Simplicity and Other Attributes

The natural theology we've been investigating has undertaken to show that there must be a necessarily unique, absolutely simple being that constitutes the ultimate explanation of everything. It has also undertaken to show that this being, despite its absolute simplicity, can and should be characterized from our point of view in various ways. 'Perfectly good' and 'infinitely powerful' are among the various 'names of God' whose correctness has been argued for so far. I think most philosophers would agree that if this natural theology has succeeded in showing everything I've just mentioned, it has shown that there is a god.

Traditional theists, on the other hand, whether or not they are also philosophers, have to require more than that of any natural theology before they can agree that it has shown that God exists. What has emerged in this investigation so far is a being that only a metaphysician could love, a being whose perfect goodness hasn't yet been clearly seen to include moral goodness, a being that as yet shows no unmistakable signs of being able to know, to will, or to love anything itself—no unmistakable signs of being a person. A natural theology like Aquinas's, which aims at providing a philosophical presentation of as much of Christian theology's subject-matter as can be presented philosophically, without recourse to revelation, must of course undertake to derive not only such metaphysical divine attributes as we've been considering, but also as many of the traditional personifying attributes as can be derived by that means. In Book I of SCG Aquinas begins this new task in chapter 44, which he devotes to arguing that mind must be ascribed to God. And since mind is the fundamental personifying attribute, the one without which any outward sign of personhood would be spurious, it's the right one with which to begin. But before trying to establish not merely more attributes, but more attributes of a new end p.169


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved sort, it seems only prudent to look more closely at the grounds for tolerating this apparent complexity in simplicity.

The multiplication of attributes for a simple God is motivated practically by natural theology's need to construct an a posteriori, analogical, piecemeal account of the being whose simple essence couldn't be known to us as such. The principal reason why the resultant proliferation of attributes doesn't simply constitute a fiction regarding perfectly simple God is that in virtue of what I've been calling the 'extensive aspect' of his universal perfection God is supposed to possess, somehow, all specific perfections: 'none of the perfections that are associated with any things are lacking to him' (28.266). So the complexity of natural theology's theory of a simple God is expressly linked with the extensive aspect of universal perfection. Because of our cognitive limitations, 'we need to give God more than one name. For since we can cognize him naturally only by inferring (deveniendo) to him on the basis of effects, the names by which we signify his perfection must be various, just as the perfections in things are found to be various' (31.282). We've seen Aquinas using universal perfection's inclusion of all specific perfections as the basis for supplementing the eliminative method of doing natural theology with the relational method, which is intended to provide i good grounds for adding attributes to this account of God's nature.

1 See e.g. 14.118; 30.278; also Ch. Five, esp. sects. 1-3. But we haven't yet seen what sort of affirmative propositions are warranted by the new method, or how we are to understand the extensive aspect of universal perfection, which underlies the method, or even just what those included specific perfections are supposed to be. I'll try to answer those questions in the course of this chapter on attributing mind to God.

The wide scope of the Christian philosopher-theologian's programme is by no means the only motivation which Aquinas's project provides for moving at this point from metaphysical attributes to mind. If it were, traditional revealed theology would be setting the agenda for his project in natural theology. That's not a bad thing in itself, and, as I've remarked more than once before, at some junctures in the development of a natural theology the established pattern of a dogmatic theology does provide the most sensible basis on which to decide what to take up next. But, as it end p.170

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

The Metaphysics of Theism

Print ISBN 9780199246533, 2001 pp. [171]-[175]

happens, this particular transition from metaphysical attributes to the foundational personifying attribute is motivated also by considerations of formal aspects of this theory of God's nature as it has been developed so far.

