crypto,” that is, hidden, atheism).[82] Pantheism’s most famous exponents include the seventeenth century rationalist Spinoza and the nineteenth century absolute idealist Hegel (who are both classified as total pantheists).


2. The Pantheism of Spinoza


Spinoza’s Concept of Substance and God as “Causa Sui.” The rationalist Baruch Spinoza’s[83] (1632-1677) point of departure for his pantheist monism is the clear idea of substance. In fact, his entire philosophical system is based on his novel understanding of substance. Though he accepts the Cartesian definition of substance[84] as “a thing which exists in such a way that it does not need any other thing in order to exist,”[85] Spinoza rejects Descartes’ dualism of substance into res cogitans (thought) and res extensa (extension), which he thinks is inconsistent, since he interprets the Cartesian definition of substance in a wholly monistic and pantheistic sense: substance can only be One (wherein essence is identified with existence), and this One Substance can apply only to “God” (which he identifies with Nature). Spinoza’s own definition of substance is the following: “By substance I understand that which is in itself and is conceived through itself; in other words, that, the conception of which does not need the conception of another thing from which it must be formed.”[86] Now, the One Substance (which is the ultimate and supreme foundation, without need for having recourse to some ulterior foundation) is, for Spinoza, self-foundational, that is, “cause of himself”(causa sui). This reality, he says, cannot be conceived but as existing necessarily (God’s essence and existence necessarily are identical), and as Substance is “that which is in itself and is conceived through itself,” that is, that which in order to exist and in order to be conceived in the mind, has no need of any other previous thing, it coincides with causa sui. Spinozian substance is that which has no need of any other for it is the reason or cause of itself.   


Refutation of God as “Causa Sui.” Contrary to Spinoza’s position, God is not causa sui “cause of himself,” (or for Spinoza “cause of itself” since his “God” is an impersonal Substance) for no being is the efficient cause of itself. Every cause is prior to its effect. Now, if a thing were said to be the cause of its proper being, then it would be understood to be before having being (to exist before coming to be), which is impossible. If a being were the cause of itself it would be giving itself the act of being (esse) in order to be, implying that it would both be and not be at the same time, which is a flagrant violation of the first of all principles, namely, the principle of non-contradiction. Therefore, non est possibile quod aliquid sit causa efficiens sui ipsius. God is not causa sui; rather, He is the Uncaused Cause. How did Spinoza arrive at such an error? By “severing the principle of causality from experience and by considering it as an a priori principle which applies to being as such…The error of rationalism in this matter is that of identifying cause with ratio: ‘we must look for the cause, that is, the ratio of any given reality’[87] Applying this to God, Descartes asserted that since God is ens a se, He must be causa sui, in other words, since God’s being is explained from His essence (ratio sui) He can only be the cause of Himself (causa sui). Spinoza followed the same reasoning: ‘by causa sui, I mean that whose essence implies its existence.’[88] He went on to say that the divine essence is a prius that connotes existence. Therefore, God is not only ens a se; He is also the Cause of Himself.”[89]


The Attributes and Modes of the One Substance. Spinoza’s One Substance (the Spinozian “God”) is constituted of an infinity of attributes, of which only two are known to us, namely, thought (res cogitans) and extension (res extensa). He defines an attribute as “what the intellect perceives as constituting the essence of a substance.”[90] Men and things are but “modes” (accidents, accidental modifications) of the one Divine Substance (God or Nature).[91] According to the logic of this doctrine, human beings would be like the color brown (accident) on the hair of a horse (substance). 


“Deus Sive Natura”: God or Nature. For Spinoza, the world is not separate from God. For him, the world (Nature) is identified with God: Deus sive Natura (God or Nature). They are one and the same thing. God would be natura naturans (naturing nature), that is, infinite productive activity that produces the world. The world, instead, is natura naturata (natured nature), that is, the infinite product. “Spinoza, using the traditional word ‘substance’ with a new meaning, forthwith identifies this one infinite divine Substance with Nature, that is, with this visible cosmos. Hence the famous phrase Deus sive Natura, which recurs unforgettably in his writings in his careful and precise Latin. The Latin language has two words for ‘or’: vel, to state that the two terms are distinct; and sive, to state that they are identical. When Spinoza says ‘God or Nature,’ therefore, he means that they are one and the same. When he uses the word ‘God,’ as he does constantly, he does so deceptively, for he means ‘Nature.’ And when he uses the word ‘Nature’ he means what pantheism calls ‘the Divine.’ This confusion between existing in itself and existing of itself erases the distinction between the Creator and His creatures, who are indeed independently existing substantial realities because they have received from Him a participated form of existence. They exist in themselves as distinct substantial realities. But in Spinoza the doctrine of creation disappears…The doctrine of the eternity of matter follows as a quick and necessary corollary. And matter is introduced as an element of God: thus the very concept of God suffers a reduction to nothingness. For ‘God’ has become only a word. Pantheism is a disguise for atheism…”[92]


Spinoza’s Determinism or Negation of Free-Will. A consequence of his pantheism of the sole Divine Substance with innumerable modes (individual men and the things of the world) is his negation free will in men and the elimination of the problem of evil.[93] For Spinoza, people are but modes, emanations, accidents of the One Substance which is God identical with Nature (Deus sive Natura). Free-will is illusory; men live and breathe in a world of strict determinism. Men are insignificant parts of a larger whole, which is Nature. He says that men think that they are free because they are ignorant of the causes that determine their actions. One’s feeling that we are the causes of our free acts is only an illusion. He gives the example that if a stone were thrown up in the air and while falling were to become conscious it would imagine that it was flying of its own free will, but this would all be an illusion for other causes that determine the stone’s descent are at work. Though free will is an illusion, one can be “free,” he says, in the detached acknowledgement that everything in the end is determined or necessary: “Spinoza’s answer is that we shall be free by understanding and acceptance – understanding that we are part of a bigger whole and seeing that, as such, nothing that happens to any one of us could have fallen otherwise, given the state of the whole from which it arises. Once we see this clearly we shall stop fretting and we shall come free from the cycle of ego-centric, reactive transactions in which we are puppets on a string.”[94] “Spinoza holds that it is not by fighting what constitutes such determinism that human beings can find freedom, move from a state of bondage to one of freedom, but, paradoxical as it may sound, by accepting it. Such acceptance is achieved through detachment and self-knowledge…Given that the situation that faces him cannot be changed, how can he come out of such a state of bondage, emerge into a state of freedom? Spinoza’s answer is: by accepting his situation, by stopping to fight it. This involves detachment, which is not the same as indifference. The detachment in question is from the ego…if in my feelings I am at one with Nature then everything that happens will be what I am in agreement with, not because of what it is, but regardless of what it is. Paradoxically in yielding myself, in the sense of giving up my ego and becoming part of nature, I stop yielding to something external to myself…the will of Nature, as it were, is imposed on one because one separates oneself from it by rooting oneself in one’s ego. If one embraces it, makes the will of Nature one’s command, one will be set free.”[95]


Spinoza’s Way to Happiness. The object of Spinozian ethics is the intellectual love of God (or Nature). In elevating oneself from one’s passions through the life of reason and the intellectual contemplation of the One Substance (God or Nature) in its most profound aspect one obtains supreme happiness. It is a salvation by means of philosophical reasoning alone. “Taken together, the divine substance and its infinite number of attributes constitute natura naturans, or nature in its dynamic, productive aspect; the totality of modes constitutes natura naturata, or nature in its explicated and produced aspect. When Spinoza sets the goal of philosophy to be the discovery of the union of the mind with the whole of nature, he means the knowledge of the totality of nature as both naturans and naturata, for this constitutes the full reality of God. The mind which fails to see God or nature in this integral way is taking an imaginative and erroneous view of things. It thinks that individual things are contingent, temporal substances, that man is a free agent, and that he is subject to external forces and chance events. To take this imaginative view of nature is to be subject to the passions, to be the hapless victim of all the miseries of life. Liberation from the passions comes when we abandon this false outlook and embrace the true doctrine on substance-attributes-modes. The modal world is then seen in proper, eternal perspective, and a change takes place in the individual’s moral condition. He is no longer at the mercy of every external circumstance, for he has learned to regard natura naturata precisely as it stems from natura naturans and hence to see it in the true light of eternity. The total determination of the modal world and everything in it springs from its very definition as a reality caused by another. Far from leading to a depressing fatalism, however, this conception is the basis for whatever hope and enthusiasm may enliven the human breast. For this ‘other,’ this causal principle of the world of modes, is none other than the omnipotent and wholly immanent God. Hence the causal determination of things is really from within and is an expression of the divine rationality and power themselves. To pass from an imaginative to a true or eternal view of the universe is nothing more than to share in Spinoza’s own vision of God’s identity with the necessary unfolding of nature.”[96]


Refutation of Spinoza’s Pantheism. Contrary to Spinozian monism, God is not identified with Nature; He is infinitely distinct from the world, whose finite and imperfect beings merely participate in the act of being given to them by the Infinite Being (in whom act of being and essence are identified). To say, as Spinoza does, that there is only one Substance (Deus sive Natura), does violence to the testimony of common sense. Everyday experience shows that there are many things in the world, distinct from one another because of their specific essences, and those of the same form (apple, horse, cat, etc.) are many because their form is received in different parcels of matter (matter is the principle of individuation[97]). If the world were identical with God, the world would necessarily be a single being, for God is Himself supremely one, undivided and indivisible.[98] But such a position blatantly contradicts both the testimony of the senses and of reason. At the foundations of Spinoza’s substantialistic pantheism lie the erroneous notions of substance and subsistence (which he inherited from Descartes), and his failure to understand the real distinction of essentia and esse in creatures (finite beings, diverse in essence, only participate in esse; they merely have esse by participation). Charles Hart explains: “But whether a substance (an ens per se) is also an Ens a Se, that is, a being in whom existence is intrinsic and proper to its nature or essence, will be quite a distinct problem from that of the constitution or nature of substance as such. It will involve the question as to whether the substance or essence is in potency to an act of to be received into this substance (and thus at the same time a principle of limitation and therefore multiplication), or whether it is a substance or essence identical with its act of to be (and therefore not a principle of limitation and multiplication). The substances of our immediate experience are all of the former character, namely, principles of limitation. This accounts for their multitude. They are therefore finite predicamental substances. They also point to the necessity of inferring the existence of a substance which is not a principle of limitation but is identical with its act of to be and without which the limited substances could not exist, since they must receive their respective acts of to be which are not intrinsic to their substances, if they are to exist at all. This substance which does not limit its act of to be and whose existence must be inferred is therefore not only a being existing in itself (ens per se), but it is also a Being that exists of itself (Ens a Se). This however is not necessarily a note of substance as such.  Its demand for existence in itself may be met either by caused or uncaused being. Its substantiality as such does not include the question of the source of existence in itself. Every substance requires that it exist in itself. Only Infinite Substance also exists of itself; that is, only the Infinite Substance is necessarily Self-Existing. What makes all this clear and permits a sound doctrine of substance which involves no such error as the pantheism of Spinoza is the understanding of the real distinction of essence and act of being in all beings of our experience, that is, their participated character. It is this principle which permits Thomism to anticipate and refute the error of the substantialistic pantheism of Spinoza, in whose philosophy no such insight into the true nature of being is possible.”[99]         


3. The Pantheism of Hegel


Panlogicism. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel[100] (1770-1831) elaborated a panlogical, historicist, absolute idealism centered upon the Idea. He sought to rationally found reality understood as a logical construction of the world (panlogicism or the identification of logic and metaphysics). Hegel states: all that is rational is real and all that is real is rational. What cannot be rationally conceived, he says, does not exist, for it is thought that posits, creates, being. The object of Hegelian philosophy is the rational comprehension of the world and of history. History is characterized by splits, contradictions between being and non-being, infinite and finite, God and the world, and good and evil. Contradiction, he states, is at the heart of reality; against the realists he maintains that real being is self-contradictory. 


The Hegelian Dialectic. In his work Phenomenology of the Spirit, Hegel undertakes a methodical examination of the various manifestations of the spirit in its process of historical becoming. The fundamental principles of his idealist system are two-fold: in the logical sphere, we have the identity of the ideal with that of the real and the reality of contradiction; in the ontological sphere, one finds the principle of the absolute in which being is its becoming. Hegel’s method is the dialectic: the sole adequate method for the study of reality is that of speculative logic or the dialectic. It consists in three moments or phases: thesis (the moment or phase of being-in-itself), antithesis (the moment or phase of being-outside-itself), and synthesis (the moment or phase of reunion). “In thinking itself out, thought arrives at the main antithesis to itself, which is inert matter. At this point the Idea objectifies itself in matter, turns into its opposite, contradicts its unity and totality, fractions itself into this manifold world of experience, spreads itself out to become Nature. This, for Hegel, is the creation of the world. World evolution continues along dialectical lines. The first inkling of synthesis is life, in which thought reappears in matter, organizing plants purposively, manifesting conscious instinct in animals, and arriving at self-consciousness in man, the spearhead of the process. In man the dialectic continues through human history, in which man has passed to higher and higher forms of social organization, culminating at present in the political state. Thus thought and matter, spirit and nature, are united in man. The final synthesis will be a combination of the thesis (the Idea thinking itself out) with the antithesis (the Idea spread out into Nature) into the synthesis (Nature gathered back into the Idea in full self-consciousness as Absolute Spirit). The whole process is the life of God, whose evolution is the universe, of which human history forms a leading part.”[101] 


The Absolute Spirit. Hegel is a pantheist (he identifies the world with God, the finite with the infinite). His God (Absolute Spirit) needs to actuate himself in the finite world. Hegelian monism dictates that the finite dissolves itself in the infinite; it loses its reality as it undergoes the process of transformation into the infinite. The finite, for him, is merely a moment, an appearance, a transitory phase towards the infinite, which is the absolutely real. The being of the finite, in the end, is the infinite. The finite is not a separate entity from the infinite, and neither is the infinite a separate being contrasted with the finite. Rather, the finite is comprehended within the infinite (within the essence of the All), and the infinite (the All) dynamically includes within itself the totality of the finite. Hegel teaches that the finite is essential to the infinite for the infinite God is the being of the world and needs this world to actuate his proper essence. The world, for him, is the essence of God.        


It is clear that Hegel’s Absolute is not the transcendent God of Christianity; rather, “this Absolute is immanent in the cosmos, and now specifically in the human consciousness that makes up the human world of history, with its institutions, social entities and movements, and especially its organization into political states. The Absolute is not prior to this world of men or above it; it is not the creating source whence earthly reality derives, nor is it distinct from it. Thus the Absolute is not a ‘substance,’ meaning an existing and already achieved Being or Reality, but rather a ‘subject,’ that is, a process of development in and of and through the earthly human social reality.”[102] “For Hegel, the Absolute is encountered at the end of the process. It is a God, who is not alpha and omega, but only omega. And besides he does not transcend the process, but is immanent to it: he is the life of the totality, encompassing and surpassing each of its moments. The world and man are only the ‘reflux’ of the expansive and diffusive force of the Absolute Spirit, of the vital and active force of a God who alienates himself from himself in order to return to himself. But God needs the world retroactively, in order to fill his essence with content: he is not transcendent to the world but immanent to it. If the essence of God were not the essence of man and of the world, he would be nothing. Finally, God is the being of the world and the world is the essence of God. The absolutely immanent character of this conception is revealed in the absence of any proper distinction between the finite and the infinite. The finite is an essential moment of the infinite: God renders himself finite in order to determine himself. But, in its turn, the finite is naught but a ‘moment’ of the divine life. God is this movement of return to himself through finite determinations which complete his essence. The infinite God is dynamically pregnant with finiteness. So that, ‘without the world, God is not God.’[103][104]  


Critique of Hegel’s Pantheism. At the foundations of Hegel’s pantheism lie his panlogicism (his identification of the real order of being with the logical order resulting in his failure to distinguish between the ontological concept of God as the Being a se, and the logical concept of universal being) and his denial of the objective validity of the principle of non-contradiction, resulting in pan-fieri and, ultimately, monism. There is indeed a distinction between the metaphysical concept of God as the Ens a se and the logical concept of universal being. Bittle writes that “a comparison of the two concepts will bring out their radical difference. The concept of God is that of a concrete being; the concept of universal being is abstract. The absolute being of ‘God’ has the fullest ‘comprehension,’ because He comprises within Himself the plenitude of being in an infinite manner; but the concept of God is the smallest in ‘extension,’ because He is only one in number. The reverse is true of the abstract, logical entity of the concept of ‘universal being.’ From the standpoint of its ‘comprehension,’ it is the most meager of all concepts, because it consists of the single item of being in general and as such is next to ‘nothing’; from the standpoint of its ‘extension,’ it is the widest of all concepts, since it can be predicated of every sort of actual and possible being, of substances and accidents and modes. Furthermore, ‘God’ and ‘universal being’ differ altogether in regard to the manner of their origin. The concept of ‘God’ is the result of reasoning, acquired through the process of applying the principles of reason to the data of experience. On the other hand, the concept of ‘universal being’ is formed through the logical process of abstraction, by ignoring the manifold differences existing in the actual realities. Again ‘God’ and ‘universal being’ differ completely in their mode of existence. ‘God’ exists as an individual being, independent of any creatural mind. ‘Universal being’ exists formally only in the abstracting mind and as such has only a mental existence; in actuality, individual beings alone exist, and ‘universal being’ does not exist as a real being anywhere in nature. Finally, ‘God’ and ‘universal being’ are totally different in their properties. Both are simple; but this ‘simplicity’ is predicated of them in radically diverse meanings. ‘God’ is said to be ‘simple’ in the sense that He is infinitely perfect; He possesses ontological indivisibility in the fullness of His being. ‘Universal being,’ however, is said to be ‘simple’ only because of its indeterminateness, logical incompositeness, and poverty of content.”[105]  


Hegel claims that the beings that we find in the world are but thought modes or thought modifications of the divine being in the process of historical becoming. But this is a manifest error for creatural beings (substances in their own right) are not modes or modifications (accidents) of any substantial being. William Brosnan explains that the things that we observe in the world around us “are complete substances in themselves, really distinct from God numerically and essentially, and really distinct from one another numerically and, in numberless cases, specifically and also generically. What is more, unless we wish to admit that our cognitive faculties are utterly and absolutely untrustworthy, we must admit that we ourselves and the rest of the creatures in the world are not mere thought-modifications of any being, but have an existence in the physical world, an existence, namely, really distinct from, and outside of, the intellect or thought of any being, even God. To insist that the world is a mere illusion of God’s intellect or of our intellects is intellectual suicide. To attempt to live practically in accord with such a theory is impossible. Even the idealists themselves admit this.”[106]    









1. Definition of Atheism


Atheism[107] (from the Greek a-theòs = without God) means the negation of God. An atheist is one who affirms that God does not exist. There are two types of atheism: practical atheism and theoretical atheism, though a number of philosophers like Battista Mondin and Augusto del Noce include a third, namely, militant atheism. Practical atheism is the behaviour of those who, though professing to believe in God, nevertheless live as if God did not exist. The practical atheist leads a religiously indifferent and materialistic life-style with no concern at all for the next life, conducting his existence without reference to the moral law established by God. Theoretical or speculative atheism, on the other hand, is a philosophical vision that excludes the reality of God. God is negated as a conclusion of a process of reasoning. The philosophies of Feuerbach, Nietzsche, Marx, Freud and Sartre are examples of theoretical or speculative atheism. Militant atheism is active, aggressive, propagandistic atheism which conducts an intellectual warfare against God and the believers of God, with the goal of constructing a truly godless social order. An obvious example of militant atheism today is that of Communist China. Before 1989 the center of militant atheism was undoubtedly the Soviet Union.


2. Atheism and Immanentism


I retain that the philosophical principle of immanence or immanentism (which posits the incapacity of the human mind to know noumenal extra-mental reality in itself, as all one can ever know are one’s ideas, impressions, or sensations) is the central reason why we live in an atmosphere of atheistic unbelief today. Fabro strongly maintains that “the principle of immanentism is intrinsically atheistic and coincides with the radical assertion of atheism, inasmuch as the very definition of an immanentist stand on being can only involve a denial of that transcendence in the epistemological dimension wherein consists the first step of theism rightly and radically understood. In this sense we speak of the ‘essential atheism’ of the principle of immanentism. It may well be that a substantial number of modern philosophers, beginning with…Descartes, profess themselves to be theists and believers; but that does not alter the fact that the principle they start from is atheistic and is implemented in implicitly or tendentially atheistic statements in the very course of the articulation, in terms of that principle, of the affirmation of the existence of God! For when the act of knowing is posited as the ultimate beginning, it has no other truth than that of its naked self-positing and self-effectuation; and the content is its own sheer process of realization, its truth being dissolved into the pure historicity of (the) human be-ing (Dasein). This historicity (or content of the act, quality of being) may then be held to be embodied in aesthetic, scientific, economic or political activity and even occasionally in religious activity which it allegedly requires and demands (I am thinking of those Protestant theologians and the so-called Catholic spiritualists, who claim to be able to bend the method of immanentism to an affirmation of transcendence); but already it is too late for such identifications to have any substantive importance or even significance: they are all but matters of personal taste and arbitrary choice, not in any sense of theoretical foundation. Thus, it is more accurate to speak of structural or constitutive atheism in the case of the principle of immanentism: the removal or absence of the possibility of a ‘presence’ (existence) of God is the very essence of the cogito, inasmuch as the cogito principle asserts the truth of the act and content of consciousness (mind) on the basis of the exclusion of the act and content of being, deriving the truth of the content of being from the alleged truth of the act of the mind!”[108]


Marx, the brain behind dialectical materialism, accepted the principle of immanentism as a given a priori starting point of his atheistic system, and his philosophy still rules more than a billion people in Red China. The Marxist Mao Tse-Tung (1893-1976) was himself an idealogue thoroughly imbued with the immanentist spirit. He was the author of immanentist inspired philosophical works such as his On Contradiction and On Praxis (both published in 1937). One should note that what rules in the academic settings of the classrooms and salons of the intelligentia is usually implemented as social policy a generation later. By the second half of the nineteenth century, the openly atheistic philosophical systems that had germinated from the pantheistic systems of absolute idealism (which were crypto-atheistic systems) had reached their zenith (Feuerbach, Marx, Engels, Nietzsche), and it took only a couple of decades for their doctrines to be implemented in the political and social spheres, with catastrophic consequences (the World Wars, the Communist purges and failed Five-Year Plans, with all the dozens of millions of tragic deaths and lives plunged into the blackest despair). Though they did not take everything from Nietzsche, the Nazis made this atheist the semi-official philosopher of their godless and supremacist National Socialism.[109] Adolf Hitler himself was an admirer of Nietzsche’s writings, and paid public obeisance to the latter, usually in the presence of Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche, the philosopher’s racist sister. The atheistic philosophies of Nietzsche, Sartre and Camus accepted immanentism as their starting points, and their rotten nihilism still rules over much of the intellectual elite in the morally corrupt academic circles of the rapidly disintegrating West. 


3. The Atheism of Feuerbach


The father of modern atheism Ludwig Feuerbach[110] (1804-1872), an ex-theology student turned atheist philosopher, resolved theology into anthropology and transformed idealism into materialism. The idea of God, he says, has its origin in man’s attempts to project the various qualities that he has in himself onto a Divine Person. God would be nothing but the fantastic representation of the absolute dominion of the human will over nature and the complete satisfaction of all human desires. He maintains that philosophy’s task is to show that it was not God who created man, but rather man who created God. His “Copernican Revolution” consists in the resolution of theology into anthropology. He writes: “What do you affirm when you affim God? My answer: you affirm your own understanding. God is your highest idea and power of thought, …the sum of all the affirmations of your understanding.”[111] “God is for man the common place book where he registers his highest feelings and thoughts, the genealogical album into which he enters the names of the things most dear and sacred to him.”[112] “God as the epitome of all realities or perfections is nothing other than a compendious summary devised for the benefit of the limited individual, an epitome of the generic human qualities distributed among men, in the self-realization of the species in the course of world history.”[113] 


God, for Feuerbach, is nothing but the essence of man: “The divine essence is the glorified human essence transfigured from the death of abstraction.”[114] “It is the essence of man that is the supreme being…If the divinity of nature is the basis of all religions, including Christianity, the divinity of man is its final aim…The turning point in history will be the moment when man becomes aware that the only God of man is man himself. Homo homini Deus![115] Religion would be nothing but the projection of man, his feelings, and his experience of life out of a given historical situation. Feuerbach’s explanation of religion and God is wholely in function of man’s nature and its tendencies: “When religion is defined as the awareness of the infinite, this can be understood as an awareness of the infinity of man’s own essential being. But at first the religious mind does not see that the proper object of its worship is the unlimited essence of man. ‘Man first of all sees his nature as if outside of himself, before he finds it in himself. His own nature is in the first instance contemplated by him as that of another being.’[116] God is nothing more than this alienated way of viewing the human essence as though it were another being. He is the ideal human essence, which we abstract from empirical individuals and then set apart as a real depository of all the attributes and perfections of human nature. Religion is the very process of projecting our essential being into the ideal sphere of divinity and then humbling ourselves before our own objectified essence. In worshipping God, men are really paying homage to their own relinquished essence, viewed at an ideal distance…As soon as man pierces the real significance of religion, he can dispense with God or the absolute spirit and devote himself to cultivating the potentialities of his own essential being.”[117]      


We see in Feuerbach’s philosophy the gruesome consequences of being trapped in the prison of immanentism and the denial of the realist metaphysics of being. “The troubles of modern man began when he shifted his attention from God to his own consciousness of God. Thereupon, he went on to shift his attention from this human consciousness of God to his own consciousness of this attention. And at this point he began to wonder who created whom. The assumption had always been that it was God who created man, and hence ought to be worshipped by man, with adoration and gratitude, petition and reparation. But when man became conscious of his own consciousness of God, he set out on a road toward his own deification: God became for man the ultimate product of human consciousness, the goal of a self-developing immanent humanity.”[118] “He, who once was rightly proud of being made to the image and likeness of God, began to boast that he was his own Creator and that he made God to his image and likeness. From this false humanism came the descent from the human to the animal, when man admitted he came from the beast, and immediately proceeded to prove it by acting like a beast in war. More recently he has made himself one with nature, saying that he is nothing more than a complex arrangement of chemical elements. He now calls himself ‘the atomic man’, as theology becomes psychology, psychology becomes biology, biology becomes physics.”[119]  


Like Nietzsche and Sartre, Feuerbach is classified as an anthropological (or humanist) atheist: God must be eliminated so that man may reclaim his true dignity, power, and freedom. He writes: “I deny only in order to affirm. I deny the fantastic projection of theology and religion in order to affirm the real essence of man.”[120] “While I do reduce theology to anthropology, I exalt anthropology to theology; very much as Christianity while lowering God into man, made man into God.”[121] But does man reclaim his true dignity when he negates God? The twentieth century was the time when atheistic totalitarian systems had their hour (the products of the atheistic philosophical systems of the preceding century), producing rivers of blood with tens of millions of deaths. Never in the history of mankind was the dignity of the human person so debased as it was in that godless century, the century of Nazism and Communism. No, man loses his dignity when he severs himself from his Maker, and can only reclaim it when, with the help of God’s grace, he acknowledges, loves, and obeys Him, in whose image and likeness he was made. “The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. The invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his Creator.”[122] “To acknowledge God is in no way to oppose the dignity of man, since such dignity is grounded and brought to perfection in God. Man has in fact been placed in society by God, who created him as an intelligent and free being; but over and above this he is called as a son to intimacy with God and to share in His happiness. She further teaches that hope in a life to come does not take away from the importance of the duties of this life on earth but rather adds to it by giving new motives for fulfilling those duties. When, on the other hand, man is left without this divine support and without hope of eternal life his dignity is deeply wounded, as may so often be seen today. The problems of life and death, of guilt and suffering, remain unsolved, so that men are not rarely cast into despair.”[123]


Copleston, like his fellow Jesuit Henri De Lubac,[124] does not think that Feuerbach’s theoretical philosophy is profound, but admits his massive influence on thinkers like Marx and Engels: “Feuerbach’s philosophy is certainly not outstanding. For example, his attempt to dispose of theism by the account of the genesis of the idea of God is superficial. But from the historical viewpoint his philosophy possesses real significance…In particular, the philosophy of Feuerbach is a stage in the movement which culminated in the dialectical materialism and the economic theory of Marx and Engels.”[125]


4. The Atheism of Marx


The most influential atheist of all time was Karl Marx[126] (1818-1883), whose philosophy of communism ruled, at its maximum expansion in the late 1970s, nearly a third of the peoples of the earth until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, though his dialectical materialism lives on in Red China to this day. Marx’s philosophy was influenced by the Hegelian dialectic, the thinkers of the Hegelian Left, and other materialist and evolutionist scientists and writers of his time, including Ricardo and Darwin.


Marx transferred the Hegelian dialectic of the spirit into the material world and history: “Marx kept the dialectic (of Hegel) but substituted matter in place of thought or idea. The Hegelian dialectic is an idealism; matter is but a transient appearance of the Idea in the stage of antithesis. Marx does not admit the existence of anything but matter. He nowhere defines exactly what he means by matter, but he certainly refers to the sensed world of bodies. He makes the dialectic a dialectical materialism instead of an idealism by having matter the evolving reality. He puts into matter itself the principle of its own evolution, which proceeds according to the three Hegelian stages and forms itself into our present universe. Marx is particularly interested in that part of the dialectic which refers to human history, which he says is conditioned by man’s primitive material economic needs.”[127] The material conditions of existence condition our perception of the world and the fundamental structure of all ideology is economic. The social being of man determines his consciousness. Theory is subordinated to action (praxis): what matters for the Marxist is not the interpretation of the world but rather the changing of it. Economic evolution determines the social evolution of the classes and through it, politics. The evolving historical epochs of the world according to the various types of economic structures, he says, are primitive communism, slavery, feudalism, capitalism, and future communism. For Marx, capitalism involves the defrauding of the worker (surplus-value theory). It, however, infallibly provokes an economic crisis and, in the end, ushers in a proletarian revolution and the rise of the communist society. He describes religion as “the opium of the people,” a contingent superstructure (destined to die out with the establishment of communism) which diverts man from his true end (which is wholely earthly and material). Marx’s atheism is founded upon three postulates: 1. metaphysical and dialectical materialism ; 2. historical materialism ; and 3. absolute humanism (which makes man the most exalted being in place of God).          


Marx had already been an atheist before he absorbed the projection theory of Feuerbach[128]; the writings of free-thinkers and anti-clericals had been staple reading at the Marx household of Karl’s youth, and he later gravitated towards Epicurean materialism and Democritan atomism. When Marx and Engels adopted Feuerbach’s thesis that God is nothing but a projection of man’s ideals for perfection and omnipotence, and accepted Feuerbachian materialism instead of Hegelian idealism, Engels later wrote in retrospect: “Then came Feuerbach’s Essence of Christianity. With one blow it pulverized the contradiction, in that without circumlocution it placed materialism on the throne again…Nothing exists outside nature and man, and the higher beings our religious fantasies have created are only the fantastic reflection of our own essence…One must have himself experienced the liberating effect of this book to get an idea of it. Enthusiasm was general; we all became at once Feuerbachians…With irresistible force Feuerbach is finally driven to the realization…that our consciousness and thinking, however suprasensuous they may seem, are the product of a material, bodily organ, the brain. Matter is not a product of mind, but mind itself is merely the highest product of matter.”[129]   


Man, for Marx, suffers from a religious alienation. Religion is the “opium of the people,” a superstructure to prop up the exploitation of the proletariat by the capitalists.[130] It makes the worker forget his oppression (and his duty to revolutionize the social order) by concentrating his attention on heavenly, otherworldly things that do not exist (for only matter in dialectical evolution exists). It deludes the worker into believing that he will be amply rewarded in the next life for the injustices done to him and so he sheepishly submits to being trodden down and defrauded by the exploiting class, namely, the capitalists. Therefore, the fundamental task of the Marxist revolution must be the elimination (by any means[131]) of this religious alienation towards the emancipation of the proletariat. Marx writes: “The basis of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. In other words, religion is the self-consciousness and self-feeling of man, who either has not yet found himself or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being, squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man, the state, society. This state, this society produce religion, a perverted world consciousness, because they are a perverted world. Religion is the general theory of that world, its encyclopedic compendium, its logic in a popular form, its spiritualistic point d’honeur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn completion, its universal ground for consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence because the human essence has no true reality. The struggle against religion is therefore mediately the fight against the other world, of which religion is the spiritual aroma. Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of an unspiritual situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusions about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of the vale of woe, the halo of which is religion.”[132]    


5. The Atheism of Nietzsche


Even the notorious Friedrich Nietzsche[133] (1844-1900) at one time believed in God. Contrary to his written denials found in such last works as Ecce Homo,[134] his early notes reveal a believer: “I have already experienced many things, joy as well as sadness, lightness of heart as well as depression, but in all these things God has certainly led me as a father might lead his helpless little child. He has already imposed much suffering on me, but in all this I recognize with reverence His majestic power which has everything turn out for the best. I have firmly resolved to devote myself to His service forever. May the dear Lord give me the power and the strength I need for this resolution. And may he protect me on my way through life. As a child I trust in His grace. He will protect us all so that no evil will befall us. But may His holy will be done! I will accept with joy whatever He sends me, whether happiness or unhappiness, whether poverty or riches. And I will boldly look death itself in the eye. Death will one day unite us all in eternal joy and blessedness. Yes, dear Lord, let the light of your countenance shine upon us forever! Amen!”[135] But, as happens with untold numbers of university students defrauded of their Christian heritage, he soon loses his faith[136] through indoctrination by unbelieving professors and by the perusal of atheistic works like that of Feuerbach and Schopenhauer. Henceforth, he will devote his life to the violent attack of God and the persecution of Christians. Georg Siegmund writes that “Nietzsche too succumbed to the demonic attraction that lies in the enjoyment of power, a power that revels in the destruction of all that has long been considered unassailable and worthy of deep reverence. This is what draws him to what he calls ‘the ranks of the blasphemers.’ It is Nietzsche’s ambition to run the whole gamut of the modern soul, including its night side; to explore its every fold and cranny; to experience consciously and fully the antithesis of a religious soul; to become acquainted with the devil and know God from the devil’s perspective.”[137] Nietzsche revolts against God and then darkness engulfs him: “I stand still, suddenly I am tired. The road ahead seems to drop steeply; in a flash the abyss is all about me. I am loathe to look down. Behind me tower the mountains. Trembling, I grope for a hold. What? Has everything turned to stone and precipice? This shrub – it breaks to pieces in my hand, and sallow leaves and scraggy roots trickle downwards. I shiver and close my eyes – where am I? I peer into a purple night; it looks at me and beckons.”[138]              


Nietzsche was a resolute opponent of Hegelian gnosticism. He believed that the Hegelian absolute idealism of the absolute spirit was merely a transitory stage towards the establishment of forthright atheism. In fact, he maintained that Hegel can be said to have stunted the growth of atheism by prolonging the trappings of a rationalized Christianity, its dogmas and symbols.[139] He writes in the Joyful Wisdom, that “the decay of the belief in the Christian God, the victory of scientific atheism, – is a universal European event, in which all races are to have their share of service and honor. On the contrary, it has to be ascribed precisely to the Germans – those with whom Schopenhauer was contemporary, – that they delayed this victory of atheism longest, and endangered it most. Hegel especially was its retarder par excellence, in virtue of the grandoise attempt which he made to persuade us of the divinity of existence, with the help at the very last of our sixth sense, ‘the historical sense.’ As philosopher, Schopenhauer was the first avowed and inflexible atheist we Germans have had: his hostility to Hegel had here its background. The nondivinity of existence was regarded by him as something understood, palpable, indisputable; he always lost his philosophical composure and got into a passion when he saw anyone hesitate and beat around the bush here. It is at this point that his thorough uprightness of character comes in: unconditional, honest atheism is precisely the preliminary condition for his raising the problem, as a final and hardwon victory of the European conscience, as the most prolific act of two thousand years’ discipline to truth, which in the end no longer tolerates the lie of the belief in a God.”[140] I disagree with Nietzsche’s opinion that Hegel retarded the advent of atheism by his clinging to thorougly gnosticized Christian dogmas and symbolism; in fact, the very use of Christian symbolism to propagate pantheistic monism was a great victory for the atheistic cause as it deceptively led many unsuspecting Christians, like the young would-be theologian Feuerbach, into the pit of absolute immanentism. Hegelian pantheism, like all pantheism, is crypto-atheism. In the final analysis, Hegel propagated atheism more extensively than Schopenhauer ever could. “Unconditional, forthright atheism” repels the majority of men, but pantheistic atheism (“polite atheism”) under the guise of gnostic, rationalized Christianity, is eminently seductive.               


