Arguments from Intellect

In SCG I Aquinas takes up the attribution of will to God just after he has argued at length for intellect as a divine attribute. He's likely to have adopted that ordering of topics partly because the essential connection between intellect and will strikes him as providing a basis for arguing that God must be characterized by will just because God is characterized by intellect. Naturally, he devotes the first of his seventeen chapters on will in God (72-88) to arguing simply that God must be characterized by will, and seven of the chapter's eight arguments do make some use of God's intellectivity to support that conclusion, the first of them more simply and directly than any of the others:

First Argument from Intellect

From the fact that God is intellective it follows that he is volitional (sit


8 Aquinas's use of a present participle here parallels his use of intelligens as the term with which to describe God as intellective. But the special force of the present participle, indicating presently occurrent activity of the sort signified by the verb, is more important in the case of willing than in the case of intellectively cognizing (or intellecting), just because will as we know it seems so markedly, characteristically an intermittently exercised power, which it could not be in God. For that reason (only) it's tempting to revive the obsolete English adjective 'volent' in this context. But I'm resisting the temptation, avoiding the oddness in the expectation that no one will find it difficult to remember that God's being volitional entails his being immutably, eternally, actively volent.

For since an intellectively cognized good is the proper object of end p.203


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved volition (voluntatis),

9 Aquinas uses voluntas for both the faculty and the faculty's generic activity. Accordingly, I translate voluntas either as 'will' or as 'volition', depending on context.

an intellectively cognized good, considered just as such, must be what is willed. Now something is called intellectively cognized relative to what has intellective cognition. It is necessary, therefore, that what has intellective cognition of what is good be, considered just as such, volitional. But God does have intellective cognition of what is good; for, since he is perfectly intellective (as is clear from things said above [1.44-5]), he has intellective cognition of being (ens) together with the essential nature of good. He is, therefore, volitional. (72.618)

Aquinas seems to have thought well of this line of argument. In his earlier commentary on the Sentences he uses a longer version of it as his sole

argument to show that there is will in God (In Sent.;

10 'In every nature in which cognition is found, volition and delight are also found. The reason for this is that everything that has a cognitive power can discriminate what is suitable (conveniens) [for it] from what is unsuitable (repugnans), and whatever is apprehended as suitable must be what is willed or is an object of appetite [in some other way]. And so in us there are two appetitive [powers], in keeping with the two kinds of cognition, of sense and of intellect. One of those [appetitive powers] follows intellect's apprehending and is called will; the other follows the senses' apprehending and is divided into the irascible and the concupiscible. Thus, since there is intellective cognition in God (as was shown above [35.1]), there must also be volition and delight in him, inasmuch as God rejoices in activity that is one and simple (as the Philosopher says in Ethics \/II [14, 1154b26]). For in connection with any cognitive nature an activity that is perfect and natural is delightful' (In Sent. In the first sentence of this passage Aquinas appears to use voluntas more broadly than he does ordinarily, associating it with cognition generally. (See also ST IaIIae.6.2c, where some of the behaviour of non-rational animals is characterized as 'imperfectly' voluntary.) And although he attributes only two appetitive powers to human beings here, his doctrine of the universal appetite for good means that, as physical objects, human beings must also exhibit natural appetition, as in falling downstairs.

and in the slightly later Compendium he uses it again, in a shorter version, ii as the first of two arguments to the same effect (CT 1.32.63).

11 'Now it is clear, furthermore, that it is necessary that God be volitional. For he has intellective cognition of himself, and he is perfectly good (as is clear from things that have been said). But an intellectively cognized good is loved (diligitur) necessarily, and that is brought about through will. Therefore, it is necessary that God be volitional.'

His fondness for this reasoning is at least initially disconcerting because, in any of its versions, it looks invalid.

end p.204


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As we saw in the passages in which Aquinas differentiates will from other kinds of appetite for good, his account of will associates it essentially with intellect. The first argument from intellect is plainly intended to build on that relationship. But the relationship delineated in his general account is will's essential dependence on intellect. Will is identified as the appetitive faculty whose proper object is a good cognized by intellect, and so being intellective is a necessary condition for being volitional. But in order to agree that '[f]rom the fact that God is intellective it follows that he is volitional', we would need to be shown that being intellective is also a sufficient condition for being volitional. That is just what this first argument purports to show us in its second sentence, which is where its apparent invalidity shows up: 'since an intellectively cognized good is the proper object of volition, an intellectively cognized good, considered just as such, must be what is 12


It looks as if this crucial sub-argument could be saved only by adding the question-begging proviso that associated with the intellect that cognizes that good there is a will. Perhaps I can bring out my worry with an analogy: since colour is the proper object of vision, colour, considered just as such, must be what is seen. Well, yes; but only provided that there is an eye to see it. And so, it seems, God's being intellective cannot serve as the basis for attributing will to him—not, at any rate, so directly and simply as on this line of argument.

