Saturday, May 31, 2014

On Comparing Things to God


1.  Having established that the perfections of creatures pre-exist in God, both by his power, which causes them to exist, and by his supreme perfection in being, of which all creaturely perfections are merely participations, St. Thomas next asks whether creatures can be said to be like God.  This article is very important, because it brings us another step closer to the full elaboration of the doctrine of analogy, which will be given in qq.12-13.  

2.  St. Thomas is often accused of applying a presumptuous, rationalistic philosophical framework to theology, and replacing the Lord of our faith with a “God of the Philosophers”.  This accusation is a terrible slander against him.  Thomas is always aware of the limitations of human knowledge of God, and his theology approaches the divine essence indirectly, by way of remotion, in order to avoid giving a presumptuous “God’s eye” account, either of the Eternal One, or of his relation to creatures.

3.  Against the similarity between creatures and God, Thomas proposes four objections.  The first is from Psalm 85 (86): “Among the gods there is none like you, Lord.”  Since the name “god” here is used analogically to signify one creatures supremacy over most others, Thomas reasons that, if even the highest creatures are not like God, then no creature can be.  

4.  The second objection observes that things are “alike” only by virtue of some comparison, and only things of like kind (genus) can be compared to each other.  But since God has no kind (cf. Q.3 A.5 above) he cannot be compared to anything, and therefore can’t be “like” anything.  The third objection rests on the necessity of a common form in order to make a comparison.  It is in essence the same as the second objection.

5.  The fourth objection is from the reciprocity of “likeness”: if one thing is like another thing, then the second thing is also like the first.  He quotes Isaiah, to the effect that God is not like anything.  Thus nothing can be like God.

6.  The objections having referenced scripture, Thomas takes his Sed Contra from scripture as well, citing the creation narrative (Gen 1:26) and John’s description of Beatitude (1 John 3:2).

7.  The Corpus of this article is very dense and important for what follows.  It deserves close scrutiny.  St. Thomas begins by dividing similarity into several kinds:  (1) some things are similar because they have in common the same form according to the same ratio, and to the same degree; (2) some things are similar because they have in common the same form, according to the same ratio, but to different degrees (one more, one less); (3) some things are similar because they have in common the same form, but not according to the same ratio.  Let’s examine these categories.

8.  First, there are things which agree in their form, according to the same ratio (more about “ratio” below), and to the same degree.  I have before me two objects: a piece of white chalk and a sheet of white computer paper.  They both have the same form according to the same ratio (they’re both white), and to the same degree (they are equally white).  Here the likeness in the compared form is perfect: same form, same ratio, same degree.

9.  Second, there are things which agree in their form, according to the same ratio, but to different degrees.  This piece of chalk is whiter than that white cauliflower.  Here the likeness is less perfect, because one has the form more than the other.

10.  Third, there are things which have the same form, but according to different rationes.  What does this mean? Thomas’s example here is once again the sun’s equivocal causation of terrestrial phenomena (life, fire, etc.).  We have discussed this example previously, so let’s consider a different one.  A thunderbolt is a certain electrical discharge from the upper atmosphere to the ground.  We observe thunderbolts by their effects: lightning (the visible flash caused by the heating of the air) and thunder (the sound of the shockwave caused by the sudden expansion of that heated air).  Each of the effects shares something of the form of the cause, but under a different specific form (a different ratio).  Thunder is a noise; Lightning is a flash.  Both are so closely associated with the form of the thunderbolt that in ordinary language the three terms are almost interchangeable.  However, strictly speaking, since the two effects of the bolt are in different genera, their likeness is only by analogy to the cause of both (the flash is like the noise to the extent that both are like the bolt that produced them), and the likeness of each to the cause is only by reference to the imperfect possession of the form of the cause in the effect, under a different ratio.  