Nietzsche is famous for his cry God is dead!, which has become the battle cry of so many of those who have lost their faith, especially after indoctrination into atheism by their godless professors, and by their absorption of the nihilistic, materialistic and hedonistic lures of the contemporary consumer society. He proclaims that death of God in the Joyful Wisdom: “The Madman. – Have you ever heard of the madman who on a bright morning lighted a lantern and ran to the market-place calling out unceasingly: ‘I seek God! I seek God!’ – As there were many people standing about who did not believe in God, he caused a great deal of amusement. Why! Is he lost? said one. Has he strayed away like a child? said another. Or does he keep himself hidden? Is he afraid of us? Has he taken a sea-voyage? Has he emigrated? – the people cried out laughingly, all in a hubbub. The insane man jumped into their midst and transfixed them with his glances. ‘Where is God gone?’ he called out. ‘I mean to tell you! We have killed him, – you and I. We are all his murderers! But how have we done it? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the whole horizon? What did we do when we loosened this earth from its sun? Whither does it now move? Whither do we move? Away from all suns? Do we not dash on unceasingly? Backwards, sideways, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an above and below? Do we not stray, as through infinite nothingness? Does not empty space breathe upon us? Has it not become colder? Does not night come on continually, darker and darker? Shall we not have to light lanterns in the morning? Do we not hear the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell the divine putrefaction? – for even Gods putrefy! God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him! How shall we console ourselves, the most murderous of all murderers? The holiest and the mightiest that the world has hitherto possessed had bled to death under our knife, – who will wipe the blood from us? With what water could we cleanse ourselves? What lustrums, what sacred games shall we have to devise? Is not the magnitude of this deed too great for us? Shall we not ourselves have to become gods, merely to seem worthy of it? There never was a greater event, – and on account of it, all who are born after us belong to a higher history than any history hitherto!’ – Here the madman was silent and looked again at his hearers; they also were silent and looked at him in surprise. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, so that it broke in pieces and was extinguished. ‘I come too early,’ he then said, ‘I am not yet at the right time. This prodigious event is still on its way, and is travelling, – it has not yet reached men’s ears. Lightning and thunder need time, the light of the stars needs time, deeds need time, even after they are done, to be seen and heard. This deed is as yet further from them than the farthest star, – and yet they have done it’ – It is further stated that the madman made his way into different churches on the same day, and there intoned his Requiem aeternam deo. When led out and called to account, he always gave the reply: ‘What are these churches now, if they are not the tombs and monuments of God?’”[141]


Why the words We have killed him added to the cry God is dead? Because for Nietzsche God could only have been a subjective projection of man, of his desires, his longing for omnipotence and perfection (a view he obviously picked up from Feuerbach). He does not even bother to attempt to see if a demonstration of the existence of God is in fact possible, which is a characteristic mark of philosophical inquisitiveness. Rather, he assumes a priori that God could only have been a product of man’s mind. For Nietzsche, Kant forever banished the a posteriori demonstrations for the existence of God as metaphysical nonsense, ultimately reducible to the invalid ontological argument. So, from the beginning of his conversion to unbelief he, like the immanentist philosophers that came before him, was locked up in the asylum of gnoseological and metaphysical immanentism.    


For Nietzsche, reality is an explosion of irrational, disordered force. In light of such a wondrous spectacle three attitudes are possible: weakness (symbolized by the camel), force (the freedom of the lion), and innocence (the freedom of the child).


The Slavery of the Camel. In the camel, says Nietzsche, we see the actual pitiful condition to which humanity has fallen. The camel is the herd animal, patient, submissive, disposed to accept any genre of weight to carry around. The camel is the mediocre man, the herd animal, the Christian, and his conduct is determined by fear. His defensive arms are religion and morals.


The Freedom of the Lion. Man must refuse to live like meek sheep and transform himself into a strong, autonomous man, master of his own actions (metamorphosis from the camel to the lion). The strong man is the “superman,” who is beyond good and evil. He must be able to feel that he can infringe upon any ethical law or social convention. To recognize a limit, to follow a norm, would mean for the lion a suffocation of one’s own ego, a mortification of one’s own autonomy. The lion must instead exert his will to power without any scruple whatsoever. The freedom that the superman exercises in the figure of the lion is an aggressive, beligerent one, a violent freedom, a freedom that exerts all its force, its will to power, in order to be able to escape from the iron cage in which he has been kept in by those who tamed him, namely the Christian philosophers, the Christian moralists, and the Christian priests who have invented values that don’t exist, virtues that don’t exist, and beings (God, angels, immortal souls) that don’t exist.    


The Freedom of the Child. Having accomplished the task of dismantling and destroying the chains and cage that had kept him imprisoned and tamed, the lion is now able to be transformed into the figure of the child (the third metamorphosis). Like an innocent child, man must say yes to life in all its forms and must create new ideals of existence, new sacred symbols (Dionysius in place of God), and new values (beyond good and evil) that are earthbound and sensual (faithful to the earth).  


Superman in Place of God. Nietzsche strongly denounced the state of decadence, resignation, lack of vitality, creativity and ardor which permeated the society of his time, which was the Europe of the second half of the nineteenth century. The reason for such decadence and mediocrity was, for him, due to the slave morality of Christianity with its Christian God, who had preached the love for mortification and the need for humility. This, for him, was anathema to the formation of the new man, the superman.


All the great pillars on which modernity rested upon were subjected to a systematic attack by Nietzsche: the human subject as a rational suppositum and his linear (not cyclical) historicity, the value of the human person made in the image and likeness of God, his inalienable rights, his solidarity with others, brotherly love and justice, humility, objective moral absolutes, the need for the spirit to dominate over the flesh – all these were attacked by him as being inimical towards the formation of the new man. They were to be despised as illusory products of a sick and decadent world that had lost its zest for life, which for him coincided with the Christian world of herd morality. All these sick and decadent forms of inhumanity would have to be abandoned for the higher type of man, the superior man, the superman who is Wille zur Macht existentialized. The superman is the formula of supreme affirmation, born from the fullness of overabundance, an unreserved affirmation of life and instinct in the midst of the suffering and fear that he sees around him. “Behold, I teach you the Superman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him? All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is the ape to man? A laughing stock or a painful embarrassment. And man shall be just that for the Superman: a laughing stock or a painful embarassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now too, man is more ape than any ape. Whoever is wisest among you is also a mere conflict and cross between plant and ghost. But do I bid you become ghosts or plants? Behold, I teach you the Superman. The Superman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the Superman shall be the meaning of the earth.”[142] 


The superman is the esthetic man and has as his model, not the lover of wisdom Socrates, seeking truth, but Dionysius, the Greek god of wine and the sensual life. The fundamental values pursued by Dionysius and by the Nietzschean superman are eminently vitalist and bodily values, such as the values of sense pleasure, the exaltation of the ego, the preservation of health and bodily being, the use of force to dominate and subjugate the weak, the triumph of heroism and glory, and the accumulation of temporal riches. The unreserved affirmation of life is the sole commandment that the superman must obey, for he is none other than will to power and cannot be distracted by a measely slave morality that distinguishes between true and false, good and evil, honest and dishonest, and sacred and profane. The superman and the higher humanity must be set apart from the common herd. Nietzsche writes in his Antichrist: “What is good? Everything that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? Everything that is born of weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, that resistance is overcome. Not contentedness but more power; not peace but war; not virtue but fitness. The weak and the failures shall perish: first principle of our love of man. And they shall even be given every possible assistance to perish. What is more harmful than any vice? Active pity for all the failures and all the weak.”[143] And in his Twilight of the Idols we read: “The human being who has become free, and all the more the spirit who has become free, tramples on the despicable type of well-being dreamed of by shop-keepers, Christians, cows, females, Englishmen, and other democrats. The free man is a warrior.”[144] Vincent Miceli writes that “Nietzsche’s arbitrary doctrines of Will to Power, Superman, Blond Beast, racial purity, anti-theistic atheism, inflamed and fed to militant madness such ugly, egotistic monsters as Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini who, with their millions hypnotized by these extremisms, strove to devour each other in an orgy of cannibalistic fury. Nietzsche, the immoralist, gave such tyrants the moral code they needed to justify their pogroms – the secular religion of Superman and the dominating morality of the masters.”[145] 


Though we do find Nietzsche attacking Germany and Germans in such works as The Genealogy of Morals, Beyond Good and Evil, and Ecce Homo, it was specifically aimed at bourgeoisie Christian Germany and Germans (who had no appreciation for his aristocratic neo-pagan philosophy), for which he had an utter contempt for. The famed historian of philosophy Johannes Hirschberger writes that “behind his ridicule lies a secret love for the ‘German of the hardy race,’ of ‘the Germans who have died out,’ of the Norseman and Aryan. One of his most vehement attacks against Christianity was based on the fact that Nietzsche regarded it as an anti-Aryan religion, the anti-Aryan religion par excellence. It was Christianity which had thrown the aristocratic Germans into monasteries, making ‘sinners’ of them, spoiling the ‘blond beast’ beyond repair. His ideal was the same as that of Hölderlin. The spirit of pre-Christian Germany should be wed to the spirit of pre-Socratic Greece. From this union would come the noblemen of the future. Nietzsche had pinned his hopes on Wagner, and was thus immensely disappointed when Wagner became a Christian.”[146]      


Did Nietzsche hate just Christians? No, he included the Jews and all that he thought of as being mediocre herd animals influenced by belief in an Almighty God. In fact, a main reason why he hated Christianity was because of its Jewish roots, the Jews being for him a perpetually enslaved and astonishingly mediocre people.  In the Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche writes: “Christianity, with its roots in Judaism and comprehensible only as a growth from this soil, represents the countermovement to any morality of breeding, of race, of privilege: it is the anti-Aryan religion par excellence.”[147] Gilson states that Nietzschean vitalism can be characterized as an “antichristianism (including an anti-semitism)…a violent denunciation of the Jew Christ, the man of sorrows, and the preacher of an ideal based on the refusal to serve this world, the only world there is. The non serviam of Nietzsche is a revindication, to the benefit of man, of the privileges usurped by the God of the Jews and of the Christians. His Superman is man such as he is about to become after having liberated himself from the fetters of conventional religion and morality.”[148]


Nietzsche’s pathological hatred for Christianity is well-known. Here are two passages, from many, of his bigoted invectives against the Christians and their God: “The Christian conception of God – God as god of the sick, God as spider, God as a spirit – is one of the most corrupt conceptions of the divine ever attained on earth. It may even represent the low-water mark in the descending development of divine types. God degenerated into the contradiction of life, instead of being its transfiguration and eternal Yes! God as the declaration of war against life, against nature, against the will to live! God – the formula for every slander against ‘this world,’ for every lie about the ‘beyond.’ God – the deification of nothingness, the will to nothingness pronounced holy!”[149] “…the domestic animal, the herd animal, the sick animal – the Christian.”[150]  


Is Christianity to blame for the destruction of life, as Nietzsche claims? A resounding no! Only a philistine can fail to acknowledge that the Christian civilization of Europe produced the overwhelming majority of the greatest works of art, music and literature known to man. Beethoven, Haydn, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Bernini, Mozart, Bach, all came from a Christian Europe where the Faith influenced almost every aspect of society, life and culture. The works by these Christian artists are timeless works of genius, judged from human standards of counterpoint, perspective, harmony, form, etc. These Christian geniuses stand out. What is Nietzsche talking about? It is easy to tear down like he does, but it is hard to build up, like what these Christian marvels managed to accomplish as instruments of God. I say instruments of God for an artist’s absolute mastery of his medium, combined with consecration to God, making him a participant in the Divine Power and Beauty, is the spark, the formula, that produces classic works that never die (e.g., The Last Judgment of Michelangelo, the Transfiguration of Raphael, the Last Supper of Leonardo da Vinci, the Requiem of Mozart, the Messiah of Handel, the Creation of Haydn and the Missa Solemnis of Beethoven). Compared to these master works of Christian civilization Nietzsche’s narcissistic productions are utter rubbish.      


What was the root cause of Nietzsche’s revolt against God? A devilish pride and a black envy of Christ. Siegmund notes that “as Nietzsche’s life unwinds it becomes more and more evident that the ultimate reason for his rejection of faith lies in his attitude of inordinate pride, the hybris of Greek tragedy. The attitude proper to human reason is that of humble receptivity to truth, which must be pursued long and ardently before it reveals itself. The subject in search of truth must subordinate himself to the data of truth. This basic and normal order of procedure is reversed and destroyed when the subject attempts to subordinate truth to his human ego, which claims for itself the right to posit truths. By so doing the arrogant ego becomes the source of all being and value. It does not pride itself on its achievements and values as compared with those of others for it no longer seriously compares itself with others; it considers itself on an entirely different plane. Everything connected with such an ego is held to be superior to everything that has no part in it. Stepping out of the actual order of the world, the arrogant ego exalts itself, investing itself with the radiance of the absolute. Everything that does not belong to it must be kept at an absolute distance, even God. Inevitably, true arrogance refuses to recognize the supremacy of God.”[151] Ida Overbeck, an intimate of Nietzsche’s, reveals in her memoirs that “the normal person, no matter how gifted, is inclined to seek the company of others. Nietzsche hated normal people because his inability to be normal himself condemned him to a uniqueness that was absolute. Conscious of the terrible strain this cost him, he exalted himself above everyone normal…What would Nietzsche have done had he ever met his equal? Probably killed him or himself, he could not have borne it!”[152] Miceli believes that Nietzsche suffered from a God-complex, from an obsession to be humanity’s Saviour, and burned with envy at Jesus’ having pre-empted him two thousand years back.[153] He quotes with approval André Gide’s thesis that Nietzsche fumed with jealously against Christ: “In the presence of the Gospel, Nietzsche’s immediate and profound reaction was – it must be admitted – jealously. It does not seem to me that Nietzsche’s work can be really understood without allowing for that feeling. Nietzsche was jealous of Christ, jealous to the point of madness. In writing his Zarathustra, Nietzsche was continually tormented with the desire to contradict the Gospel. Often he adopted the actual form of the Beatitudes in order to reverse them. He wrote Antichrist and in his last work, Ecce Homo, set himself up as the victorious rival of Him whose teaching he proposed to supplant.”[154] Miceli goes on to point out that “when he finally went mad, Nietzsche’s facination with Jesus attained the illusion of identity. He signed his last letters to Gast and Brandes, ‘The Crucified One.’”[155]       


Nietzsche’s atheistic philosophy of the will to power and the superman has drawn wide sectors of society into the fold of self-worship. The overwhelming majority of the messages received by today’s betrayed generation through the powerful and influential means of social communication – the television, the movies, the glossy magazines – are nihilistic cultural lures that glorify the right to annihilate the most defenseless (the unborn in abortion and the elderly in euthanasia), the sensual life (pornography, drugs, prostitution) and the exaltation of the ego (I’ve gotta be me!), messages that exalt materialism, selfishness, hedonism and sheer paganism. A great part of the world today, above all in the developed countries of the West, is steeped in a post-Christian, hi-tech neo-paganism that would have made Nietzsche smile (and pagan Rome blush).  


6. The Atheism of Sartre


The French existentialist Jean Paul Sartre[156] (1905-1980) lost all belief in God at the early age of eleven; the religiously indifferent household in which he was brought up in had much to do with this loss. His father had died when he was only a year old. Sartre recounts in his biography of his early childhood, The Words, that “until the age of ten, I was alone between one old man and two women…I was an impostor…I could feel my actions changing into gestures…I had been convinced that we were born to playact to each other…Lacking more precise information, no one, beginning with myself, knew what…I had come on earth to do…I remained an abstraction…I was not stable or permanent; I was not the perpetuator-to-be of my father’s work; I was not necessary to the production of steel. In short, I had no soul…I felt superfluous so I had to disappear. In other words, I was condemned, and the sentence could be carried out at any time.”[157] “Charles Schweitzer (my grandfather)…never missed an opportunity of poking fun at Catholicism…I was in danger of being a victim of saintliness. My grandfather disgusted me with it for good: I saw it through his eyes, and this cruel folly sickened me with its mawkish ecstasies and terrified me with its sadistic contempt for the body…I was both Catholic and Protestant and I united the spirit of criticism with that of submission…I was led to unbelief not through conflicting dogma but through my grandparents’ indifference.”[158] “For several years longer, I kept up public relations with the Almighty; in private, I stopped associating with Him. Once only I had the feeling that He existed. I had been playing with matches and had burnt a mat; I was busy covering up my crime when suddenly God saw me. I felt His gaze inside my head and on my hands; I turned round and round in the bathroom, horribly visible, a living target. I was saved by indignation: I grew angry at such a crude lack of tact, and blasphemed…He never looked at me again.”[159] “I have just told the story of a missed vocation; I needed God; He was given to me, and I received him without understanding what I was looking for. Unable to take root in my heart, he vegetated in me for a while and then died. Today, when he is mentioned, I say with the amusement and lack of regret of some ageing beau who meets an old flame: ‘Fifty years ago, without that misunderstanding, without that mistake, without the accident which separated us, there might have been something between us.”[160]


God does not exist for Sartre.[161] His atheism is postulatory. It is foundational to his existentialist philosophy. Though he admits that there are thinkers who claim to espouse an existentialist vision of the world, Sartre nevertheless believes that atheistic existentialism is the only valid type of existentialism.[162] This assertion, however, goes against the facts of the history of philosophy. In fact, existentialism’s founder was a Christian, namely, the nineteenth century Danish  philosopher Kierkegaard.       


Sartre has been described as an anthropological atheist: God must be eliminated because He is a hindrance to man’s full realization. He must be put aside so that man can regain his freedom. But Sartre cannot really be classified as a typical humanist atheist because of his ultra-pessimistic and annihilistic view of man, which debases him as a radical nothingness, a “useless passion,” a pour-soi condemned to be free, which is certainly not the language of the exaltation and glorification of man that we find in Feuerbach, Marx, and Nietzsche.    


Since there is no God who created man, Sartre proclaims that existence necessarily precedes essence. As there is no human nature or essence because there is no God to have a conception of it, it is man himself who springs up from nowhere and is a radical nothingness, who creates his own essence, who defines what he is to be. He writes, in Existentialism is a Humanism, that “atheistic existentialism of which I am a representative, declares with greater consistency that if God does not exist, there is at least one being whose existence comes before its essence, a being which exists before it can be defined by any conception of it. That being is man or as Heidegger has it, the human reality.”[163] So, according to Sartre, man is an existence preceding an essence, a nothingness seeking an essence, who creates his essence by the choices he makes. “Man is an existence seeking his essence, what he is to become through the exercise of his freedom. The true me is presently unknown, in as much as I am free to continue constituting myself through the exercise of my liberty, until death supervenes and extinguishes all my possibilities…Man’s essence is what he freely makes or made of himself up to the moment of death.”[164]


Against this position, one can say that being which exists is necessarily something, that is, it has a definite and stable essence which specifies and distinguishes it from the other beings of this world. Albert Stern writes: “It seems to me that Sartre’s basic existentialist thesis implies a logical difficulty, for it is impossible to be without being something…Sartre had been warned by Professor Laporte against the kind of abstraction by which we think of certain things as isolated which are not made to exist isolatedly. Existence and essence seem to be such things.”[165]


Sartre also confuses metaphysical essence (which is stable) with moral character (which can change) which we fashion by means of the various choices we make in this life. Against Sartre, it must be said that man has a metaphysical essence that is stable and definite: he is a rational animal. His physical essence is likewise stable and definite: he is a hylemorphic composite of body and soul; he is not an embodied spirit (for he does not belong to the order of spirits), nor is he a purely material being (as dialectical materialism, for example, would have us believe).


In his book Existentialism For and Against, Paul Roubiczek roundly criticizes Sartre’s view that man creates his metaphysical essence, writing: “Sartre is claiming, in short, that we are not merely developing our personalities by a growing understanding of the different aspects of our human nature, but are creating ourselves, entirely and arbitrarily. But it is evident that our power of choice with regard to our essence is little greater than that with regard to our existence; we act as human beings, whatever we do. We can develop, strengthen and purify the humanity within us, or degrade and almost destroy it, but by no effort can we become, as French critics often say, strawberries or peas or cats…It is true that concentration on essence alone leads to abstraction and thus estranges philosophy from life. This kind of philosophy is rightly attacked; essence has to be combined with existence if it is to come to life. Nevertheless, essence cannot be omitted, for, if it is, existence is left void of any content. It is, after all, plainly wrong to consider man as a completely undefined being, as material which can be transformed into anything; there are reasons why he is called a human being, and his humanness can – and must – be made the basis of his endeavors. If essence disappears, everything concrete which could guide our understanding of existence disappears with it – the characteristics of man, of freedom, of the transcendental, of external reality and even of his historical situation.”[166]                


Sartrean existentialism posits an intrinsically unbridgeable dualism, namely, between the l’être pour-soi (being for-itself) which is man, and that of the l’être en-soi (being in-itself), which is anything lacking consciousness (e.g., the rock, the plant). Though he is like Hegel in that the en-soi is identified with being (thesis) and the pour-soi with non-being or nothing (antithesis), Sartre, nevertheless, differs from the German absolute idealist in that he refuses the union of thesis and antithesis in synthesis; in the Sartrean cosmos there is no synthesis of contradictories. The opposition between being for-itself and being in-itself is fundamental and inexorable.       


Being in-itself (l’être en-soi) is conceived by Sartre as an absurd, contingent, inert mass, consisting of the world of objects lacking self-consciousness. He describes this l’être en-soi in Being and Nothingness: “The in-itself is expressed by the simple formula: being is what it is. In the in-itself there is not a particle of being which is not wholly within itself without distance. When being is thus conceived, there is not the slightest suspicion of duality in it; this is what we mean when we say that the density of being of the in-itself is infinite. It is a fulness. The principle of identity can be said to be synthetic not only because it limits its scope to a region of definite being, but in particular, because it masses within it the infinity of density. ‘A is’ means that A exists in infinite compression with an infinite density…The in-itself is full of itself, and no more total plenitude can be imagined, no more perfect equivalence of content to container. There is not the slightest emptiness in being, not the tiniest crack through which nothingness might slip in.”[167] Painting the Sartrean universe of the l’être en-soi, Regis Jolivet writes: “The in-itself, the specific revelation of nausea, is being itself: massive, opaque, gloomy and glutinous. We can say nothing about it, except that it is, for it is devoid of any relationships, either interior or exterior. It is so listless that it cannot stop itself from being. Where does the in-itself or being, come from? From no place, from nothing. It is, without reason, unjustifiable, absurd, ‘too much for all eternity.’ It is and it proliferates itself horribly, obscenely. Any attempt to explain it is fruitless. First of all, God does not exist, being self-contradictory. Moreover the very idea of creation is meaningless.”[168]


Man, in contrast, is being for-itself (l’être pour-soi). He is distinguished from other beings because of consciousness, which is capable of nullifying being. In him there is an immediate consciousness and a reflective consciousness. The nullifying activity of consciousness has nausea as an outlet, provoked by the superabundant absurdity of reality found in things.


Man, the pour-soi, is also nothingness for consciousness cannot have any essence or content of its own. Because the pour-soi is lack of being and a seeking after being he is total freedom which has no limits or bounds. Man is only what, in pure freedom, he makes himself to be. He is absolute freedom, not bound by any law whatsoever. He is the pure capacity to choose (anthropological freedom). He is making. He is the sum total of all his actions. Sartre argues the case that man is freedom in the following manner: “I am indeed an existent who learns his freedom through his acts, but I am also an existent whose individual and unique existence temporalizes itself as freedom. As such I am necessarily consciousness (of) freedom since nothing exists in consciousness except as the non-thetic consciousness of existing. Thus my freedom is perpetually in question in my being; it is not a quality added on or a property of my nature. It is very exactly the stuff of my being; and, as in my being, my being is in question, I must necessarily possess a certain comprehension of freedom.”[169]


Against the Sartrean identification of human action with substantial being, of accident with substance, one must say, instead, that human actions are accidents that belong to the human subject (the rational suppositum), who is the agent of his free acts. I am certainly not willing or thinking. Neither am I the operative power will or the operative faculty intellect nor the sum total of those two powers. Rather, the activities of willing and thinking, and the operative powers or faculties of will and intellect belong to me, the individual substance of a rational nature. “Since the active powers are not identical with the substance, they are obviously accidents, and the same thing is true of all activity. This is a characteristic of beings with a participated esse: no creature is its own activity. Only God’s operation is identical with his divine act of being. The composition of esse and essence, which is characteristic of every creature, entails a composition (and necessary distinction) of being and acting in the dynamic order. ‘There is no identity between esse and operation in any created substance, since that is a property exclusive of God.’[170] Only the Pure Act is not potential with respect to its acts; it has them as totally and fully identical with its very substance. Creatures, in contrast, have to be perfected through their activity, in a way analogous to that by which a container receives something different from itself, or as a potency receives its act. Ordinary experience reveals the distinction between being and acting: a) Each thing’s being is one, whereas its operations are manifold; b) action is never continuous in time, but rather passing; in contrast, the act of being and its subject are permanent and stable; c) if being were the same as acting, a man would not be a man when he is sleeping or when he is still a child.”[171]


In his 1945 work Existentialism is a Humanism, Sartre explains why he believes that man is “condemned to freedom”: “Man is condemned to be free. Condemned because he did not create himself, yet is nevertheless in liberty, and from the moment that he is thrown into this world, he is responsible for everything he does…Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself. His discovers forthwith, that he is without excuse. For if indeed existence precedes essence, one will never be able to explain one’s action by reference to a given and specific human nature; in other words, there is no determinism – man is free, man is freedom. Nor, on the other hand, if God does not exist, are we provided with any values or commands that could legitimize our behavior. Thus we have neither behind us, nor before us in a luminous realm of values, any means of justification or excuse. We are left alone, without excuse.”[172] Francis Lescoe observes that “in a Godless world, man is, in truth, abandoned and condemned to freedom. Since God is dead, there also disappears the possibility of finding values. Put bluntly, there cannot be any prior good to the choice which I make, since there is no infinite Being to give it ground and foundation.”[173]


God is an impossibility, says Sartre, for He would be a for-itself-in-itself synthesis, which is simply unrealizable in reality. This, he says, is what happens when man, the for-itself, conceives his project to become an in-itself that is solid and eternal. But he wishes to do this without renouncing his freedom and clarity of mind as a pour-soi. Thus, God, the pour-soi-en-soi synthesis, cannot be realized. While the in-itself is stable and permanent, although absurd, the for-itself is contingent and radically unstable, in a constant search for grounding, for “self-transcendence,” for it is not what it is. The for-itself, envious of the stability of the in-itself constantly attempts to overcome its lack of being and contingency by seeking to make the stability and permanence of the in-itself its own. This constant seeking for grounding in the in-itself is a fundamental drive of the for-itself towards “self-transcendence,” but it is a seeking for a contradictory condition, for the impossible unification and synthesis of the for-itself with the in-itself. This can only be an absolutely futile project, says Sartre. That is why he claims that man is a “useless passion.” Joseph Mihalich describes this futile quest of man to be both a for-itself and an in-itself: “The whole existence of the for-itself is expended in an impossible effort to become something – to become a thing in itself. This is an impossible goal because it would mean a dual contradiction. It is a contradiction to posit the for-itself as in any way fixed or delineated (as it would be if it were a thing), and it is equally contradictory to posit the in-itself as in any way knowledgeable or conscious. The for-itself must remain wholly translucid; the slightest measure of permanence – even the permanence of an egological structure – is anathema. The for-itself is thus completely free and unbounded – it is condemned to be free and nothing else.”[174]   


Now, when the note of infinity is added to this impossible task of the unification of the for-itself with the in-itself it becomes, says Sartre, the idea of God. “God” is nothing but a human projection for him, something he appropriates (with modifications) from Feuerbach; “God” can only be that projection of man’s unrealizable ambition. For Sartre, this projection, this illusion of an infinite, transcendent pour-soi-en-soi, is what religion calls God. He explains his atheistic position in a number of passages in Being and Nothingness: “Human reality is its own surpassing toward what it lacks…imperfect being surpasses itself toward perfect being; the being which is the foundation only of its nothingness surpasses itself towards the being which is the foundation of its being. But the being toward which human reality surpasses itself is not a transcendent God; it is at the heart of human reality; it is only human reality as a totality…This perpetually absent being which haunts the For-itself is itself fixed in the In-itself. It is the impossible synthesis of the For-itself and the In-itself; it would be its own foundation, not as a nothingness but as a being and would preserve within it the necessary translucency of consciousness, along with the coincidence with itself of Being-in-itself…When the being and absolute absence of this totality is hypostasized as transcendence beyond the world, it takes on the name of God.”[175] “Thus the being of human reality is originally not a substance but a lived relation…Man is neither the one nor the other (In-itself and In-itself-for-itself) of these beings, for strictly speaking, we should never say of him that he is at all. He is what he is not and he is not what he is; he is the nihilation of the contingent In-itself and in so far as the self of this nihiliation is its flight ahead toward the In-itself as self-cause. Human reality is the pure effort to become God without there being any given substratum for that effort, without there being anything which so endeavors. Desire expresses this endeavor.”[176] “It is as consciousness that it (For-itself) wishes to have the impermeability and infinite density of the In-itself. It is as the nihilation of the In-itself and a perpetual evasion of contingency and facticity that it wishes to be its own foundation…The fundamental value which presides over this project is exactly the In-itself-for-itself; that is, the ideal of consciousness which would be the foundation of its own Being-in-itself by the pure consciousness which it would have of itself. It is this ideal which can be called God. Thus the best way to conceive of the fundamental project of human reality is to say that man is the being whose project is to be God.”[177] “Each human reality is at the same time a direct project to metaphorphise its own For-itself into an In-itself-for-itself and a project of the appropriation of the world as a totality of Being-in-itself, in the form of a fundamental quality. Every human reality is a passion in that it projects losing itself so as to found being and by the same stroke to constitute the In-itself which escapes contingency by being its own foundation, the Ens causa sui, which religions call God. Thus the passion of man is the reverse of that of Christ, for man loses himself as man in order that God may be born. But the idea of God is contradictory and we lose ourselves in vain. Man is a useless passion.”[178]


Therefore, for Sartre, God is not an extra-mental, extra-subjective, transcendent, infinite personal Being (whose Being is not the being of the finite creatures which He created); rather, He is a human projection, an illusion, a concept, the futile, impossible goal of man’s search for self-transcendence in a for-itself-in-itself synthesis, which is a contradiction. But Sartre’s position on God as an impossible, contradictory for-itself-in-itself is simply erroneous and has its roots in his mistaken theory of the modes of being, as Collins explains: “The contradiction lies not in God or in the religious conception of God but in the Sartrean theory of the modes of being. He defines Being-in-itself in a univocal and material way and then shows that being, as so defined, excludes consciousness and the other attributes usually applied to God. Clearly enough the trouble lies in the doctrine of the In-itself and not in the concept of a purely actual being. This doctrine overlooks the gradual convergence of consciousness and being in the higher forms of living things. Far from being in contrast with every sort of self-identity, consciousness is the means whereby animals and men secure a more perfect self-identity than is possible for material things deprived of consciousness. At these higher levels of existence, self-identity is not equated with limp immobility but displays itself as conscious self-presence.”[179]        









The ontological argument is an invalid way to arrive at God. Commonly attributed to St. Anselm (1033-1109), this demonstration was adopted and modified by Descartes[180] (1596-1650) and Leibniz[181] (1646-1716) in modern times. Unlike ontologism, which defends the immediate intuition of God, the ontological argument in essence attempts to prove the existence of God by a mere analysis of the idea or notion of Him. The common form of the ontological argument goes like this: “God is truly understood to be the being than which a greater cannot be thought of. But a being who exists in reality and not merely as an object of thought is greater than a being who exists merely in the mind. Hence, if God did not exist actually outside the mind, He would not be that than which nothing greater can be thought of. Therefore, God exists in reality and not merely in our minds.” The problem with this erroneous proof is that it makes an illegitimate jump from the logical order (the order of the mind) to the actual order (the order of reality). Glenn, however, cautions that “we must not think that St. Anselm or any of the notable defenders of this intriguing ontological argument were so childish as to suppose that the mere thought of anything is valid proof for its existence. One of St. Anselm’s early critics had this silly notion, and he sought to upset the ontological argument by reducing it to an absurdity. He proposed the following argument as paralleling the ontological argument, which, of course, it does not do at all: ‘I have an idea of a most beautiful island; But it is not the idea of a most beautiful and perfect island unless the island actually exists; Therefore, the island of which I have an idea actually exists.’ St. Anselm treated this argument with the contempt it deserves. For he was speaking of the infinite Being, of that one and only Being which has existence as one of the phases or notes or component elements of its idea in the mind. Of no finite being, such as an island, can necessary existence be predicated, since the perfection of such a being is always limited and relative (despite the fact that one calls it ‘most beautiful’ and ‘most perfect’), and existence does not enter into its adequate idea or concept. But, as we have seen, the human mind is not capable of an intuitive and adequate concept of God as the necessary Being (but derives its idea of God from the intuitively formed ideas of finite things in the sense-world around us) and so, even in the case of the infinite Being, the ontological argument, based on human knowledge, is not valid. Our idea of God as the necessary Being, that is, the Being which necessarily exists, is reasoned knowledge, and the idea itself is not evidence of the existence of its object.”[182]


The Angelic Doctor refutes the invalid ontological argument in both his Summas. In the Summa Contra Gentiles he writes: “It does not follow immediately that, as soon as we know the meaning of the name God, the existence of God is known. It does not follow first because it is not known to all, even including those who admit that God exists, that God is that than which a greater cannot be thought of. After all, many ancients said that this world itself was God…What is more, granted that everyone should understand by the name God something than which a greater cannot be thought of, it will still not be necessary that there exist in reality something than which a greater cannot be thought. For a thing and the definition of a name are posited in the same way. Now, from the fact that that which is indicated by the name God is conceived by the mind, it does not follow that God exists save only in the intellect. Hence, than that which a greater cannot be thought will likewise not have to exist save only in the intellect. From this it does not follow that there exists in reality something than which a greater cannot be thought. No difficulty, consequently, befalls anyone who posits that God does not exist. For that something greater can be thought than anything given in reality or in the intellect is a difficulty only to him who admits that there is something than which a greater cannot be thought in reality.”[183] 


1. Descartes’ Ontological Argument


Descartes utilized the ontological argument throughout his works. His proof runs like this: “When one says that something is contained in the nature or concept of a thing, thereby affirms that this something belongs in truth to that thing, is true of it. But the necessary existence of God is contained in the idea of God. Therefore, it is true to say of God that necessary existence is in Him, that is, that He exists.” This is yet another invalid proof that does not in any way arrive at God’s real existence, for it is another illegitimate transfer from the logical order to the order of reality. All Descartes arrives at is a conceptual necessarily existing God, an idea of the logical order, not the actual order.


Gilson, criticizing the Cartesian ontological argument, explains that existence cannot be attributed to something simply on the strength of its definition; actual existence is not deducible from any definition: “The second proof of the existence of God proposed by Descartes in his fifth Metaphysical Meditation is a reinterpretation of the argument of Saint Anselm. Thomas Aquinas would have raised against it the same objections. It is all a question of philosophical method. The method advocated by Descartes derives its inspiration from mathematics. Accordingly, Descartes attributes to the objects of thought all the properties that necessarily belong to their ideas. In the present case, he considers that existence belongs to God as necessarily as it belongs to the triangle that the sum of its angles should be equal to two right angles. What is typical of the attitude of Thomas Aquinas is that, while agreeing to attribute to the notion of an object whatever necessarily follows from its definition, he absolutely refuses to include existence among the properties attributable to any object on the strength of its definition. This is essential to the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas. Actual existence can be either experienced or inferred from another actually given existence, it cannot be deduced from any definition. Thomas would answer to Descartes as follows. If God exists, then His existence belongs to His essence much more necessarily than the properties of the triangle belong to it in virtue of its definition. For if there is a God, He cannot not be, whereas, if there were no God, there would be nothing else. But the problem precisely is to know if there is a God, and the only way to answer it is to proceed by way of demonstration.”[184] 


2. The Ontological Argument of Leibniz


Leibniz’ ontological argument goes like this: “It is possible for God to exist, since that does not involve contradiction. But if God is possible, He must exist, since a God who is merely possible is not that which is understood by the concept ‘God.’ Therefore, God really exists.” He writes in his Monadology: “God alone (or the Necessary Being) has this prerogative that if He be possible He must necessarily exist, and, as nothing is able to prevent the possibility of that which involves no bounds, no negation, no contradiction, this alone is sufficient to establish a priori His existence.”[185] For Leibniz, a Necessary Being or a Being without any imperfection whatsoever, is possible. But if a Necessary Being is possible, it exists, for in an All-Perfect Being, there is an identification between the reality of its possibility and the reality of its existence, since its essence includes that existence. Therefore, the Necessary Being necessarily exists.


Leibniz’ argument is another invalid demonstration, an illicit transfer from the logical order to the real order. It is true that if one conceptualizes God to be infinite and at the same time possible to exist, then, in order to maintain the divine infinity, one would have to affirm his real existence conceptually, since God who is merely possible is not as perfect as an actual, real God. Therefore, conceptually, one would have to affirm that the infinite being really exists. But the problem with this line of reasoning is that it does not yet prove the actual existence of the infinite God in the real order, in the order of being. Like Descartes, Leibniz is trapped within the immanent sphere of the mind, unable to transcend to know reality as it is. For these giants of rationalism, reality is not known in the first instance as thought is prior to being and becomes the condition of being. All they arrive at is a thought of reality, not actual reality.   


