Gods Uniqueness

As for God's uniqueness, the claim that there can't be more than one first source of being, it strikes me as not obviously entailed by any claim about God's nature we've already considered. In particular, it seems not to be validly derivable directly from claims about God's goodness or perfection, although the first two of Aquinas's sixteen arguments for uniqueness constitute unconvincing attempts at such derivations. One of them depends on the implication of uniqueness in the superlative 'highest good', an

implication that strikes me as specious.

41 'It is not possible that there be two highest goods, for what is said [of anything] on the basis of superabundance is found in only one. But God is the highest good (as has been shown [1.41]). Therefore, God is one' (42.336).

The other depends on the implicit assumption that every characteristic must count either as a perfection or as an imperfection, an assumption that strikes

me as false.

42 'It has been shown that God is altogether perfect, to whom no perfection is lacking [1.28]. Therefore, if there is more than one God, there must be more than one perfect being of that sort. But that is impossible. For if none of them lacks any perfection and is not mixed with any imperfection—which is required for anything's being absolutely perfect—there will be nothing by which they are distinguished from one another. Therefore, it is impossible to posit more than one God' (42.337).

end p.160

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

The Metaphysics of Theism

Print ISBN 9780199246533, 2001 pp. [ 161]-[ 165]

The most powerful and interesting of his arguments against the possibility of more than one God are those that reach all the way back to Aquinas's argument G6 for their basis in the identification of God as the entity that is necessary being through itself. There are three of those arguments in chapter 42. I want to consider the most elaborate of them, which I'm calling

the 'uniqueness argument'.

43 The uniqueness argument is in 42.343. Here are the other two. 42.342: 'If there are two entities, each of which is necessary being, they must be alike under the concept (conveniant in intentione) of necessity of being. Therefore, they must be distinguished from each other through something that is added either to only one or to both of them, and so one or both of them must be composite. But nothing composite is necessary being through itself (as was shown above [18.143]). Therefore, it is impossible that there be more than one entity each of which is necessary being. And so neither can there be more than one God.' 42.345: 'It is not possible for anything that belongs to this individuated thing (signato) in so far as it is this individuated thing to go together with something else. For what is singular about any thing belongs to nothing other than that single thing. But, as for that which is necessary being, its necessity of being goes together with it in so far as it is this individuated thing. Therefore, it is impossible that [that necessity of being] go together with anything else. And so it is impossible that there be more than one thing each of which is necessary being. Consequently, it is impossible that there be more than one God. (Proof of the middle premiss: For if that which is necessary being is not this individuated thing in so far as it is necessary being, then the individuation (designatio) of its being is not necessary in itself but depends on something else. But anything is distinct from all others in so far as it is in actuality, which is to be this individuated thing. Therefore, that which is necessary being depends on something else in so far as its being in actuality is concerned, which is contrary to the ratio of that which is necessary being. Therefore, that which is necessary being must be necessary being in so far as it is this individuated thing.)'

The Uniqueness Argument

[If there are two entities each of which is necessary being through itself, then,] given that they are supposed to be alike in necessity of being, [they must differ in something other than necessity of being. Therefore,] either [a] that in which they differ is required in some way to complete necessity of being, or [b] it isn't.

If [b] it isn't required, then it is something accidental, since whatever comes to a thing without effecting anything for its being is accidental [to it]. Therefore, this accidental characteristic has a cause. Therefore, either [c] it has as a cause the essence of that which is necessary being, or [d] [the cause of that accidental characteristic is] something else.