11.  Thomas next applies his analysis of similarity between things of different rationes and God.  He leads us up by degrees.  One thing may communicate its form to another fully, so that the effect is in the same species as the cause.  Or it may communicate its form to another in such a way that the effect and the cause belong to different species but belong to a common genus (e.g. the painter may communicate his own form to a canvas by making a self portrait, which is like him in its appearance, but is not human).  The likeness is further attenuated the greater the distance between the cause and the effect, so that creatures cannot be said to be like God (who is not in any genus) by any specific or generic ratio but only according to “a sort of analogy”.  There must, however, be some likeness, because every agent acts out its own form (by definition), and thus the effects of every agent are extensions of its own form, imposed on another to the extent that the perfection of the act and the receptivity of the recipient allow.

12.  Thus Thomas’s response to the question of this article is a heavily qualified “Yes.”  Creatures are like God, to some extent, but only to the extent that effects must bear a likeness to their cause.  They are not like him in form, or mode, or measure, but only in that they possess being which is the result of his act as creator.

13.  Thomas answers the first objection by pointing out that, things can be similar and dissimilar in different ways.  Thus creatures cannot be said to be like God by virtue of having a common species or genus with him (in these ways they are dissimilar), but only insofar as they imitate him imperfectly.

14.  To the second and third, he says that creatures are not like God in the way two things of a single kind are like each other, but in the way that things in a given genus are like the thing which, transcending the genus, is the principle of the genus.  No direct comparison can be made, except by analogy, because God is the principle of every genus, and belongs to none.

15.  To the fourth, he denies that God is like creatures, because the reciprocity of the likeness would suggest a degree of equality between God and creatures, which does not exist.  We can compare the form of a statue to the form of the man whose likeness it is, but it would be silly to hold the statue as the principle and compare the man to it.


– The Psalmist says “there is none like Thee, O Lord.”
– Comparison is only possible between members of a common genus.
– Comparison is only possible on the basis of a common form.
– If one thing is like another, then the reciprocal must also be true.

– The likeness between things is on account of a common form, ratio, and degree.
– Likeness is attenuated to the extent that each of these is removed.
– Between agent and effect, there must always be some likeness.
– God is not in any genus, and therefore has no common degree, species, or genus with any creature.
– Creatures are like God, as his effects, but only by analogy and not by direct comparison.

– Things may be like and unlike in different ways. Nothing is perfectly like God.
– Creatures are like God as the members of a genus to that which, transcending the genus, is its principle.
– To say that God is like Creatures would be to imply a false equality, or to treat the effect as if it were the principle of its cause.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Perfections of Creatures in God


1. Having established that God should be called “perfect”, Aquinas next sets out to determine the extent to which the perfections we know in creatures are related to the perfection of God in himself.  He asks, in particular, whether creaturely perfections are somehow present in God.

2. He proposes three objections: first, from the simplicity of God, since the perfections of creatures are many and diverse, and could not coexist in one thing.  Second, because the perfections of creatures are often contrary to each other, and contraries cannot coexist in one thing. Third, because life and intelligence add perfections to existence, and since God is pure existence, he cannot contain these perfections in himself.

3. In the Corpus, Thomas provides two demonstrations.  The first runs as follows: God is the primary efficient cause.  Whatever perfection is present in an effect is present in the cause of the effect, either actually (secundum eandem rationem) or virtually (“virtute”, literally “by its power”).  In the former case it is clear that the cause possesses the perfection of the effect.  In the latter case, it can also be said that the cause possesses the perfection of the effect, because, since an agent cannot communicate an actuality it does not possess, even if the form of the effect is only equivocally related to the form of the agent producing it (as life is an effect of the sun’s power), still the power of the cause “contains” the perfection of the effect in a preeminent way.  The skills and ideas of a craftsman are formally distinct from the objects he produces, and yet the results of his craft are in a way preeminently contained within him, by his power, so that the perfection of his works is an expression of the greater perfection of his art.  And so, since God is the cause of the existence and perfection of creatures in this second way, it is clear that we can say that the perfections of all things are present in God, if not as they are in creatures, then certainly in a preeminent way.

