Alphas Separateness Gods Transcendence

Of the four remaining predicates, three—F, Q, and R—are eliminated in ways that clarify the nature of the first cause's causality. For Aquinas, the kinds of causality exercised by God are clear from the existence arguments of chapter 13: G1 and (especially) G2 are supposed to show that the absolutely immovable first mover must somehow be a final cause, and G3 argues for a first efficient cause. Aquinas's ideas of causality are of course shaped by the Aristotelian end p.129


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved doctrine to which he subscribes, according to which final and efficient are the two kinds of causes that are extrinsic to the things, events, or states of affairs of which they are the explanations. So it's clear that he's thinking of the first cause of contingent things and events as extrinsic to them, as it must be if the first cause is to emerge as transcendent God. But he knows that some who accept the notion of a first cause may be inclined to think of it as intrinsic to what it explains. And so he is concerned to argue that the first cause cannot be intrinsic either as the universal material cause (F) or as a universal formal cause (Q).

Even if we're disinclined to consider causes in quite the way Aristotle and Aquinas did, we can certainly recognize, and probably sympathize with, the tendency to suppose that anything that might count as an ultimate explanatory entity would be likely to be something like the pre-Socratics' sort of world-stuff—hylozoic in the manner of Thalean Water or Heraclitean Fire—more like twentieth-century matter-energy than like transcendent 18


18 Aquinas briefly discusses and rejects the theories of these 'first natural philosophers'in 20.189-92.

But whatever else might have to be true of that sort of inherent explanatory entity, it would clearly have to be mutable, spatio-temporal, imbued with passive potentiality, and subject to accidental characteristics—in short, not in itself ultimately explanatory, and thus not Alpha. The same objections rule out attempts to present the ultimate explanatory entity as 'the soul of the

world', attempts Aquinas deals with in eliminating predicate R.

The least that is to be said about Alpha on the basis of argument G6 is that it exists necessarily through itself as a first sustaining cause, by which is meant at least the ultimate explanation of the natural laws and all the other conditions necessary for the presently continuing existence of contingent things. And perhaps a sustaining cause seems especially likely to be understood as intrinsic to the things whose present existing it ultimately explains, so that G6 may seem to present Alpha as intrinsic to the natural world. But, as Aquinas points out, when we say of such an ultimately explanatory entity that 'it is in all things', we don't mean that 'it is in things as something that belongs to a thing, but rather as a cause that is in no way lacking to its effect' (26.249), as a cause whose efficacy is all-pervasive.

end p.130

Kretzmann, Norman , (deceased) formerly Susan Linn Sage Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Cornell University, New York

The Metaphysics of Theism

Print ISBN 9780199246533, 2001 pp. [ 131]-[ 135]

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