Kant criticized the ontological argument in his Critique of Pure Reason, though the argument he attacks centers on the versions proposed by the rationalists Descartes and Leibniz.[186] He writes: “The concept of a supreme being is in many respects a very useful idea; but just because it is a mere idea, it is altogether incapable, by itself alone, of enlarging our knowledge in regard to what exists…since the criterion of the possibility of synthetic knowledge is never to be looked for save in experience, to which the object of an idea cannot belong, the connection of all real properties in a thing is a synthesis, the possibility of which we are unable to determine a priori. And thus the celebrated Leibniz is far from having succeeded in what he plumed himself on achieving – the comprehension a priori of the possibility of this sublime ideal being. The attempt to establish the existence of a supreme being by means of the famous ontological argument of Descartes is therefore merely so much labor and effort lost; we can no more extend our stock of (theoretical) insight by mere ideas, than a merchant can better his position by adding a few noughts to his cash account.”[187]


3. Descartes’ Immanentist Effect to Cause Demonstration of God’s Existence


Descartes has an effect (the idea of an infinite, most perfect Being) to cause (God the infinite, most perfect Being, Cause of that idea that we have) argument for God’s existence, but unlike the five ways of St. Thomas Aquinas, it does not start from the extra-mental real beings in the world but from the idea of an infinite, most perfect Being (he starts again from the logical order which will render the proof, like his other proofs, invalid because it makes the illegitimate jump from the logical order to the real order). Some scholars believe the Cartesian effect to cause argument can be called an “ontological argument” (in the Kantian and Wolffian sense of ontological, being cognition that is prior to and independent of experience) that departs from the clear and distinct idea that we have of a most perfect and infinite being.    


Let us consider the Cartesian argument in detail, and then see why such a method of demonstration is invalid. Our philosopher first establishes his first certainty, that of the thinking subject: “I will now close my eyes, I will stop my ears, I will turn away my senses from their objects, I will even efface from my consciousness all the images of corporeal things...And thus holding converse only with myself, and closely examining my nature, I will endeavor to obtain by degrees a more intimate and familiar knowledge of myself. I am a thinking (conscious) thing, that is, a being who doubts, affirms, denies, knows a few objects, and is ignorant of many – who imagines likewise, and perceives; for, as I before remarked, although the things which I perceive or imagine are perhaps nothing at all apart from me (and in themselves), I am nevertheless assured that those modes of consciousness which I call perceptions and imaginations, in as far only as they are modes of consciousness, exist in me. And in the little I have said I think I have summed up all that I really know, or at least all that up to this time I was aware I knew.”[188]


Descartes believes that this knowledge that he has of himself is true knowledge because it is clearly and distinctly perceived : “...It seems to me that I may now take as a general rule, that all that is very clearly and distinctly apprehended (conceived) is true.”[189] He then proceeds to demonstrate God’s existence. First of all, he discovers that he has an idea of God. Then, he perceives that he could not have been the origin of this idea. Thus, he concludes that the only adequate source of this idea of an infinitely perfect Being that he has, that is, his idea of God, must be an actually existing infinitely perfect God: “But, among these my ideas, besides that which represents myself, respecting which there can be no difficulty, there is one that represents God; others that represent corporeal and inanimate things; others angels; others animals; and, finally, there are some that represent men like myself. But with respect to the ideas that represent men, or animals, or angels, I can easily suppose that they were formed by the mingling and composition of the other ideas which I have of myself, of corporeal things, and of God, although there were, apart from myself, neither men, animals, nor angels. And with regard to the ideas of corporeal objects, I never discover in them anything so great or excellent which I myself did not appear capable of originating.”[190]


Regarding his innate idea of God our philosopher explains that: “There only remains, therefore, the idea of God, in which I must consider whether there is anything that cannot be supposed to originate with myself. By the name God, I understand a substance infinite (eternal, immutable), independent, all-knowing, all-powerful, and by which I myself, and every other thing that exists, if any such there be, were created. But these properties are so great and excellent, that the more attentively I consider them the less I feel persuaded that the idea I have of them owes its origin to myself alone. And thus it is absolutely necessary to conclude, from all that I have before said, that God exists; for though the idea of substance be in my mind owing to this, that I myself am a substance, I should not, however, have the idea of an infinite substance, seeing I am a finite being, unless it were given me by some substance in reality infinite.”[191]


Because of the fact that he is able to reflect upon his own limitations and imperfections, his doubts, etc., leads Descartes to discover in himself the concept of the perfect, that is, the notion of God, which he opines that, though this concept is in him, it cannot be due to him: “I clearly perceive that there is more reality in the infinite substance than in the finite, and therefore that in some way I possess the perception (notion) of the infinite before that of the finite, that is, the perception of God before that of myself, for how could I know that I doubt, desire, or that something is wanting to me, and that I am not wholly perfect, if I possessed no idea of a being more perfect than myself, by comparison of which I knew the deficiencies of my nature?”[192]


There then must be some cause of this idea of God apart from the thinking subject; also, such a concept cannot be said to come out of nothing. “And it cannot be said that this idea of God is perhaps materially false, and consequently that it may have arisen from nothing (in other words, that it may exist in me from my imperfection), ... for as this idea is very clear and distinct, and contains in itself more objective reality than any other, there can be no one of itself more true, or less open to the suspicion of falsity.”[193]


What exactly does Descartes mean by objective reality? The extra-mental thing apart from the thinking subject to which our minds must conform to? No. He here means the content of the idea, what it represents, that by which one notion differs from the other. Each concept, according to him, has a particular, distinct objective reality. What is common to all ideas is their being but different modes of consciousness. Different from this objective reality (content of the idea) is the actual reality of the thing itself. Now the actual reality of God, the extra-mental Supreme Being who exists apart from the thinking subject, is He who imparts to the thinking subject from the very beginning at least the potential objective reality of the idea of God. The thinking subject can actuate this potential objective reality of God by means of a reflection upon one’s own imperfections, etc.: “There remains only the inquiry as to the way in which I received this idea from God; for I have not drawn it from the senses, nor is it even presented to me unexpectedly, as is usual with the ideas of sensible objects, when these are presented or appear to be presented to the external organs of the senses; it is not even a pure production or fiction of my mind, for it is not in my power to take from or add to it; and consequently there but remains the alternative that it is innate, in the same way as the idea of myself. And, in truth, it is not to be wondered at that God, at my creation, implanted this idea in me, that it might serve, as it were, for the mark of the workman impressed on his work; ...but considering only that God is my creator, it is highly probable that he in some way fashioned me after his own image and likeness, and that I perceive this likeness, in which is contained the idea of God, by the same faculty by which I apprehend myself, – in other words, when I make myself the object of reflection, I not only find that I am an incomplete (imperfect) and dependent being, and one who unceasingly aspires after something better and greater than he is; but, at the same time, I am assured likewise that he upon whom I am dependent possesses in himself all the goods after which I aspire (and the ideas of which I find in my mind), and that not merely indefinitely and potentially, but infinitely and actually, and that he is thus God. And the whole force of the argument of which I have here availed myself to establish the existence of God, consists in this, that I perceive that I could not possibly be of such a nature as I am, and yet have in my mind the idea of a God, if God did not in reality exist – that is, a being who possesses all those lofty perfections, of which the mind may have some slight conception, without, however, being fully able to comprehend them, – and who is wholly superior to all defect and has nothing that marks imperfection.”[194]


Now, this Cartesian demonstration must be rejected for it is simply false the assert that all men have an innate idea of God as a supremely perfect and infinite Supreme Being. History reveals that there were many pagan philosophers, writers, and ordinary men and women who believed in polytheism and a pantheon of imperfect gods and godesses full of vices and limitations. Ancient Greece and Rome are testaments to this type of thinking, so what exactly is Descartes talking about? All his thinking reveals is that the overwhelming majority of the people in the society in which he lived in, namely, the Christian Europe of the first half of the seventeenth century, were believing Christians who acknowledged the existence of an infinite and supremely perfect personal God. What our philosopher really had was not an innate idea of God as an infinite and supremely perfect Being planted there by God Himself but rather his childhood memory of God taught to him as a Christian. What we learn from childhood becomes, as it were, second nature, something taken for granted. Descartes’ idea of God in his mind was nothing but the Christian notion of God. In finding this notion of an infinite and supremely perfect Being in him he was simply recalling the notion of God taught to him at home, school and parish. But as was said, not all men have the idea of God as an infinite and supremely perfect Being. Such was the situation thousands of years ago during Greek and Roman times, and is also the case today at the beginning of the third millennium, aptly described as a neo-paganism with technology. Hence the crucial need for a rational demonstration of God’s existence starting from the extra-mental things of this world (our true effect to cause demonstration).       


We cannot make an illicit passage from the logical order of our concepts to the ontological order of reality, which is what our philosopher indeed does. Descartes’ point of departure, which is thought, has made it impossible from him to transcend the immanence of his own mind to attain to reality. According to the principles of his immanentist system, the only existence that he could possibly infer would be a thought of existence or an existence as thought.


But does he not use the principle of causality to infer the real existence of God? Isn’t it true that the only possible adequate cause for the conceptual content of an infinitely perfect Being should be an infinitely perfect existing Being? Does Descartes’ “objective reality” (content of the idea) necessarily allude to a cause which must be the actual existence of the thing known by the concept? By no means. In the Cartesian demonstration the potential presence of the innate idea of God is identified with the subject itself in its capacity as a thinking subject. What actuates this idea is a reflection upon the imperfections and deficiencies of the thinking subject. From the notion of imperfection the thinking subject grasps the notion of perfection, or more precisely, the degrees of perfection, and is thus able to imagine the absolutely perfect supreme degree of perfection. Descartes concludes thinking about God, calling this supreme degree of perfection that he is thinking of God. But how can this mean that, therefore, there must be such a supremely perfect God existing outside my mind?


If God did not cause this innate notion Descartes claims we have as thinking subjects, then who or what exactly did? It must surely be our own thinking processes. The manner of being of such an idea of God must necessarily be finite for it is simply a mode of self-consciousness. The content, or as Descartes would erroneously say the “objective reality,” of such an idea of God as infinitely perfect Being is in reality obtained through the notion of degrees of perfection; thus the possibility to think about the highest degree. But this does not give us the right to hold that, therefore, there must necessarily be an infinitely perfect Being which truly exists extra-mentally, extra-subjectively. Thus, Descartes’ demonstration fails. Thought can never be our starting point for a valid demonstration of the existence of God.









1. Demonstration


A demonstration cannot simply be equated with a proof for a proof may be compelling, convincing, or merely persuading, whereas a demonstration is always compelling. When a history professor says to his students that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, a skeptical student who raises his hand may be satisfied by the historical proofs from an abundance of books and specialized historical periodicals on Ancient Rome handed to him by his professor. However, there isn’t a simple demonstration of the truth in question. That Julius Caesar did indeed cross the Rubicon is, of its nature, an historical fact that relies on various statements, historical documents, and written testimonies. But it isn’t something that, given all the objective information to examine, a person will affirm as being inevitable as for example, a person sees as inevitable the fact that five plus five equals ten. On the other hand, a math teacher has no need of various historical documents, testimonies and statements to convince a skeptical student that the angles of a triangle come to a hundred and eighty degrees, for it is a truth that can be reasoned out in such a complete and thorough way that the doubting student who understands every single step of the process is compelled to recognize it. And only to such a compelling proof can we give the name of demonstration.


Now there are two types of demonstration[195]: the quia demonstration (which goes from the effects to the causes) and the propter quid demonstration (which goes from causes to effects).[196] St. Thomas explains these two types of demonstration for us in his Summa Theologiae, and then affirms the possibility of an a posteriori demonstration of God’s existence[197]: “Demonstration can be made in two ways. One is through the cause, and is called propter quid, and this is to argue from what is prior absolutely. The other is through the effect, and is called a demonstration quia. This is to argue from what is prior relatively only to us. When an effect is better known to us than its cause, from the effect we proceed to the knowledge of the cause. And from every effect the existence of its proper cause can be demonstrated, so long as its effects are better known to us, because since every effect depends upon its cause, if the effect exists, the cause must pre-exist. Hence the existence of God, in so far as it is not self-evident to us, can be demonstrated from those of His effects which are known to us.”[198]


The demonstration propter quid (a priori) consists in demonstrating the effects and properties of something on the basis of the cause or nature, which is more known to us.[199] In the a priori demonstration (also called deduction), the process of demonstration starts from what is prior in essendo and also in cognoscendo, to what is posterior by nature. The instrument of demonstration is a cause, a definition, or a general principle. Mathematics is essentially a deductive science for its demonstrations are basically propter quid (a priori). In certain instances what is better known to us is also more knowable by nature and in itself. Such is the case with the science of mathematics; by reason of its abstraction from matter, it carries out its demonstrations only on the basis of formal principles. Hence, mathematical demonstrations begin with what is more knowable in itself.[200]


On the other hand, the demonstration quia (a posteriori) demonstrates the existence of a cause by using its effects, which are more known to us, as the point of departure. Such a demonstration begins with what is posterior in essendo and ends with what is anterior in essendo, as what is posterior by nature comes first in cognoscendo. This “effect-to-cause” demonstration is called quia because what the conclusion does is to affirm the existence of the cause because (quia) of the existence of the effect. The quia demonstration is also called a posteriori for it begins with what is posterior in the ontological order (the order of being or reality). In itself, a cause is prior to its effect, but in a demonstration we must start with whatever is prior as far as concerns us. Thus, when the effects are more evident to us than the cause, we proceed from knowledge of the effects to knowledge of the cause. It is possible to demonstrate the existence of a cause starting from its effects for since every effect depends upon its cause, every effect must presuppose the existence of its cause. Therefore, the existence of God (not self-evident with regard to ourselves), can be demonstrated through His effects, which are evident to us.


It is through a causal induction that we demonstrate the existence of God, on the basis of the limited perfections that we observe in things. Causal induction, based upon the principle of causality, seeks to discover the universal link between a series of events and its cause. In the philosophical realm this link operates on the metaphysical level. Our quia demonstration of the existence of God utilizes induction with a foundation in the principle of causality, operating on the metaphysical or ontological level. Though our demonstration of the existence of God involves a causal induction (for scientific investigation begins with a phenomenon whose cause still has to be discovered before the major premise of the demonstration quia can be formulated), the structure of the demonstration quia (the demonstration from effect to cause) generally has the structure of a categorical syllogism, which is a deductive process. The major premise would enunciate that a particular event signifies the presence of a cause. The demonstration quia can also be formulated as a conditional syllogism (the “if” conditional hypothetical syllogism, which contains a conditional proposition as the major premise), wherein the presence of the cause will be inferred from its effect according as the causality involved is sufficient, necessary, or both simultaneously. How can we reconcile inductive inference with deductive inference, both being involved in our quia demonstration of the existence of God?


It should not be thought that deduction and induction are processes totally independent from one another. On the contrary, the inductive and deductive processes are complementary for the prerequisite of deduction are premises arrived at by induction. The principle of the syllogism, or deductive reasoning, is a universal attained by induction. Aristotle states that “induction is the starting-point which knowledge even of the universal presupposes, while the syllogism proceeds from universals. There are therefore starting-points from which the syllogism proceeds, which are not reached by the syllogism; it is therefore by induction that they are acquired.”[201] Induction is introduced in order to know some principle and some universal at which we arrive through experience of singulars. But from the universal principles known previously in the aforesaid manner proceeds the syllogism. There are certain principles from which the syllogism proceeds, which are not certified by the syllogism, otherwise one would proceed to infinity in the principles of the syllogism, which is not possible.[202] Thus the principle of the syllogism is induction. But it should be said that not any syllogism is causative of scientific knowledge, but solely the demonstrative syllogism, which concludes necessary things from necessary.[203]


It was mentioned that the demonstration quia, which makes use of a causal induction, is based on the principle of causality. But what exactly is this principle? The principle of causality is the cause-effect dependence between things expressed in a universal manner. We are here referring solely to that most commonly known type of causality, that is, to efficient or agent causality, the efficient or agent cause being that primary principle or origin of any act which makes a thing to be, or to be in a certain way.[204] Efficient causality is of capital importance in our demonstration of God’s existence, for the efficient or agent cause always transcends the effect.


There are various formulations of the principle of causality, all of which express the basic condition that every effect is in need of a causal basis. Such formulas include:


1. Anything which moves is moved by something else, or whatever is in motion is put in motion by another (quid quid movetur ab alio movetur)[205] This formulation of the principle of causality was first developed by the Stagirite, who used it to arrive at the First Mover, Pure Act, the First Cause of movement in things. Aquinas uses this formulation of the principle in his prima via, the demonstration from motion in things. In a general sense, the motion mentioned here is that transition from being in potentiality to being in actuality,[206] or from a certain non-being to being. The demonstrative power of this formulation of the principle of causality lies in the absolute irreducibility of act to potency, as well as the impossibility that anything potential can ever confer actuality upon itself. Nothing can be reduced from potency to act except by a being in act.[207]


2. Everything which begins or comes “to be” has a cause.[208] This is a more precise formulation of the principle of causality than the popular formula “every effect has a cause,” This principle, that anything which begins “to be” necessarily demands a cause, is applicable to any perfection of things having a beginning in time. A thing which does not have a certain act cannot confer that act upon itself, but must receive the influence of something else which does have that act. Our second formulation of the principle of causality has an even more far-reaching application in the case of anything which begins or comes “to be” in the absolute sense, that is, as substantia.


3. Every contingent being requires a cause. The Angelic Doctor applies this formulation of the principle of causality to his tertia via demonstration of the existence of God in order to arrive at the Necessary Being. As regards being, anything which in itself has a potentiality for ceasing “to be” is contingent. We limit ourselves naturally to corporeal beings, which are corruptible because of their composition of matter and form. A thing contingent in itself can either “be” or “not be.” If in fact it is, there must subsequently be a cause of its being actual. And if that cause be something likewise contingent, we must look to a further cause, inquiring further until we attain an absolutely necessary being, that is, a being which cannot “not be.”


4. If a particular being possesses a perfection not derived from its essence, that perfection must come from an external cause. This last formulation is a causal process that operates in Aquinas’ quarta via. When applied to the act of being (esse), the formulation can be considered as the most perfect and universal formulation of the principle of causality. The act of being (esse) as a perfection does not pertain necessarily to an essence. Thus, it must originate from an extrinsic cause which is really distinct from the essence. The act of being (esse) does not come from the essence for the essence (essentia) is the principle of specification and differentiation among individual things; it makes a thing to be what it is and different from other things. The act of being, on the other hand, is the principle of unity and similarity among all things because all things have it. The common possession of all things, all creatures participate in the act of being, whatever determinate essence each being (ens) may have. Therefore, we must conclude that the act of being (esse) of a thing must come from a cause, and it is distinct from the essentia of the same thing. We also see that esse is possessed by things in various degrees, which gives rise to a metaphysical or ontological hierarchy of being. The multiplicity and finitude of things reveal that no individual thing can possess the act of being in all its fullness, in its full intensity. Rather, finite things possess esse only in part, by participation.[209] Now, if esse is possessed only in a partial manner by things, by participation, it must be present in a being that possesses it in all its fullness, in all its intensity. This being is none other than God.   


As was mentioned, the demonstration quia is based on the principle of causality. The means of proof used by this demonstration is a fact of experience which, through induction, we know to be essentially linked to some cause. The universal premise of this demonstration is none other than a particular formulation of the principle of causality (e.g., that everything that begins or comes to be has a cause, either present or past). 


We start with a consideration of things given in sensible experience, and infer from their existence, the existence of a Being not given in sense experience. Starting from an effect whose existence is given in sense experience, it will be possible to infer the existence of a cause that really exists and is the true cause of this effect.


For a demonstration to be valid its conclusion must not be present explicitly in the premises but only implicitly or potentially. We would be begging the question if the conclusion were explicitly present in the premises, for the premises are supposed to prove the conclusion, and the latter was already contained in the former. On the other hand, if the conclusion is only potentially present in the premises, then such premises possess the power to produce, that is, to cause in us, the knowledge of the conclusion. In such a case, the demonstration would be authentic and valid.


This authentic and valid type of demonstration is true as regards the a posteriori quia demonstration of God’s existence starting from the existence of corporeal, sensible beings. For such sensible beings are not considered at first as explicit and actual effects but are considered as particular beings which, when analyzed, manifest certain characteristics such as mutability, contingency, limitation, imperfection, etc. And from this point of departure one can conclude that such certain characteristics of sensible beings must have a necessary relation or connection with some other being upon which they must simultaneously here and now depend for their actual act of being.


In the a posteriori demonstration of the existence of God the knowledge of the conclusion comes after the knowledge of the premises. As the order of knowing is the reverse of the order of being, there is nothing stopping created beings from being posterior to the Supreme Being, even though our knowledge of created beings precedes our knowledge of God. What man first knows is the being of sensible, material things. It is only after this knowledge that he can then arrive at a knowledge of the existence of God, who is beyond man’s sensible experience. This is the order of our knowing process. On the other hand, in the ontological order, that is, the real order of being, it is God’s existence that comes first, and then the existence of sensible, material beings, which are dependent upon the First Cause for their very act of being.


In the a posteriori demonstration of the existence of God we find that the conclusion follows with necessity from the premises as such a proof necessarily concludes to a Necessary Being. This is the case even though the demonstration proceeds from the contingent existence of a particular sensible and material being. Because of such a contingency the particular sensible and corporeal being must necessarily be connected in its existence to a non-contingent, that is, Necessary Being. Therefore we must conclude that there exists a Necessary Being, that is, God.


2. The A Posteriori Demonstration of the Existence of God


Essential Points to Remember for Any “A Posteriori Quia” Demonstration of God’s Existence. The a posteriori demonstrations of the existence of God are not simple demonstrations that any ordinary person on the street can perform; rather, the five ways require an adequate understanding of the fundamental points of realist metaphysics, such as the transcendental structure of being, the doctrine of transcendental metaphysical participation, intrinsic and extrinsic predicamental causality and their ultimate ontological foundation in transcendental metaphysical causality.[210] These quia demonstrations of God’s existence are not mathematical deductions nor are they demonstrations from physics; they are, instead, metaphysical demonstrations that regard created beings in as much as they are caused effects that require an uncaused proper, immediate and necessary cause. They are demonstrations rooted in the centrality of esse (as act of acts and perfection of perfections) and in transcendental metaphysical causality. The core metaphysical point of the quia demonstrations lies in the fact that the real composite structure of beings (entia), composed of essence and act of being, requires a reason why those beings in fact are. And this reason cannot be found in the order of predicamental causality (which explains only the becoming of the effect but not its act of being), but rather in the order of transcendental metaphysical causality wherein we find that the being by essence is the immediate and necessary proper cause of all finite beings. Such a causality is metaphysical and not physical or a causality of phenomena.


The Constitutive Elements of the “A Posteriori” Demonstration of God’s Existence. There are four constitutive elements in the a posteriori quia demonstration of the existence of God: 1. the point of departure (or starting point); 2. the application of causality to the point of departure; 3. the impossibility of proceeding to infinity in the series of causes (just what type of series of causes will be explained shortly); and 4. the conclusion of the necessity of God’s existence. This four stage structure is summarized by Battista Mondin as follows: “1. The attention is drawn to a certain phenomenon (change, secondary causality, possibility, the grades of perfection, finality); 2. The relative, dependent and caused character (that is, the contingency) of the phenomenon is evidenced. Whatever changes is moved by another; second causes are in turn, caused; the possible receives its being from others; the grades of perfection receive perfection from the highest perfection; finality always requires intelligence, while natural things in themselves do not have intelligence; 3. It is demonstrated that the effective and actual reality of a contingent phenomenon cannot be explained by postulating the intervention of an infinite series of contingent causes; and 4. It is concluded that the only valid explanation of the contingent is God. He is the unmoved mover, the uncaused cause, necessary being, the most perfect being, and the supreme ordering intelligence.”[211] 


1. The Point of Departure of the “A Posteriori” Demonstration of the Existence of God. The a posteriori quia demonstration of the existence of God is entirely a metaphysical demonstration. We are not doing physics, a scientific experiment, nor are we working out a mathematical problem. We are doing metaphysics, which operates at the third degree of abstraction. But the sensible and the physical is the obligatory passage that one must undergo to pass on to the metaphysical level, since all our knowledge begins from that which is grasped by the senses.[212] In the point of departure (or starting point) of the demonstration of God’s existence, we perceive the world of real beings, of physical reality, that is immediately evident to our observation and experience, but nevertheless must now be endowed with a metaphysical formality. The demonstration starts from empirical or observable facts, that is, from things or events in the world that we can directly experience. The primary condition for a valid proof of God’s existence is a basis in data evident to human sensible-intellectual experience. It should, however, be made clear that though our starting point is something known empirically, such a fact of experience must be considered metaphysically. It must not be considered in as much as it is initially presented in an empirically experiential way, but rather according to a metaphysical perspective (which goes beyond the sensible experience of the visible world). Our attention is given to determinate contingent phenomena: change, secondary or instrumental causality, possibility, grades of perfection and order. From the knowledge of things that move we have the experience of movement. From the knowledge of the actions of creatures we have the experience of efficient causality. From the knowledge that things are not necessary of themselves we have the experience of the diverse grades of non-necessity. From the sensible-intellectual knowledge of things that are more or less perfect we have the experience of grades of perfection. And from the knowledge that non-thinking beings are finalized we have the experience of the order of the universe.


2. The Application of Causality to the Point of Departure. A cause is defined as that which really and positively influences a particular being (ens) or thing, making this particular being (ens) or thing be dependent upon it in a certain way. Causality[213] is the aspect of a thing insofar as it influences the being of something else. It is that which exercises a positive influence upon the “to be” of something else[214] (we are, of course, speaking here of efficient or agent causality, which is what is meant by a cause in common parlance). It is truly the dynamic aspect of being which, through the act of being (esse), is capable of communicating its various perfections as well as to produce new things. We experience causality in our everyday lives. For example, we know that the cause of Jimmy’s black eye was Victor who gave him a punch in the schoolyard after class the other day. Or the fact that the cause of The Messiah was George Frideric Handel who composed it. Or, going to St. Peter’s basilica in Rome, we know that the cause of the Pietà was Michelangelo who sculpted it. We also have the internal experience that we are the cause of our own actions, such as the moving of our arms, of our walking to the supermarket, etc. We also have a concurrent internal and external experience of causality, that is, we are conscious of our causal actions on the extra-mental, extra-subjective beings around us, as well as the influence that these particular beings have on us. The existence of causality in our world is an evident truth which requires no demonstration (only something that is not immediately evident requires demonstration). What is necessary, though, is an inquiry into its basis. Such a basis is provided by being (ens), which can exercise causality because of its esse.


The most characteristic observations that are affirmable after a basic consideration of the notions of cause and effect are: 1. That the effect’s very dependence on its cause with regard to esse is the counterpart of the real influence of the said cause on the effect. A cause is said to be a cause precisely to the extent that the effect cannot come to be or exist without it. For example, Michelangelo’s Mausoleum of Julius II in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains) in Rome, which contains the famous sculpture of Moses, would not exist without the materials of which it is made and without the proper arrangement of these elements. Neither would this sculpture work exist without the genius of Michelangelo, even though his master hand more directly influenced the coming into being of the sculpture series than its actual being. This two-fold way of influencing the effect enables us to define a cause as anything by which something depends with regard to its being or to its coming into being ; 2. That there is a real distinction between the cause and the effect since the real dependence of one thing upon another would necessarily demand that they be really distinct from one another ; 3. Lastly, the cause is prior to the effect. The cause comes before the effect as the perfection which the cause confers upon or produces in the effect must first exist in the cause in some manner. The fact that the cause is prior to the effect entails, in many instances, a precedence in time. For example, Mr. and Mrs. Leopold Mozart preceded their son Wolfgang Amadeus, Leonardo preceded the Mona Lisa, Michelangelo preceded the Last Judgment, and Beethoven preceded the Ninth Symphony. But as far as the causal action is concerned, effect and its cause are simultaneous and correlative as the cause is a cause when it causes and an effect is an effect at the very moment it is being caused. If Michelangelo stopped painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel the coming into being of that particular work of art would immediately cease. If Leo Tolstoy stopped thinking during the writing of War and Peace, the coming into being of War and Peace would immediately stop.


A proper efficient cause is an agent that exercises its influence over the being of some other being (which is here called the effect), by means of an activity that is properly its own, that is, by means of an activity that flows from its own nature, its own form, an activity which is proportioned to the very nature of the agent cause. For example, in the painting of The Transfiguration, many causes have exercised their activity, but working together as a causal unit. We have the intelligence of Raphael, his various motor faculties or nerves, his fingers, the moved movement of his various paintbrushes, and so forth. And the complexity of this causal activity is beautifully mirrored in the complexity of the effect produced: The Transfiguration, which carries profound meaning. The various elements that constitute the unity of the effect, a profound painted masterpiece, are proportioned to what in the agent has properly produced them. For example, the shapes, colors, shades, and textures of the painting are properly proportioned to the oilpaints and brushes utilized, whereas the meaning or intelligibility that these shapes, forms, and colors carry is properly proportioned to the intelligence of the artist. Hence, the proper cause of the meaning of the painting has not been the oilpaints, paintbrushes, and canvas, which have no intelligence, but rather the artist who has utilized these artistic tools. Therefore, this is the first characteristic of a proper cause, that is, it produces the effect by an activity that is proportioned to its own nature or being. Now regarding the argument from the existence of an effect to the existence of God, it will be proper to argue for the existence of God as the proper cause of the very being of the effect.


One can also observe how one particular set of causes may have been needed to bring about a certain effect into being, and another set needed to sustain the effect in being. Let us take as an example the painting of Leonardo, the famous Mona Lisa. Once the work of art had been painted it is no longer the effect of the painter, the paint brushes and the oil paints. Rather, it was their effect. It was painted. But it is to be observed that the painting, the Mona Lisa, is not here and now being caused by Leonardo and his painting instruments. And yet, the Mona Lisa remains in existence. It exists to be enjoyed by art lovers all over the world. It keeps on keeping the being it has received, and thus, it keeps on depending on a series of causes that preserves it in being. The existence of the canvas conserves the existence of the oil paint and the oil paint conserves the existence of the meaning intended by Leonardo. And all these must exist simultaneously. This aspect of the simultaneous existence of cause and effect, as far as causal action is concerned, is of crucial interest in the demonstration of the existence of God, for once it is seen that God is needed as the sole possible proper cause of the act of being of any being, it will also be seen that God must simultaneously be if anything is to be at all.


As regards the various starting points for the existence of God mentioned above, one can find causality manifested. From the experience of movement we find that that which is moved is moved by another. From the experience of efficient causality we find that every subordinate cause is caused by another, that is, it is impossible that something be the efficient cause of itself. From the experience of the diverse grades of necessity we find that contingent being is caused by a necessary being. From the experience of various grades of transcendental perfections we find that the perfections that are given in various degrees are participated, and therefore caused. And lastly, from the experience of the order of the universe we find that order towards an end is caused. Our starting point, which is limited, imperfect, changeable and contingent being, is now manifested to be an effect, and as all effects depend upon their causes, once we have proven that such changeable, imperfect, limited, and contingent beings are in fact effects, it is subsequently necessary that a cause pre-exist. From every proper effect it is possible to demonstrate the existence of the proper cause of its being. There are no absolute and totally independent effects for every effect presupposes a proper cause upon which its being depends upon.


Causality has a metaphysical value as it is not perceived by the senses but rather by the intellect. One can, with one’s intelligence, grasp that a cause is that which gives being and all that which begins to be has need of an efficient cause. Every effect does not have in itself the very reason of its being. The reason of its very being lies in its proper cause which gives being to it. In causality the notions of cause and effect are understood together, as being inseparably linked. Each and every being which causes is a cause of something and a given effect necessarily demands a causal origin.


3. The Impossibility of Proceeding to Infinity in the Series of Causes. This third constitutive element of the a posteriori demonstration of the existence of God is utilized by the quia demonstrations whose points of departure are the experience of motion, secondary causality, and contingency in the beings of this visible world (the first, second, and third ways of St. Thomas). The a posteriori demonstration from grades of transcendental perfections (the fourth way), as well as the quia demonstration from finalization of non-intelligent beings (the fifth way), do not require this third element, though they can be included without compromising the structure of the proofs. 


The quia demonstrations treat of the impossibility of a process to infinity by causes essentially subordinated in the present and not of causes accidentally subordinated in the past. Causes accidentally subordinated in the past have the character of particular causes or autonomous causes, and can therefore be infinite: “In efficient causes it is impossible to proceed to infinity per se – thus, there cannot be an infinite number of causes that are per se required for a certain effect; for instance, that a stone be moved by a stick, the stick by the hand, and so on to infinity. But it is not impossible to proceed to infinity accidentally as regards efficient causes; for instance, if all the causes thus infinitely multiplied should have the order of only one cause, their multiplication being accidental; as an artificer acts by means of many hammers accidentally, because one after the other is broken. It is accidental, therefore, that one particular hammer acts after the action of another…”[215]


Causes accidentally subordinated in the past only give the reason of the becoming of the effect, but what must be discovered here is the very cause of being, which can be found through the inquiry into the causes essentially subordinated in the present. The former regards predicamental causality while the latter attains the causality of esse, which is transcendental causality.


The infinity which is treated here is not a mathematical infinity, which has a simply logical and formal value, nor a mere physical infinity, in which the causes are univocal and only explain the becoming of the effect. Rather, as regards our third constitutive element of the a posteriori demonstration of the existence of God, we are speaking of metaphysical infinity, which treats of the series of causes of metaphysically considered real effects.[216] A text of the Summa Contra Gentiles of St. Thomas is relevant here, as it shows that, if one were to proceed to infinity in the series of efficient causes, essentially subordinated in the present, in the order towards the production of an effect, there would not be a first cause, and if there be no first cause neither can there be any intermediate causes nor even an effect: “In all ordered efficient causes, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, whether one or many, and this is the cause of the last cause. But, when you suppress a cause, you suppress its effect. Therefore, if you suppress the first cause, the intermediate cause cannot be a cause. Now, if there were an infinite regress among efficient causes, no cause would be first. Therefore, all the other causes, which are intermediate, will be suppressed. But this is manifestly false.”[217] For more on the impossibility of an infinite regress in a per se essentially ordered series of efficient causes, see its use in the second way (secunda via) below.  


4. The Conclusion of the “A Posteriori” Demonstration: The Necessity of God’s Existence. The Thomistic five way a posteriori quia demonstrations of the existence of God conclude with their respective affirmations of His existence as First Unmoved Mover, Uncaused First Efficient Cause, Necessary Being, Supremely Perfect Being by Essence, and  First Supreme Ordering Intelligence.


3. The Five Ways


The five ways[218] of St. Thomas as presented in Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3 are all a posteriori quia effect to cause demonstrations of the existence of God.[219] Though all utilize the principle of causality in their ascent to God, they are, nevertheless, five specifically distinct proofs.[220] To see this we must look, not at the formal principle of the demonstration, but at the distinct starting points of each and on the basis on which they rest. Maritain writes: “One sometimes wonders if the five ways of Thomas Aquinas are but different aspects of one and the same proof or if they constitute five specifically distinct proofs. In my opinion, the proper reply to this question is that the nerve of the proof, the formal principle of the demonstration, is the same in each of the five ways, to wit, the necessity of a cause which is pure Act of Being, itself subsistent in its own right. From this point of view one could say that they form but one proof presented under different modes or aspects. But that which makes a proof is in reality not its formal principle alone, but also its point of departure and the basis on which it rests. And because the proofs of St. Thomas rest on the facts of experience (‘philosophic facts’), and because these facts are typically distinct data discerned in the world of experience, it is necessary to say purely and simply that the five ways of Thomas Aquinas constitute specifically distinct proofs.”[221] For Maritain, therefore, what brings about the distinction between the five ways lies in their starting points.