If [c] the accidental characteristic has the essence of it as a cause, then, since necessity of being is its essence (as is clear from things said above

44 In Aquinas's ch. 22, discussed in my Ch. Four. ), necessity of being will be the cause of that accidental characteristic.

end p. 161

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com)

© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved

But necessity of being is found in each of the two entities, and so each of them will have that accidental characteristic, and so they will not be distinguished on the basis of it. [Therefore, not [c].] But if [d] the cause of that accidental characteristic is something else, then if there were not that other thing, there would not be that accidental characteristic. And if there were not that accidental characteristic, there would not be the distinction we are talking about. Therefore, if there were not that other thing, these two entities that are supposed to be necessary being would be not two but one. Therefore, the being proper to each of them is dependent on something else, and so neither of them is necessary being through itself. [Therefore, not [d]. And, therefore, not [b].] On the other hand, if [a] that on the basis of which they are distinguished is necessary for completing necessity of being, that will be either because [e] it is included in the ratio of necessity of being as animate is included in the definition of animal, or it will be because [f] necessity of being is specified through it as animal is completed by rational.

If [e], then wherever there is necessity of being there must be that which is included in its ratio as animate goes with whatever animal goes with. And so, since necessity of being is attributed to both the entities we are talking about, they could not be distinguished on this basis. [Therefore, not [e].]

But if [f], then, again, it cannot be. For the differentia specifying a genus does not complete the ratio of the genus; instead, the genus's being in actuality is acquired through it. For the ratio of animal is complete before the addition of rational, but animal cannot be in actuality unless it is either rational or non-rational. In this way, therefore, something completes necessity of being as regards its being in actuality and not as regards the concept of necessity of being. [However,] this is impossible, for two reasons. In the first place, because the quiddity of that which is necessary being [through itself]

is its being (as was proved above

45 In ch. 22. (The Leonine edn. offers a mistaken reference to ch. 18, which is repeated in the Marietti edn. and in Pegis's trans., which is based on the

Leonine edn.)

). In the second place, because in that case necessary being [through itself] would acquire being through something else, which is impossible. [Therefore, not [f]. And, therefore, not [a].] Therefore, it is not possible to posit more than one entity each of which is necessary being through itself.

Formally, the uniqueness argument is a chain of destructive dilemmas designed to reduce to an absurdity the assumption that there is end p.162

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com)

© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved more than one God, where God is understood as that which is necessary being through itself. So, if it succeeds, it indirectly establishes the thesis that there can't be more than one God. In chapter 42 the uniqueness argument immediately follows another of the arguments based on identifying God as that which is necessary being through itself, and so it can rely on its predecessor for some background. In lines 1-4 I've supplied in brackets the

relevant bits available in the argument's original setting.

46 See the beginning of the argument in 42.342, quoted in n. 43 above.

The argument supposes that there are two entities, E i and E 2 , each of which is necessary being through itself. The argument's strategy for reducing that supposition to an absurdity consists in exhausting all possible bases on which E 1 and E 2 might be distinguished from each other. Exhaustiveness of possibilities is guaranteed in the first dilemma because its members, lemmas [a] and [b] (lines 4-5), are mutually contradictory. Since it's likely to seem quite implausible offhand that what distinguishes E 1 from E 2 could be any sort of component of their necessity of being, in which they are exactly alike, lemma [b] looks like the livelier alternative.

Taking up lemma [b] means considering the apparent possibility that what distinguishes E 1 from E 2 is some characteristic(s) accidental to either one or to both of them. In claiming that the existence of any such distinguishing characteristic, D*, must have a cause (lines 6-8), Aquinas is, of course, applying the principle of sufficient reason. His application of it here strikes me as unexceptionable, particularly since it leaves open lemma [c], the apparent possibility that the explanation for the occurrence of such an accidental D* might lie in E 1 or E 2 itself (lines 9-10). It may seem odd to consider it even apparently possible that an accidental characteristic of a thing might be causally connected with the thing's essence rather than with something extrinisic to it, but Aquinas is no doubt thinking of a proprium, an

accidental characteristic of just that sort.

47 See e.g. 32.286: '[A] proprium belongs to the genus of accidents'; and ST la.77.1, ad 5: 'A proprium does not belong to a thing's essence but is caused by principles essential to the [thing's] species, and so, spoken of in that way, it is midway between essence and accident.'

