Thursday, March 6, 2014

Does God have any features beyond his essence?

1.3.6

1. St. Thomas next asks whether there are any accidents in God. This article is important because much of the treatise on the divine essence and operations concerns the attributes of God, and so it is crucial to determine in advance what sort of relation these attributes have to God's essence.

2. In support of the idea that there are accidents in God, he gives two arguments.  First, that what is the accident of one thing cannot be the substance of another. This is because it belongs to accidents to exist in another, and not to subsist independently. But in humans, wisdom, providence, etc. are accidents. Therefore in God they must also be accidents.

3. Second, he appeals to the rule that every genus has a first principle. I.e., every natural kind has a prime exemplar. But if the prime exemplars of various accidental forms are not in God, then they would have to be in other primal beings independent of God, which, he says, is unfitting.

4. For the Sed Contra, he cites Boethius: what is simple in form cannot be a subject. To be a subject is to be host to accidental forms. God is simple, and therefore therefore cannot have accidents.

5. The reader may not be familiar with the language of subject and accident. An accident, or accidental form, is a act or perfection superadded to a thing's substantial form or it's essence.  It is something distinct from the bareness of "what it is to be this sort of thing" which adds to this individual's act of being, or flows from the essence of the thing, without transforming it into a different kind of thing. The subject is the individual that receives these accidental forms.

6. In the corpus, he lays down three arguments against the idea that there are accidents in God.  First, because accidents are present in a subject as added perfections, as actualizations of a potency in the subject.

7. Second, because existence itself (ipsum esse) cannot have anything adjoined to it, just as, though particular hot things can be colored, heat itself is nothing but heat.  God is existence itself, however, and thus cannot have any accidents adjoined to him.

8. Third, because everything essential in a thing (per se) is prior to what is accidental (per accidens).  Since God is the first being, simply speaking, it is impossible for there to be any accidents in him, because nothing is caused in God (since he is first cause), whereas accidents are caused by the subject in which they inhere.

9. To the first objection, he replies that virtue, wisdom, etc. are predicated of God analogically, and not univocally.

10. To the second, he says that while God is not the first in any genus, he is the first principle of all being, which exceeds every genus.  Thus accidental forms have a first principle, but it is outside of their genera, and outside the category of “accident”.


Outline of Article:

Objections
– What is accidental in one does not subsist in another.
– There must be a subject in which the first principles of all genera inhere.

Sed Contra
– A simple form cannot be a subject.

Corpus
– Accidents are to Subjects as Act is to Potency.
– Being itself is simply being, just as heat itself could not also be “red”.
– Essence is prior to accidents, and thus accidents are caused.

Replies
– We speak of the divine attributes analogically.
– God is the first principle which exceeds any genus.

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