There are those interpreters of St. Thomas who see no specific order as regards the five ways. Motte’s[222] and Owens’ opinion concerning the ordering of the ways is that they have nothing necessary about them: “The division into ‘five ways’ had no special significance for St. Thomas. The division has the earmarks of an apologetic arrangement that could be altered freely to suit the purposes of the moment. The arrangement under the ‘five ways,’ however, is still the mold in which the arguments considered valid by modern Scholastic writers are usually cast.”[223]  


On the other hand, a number of scholars retain that the five ways do have a specific order. A. Boehm sees in the ways merely an order dependent on the current public debate during Aquinas’ own lifetime.[224] Others like Dewan, O. P. and Maritain see a definite systematic ordering, though some like M. Guérard des Lauriers explain it in function of three types of causality,[225] some like Anthony Kenny in function of the Aristotelian four causes,[226] others like S. Giuliani and Leo Elders, S. V. D., in function of the four causes and the doctrine of esse,[227] and others like L. Charlier in function of the five types of insufficiency.[228]  


According to Maritain, “the five ways of Thomas Aquinas not only constitute five typically distinct arguments; but, as the reader has no doubt remarked during the course of this exposition, they are also distributed in a certain order in which the depth of the thought and the complexity of the discussion increase. In proportion as the mind delves deeper into the world of experience in order to reach the first starting point of its thinking, it discerns in the First Being more and more meaningful aspects, and richer perspectives are disclosed to it.”[229]


Lawrence Dewan’s position regarding the numbering and ordering of the five ways is interesting and much more detailed than is Maritain’s. For the Canadian based Thomist, the first four ways are developed in accordance with Aristotle’s presentation of being as distinguished according to actuality and potentiality. In the “ninth book of the Metaphysics, we have, first, a doctrine of three types of being actually: actuality, operation and being imperfectly; and, subsequently, a discussion of being actually or actuality in terms of priority, goodness and truth. Now this is closer to the order of the first four of St. Thomas’ ways than would happen by chance. The first way starts from being imperfectly or imperfect actuality, i.e. motion considered as the actuality of the potential or movable. The second way starts from operation, i.e. motion considered in comparison to the motive or operative power. The third way, viewing things as revealed by generation and corruption, considers substantial being or actuality. The fourth way, then, considers things according as one is better than another, truer or more intelligible than another, nobler than (i.e. prior in perfection to) another. Thus the first four ways seem to be constructed on the basis of the Aristotelian doctrine of being, according as ‘being’ signifies that which is distinguished according to actuality and potentiality…we have a reason for the first four of St. Thomas’s five ways, i.e. as regards their order and number. The first three correspond to the three modes of being actually, taken in the order of their knowability for us. In this light, we can understand quite well the only indication of order St. Thomas himself gives us: ‘The first and more manifest way…’ The fourth way, itself multiple, sums up the variety of visions, according to its various properties, of being as distinguished according to actuality and potentiality.”[230]


If the first four ways are to be considered as a kind of unit, then why is the fifth way included in the list as the final way? Is it a kind of second unit? How does the fifth way add anything more to the the first four? Dewan replies: “The suggestion I wish to make is that, just as we have already considered the first four ways as a kind of unit, so the fifth way constitutes a second unit. Thus, the article would have two main parts, the first four ways and the fifth. Is there any reason, other than the systematic completeness of the first four ways, for positing this two-fold structure? If we wish to capture this duality in as compact a form as possible, we can take the fourth way as summing up the first four. Thus we have God as ‘an intelligent kind of being (aliquid intelligens), by which all natural beings are ordered to their goal.’ This duality, I suggest, corresponds to the plan of the Summa Theologiae as a whole. We can see this plan in various texts. The first place seems to be Summa Theologiae I, q. 1, a. 7, where the subject matter of the science St. Thomas calls ‘Sacred Doctrine’ is under discussion: ‘…But all [items] are treated in Sacred Doctrine in function of the intelligibility of God, either because they are God Himself, or because they have an order to God, as to their origin and the goal…’ And then, at q. 2, prologue, we read: ‘Therefore, because the principal intention of this Sacred Doctrine is to communicate the knowledge of God, and not only according as He is in Himself, but also according as He is the origin of things and their goal, and especially of the rational creature…first we shall treat of God; secondly of the movement of the rational creature unto God; thirdly of Christ, who as man is for us the way of tending unto God.


“Now, the consideration concerning God will be tripartite. For first we shall consider those [things] which pertain to the Divine Essence; secondly, those which pertain to the distinction of Persons; thirdly, those which pertain to the coming-forth of creatures from Him.’ We see, particularly in the last-quoted paragraph, how ‘God in Himself’ becomes telescoped with God ‘as origin of things,’ to constitute the matter of the First Part of the Summa; whereas the treatment of God ‘as Goal of all’ takes on the special form of ‘Goal of man,’ and constitutes the general subject-matter of the Second and Third Parts of the Summa. My suggestion is that the article on the existence of God acquires its over-all order from the fact that it is God, as subject of the science called ‘Sacred Doctrine,’ whose existence is being demonstrated. Accordingly, one might say that the first four ways constitute a starting-point for the First Part of the Summa, whereas the fifth way constitutes a starting-point for the Second and Third Parts. Our explanation of the order of the ways thus, in a way, coincides with the causal explanation, but explains why that explanation, by itself, is inadequate. The duality we see as the larger structure of the article reflects the duality of efficient and final causality, God as beginning and end of all. But the system that has been worked out for the first four ways is the way it is because of the variety proper to being as actuality. Our intention here is to propose the order which St. Thomas himself had in mind in writing the article, and not merely an order which holds but which escaped his notice. It does not seem to us that, given St. Thomas’s interest in questions of order, the interest he showed in sets of proofs for the existence of God, and the carefully polished form which the Summa article (I, q. 2, a. 3) has, – it does not seem to us likely that the order we have described was unintended.[231][232]


For Maurice Holloway, there is a definite ordering among the five ways: as they succeed one another they become increasingly metaphysical, becoming more and more involved in the act of being of things: “Each way exploits to a greater degree than the last the actuality of things. Motion, or an existent as changing, is for us the most obvious and manifest characteristic of sensible beings. Thus this evidence constitutes a good starting point; it is a good first way. But in itself such a characteristic of being is the least perfect and least stable manifestation of existential act. For here the very being of change is becoming, the reality of change consisting precisely in an ordering or movement to further being. The second way is more actual than the first, for here our evidence is not the change itself that a being is undergoing in its existence, but the activity that is responsible for such a change. The third way analyzes the natures from which such activity flows, which natures, as possessive of substantial being, are more perfect and stable than the accidental activity they exercise. But in the third way we analyzed these natures from the aspect of their corruptibility and contingency. We considered substantial being precisely as imperfect, namely, as corruptible and contingent. In the fourth way our concern was an explicitly metaphysical one. For in this way we analyzed existents insofar as they manifested perfections that as such involved no imperfection, the minoration of these perfections being due to the limiting essence in which they were exercised. But the perfections themselves, as considered apart from their limiting principle, had nothing of contingency or imperfection about them. The fifth way, the way of wisdom, is directly concerned with the existent as most actual. Here the transcendent property of being that this way considers is being as good, as perfect; hence, as desirable and therefore as finalizing the activity of natural agents. Thus the causality involved in the fifth way is final causality.”[233]  









This demonstration starts from the experience of motion in things and concludes with the affirmation of the existence of God as the Unmoved First Mover. This is the first way (prima via) of St. Thomas in the Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3: “The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain and evident to our senses 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 reduced from potentiality to actuality except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot, but it is simultaneously potentially cold. 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 be itself moved, then this also must 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 that 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 a first mover, moved by no other, and this everyone understands to be God.”[235]


The point of departure here is the experience of movement or motion in things. Now, motion or movement should be understood in the broad sense of change (metabolé in Greek, mutatio in Latin). Though change includes substantial change (that is, the change from one substance to another, as in the case of wood being turned into ashes by fire) the type of change intended by St. Thomas for his first way primarily regards the most immediately observable change, namely, accidental change (which includes local motion or the going from one place to another). Such accidental changes of corporeal things are changes immediately apparent to the senses. In qualitative change, for example, we easily observe the passage from cold water to hot water. As concerns local motion or locomotion, we see change happening, for example, when a stick is moved from one place to another by the hand. Because movement is a common fact in the world, Thomas characterizes the prima via as the most manifest way, as one easily experiences the movement of a variety of bodies around him. But it should be noted that the starting point of the argument from motion is motion not considered physically or scientifically, but metaphysically. What is considered here is a metaphysical explanation of the existence of motion in the various corporeal beings of the world.[236] From the metaphysical perspective, motion is the transition from being in potency to being in actuality, that is, it is the successive actualization of the potency. There are three principles involved in every change: the subject that undergoes a certain modification, the fact that there is a form that comes to be acquired, and, at the point a quo (starting point) there is a privation of the said form.


The second constitutive element of the demonstration entails the application of the formulation of metaphysical causality, quid quid movetur ab alio movetur, to the starting point (which is motion or change in things understood metaphysically as the passage from being in potency to being in act). We reason that that which is moved is moved because of another. Since motion is the transition of a thing from potentiality to actuality, it demands an extrinsic reason of being by which this is put into action and determined or limited. For it is not possible that one and the same thing at the same time and under the same respect be in potency as it is in act, or that it be the thing moved and the thing moving. Therefore, if a thing is set in motion, it must be set in motion by another. For example, cold cooking oil starts to become hot. Now, the cooking oil’s passage from being cold to being hot must have been caused by something already in act, which, in this case, is the fire from the stove. In short, nothing is moved from being in potency to being in act except by a being already in act.


The third constitutive element of the a posteriori argument from motion is this: it is not possible to proceed to infinity in the matter of those moving and of those moved, that is, it is impossible to go back to infinity through an ordered series of moved movers which are actually and essentially subordinated in the present. It is not possible for actual motion to have its own sufficient reason for being in a series of moved movers, these moved movers being simply transmitters of movement. If all movers were themselves merely moved, and if there were no first mover that moves without being moved, then there never is any motion. St. Thomas writes: “In movers and moved things that are ordered, where one, namely, is moved in order by another, it is necessary that if the first mover is removed or ceases from moving, none of the others will either move or be moved. And this is so because the first is the cause of the moving for all the others. But if there are ordered movers and moved things into infinity, there will not be any first mover, but all will be as intermediate movers. And so none of them will be able to be moved. And thus nothing will be moved in the world.”[237]


Seeing the necessity of positing a first unmoved mover, the mind now concludes to the existence of God (our fourth and final constitutive element). He is the Unmoved First Mover, the Mover that gives motion, but in no way receives it, a Being who is Pure Act and in no way in potentiality to change.       


Objection 1: The first way demonstration utilizes the principle quid quid movetur ab alio movetur. But it is evident that we move ourselves and so are the cause of our own motion. Thus man would himself be a first unmoved mover, not God. Therefore, the first way is inconclusive.


Reply to Objection 1: We do indeed move ourselves but this is so because we are moved by another. Let us give an example to prove this. John sits up and starts writing. He is clearly moving himself to write. Before he exerted himself he was not writing; he did not have the perfection he has now. We see that John cannot be in act and potency at the same time with regard to the same perfection. He is a human being composed of body and soul, a composite being having many “parts.” One part is able to move another part but no part is able to give to itself a perfection it does not have. So, before John started writing, as a human being he had the potency or active power to write, and not merely the passive potency to be moved to write like a puppet. One part of John moved another part. John’s operative faculty of will moved the nerves in his hand and they, in turn, moved his hand to write. But the question must be asked: what moved John’s will? In the order of final causality it was his desire to write to his friend about the great places he experienced during his recent trip to France. However, regarding our prima via demonstration ex parte motus, we are concerned with the adequate efficient causality of a given motion. Where then does the efficacy of the operative power of the will to move the hand originate? We can say from itself since the will is free and has the power to “move itself,” but we must also say from another since that very power of the will to move itself has been received from another. This “other” is the immaterial soul (the substantial form of the body), of which both the will and the intellect are operative faculties or powers (which are qualitative accidents). But now we must ask at this point the following: what moved the soul into being? The soul is not the cause of its own existence, its own being. It must have received its being, its very act of being which actualizes it, which moves it, from another. Again, we cannot go to infinite regress in an ordered series of moved movers essentially subordinated in the present, for there would be no first mover to set all others in motion. We must arrive, therefore, at the Unmoved First Mover (God), who moves the soul into being.


Objection 2: Does not the law of inertia (which states that every body continues in a state of rest, or of uniform motion in a straight line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it) render the principle of causality utilized by the first way (quid quid movetur ab alio movetur) invalid, and therefore, the demonstration itself erroneous?              


Reply to Objection 2: The law of inertia in no way renders the principle “whatever is in motion, is put into motion by another” invalid since physics here is treating of motion and rest as two states. A body is seen here in the eyes of physics as already in motion or already at rest, not as a body that begins to move or comes to a rest. The metaphysician wants to know why a certain body begins to move, or whence came this body’s power to move? Now, even if a certain corporeal being is in a state of motion, if there is an acceleration of that motion, the law of inertia itself demands that such an acceleration come from some extrinsic force. Therefore, our formulation of the principle of causality, quid quid movetur ab alio movetur, remains a valid principle and is even, at the level of the phenomenon of local motion, verified in a certain sense by Newton’s[238] first law of motion.[239]      









This quia demonstration departs from the experience of efficient causality in activity found in the world and ascends to an affirmation of the existence of God as the First Efficient Cause: “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, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate 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, nor any 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.”[241]


The starting point is our experience of the basic phenomena of efficient causality in the things of this world, in particular, of subordinated per se efficient causes, causes being ordered per se whenever the virtue of the first cause influences the ultimate effect produced through the intermediary causes. Here the causal influx of the first cause reaches to the ultimate effect by means of other causes. Let us give an example of a subordinated per se order of efficient causes: Harry is playing tennis. In this case, Harry’s expertise moves his right hand, and his right hand moves the tennis racket, and the tennis racket moves the ball, which is the ultimate effect. In this series of causes the causal influx of Harry’s expertise influences the ultimate effect, the moving of the ball, by means of other causes like his hands and his tennis racket. The Angelic Doctor explains: “…two things may be considered in every agent, namely, the thing itself that acts, and the power whereby it acts. Thus fire by its heat makes a thing hot. Now the power of the lower agent depends upon the power of the higher agent, in so far as the higher agent gives the lower agent the power whereby it acts, or preserves that power, or applies it to action. Thus the craftsman applies the instrument to its proper effect, although sometimes he does not give the instrument the form whereby it acts, nor preserves that form, but merely puts it into motion. Consequently, the action of the lower agent must not only proceed from the lower agent through the agent’s own power, but also through the power of all the higher agents, for it acts by the power of them all. Now just as the lowest agent is found to be immediately active, so the power of the first agent is found to be immediate in the production of the effect; because the power of the lowest agent does not of itself produce this effect, but by the power of the proximate higher agent, and this by the power of a yet higher agent, so that the power of the supreme agent is found to produce its effect of itself, as though it were the immediate cause.”[242]


The secunda via deals with essential or per se subordinated efficient causes, not per accidens ordered causes where the causal influx does not reach down to the ultimate effect, but only to the proximate effect. That the proximate effect manages in turn to cause some other effect is not due to the causal influx of the first cause in such a series. The latter effect is obviously outside the influence of the first efficient cause. Here is an example of a per accidens series of ordered causes: A camper lights a primed torch in the woods with his flaming torch. The fact that the torch that was lit is then used to light another primed torch and yet another can only be outside the influx of the first efficient cause (the flaming torch that lit the first primed torch). In this series of one torch lighting another, the influence of the first cause extends only to the proximate effect (the first primed torch lit) but not to the last or ultimate effect (the last primed torch lit). Since the last primed torch lit is outside the influence of the first cause this series of causes is ordered only accidentally, for what is beyond the virtue of a cause is by accident (per accidens).  


In the per se ordered series of efficient causes, on the other hand, the influx of the first cause extends to the production of the ultimate effect through the instrumentality of the intermediate causes. The general characteristics of a per se ordered series of efficient causes include: 1. Whenever the effect is produced in the our material cosmos, all the four  causes (material, formal, efficient and final) are simultaneously and actually exercising their proper causality; and 2. Not only is the causality of the material, formal, efficient and final causes properly and simultaneously exercised in the production of the effect, but it is also exercised in the conservation of the effect, that is, in keeping the effect in being. Let us take the example of the Pietà sculpted by Michelangelo more than five hundred years ago. Now, the Pietà cannot remain in existence, in being, unless its matter (the marble) and form (the form of the statue) be continually actualized, that is, unless the very act of being of that sculpted work of art composed of prime matter and substantial form remains. And that act of being, in turn, had to be produced or caused by an efficient cause. As the act of being of the effect (the Pietà) is but a produced or caused esse, it continually is in need of the presence and influx of its proper efficient cause.          


The per se ordered series of efficient causes also has a number of special characteristics. From the very nature of the series itself all the efficient or agent causes must be required here and now, and in act, for the production of the effect. Remove any one of the causes and the activity of the whole per se series immediately ceases. This is so for the causal influx of the first efficient cause reaches down to the ultimate effect through the instrumentality of all of the intermediate causes, not merely through some of them. Another special characteristic issues from the first, namely, while all the causes involved in our per se series are agent or efficient causes, each one of them is of a different nature of species. A third special characteristic is that all the efficient causes must not only be in act, but must be in simultaneous act. We are not speaking of a succession in time but only of a subordination in causality. Lastly, in our per se ordered series there is but one causal influx, one single operation, in which all efficient or agent causes share according to their respective natures, thus forming a single causal principle from which this activity proceeds and which ends in the same ultimate effect.        


Applying metaphysical causality to the point of departure of our secunda via, there is indicated the contingency of subordinated efficient causes and a need for a foundation in a primary and principal efficient cause. It is impossible for a thing to be its own efficient cause, for then it would have to exist before it existed, which is absurd. It should be noted that when we are dealing with efficient causality we are dealing with activity. We observe that things act, and by acting they produce effects. They cause, they are efficient or agent causes. To produce means to cause efficiently, to cause an effect efficiently. Now, for a cause to act, it has to be in act, in being, for activity follows being. Nothing causes unless it first of all exists. We must ultimately ask the question: what is the efficient cause of the very existence, of the very being, of the subordinated per se ordered efficient causes?


There is then a reference to the impossibility of an infinite regress in per se ordered efficient causes. An infinite regress would mean no first efficient cause. But if there would be no first efficient cause then there could be no ultimate effect because there would be no causal influx which produced the effect. “In all ordered efficient causes, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, whether one or many, and this is the cause of the last cause. But, when you suppress a cause, you suppress its effect. Therefore, if you suppress the first cause, the intermediate cause cannot be a cause. Now, if there were an infinite regress among efficient causes, no cause would be first. Therefore, all the other causes, which are intermediate, will be suppressed. But this is manifestly false.”[243] The conclusion, that a First Efficient Cause (God) necessarily exists, must therefore be admitted.









The starting point of this demonstration is the experience of the diverse degrees of non-necessity in the things of this world and concludes with the affirmation of the existence of God as the Necessary Being: “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 them always to exist, for that which can not-be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything can not-be, then at one time nothing was 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 existence caused by another, as has been already 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.”[245]


The constitutive elements of the tertia via are the following: First, the demonstration’s point of departure regards the diverse degrees of non-necessity in the various things of this world. We find that there are many things in the world that can not-be, that is, things like horses, cats, pine trees and orchids come into being and then die or corrupt. The cosmologist or philosopher of nature will tell you that the reason why corporeal beings corrupt is because they are composites of prime matter and substantial form, and that the former, matter, is the source of the possibility of corruption. All things that have matter corrupt and are thus possible not to be. 


In the second part of our demonstration there is a definition of the contingency of that which does not possess being necessarily, but only provisionally (of that which is generated and corrupted), through a reference to a formulation of metaphysical efficient causality: what does not exist begins to exist only thanks to something that is. In other words, every contingent being requires a cause of its to be.


We see that the beings having prime matter in them are generated and corrupted and are therefore not necessary. They can or can not-be. For example, the squirrel that we saw gathering nuts in the yard a week ago is now found to be dead. The oak tree that we knew as a child is now not here. It has died. It is important to note that the third way supposes the hypothesis of a world that always existed (even though St. Thomas himself firmly believed that the world had a beginning in time as an article of faith) since Aquinas is attempting to convince atheists and materialists (who presuppose the eternity of the world as a given) that God exists. Now, given an infinite duration every possibility for not-being in corruptible beings would have been actualized and there would be nothing in existence. “If we accept this supposition, that is, an eternity of successive changes, all possibilities – even that of corruption in a corruptible being – would necessarily come to pass. The reason is that a corruptible being is one which has the possibility of corrupting; it has a potency for ceasing to exist. Hence, given an infinite duration, all possibilities, even that of non-existence, would necessarily happen at some time, and not only for one but for every corruptible being. Sooner or later, then, during this infinite succession of time, the world of material beings would cease to exist; it would disappear; there would be nothing left; and from nothing, nothing could ever become.”[246]  


Maritain writes: “Imagine a time without beginning or end; imagine that there was nevertheless absolutely nothing necessary, either in time or above time: It is then impossible that there always was being, for that for which there is no necessity cannot have been always. It is inevitable then that a certain moment nothing would have existed. But if for one moment there be nothing, there will be nothing eternally, for nothing can come to existence except through something already existing. And therefore right now nothing would be existing.”[247] But this certainly cannot be the case since the world is here today for us to behold. “Therefore, to explain the fact of an existing world of corruptible beings, we must posit the existence of some incorruptible, some necessary being.”[248] 


Now, this necessity can be in itself or coming from another. So necessary beings are either necessary in themselves or thanks to another. But we cannot go to infinity as regards necessary beings that receive their necessity from another (our application of the third constitutive element of the a posteriori demonstration of the existence of God). Why? We know that the act of being is predicated of everything that is. Now, when a common perfection is predicated of two beings, it is not possible that that perfection be predicated of neither by way of causality. One of the beings must be the cause of the other, or some third being must be the cause of the perfection of both. Thus, it is impossible for two beings that are, that one of them should not have a cause of its act of being. It is either that both are through the third cause or that one is the cause of the other. Therefore, everything that is, to the extent that it is, must receive its being from that cause which has no cause of being. This Being is none other than God, the Absolutely Necessary Being, who does not take from others His own necessity, but is the Cause of the necessity of finite beings. God is the Being who is both intrinsically and extrinsically necessary, for He not only possesses in Himself no potency whatsoever for non-being, but His act of being itself is unreceived. He is the Subsistent Being, infinite and necessary in the order of being.









This quia demonstration departs from the experience of degrees of transcendental perfections in the things of the world and concludes to the existence of God as the Supremely Perfect Being by Essence, the Exemplary Cause of the degrees of participating transcendental perfections, and who is also the universal First Efficient Cause of all perfections in all finite beings: “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, as it is written in the Metaphysics. 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.”[250]


The starting point of the fourth way regards the various degrees of the pure transcendentals of being.[251] The transcendentals of being, such as one, true, good, and beautiful, are analogous perfections of being, transcending the categories, not being generic or specific perfections (which are univocal and do not admit of gradation). They are certain supreme modes or attributes necessarily connected with every being, different aspects of the same fundamental being, but are not explicitly contained in its concept as such. These transcendental modes are called ‘transcendental’[252] inasmuch as they are not confined to the categories or classification of being, but are rather found in all beings. They ‘transcend,’ or ‘go beyond’ all the categories.


Transcendentals are not just notions but also realities identical with being, and flow from the act of being (esse) and therefore can be attributed to all things that are. They are not realities distinct from being but are aspects or properties of being. When we say “properties” here we do not refer to properties in the strict sense, for then they would express something that is extrinsic to the nature of being, which is impossible. Rather, we mean “properties” in the wide sense, as inseparable from being and designating it under another aspect.[253]


In reality, the transcendentals are identical with being, but as regards human knowing, they are conceptually distinct, and cannot be synonymous with the notion of being, as they express aspects which are not expressly signified by the notion of being.[254] The transcendentals are convertible and interchangeable with being in reality, but gnoseologically speaking, though they are interchangeable as predicates of the same subject, they are nevertheless distinct notions. The notions of “one” and “something” add a negation to the notion of being. “One” negates a being’s internal division, while “something” negates the identity of one thing with another. The transcendentals truth (verum), goodness (bonum), and beauty (pulchrum) add a relation of reason to our notion of being.


The conceptual or notional distinction between the transcendental modes of being and being itself is what is called a “virtual distinction,” which means that it is a distinction which has a basis, a foundation, in reality. Let us explain virtual distinction again. A real distinction is a distinction that exists independently of one’s mind, pertaining to elements of reality of which one is not actually the other or others. A logical distinction or a distinction of reason exists only in the mind. It is but a product of mental activity, occuring when the mind forms different concepts of what in itself is simply one. On the other hand, we have what is called the virtual distinction, which is a distinction of reason having a foundation in reality. If there be not a foundation in reality, the distinction of reason would be a product of the mind pure and simple; it would be is a purely logical or verbal distinction. This is not the case with the distinction of the transcendentals from being, for while not real, it nevertheless has a foundation in the order of being (the ontological order or order of reality). It is a virtual distinction. But let us be even more precise as regards the virtual distinction. There are two types of virtual distinctions: the major virtual distinction and the minor virtual distinction. In a major virtual distinction the concepts distinguished may be such that one contains the other or others only potentially, as genus the species. In a minor virtual distinction, on the other hand, one concept contains the other or others actually but not explicitly, as analogue does the analogated perfections, and being the transcendental properties or attributes. This latter, the minor virtual distinction, regards the type of distinction of the transcendentals from being.          


A being can be considered in itself absolutely or in relation to others. As regards a being in itself, one could consider it affirmatively (as such, it signifies an essence or thing [res]) or negatively (as undivided being, that is, as “one” [unum]). Regarding being in relation to others, being has two opposite attributes: 1. Its distinction from all other beings, and 2. Its conformity with certain other things.


1. Being in its distinction from all other beings can be said to be “something” (aliquid); 2. As regards being in its conformity with other things considered in relation to the intellectual soul (as it encompasses being as such) we can say that (a) Being, in its conformity with the intellect, is true (verum); (b) Being, in its relation to the will, is good (bonum); and (c) Being, in its conformity with the soul through a certain interaction between knowledge and appetition, is beautiful (pulchrum). Of the six transcendental notions of being, four are more basic and apply to God as well as to His creatures, namely, unum, verum, bonum, and pulchrum.


The constitutive elements of the quarta via are the following: 1. The point of departure or starting point of the proof concerns, as was already mentioned, the various degrees of pure transcendental perfections found in things. Writing from a metaphysical perspective, Gilson explains that “St. Thomas’s criticism of the a priori proof of the existence of God has led us indeed to this conclusion: that it is impossible to place the point of departure of the proof in the consideration of the divine essence, and that consequently we must start from the consideration of sensible things. But sensible things are much more than material things. St. Thomas is quite right in taking the sensible in its most complete form and with all the conditions which, according to his teaching, it requires…the sensible is constituted by the union of the intelligible and the material. And if the purely intelligible form does not fall directly within the grasp of our understanding, it is none the less true that our understanding can abstract from sensible things the intelligible to be found there. Thus envisaged, the beautiful, the noble, the good, the true (for there is a certain element of truth in things) constitute realities which we grasp. The fact that their divine exemplars escape us does not mean that their finite participations need escape us as well. But, if it is this way, nothing prevents our taking them as points of departure for a new proof. Motion, efficient causality, and the being of things are not the only realities that demand explanation. What is good, noble, true in the universe also requires a first cause. In seeking out the origin of the degrees of perfection observable in sensible things we exceed in no way the limits which we had previously set for ourselves.”[255]


2. By applying exemplary causality[256] to the various degrees of pure transcendental perfections in things, there is manifested the fact that it is the highest perfection, the Maxime Ens, which is the Supreme Exemplar, the Unlimited Perfection and source of the intelligibility of the lesser degrees of the same perfection existing in different beings.[257] By exemplary causality one ascends from the various degrees of pure transcendental perfections in things to the affirmation of the Maxime Ens, the Supreme Exemplar and Exemplary Cause of the minorated degrees of transcendental perfections in the participating beings which imitate the Supreme Exemplar in varying degrees.[258] “St. Thomas, therefore, has drawn his conclusion of the existence of God directly from the degrees of being. Can such a form of argument be interpreted as inferring actual existence from reality? The very sources of the proof would lead one to believe so. Among the primary sources of this proof, we recognize, besides Aristotle, the celebrated passage of The City of God where St. Augustine praises the Platonic philosophers for having seen that in all more or less beautiful things the form by which any being whatsoever is beautiful can only come from a prime, absolute and immovable form, by which all that is, and is beautiful, was made.[259][260]


With the conclusion of the first part of the fourth way with the affirmation of the existence of the Maxime Ens, the demonstration of the existence of God is formally complete. Its operating procedure is explicitly by way of exemplary causality, though efficient causality is also implicitly involved.[261] Gilson observes that, “as to the appeal to the relation of causality which terminates the demonstration of the Summa Theologiae, it is not intended to establish the existence of the supreme Being. This conclusion is now already reached. It is intended simply to show that in this First Being, whom we place above all beings, there is the cause of all perfections to be found in second things. This conclusion shows in what sense, like the preceding ones, the fourth way manifests the existence of God as the cause of observable facts.”[262]


3. The second part of the quarta via, from the words “the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus” to the end of the text with the identification of the First Cause with God, operates explicitly by means of efficient causality, that is, the efficient causality argument of the second part renders explicit what was only implicit in the first part, namely, that the Supreme Exemplar is also the First Efficient Cause. The second part affirms that the Supremely Perfect Being, the Maxime Ens, is the First Efficient Cause of the being, goodness, and all the perfections in each and every thing. This First Efficient Cause is none other than God.









The fifth way demonstration starts from the experience of finalized order in the non-intelligent natural things of the cosmos and concludes with an affirmation of the existence of God as the Supreme Intelligent Orderer of the universe: “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.”[264] 


The point of departure of the quinta via is the experience of the fact that the natural things in the world which lack intelligence are ordered towards an end. We observe that non-intelligent beings are finalized, acting for definite and determined ends. A determined manner of acting reveals a determined order or relation between an agent, its activity, and the effect produced by this activity. Such a determined order (between agent, its activity, and effect produced by this activity) is called finality. A particular agent is finalized to a certain activity, and the activity in turn is finalized to a certain effect that it produces. We observe, for example, that dogs always give birth to dogs (and not cats, mice or horses), and that mango trees always produce mangoes (and not tomatoes, apples or oranges). Fire always produces heat and ice always produces cold. Thus, we conclude from such regular and uniform activity that these beings are in fact ordered to these ends, to the production of these determined effects.


The only possible explanation for the constancy and regularity which is present in non-intelligent beings is finality. A determined effect would not be produced unless that effect was somehow already present in the being before it acted. Now, the effect to be produced cannot be pre-contained in its cause according to the real existence of that effect, since as an effect yet to be produced it has no real existence. Thus, the effect to be produced must pre-exist in the being according to some intentional (not real or ontological) existence, and according to this mode of existence it orders the agent towards the production of a determined action, and thus moves the being to act. Such an influx of the form of the end to be produced as influencing the production of the real or ontological end is called the causality of the end. But non-intelligent beings are not endowed with intellects capable of knowing the end as end.   


 The fact that an agent acts for an end presupposes the existence of an intellect that knows that end. Through the application of the principle of causality, there is evidenced the contingency of the phenomenon of finality, and subsequently, sub-rational finalism requires a Being gifted with intelligence who produces it. Things which lack intelligence tend to their finalized end by the direction of an intelligent Being who orders them to their ends. “We are in a world in which by far the greatest number of events and of activities exhibit a regularity that cannot be the result of chance. On the other hand, an immense number of these events and operations originate with beings that are not endowed with knowledge. Consequently, the cause of the regularity, order, and purposiveness present in the world is not to be found within these beings themselves. There must therefore be, outside and above the domain of these beings, some being ‘endowed with knowledge and intelligence’ by which they are directed toward their ends, ‘as the arrow is directed by the archer.’”[265]


The proportion of means to end indicates that among the varied possible means those were chosen that were fitting for the end. This fittingness and proportion were known. Now, this selection of means to end can be but the proper work of an intelligence, for to apprehend an object as an end is to know it as something to which other things are ordered, and this means to view the object under a certain universality of condition or aspect. And this is done by the abstracting of the object from its concrete material conditions and to view it simply as an entity to which other things are ordered. But abstraction from the concrete conditions of matter requires an immaterial operative power, namely, the intellect. It therefore belongs to an immaterial intellect to contain within itself the forms of things and their proportions and relations, which would be prior to the actual order of the non-intelligent beings coming into being.


Holloway explains that “we see that to order either oneself to an end or to order something else to an end can be done only by an agent that possesses an intellect. Natural beings that have no intellect tend by a natural inclination toward their end. Some of these, like brute animals, tend naturally (that is to say, by the inclination or orientation of their very nature) toward an end that they apprehend. But a brute animal does not apprehend the end as end, but simply as this concrete sensible thing. Other natural beings, that have no cognition whatsoever, tend naturally toward an end they in no wise apprehend. In all these cases the end is either not known or not known as such. Therefore, such beings do not order either themselves nor any other thing to their end. Instead, they are ordered, they are directed to their end. If, therefore, this determinate ordering of an agent to its end is to be rendered intelligible, if this order is to have any reason for existing, we must arrive at some agent that has within itself the idea of the term to be produced. We must arrive at an agent that knows the end as such. This agent will be really distinct from these natural things that are ordered to their end, as one having an intellect is really distinct from that which does not have an intellect, or as the one who orders is distinct from the one who is ordered. Natural things which are destitute of an intellect cannot possibly direct themselves to their end. These beings cannot establish for themselves their end since they do not know the end. Thus this end must be established for them by another; namely, by the one who has given them their natures. Nor could he establish this end for a nature unless he possessed understanding.”[266]


We naturally conclude to the existence of a Supreme Orderer, God, the Intelligent Being who orders all natural things to their ends: “It is ultimately necessary to come at last to an intellect which has the intention of the ends to which things and their natures tend, and which brings that intention into being, not only at the origin of the world, but incessantly, without itself depending, either for existence or for the activation of things and natures towards their ends, on another intellect which precedes it in being. In other words, it is necessary to come at last to a transcendent First Cause, the existing of which is its very intellection, and which directs things toward their ends – without itself being subject to the causality of any end – through the very act by which it wills its own goodness, which is its very being.”[267]    


If the very order and finality of the non-intelligent beings in the corporeal world is to be rendered intelligible, one must posit an intellect that is the very first cause and source of this order. Holloway notes that “it is quite impossible for any finite intellect to be the cause of the order that exists in natural things. It would be metaphysically impossible for God to be the first cause of the nature of a being and for some finite intelligence below God to be the first cause that orders this nature to its end. For what the nature of a being is, is determined by the end to which it is ordered. The nature and the end of that nature are inseparable in their being. It is because God wished to create beings that could think that he endowed them with rational natures and the power of understanding. It must necessarily be the creator of this universe that pre-established the end of the universe, as well as the particular ends of all the natures that people this universe. It is impossible for God, say, to cause fire, and then for some finite intellect to direct this nature to its end, which is to exercise the act of heating and by so doing to produce heat in other bodies. For it is the nature of fire to exercise the act of heating and thus to generate heat in other bodies. It is because the creator wanted to produce a being that could exercise this act, that he has caused such a nature as fire to exist.”[268]


What about the objection to the fifth way posited by evolutionist materialism, namely, that, given a sufficient amount of time, the world could have been the effect of chance? The answer to this objection would be that chance presupposes order, so that, far from vitiating the quinta via, occasional chance occurrences in nature actually validate the proof from finality. Maritain gives us an explanation: “Should one insist that according to the mathematical computation of chances, the world could be the effect of chance, however slight the probability, just as the Iliad could, however slight the probability, result from the fortuitous juxtaposition of letters thrown down at random, there is an answer. All arguments of this sort drawn from the calculation of probabilities are based on a double sophism or a double illusion.


“(1). An effect can be due to chance only if some datum aside from chance is presupposed at the origin. To cast letters at random presupposes letters and presupposes the hand which casts them with this intention, or an instrument constructed for that purpose. The predictions made by the actuaries presuppose the innumerable causal lines on whose mutual interference the duration of a human organism depends. Statistical laws presuppose the existence of causal laws which can be unknown but according to which the things and the energies of nature operate in certain given fields – without which, indeed, the great number of fortuitous occurences on which the certainty of statistical laws depends simply could not happen.


“(2). By the very fact that one applies the calculation of chances to a given case (for instance…what is the probability that a given number will come forth from among all the numbers in a lottery?), one adopts from the outset a perspective in which the possibility of the event in question has been admitted from the start. (I ask what a given number will issue from the lottery, only because I know to begin with that any number at all can come forth from among those in a lottery.) To say – and this makes sense only on the hypothesis in which it would be legitimate to apply the calculation of chances to the case – that, however slight the probability, there is still one chance in the incalculable myriads of chances that the world is the effect of chance, implies that one has admitted from the outset that the world can be the effect of chance. To attempt to demonstrate that the world can be the effect of chance by beginning with the presupposition of this very possibility is to become the victim of a patent sophism or a gross illusion. In order to have the right to apply the calculus of probability to the case of the formation of the world, it would be necessary first to have established that the world can be the effect of chance. And it is the same in regard to the Iliad.[269][270]       


Holloway is equally right in observing that chance is intelligible only on the supposition of the existence of an established order at the outset: “For example, if all truths were doubtful, you would not know they were doubtful, since you would not know they were certain. Just as doubt presupposes certitude, so chance presupposes order. For chance is a privation of order, just as doubt is a privation of certitude; and so chance is intelligible only in terms of the order which it lacks. Therefore, chance can no more give rise to order than blindness can give rise to sight or doubt can give rise to certitude. A perfection cannot be caused by the very privation of that perfection. A thousand blind men will never add up to one instance of real order. Recall from metaphysics how chance arises. Being “A” acts according to its nature, that is, for a determined end; being “B” also acts according to its nature; again, for a determined end. The two actions intervene and an effect is produced which is not the end of either of these agents or of either of their actions. We say the effect took place by chance. This effect or term is not ordered, at least not from the viewpoints of the immediate agents involved. But this term does presuppose order. So the occasional presence of chance events in our world, like monsters and floods and earthquakes, far from disproving finality, actually proves it, for it presupposes it. It presupposes an order which in this particular instance is lacking.”[271]    







All the five ways truly arrive at the existence of God, establishing in Him five attributes, namely, that of Unmoved First Mover, Uncaused First Efficient Cause, Necessary Being, Supremely Perfect Being by Essence and Supreme Intelligent Orderer of the Universe. Now, each of these attributes can only be predicated of that Being whose essence is identical with its act of being, and for this reason is the Subsistent Being Itself (Ipsum Esse Subsistens). While all finite beings have a real distinction of essence and act of being,[272] in God alone are essentia and esse identical.[273] This is the supreme principle of the essential distinction between God and the universe, something which pantheistic monism erroneously denies.