A proprium is a characteristic that is symptomatic of the essence of the thing that has it without being itself a component of the essence: the paradigm of a proprium is a rational animal's capacity for laughter. And so lemma [c] may be thought of as the apparent possibility that D* is a proprium. But Aquinas quickly end p.163

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com)

© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved shows that this possibility is only apparent, since any proprium of E 1 would have to be E 2's proprium as well, and so could not be D*, the distinguishing characteristic (lines 12-17).

This brings us to [c]'s contradictory, lemma [d], the apparent possibility that the cause of the accidental characteristic D* is something other than the essence shared by E i and E 2 (lines 10-11 and 17). Suppose we designate that extraneous cause E x. Then E 1 and E 2 are two distinct entities only if E x causes what distinguishes them (lines 18-21). Suppose, then, that D* is a property that E x causes only in E 2 ■ Without that property D* in E 2 , E 1 and E 2 'would be not two but one' (line 23). So, if E x didn't exist and cause D* in E 2 , there would be only one entity that is necessary being through itself. And in that case the existence of'these two entities that are supposed to be necessary being' (lines 22-3) 'is dependent on something else, and so neither of them is necessary being through itself' (lines 24-5), since even E 1 's separate existence would depend on Ex's causing D* in E 2 ■ And since lemmas [c] and [d] exhaust the possible explanations of a D* conceived of as not 'required in some way to complete necessity of being' in E 1 and E 2 , the only remaining apparent possibility is lemma [a] (expressed in lines 4-5 and 27-8).

The simplest interpretation of lemma [a], that D* 'is necessary for completing necessity of being', is in terms of [e], the apparent possibility that D* is a component of'the ratio of necessity of being as animate is included in the definition of animal' (lines 29-30), which Aquinas understands to be sensitive animate body. But, of course, no such essential component of E 1 and of E 2 could serve as D* any more than sensitive, animate, or corporeal could serve as a characteristic distinguishing a tapeworm from a tiger, and so lemma [e] is easily dismissed (lines 33-7).

That leaves only lemma [f], that D* 'is necessary for completing necessity of being' in that 'necessity of being is specified through it as animal is completed by rational' (lines 31-2). In other words, perhaps E 1 and E 2 represent two species of that which is necessary being through itself, carved out of that genus by two differentiae. Suppose, then, that D* is E 1 's differentia, carving the E 1 species out of the genus necessary being through

48 Aquinas writes here as if he were considering only one such species, and so needed to consider only one differentia, D*.

But in that case nothing could be necessary being through end p. 164

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com)

© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved itself any more than anything could be just an animal rather than a tiger or a tapeworm or some other sort of animal: 'an/ma/ cannot be in actuality unless

it is either rational or non-rational' (lines 41-2).

49 It's important to see that he's presenting no more than a necessary condition of being in actuality: 'cannot be in actuality unless . . . '. As he would emphatically agree, neither can non-rational animal be in actuality unless it is either Felis tigris mongolica (a tiger), Amphilina foliacea (a tapeworm), or some other most specific species of non-rational animal. And, of course, he wouldn't stop there, either, since it's not Felis tigris mongolica that is in actuality, but only this Siberian tiger or that one.

And, to follow just one of Aquinas's two routes to the rejection of lemma [f], if necessary being through itself required D* as a differentia, then 'necessary being [through itself] would acquire being through something else, which is impossible' (lines 48-9).

Therefore, not [f]. And, therefore, not [a]. And, therefore, 'it is not possible to posit more than one entity each of which is necessary being through itself'

(lines 51-2). I think the uniqueness argument succeeds.

50 I didn't want to present and examine more than one argument for the uniqueness of the entity that is necessary being through itself, but I think that at least the argument in 42.345, the second one quoted in n. 43 above, also deserves attention.

Study Aid

Study Aid

This Book Is One Of The Most Valuable Resources In The World When It Comes To Getting A Scholarship And Financial Support For Your Studies.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment