Orientation

As we've seen, Aquinas ends his general introduction to SCG by making a claim he seems to think is obvious, since he offers no support for it. He declares that his project of a natural theology based on Aristotelian metaphysics could not get started without a satisfactory argument for God's existence (9.58). He then duly begins the natural theology proper by devoting a long chapter to the presentation of five arguments, mostly Aristotelian, by means of which, he says, it has been proved that God exists.

The first of those arguments—Gl, as I've been calling it—does look promising, if it's appropriately supplemented along the lines proposed in MacDonald's recently published (1991a) analysis of it and its younger relative, the more famous First Way (of ST la.2.3). But I haven't provided an appraisal of argument Gl as part of my project in this book, so I consider myself entitled to view it only as an intriguing logical object shimmering on the horizon.

G2, the second of chapter 13's arguments, is the only existence argument I've examined so far. And we've seen that it's too flawed to be considered philosophically acceptable evidence for the existence of a primary, universally explanatory being—the sort of being the argument has in its sights. None of the remaining three arguments in the chapter is as impressive a candidate as Gl (or, in some respects, even G2) is for being an argument of the sort Aquinas thinks he has to have in order to get his project started. From my point of view, then, we're about to move on into natural theology's investigation of the nature of God without having been expressly provided with an acceptable argument for the existence of anything extraordinary, let alone God. The naturally suspect character of such a move lends plausibility to Aquinas's claim that the project can't be pursued any further in these circumstances.

But, as I suggested in Chapter Two, I think he overstates his end p.84

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© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved project's need for an existence proof at the outset. Like any feasible natural theology, it really requires no more to begin with than the working hypothesis that there is an appropriately, broadly characterized sort of explanatory being, which needn't be identified as God and, in the absence of a more detailed characterization, really shouldn't be identified as God.

This required hypothetical being is of a sort Aquinas already has in view well before the arguments of chapter 13. For he begins SCG by saying that in it he intends 'to take up the role of a wise person' (2.9), and, as he conceives of wisdom here, 'considering the highest causes is part of what it is to be a i wise person' (1.3).

Aquinas on wisdom see Stump, forthcoming. Therefore, the most fundamental truths making up the profoundest explanations involving primary (or ultimate) things, events, and states of affairs must be wisdom's concern. And this means that the one subject-matter indispensable to anybody intending 'to take up the role of a wise person' is the subject-matter of metaphysics as Aristotle and Aquinas envisage it. For, Aquinas says, Aristotle 'intends [meta-physics or] first philosophy to be the science of truth—not of just any truth, but of the truth that is the origin of all truth, the truth that pertains to the first source

(primum principium) of being for all things' (1.5).

2 Metaphysics II 1, 993b29-30 (translating the medieval Latin text): 'For that reason it is necessary that the principles (principia) of existing things be absolutely true (verissima), for it is not the case that they are true at some times and not true at other times. Nor do they have any cause for their existence; instead, they [are the causes for the existence] of other things.'See also In Met. II: L2.298.

(It seems clear that Aquinas sees his natural theology as the extension of metaphysics understood along these lines—Aristotelian metaphysics extended into the metaphysics of theism—and that his taking up the role of a wise person consists primarily in his developing that extension.) So, if God exists, then, of course, God will be this broadly characterized universal source, the first source of being for all things. That's simply part of what it is to be God, considered pre-theoretically, and any natural theology that aims at being taken seriously by theists would have to present God in that guise. It certainly seems possible, however, that there should be a universal first source of being, but no God—possible that metaphysics, even when conceived along these Aristotelian lines, should not culminate in theology, as Aristotle himself end p.85

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

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