The Ways of Affirmation, Negation, and Eminence 


Our natural knowledge of God in this world is not direct and proper (cognitio propria, which comprehends an object through its own mental form [per speciem propriam] or by immediate vision) but indirect and analogical (cognitio analoga or analogica, which comprehends an object through an alien form [per speciem alienam]). When we say that God is Good and that man is good, good here is predicated of their subjects in ways that are partly the same and partly different. God is Goodness, He is Goodness Itself, while man merely has goodness. We say that God is Being, while man merely has being by participation. Being here is predicated of their subjects in ways that are partly similar and partly dissimilar. Now, “in the cognition of God in this world we apply concepts gained from created things to God on the ground of a certain similarity and ordination of the created things to Him as their efficient and exemplary cause. There is a relation of analogy between the creature and the Creator which is founded on the fact that the creature is necessarily made to the likeness of the Creator. This analogy is the basis of all natural knowledge of God (cf. Wisdom 13:5)…Despite this analogy or similarity, there is a much greater dissimilarity between the creature and the Creator, namely the dissimilarity between the finite and the infinite.”[274] 


The triple modes of our analogical knowledge of God is that of affirmation, negation, and eminence: 1. The Way of Affirmation (or causality). Here one affirms of God the various perfections found in creatures; a perfection that we find in creatures is affirmed of Him who is the Cause of that perfection in creatures. By observing an effect we may come to a certain knowledge of its efficient Cause, as in observing, for example, a painting we may come to a knowledge of the painter. Thus, by observing that a man is wise we may say that God (the efficient cause of that perfection) is wise. This way proceeds from the consideration that God is the first efficient cause of all things, and that the first efficient cause contains in itself every perfection which is in the effect. God, the Originator of all finite beings, possesses every true perfection of these creatures.[275]


2. The Way of Negation (or remotion). In this way we deny to God the limited and imperfect manner in which one finds the certain perfection in creatures. The finiteness of creatural perfections must disappear so that such perfections may then be applied to Him. We say, therefore, that God is not wise (in the sense of human wisdom, since His wisdom is not our wisdom). Strictly speaking, the via remotionis or way of negation expresses what God is not rather than what He is.


Lastly, we have 3. The Way of Eminence (or transcendence). One predicates the perfection of God in a mode that is infinite or eminent: one attributes to Him a determinate perfection according to the subsistent and infinite mode that is proper only to the Divinity. We say, therefore, that God is infinitely or eminently wise, etc.            


The Angelic Doctor describes the Pseudo-Dionysian inspired triplex via in a passage of his De Potentia Dei (On the Power of God): “There is a threefold application of terms to God. First, affirmatively: for instance, I can say God is wise, since there is in Him a likeness to the wisdom that derives from Him. But since that wisdom is not in God as we understand it and name it, we can truly deny this wisdom of God, and say: God is not wise. Again, since wisdom is not denied of God as though He were lacking in wisdom, but because in Him it transcends the wisdom we know and name, we must say that God is super-wise. Accordingly, Dionysius explains perfectly by these three ways of ascribing wisdom to God, how these expressions are to be applied to God.”[276] We observe that certain men, for example, are endowed with wisdom. We thus affirm that God is also wise because He is the cause of human wisdom. By observing the effect we come to a certain knowledge of the cause (the via affirmationis or via causalitatis). So we start our triplex via by affirming something about God. But we also observe that wisdom is but an accident in man. He is not wisdom; rather, wisdom is in him in a limited, imperfect degree. Man merely participates in wisdom, he is not wisdom by essence. We say, therefore, that God is not wise in the human sense (the via negationis). His wisdom is not our wisdom. Finally, we say that God is eminently or infinitely wise since wisdom in God is the same as His Being. His wisdom is infinitely more excellent than man’s wisdom (the via eminentiae). Because of the infinite excellence of the wisdom of God we can only say that what the Divine wisdom is in itself is incomprehensible to the human mind.       


The Most Proper Name of God: He Who Is 


The ‘Physical Essence’ of God. If the act of being (esse) is that which makes a thing to be, essence (essentia) is that which makes a thing to be what it is. It is by one’s proper essence that a man is a man, a horse is horse, a rock is rock, and not any other individual being. The essences of individual things imply a specific mode or manner of being of individual things. What about the term physical utilized in our complex term physical essence? Physical is really Greek for natural, as the Greek noun physis means nature The ‘physical essence’ of a thing is the sum of perfections or elements that constitute it in its proper being, independently of the view of the mind that knows it. It is an essence as it exists or is existible in the order of things outside the mind. The ‘physical essence’ of man, for example, is ‘hylemorphic composite of body and soul.’ This is the physical definition of man. The ‘physical essence’ of God would be the totality of the Divine perfections which are factually identical among themselves. We should note that physical here is not to be identified with corporeal or material, as Paul Glenn explains: “God is not like the sun in the sky or like a man in the street; it is clear that God is not bodily. Therefore, let us eradicate sternly from our minds the too common error which identifies in meaning the terms physical and bodily, or the terms physical and material. It is true that we often use the phrase ‘the physical order’ to indicate the realm of bodily things. But the term physical strictly means ‘natural’ or ‘pertaining to nature,’ and a spiritual being has its nature as truly as a bodily being. The custom of speaking of ‘the physical order’ when we mean the bodily universe and all that pertains to it, is easily explained. For the most obvious natures are those that lie all around us demanding our attention and obtruding themselves on our notice. Hence, the phrase, ‘the physical order,’ is really an elliptical phrase, a handy substitute for the more cumbrous expression, ‘the order of bodily physes or natures.’ We may use this phrase as we like, but let us keep clear minds the while and refuse to take physical as a synonym for bodily or material. As a convenient check and reminder, we may frequently recall the fact that the physical parts of a man (that is, his essential physical parts) are his body and his soul, and the soul is spiritual, not material or bodily. And so, when we come to discuss the physical essence of God, we are not to be nonplussed by the term physical used in this connection, and to feel that there must be some mistake about the whole business.”[277]      


The ‘Metaphysical Essence’ of God. In giving a physical definition of a thing one defines it by a listing of its necessary elements or parts. One is concerned with how it is made up. In giving a ‘metaphysical definition’ of a thing or in the definition of a thing’s ‘metaphysical essence,’ one is concerned instead with what that something means. One lists the essential notes of the idea in which it is known. A ‘metaphysical essence’ is “that item or element in the reality under examination (radically present to the reality but not necessarily a formal part in the reality) which evokes in the mind which knows the reality a true and penetrating knowledge of it, and which serves the mind as the basis of all that is essentially referable to the known reality.”[278] It is that “fundamental and objective meaning which the thing has to the mind which knows it. Such an essence is not a mental viewpoint; on the contrary it is objective and real. It is that reality in an essence which is the first and foremost point by which the mind recognizes the essence; and which is the root of all that must be predicted of that essence.”[279] It is the “essence of a thing rightly conceived or known, and consists in the knowable points of reality about the thing which mark it off in his own character, and mark it as basically distinct from everything else; and, further, these knowable points constitute the root reason for all other points that belong to the idea of the thing.”[280] The ‘metaphysical essence’ of man, for example, is rational animal. We see here in this ‘metaphysical definition’ two elements, distinct in concept or meaning, one of which is conceived as being ‘common’ (animal) and the other as ‘differentiative’ (rationality). Animal in rational animal expresses the constitutive element which man has in common with other sentient organisms (e.g. horses, dogs, lions, etc), while rational in rational animal expresses the constitutive element which distinguishes him from every other type of animal (only man, among the animals, is endowed with the power of reason). Because of the ‘common element,’ that particular something agrees with two or more other beings. Because of the ‘differentiative element’ the thing differs from all things which are not itself.       


Now, what is the metaphysical essence of God? What is, in our human way of thinking, considered to be the most fundamental element in God’s Being, the one from which all the other elements and attributes are ultimately derived? What is that reality in God’s Being which, for the human mind, must be considered to be the root-principle of all the realities which can be predicated of the Divine Being, that is, that primary and foremost characteristic by which the human mind recognizes God as God? This one perfection of God’s Being must, to human cognition, be regarded as primary among the Divine perfections, so that it is the root that gives rise to all other Divine perfections and distinguishes God from every other being that is not God. Now, the common element in God’s ‘metaphysical essence’ between God and creatures is ‘being’ (the concept here meaning ‘existing being’), but what is the element that differentiates God from every other being? Before giving the correct answer to this let us survey a number of positions as to what constitutes the metaphysical essence of God and then show why they can be dismissed as erroneous.  


Ockham (1290-1349) and the nominalists, including the rationalists Descartes and Leibniz, maintain that the metaphysical essence of God consists in the sum total of all the divine perfections. But this is the physical essence of God, not His metaphysical essence. Thus, the nominalist position is false. 


Scotus (1265-1308) and many of the Scotists hold that the metaphysical essence of God consists in infinity. A number of Scotists, including Palmieri, sustain that radical infinity, which is the exigency of God’s Being for both extensive infinity (the possession of all possible perfections, viewed from a quantitative standpoint) and intensive infinity (the possession of divine perfections in an infinite degree), constitutes God’s metaphysical essence. A refutation: if one takes ‘infinity’ primarily in its literal meaning which is “without limits,” then our notion has a negative connotation. But this negative notion presupposes a positive notion. As the Divine Being is absolute and supreme actuality negative infinity in God presupposes positive infinity. Therefore, negative infinity is automatically ruled out as God’s metaphysical essence. Now, what about positive infinity? Infinity taken in the positive sense can either mean extensive infinity (the aggregate of all perfections), intensive infinity (the maximum degree of God’s perfections), or radical infinity (the exigency of God’s being for both extensive and intensive infinity). Now, neither extensive infinity, intensive infinity, nor radical infinity can be thought of constitutive of God’s metaphysical essence, for the following reasons: 1. extensive infinity consists in the sum-total of the divine perfections as they exist in reality. Therefore, this cannot be the metaphysical essence of God for it is His physical essence ; 2. intensive infinity would mean primarily the ‘degree’ of perfection and as such expresses the ‘mode’ in which these perfections exist in the essence of God. Since all the divine perfections have the ‘mode’ of infinity, this ‘mode’ does not offer our minds an explanation of how the various perfections are derived from the divine essence. Thus, intensive infinity cannot be the primary differentiating element ; and 3. radical infinity characterizes the ‘mode’ or ‘way’ in which the divine essence exists rather than the essence itself. According to our human way of cognition, we conceive of God’s essence ‘to be’ before we conceive it ‘to be infinite.’ Therefore, radical infinity cannot be thought of as constituting God’s metaphysical essence. ‘Infinity,’ whether it be extensive infinity, intensive infinity, or radical infinity, is conceived as being more in the nature of a ‘property’ of God’s essence and its perfections than a characterization of the essence itself. Hence, the Scotist claim can be dismissed.         


A number of misguided Thomists maintain that the metaphysical essence of God lies in the divine intellectuality or the divine actual intellection. Now, the divine intelligence can either be actual or radical. If intellectuality or actual intellection is used in the sense of ‘actual’ comprehension and understanding, then this cannot be the metaphysical essence of God, for the following reason: ‘actual intellection’ is to be conceived of as an ‘operation’ and an operation always presupposes somebody who performs the operation; therefore, ‘actual intellection’ flows from the essence, but only as something secondary to it, just as the exercise of a faculty or power is secondary to the faculty or power itself. Thus, divine intellectuality or divine actual intellection understood in the sense of ‘actual’ comprehension and understanding cannot be the primary differentiating characteristic. What about divine intellectuality or divine actual intellection understood in the sense of a ‘radical’ comprehension and understanding? This would signify the intellect of God, but the intellect itself is conceived by us as a vital power resulting from the spirituality of the essence, and as such cannot be primary but only secondary. Hence, in no way can intelligence be considered the root and foundation of all the divine perfections existing in the Deity. What is itself derived cannot be the root-perfection from which all the other perfections of God are ultimately derived. Therefore, divine intellectuality or divine actual intellection, whether actual or radical, cannot be the metaphysical essence of God.


A number of thinkers maintain that love constitutes the metaphysical essence of the Supreme Being, while others think that it lies in life. Though it is true that God is Love and God is Life, ‘love’ and ‘life’ cannot be conceived of as being the ultimate, root perfections of the Divine Essence. ‘Love’ is indeed conceived of as an act of God’s will, and the will in turn is dependent on the intellect for the object which it loves. Therefore, ‘love’ cannot be conceived of as the primary root source of the other divine perfections and the primary differentiating characteristic of God’s essence. Likewise, ‘life’ cannot be conceived of as constituting God’s metaphysical essence. The Deity’s ‘life’ is a manifestation of His spiritual substance; thus, spirituality and substantiality would be more ultimate, from the standpoint of our cognition, than ‘life.’ Therefore we conclude to the impossibility of ‘love’ and ‘life’ being the metaphysical essence of God.          


A number of modern voluntarists, such as Boutroux, Lequier and Secrétan, sustain that the distinguishing mark of God’s essence lies in His absolute liberty. But ‘liberty’ is a mode of the will’s action and presupposes the will itself, as well as presupposing the spirituality and substantiality of the divine nature. ‘Liberty’ cannot be the distinguishing characteristic, the root-perfection from which all the perfections of God are logically deduced, because in the logical order of thought, intellect is prior to liberty, for we cannot think of the latter except as following the judgment of the former; liberty without consciousness is simply not possible, and consciousness in the Deity is conceived by us as being a function of the His intellect. Hence, neither the divine will nor its absolute liberty can be the metaphysical essence of God. 


Yet others maintain that aseity is the metaphysical essence of God. Now aseity can be understood negatively and positively. Taken in the negative sense, aseity implies that God does not owe His existence ‘to another’ as contingent, finite beings do. Now, negative aseity (ens a se in the negative sense) cannot be the metaphysical essence of God for a negative element is always grounded in some positive element, and thus we would have to seek for this positive reality in the Divine Being by asking, ‘What is the reality in God’s essence which precludes the possibility of His being ‘from another’ and necessarily being an ens a se?’ “The objection to regarding this attribute (negative aseity) as God’s metaphysical essence is that it does not really express what we conceive as an internal constitutive principle of the Divine nature. The real significance of the notion Ens a se is to deny that God is, like creatures, caused by another. He is conceived as self-existent in the sense of ‘unoriginated.’ Undoubtedly this is the first aspect under which we conceive God, as we reason from the existence of contingent things to that of a necessary Being. But it still remains for us to ask what is the internal constitutive, in virtue of which He is unoriginated and needs no cause. And to reply to this question we must fall back on our concept of Him as subsistent existence – as the Being whose existence is His nature.”[281] Positive aseity, on the other hand, is identical with subsistent being itself (or self-subsisting being), and truly constitutes the metaphysical essence of God.


The majority of modern scholastic philosophers who follow the thought of St. Thomas rightly maintain that the metaphysical essence of God consists in self-subsistent being (or subsistent being itself, ipsum esse subsistens). The noted Thomists who have taught this position include Capreolus, Bañez, Contenson, Gotti, Del Prado, Ledesma, Gilson, Fabro, and Maritain. Non-Thomists who likewise hold this position include Molina, Vasquez, Torres, Joyce, and Hellin.    


The metaphysical essence of God is none other than Self-Subsisting Being (Ipsum Esse Subsistens). This is the quasi-definition (a description containing a common and a differentiating element) of God’s metaphysical essence.[282] God is He Who Is. This is the most proper name of God. The Angelic Doctor gives us three reasons for this: “This name He Who Is is most properly applied to God, for three reasons: First, because of its signification. For it does not signify form, but simply esse itself. Hence since the esse of God is His essence itself, which can be said of no other (q. 3, a. 4), it is clear that among other names this one specially denominates God, for everything is denominated by its form. Secondly, on account of its universality. For all other names are either less universal, or, if convertible with it, add something above it at least in idea; hence in a certain way they inform and determine it. Now our intellect cannot know the essence of God itself in this life, as it is in itself, but whatever mode it applies in determining what it understands about God, it falls short of the mode of what God is in Himself. Therefore the less determinate the names are, and the more universal and absolute they are, the more properly they are applied to God. Hence Damascene says (De Fide Orth. i) that, ‘He Who Is, is the principal of all names applied to God; for comprehending all in itself, it contains being itself as an infinite and indeterminate sea of substance.’ Now by any other name some mode of substance is determined, whereas this name He Who Is, determines no mode of being, but is indeterminate to all; and therefore it denominates the ‘infinite ocean of substance.’ Thirdly, from its consignification, for it signifies present being; and this above all properly applies to God, whose being knows not past or future, as Augustine says (De Trin. v).”[283]


The concept of Self-Subsistent Being or Subsistent Being Itself (Ipsum Esse Subsistens) in the positive sense is a fulfillment of the conditions necessary for the determination of the metaphysical essence of God. Self-Subsistent Being does not designate a mere mode of being, but that perfection which, according to our analogical mode of thinking, is fundamental to the Deity and which is the summing up of the Divine Essence. Self-Subsistent Being also distinguishes God fundamentally from all creatures, which merely participate in being (they only have being), not being being itself. Finally, Self-Subsistent Being is the root from which all the other Divine perfections may logically be derived.     


“Moses said to God: Lo, I shall go to the children of Israel, and say to them: The God of your fathers hath sent me to you. If they should say to me: What is his name? What shall I say to them? God said to Moses: I AM WHO AM. He said: Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: HE WHO IS, hath sent me to you.” [284] 










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[1] J. W. GOETHE, Der West-oestliche Divan, “d. Gesamtausgabe,” 5 (1961), p. 200. 

[2] C. FABRO, God in Exile: Modern Atheism From Its Roots in the Cartesian Cogito to the Present Day, Newman Press, Westminster, Maryland, 1968. This is the English translation by Arthur Gibson from the original Italian entitled: Introduzione all’ateismo moderno, 2 vols., Studium, Rome, 1964. 

[3] Realism does maintain that our ideas can be known as objects in a second instance through reflection, but rejects the immanentist position that the object known by the mind in the first instance can only be that which remains within the subjective orbit of the mind.

[4] Cf. G. W. F. HEGEL, Philosophy of Right, Preface. 

[5] For a critique of Hegel’s denial of the objective validity of the principle of non-contradiction, see: A. DEVIZZI, Il significato del principio di contraddizione nella logica hegeliana, “Rivista di Filosofia Neoscolastica,” 21 (1939), pp. 463-473 ; E. BERTI, La critica di Hegel al principio di contraddizione, “Filosofia,” (1980), pp. 629-640.   

[6] Explaining Hegel’s identification of being with non-being, Gilson writes that for Hegel, “taken in itself, being is the immediate indetermination, that is to say, not that already determined indetermination which comes before a further determination, but absolute indetermination. Being is the indetermination which precedes all determinations. And that total indetermination is the very stuff which being is. How can it be grasped by thought? Since being is totally abstract, it cannot be perceived by any sensation; and, since it is completely void of content, it cannot become an object of any representation or of any intellectual intuition. Being is not even essence, for essence as such already entails many additional determinations of being. Now, if being is not perceived, nor represented, nor intuited, and yet is known, only one hypothesis still remains to be made about it, namely, that being is identical with thought. To think is to think being, or, if it seems clearer that way, being is thought when thought takes itself for its own object. This is why it can be said that the beginning of philosophy coincides with the beginning of the history of philosophy, for that history actually begins with Parmenides. By positing being as the absolute substance, Parmenides identified absolute reality with pure thought, which itself is thought about being ; and for us, too, who after so many centuries are recommencing the ever-present experiment of Parmenides, to think being simply and solely is to think simply and solely. Let us now proceed a little farther. This being, which is completely void of all determinations, is thereby absolute emptiness. Whatever else could be ascribed to it, we should have to deny it. In other words, since it is neither this nor that nor any other thing, it is nothing. Nothing is the absolute negative taken in its immediateness. That is, ‘nothing’ is not a relative negation, such as those which presuppose some preceding affirmation (a is not b) ; it is that negation which comes before any other negation. If it seems scandalous to say that being is nothingness, this is merely because we fail to realize that, since there is nothing which being is, being is nothing. Pure being and pure non-being are one, and no wonder, since ‘these two beginnings are but empty abstractions, and each of them is just as empty as the other one.’ In this extreme degree of indetermination the equivalence of these two terms appears evident”(E. GILSON, Being and Some Philosophers, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto, 1949, pp. 136-137).

[7] As quoted in R. GARRIGOU-LAGRANGE, God: His Existence and Nature, vol. 1, B. Herder, London, 1946, pp. 173-174. Cf. G. NOEL, La Logique de Hegel, Paris, 1897, pp. 23-52, 135-159.

[8] R. GARRIGOU-LAGRANGE, op. cit., p. 174. Cf. T. M. ZIGLIARA, Summa philosophica in usum scholarum, vol. 1, Critica, Rome, 1876, pp. 247-252.  

[9] R. GARRIGOU-LAGRANGE, op. cit., p. 174.

[10] F. WILHELMSEN, Man’s Knowledge of Reality, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1956, pp. 47-49.

[11] G. W. F. HEGEL, Wissenschaft der Logik, volume 1, Stuttgart, p. 404.  

[12] R. GARRIGOU-LAGRANGE, op. cit., pp. 174-175.

[13] E. GILSON, Methodical Realism, Christendom Press, Front Royal, VA, 1990, pp. 120-121.

[14] E. GILSON, Réalisme thomiste et critique de la connaissance, Vrin, Paris, 1939.  

[15] E. GILSON, Le réalisme méthodique, Téqui, Paris, 1935.

[16] E. GILSON, op. cit., pp. 18-19.

[17] E. GILSON, op. cit., pp. 21-23.

[18] E. GILSON, op. cit., pp. 27-28.

[19] Sacred theology is not a human science but is rather the divine science.

[20] E. GILSON, op. cit., pp. 34-35.

[21] For a brief history of this expression to designate our subject matter, see: J. OWENS, Theodicy, Natural Theology, and Metaphysics, “The Modern Schoolman,” 28 (1951), pp. 131-134.  

[22] This term was coined by Leibniz in his work Essays on Theodicy, published in 1710 as a defense of the justice of God against difficulties arising from contingence and fate, liberty and predestination. It was published as a reply to the skeptical attacks of the Enlightenment philosopher Bayle. Theodicy literally means “God’s justice” and the justice of God is the principal theme of Leibniz’ work.

[23] A term used, for example, by Leo Elders to designate our subject matter.

[24] This term is used, for example, by the Italian philosopher Luigi Bogliolo.

[25] This expression is employed as the title of the Italian translation of Angel Luis Gonzalez’ work on our subject matter. It is also used by the Jesuits Henri Renard and Thomas Gornall.  

[26] Aristotle called the philosophical study of God “theology” which, in the Greek, simply means the “science of God.” We today distinguish between natural theology (which is the philosophical study of God) and theology (which refers to sacred theology based on God’s revelation).

[27] The material object of a science is the subject matter or field of inquiry, whereas the formal object of a science is the special way, purpose, or end-in-view in which that subject matter or field of inquiry is studied.

[28] J. MARITAIN, An Introduction to Philosophy, Sheed and Ward, New York, 1956, p. 93. Jose Miguel Odero defines sacred theology as “a science through which the Christian’s reason, which receives certitude and light from faith, by reasoning strives to understand what it believes, that is, the revealed mysteries and their consequences”(C. BELMONTE [ed.], Faith Seeking Understanding, vol. 1, Studium Theologiae Foundation, Manila, 1993, pp. 10-11). 

[29] E. GILSON, Elements of Christian Philosophy, Mentor-Omega, New York, 1960, pp. 56-57.   

[30] In Boet. De Trinitate, III, 1, c.

[31] The first operation of the mind is simple apprehension, while the second is judgment.

[32] Bittle gives us the following example of induction: “‘Water, anywhere on land or sea, when at sea level, freezes in every instance at +32° F.; But water anywhere on land or sea is all water; Ergo, all water freezes at sea level at +32° F.’ Of course, no attempt has ever been made to freeze water at every spot on the globe which is at sea level; but since, whenever and wherever done, water always froze, it is rightly concluded that freezing is a property necessarily connected with the essence of water and has, therefore, the value of a universal law applicable to all water.”(C. BITTLE, The Science of Correct Thinking, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1953, p. 176).

[33] Bittle gives us this example of deduction: “Suppose there is a doubt in our mind whether the mimosa pudica, due to its peculiar reaction to the touching of its leaves, possesses sentiency or no sentiency. And then suppose that science has definitely established the law that the nature of a plant is devoid of sentiency. We can now proceed with the following mediate inference: ‘All plants are devoid of sentiency; But the mimosa pudica is a plant; Ergo, the mimosa pudica is devoid of sentiency.’ This is a case of deduction. From the general law that ‘All plants are devoid of sentiency’ we conclude that the ‘mimosa pudica,’ because it is one of the class of ‘plants,’ must fall under the general law governing ‘all plants,’ and therefore ‘the mimosa pudica is also devoid of sentiency.’”(C. BITTLE, op. cit., pp.175-176).

[34] P. J. GLENN, Theodicy, B. Herder, St. Louis, 1949, pp. 6-8. George Hayward Joyce observes that “the problems brought here under discussion are the most important which can be presented to the human mind. We are not concerned with barren academic disputes, but with vital issues which force themselves upon the mind of every rational being, and call imperiously for an answer. If it be demonstrably certain that there is a God, infinite in all perfections, the Creator of all things and exercising a direct and immediate supervision over every action of His creatures, it follows that His will must be the rule of our life: that our primary duty is the observance of His laws: and that only in so far as we employ our freedom to this end, can we hope to obtain the beatitude which is the goal of our endeavor. If, on the other hand, there is, as so many declare, no sufficient ground for affirming the existence of God or of divine providence, we are bound by no such obligation: and human beatitude is not to be sought in the attainment of Supreme Truth and Supreme Goodness, figments devoid of objective reality, but in such a measure of temporal felicity as may be within our reach. It is manifest that a man’s whole attitude in regard to life and its activities depends on which of these alternatives he adopts. Nor does the choice between theism and materialism affect his individual life alone: its consequences are not less profound in the social and political order. To see this it is only necessary to realize how different are the conceptions of human progress which men will entertain in the two cases. For progress consists in advance towards a worthy end: and no end is worthy of man’s pursuit which diverts him from the ultimate goal of his being, and which cannot be brought into relation to that last end. Where no other end of human effort is recognized than temporal well-being, progress will be held to consist in such things as the advance of the arts and sciences, the development of natural resources, and the increase of national wealth. But if throughout society there is a firm conviction that man’s true end lies in the attainment of God, then, though men will not cease to set a high value on temporal well-being, they will recognize that it may be bought at too dear a rate, and that if obtained by the sacrifice of a higher good, national prosperity may be detrimental, not beneficial, to those who secure it”(G. H. JOYCE, Principles of Natural Theology, Longmans, Green and Co., London, 1951, pp. 6-7). 

[35] E. GILSON, Elements of Christian Philosophy, Mentor-Omega, New York, 1963, p. 55.

[36] Daniel Sullivan explains that common sense “refers to the spontaneous activity of the intellect, the way in which it operates of its own native vigour before it has been given any special training. It implies man’s native capacity to know the most fundamental aspects of reality, in particular, the existence of things (including my own existence), the first principles of being (the principles of identity, non-contradiction, and excluded middle), and secondary principles which flow immediately from the self-evident principles (the principles of sufficient reason, causality, etc.). One of the points that links philosophy and common sense is that they both use these principles. They differ however in the way that they use them. Common sense uses them unconsciously, unreflectively, uncritically…Philosophy on the contrary uses these principles critically, consciously, scientifically. It can get at things demonstratively, through their causes. It can therefore defend and communicate its knowledge. The certainties of common sense, the insights of a reasoning which is implicit rather than explicit, are just as well founded as the certainties of philosophy, for the light of common sense is fundamentally the same as that of philosophy: the natural light of the intellect. But in common sense this light does not return upon itself by critical reflection…Philosophy, therefore, as contrasted with common sense, is scientific knowledge; knowledge, that is, through causes”(D. SULLIVAN, An Introduction to Philosophy, Tan Books, Rockford, IL, 1992, p. 248). For Antonio Livi, common sense (sensus communis) refers to the “organic entirety of certainties of fact and principle that are common to every man and precede every critical reflection…The contents of common sense are basically the universe, the ‘I’ as subject qualified by the soul, the moral order or natural law, and God. Such factual certainties imply the intuition of first principles and constitute the rational premises of a possible act of faith in the encounter with Revelation”(A. LIVI, Il principio di coerenza, Armando, Rome, 1997, p. 186). For the best comprehensive study on the subject of common sense, see the three books of Antonio Livi: Filosofia del senso comune, Ares, Milan, 1990; Il senso comune tra razionalismo e scetticismo, Massimo, Milan, 1992; Il principio di coerenza, Armando, Rome, 1997.      

[37] Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 1.

[38] For a general description of agnosticism and its principal tenets, see: R. GARRIGOU-LAGRANGE, God: His Existence and Nature, vol. 1, chapter 1 and section 2 of chapter 2, B. Herder, St. Louis, 1949, pp. 3-60, 84-109 ; C. FABRO, L’uomo e il rischio di Dio, chapter 2 (L’agnosticismo), Studium, Rome, 1967, pp. 97-131. For a description of Anglo-American agnostic doctrines during the first quarter of the twentieth century, see: F. J. SHEEN, God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy, Longmans, Green, and Co., New York, 1925. For a brief description of the agnosticism of neo-positivism and analytical philosophy, see: B. MONDIN, Dio: chi è?, Massimo, Milan, 1990, pp. 261-270. For a treatment of agnosticism and atheism’s foundations in the principle of immanence, see: C. FABRO, God in Exile: Modern Atheism, Newman Press, Westminster, Maryland, 1968, pp. 1061-1085, 1144-1153.    

[39] David Hume was born in Edinburgh on April 26th, 1711. Originally groomed for a legal career he instead pursued a literary and philosophical path. He sojourned in France between the years 1734-1737 where he wrote his Treatise on Human Nature, which failed to attract attention. In 1737 he returned to Scotland and a few years later published his Essays, Moral and Political (1741-1742), which proved to be a success. In 1748 he published Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding, which was a revision of the first part of his earlier unsuccessful Treatise. A second edition of this work appeared in 1751, its final title being An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. That same year saw the publication of An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (a reworking of the third part of his earlier Treatise). A year later he published Political Discourses, which made him very famous. He became, also that year, librarian to the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh. All throughout the 1750’s Hume labored on a series of volumes on the history of England. In 1756 he published a history of Great Britain from the accession of James I to the death of Charles I, as well as a history of Great Britain up to the revolution of 1688. In 1759 he published his History of England under the House of Tudor, and in 1761 his History of England from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Accession of Henry VIII. In 1762 Hume saw himself in Paris as secretary to the British Embassy in France. In 1766 he brought Rousseau back with him to England but their friendship soon ended when the unstable Frenchman accused Hume of conspiring with his enemies to destroy him. From 1767 to 1769 Hume was an Under-Secretary of State. He died in Edinburgh on August 25th, 1776. His controversial Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, written by him before 1752, was published posthumously in 1779.  

[40] Cf. D. HUME, A Treatise of Human Nature, Book I (Of the Understanding), Part I, Section I (Of the Origin of Our Ideas).

[41] D. HUME, op. cit., I, 2, 6.

[42] Hume repeatedly denies the objective, universal and necessary validity of the principle of causality in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, which is contained in his work, Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding, first published in 1748.

[43] “A prominent part of Hume’s philosophy is his theory of associationism. We speak, for example, of the principle of causality, and consider it to be a universally and necessarily valid axiom that ‘Every effect must have a cause.’ Hume claims that this axiom is derived from experience. What we perceive is an invariable sequence of events: one thing invariably follows an antecedent event, and from this sequence we conclude that the antecedent event ‘causes’ the one that follows as an ‘effect.’ We do not perceive anything like the ‘production’ of one thing by another. From his phenomenalistic, sensationalistic standpoint, Hume could not admit real ‘causation.’ Whenever we observe one event to occur, we feel the mental compulsion to assert that the other will follow. But whence the mental compulsion to conjoin just these two events as ‘cause’ and ‘effect’? Hume gives as the reason that ‘the mind is carried by habit, upon the appearance of one event, to expect its usual attendant and to believe that it will exist.’ In other words, it is the association of ideas which compels us to formulate necessary and universal judgments, axioms, and principles. Such judgements, axioms, and principles have no objective value, but are mere associations of impressions derived from the succession of phenomena”(C. BITTLE, op. cit., p. 317).

[44] “Having eliminated an objective origin for the idea of active power and the causal bond, Hume had to trace them to purely subjective conditions within the perceiver. The objects of perception are atomic, unconnected units which may, nevertheless, follow one another in a temporal sequence and pattern. Through repeated experience of such sequences, the imagination is gradually habituated to connect antecedent and consequent objects in a necessary way. The necessity does not arise from any productive force or dependence on the side of the objects so related but comes solely from the subjective laws of association operating upon the imagination to compel it to recall one member of the sequence when the other is presented. The causal bond consists entirely in our feeling of necessity in making the transition, in thought, from one object to the other. The philosophical inference from effect to cause is abstract and empty until it is strengthened by the natural relation set up by the workings of habit and association upon the imagination. Given this all-embracing psychological basis, however, causal inference can have nothing stronger than a probable import. Absolute certainty cannot be achieved, since the mind is not dealing with dependencies in being, on the side of the real things, but is confined phenomenalistically to its own perceptions and their relations. It is very likely that our habitual connection among ideas corresponds to some causal link among real things, but this can never be verified. Hence causal inference can yield only probability and belief, not certainty and strict knowledge. Hume rigidly applied this conclusion to the a posteriori argument for God’s existence, maintaining that it is, at the very most, a probable inference and nowise a demonstration”(J. COLLINS, God in Modern Philosophy, Regnery, Chicago, 1967, p. 117).   

[45] Cf. D. HUME, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (written before 1752 and published posthumously in 1779).

[46] Benignus Gerrity gives us an interesting critique of Hume’s sensism and his denial of the objective validity of the principle of causality, stressing that experience includes intellectual knowledge and that cause is ‘given’ to the intellect (it is something that we intellectually grasp), facts which Humean empiricism vehemently denies. Gerrity writes: “Hume’s original error, which led to his rejection of substance and causality as valid philosophical concepts, was sensism. He considered experience as the sole ultimate source of valid human knowledge, which it is, but by experience he meant pure sensation, or at very best perception, and nothing more. Impressions of sense and their less vivid relics in the mind, namely, ideas, are the only data of knowledge for which experience vouches, according to Hume. We have no impression of causality or substance; therefore, he argues, these are not given in experience.

     “Hume mistakes an analysis of the factors in perception for an account of the perceptive act. The data of pure sensation are, as he says, fragmentary and intermittent sense impressions. But the act which he is analyzing is not an act of pure sensation. What I perceive is not these fragmentary impressions, but the things of which they are accidents. It is doubtful that even animals perceive merely sensory qualities. Substances (i.e., particular concrete substances) are the data of perception. They are incidental sensibles immediately perceived by means of internal sense co-operating with external sense. In his analysis Hume takes as the immediate datum of perception something which is actually known only as a result of a difficult abstraction, namely, the pure sensation. Then his problem is to discover how, starting from pure sensations, we come to believe in objective substances which exist unperceived and permanently. It is a false problem.

     Human Experience Includes Understanding. Hume is right in saying that we never have a sensory impression of causality or substance. But he is wrong in saying that we never experience causes or substances. Efficient causes are immediately experienced every time we observe anything physically influencing anything else, every time, for example, that we see a hammer driving a nail. But the cause qua cause is never sensed directly; cause, like substance, is only sensed per accidens. The cause is a sensible object, its movement, and the subsequent movement of the object acted upon are the immediate data of sense. But to limit experience to the sensible data perceived is to imply that man perceives without ever at the same time understanding what he perceives. When I perceive a hammer descending upon a nail and the nail moving further into the wood, I also understand that the hammer is something and is driving the nail into the wood. Both perception and understanding are equally parts of the experience. To exclude the understanding is to reduce all human experience to uncomprehending sense awareness. Not only is this not the only kind of human experience, but, at least in the case of adults, it never normally occurs at all. We simply do not perceive without some understanding of what we are perceiving; we do not perceive phenomena without perceiving them as the phenomena of something; nor do we perceive one thing acting upon another without at the same time understanding the former as a cause of the effect produced by the latter…

     Cause is ‘Given’ to the Intellect. Cause is something that we grasp intellectually in the very act of experiencing action – whether our own action or another’s. We understand the cause as producing the effect: the hammer as driving the nail, the saw as cutting the wood, the flood as devastating the land, the drill as piercing the rock, the hand as molding the putty, ourselves as producing our own thoughts, words, and movements, our shoes as pinching our feet, a pin as piercing our finger, our fellow subway travellers as pressing our ribs together. We do not think that the nail will ever plunge into the wood without the hammer, the marble shape up as a statue without a sculptor, the baby begin to exist without a father, the acorn grow with no sunlight; if something ever seems to occur in this way, we do not believe it, or we call it a miracle (i.e., we attribute it to a higher, unseen cause). In a similar manner, substance is given directly to the intellect in the very act of perception; the substance is grasped as the reason for the sensible phenomena.

