Goodness Uniqueness and Infinity

The investigation of likeness and causation I've been focusing on in this chapter evidently sets the stage for the immediate introduction of divine attributes that are, first, known to us primarily as characteristics of other things and, second, needed as components of Aquinas's fuller account of God's causation of other things. Both those expectations are fully met by Aquinas's arguing in support of attributing intellect to God. And in his Summa theologiae and Compendium theologiae Aquinas does begin his consideration of the mind of God immediately after considering how

creaturely predicates may be ascribed to God.

37 ST la. 13, 'Names of God'; la. 14, 'God's Knowledge'. In CT I, chs. 24-7 deal with names of God, chs. 28-31 with the mind of God. The ordering of these topics in In Sent, simply follows their ordering in Lombard's Sentences—i.e. immediately after the consideration of the procession of the persons of the Trinity in Book I there are seven 'distinctions' devoted to God's knowledge (35-41), followed by considerations of God's power and will.

In SCG, however, this natural sequence is interrupted. The eight methodological chapters devoted to considering the basis on which other things can be assimilated to God are followed by chapters arguing for God's goodness, uniqueness, and infinity before Aquinas tries to justify attributing intellect to God. From the viewpoint of broad-scale topical organization, it plainly makes sense to take up those three last metaphysical attributes before turning to the personifying attributes of intellect and will, the detailed investigation of which occupies almost all the rest of SCG's Book I. But is there a good reason for postponing their consideration until after perfection has been introduced?

Of course, the order in which topics get considered has some general methodological importance in natural theology developed along the lines Aquinas establishes in SCG I—III, where new claims are typically justified on the basis of propositions already established. That consideration alone might well explain his taking up goodness right after perfection, since Aquinas's analyses of goodness and perfection make God's being good an obvious

corollary of God's being perfect.

38 Goodness is taken up immediately after perfection in ST as well. The closeness of the connection is apparent in his one scriptural citation in SCG's chapter on perfection (1.28). It doesn't mention perfection at all, but shows that he takes universal perfection to be equivalent to 'the fullness of all goodness': 'That is why when Moses asked to see the divine face or glory, he was answered by the Lord in this way: "I will show you all good" [Exod. 33: 13 and 19], meaning by this that the fullness of all goodness is in himself (28.267). See also the first of the five chapters on God's goodness, where his opening argument concludes this way: 'On this basis, then, anything that is perfect is good, which is why everything seeks its perfection as the good that is appropriate to it. But it has been shown that God is perfect. He is, therefore, good' (37.304). Furthermore, 'the ratio of the good is perfection' (39.320), and 'the goodness of anything is its perfection' (40.325).

The same consideration has some bearing end p.158

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(though not as much) on his including the treatments of divine uniqueness and infinity among these intermediate chapters, even though many of his arguments in support of either of those attributes draw not on perfection or goodness but on results achieved earlier, in applications of the eliminative method.

As we've been seeing, the introduction of universal perfection brings with it a shift to positive results affirmatively expressed and the novel opportunity to trace specific relationships between God and various sorts of other things. But the three intermediate topics don't seem to suit those novel conditions nearly so well as does the topic of the mind of God. There's no specific creaturely perfection associated with any of them, as there is with intellect. As for positive results, I suppose God's goodness is as distinctively positive as any result could be. God's uniqueness, however, could readily be construed as the impossibility of there being more than one entity that fits the emerging conception of God, and for logical purposes it is more conveniently construed in that way, as we'll see. What's more, infinity, the third of these three intermediate topics, doesn't merely seem unmistakably negative; it was also expressly identified in the preceding methodological chapters as involving the ascription of a perfection to God 'through negation, as when we call God . . . infinite' (30.278). None the less, in the chapter on God's infinity Aquinas associates it intimately with universal perfection, arguing that it makes sense to ascribe infinity to non-quantitative God in only two ways: as regards his power and as regards the goodness or completeness of his nature (43.357)—'but not in such a way that "infinite" is taken privatively, as it is in connection with extensional or numerical quantity' (43.358). Not privatively, yet 'in connection with God "infinite" is understood only negatively, since there is no limit or end to his perfection; instead, he is supremely perfect. And it is in this way that "infinite" must be attributed to God' (ibid.).

On balance, then, I'd say that God's goodness couldn't have end p.159

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© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved been introduced more appropriately at any other point in the structure of SCG I, that treating God's infinity here makes more sense than it might at first seem to do, and that of these three, only God's uniqueness could have been introduced before perfection at least as well as after it.

I won't say more about God's goodness here.

39 See Stump and Kretzmann 1988.

I've said nothing at all yet about specifically moral goodness in God, but it can't be specifically at issue in this systematic account until intellect and will, necessary conditions of moral goodness, have been introduced. What's essential in Aquinas's conception of metaphysical goodness in God has already been brought out, especially in what I've had to say about perfection in this chapter and in the previous one, and Aquinas's five chapters on the

topic develop those essentials in predictable ways.

40 The titles of the five chapters: 'God is good' (37); 'God is goodness itself' (38); 'In God there can be nothing bad' (39); 'God is the good of everything good' (40); 'God is the highest good' (41).

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