4. The second demonstration is simpler: The form of a thing, subsisting in itself, could not lack any of the perfections of the form, but would have to be utterly perfect in its species.  He uses the example of heat: if there were subsistent heat (i.e., if what it was to be hot existed independently as a thing), then it would have to be the ultimate heat.  But God is the form of being, subsisting in itself (ipsum esse per se subsistent).  Therefore he cannot lack any of the perfections of being.  But to be “perfect” in any way is to have being, since the perfection of a thing, i.e. its possessing a certain form, is what gives it being in the first place (forma dat esse).

5. Perhaps now is the proper time to discuss the principle “forma dat esse” (Form gives being.)  Though the principle is not directly cited in this article, it is present implicitly.  In what sense does a thing’s form give it being?  Recall that form is simply what makes a thing what it is.  A thing’s form is that characteristic act or manner of being which makes it this sort of thing as opposed to any other.  We can talk about form in various ways, depending on which aspect of what a thing is we want to get at.  For example, “substantial form” designates the act of a thing that makes it a substance, i.e., a unified thing, over and above the mere agglomeration of its parts.  “Accidental form” by contrast designates those features of a thing that are added to its substantial form, which can be changed or lost without destroying the unifying act that makes this thing as a whole the sort of thing it is.  (Thus a man may cut his hair and remain human.)

6.  Being is always being something.  Not to have a form is not to have any sort of characteristic act, unity, identity, feature, etc.  The answer to “What is a formless being?” is by definition “Nothing.”  And note that this nothingness is a real, absolute nothingness.  Ideas in the mind (for example, “unicorn”) have a certain existence, as ideas, as accidental features of the mind of the one thinking of them, and are thus not genuinely nothing, even if they lack existence outside the mind.  But something that has no form is not just an unrealized possible kind, like a unicorn, but has no kind, no act, nothing at all either unique to itself or in common with other things.  And thus it does not exist at all.

7.  Philosophies of the post-Scholastic variety tend to have a conception of “being” as synonymous with “instantiation in the world”, which makes existence totally horizontal.  Nothing “is” any more than anything else, and the supposition that some things could “be” more than others even seems bizarre.  But once we grant that to be is to have form, and that nonexistence is utterly unformed, we begin to see the emergence a hierarchy of being.  Formlessness does not exist, has no act.  But if we give something act, then it is.  Now suppose we add something to that act, in such a way that it does not lose what it was before, but its former act is subsumed under something more: its capacity to do things is increased, etc.  In this case it is clear that we are adding “to be” (i.e. existence) to the thing, not just according to our ideas, but really in itself.  And the more the thing’s act is compounded and enriched, the more it has form, and the more it exists.  This scale of possible possession of forms, of acts, of existence, is perfection.  To have more act is to be the sort of thing the form of which is further removed from nothingness by the power, the self-diffusive virtue, of its act.  In this way, forma dat esse.  

8.  Consider a maple tree.  Altogether it is one, living thing, and its act as a whole (its substantial form) subsumes all the acts of its parts into a unity which none of them could be or produce separately, which is distinct from the parts in their partition.  This act is the form of the tree, its life or soul.  Now, suppose we remove the form of the whole from the tree, so that what it is is no longer distinct from the form of its parts in their partition.  In this case we have a dead tree.  To clean things up, let’s rearrange the parts (since their arrangement is no longer particularly important).  Now we have a heap of timber.  Now, the timber remains a substance, albeit a different one than the tree.  It has its own characteristic activity and features, its own form, though the pile has no special unity.  One piece of timber is just as much timber as the whole stack (though one branch is not just as much “a tree” as the whole tree… in fact it is not a tree at all).