But I think a closer look at part of Aquinas's general account of the nature of will suggests a way of seeing how being intellective might be construed as not just necessary but also sufficient for being volitional. The part I want to look at is just the part that has to do with sensory and intellective appetite—cognitive appetite: I'm going to omit any further consideration of appetite in inanimate things and plants. Any appetite for what is good typically has as its specific object the good of the being that has the appetite, a good which is for just that reason rightly construed as including (if not always identical with) self-preservation and self-fulfilment. In the case of a human being, which is sensory as well as intellective, animal appetite also plays an indispensable part in the being's achieving to any extent its preservation and fulfilment. But the preservation and fulfilment of the self considered just as intellective—the end p.205

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

The Metaphysics of Theism

Print ISBN 9780199246533, 2001 pp. [206]-[210]

preservation and fulfilment of what is distinctively human about us—depend on an appetite for such goods as only intellect can discern. Such preservation and fulfilment therefore require an appetitive faculty beyond animal appetite, one whose proper objects are goods of a sort the senses can't discern, including, above all, 'goodness itself, considered universally'. Viewed in this way, as the intellectively informed innate inclination, will is a condition necessary for the preservation and fulfilment of distinctively human being, considered just as such. And so, when intellective being is considered on the basis of the principle of developmental inertia, the presence of intellect may, after all, be recognized as a sufficient condition for the presence of will, considered as an intellective being's essential tendency to actualize its specifying potentialities.

Since a consideration of human intellect is the bridgehead from which Aquinas argues for will in God, perhaps this relationship between intellect and will influences the first argument from intellect, even though it's not a relationship that can obtain between perfect, atemporal intellect and will. Of the seven other arguments in SCG 1.72 that set out to derive divine will from divine intellect, only one can be said to come close to making that line of thought explicit in a form that may be appropriate to arguing for will as a divine attribute.

Second Argument from Intellect

That which is entailed by (consequitur) every being is a concomitant of (iconvenit) being considered just as being. But whatever is of that sort must be found above all in that which is first being. Now it belongs (competit) to every being to have an appetite for its own fulfilment Iperfectionem) and the preservation of its being, but to each in its own way—to intellective beings through will, to animals through sensory appetite, but to those that lack senses through natural appetite. Still, [an appetite for their own fulfilment and the preservation of their being belongs] differently [to] those that have and [to] those that do not have [such preservation and fulfilment]. For those that do not have [it] tend by desire, with the appetitive power associated with their kind, to acquire what is lacking to them {e/s/e/}, while those that have [it] are at rest in it. Therefore, this [latter aspect of appetite] cannot be lacking to first being, which is God. Since he is intellective, therefore, there is will in him, by which his being and his goodness is pleasing to him. (72.620)

end p.206

The line discernible dimly in the first argument and more clearly in the second depends on recognizing that on Aquinas's interpretation the universal appetite for good is a fundamental, all-pervasive feature of reality, manifested differently depending on its occurring either in the perfect, atemporal being or in imperfect, temporal beings; and that among the latter it is manifested differently in non-living or living things, in non-cognitive or cognitive living things, in non-intellective or intellective cognitive living things. On the basis of that recognition, intellect can be seen to be not only necessary but also sufficient for will, when will is considered initially as

simply the intellective form of the universal appetite.

13 See also ST la.19.1c: There is will in God just as there is also intellect in him, for will is entailed by intellect (intellectum consequitur). For just as a natural thing has being in actuality through its form, so [is] intellect intellectively cognizant (intelligens) in actuality through its intelligible form. Now each thing has such a relationship to its natural form that when it does not have it, it tends toward it; and when it has it, it rests in it. And the same [is true] of each natural perfection, that it is what is good for [that] nature. (In things that lack cognition this relationship to what is good is called natural appetite.) That is why an intellective nature, too, has a similar relationship to a good apprehended through an intelligible form—viz. that when it has it, it rests in it; but when it does not have it, it seeks it. And both [of those states] pertain to will. And so in anything that has intellect there is will, just as in anything having sense perception there is animal appetite. And so there must be will in God since there is intellect in him. And just as his intellecting is his being, so is his willing.' See also SCG IV.19.3558.

Besides the two arguments I've introduced here, there are five more from intellect in SCG 1.72, the chapter in which Aquinas argues for will in God. In light of the essential connection between divine intellect and divine causation noted in Chapter Six, the most important of those other five is the one in which he argues that intellective causation entails volition: 'a form belonging to the divine intellect is a cause of movement and of being in other things, since [God] actualizes things through intellect . . . [but] a form considered through intellect does not move or cause anything except through will' (72.622). However, Aquinas treats this argument as only a foreshadowing of

a fuller investigation of the nature of divine action,

14 'But a form belonging to the divine intellect is a cause of movement and of being in other things, for he actualizes (ag/'f) things through intellect (as will be shown below [11.24]).'

and I will do the same, postponing a consideration of action to my projected book on SCG II.

end p.207


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