     The Subjectivistic Postulate. The arguments of Hume are based on the subjectivistic postulate, namely, that we know nothing directly except our own ideas. From this starting point, certitude about real causality can never be reached. The only causality that could ever be possibly be discovered if the primary objects of our knowledge were our own ideas would be causal relations among the ideas themselves. No such relations are as a matter of fact found, since none exist and since the subjectivistic postulate is false to begin with. Causal relations exist between objects and the mind, and between the mind and its ideas, but not between ideas and ideas. Hume places causality in our mind, as a bond between ideas, when he accounts for our idea of causality by attributing it to mental custom. Whatever his intention, he actually presents similar successions of ideas as the cause of our ideas of causality and the principle of causality. As a matter of fact, such causality would not account for our belief in causality, because it would never be an idea, but only an unknown bond connecting ideas. It is only because Hume is already in possession of the concept of causality gained through external experience that he is able to formulate the theory that invariable succession of ideas produces mental custom, which in turn gives rise to the idea of cause”(B. GERRITY, Nature, Knowledge and God, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1947, pp. 337-340).

[47] C. BITTLE, op. cit., pp. 317-319.

[48] Immanuel Kant was born in Königsberg, East Prussia (which is now the Russian city of Kaliningrad) on April 22nd, 1724, the son of parents belonging to the Pietist sect. As a youth Kant studied at the Collegium Fridericianum from 1732 to 1740 where he acquired a good knowledge of Latin. In 1740 he began his studies at the university of Königsberg where he studied Newtonian physics, mathematics and philosophy, finishing in 1746. Because of financial reasons, he became tutor to various families from 1746 till 1755. In 1755 he obtained his doctorate and received permission to be a Privatdozent or lecturer. In March of 1770 he was appointed as ordinary professor of logic and metaphysics at the university of Königsberg. The years 1755 to 1770 are commonly known as Kant’s pre-critical period, where he was profoundly influenced by Leibnizian and Wolffian rationalism. The 1770 dissertation On the Form and on the Principles of the Sensible and Intelligible World signals the beginning of his evolution towards what is called his second or critical period, where he is awakened from his “dogmatic slumber” by the reading of the radical empiricism of David Hume. In 1781 Kant published his first major work, the Critique of Pure Reason. A second revised edition came out in 1787. In 1783 he published the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, in 1785 his Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals, in 1786 the Metaphysical First Principles of Natural Science, in 1788 his Critique of Practical Reason, in 1790 the Critique of Judgment, in 1793 his controversial work Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone (which got him into trouble with the Prussian authorities), in 1795 the treatise On Perpetual Peace, and in 1797 the Metaphysics of Morals. Kant spent almost all of his life within the confines of Königsberg, leading a methodical, meticulously planned life. He died in that same city on February 12th, 1804.

[49] I. KANT, The Critique of Pure Reason, xvi, J. M. D. Meiklejohn translation.

[50] A. LLANO, Gnoseology, Sinag-Tala, Manila, 2001, p. 97.

[51] I. KANT, op. cit., B 42 and B 49.

[52] I. KANT, Critique of Pure Reason, (trans. Max Müller), Macmillan, New York, 1927, pp. 16-17.

[53] Cf. I. KANT, op. cit., pp. 18-20, 24-28.

[54] C. BITTLE, Reality and the Mind, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1936, p. 111.

[55] A. LLANO, op. cit., pp. 94-95.

[56] I. KANT, The Critique of Pure Reason, A 19, A 109, B 34; Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, Prologue 13, remark 2.

[57] I. KANT, op. cit., pp. 34, 24.

[58] C. BITTLE, op. cit., pp. 111-112.

[59] Ibid.

[60] I. KANT, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, Prologue 13, remark 2.

[61] Cf. F. COPLESTON, A History of Philosophy, Volume 6: Wolff to Kant, Image Doubleday, New York, 1985, pp. 270-271.

[62] Cf. N. ABBAGNANO, Storia della filosofia. Volume Quarto: La filosofia moderna dei secoli XVII e XVIII, TEA, Milan, 1995, pp. 346-351.

[63] I. KANT, The Critique of Pure Reason, B 311.

[64] I. KANT, op. cit., B 307.

[65] C. BITTLE, op. cit, p. 312.

[66] I. KANT, The Critique of Pure Reason, 2nd ed., trans. by Max Muller, Macmillan, New York, 1900, p. 94.

[67] C. BITTLE, op. cit., pp. 312-313.

[68] C. BITTLE, op cit., p. 313.

[69] The corporeal things of the extra-mental world impinge on our external senses, impressing their qualities on the individual external sense organs capable of receiving such stimulation. The products of the external senses are then differentiated, compared and synthesized by the internal sense power central sense (or sensus communis), producing the perceptual whole (the percept, which is the impressed species of a sensible order). Our percepts, in turn, provide the stimuli for the other internal senses, namely, imagination, memory, and the cogitative, each of which is capable of forming an image (or phantasm) of the object presented to sense. This image or phantasm is the expressed species of a sensible order, and completes the knowledge of the thing on the sensory level.  

     After this comes the role of the agent intellect with its activity of abstraction. It is the power of the mind to abstract. The intellect forms its ideas by turning its attention upon the content of the image, either of the central sense or of the imagination. By means of abstraction, the intellect grasps the essential elements of the thing represented in the image, leaving aside the individualizing material determinations, thereby making the image ‘intelligible.’ This power or capacity of the intellect, whereby it actively modifies itself so as to represent within itself in an abstract manner what is concretely represented in the image, is termed the active or agent intellect. The result of this abstractive process is the abstracted nature, the impressed species of an intelligible order, which is the ‘idea’ in a rudimentary, primitive form.

     Then we have the role of the potential intellect (also called the passive or possible intellect), which is the power of the mind to understand. It is the capacity or power of the mind to express the essence of the represented thing in an ‘idea’ or ‘concept.’ The essential elements, after being abstracted from the image, are presented by the agent intellect to the potential intellect; the latter expresses the elements in conceptual terms by gathering them together into an abstract intellectual representation of the thing. This completed idea or concept is the expressed species of an intelligible order, a mental sign that signifies the essence of a thing.

     It is important for us know that the concept is not that which we understand but that by means of which we understand. What is known in the first instance is the object (the thing) itself in reality. An idea is simply an instrument of knowledge, not the object which we know in the first instance. We can, of course, make ideas the objects of our knowledge in a second instance, in a second movement, which is in reflection, but it is crucial to make clear that what we know in the first movement of our mind is the thing in extra-mental, extra-subjective reality. To say that what we know in the first instance can be only our ideas and impressions in our mind is to fall into the error of  subjectivism. 

[70] I. KANT, Critique of Pure Reason, A 158 ; B 197, 2nd ed., trans. N. K. Smith, Macmillan, London, 1933, p. 194.

[71] J. COLLINS, op. cit., pp. 182-183. Collins notes that “the coercive force of the Kantian critique of natural theology depends upon acceptance of his view that the requirements for the knowledge proper to classical physics are the requirements for all knowledge, that the conditions of the object of physics are therefore the same as the conditions for all knowable experience, that experience is confined to sensible appearances and their formal conditions, that the general, formal factors in knowledge derive entirely from the nature of consciousness, and that man has only sensuous intuition”(J. COLLINS, op. cit., p. 183).

[72] J. COLLINS, op. cit., pp. 184-185.

[73] I. KANT, Opus Postumum, VII.V.3-XXII, 55.6.

[74] I. KANT, op. cit., VII.V.4-XXII, 60.14.

[75] I. KANT, op. cit., VII.V.3-XXII, 56.13.

[76] I. KANT, op. cit., VII.V.2-XXII, 51.2.

[77] I. KANT, op. cit., VII.X.1-XXII, 118.14.

[78] I. KANT, op. cit., I.III.1.-XXI, 27.16.

[79] I. KANT, op. cit., I.IV.3-XXI, 48.4.

[80] I. KANT, op. cit., VII.X.1-XXII, 118.4.

[81] The Circle of Vienna (Wiener Kreis) was begun in 1895, initially as a chair of the philosophy of the inductive sciences at the University of Vienna, which first went to Ernst Mach, who taught a series of courses there until 1901. In 1922 the chair went to Moritz Schlick (1882-1936) who, together with a number of like-minded philosopher-physicists, published in 1929 The Scientific Vision of the World: The Circle of Vienna (Wissenschaftliche Weltauffassung: der Wiener Kries), which became the group’s manifesto. Aside from Schlick, members of the group included Rudolf Carnap (its most celebrated theorist), Kurt Gödel, Hans Reichenbach, Otto Neurath, Richard von Mises, Karl Menger, Gustav Hempel, Hans Hahn, Victor Kraft and Friedrich Herbert Waismann.

[82] “Pantheism is nothing else but atheism,” declares the atheist philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer in his Parerga und Paralipomena. Pantheismusstreit is nothing else but Atheismusstreit. The 19th century atheist Ludwig Feuerbach, in fact, admitted that the pantheist Spinoza was really an atheist, writing: “The Christian philosophers and theologians reproached Spinoza with atheism. And justifiably so:… A God who performs no miracles, who produces no effects differing from the effects of nature, and who thus does not show himself to be a being distinct from nature is in fact simply not God”(L. FEUERBACH, Geschichte der neueren Philosophie von Bacon von Verulam bis Benedikt Spinoza, vol. 3, Stuttgart, 1906, p. 383).        

[83] Baruch Spinoza was born in Amsterdam on November 24th, 1632. Though educated in the Jewish tradition, his readings into Cabalism, the philosophy of Giordano Bruno, and Cartesian rationalism made him reject his Jewish faith for pantheism. In 1656 he was solemnly excommunicated from the synagogue at the age of twenty-four. In order to support himself he took to grinding lenses for a variety of optical instruments. He led a quiet and reclusive life of study and writing. In 1660 he went to Leiden and in 1663 moved to the neighborhood of the Hague. In 1673 he was offered a teaching position in philosophy at Heidelberg, which he refused. He died of tuberculosis on February 21st, 1677 at the age of 44. His works include A Brief Treatise on God, Man and Happiness (written in 1658 but published only two hundred years later), the Principles of the Philosophy of Rene Descartes (published in 1663), his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (which appeared anonymously in 1670), and his Ethics Demonstrated According to the Geometical Order, together with his Political Treatise and his Tractatus de emendatione intellectus (all of which appearing immediately after his death in 1677).     

[84] Which is erroneous, since substance is that reality to whose essence or nature it is proper to be by itself and not in another, which can be applied either to God (Infinite Substance, in whom essence and act of being are identified) or to contingent beings (finite substances wherein essence and act of being are really distinct).   

[85] R. DESCARTES, Principia philosophica, I, no. 51.

[86] B. SPINOZA, Ethics Demonstrated According to the Geometrical Order, I, d. 3.

[87] B. SPINOZA, op. cit., I, prop. 11, aliter.

[88] B. SPINOZA, op. cit., I, d. 1.

[89] T. ALVIRA, L. CLAVELL, T. MELENDO, op. cit., p. 183.

[90] B. SPINOZA, op. cit., I, d. 4.

[91] Man, for Spinoza, would not be “a composition of two finite substances but only of two corresponding modes of the one divine substance. Spinoza’s answer to the Cartesian dualism of mind-substance and body-substance is to deny the substantial character of the two terms and to achieve the harmony of mind and body through their mutual expression of the same substance, even though they do so under different attributes”(J. COLLINS, op. cit., p. 75).

[92] R. CHERVIN, E. KEVANE, Love of Wisdom, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1988, pp. 222-223.

[93] “Since pantheism denies liberty, Spinoza’s morality merely states the facts which occur, denying the idea of evil, and replacing it by that of a man being of little repute”(F. J. THONNARD, op. cit., vol.3, p. 549).

[94] I. DILMAN, Free Will, Routledge, London, 1999, p. 129.

[95] I. DILMAN, op. cit., pp. 134, 138. Against Spinoza’s determinism we must reply that the existence of free-will in human beings is a spontaneous certainty of common sense, and that the various proofs as to our being endowed with free-will include the testimony of consciousness, an examination of the natures of the operative faculties of will and intellect, and by the enumeration of the various disastrous consequences ensuing as a result of the denial of free-will (such as the denial of good and evil and the legitimacy of laws). Of the first and last proofs, Glenn writes: “The first, the direct, and the most evident proof of this fact is found in consciousness. Man is aware that he is not the victim of a nature that forces his actions in all things; he is aware that he is not the helpless prey of circumstances; he is aware that he is not compelled to yield to the attractions of any object, however powerful these may be. In a word, man is aware that he is master of his human conduct. Let us make no mistake; we do not assert that man has control of every activity, even every conscious activity, or that he exercises what control he has by continuous volitions or will-acts. What we do assert is that man is master of his human acts, that is, of such acts as he deliberately and advertently performs, and which he knows as the fruit of his own decisions. A good deal of man’s ordinary daily life runs along on the wheels of habit and takes a course determined by the man’s character and the attractions of the various objects and situations that he encounters. But the even current of man’s life (colored by his character and by the motives found in the attractiveness or repulsiveness of particular objects and situations) is willed in its cause, for the man is its cause; and now and again, during a day or week or month, the man must avert more or less directly to the sort of life he regularly leads, and, so adverting, must give practical approval to it, must will it in short. Only occasionally, perhaps, in a person’s ordinary day, is there demand for a special, clearly realized, and deliberate choice or volition. Such clearly realized will acts are most evident in the judgments of conscience on the moral qualities of a situation to be faced and decided. It is particularly in conscience-judgments that a man is reflectively aware that his decision, his volition, his will-act, is the essential factor which makes his ‘doing’ or ‘avoiding’ his own activity, of which he is cause, author, and responsible determinant. – Man is conscious of the control he wields over his own acts. And he experiences this consciousness before, during, and after his deliberate volitions. Before he acts, he may, and frequently does, take counsel with himself or seek advice of others. He weighs reasons pro and con; he considers advantages or disadvantages to follow. During the action, he is aware that is doing what he might have left undone, doing one thing while he might have chosen to omit it or to have done something else, even something opposite. After acting, man is conscious of self-approval or remorse; he is glad or sorry that he has acted as he did. Consciousness, is therefore, an evident proof of the existence of free-will…

     “A proof of the freedom of the will is found in the absurdities which follow upon its denial…this denial is entirely destructive of morality. For it takes away responsibility. And if a man has no free-will, and no choice in his conduct, no control of his acts, it follows that there is no such thing as right and wrong, no such thing as merit and demerit. Saint and sinner, the good man and rogue, the solid citizen and the gangster, are equally blameless in the face of fated necessity. Prisons then are torture chambers, but, of course, men are fated to build prisons and confine prisoners. Good conduct and evil conduct are equally valueless, but men are forced by blind necessity to praise the one and condemn the other. No sense or reason is to be found, therefore, in the common conduct of mankind; we are all blind fools together. Morality comes to naught, and with morality all social sense and social security perish. Here is the fruit of the denial of human free-will. But we cannot, without denying all value to human knowledge, accept this fruit as true food of minds. We find it absurd; we find it impossible to accept. Therefore, we find the denial of free-will impossible. We are driven to conclude that human free-will is a fact”(P. J. GLENN, Psychology, B. Herder, St. Louis, 1955, pp. 367-369, 372-373).            

[96] J. COLLINS, op. cit., pp. 77-78.

[97] Studies on individuation: G. M. MANSER, Das thomistische Individuationsprinzip, “Divus Thomas,” 12 (1934), pp. 221-27, 279-300 ; E. HUGUENY, Résurrection et indentité corporelle selon les philosophies de l’individuation, “Revue des Sciences Philosophiques et Theologiques,” 23 (1934), pp. 94-106 ; J. B. WALL, The Mind of St. Thomas on the Principle of Individuation, “Modern Schoolman,” 1940-1941, pp. 41ff. ; U. DEGL’INNOCENTI, Il pensiero di San Tommaso sul principio di individuazione, “Divus Thomas,” 45 (1942), pp. 35-81 ; U. DEGL’INNOCENTI, De Gaetano e il principio d’individuazione, “Divus Thomas,” 26 (1949), pp. 202-208 ; J. BOBIK, La doctrine de Saint Thomas sur l’individuation des substances corporelles, “Revue Philosophique de Louvain,” 51 (1953), pp. 5-41 ; J. BOBIK, Dimensions in the Individuation of Bodily Substances, “Philosophical Studies,” 4 (1954), pp. 60-79 ; J. KLINGER, Das Prinzip der Individuation bei Thomas von Aquin, “Münsterschwarzacher Studien (II),” Vier Turme Verlag, Münsterschwarzacher, 1964 ; U. DEGL’INNOCENTI, Il principio d’individuazione dei corpi e Giovanni di S. Tommaso, “Aquinas,” 12 (1969), pp. 59-99 ; U. DEGL’INNOCENTI, Il principio d’individuazione nella scuola tomistica, Pontificia Università Lateranense, Rome, 1971 ; S. P. SFEKAS, The Problem of Individuation in Aristotelian Metaphysics, New York, 1979 ; J. OWENS, Thomas Aquinas: Dimensive Quantity as Individuating Principle, “Medieval Studies,” 50 (1988), pp. 279-310. 

[98] See the third and eleventh questions of the Prima Pars of the Summa Theologiae.

[99] C. HART, Thomistic Metaphysics, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1959, p. 194.

[100] Hegel was born in Stuttgart on August 27th, 1770. After early studies at Stuttgart he enrolled at the University of Tübingen where he became friends with the idealist philosopher Schelling and the poet Hölderlin. After his university studies Hegel earned a living as a tutor to various families, first at Berne from 1793 to 1796, and then at Frankfurt from 1797 to 1800. In 1801 he managed to obtain a post at the University of Jena and was able to publish a work on the Difference Between the Philosophical Systems of Fichte and Schelling. During this period he collaborated with his friend Schelling in editing the Critical Journal of Philosophy of 1802 to 1803. In 1807 Hegel published his first major work The Phenomenology of Spirit. From 1807 to 1808 he edited a newspaper at Bamberg and was appointed rector of the Gymnasium at Nuremberg, a position which he held until 1816. While at Nuremberg Hegel produced his second major work, the two volume Science of Logic, between 1812 and 1816. In 1817 he was made more famous by the publication of his Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Outline. From 1818 onwards Hegel was a professor of philosophy at the University of Berlin, a post which he held until his death from cholera on November 14th, 1831. During his tenure at Berlin he published his Outlines of the Philosophy of Right in 1821 and new editions of his Encyclopaedia came out in 1827 and 1830.       

[101] A. FAGOTHEY, Right and Reason, Tan Books, Rockford, IL, 2000, pp. 501-502.

[102] R. CHERVIN, E. KEVANE, op. cit., p. 280. Hegel can be said to be the father of modern dictatorships, both of the fascist and communist types. “In his Philosophy of Law (1821) Hegel teaches that the political state is the moving progress of God in the world, to be honored as a reality at once human and divine. ‘Progess’ is the operating word in this concept: it denotes the presence of the dialectic, the dynamic process or mechanism by which political states are constituted as the embodiment of social movement in human history. From the viewpoint of the present study it is clear that the fundamental metaphysics of pantheism is leading directly to the divinization of the state as the supreme manifestation of the World Spirit moving in historical time”(R. CHERVIN, E. KEVANE, op. cit., p. 281). “When Hegel presents the German world as the goal of the dialectic of the World spirit across six thousand years of human culture, he has explicitly in mind the Prussian state of his own day. For him this is the final embodiment of the World Spirit and the final aim of its progression, a concept to which one now must turn in order to understand fully what Hegel has in mind with the application of his dialectic in the Philosophy of History. ‘The principles of the successive phases of Spirit’, he writes, ‘that animate the nations in a necessitated gradation are themselves only steps in the development of the one universal Spirit… This necessarily implies that the present form of Spirit comprehends within it all earlier steps…The life of the ever-present Spirit is a circle of progressive embodiments.’ With this concept of the embodiment of the World Spirit in the succession of political entities across time, the student of Hegel stands before his work The Philosophy of Law, which may well be called the rationale of the totalitarian state, and which reveals how truly it has been said that Marx can be understood only in the light of Hegel’s philosophy but in an application that Hegel himself did not forsee. Hegel writes: ‘The state is the Spirit that lives in the world and there consciously realizes itself…The state is the march of God through the world…The state is the world that the Spirit has made for itself…We must therefore worship the state as the manifestation of the Divine on earth’”(R. CHERVIN, E. KEVANE, op. cit., p. 282).

[103] G. W. F. HEGEL, Lessons on the Philosophy of Religion, vol. 1, F. Meiner, Hamburg, 1966, p. 148.

[104] A. LLANO, op.cit., p. 102.

[105] C. BITTLE, God and His Creatures, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1953, pp. 260-261.

[106] W. J. BROSNAN, God Infinite and Reason, America Press, New York, 1928, p. 220.

[107] Studies on atheism: J. LACROIX, Le sens de l’athéisme moderne, Casterman, Tournai, 1959 ; G. SEIGMUND, Storia e diagnosi dell’ateismo contemporaneo, Paoline, Rome, 1961 ; A. DEL NOCE, Il problema dell’ateismo, il concetto dell’ateismo e la storia della filosofia come problema, Il Mulino, Bologna, 1964 ; VARIOUS AUTHORS, L’ateismo contemporaneo, Edizioni Centro Cristologico, Naples, 1965 ; VARIOUS AUTHORS, Il problema dell’ateismo, Morcelliana, Brescia, 1966 ; VARIOUS AUTHORS, L’ateismo contemporaneo, in 4 vols., SEI, Turin, 1967-1969 ; G. SIEGMUND, God on Trial: A Brief History of Atheism, Desclee, Tournai, 1967 ; C. FABRO, God in Exile. Modern Atheism, Newman Press, Westminster, Maryland, 1968 ; H. DE LUBAC, Ateismo e senso dell’uomo, Cittadella, Assisi, 1968 ; G. COTTIER, Horizons de l’athéisme, Du Cerf, Paris, 1969 ; G. F. MORRA, Dio senza Dio. Ateismo, secolarizzazione, esperienza religiosa, Zanichelli, Bologna, 1970 ; L. BOGLIOLO, Ateismo e cristianesimo. Confronto dialettico, Paoline, Rome, 1971 ; V. MICELI, The Gods of Atheism, Arlington House, New Rochelle, New York, 1971 ; VARIOUS AUTHORS, Con Dio e contro Dio, 2 vols, Marzorati, Milan, 1972 ; G. GIANNINI, Ateismo e speranza, Città Nuova, Rome, 1973 ; C. TRESMONTANT, I problemi dell’ateismo, Paoline, Rome, 1973 ; J. MARITAIN, Il significato dell’ateismo contemporaneo, Morcelliana, Brescia, 1973 ; VARIOUS AUTHORS, Dio e l’ateismo moderno, Cittadella, Assisi, 1974 ; V. MARCOZZI, Ateismo e cristianesimo, Massimo, Milan, 1974 ; E. GILARDI, La scelta di Dio. Ateismo e fede a confronto, Elle Di Ci, Turin-Leumann, 1977 ; VARIOUS AUTHORS, L’ateismo. Natura e cause, Massimo, Milan, 1981 ; VARIOUS AUTHORS, Evangelizzazione e ateismo, Paideia, Brescia, 1981 ; P. MICCOLI, Sui sentieri dell’ateo, LIEF, Vicenza, 1981 ; J. MARITAIN, Ateismo e ricerca di Dio, Massimo, Milan, 1982 ; E. GILSON, L’ateismo difficile, Vita e Pensiero, Milan, 1986 ; S. PALUMBIERI, L’ateismo e l’uomo, Edizioni Dehoniane, Naples, 1986 ; D. MORIN, L’ateismo moderno, Queriniana, Brescia, 1987 ; H. DE LUBAC, The Drama of Atheist Humanism, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1995 ; P. VITZ, Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism, Spence, Dallas, 1999. 

[108] C. FABRO, op. cit., p. 1062.

[109] Nietzsche was violently bigoted and racist against believing Christians and Jews, whom he considered to be herd animals and inferior slaves, inimical to the advent of the Superman who would be faithful to the earth. Does this sound familiar?

[110] Ludwig Feuerbach was born at Landshut, Bavaria on July 29th, 1804. In 1823 he began his theological studies at Heidelberg, which he gradually abandoned for a life of philosophy. In 1824 he frequented the courses of Hegel at Berlin, which profoundly affected him. Four years later he became an unsalaried lecturer at the university of Erlangen but because of his radical ideas his academic career stalled. He then decided to devote the remainder of his life to writing. His works include On Philosophy and Christianity (1839), the famous Essence of Christianity (1841), the Principles of the Philosophy of the Future (1843), The Essence of Faith in Luther’s Sense (1844), the Essence of Religion  (1845), Lectures on the Essence of Religion (1851), the Mystery of Sacrifice or Man is What He Eats (1862), and his Spiritualism and Materialism published in 1866. He died at Nuremberg on September 13th, 1872.        

[111] R. CHERVIN, E. KEVANE, op. cit., p. 297. 

[112] L. FEUERBACH, The Essence of Christianity, translated by George Eliot, Harper Torchbooks, New York, 1957, p. 132. For a critique of this book, see: J. C. OSBOURN and P. H. CONWAY, Pen and Sword versus God, “The Thomist,” 6 (1943), pp. 285-317.  

[113] L. FEUERBACH, op. cit., p. xvi.

[114] L. FEUERBACH, op. cit., p. 173. 

[115] L. FEUERBACH, op. cit., p. 159.

[116] L. FEUERBACH, op. cit., p. 13.

[117] J. COLLINS, op. cit., pp. 242-243.

[118] J. DE TORRE, op. cit., pp. 9-10.

[119] F. J. SHEEN, The World’s First Love, Image Books, New York, 1956, pp. 230-231.

[120] L. FEUERBACH, op. cit., p. 4.

[121] L. FEUERBACH, op. cit., p. 43.

[122] VATICAN II, Gaudium et Spes, no. 19. 

[123] VATICAN II, op. cit., no. 21.

[124] For De Lubac’s treatment of Feuerbach’s atheistic humanism, see: H. DE LUBAC, The Drama of Atheist Humanism, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1995. 

[125] F. COPLESTON, A History of Philosophy, vol. 7, part 2, Image Books, New York, 1965, p. 67.

[126] Karl Marx was born in Trier, Germany on May 5, 1818. His father was a Jew who converted to Protestantism and had his son Karl baptized in 1824; however, the Marx family did not practice their Christianity and young Karl grew up in an atmosphere of religious indifferentism. His early education was at Trier and after this he studied at the universities of Bonn and Berlin. While at Berlin he mixed with members of the Hegelian Left, especially with Bruno Bauer. In 1842 we find him editing a newspaper, the Rheinische Zeitung, at Cologne where he expressed his radical views. For such radicalism he became a hunted man, and to escape the German authorities he fled to Paris in 1843, where he began his intense collaboration with fellow radical and countryman Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) dating from 1844. In 1845 both men published The Holy Family directed against Bruno Bauer and his circle (who were described as “the Holy Family”). In early 1845 Marx was expelled from France and went to Brussels were he penned his Thesis on Feuerbach which came out that same year. In 1847 he published his Poverty of Philosophy, which was a reply to Proudhon’s Philosophy of Poverty. In 1848 both Marx and Engels published their most famous work, the Manifesto of the Communist Party which first appeared in London. Marx left for Germany when the revolutionary movement started there but had to flee to Paris when the uprising failed. In 1849 he was expelled from France for a second time, and journeyed to England where he remained for the rest of his life, receiving financial aid from his revolutionary collaborator Engels. In 1859 Marx published his Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy, which like the earlier Manifesto, is another statement of the dialectical materialist conception of history. In 1864 he founded the First International which, after the congress at the Hague in 1872 was transferred to New York. The first volume of his Capital (Das Kapital) was published at Hamburg in 1867, but he did not publish the other volumes. He died on March 14, 1883 and was buried in London. Engels continued the communist struggle, publishing his friend’s second and third volumes of Das Capital in 1885 and 1894 respectively. Engels published some works of his own including his work on The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State in 1884, his series of essays entitled Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of the Classical German Philosophy in 1888, and his Critique of the Erfurt Program of 1891, directed against the social democrats of his time. He died of cancer in August of 1895.            

[127] A. FAGOTHEY, op. cit., p. 502.

[128] Cf. G. SIEGMUND, op. cit., p. 261 ; I. LEPP, Atheism in Our Time, Macmillan, New York, 1963, p. 64.

[129] F. ENGELS, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, in Marx and Engels: Selected Works, vol. 2, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1955, pp. 366, 367, 371. 

[130] Harry Wong observes that a revolution of the spirit is the answer to the Marxist revolution espousing an anti-human economic theory, “It is clear that Marx had spotted an evil mark of the bourgeois society (i.e., the exploitation from some employers against their employees), but what he failed to see was that evil is to be found in men, rather than in things. Communism has witnessed economic exploitation but failed to see that such evils are caused by the immoral actions of individuals and of the State and by man’s deficient knowledge and application of sociological and economic laws. Therefore, the communists think that to solve the problem of exploitation, they have to get rid of the ruling class by means of the proletarian revolution; whereas, anyone who acknowledges the dignity of the human person knows that the true solution to the problem is a revolution within man, a revolution of the spirit which purifies the hearts of men, and also a reorganization of society: to remind the State of its principal purpose of promoting the welfare of men, and finally to make a sincere and persevering attempt to devise means of assuring an equitable distribution of wealth of the earth to all men, without supressing freedom”(H. WONG, A Critique of Marxism, Theological Centrum, Manila, 1991, p. 8). Criticizing the Marxist economic theory, De Torre makes a number of important observations: “It is undeniable that in liberal society there were indeed painful cases of exploitation, which could be traced to the liberal utilitarian outlook. Let us take into account, however, that Marx criticizes those injustices not from an ethical angle, as an ordinary person would, from the standpoint of the natural law. He rather confronts that exploitation (with dramatic exaggerations) from a dialectical angle; but he continues to believe, going along with liberalism, that the end of man is the economy. That is why industrialized communist societies are as materialistic as the capitalist systems affected by utilitarianism. But for a vision of human and social facts free from ideological prejudices, injustice is corrected by justice, by a right distribution of goods, by the laws, authority, the natural law, religion, in short by a right set of priorities in human activity. This is the basic error of approach of Marx’s economic critique, aside from technical details. Business, capital, freedom of the markets, inheritance, private property, financial investment and so forth, are not of themselves unjust. Admittedly they may be handled in an unjust manner, but the solution is not to eliminate them, for thereby what is thrown away with them is personal freedom, and man is thus enslaved by the revolutionary State. The solution lies rather in correcting in them what actually needs to be corrected according to the demands of natural morality”(J. DE TORRE, op. cit., p. 181). 

[131] Marx and Engels, at the end of their Communist Manifesto, state that “the Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!”(K. MARX-F. ENGELS, Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848, conclusion). However, for propaganda purposes, Communists have in fact strategically concealed their persecution of believers from the view of the Western powers, often presenting the smokescreen that priests, pastors, and religious are being put in prison for political crimes, not for their religious beliefs. This tactic is being pursued, for example, by the Communists in Red China even to this day. That the Soviet Union pursued this policy during the existence of that evil corporation is undeniable. For example, in his testimony to the United States Subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary, the Evangelical minister Reverend Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned and tortured by the Communists for fourteen years for religious reasons, had this to say:  Mr Sourwine: ‘…What has been the policy and practice of the Communists with respect to religion in the countries where they have come to power?’” “Reverend Wurmbrand: ‘They used three great instruments. First of all, the persecution, to make everybody afraid. They never accepted that they have put anybody in prison for religious motives. They found always political motives…There has been, secondly, the method of corruption…For the first time in church history the leadership of churches is dominated by the central committee of an avowed atheistic power. The central committee of the party decides who must be patriarch, who must be Baptist preacher, Pentacostal preacher, and so on. Everywhere they have found weak men or men with some sin. Those they have put in the leadership of churches and so you could hear in our theological seminary in Bucharest the theology that God has given three revelations – once through Moses, second through Jesus, and third through Karl Marx, and so on. Religion is corrupted from within. Religion has been widely used, and is still, as the tool of Communist politics. The priests everywhere had to propagate the collectivization of agriculture and everywhere when Communists have something important to do, knowing the influence of religion, priests and pastors are put to preach these things.’” “Mr. Sourwine: ‘Have the Communists shown themselves to be opposed only to Christianity, or to all religions?’” “Reverend Wurmbrand: ‘To all religions. The Jewish religion has been persecuted just as the Christian religion. In the prison of Gherla we had a whole room with rabbis who were in prisons. We had in prison the Moslem priests and so on’”(Communist Exploitation of Religion, Hearing Before the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Eighty-Ninth Congress, Second Session. Testimony of Rev. Richard Wurmbrand, May 6, 1966, U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C., 1966, pp. 12, 13).          

[132] K. MARX, Towards the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, in Marx and Engels: Basic Writings, Doubleday, Anchor Books, New York, 1959, pp. 262-263.

[133] The radical atheist of the will to power and the superman, Friedrich Nietzsche, was born at Rocken, Germany on October 15th, 1844, the son of a Lutheran pastor. When his father died in 1849, the young Friedrich was brought up in the feminine company of his mother, sister, two aunts, and his grandmother. He studied at the local Gymnasium from 1854 to 1858 and was a student of the well-known boarding school at Pforta from 1858 to 1864. He was, from an early age, an admirer of Greek civilization, his favorites being Plato and Aeschylus. In October of 1864 Nietzsche took up studies at the University of Bonn, and a year later moved to the university of Leipzig to continue his studies in philology under Friedrich Ritschl. It was during this period that Nietzsche abandoned his Lutheranism for atheism, being acquainted at this time with the atheistic voluntarism of Arthur Schopenhauer. In November of 1868, he met Richard Wagner for the first time and formed a friendship which was to end in enmity. In January of 1869 he found himself occupying the chair of philosophy at the university of Basel, upon the recommendation of his master Ritschl, without having obtained his doctorate, which was unheard of at that time. Within a few months he delivered his inaugural lecture on Homer and Classical Philology. At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, Nietzsche found himself serving in the Prussian army, where he, at this time, became very ill. In 1872 he published The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music, which extolled the spirit of his friend Wagner. From 1873 to 1876 he published four essays under the title Untimely Meditations. In the first essay he attacked the thinker David Strauss; in the second, he attacked the idolization of historical learning at the expense of a living culture; in the third he praised Schopenhauer as educator; and in the fourth, he exolled Wagner as the originator of the rebirth of the Greek genius. By 1878 his friendship with Wagner became strained and was eventually to break apart altogether. Between 1878 and 1879 Nietzsche published his Human, All Too Human in three parts. Because of bad health and disappointment with his tenure, he resigned from his chair at Basel and began a ten year wandering seeking to better his health at various spas in Switzerland and Italy, with occasional returns to Germany. In 1881 he published The Dawn of Day and in 1882 his book the Joyful Wisdom, whose fifth part was added only in 1887 which virulently attacked Christianity as being hostile to life. Between 1883 and 1885 he published his most famous work Thus Spake Zarathustra in four parts, which speaks of the Superman and the transvaluation of all values. In 1886 he came out with Beyond Good and Evil and in 1887 published A Genealogy of Morals. In 1888 he launched a ferocious attack on his former friend Wagner with his book The Case of Wagner, followed by Nietzsche contra Wagner. His last writings include The Twilight of the Idols, The Antichrist, and Ecce Homo. By 1889 Nietzsche was insane. He died in this state of madness more than a decade later on August 25th, 1900.                   

[134] “Atheism is not for me a consequence of something else; still less is it a thing which has befallen me; in my case it is, something that goes without saying, a matter of instinct”(F. NIETZSCHE, Ecce Homo, Gesammelte Werke, vol. 2, p. 1). “God, the immortality of the soul, redemption, the beyond – mere notions on which I wasted no time or attention, not even as a child”(F. NIETZSCHE, Ecce Homo, VIII, p. 332). Recent scholarship has shown that these affirmations by a manic-depressive, almost insane Nietzsche, were falsifications of reality, as his early writings attest, as well as the testimony of his intimates, such as that of Lou Salomé. Salomé held that any profound study of Nietzsche would have to be above all about his psychological relationship with religion.      

[135] F. NIETZSCHE, Werke in Drei Bande, vol. 3, Hauser Verlag, Munich, 1953, p. 7, 155.

[136] Nietzsche speaks of his loss of faith to his sister Elizabeth in a letter dated June 11, 1865. See: F. NIETZSCHE, Unpublished Letters, Peter Owen, London, 1960, pp. 33-34. 

[137] G. SIEGMUND, op. cit., p. 290.

[138] F. NIETZSCHE, Werke, XII, p.223.

[139] Georg Siegmund writes that “Hegelian philosophy struck Nietzsche as little more than a final stop on the way to honest atheism. Hegel had made one last effort to rescue foundering Christianity with his philosophy of the absolute logos, a philosophy in which history is considered the gradual coming to self-consciousness of unconditional genius, and religion the imperfect self-presentation of that genius. To Nietzsche, says Karl Loewith, this ‘equivocal union of theology and philosophy, of religion and atheism, of Christianity and paganism at the zenith of metaphysics’ seemed only a vain attempt to check the triumphal march of atheism”(G. SIEGMUND, op. cit., p. 279).  

[140] F. NIETZSCHE, Joyful Wisdom, Frederick Unger Publishing, New York, 1960, pp. 307-308.

[141] F. NIETZSCHE, The Joyful Wisdom, Frederick Unger Publishing, New York, 1960, pp. 167-169.

[142] F. NIETZSCHE, Thus Spake Zarathustra, in The Portable Nietzsche, ed. Walter Kaufmann, Viking Press, New York, 1967, p. 188. 