9.  Suppose we remove the substantial form of this piece of timber, so that its parts (the lifeless cellulose strands making it up) lose their unity and the whole loses its distinction from the parts in their partition.  We do this by sticking the log in an incinerator.  Now we have a heap of ash and some fumes.  There is some distinction between the different kinds of parts, but let’s focus in again on one of these parts, say a carbon dioxide molecule.  Here again the whole is distinct in its unity from its parts in their partition.  We remove the form of the whole, so that the parts no longer act as a whole, but merely as parts.  In this case we have some Carbon and Oxygen ions.  We proceed to the atomic scale, and the subatomic scale, and after removing the substantial form at each level, we arrive at some elementary particle, which is (the physicists tell us) some complex wave-function with a particular spin, velocity, wavelength, etc.  And when we remove these forms, we have only the vague residue of “mass-energy” latent in a force field, and when we remove that, there is (so far as I know) nothing left at all.

10.  Now, it is clear that the form of mass-energy participates in the act of a living maple tree, as well as the form of atoms, of cellulose strands, and woody tissue (i.e. timber).  And yet at each level it is not difficult at all to say that mass-energy is not in itself the same as an oxygen atom, because evidently there is something different about the act of mass-energy in an oxygen atom than in other kinds of atom.  Something has been added to this atom to make it what it is, and to increase the form of the mass energy (though, n.b., it is not simply an increase in the amount of mass-energy).  Granted, many different kinds of “something” can be added to that mass-energy, to make it chromium or carbon or calcium or iron, but clearly the act of an iron atom is not simply the same as the act of mere mass-energy, or we could not claim that the two are really distinct.  And the same is true at every other level.  As we ascend from elementary particles toward living trees, something real is being contributed to the being of the stuff in question, so that without losing anything, the end product is simply speaking more, without being quantitatively, materially moreThe form of the whole adds existence to the form of the parts, so that what was not a tree, did not have the activity of the tree, becomes a tree, and is everything a tree is.  The tree-ness of the tree gives it its perfection, its reality, its being, such that when that form is obliterated, what remains is less than it was before, without losing an iota of its material quantity.

11.  Now we turn to the objections.  Thomas answers the first and second (which appeal to the diversity and opposition of perfections in creatures) by making an analogy to the sun.  Just as the sun by its power contains within it all of its diverse effects in one act, in the same way all things preexist in God, who contains them all as the cause of all.  

12. His response to the third objection once again relies on the distinction between “ens commune” (being in general) and “ipsum esse per se subsistens” (existence itself subsisting in itself).  Being in general does not include in it the perfections of life, or wisdom, etc., because ens commune is the merest of forms, to which is added all subsequent perfections.  But existence subsisting in itself, God, is more perfect than life and wisdom and the rest, and includes them, because these perfections and all others are merely participations in his existence.


– Creatures have diverse perfections.
– Creatures have contrary perfections.
– Life and wisdom are perfections added to a thing’s existence.

– The primary efficient cause contains all that it causes, by its power.
– The subsistent form of a thing could not lack any of the proper perfections of that thing, but to have any perfection at all is to participate more in being, so that subsistent being must have every possible perfection.

– The diversity of the effects does not contradict the unity of the cause, since the effects are merely diverse manifestations of the power of the cause.

– The being of things in general is in potency to the perfections of life and wisdom, but being itself subsisting in itself is above life and wisdom, because these are participations in its supreme perfection.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

On the Perfection of God


1. Having completed his discussion of God’s simplicity, both in himself and in relation to other things, Thomas turns to the perfection of God.  He began (Q. 1) by asking whether there should be a science of God and what it ought to be like, proceeded to ask whether such a science has a real object, and then inquired into the unity of that object in itself.  Having established that God exists, and that God is, in his own essence, utterly undivided, he next asks about the quality of God’s being.  To what extent IS God?  Is his being in any way defective?

2. His consideration of the perfection of God is divided into three questions: first, of God’s perfection as such; second, on the nature of “goodness”; third, of the goodness of God.

3. The first question, of perfection in itself, is divided into three articles.  In the first article he asks whether God should be called “perfect”.  Against this appellation he raises three objections.

