Thursday, July 3, 2014

God is Maximally One


1.  Finally,  Thomas asks whether God is supremely one.  This article is brief and has, like the others of this question, a delightful way of simplifying complex logical considerations.  It is the last little breath before the plunge into the intermediate tract on the God’s intelligibility (QQ.12-13).  He proposes three objections.

2.  The first objection is from the lack of degrees of privation: what a thing lacks simply, it cannot lack more or less.  Since unity is a privation, nothing can be more “one” than another, insofar as it is one at all.

3.  The second objection is from the unity of what is one both actually and potentially: the point (which is absolutely geometrically one) and the unit (which is absolutely arithmetically one).  Even God cannot be more one than these.

4.  The third objection is from the fact that what is good by its essence (per essentiam) is supremely good.  Likewise what is one by its essence (per essentiam) is supremely one.  But every being is one by its own essence (since the essence is the principle of the unity of a thing, is the form by which it is whatever it is).  He cites Aristotle’s Metaphysics (Book IV, Ch.2)  in confirmation of this point.

5.  For the Sed Contra, he cites St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s De Consideratione (Book V, Ch. 8), where the Doctor Mellifluous attributes supreme unity to the Godhead.

6.  In the Corpus he demonstrates that God is supremely one by pointing out that to be “one” is to be an undivided being, whatever has both of these qualities to the greatest extent, is maximally “one”.  But God is utterly simple, and he is being itself, subsisting in itself, both of which were demonstrated in QQ.3-4.  So he must be maximally one.

7.  He answers the first objection by granting that, while privation does not admit of degrees according to itself, it does admit degrees according to the extent of its opposite: thus the more a thing is divided, or is capable of being divided, the less it is one.

8.  To the second he says both the point and the unit are only quantitative accidents which inhere in other things.  Thus they aren’t in themselves supremely one, since their unity is secondary to whatever they inhere in.

9.  To the third he grants that everything is one by its substance, but not every substance gives unity to the same extent: some things are simple and others are composite.  Thus the unity of a jar of olives is less than the unity of a rod of iron, which is less than the unity of the soul, which is less than God’s unity.


- Privations do not admit of degrees.
- The point and the unit are supremely one.
- Everything is one by its own essence, and therefore supremely one.

- To be one is to be an undivided being.
- God is supremely simple.
- God is supremely being.

- Privations admit degrees on account of the actuality or potency of their opposites.
- The point and the unit are quantitative features of other things, and therefore, lacking their own being, cannot have supremacy as regards unity of being.
- Everything is one by its own essence, but not every substance gives unity to the same extent.

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