Tuesday, July 1, 2014

God's Ubiquity is Unique


1.  Finally, to conclude the examination of God’s being in things, Thomas asks whether anything other than God can be said to be everywhere.  Against the suggestion that ubiquity is proper to God alone,  he proposes six objections.

2.  First, from the universality of universals (i.e. general forms common to many, or even all things) and of prime matter (out of which everything is made).  Second, from the universality of number, which is associated with everything that exists.  Third, from the universal totality of the universe, which must be everywhere, since it encompasses all things.  Fourth, from the possibility of an infinite body, to which it would belong to occupy all places.  Fifth, from the possibility of a world-soul, which would be present in all things as their animating principle.  Sixth, from the suggestion that the human soul itself is everywhere, which (the objector supposes) is the basis of its ability to comprehend things.

3.  For his Sed Contra, he cites Ambrose on the Holy Spirit.

4.  In the Corpus, St. Thomas distinguishes between being present in a place partially and wholly, accidentally and absolutely (per se).  So, for example, if there were a body that filled all of space, it would be present in each place but only partially, since all of it would not be present in every place.  And if there were something that happened to be coterminous with the universe, it would be everywhere accidentally, and not by necessity, not from its own essence. (His example, amusingly, is to imagine if there were nothing but a grain of millet in the universe.)  Only God is present everywhere wholly and absolutely (per se), and this belongs to him by his very essence, as established in the previous articles of the question.

5.  The replies to the objections are as follows:  To the first, that the universality of prime matter and universal forms are conditional, that in each place and each case prime matter and universal forms exist in different modes, so that they lack genuine universality.

6.  To the second, he observes that number is an accidental feature of things, and therefore does not exist everywhere per se, but only on account of other things.  Thus its universality is a secondary and derivative universality, unlike God’s.

7.  To the third he says, drawing on what was said in the Corpus, that the universe as a whole is in each place only partially, and not absolutely (per se) or totally.  His response to the fourth is effectively the same.

8.  To the fifth he says that were there such a thing as the world soul, it would be universally and totally present, but only accidentally, and not per se.

9.  Finally, to the sixth he explains that the mind knowing remote objects does not interact with them as if it were present with them, but makes them present to itself.  And he provides the alternative possibility that the quotation used by the objection is to be taken metaphorically.


- Universals and prime matter are everywhere.
- Number is in everything.
- The universe as a whole is everywhere.
- An infinite body could be everywhere.
- If only one animal existed (our if there were a world-soul) its soul would be everywhere.
- Intelligent beings are everywhere by their universal knowledge.

- Only God is present everywhere totally and per se.

- Prime matter and universals exist everywhere but in different modes.
- Number is an accident of things, and therefore exists only according to whatever it is in.
- The whole universe is in each place only partially.
- An infinite body would be in each place only partially.
- A world-soul would be universlly present, but only accidentally and not per se.
- The mind knowing makes things known present to it, not the reverse.  The soul is not in all things by its knowledge: all things are in it.

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