4. First, he points out that the word perfect means, in its roots “fully made” (per- = thoroughly, factum = made).  Since God is not made, the name is unfitting.

5. Second, he observes that since God is the first principle of things, he must be imperfect in himself, since what stands as the beginning (e.g. a seed) remains to be perfected in what flows from it.

6. Third, he argues from the identity of God’s essence and his act of existing.  The act of existing is the most imperfect, because it receives every particular act and addition into itself.  So if God is the act of being, then he must be imperfect.

7. For his Sed Contra, he cites the words of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, where he calls our heavenly Father perfect.

8. In the Corpus he mentions the views of certain ancient (pre-socratic) philosophers who thought of the first principle as a merely material principle (and therefore essentially imperfect, since it belongs to matter to receive forms which add to its being and perfect it, as discussed above).  However, as has already been demonstrated, God is not the material principle of any composite (1.3.8), but only the efficient cause.

9. Setting aside these views, Thomas demonstrates that God is the most perfect being.  His principle in this demonstration is that matter, inasmuch as it is matter, is in potency, and form, inasmuch as it is form, is in act.  This follows from the fact that something is “matter” only to the extent that it can receive a form, and is “form” only to the extent that is presently IS in such and such a way. Since God is the first efficient cause, he is informed by none other, but is the source of the forms of everything else.  Therefore he must be in act to the greatest extent, above all creatures, and since a thing is said to be “perfect” insofar as it is in act, God is the most perfect being.  “For a thing is called perfect, which lacks nothing according to the mode of its perfection.” God, of course, lacks nothing according to the mode of his own perfection, because he has no potency in him at all (as demonstrated in the previous question).  But neither can he lack anything according to the mode of anything else, because he gives actuality, and therefore perfection, to every other thing.

10. In response to the first objection, St. Thomas offers one of those reductions to the intelligible order characteristic of his thought.  We know the excellence of things by experience, and in experience we encounter only those things which are made, so that our notion of excellence is tied to the fulness of a thing’s development, its perfection.  From this we take the term “perfect” and elevate it, so that it refers not only to the extent of a thing’s development according to the mode of its own excellence, but also the extent to which a thing lacks nothing in that mode.

11. In response to the second objection, he distinguishes the development of a thing from its material principle from the extrinsic source of the material principle’s development or generation.  A plant grows from a seed, and in this sense the seed is the source of the tree, but the seed is, in a way, matter for the tree, because as a seed it lacks the perfection of form of the tree, which unfolds in it through growth and nourishment.  But the form unfolding in the seed it received from a tree which had the perfections which it presently lacks.  In the same way God is the source of all things, not as the seed which develops into them, but as the generator of all forms, who sets them in motion and determines the course of their development.

12. To the third objection, he responds by rejecting the claim that being receives all perfections into itself.  Rather, being subsisting in itself (“ipsum esse”, i.e. God) is the most perfect of all things.  Existence is what gives actuality to all things, since without it, nothing is.  So, being as a form should not be thought of as a kind of formless matter which receives accidents, but as that by which things are what they are. The key distinction here is between “ens”, i.e. the individual being or supposit, and “esse”, i.e. the act of existing which the supposit possesses and which is added to it in every accidental transformation and perfection.  God is not “ens commune” or “being in general”, but “ipsum esse”, i.e. being itself subsisting in itself, and therefore is not that which receives perfection, but rather the source of all perfections, which gives them to everything perfected.


– God is not made.
– The source of a thing is perfected through development, and is therefore imperfect in itself.
– God is being, and being is what receives perfection, so he must be imperfect.

– God, as prime efficient cause, is the source of every form, and the perfecter of every thing, and therefore is more actual, and more perfect, than anything else.