[143] F. NIETZSCHE, The Antichrist, translated by Walter Kaufmann in The Portable Nietzsche, Viking Press, New York, 1967, p. 57. 

[144] F. NIETZSHE, Sämliche Werke: Kritishe Studienausgabe, ed. by G. Colli and M. Montinari, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich, 1986, 6,139f. (Twilight of the Idols, “Skirmishes of an Untimely Man,” par. 38).   

[145] V. MICELI, The Gods of Atheism, Arlington House, New Rochelle, New York, 1971, p. 83. Cf. C. BRINTON, Nietzsche, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1941, pp. 208-217, 231.    

[146] J. HIRSCHBERGER, The History of Philosophy, vol. 2, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1959, p. 507.

[147] F. NIETZSHE, Sämliche Werke: Kritishe Studienausgabe, ed. by G. Colli and M. Montinari, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich, 1986, 6,101. (Twilight of the Idols, “Improvers of Mankind,” par. 4).   

[148] E. GILSON, The Idea of God and the Difficulties of Atheism, “Philosophy Today,” 13 (1969), p. 178.

[149] F. NIETZSCHE, op. cit., pp. 585-586. 

[150] F. NIETZSCHE, op. cit., p. 571.

[151] G. SIEGMUND, op. cit., pp. 296-297.

[152] C. A. BERNOULLI, Franz Overbeck and Friedrich Nietzsche, Eine Freundschaft, vol. 1, 1908, p. 250.

[153] Cf. V. MICELI, op. cit., p. 84.

[154] A. GIDE, Oeuvres Completes, as quoted in V. MICELI, op. cit., p. 84.

[155] V. MICELI, op. cit., p. 84.

[156] Jean Paul Sartre was born in Paris on June 21st, 1905. His father died a year later and the infant Jean-Paul was sent to live with his mother and grandparents in Meudon from 1906 to 1911. From 1911 to 1915 he moved to Paris, studying at the Lycées Montaigne and Henry IV. In 1917 his mother remarried and the family then moved to La Rochelle, where Jean-Paul was unhappy at school. In 1920 he returned to Lycée Henry IV. From 1924 to 1929 Sartre studied at the Ecole Normale Supérieure. In 1928 he failed the agrégation but placed first the next year. That year he met his lifelong partner Simone de Beauvoir, who placed second in the agrégation, and saw in Sartre a fellow comrade in various nihilistic and marxist causes. From 1929 to 1931 Sartre fulfilled his military service and for five years after that taught philosophy at the lycée of Le Havre. It was during this time that he started the first version of his Nausea. Between the years 1933 and 1934 he studied at the French Institute in Berlin, and was at that time attracted to the phenomenological school of philosophy (which has Edmund Husserl as its founder). It was during this Berlin sojourn that he penned The Transcendence of the Ego and the second version of Nausea. From 1937 to 1939 he taught at the lycée Pasteur in Paris. In 1938 Gallimard published Sartre’s Nausea, which made him famous in French intellectual circles. On September 3rd, 1939 Sartre was conscripted to the 70th Division in Nancy to fight the Germans. He was imprisoned a year later by the Nazis, first at Paudoux, then at Nancy, and finally at Stalag XII D in Trèves. In 1941 Sartre was released from prison by posing as a civilian. Together with Merleau-Ponty he founded a short-lived Resistance group, Socialisme et Liberté, while at the same time teaching at the Lycée Condorcet (up until 1944). In 1943 Sartre published what is considered to be his most important philosophical work, Being and Nothingness. In 1945 he published his most famous play, No Exit. That year also saw the publication of The Age of Reason, The Reprieve, and his play In Camera. For nearly two decades after the war Sartre was at center stage in the intellectual life of France and was considered to be a world famous philosopher and playwright. Sartre was a prolific author and many of his plays were pedagogical pieces which promoted his atheistic, nihilistic and marxist existentialism. In 1946 he published Portrait of an Anti-Semite, Existentialism is a Humanism, and The Respectful Prostitute. In 1948, the Vatican placed all of Sartre’s works on the Index of Forbidden Books. In 1949 he published his novel Iron in the Soul and two years later his Devil and the Good Lord. The year 1960 saw the publication of the first volume of his Critique of Dialectical Reason. In 1964 Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature but refused it as he “did not want to be turned into an institution.” Noted for his active support of various extreme leftist, marxist causes (he was the premier spokesman for the European leftist culture of nihilism and communism throughout the 1950s and 60s), Sartre eagerly supported the May 1968 student uprisings in Paris. He died in Paris on April 15th, 1980.     

[157] J. P. SARTRE, The Words, Penguin, London, 1967, pp. 54-61.

[158] J. P. SARTRE, op. cit., pp. 63-64.

[159] J. P. SARTRE, op. cit., p. 65.

[160] Ibid.

[161] Regarding his professed atheism, Sartre writes that “atheism is a cruel, long-term business. I believe I have gone through it to the end. I see clearly; I am free from illusions; I know my real tasks and I must surely deserve a civic prize”(J. P. SARTRE, op cit., p. 157). “Existentialism is nothing else but an attempt to draw the full conclusions from a consistently atheistic position”(J. P. SARTRE, Existentialism and Humanism, Methuen and Co., London, 1966, p. 56).

[162] Cf. J. P. SARTRE, Existentialism is a Humanism, Methuen and Company, London, 1960, p. 56.

[163] J. P. SARTRE, op. cit., pp. 27-28.

[164] V. MICELI, op. cit., p. 222.

[165] A. STERN, Sartre: His Philosophy and Existential Psychoanalysis, Dell, New York, 1967, p. 51.  

[166] P. ROUBICZEK, Existentialism For and Against, University Press, Cambridge, 1964, pp. 124-125. 

[167] J. P. SARTRE, Being and Nothingness, Philosophical Library, New York, 1956, p. 74.

[168] R. JOLIVET, Sartre: The Theology of the Absurd, Newman Press, Westminster, MD, 1967, p. 24.

[169] J. P. SARTRE, Being and Nothingness, Philosophical Library, New York, 1956, p. 349.

[170] ST. T. AQUINAS, Quodlibetum, X, q. 3, a. 5.

[171] T. ALVIRA, L. CLAVELL, T. MELENDO, op. cit., p. 217.

[172] J. P. SARTRE, Existentialism is a Humanism, Methuen and Company, London, 1960, p. 34. “Sartre regards man as condemned to freedom. In contrast to the animal man has no ‘nature.’ The animal lives out its existence according to laws it is simply born with; it does not need to deliberate what to do with its life. But man’s essence is undetermined. It is an open question. I must decide myself what I understand by ‘humanity,’ what I want to do with it, and how I want to fashion it. Man has no nature but is sheer freedom. His life must take some direction or other, but in the end it comes to nothing. This absurd freedom is man’s hell. What is unsettling about this approach is that it is a way through the separation of freedom from truth to its most radical conclusion: there is no truth at all. Freedom has no direction and no measure (Cf. J. PIEPER, Kreaturlichkeit und menschliche Natur. Anmerkungen zum philosophischen Ansatz von J. P. Sartre, in Uber die Schwierigkeit, heute zu glauben, Munich, 1974, pp. 304-21). But this complete absence of truth, this complete absence of any moral and metaphysical bond, this absolutely anarchic freedom – which is understood as an essential quality of man – reveals itself to one who tries to live it not as the supreme enhancement of existence, but as the frustration of life, the absolute void, the definition of damnation. The isolation of a radical concept of freedom, which for Sartre was a lived experience, shows with all desirable clarity that liberation from the truth does not produce pure freedom, but abolishes it. Anarchic freedom, taken radically, does not redeem, but makes man a miscarried creature, a pointless being”(J. RATZINGER, Freedom and Truth, 1996 “Communio,” paragraph 17).

[173] F. LESCOE, Existentialism, Alba House, New York, 1974, pp. 316-317. There are no moral absolutes for Sartre. There is no such thing for him as an objective morality or objective truth: “The most important conclusion which Sartre drew from his atheism was this: Since there cannot be any God, there cannot be logically any universally mandatory moral law; there cannot be any absolute fixed values. Dostoevsky was right when he wrote: ‘If God did not exist everything would be permitted.’ And that is existentialism’s starting position. Man alone creates his own values; he is incurably free. Man is freedom. There are no values nor commands from above, nor from within himself – as from a permanent nature – that can legitimize his conduct. Man is alone, with the full responsibility to create himself through the exercise of his freedom. Thrown into an absurd world, he must choose his own values for he cannot help acting in this world…The choice of motives and values depends on the project to which man chooses to commit himself. Thus, as a free, self-transcending subject, man inevitably projects an initial, freely chosen ideal in the light of which he constitutes his values. Man is the sole source of values, his freedom being their foundation…Man’s liberty is…unlimited; it is absolute…the freedom which is my liberty remains total and infinite…in choosing he is creating his essence”(V. MICELI, op. cit., pp. 224-225). “Ultimately therefore, each individual creates his own being, values, history, world-meaning and moral law”(V. MICELI, op. cit., pp. 227-228). Man should exercise his absurd and anarchic freedom for its own sake in any way whatever, free from the shackles of objective morality, objective truth, and God. Fleeing from the exercise of anarchic and absurd freedom by the acceptance of and submission to objective morality, objective truth, and God – this flight – is being in bad faith. One who believes in such things, in such flights of fancy, is an immoral person. Man, says Sartre, “should exercise his freedom for its own sake, curse though it is, and in any way whatsoever…each man should go on living vigorously, with defiant exercise of liberty…this is man’s meaning and glory, the exercise of his liberty for its own sake. And it makes no difference how he is exercising it so long as he is consciously exercising it. For all human activities are equivalent, all in principle, doomed to failure. ‘And this amounts to the same thing whether one gets drunk alone or is a leader of nations’(J. P. SARTRE, Being and Nothingness, Methuen and Co., London, 1966, p. 627).”(V. MICELI, op. cit., pp. 226-227).

     Though Sartre says that man is condemned to freedom, which is anarchic, absurd, a hell, hell is also other people. Sartrean philosophy proclaims the social impossibility of interpersonal love. Sartre’s philosophical atomism dictates that the presence of anyone else is an intolerable situation. “There was not much he could do about the indignity of being surrounded by a world of other free individuals. He could not free himself from their circumscribing looks and intrusions into his life…According to Sartre, the interpersonal relation is one of isolation; its social atmosphere is one of conflict. ‘While I attempt to free myself from the hold of the other, the other is trying to free himself from mine; while I seek to enslave the other, the other seeks to enslave me…Conflict is the original meaning of being-for-others.’(J. P. SARTRE, op. cit., p. 364). And the first hostile act in the conflict is inflicted by the ‘look,’ The other as look dispossesses me, steals my freedom, reduces me to an object to be used for his interests. The other breaks into my egocentric consciousness, reveals to me my nakedness, limitations, contingency. Indeed, the other regarding me as I cannot regard myself, holds a secret against me. The other haunts me continually with the suspicion of the existence of the Absolute Other. Why? Because the essential interpersonal conflict over unification in love is the same sort of illusion as the conflict of contradictory beings—en-soi-pour-soi—in God. It follows that love is as impossible as God. There can be no love, therefore there is no love between human beings. How does Sartre explain this impossibility?

     “I can never ‘get inside’ the other’s subjectivity. We are intrusions into each other’s lives, without ever being able to control each other’s freedom or subjecthood. And love is the project seeking this control. Thus, the interpersonal relationship remains essentially one of isolation while paradoxically functioning as attack and counterattack to reduce each other into objects through the complete domination of the other’s liberty. Unity with the other is, therefore, unrealizable both in theory and fact. Its realization would necessarily entail, as in Hegel’s dialectically evolving Spirit, the annihilation through absorption of the other.

     “Now love is the primitive relation to the other. It is man’s project for possessing not merely the body, but the liberty, the whole person of the other. Love wants to reduce the other ‘to being a freedom subject to my freedom’(J. P. SARTRE, op. cit., p. 366). Love, as a unification or fusion of two freedoms, is destined to eternal frustration. In all his novels and plays, Sartre’s characters try to engulf the freedom of the other. But though separation is surpassed, isolation is never surmounted even in the most intimate of relations. Lovers strive to become absolutes, the ultimate meaning of life to each other. Instead they remain outsiders, strangers to each other. ‘My original fall is the existence of the other,’ Sartre writes (J. P. SARTRE, op. cit., p. 263). For, in terrible reality, to love is to choose to be either dominant or dominated, or each in turn. At its maddest extremes, love may drive one to transform himself for the pleasure of the other into a thing; love then becomes masochism. Or at the opposite extreme of madness, love may attempt to pulverize the other for its own pleasure and power; love then becomes sadism. But these perversions are merely the bipolar sexual extremes of the love-project which is inherently contradictory. Love is the futile, endless attempt to merge two bodies, two liberties, two selves. This sado-masochistic love-project pervades the whole work of Sartre as an ineradicable stain. Every other subject for him is a ‘drain’ through which my universe leaks away. Others steal my world, my person, my liberty. And the persons in his drama Huis Clos (No Exit) discover to their despairing frustration that "L'enfer, c'est les Autres; ‘Hell is other people.’ Adam’s original sin or fall was not the eating of the apple; it was the arrival of Eve. For sin, as the failure and fall of man’s being, is the presence of others. Now far from reconciling me to myself, the intrusion of others shocks me into a realization of the cleavage within my own conscience. In Sartre we are back again to Hegel’s and Nietzsche’s Master and Slave relationship and morality. The lover seeks the mastery of his beloved whom he must enslave; he demands ‘the beloved’s freedom first and foremost’(J. P. SARTRE, op. cit., p. 370). From the enterprise of seduction, which begins with the look, through language, indifference, desire, to the perversions of hate, masochism and sadism, Sartre has few peers as an analyst of the techniques used by man to dehumanize his fellow man. Thus love in Sartre displays a triple power of destructibility. First, it deceives man into striving to become the Absolute Other, to attain a unification hopelessly out of reach. Thus it begets in man perpetual dissatisfaction. Second, through love the other reduces me to an object, thereby afflicting me with perpetual insecurity. Third, the presence of many others besides my beloved threatens our mutual, absolute relationship thereby arousing in us perpetual shame”(V. MICELI, op. cit., pp. 228-230. Cf. J. P. SARTRE, op. cit., p. 377).

     In the final analysis, life for Sartre is absurd and he accuses people of being cowards for believing that life has some kind of meaning and goal to which our efforts should be directed to. One man strives to become a great author, another hopes to be a great leader of his country, another dreams of being a successful businessman, and yet another strives to help others with the wealth he has acquired, believing that in doing so he will be happy. But Sartre objects that all these are merely absurd projections of the for-itself trying vainly to become an in-itself. As it will be impossible for man to become a god, so too will it be impossible for him to become a happy man, or a successful man, or a great man. All of his projections are inevitably doomed to failure. Man, he says, must honestly and courageously admit that life is absurd, that there is an insurmountable divide between the pour-soi and the en-soi, between what we expect from life and what life can actually offer us. We can only renounce all eternal ambition.    

     Sartre blames Christianity for the deadly esprit de sérieux, the spirit of seriousness. Christianity, he maintains, should be condemned for giving life a meaning when there is no such meaning. Since man is by nature nothingness, all he can in the end do is nothingness. He believes that it is the task of existentialism to abolish this false spirit of seriousness. To attack and mock all values, to scoff at religion, to despise country, creed and even revolution, is the ultimate task of the existentialist, says Sartre. The drunkard who drinks himself senseless, he believes, is in fact more existentially authentic than the president of a country who deludes himself with the esprit de serieux, in the solemn belief that he is accomplishing great things and bettering the world. For Sartre, it is the former who is authentic while the latter is in bad faith. 

     Though Sartre’s influence among the youth has been immense (he has destroyed, and is still destroying, the lives of countless people), I believe that his brazen, scandalous sophistry has driven many fence-sitting, lukewarm Christians to a new resolve to come to the defense of God and absolute values, for the disastrous consequences of his nihilistic atheism on the human person and on society are soberingly clear. Sartre’s philosophy is a doctrine of frustration, despair, suicide, isolation, hate, and absurdity…the philosophy of hell.             

[174] J. MIHALICH, Jean Paul Sartre, in Existentialist Thinkers and Thought, ed. F. Patka, Citadel Press, New York, 1964, p. 128.

[175] J. P. SARTRE, Being and Nothingness, Philosophical Library, New York, 1956, p. 89-90.

[176] J. P. SARTRE, op. cit., pp. 575-576.

[177] J. P. SARTRE, op. cit., p. 566.

[178] J. P. SARTRE, op. cit., p. 615.

[179] J. COLLINS, The Existentialists, Gateway Book, Henry Regnery, Chicago, 1964, p. 72.

[180] The father of modern philosophy Rene Descartes was born at La Haye in Touraine, France on March 31st, 1596 from parents who belonged to the lower nobility. He received his early schooling at the famous Jesuit college of La Flèche from 1604 to 1612 where he studied, among other things, philosophy and mathematics. After La Flèche Descartes studied law at the university of Potiers, obtaining his degree in 1616. In 1618 he decided to see the world, enlisting in the armies of various German princes to be able to do so. A year later, on the tenth of November 1619, he had three consecutive dreams which convinced him to devote his entire life to the reform of the sciences and to the search for truth by means of the cultivation of reason. He sojourned at Paris for a number of years and eventually made his home in Amsterdam in 1628, where he remained until 1649. During this time Descartes wrote his Traité du monde (Treatise on the World, which was published postumously in 1677), his famous 1637 work Discours de la méthode pour bien conduire la raison et réchercher la verité dans les sciences (Discourse on Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason and Seeking for Truth in the Sciences) written in French and commonly known as the Discourse on Method, his Meditations on First Philosophy published in 1641 in Latin, his Principles of Philosophy in 1644, and his 1649 book Passions of the Soul written in French. In September of 1649 Descartes left Holland for Sweden at the request of the Swedish Queen Christina who sought to establish an Academy of Science in her land and also wished to be instructed in philosophy by the famous Frenchman. But the cruel Swedish winter took its toll on the frail body of Descartes, who, catching a bad attack of fever, died in Stockholm on the eleventh of February 1650.   

[181] Born at Leipzig on July 1st, 1646, the German rationalist Gottfried Wilheim Leibniz was a thinker of vast interests and was, with Newton, the inventor of infinitesimal calculus. He was also the precursor of mathematical logic. Between the years 1672 and 1676 Leibniz sojourned at Paris as ambassador to the German emperor, and it was during this time that he came into contact with the thinkers Arnauld, Huygens and Malebranche, and managed to develop an impressive knowledge of the Cartesian and Spinozian systems. The last forty years of his life were spent at Hanover where he acted as librarian and secretary to the Prince Elector. In 1682 he founded the Acta eruditorum at Leipzig, and in 1700 he became the first president of the Society of the Sciences at Berlin (which later became the Prussian Academy of Sciences). His main works include the Discourse on Metaphysics (1686), the New System of Nature and of the Interaction of Substances (1695), his Essays on Theodicy (1710), and his Principles of Nature and Grace and Monadology (1714). At one time one of the most famous of thinkers in Europe, Leibniz, however, died at Hanover on November 14th, 1716 a forgotten man (when the Elector of Hanover became George I of England in 1714, Leibniz was not chosen to accompany him). His burial was attended only by his secretary. 

[182] P. J. GLENN, op. cit., pp. 34-35.

[183] Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 11, 3.

[184] E. GILSON, Elements of Christian Philosophy, Mentor-Omega, New York, 1963, pp. 51-52. 

[185] G. W. LEIBNIZ, Monadology, no. 45, in Discourse on Metaphysics, Correspondence with Arnauld, and Monadology, Open Court, Chicago, 1918, p. 260-261.

[186] Cf. I. KANT, On the Impossibility of an Ontological Proof of the Existence of God, in Critique of Pure Reason, A 592-602, B 620-630.

[187] I. KANT, Critique of Pure Reason, Macmillan, London, 1933, p. 506.

[188] R. DESCARTES, A Discourse on Method and Selected Writings, Meditation III, “Of God, that He Exists”, trans. John Veitch, E. P. Dutton & Co., New York 1951, p. 104.

[189] Ibid., p. 105.

[190] Ibid., p. 112.

[191] Ibid., pp. 114-115.

[192] Ibid., p. 115.

[193] Ibid., p. 115.

[194] Ibid., p. 121.

[195] Studies on demonstration in Aristotle: O. BENNETT, The Nature of Demonstrative Proof According to the Principles of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, Catholic University Press, Washington, D.C., 1943 ; Y. R. SIMON and K. MENGER, Aristotelian Demonstration and Postulational Method, “The Modern Schoolman”, 25 (1947-48), pp. 183-192 ; E. SIMMONS, Demonstration and Self-Evidence, “The Thomist”, 24 (1961), pp. 139-162; J. BARNES, Aristotle’s Theory of Demonstration, “Phronesis”, 14 (1969), pp. 123-152; B. T. WILKINS, Aristotle on Scientific Explanation, “Dialogue”, 9 (1970), pp. 337-355; B. A. BRODY, Towards an Aristotelian Theory of Scientific Explanation, “Philosophy of Science”, 39 (1972), pp. 20-31; J. JOPE, Subordinate Demonstrative Science in the Sixth Book of Aristotle’s Physics, “Classical Quarterly”, 22 (1972), pp. 279-292; D. J. HADGOPOULOS, Demonstration and the Second Figure in Aristotle, “The New Scholasticism”, 49 (1975), pp. 62-75; H. S. THAYER, Aristotle on the Meaning of Science, “Philosophical Inquiry”, 1 (1979), pp. 87-104; T. V. UPTON, Imperishable Being and the Role of Technical Hypotheses in Aristotelian Demonstration, “Nature and System”, 2 (1980), pp. 91-99; J. HINTIKKA, Aristotelian Induction, “Revue Internationale de Philosophie”, 34 (1980), pp. 422-439; J. BARNES, Proof and the Syllogism, in Aristotle on Science: The “Posterior Analytics”, Proceedings of the Eighth Symposium Aristotelicum, Padua, 1981, pp. 1-59; M. T. FREEJOHN, Definition and the Two Stages of Aristotelian Demonstration, “Review of Metaphysics”, 36 (1982), pp. 375-395; A. CASSINI, La función de la teoria de la demonstración scientifica en Aristoteles, “Revista Latinoamericana de Filosofia”, 14 (1988), pp. 165-177.  

[196] Cf. D. MERCIER, Manual of Modern Thomistic Philosophy, volume 2, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., London, 1938, p. 184. 

[197] Studies on demonstration in St. Thomas: O. BENNETT, St. Thomas’ Theory of the Demonstrative Proof, “Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association”, 16 (1941), pp. 76-88; J. F. ANDERSON, On Demonstration in Thomistic Metaphysics, “The New Scholasticism,” 32 (1958), pp. 476-494. 

[198] Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 2, c.

[199] For an in-depth study of this demonstration, see: E. CHAVARRI, Naturaleza de la demostración ‘propter quid’ en los Analiticos Posteriores, “Estudios Filosoficos,” 20 (1971), pp. 39-90; 21 (1972), pp. 3-58, 283-338, 559-585.

[200] Cf. In I Anal. Post., lect. 14.

[201] ARISTOTLE, Nicomachean Ethics, VI, 1139b 25.  

[202] See: ARISTOTLE, Posterior Analytics, I.

[203] Studies on induction in the Stagirite and the Angelic Doctor: P. H. CONWAY, Induction in Aristotle and St. Thomas, “The Thomist”, 22 (1959), pp. 336-365 ; G. BUCHDAHL, Induction and Necessity in the Philosophy of Aristotle, Aquinas Paper (40), Aquinas Society of London, London, 1963. See also: P. SIWEK, La structure logique de l’induction, “Gregorianum”, 17 (1936), pp. 224-253; M. C. GUÉRARD DES LAURIERS, L’induction, “Les sciences phil. et théol.” (1941-42), pp. 5-27;  W. BAUMGAERTNER, The Nature of Induction, “Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association”, 25 (1951), pp. 130-136; W. BUCHEL, Zum Problem des Induktionsschlusses, “Scholastik”, 34 (1959), pp. 34-53.

[204] Cf. O. J. LA PLANTE, The Traditional View of Efficient Causality, “Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association”, 14 (1938), p. 2.

[205] ARISTOTLE, Physics, VII, ch. 1, 241b 24; Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3.

[206] Studies on act and potency: A. FARGES, Theorie fondamentale de l’acte et de la puissance du moteur et du mobile, Paris, 1893 ; A. BAUDIN, L’acte et la puissance dans Aristote, “Revue Thomiste,” 7 (1899), pp. 39-62, 153-172, 274-296, 584-608 ; G. MATTIUSSI, Le XXIV tesi della filosofia di S. Tommaso d’Aquino, Gregorian University, Rome, 1925 ; G. MANSER, Das Wesen des Thomismus. Die Lehre von Akt und Potenz als tiefste Grundlage der thomistischen Synthese, Paulus Verlag, Fribourg, 1935 ; P. DESCOQS, Sur la division de l’être en acte et puissance d’après Saint Thomas, “Revue de Philosophie,” 38 (1938), pp. 410-430 ; V. A. BERTO, Sur la composition d’acte et de puissance dans les créatures, “Revue de Philosophie,” 39 (1939), pp. 106-121 ; P. DESCOQS, Sur la division de lêtre en acte et puissance d’après Saint Thomas. Nouvelles precisions, “Revue de Philosophie,” 39 (1939), pp. 233-252, 361-70 ; C. FABRO, Circa la divisione dell’essere in atto e potenza secondo S. Tommaso, “Divus Thomas,” 42 (1939), pp. 529-552 ; A. SANDOZ, Sur la division de lêtre en acte et puissance d’après Saint Thomas, “Revue de Philosophie,” 40 (1940), pp. 53-76 ; VAN ROO, W. A., Act and Potency, “The Modern Schoolman”, 18 (1940), pp. 1-4 ; C. GIACON, Atto e potenza, La Scuola, Brescia, 1947 ; J. D. ROBERT, Le principe: ‘Actus non limitatur nisi per potentiam subjectivam realiter distinctam,’ “Revue philosophique de Louvain,” 47 (1949), pp. 44-70 ; W. NORRIS CLARK, The Limitation of Act by Potency: Aristotelianism or Neoplatonism?, “The New Scholasticism,” 26 (1952), pp. 167-194 ; E. BERTI, Genesi e sviluppo della dottrina della potenza e dell’atto in Aristotele, “Studia Patavina,” 5 (1958), pp. 477-505 ; C. FABRO, La determinazione dell’atto nella metafisica tomistica, in Esegesi tomistica, Pontificia Università Lateranense, Rome, 1969, pp. 329-350 ; H. P. KAINZ, Active and Passive Potency in Thomistic Angelology, M. Nijhoff, The Hague, 1972 ; C. A. FREELAND, Aristotle’s Theory of Actuality and Potentiality, Pittsburgh, 1979 ; F. KOVACH, St. Thomas Aquinas: Limitation of Potency by Act. A Textual and Doctrinal Analysis, in Atti del VIII Congresso Internazionale dell’Accademia Pontificia di San Tommaso d’Aquino (V), Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City, 1982, pp. 387-411 ; G. VERBEKE, The Meaning of Potency in Aristotle, in Graceful Reason. Essays in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy Presented to Joseph Owens CssR, edited by L. P. Gerson, Toronto, 1983, pp. 55-74 ; J. F. WIPPEL, Thomas Aquinas and the Axiom ‘What is Received is Received according to the Mode of the Receiver, in A Straight Path: Essays Offered to Arthur Hyman, edited by Ruth Link Salinger, Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D. C., 1988, pp. 279-289 ; J. F. WIPPEL, Thomas Aquinas and the Axiom that Unreceived Act is Unlimited, “The Review of Metaphysics,” 51 (1998), pp. 533-564. 

[207] Cf. Compendium Theologiae, ch. 7.

[208] Cf. Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 75, a. 1.

[209] Studies on Thomistic participation metaphysics: C. A. HART, Participation and the Thomistic Five Ways, “The New Scholasticism”, 26 (1952), pp. 267-282; W. NORRIS CLARKE, The Meaning of Participation in St. Thomas Aquinas, “Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association”, 26 (1952), pp. 147-157 ; L. B. GEIGER, La participation dans la philosophie de St. Thomas d’Aquin, Paris, 1953; G. LINDBECK, Participation and Existence in the Interpretation of  St. Thomas Aquinas, “Franciscan Studies”, 17 (1957), pp. 1-22, 107-125; C. FABRO, Partecipazione e causalità, S.E.I., Turin, 1961 ; La nozione metafisica di partecipazione, 3rd ed., S.E.I. Turin, 1963; Elementi per una dottrina tomistica della partecipazione, “Divinitas”, 2 (1967), pp. 559-586 ; The Intensive Hermeneutics of Thomistic Philosophy: The Notion of Participation, “The Review of Metaphysics”, 27 (1974), pp. 449-491; Partecipazione agostiniana e partecipazione tomistica, “Doctor Communis”, 39 (1986), pp. 282-291 ; H. J. JOHN, Participation Revisited, “The Modern Schoolman”, 39 (1962), pp. 154-165 ; J. ARTOLA, Creación y participación, Publicaciones de la Institución Aquinas, Madrid, 1963; P. C. COURTÈS, Participation et contingence selon Saint Thomas d’ Aquin, “Revue Thomiste”, 77 (1969), pp. 201-235; J. CHIU YUEN HO, La doctrine de la participatión dans le Commentaire de Saint Thomas sur le “Liber de Causis”, “Revue philosophique de Louvain”, 27 (1972), pp. 360-383; T. FAY, Participation: The Transformation of Platonic and Neoplatonic Thought in the Metaphysics of Thomas Aquinas, “Divus Thomas”, 76 (1973), pp. 50-64; O. N. DERISI, Participación, acto y potencia y analogia en Santo Tomás, “Rivista di filosofia neoscolastica”, 65 (1974), pp. 415-435; La existencia o esse imparticipado divino, causa de todo ser participado, “Sapientia”, 31 (1976), pp. 109-120; El fundamento de la metafisica tomista: El Esse e Intelligere Divino, fundamento y causa de todo ser y entender participados, “Sapientia” 35 (1980), pp. 9-26; Del ente participado al Ser imparticipado, “Doctor Communis”, 35 (1982), pp. 26-38; La participación del ser, “Sapientia”, 37 (1982), pp. 5-10, 83-86, 243-248; La participación de la esencia, in Cinquant’anni di Magistero Teologico. Scritti in onore di Mons. Antonio Piolanti, “Studi tomistici” (26), Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City, 1985, pp. 173-184; P. LAZZARO, La dialettica della partecipazione nella Summa contra Gentiles di S. Tommaso d’Aquino, Parallelo, Regio Calabria, 1976 ; K. REISENHUBER, Participation as a Structuring Principle in Thomas Aquinas’ Teaching on Divine Names, “Studies in Medieval Thought”, 20 (1978), pp. 240-242; A. BASAVE, La doctrina metafisica de la participación en santo Tomás de Aquino, “Giornale di Metafisica”, 30 (1979), pp. 257-266; A. L. GONZÁLEZ, Ser y participación, EUNSA, Pamplona, 1979; P. MAZZARELLA, Creazione, partecipazione, e tempo secondo san Tommaso d’Aquino, “Studia Patavina”, (1982), pp. 308-335; J. F. WIPPEL, Thomas Aquinas and Participation, in Studies in Medieval Philosophy, Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C., 1987, pp. 117-158 ; C. P. BIGGER, St. Thomas on Essence and Participation, “The New Scholasticism”, 62 (1988), pp. 319-348; T. TYN, Metafisica della sostanza. Partecipazione e analogia entis, Edizioni Studio Domenicano, Bologna, 1991, pp. 18-20, 523-583, 813-933 ; R. A. TE VELDE, Participation and Substantiality in Thomas Aquinas, Brill, Leiden, 1995.

[210] The Summa Theologiae was written for theology students who had already completed extensive studies in philosophy. St. Thomas presumed that they already had an adequate knowledge of the fundamentals of metaphysics.

[211] B. MONDIN, A History of Mediaeval Philosophy, Urbaniana University Press, Rome, 1991, p. 320.

[212] Cf. V. J. BOURKE, Experience of Extra-Mental Reality as a Starting Point of St. Thomas’ Metaphysics, “Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association”, 14 (1938), pp. 134-144.

[213] Studies on causality: G. BALLERINI, Il principio di causalità e l’esistenza di Dio, Libreria Editrice Fiorentina, Florence, 1904 ; A. BERSANI, Principium causalitatis et existentia Dei, “Divus Thomas”, 2 (1925), pp. 14-35; P. E. NOLAN, Causality and the Existence of God, “The Modern Schoolman”, 14 (1936), pp. 16-18 ; C. FABRO, La difesa critica del principio di causa, “Rivista di Filosofia Neoscolastica”, 27 (1936), pp. 102-141; D. HAWKINGS, Causality and Implication, Sheed and Ward, London, 1937 ; F. X. MEEHAN, Efficient Causality in Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C., 1940 ; E. R. KILZER, Efficient Causality in the Philosophy of Nature, “Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association”, 17 (1941), pp. 142-150 ; G. KLUBERTANZ, Causality in the Philosophy of Nature, “The Modern Schoolman”, 19 (1942), pp. 29-31 ; J. S. ALBERTSON, Instrumental Causality in St. Thomas, “The New Scholasticism”, 28 (1954), pp. 409-435 ; F. GIARDINI, Gradi di causalità e di similitudine, “Angelicum”, 36 (1959), pp. 26-50 ; C. FABRO, Partecipazione e causalità, S.E.I., Turin, 1961 ; W. H. KANE, Existence and Causality, “The Thomist”, 28 (1964), pp. 76-92 ; C. GIACON, La causalità del Motore Immobile, Editrice Antenore, Padua, 1969 ; G. BLANDINO, Discussione sulla causalità I, “Aquinas”, 23 (1980), pp. 93-113; T. M. OLSHEWSKY, Thomas’ Conception of Causation, “Nature and System”, 2 (1980), pp. 101-122 ; G. BLANDINO, Discussione sulla causalità II, “Aquinas”, 25 (1982), pp. 515-552 ; M. PANGALLO, Il principio di causalità nella metafisica di san Tommaso, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City, 1991.

[214] Cf. H. J. KOREN, Introduction to the Science of Metaphysics, B. Herder Book Company, St. Louis, 1965, pp. 228-232. After having distinguished cause from principle, condition, occasion, and sufficient reason of being, Koren defines cause as “an ontological principle which exercises a positive influence upon the ‘to be’ of something else” (H. J. KOREN, op. cit., p. 232). According to Phillips, a cause is “a principle on which something else depends for existence” (R. P. PHILLIPS, Modern Thomistic Philosophy, vol. 2, Burns, Oates, and Washbourne, London, 1934, p. 236). Celestine Bittle defines cause as “that which in any way whatever exerts a positive influence in the production of a thing” (C. BITTLE, The Domain of Being, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1938, p. 321).

[215] Summa Theologiae, I, q. 46, a. 2, ad 7.  

[216] Cf. J. OWENS, Aquinas on Infinite Regress, “Mind”, 71 (1962), pp. 244-246 ; P. BROWN, Infinite Causal Regression, “Philosophical Review”, 75 (1966), pp. 510-525 ; F. VAN STEENBERGHEN, Le ‘Processus in Infinitum” dans les trois premieres ‘voies’ de s. Thomas, “Rassegna di Scienze Filosofiche”, 30 (1974), pp. 127-134 ; T. J. DAY, Aquinas on Infinite Regresses, “International Journal for Philosophy of Religion”, 22 (1987), pp. 151-164.

[217] Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 13.

[218] Studies on the Five Ways in general: A. BERTULETTI, La prova dell’esistenza di Dio e le cinque vie,  “Aquinas”,  9 (1966), pp. 346-359 ; P. BROCH, Las pruebas tradicionales de la existencia de Dios, “Ciencia Tomista”, 48 (1933), pp. 145-162, 330-343 ; P. BROCH, Examen de las objeciones contra las cinco pruebas de la existencia de Dios,  “Ciencia Tomista”,  49 (1934),  pp. 45-58 ; R. J. CONNELL, Preliminaries to the Five Ways, in Thomistic Papers, IV (ed. L. Kennedy C.S.B.), The Center for Thomistic Studies, Texas, 1988, pp. 129-167 ; L. DEWAN, The Number and Order of St. Thomas’ Five Ways, “The Downside Review”, 92 (1974), pp. 1-18 ; W. DUNPHY, The “Quinque viae” and Some Parisian Professors of Philosophy, in St. Thomas Aquinas: 1274-1974. Commemorative Studies, vol. 2, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto, 1974, pp. 73-93 ; J. GARCÍA ALVAREZ, De Quinque viis Sancti Thomae defensio quaedam,  “Aquinas”, 6 (1963), pp. 358-372 ; W. J. HANKEY, The Place of the Proof for God’s Existence in the “Summa Theologiae” of Thomas Aquinas, “The Thomist”, 46 (1982), pp. 370-393 ; C. A. HART, Participation and the Thomistic Five Ways, “The New Scholasticism”, 26 (1952), pp. 267-282 ; J. F. X. KNASAS, Thomistic Existentialism and the Silence of the “Quinque Viae”, “The Modern Schoolman”, 63 (1986), pp. 157-171 ; F. LIVERZIANI, Esperienzialità delle “cinque vie”? Nota su “Aspetti del Tomismo” di Giorgio Giannini, “Aquinas”, 22 (1979), pp. 414-427 ; E. NICOLETTI, La struttura delle cinque vie di s. Tommaso, “Aquinas”, 12 (1969), pp. 47-58 ; J. OWENS, Aquinas and the Five Ways,  “The Monist”, 58 (1974), pp. 16-35 ; J. M. SANCHEZ-RUIZ, Las pruebas de la existencia de Dios en el tomismo, “Estudios Filosoficos”, 6 (1957), pp. 53-96 ; S. VANNI ROVIGHI, Perenne validità delle “cinque vie” di s. Tommaso,  “Aquinas”, 3 (1960), pp. 198-213 ; J. R. WILCOX, The Five Ways and the Oneness of God, “The Thomist”, 62 (1998), pp. 245-268.