– The term “perfect” is used analogically, based on the fact that in our experience what is fully made has all the perfections due to it according to its nature.
– God is the source of all things, not as a seed, but as a parent: he is not that from which things develop, but that which supplies the forms into which they grow.
– God is not universal being, but is existence subsisting in itself.  He does not receive perfections, but is the subsistent form of all perfection.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Refutation of Pantheism


1. Having established that God in himself is utterly simple, Thomas next asks whether God can be part of a composite.  This article is important for showing why certain varieties of pantheism are false.

2. In support of the claim that God is part of things, or enters into composition with things, he proposes three arguments.  The first is based on a quote from Dionysius, which seems to equate the being of all things with Deity.  Thomas answers this objection by explaining that Dionysius calls God the “being of all things” only as their efficient and exemplar cause, i.e. the source and model of their existence.

3. The second objection is based on the ordinary notion of “form”.  Forms are (with the matter that receives them) parts of composites.  Since God is a form, he reasons that God must be part of a composite.  Thomas answers this objection by pointing out (as explained in the corpus) that God is a form which is not composed with any matter.

4. The third is based on the pantheist philosophy of the 12th century writer David of Dinant.  Memory of David of Dinant is preserved largely on the basis of St. Thomas’s comments in this article.  The argument is as follows: Whatever two things differ in no way from each other are actually identical.  Prime matter (i.e., that which is matter for everything else, but which is itself not composed of anything) is utterly simple, because were it not, it would have components, and thus would not be prime matter, but would have some matter beneath it.  But then since whatever two things differ from each other differ by some difference that is in one but not in the other, if God and prime matter are both utterly simple, they can have no superadded differences to distinguish them, and therefore must be identical.  Prime matter, however, enters into composition with other things, and thus so must God.  We will discuss Thomas’s reply to this objection after the corpus, below.

5. The Sed Contra is taken from Dionysius, that God is not commixed with anything.  The quote from Dionysius is confirmed by a reference to the (apocryphal) Liber de Causis of Aristotle.  Amusingly, both of the works cited here are falsely attributed, although the principles are sound in both cases.

6. In the Corpus, Thomas distinguishes three incorrect views on God’s relationship with creatures: that God is the soul of the world, that he is the formal principle of everything, and that he is the same as prime matter.

7. He responds to these three arguments by refuting their common corollary: that God can enter into composition with other things either as a material or as a formal principle.  He gives three refutations of this corollary, which are as follows.

7. First, because God is the first efficient cause.  Since an efficient cause is always distinct from the forms it causes in others, since God is the efficient cause of everything, he cannot be identical with the formal cause of anything other than himself.  On the other hand, if God were to enter into a composite as the material principle, he would have to do so as prime matter, because otherwise he would be caused by some other agent.  But prime matter cannot be identical with an efficient cause, because prime matter is formless potency, while every efficient cause is in some way in act.

8. Second, because as first efficient cause, to act belongs to him first of all and per se.  But in a composite the composite acts primarily and per se, and the parts act on account of the act of the whole.  Thus God cannot be part of a composite.

9. Third, because no part of a compound can be the first being, simply speaking.  Matter is, as matter, in potency, and therefore is posterior to act (since it cannot exist without act, and is real only with reference to some act, either already in it or to be received from another).  And form, in a composite, is participated by the matter in which it is received, which it actuates as a superadded perfection.  Thus, since neither is absolutely primary, but both components are complementary and dependent, God, who is the first being, can be neither.

10. We have provided Thomas’s responses to the first and second objections above.  To the third, he answers that simple things do not differ by superadded differences, but are simply diverse.  The distinction made here is one in Aristotelian taxonomic terminology.  Properly speaking, a difference is what divides some genus into two kinds, which are otherwise joined together in their common possession of a generic form.  But between things that are utterly simple, there can be no common form.  Thus they are simply distinct from each other and incapable of formal comparison except by analogy.  This suffices to refute the argument of the objector.


– Dionysius says that God is the being of all things, and is therefore part of everything.
– Augustine says that God is a form, and forms are always composed with other things.
– Things differ by superadded forms, therefore there can be only one utterly simple thing.  Prime matter is utterly simple, so God must be prime matter, and must therefore enter into composition with other things.

– It is commonly claimed either that God is the soul of the world, or the universal formal principle, or that he is prime matter.
– These views are all false, since God does not enter into composition with anything at all.
– First, because as primary cause, God is distinct from his effects, and is not pure potency.
– Second, because components act on account of the whole, and God acts on account of none but himself.
– Third, because no part in a composite can be utterly primary, as God is: each part is dependent on the others either for actualization or for instantiation.

– He means that God is the efficient and exemplar cause of all things.
– God is a form, but not one that enters into composition with others.
– God and prime matter do not differ as two things in a common genus, but are simply and absolutely diverse.

Friday, May 9, 2014

On the utter simplicity of God


1. Having examined various possible modes of composition in God, St. Thomas summarizes what precedes by asking whether God is altogether simple (omnino simplex).  Against the simplicity of God he proposes two objections.

2.  The first objection follows from the principle that every agent imparts its likeness upon the things it affects (omne agens agit sibi simile).  Since God’s likeness is present in creatures, if God were utterly simple, one would expect at least some creatures to have this characteristic as well.  But since no creature has it, it seems that God must not have it either.

3.  The second objection is from an observation about perfections among creatures: that what is better is usually more complex.  Thus blocks of steel and plastic are less perfect than trains and cars.  Bacteria are less perfect than elephants, etc.  But since God is the most excellent, he cannot be altogether simple.

4.  For the Sed Contra he cites Augustine.

5.  In the corpus, he gives five arguments for God’s total simplicity.  First, he summarizes the preceding articles of this question: since God is not composed in any of the individual ways that a thing can be composed (of quantitative parts, of matter and form, of nature and supposit, of essence and existence, of genus and difference, of subject and accident), it seems that he cannot be composite.

6.  Second, he observes that every composite is posterior to and dependent upon its components. (Since without its component parts a composite ceases to be.) Since God is the first being, he cannot be dependent in this way, and thus cannot be composed.

7.  Third, he observes that composites are always caused, since in a composite diverse things come together as one, and the union of diverse things does not come about except through some external cause.

8.  Fourth, that in composites there is always potency to change, because the components are in potency to decomposition, just as they were in potency to composition prior to their union in the composite.

9.  Fifth, he says that in a composite there is always some form of the whole which cannot be predicated of any of its parts.  In homogeneous substances this is the quantity of matter, which differs between the whole and the parts, though its specific form may be the same throughout.  In complex substances, these are the organs or diverse parts which differ not only in material quantity but also in their act from the whole to which they contribute.  Thus if God were composite, there would be in God some part which was not God.  But while this sort of thing is appropriate for individual things which participate in forms, in God form and supposit are identical, which means that whatever God is, is purely and utterly exhausted by his own existence.  God is the pure form of Divinity, and not an instantiation of it.  Therefore there cannot be anything distinct from Divinity in God, or any parts.

10.  To the first objection he replies that while everything that God makes imitates him, it imitates him in the fashion of a creature, to which it belongs to be composed of essence and existence, as discussed later on (Q.4 A.3).

11.  To the second objection he replies that among creatures composites are better than simple things because no simple creature, on account of its finitude, can embody all of the perfections of the Godhead.


– Creatures resemble their creator, but no creature is simple, so God must not be simple.
– Among creatures the more complex are better, so it would be unreasonable to suppose that God, the greatest being, is utterly simple.

– God is not composed in any of the particular ways a thing can be composed.
– Composites are posterior and dependent.
– Composites are caused.
– Composites are in potency.
– In a composite the form of the part always differs from the form of the whole, but God, being pure form, cannot be in any way other than what he is, so he must be utterly simple.

– Creatures are like God to a certain extent, but only God is perfectly simple.
– Complex creatures are superior inasmuch as they incorporate different aspects of the divine perfection, which no creature can represent fully in its simplicity.