[219] For the ancient sources of the Five Ways, see: R. ARNOU, De Quinque Viis Sancti Thomae ad Demonstrandam Dei Existentiam apud Antiquos Graecos et Arabes et Judaeos Praeformatis vel Adumbratis, Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, 1932.   

[220] Among the classic commentators on the Angelic Doctor, Cajetan is of this opinion. See his commentary on Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3.

[221] J. MARITAIN, Approaches to God, Macmillan, New York, 1962, pp. 33-34.

[222] A. R. MOTTE, A propos des ‘Cinq Voies,’ “Revue des Sciences Philosophiques et Théologiques,” 27 (1938), pp. 577-582.

[223] J. OWENS, op. cit., p. 342.

[224] A. BOEHM, Autour du Mystère des Quinque Viae, “Revue des Sciences Religieuses,” 24 (1950), pp. 217-234. 

[225] M. GUÉRARD DES LAURIERS, La Preuve de Dieu et les Cinq Voies, Rome, 1966, pp. 57-68.

[226] A. KENNY, The Five Ways, London, 1969, pp. 35-37.

[227] S. GIULIANI, Perchè cinque le ‘vie’ di s. Tommaso?, “Sapienza,” 1 (1948), pp. 153-156 ; L. ELDERS, The Philosophical Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, Brill, Leiden, 1990, pp. 85-86 

[228] L. CHARLIER, Les Cinq Voies de Saint Thomas. Leur Structure Métaphysique, in L’Existence de Dieu, Cahiers de l’Actualité Religieuse (16), Tournai, 1953, p. 190.

[229] J. MARITAIN, op. cit., pp. 62-63.

[230] L. DEWAN, The Number and Order of St. Thomas’s Five Ways, “The Downside Review,” 92 (1974), pp. 14, 16-17.

[231] Dewan: “The conception of the plan of this Summa article which we have proposed also helps explain why the fifth way is even more summary than the others.”

[232] L. DEWAN, op. cit., pp. 17-18.

[233] M. HOLLOWAY, An Introduction to Natural Theology, Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1959, pp. 134-135.

[234] Studies on the First Way and the Aristotelian Unmoved Mover: E. BERTI, La struttura logica della dimostrazione dell’atto puro in Aristotele, in Scritti in onore di Carlo Giacon, Padua, 1972, pp. 41-62 ; L. ELDERS, Aristotle’s Theology, Koninklijke Van Gorcum & Comp., Assen, Netherlands, 1972 ; C. GIACON, L’ interpretazione tomistica del motore immobile, “Studi Tomistici (1): san Tommaso: fonti e riflessi del suo pensiero”, Pontificia Accademia di s. Tommaso, Città Nuova, Rome, 1974,  pp. 13-29 ; E. GILSON, Prolégomènes à la prima via, “AHDLMA”, 30 (1964), pp.53-70 ; W. HAMLYN, Aristotle’s God, in, The Philosophical Assessment of Theology: Essays in Honor of Frederick C. Copleston, ed. Gerard Hughes, Georgetown University Press, Washington, D.C., 1987, pp. 17-33 ; J. F. X. KNASAS, Ad  mentem divi Thomae: Does Natural Philosophy Prove God?,  “Divus Thomas”, 91 (1988),  pp. 408-425 ; J. F. X. KNASAS, Thomistic Existentialism and the Proofs Ex Motu at Contra Gentiles I, C.13, “The Thomist,” 59 (1995), pp. 591-615 ; T. J. KONDOLEON, The Argument from Motion and the Argument for Angels: A Reply to John F. X. Knasas, “The Thomist,” 62 (1998), pp. 269-290 ; H. S. LANG, Aristotle’s First Movers and the Relation of Physics and Theology, “The New Scholasticism”, 52 (1978), pp. 500-517 ; N. LOBKOWICZ, Quidquid Movetur ab Alio Movetur, “The New Scholasticism”, 42 (1968), pp. 401-421 ; N. LUYTEN, Der erste Weg ex parte motus, in Quinque sunt viae, (ed. L. Elders), Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City, 1980, pp. 29-41 ; E. MACCAGNOLO, Intorno alla prima via di san Tommaso, in Studi di filosofia e di storia della filosofia in onore di Francesco Olgiati, Pubblicazioni dell’Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Serie terza, Scienze filosofiche (6), Milan, 1962 ; J. A. McWILLIAMS, Aristotle on Motion, “The New Scholasticism”, 16 (1942), pp. 285-288 ; J. A. McWILLIAMS, Aristotelian and Cartesian Motion, “The New Scholasticism”, 17 (1943), pp. 307-321 ; J. OWENS, The Conclusion of the Prima Via, “The Modern Schoolman”,  30 (1952), pp. 33-53, pp. 109-121, pp. 203-215 ; J. OWENS, Aquinas and the Proof from the “Physics”, “Mediaeval Studies”, 28 (1966), pp. 118-150 ; J. OWENS, Actuality in the “Prima Via”  of St. Thomas,  “Mediaeval  Studies”,  29 (1967), pp. 26-46 ; J. OWENS, The Starting Point of the “Prima Via”, “Franciscan Studies”, 5 (1967), pp. 249-294 ; R. L. PATTERSON, The Argument from Motion in Aristotle and Aquinas, “The New Scholasticism”, 10 (1936),  pp. 245-254 ; A. C. PEGIS,  St. Thomas and the Coherence of the Aristotelian Theology, “Mediaeval Studies”, 35 (1973),  pp. 67-117 ; J. SALAMUCHA, The Proof ‘Ex Motu’ for the Existence of God: Logical Analysis of St. Thomas’ Arguments, “The New Scholasticism”, 32 (1958), pp. 334-372 ; D. STEWART, Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Unmoved Mover, “The Thomist”, 37 (1973), pp. 522-547 ; G. VERBEKE, La structure logique de la preuve du Premier Moteur chez Aristote,  “RPhL”  46 (1948), pp. 137-160 ; W. A. WALLACE, Newtonian Antinomies against the Prima Via,  “The Thomist”, 19 (1956), pp. 151-192 ; W. WALLACE, The First Way in Physical and Moral Space, “The Thomist”, 39 (1975), pp. 349-382 ; J. A. WEISHEIPL, The Principle “omne quod movetur, ab alio movetur”, “Isis”, 56 (1965), pp. 26-45 ; J. A. WEISHEIPL, Quidquid Movetur ab Alio Movetur: A Reply, “The New Scholasticism”, 42 (1968), pp. 422-431 ; E. WINANCE, Le premier moteur: “Prima via”, “Doctor Communis”, 7 (1954), pp. 4-27.

[235] Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3.

[236] J. OWENS, An Elementary Christian Metaphysics, Center for Thomistic Studies, Houston, 1985, p. 345: “The necessity of understanding the argument from motion as a metaphysical argument based upon the reception of being instead of as a physical argument in the Aristotelian sense was strongly emphasized by Suarez (Disp. Metaph., XXIX, 1, 8-17). Unless it is interpreted metaphysically, it does not conclude to an uncreated movent. To interpret it metaphysically means to interpret it in terms of being. The movent has to be regarded as the efficient cause that produces movement by imparting existence to the movement and its term. Movement and its formal term are observed to come into being in the sensible world; they have to receive that being from something else, and ultimately from subsistent being. The reasoning is from new existence to subsistent existence.”

[237] Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 13.

[238] Stanley L. Jaki notes that of the three Newtonian laws, “Newton formulated only the third, the force law. The second law (action equals reaction) he borrowed from Descartes. The first, the most fundamental, the law of inertial motion, was formulated by John Buridan, more than three hundred years before Newton. And he formulated it in the context of his Christian belief of creation out of nothing and in time”(S. L. JAKI, The Limits of a Limitless Science, ISI Books, Wilmington, DE, 2000, p. 28). 

[239] Cf. W. A. WALLACE, Newtonian Antinomies Against the Prima Via, “The Thomist,” 19 (1956), pp. 151-192.  Maritain notes that “in the dynamics of Einstein, the state of motion in which a body perseveres of itself is a state not of uniform motion but of uniformly accelerated motion. In this case, the action of a cause would be required to change the acceleration. Thus it would still be true that every change in its state of movement is due to ‘another’”(J. MARITAIN, op. cit., p. 40). Holloway observes that “the atomic theory which states that within the atom the particles called electrons are continually revolving around the nucleus, no matter how this theory is understood to express the mass-energy aspects of material reality, it in no way contradicts the philosophical truth that whatever is moved must be moved by another. Again, the scientist finds matter in motion; but it hardly follows from this that therefore matter puts itself in motion. No more than to find something existing means that this thing has caused its own existence. Matter needs to be conserved in motion just as much as it needs to be conserved in being. If matter is in motion it is because it has been created in motion and the first unmoved mover is here and now the ultimate cause of that motion”(M. HOLLOWAY, op. cit., p. 87).  

[240] Studies on the Second Way: P. CAROSI, La serie infinita di cause efficienti subordinate, “Divus Thomas,” 46 (1943), pp. 29-77, 159-175 ; R. L. CARTWRIGHT, The Second Way, “Mediaeval Philosophy and Theology,” 5 (1996), pp. 189-204 ; R. GARRIGOU-LAGRANGE, La deuxième preuve de l’existence de Dieu proposée par Saint Thomas, “Doctor Communis,” 7 (1954), pp. 28-40 ; J. R. T. LAMONT, An Argument for an Uncaused Cause, “The Thomist,” 59 (1995), pp. 261-277 ; R. LAUER, The Notion of Efficient Cause in the “Secunda Via”, “The Thomist,” 38 (1974), pp. 754-767.

[241] Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3.

[242] Summa Contra Gentiles, III, 70.

[243] Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 13, no. 33. 

[244] Studies on the Third Way: G. BLANDINO, The Existence of God. The Proof “From Contingent Beings to the Absolute Being”, “Aquinas”, 38 (1995), pp. 529-552 ; L. CHAMBAT, La “Tertia via” dans Saint Thomas et Aristote,  “Revue Thomiste”, 32 (1927), pp. 334-338 ; T. K. CONNOLLY, The Basis of the Third Proof for the Existence of God, “The Thomist”, 17 (1954), pp. 281-349 ; U. DEGL’INNOCENTI, La  validità della “terza via”, “Doctor Communis”, 7 (1954), pp. 41-70 ; R. B. EDWARDS, The Validity of Aquinas’ Third Way,  “The New Scholasticism”, 45 (1971), pp. 117-126 ; R. B. EDWARDS, Another Visit to the “Third Way”, “The New Scholasticism”,  47 (1973), pp. 100-104 ; M. GONZALEZ, El problema de las fuentes de la “Tercera Via” de Santo Tomás de Aquino, Madrid, 1961 ; H. HOLSTEIN, L’ origine aristotélicienne de la “tertia via” de saint Thomas,  “RPhL”, 48 (1950), pp. 354-370 ; G. JALBERT, Nécessité et contingence chez saint Thomas d’Aquin et chez ses prédécesseurs, Ottawa, 1961 ; C. J. KELLY, The Third Way and the Possible Eternity of the World, “The New Scholasticism”, 56 (1982), pp. 273-291 ; T. A. F. KELLY, Ex possibili et necessario: A Re-examination of Aquinas’ Third Way, “The Thomist”, 61 (1997), pp. 63-84 ; J. F. X. KNASAS, “Necessity” in the Tertia Via, “The New Scholasticism”, 52 (1978), pp. 373-394 ; J. F. X. KNASAS, Making Sense of the “Tertia Via”, “The New Scholasticism”, 54 (1980), pp. 476-511 ; T. KONDOLEON, The Third Way: Encore, “The Thomist”, 44 (1980), pp. 325-356 ; T. MIYAKAWA, The Value and the Meaning of the “Tertia Via” of St. Thomas Aquinas, “Aquinas”, 6 (1963), pp. 239-295 ; D. O’ DONOGHUE, An Analysis of the Tertia Via of St. Thomas, “The Irish Theological Quarterly”, 20 (1952), pp. 129-151 ; J. OWENS, “Cause of Necessity” in Aquinas’ “Tertia Via”, “Mediaeval Studies”, 33 (1971), pp. 21-45 ; J. OWENS, “Quandoque” and “Aliquando” in Aquinas’ “Tertia Via”, “The New Scholasticism”, 54 (1980), pp. 447-475 ; C. G. PRADO, The Third Way Revisited, “The New Scholasticism”, 45 (1971), pp. 495-501 ; J. M. QUINN, The Third Way to God: A New Approach,  “The Thomist”, 42 (1978), pp. 50-68 ; J. M. QUINN, A Few Reflections on “The Third Way: Encore”, “The Thomist”, 42 (1978), pp. 75-91 ; J. H. WALGRAVE, Tertia via, in Quinque sunt viae, (ed. L. Elders), Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City, 1980, pp. 65-74.

[245] Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3.

[246] H. RENARD, op. cit., p. 39.

[247] J. MARITAIN, op. cit., p. 48.

[248] Ibid.

[249] Studies on the Fourth Way: J. BOBIK, Aquinas’ Fourth Way and the Approximating Relation,  “The Thomist”, 51 (1987), pp. 17-36 ; L. BOGLIOLO, La chiave risolutiva del problema dell’essere: la IV “via” di s. Tommaso, “Doctor Communis”, 41 (1988), pp. 3-17 ; H. BONAMARTINI, La quarta via di san Tommaso d’Aquino, “La Scuola Cattolica” 60 (1932), pp. 17-24 ; P. M. BORDOY-TORRENTS, Introduccion al estudio de la “Cuarta via” de Santo Tomas, “La Ciencia Tomista”, 61 (1941), pp. 273-284 ; P. M. BORDOY-TORRENTS, Estudios sobre la “Cuarta via” de Santo Tomas de Aquino, “La Ciencia Tomista”, 63 (1942), pp. 30-43 ; J. M. BRADY, Note on the Fourth Way, “The New Scholasticism”, 48 (1974), pp. 219-232 ; L. CHAMBAT, La “quarta via” de Saint Thomas, “Revue Thomiste” 33 (1928), pp. 412-422 ; M. CORVEZ, La quatrieme voie vers l’existence de Dieu selon saint Thomas, in Quinque sunt viae, Pontificia Accademia di s. Tommaso, “Studi Tomistici” (9), Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City, 1980, pp. 75-83 ; V. DE  COUESNONGLE,  La causalite du maximum. L’utilisation par Saint Thomas d’ un passage d’ Aristote, “Revue des sciences philosophiques et theologiques”, 38 (1954), pp. 433-444, 658-680 ; V. DE COUESNONGLE, Mesure et causalite dans la “quarta via”, “Revue Thomiste”, 58 (1958), pp. 55-75, 244-284 ; L. DEWAN,  St. Thomas’ Fourth Way and Creation, “The Thomist”  59 (1995), pp. 371-378 ; M. A. DONOVAN, Logic and Mystery in the “Quarta Via” of St. Thomas, “The Thomist”,  19 (1956), pp. 22-58 ; C. FABRO, Sviluppo, significato e valore della “IV via”, “Doctor Communis” 7 (1954), pp. 71-109 ; C. FABRO, Il  fondamento metafisico della “IV via”, “Doctor Communis”, 18 (1965), pp. 49-70 ; G. GIANNINI, La quarta via tomistica in prospettiva agostiniana, “Studi Tomistici” (1), Città Nuova, Rome, 1974 ; R. LAVATORI, La quarta via di s. Tommaso d’Aquino secondo il principio dell’ordine, “Divinitas”, 16 (1974), pp. 62-87 ; T. MIYAKAWA, Significato e valore della IV via nella Summa Theologiae di san Tommaso, “Divinitas”, 11 (1967), pp. 627-649 ; J. S. MORREAL, Aquinas’ Fourth Way, “Sophia”, 18 (1979), pp. 20-28 ; F. MUNIZ,  La “quarta via” de Santo Tomas para demostrar la existencia de Dios,  “Revista de Filosofia”, 3 (1944), pp. 385-433 ; 4 (1945), pp. 48-101 ; E. NICOLETTI, Riflessioni metafisiche sulla quarta via di s. Tommaso, “Lateranum” 29 (1963), pp. 73-88 ; C. PANDOLFI, Ricerca sulle implicazioni metafisiche ed “esistenziali” della “quarta via” di san Tommaso d’Aquino, “Aquinas”, 38 (1995) ; F. De VIANA, “Quarta via” y causalidad ejemplar, “Estudios filosoficos”, 11 (1962), pp. 415-443.

[250] Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3.  

[251] For an explanation of the transcendentals, see: J. RICKABY, General Metaphysics, Benzinger, London, 1890, pp. 93-165; D. MERCIER, Manual of Modern Scholastic Philosophy, vol. 1, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., London, 1938, pp. 443-475; C. BITTLE, The Domain of Being, The Bruce Publishing Company, Milwaukee, 1948, pp. 131-217; H. RENARD, The Philosophy of Being, The Bruce Publishing Company, Milwaukee, 1950, pp. 168-192; G. P. KLUBERTANZ, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Being, Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., New York, 1955, pp. 186-209; R. P. PHILLIPS, Modern Thomistic Philosophy, volume 2 (Metaphysics), The Newman Press, Westminster, Maryland, 1957, pp. 174-179; D. J. SULLIVAN, An Introduction to Philosophy, The Bruce Publishing Company, Milwaukee, 1957, pp. 206-216; R. J. KREYCHE, First Philosophy, Henry Holt and Company, Inc., New York, 1959, pp. 167-203; R. JOLIVET, Metafisica (Ontologia e Teodicea), Morcelliana, Brescia, 1960, pp. 82-113; G. BERGHIN-ROSÈ, Ontologia, Marietti, Turin, 1961, pp. 75-139; H. J. KOREN, Introduction to the Science of Metaphysics, B. Herder Book Company, St. Louis, 1965, pp. 48-103; H. D. GARDEIL, Introduction to the Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. Metaphysics, Herder, St. Louis, 1967, pp. 119-152; P. B. GRENET, Ontologia, Paideia Editrice, Brescia, 1967, pp. 243-260; J. DE TORRE, op. cit., pp. 118-125; J. OWENS, An Elementary Christian Metaphysics, Center for Thomistic Studies, Houston, 1985, pp. 111-127; T. ALVIRA, L. CLAVELL, T. MELENDO, Metaphysics, Sinag-Tala, Manila, 1991, pp. 129-172; B. MONDIN, Il sistema filosofico di Tommaso d’ Aquino, Massimo, Milan, 1992, pp. 107-123; L. ELDERS, La metafisica dell’essere di san Tommaso d’Aquino in una prospettiva storica: (I) L’essere comune, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City, 1995, pp. 62-169; G. VENTIMIGLIA, Il trattato tomista sulle proprietà trascendentali dell’essere, “Rivista di filosofia neoscolastica”, 87 (1995), pp. 51-82 ; J. AERTSEN, Medieval Philosophy and the Transcendentals, Brill, Leiden, 1996; B. MONDIN, Ontologia, Metafisica, Edizioni Studio Domenicano, Bologna, 1999, pp. 221-241.   

[252] For short histories of the term “transcendental” see: H. KNITTERMEYER, Der Terminus Transzendental in seiner historischen Entwicklung bis su Kant, Marburg, 1920; C. FABRO, Il trascendentale tomistico, “Angelicum”, 60 (1983), pp. 534-558; L. ELDERS, op .cit., pp. 62-64.

[253] Robert Kreyche notes that when we speak of the “transcendental properties” or “transcendental attributes” of being, “properties” or “attributes” are taken in the “broad sense, as referring not to certain genera of being, but to being as such” (R. KREYCHE, op. cit., p. 169). Henry Koren explains that “strictly speaking, the term ‘property’ applies only to predicates which are consequent on a genus or a species. Since being is neither a genus nor a species, it should be clear that the term is used here in a wider sense to indicate a predicate which is not identical in concept with being but flows from it of necessity” (H. J. KOREN, op. cit., p. 49).  

[254] Cf. R. TE VELDE, Participation and Substantiality in Thomas Aquinas, Brill, Leiden 1995, p. 55.

[255] E. GILSON, The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, Random House, New York, 1956, pp. 73-74. 

[256] Studies on exemplar causality and Divine Exemplarity: A. M. VESPIGNANI, Dell’esemplarismo divino. Saggio teoretico secondo i principi scientifici dell’Aquinate, Parma, 1887 ; D. L. GREENSTOCK, Exemplar Causality and the Supernatural Order, “The Thomist”, 16 (1953), pp. 1-31 ; G. GIRARDI, Metafisica della causa esemplare in San Tommaso d’Aquino, Turin, 1954; T. KONDOLEON, Exemplar Causality in the Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., 1967 ; J. L. FARTHING, The Problem of Divine Exemplarity in St. Thomas, “The Thomist”, 49 (1985), pp. 183-222; V. BOLAND, Ideas in God According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, Brill, Leiden, 1996.

[257] The various degrees of pure transcendental perfections depend for their intelligibility upon the supreme or maximum degree as the only explanation for the intelligibility of the lesser degrees. The minorated degrees cannot contain within themselves their complete intelligibility. As there are various degrees of the same pure transcendental perfection to be found in different things, this perfection must be participated and is therefore incomplete and dependent upon something other than itself. The intelligibility itself of this order among these pure transcendental perfections would be meaningless unless there exist at the same time a supreme or maximum degree of this perfection and unless that supreme or maximum perfection be in itself by essence unparticipated and absolutely subsistent. The existence of the various degrees of analogous pure transcendental perfections is rendered intelligible only on the supposition that there exists a Maxime Ens who possesses these perfections in an absolute or supreme degree.

[258] Holloway explains that “The fact from which we argue is the actual existence of different degrees of the same perfection. This existential experience is a composite and an intelligible one: the existence of many beings possessing the same perfection according to more and less. Reflecting upon this fact, we conclude that these grades would be unintelligible if there did not exist a maximum grade. Why is this so? Because perfections that are found in a deficient state are not in themselves adequately intelligible. They are intelligible only because they are more or less like that which is perfectly this perfection. Such perfections hold their intelligibility to the exact degree to which they approach or recede from the unlimited perfection in which they share. A thing is intelligible to the degree that it is and in the way that it is. We have seen that these perfections are not intelligible because of the nature in which they are found. For here the nature or essence is related to the perfection as receiver to thing received, as potency to act. And act neither is, nor is intelligible, through potency. It is the other way around: potency is and is intelligible through act. Hence, the intelligibility of the different degrees of the same perfection is not accounted for by the nature or essence that limits it. Rather, as act, the perfection renders intelligible the nature that limits it.

“Nor can these more or less limited acts of themselves account for their intelligibility as limited. For of themselves they should not be limited. Here we are at the heart of the matter. Two things should be noted about each degree of the perfections. First, it is minorated (that is, it is not the highest degree since it is found in a limited condition), and, secondly, of itself it should not be limited (since, of itself, it says only act and in no way potency). As act, it accounts for the intelligibility of its limiting potency, for apart from its act, or its intrinsic order to its act, potency has no intelligibility. But what accounts for the actuality of the limited perfection? Only the fact that all these degrees participate in the same unlimited degree of the perfection. The conclusion is a simple but necessary one: unless there exists here and now the unlimited degree of this perfection, the limited degrees have no reason for being, and hence have no intelligibility as limited degrees of the same perfection. The source of the intelligibility of these minorated degrees of the same perfection cannot be the natures that limit them nor their own condition as act, but only the existence of the unlimited, unreceived, degree. This unlimited degree must, therefore, exist. In the fourth way we reach God under the aspect of unlimited Being.

“Just as in the second way, the activity of finite beings is rendered intelligible only on the supposition that there exists an uncaused cause that is its own activity; and just as in the third way contingent beings are rendered intelligible only on the supposition that there exists an absolutely necessary Being who is its own necessary existence; so, here in the fourth way, the existence of different grades of perfection is rendered intelligible only on the supposition that there exists a Being who possesses these perfections in an ungraded or absolute degree. With the positing of this absolute degree the proof of the fourth way is completed.”(M. HOLLOWAY, op. cit., pp. 126-127).

     Holloway also poses an objection and gives his reply, which is useful for a better understanding of the explicit exemplary causality position for the first part of the fourth way: “Objection: If the different degrees of the same perfection depend upon the supreme degree of that perfection for their intelligibility, then the intellect must first know this supreme degree before it can know the lesser degrees. Hence, the fourth way does not prove, but supposes the existence of God. Reply: This objection is answered by a simple distinction. If one means that degrees of perfection are not intelligible to us unless we first know the supreme degree, this must be denied. But if one means that these degrees of perfection are not intelligible in themselves unless some supreme degree exists, the statement is true. It is a fact that we have knowledge of these degrees of perfection; hence, they are intelligible to us. And the intellect understands that in themselves these degrees would not be intelligible unless there existed some supreme degree. Hence, for our intellect, the knowledge of this supreme degree constitutes a necessary term. But in itself this supreme degree is the first cause of the intelligibility of the other degrees and, indeed, of the very being of the graded perfections.” (M. HOLLOWAY, op. cit. pp. 129-130).    

[259] Cf. ST. AUGUSTINE, The City of God, VIII, 6.

[260] E. GILSON, op. cit., p. 73.

[261] Exemplary causality is explicitly involved in the first part of the quarta via, for it is the intrinsic intelligibility of being that requires the existence of the Maxime Ens or Supreme Being as the ultimate reason explaining the fact that the existing things we experience are in reality graded things. Such an ultimate reason is not viewed as an efficient cause for the graded or minorated beings we experience are not seen, in our first part of the quarta via, as proceeding from their cause (proper to efficient causality), but rather as imitating, being measured by, their cause (proper to exemplary causality), as being more and less in approximative reference to a most or maximum. Now, efficient causality is also involved in the first part, albeit in an implicit manner, for First Efficient or Agent Cause (God) causes the very being of the perfections which are found in things in varying degrees. The Maxime Ens is not just the Exemplar Cause of the intelligibility of the minorated degrees of pure transcendental perfections but is also at the same time the First Efficient or Agent Cause of the very being of these graded perfections. But what is directly and explicitly considered in the first part is the intelligibility of the graded pure transcendental perfections. Hence the explicit exemplary causality position for the first part.   

[262] Ibid.

[263] Studies on the Fifth Way: R. L. FARICY, The Establishment of the Basic Principle of the Fifth Way, “The New Scholasticism”, 31 (1957), pp. 189-208 ; P. PARENTE, La quinta via di s. Tommaso, “Doctor Communis”, 7 (1954), pp. 110-130 ; F. De VIANA, La “quinta via” de Santo Tomás para demostrar la existencia de Dios, “Estudios filosoficos”, 8 (1959), pp. 37-99 ; L. VICENTE-BURGOA, Los problemas de la “quinta via” para demostrar la existencia de Dios, “Divus Thomas”, 84 (1981), pp. 3-37.

[264] Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3.

[265] É. GILSON, op. cit., p. 85.

[266] M. HOLLOWAY, op. cit., pp. 140-141.

[267] J. MARITAIN, op. cit., p. 58.

[268] M. HOLLOWAY, op. cit., pp. 141-142.

[269] Maritain notes: “Some letter case by chance can form a group which appears to the mind as a word, but this group is not in reality a sign, a bearer of meaning. As soon as the function of signification is real, the assemblage cannot result by chance.”

[270] J. MARITAIN, op. cit., pp. 59-61.

[271] M. HOLLOWAY, op. cit., p. 145.

[272] Studies on the real distinction between essence and act of being: H. RENARD, Essence and Existence, “Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association”, 21 (1946), pp. 53-65; H. RENARD, Being and Essence, “The New Scholasticism”, 23 (1949), pp. 62-70; C. FABRO, La nozione metafisica di partecipazione, 2nd ed., S.E.I., Turin, 1950, pp. 218-219; U. DEGL’INNOCENTI, La distinzione reale nel ‘De ente et essentia’ di S. Tommaso, “Doctor Communis”, 10 (1957), pp. 165-173; W. L. REESE, Concerning the “Real Distinction” of Essence and Existence, “The Modern Schoolman”, 38 (1961), pp. 142-148; M. W. KEATING, The Relation Between the Proofs for the Existence of God and the Real Distinction of Essence and Existence in St. Thomas Aquinas, Fordham University, New York, 1962; L. SWEENEY, Existence/Essence in Thomas Aquinas’s Early Writings, “Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association”, 37 (1963), pp. 105-109; J. BOBIK, Aquinas on Being and Essence, Notre Dame, IN, 1965, pp. 162-170; J. OWENS, Quiddity and Real Distinction in St. Thomas Aquinas, “Mediaeval Studies”, 27 (1965), pp. 1-22; B. NEGRONI, Essenza ed esistenza nell’omonimo opuscolo di S.Tommaso d’Aquino, in Atti del Congresso Internazionale Tommaso d’Aquino nel suo VII Centenario (6), Rome-Naples, 1974, pp. 238-289; A. MAURER, St. Thomas Aquinas, On Being and Essence, Toronto, 1968, pp. 21 ff; T. E. DILLON, The Real Distinction Between Essence and Existence in the Thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, 1977; M. KOSUGI, Esse and Essentia in St. Thomas Aquinas, “Studies in Medieval Thought”, 21 (1979), pp. 155-163; J. WIPPEL, Aquinas’s Route to the Real Distinction. A Note on the “De ente et essentia”, c. 4, “The Thomist”, 43 (1979), pp. 279-295; J. OWENS, Stages and Distinction in “De ente”: A Rejoinder, “The Thomist”, 45 (1981), pp. 99-123; J. WIPPEL, Essence and Existence in the “De ente”, ch. 4, and Essence and Existence in Other Writings, in  Metaphysical Themes in Thomas Aquinas, Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C., 1984, pp. 107-161; S. MacDONALD, The Esse/Essentia Argument in Aquinas’s “De ente et essentia”, “Journal of the History of Philosophy”, 22 (1984), p. 158 ff ; L. DEWAN, Saint Thomas, Joseph Owens, and the Real Distinction Between Being and Essence, “The Modern Schoolman”, 61 (1984), pp. 145-156; W. PATT, Aquinas’s Real Distinction and Some Interpretations, “The New Scholasticism”, 62 (1988), pp. 1-29; M. BROWN, Aquinas and the Real Distinction: A Re-evaluation, “New Blackfriars”, 67 (1988), pp. 170-177; F. A. CUNNINGHAM, Essence and Existence in Thomism: A Mental vs. the “Real Distinction?”, University Press of America, Lanham, MD, 1988; M. BEUCHOT, La esencia y la existencia en Tomás de Aquino, “Revista de Filosofia” (Mexico), 22 (1989), pp. 149-165; L. DEWAN, St. Thomas and the Distinction between Form and Esse in Caused Things, “Gregorianum”, 80 (1999), pp. 353-369.  

[273] God is Absolutely Simple. The unity of simplicity is the unity of a being devoid of parts or of a multiplicity of constituent principles and elements. Such a unity is found only in God; He is the absolute Divine Simplicity. He does not have any parts, nor does He have a multiplicity of constituent principles, nor is He compounded of elements. There is absolutely no physical or metaphysical composition or compounding in God. Neither is there compounding or composition of genus and specific difference in Him (Cf. Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 28).

     God is Not a Body: “This can can be shown,” says Aquinas, “in three ways: First, because no body is in motion unless it be put in motion, as is evident from induction. Now it has already been proved (q. 2, a. 3), that God is the First Mover, and is Himself unmoved. Therefore it is clear that God is not a body. Secondly, because the first being must of necessity be in act, and in no way in potentiality. For although in any single thing that passes from potentiality to actuality, the potentiality is prior in time to the actuality; nevertheless, absolutely speaking, actuality is prior to potentiality; for whatever is in potentiality can be reduced into actuality only by some being in actuality. Now it has already been proved that God is the First Being. It is therefore impossible that in God there should be any potentiality. But every body is in potentiality, because the continuous, as such, is divisible to infinity; it is therefore impossible that God should be a body. Thirdly, because God is the most noble of beings. Now it is impossible for a body to be the most noble of beings; for a body must be either animate or inanimate; and an animate body is manifestly nobler than any inanimate body. But an animate body is not animate precisely as body; otherwise all bodies would be animate. Therefore, its animation depends upon some other thing, as our body depends for its animation on the soul. Hence that by which a body becomes animated must be nobler than the body. Therefore it is impossible that God should be a body”(Summa Theologiae, I, q. 3, a. 1, c.).     

     God is Not Composed of Matter and Form: “It is impossible that matter should exist in God. First, because matter is in potentiality. But we have shown (q. 2, a. 3) that God is pure act, without any potentiality. Hence it is impossible that God should be composed of matter and form. Secondly, because everything composed of matter and form owes its perfection and goodness to its form; therefore its goodness is participated, inasmuch as matter participates the form. Now the first good and the best – viz. God – is not a participated good, because the essential good is prior to the participated good. Hence it is impossible that God should be composed of matter and form. Thirdly, because every agent acts by its form; hence the manner in which it has its form is the manner in which it is an agent. Therefore whatever is primarily and essentially an agent must be primarily and essentially form. Now God is the first agent, since He is the first efficient cause. He is therefore of His essence a form; and not composed of matter and form”(Summa Theologiae, I, q. 3, a. 2, c.).

     God is His Own Essence: “God is the same as His essence or nature. To understand this, it must be noted that in things composed of matter and form, the nature or essence must differ from the suppositum, because the essence or nature connotes only what is included in the definition of the species; as, humanity connotes all that is included in the definition of man, for it is by this that man is man, and it is this that humanity signifies, that, namely, whereby man is man. Now individual matter, with all the individualizing accidents, is not included in the definition of the species. For this particular flesh, these bones, this blackness or whiteness, etc., are not included in the definition of a man. Therefore this flesh, these bones, and the accidental qualities distinguishing this particular matter, are not included in humanity; and yet they are included in the thing which is a man. Hence the thing which is a man has something more in it than has humanity. Consequently humanity and a man are not wholely identical; but humanity is taken to mean the formal part of a man, because the principles whereby a thing is defined are regarded as the formal constituent in regard to the individualizing matter. On the other hand, in things not composed of matter and form, in which indiividualization is not due to individual matter – that is to say, to this matter – the very forms being individualized of themselves, – it is necessary the forms themselves should be subsisting supposita. Therefore suppositum and nature in them are identified. Since God then is not composed of matter and form, He must be His own Godhead, His own Life, and whatever is thus predicated of Him”(Summa Theologiae, I, q. 3, a. 3, c.).      

     God is His Own Act of Being: “This may be shown in several ways. First, whatever a thing has besides its essence must be caused either by the constituent principles of that essence (like a property that necessarily accompanies the species – as the faculty of laughing is proper to a man – and is caused by the constituent principles of the species), or by some exterior agent – as heat is caused in water by fire. Therefore, if the act of being (esse) of a thing differs from its essence, this act of being (esse) must be caused either by some exterior agent or by its essential principles. Now it is impossible for a thing’s act of being (esse) to be caused by its essential constituent principles, for nothing can be the sufficient cause of its own act of being (esse), if its act of being (esse) is caused. Therefore that thing, whose act of being (esse) differs from its essence, must have its act of being (esse) caused by another. But this cannot be true of God; because we call God the first efficient cause. Therefore it is impossible that in God His act of being (esse) should differ from His essence. Secondly, act of being (esse) is that which makes every form or nature actual; for goodness and humanity are spoken of as actual, only because they are spoken of as existing. Therefore act of being (esse) must be compared to essence, if the latter is a distinct reality, as actuality to potentiality. Therefore, since in God there is no potentiality, as shown above (a. 1), it follows that in Him essence does not differ from act of being (esse). Therefore His essence is His act of being (esse). Thirdly, because, just as that which has fire, but is not itself fire, is on fire by participation; so that which has act of being (esse) but is not act of being (esse), is a being by participation. But God is His own essence, as shown above (a. 3); if, therefore, He is not His own act of being (esse) He will be not essential, but participated being. He will not therefore be the first being – which is absurd. Therefore God is His own act of being (esse), and not merely His own essence”(Summa Theologiae, I, q. 3, a. 4, c.).

[274] L. OTT, The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Tan Books, Rockford, IL., 1974, p. 19.

[275] Cf. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 4, a. 2.

[276] De Potentia Dei, q. 7, a. 5, ad 2.

[277] P. GLENN, Theodicy, B. Herder, St. Louis, 1949, pp. 110-111.

[278] P. GLENN, op. cit., p. 131.

[279] P. GLENN, op. cit., p. 132.

[280] P. GLENN, op. cit., p. 110.

[281] G. H. JOYCE, Principles of Natural Theology, Longmans, Green and Co., London, 1934, p. 297. 

[282] A strict definition is done by giving a proximate genus and a specific difference. But God does not properly belong to any genus. Therefore, a strict definition of God is impossible.

[283] Summa Theologiae, I, q. 13, a. 11, c.

[284] Exodus 3: 13-14.