One of those formal aspects is associated with the relational method itself. Whatever the details of the method turn out to be, by its means some likenesses between a perfection natural to one or another kind of creatures and a conceptually distinguishable aspect of God's absolute perfection are supposed to justify predicating of God, somehow, some of what we ordinarily predicate of certain creatures. Now, since the meanings of the words we use in natural theology to predicate things of God 'are known to us only in so far

as they are used of creatures' (33.295),

2 See also e.g. QDP 7.7c. and since for any creature who is actively engaging in natural theology the most intimately known of all creaturely characteristics must be mind, any reflective practitioner of the relational method has another good reason for choosing mind as the first specific perfection to be used along those lines: it provides the epistemologically securest bridgehead from which to try to extend a creaturely predicate to God.

More significantly, the accounts that Aquinas has provided of certain crucially important metaphysical attributes themselves seem to anticipate the attribution of mind to God. The anticipation is only implicit in connection with some attributes, but it emerges explicitly in his account of divine causation. Aquinas's general conception of agent causation involves the cause's informing the effect with a form that is antecedently in the agent cause one way or another (see Ch. Five, sect. 4). And it's the extensive aspect of God's universal perfection whereby God perfectly possesses, one way or another, all the forms bestowed on other things, including the uncountably many forms that could not be directly predicated of God, even analogically. So it's only natural that Aquinas links the extensive aspect of universal perfection to God's agent causation of all things:

[I]t is impossible that an effect that is brought about through action occur in [any] actuality more excellent (nobiliori) than the agent's actuality. (It is, however, possible that the effect's actuality be more imperfect than the actuality of the agent cause, because an action can be weakened as a consequence of the nature (ex parte) of that in which it terminates.) Now end p.171

in the genus of efficient cause we trace things back (fit reductio) to one cause that is called God (as is clear from things that have been said) by whom all things exist (as will be shown in discussions to follow [11.15]). Therefore, whatever is actual in any other thing must be found in God much more outstandingly (multo eminentius) than in

that thing, not vice versa. (28.265)

3 See also e.g. ST la.4.2c: '[S]ince God is the first efficient cause of things, the perfections of all things must exist antecedently in God in a more outstanding way.'

So the extensive aspect of universal perfection underlies divine causation, and the rest of what we've seen so far of Aquinas's account of divine causation strongly suggests that the way God perfectly possesses all those forms must turn out to be in some recognizable sense mental.

Aquinas first compares God's agent causation of all things with the impersonal sun's equivocally causing many different kinds of terrestrial effects naturally by its single, mindless power (see Ch. Five, sect. 6). But he then compares it more precisely with a human artisan's deliberately, extra-mentally, materially instantiating mental forms, or ideas: 'God is the cause of things through intellect' (50.420, 51, 52.433); 'God's knowledge is related to all created things as an artisan's knowledge is related to the things he makes by his art, but an artisan's knowledge is a cause of the things he

4 See Ch. Five, sect. 7. See also e.g. In PH I: L3.30: '[A]ll natural things are related to the divine intellect as artificial things are related to their art'; ST la.15.1c: 'In some agents a likeness of the form of what is to be brought about exists antecedently in keeping with natural being, as in those agents that act through nature—the way a human being generates a human being and a fire generates a fire. But in others [a likeness of the form of what is to be brought about exists antecedently] in keeping with intelligible being, as in those agents that act through intellect—the way a likeness of the house exists antecedently in the builder's mind. And [that likeness] can be called an idea of the house, because the artisan intends to assimilate the house to the form he has conceived in his mind. Therefore, because the world was brought about not by chance but by God acting through intellect (as will appear hereafter [ST la.47.1]), it is necessary that there be a form in the divine mind, a form in whose likeness the world was made.' For a thorough review of Aquinas's use of the notion of divine ideas, both as media of cognition and as instruments of causation, see Wippel 1993b.

So a fuller account of the fundamental divine attribute of universal causality depends on showing that mind must be ascribed to God, and on explaining what it means to ascribe mind to God. And in view of the special relationship between causality and perfection, understanding the extensive aspect end p.172


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved of universal perfection seems likewise to depend on establishing and understanding the attribution of mind to God.

Aquinas doesn't ordinarily put it in just those terms, however. Although he

does occasionally talk about 'the divine mind', 5 See e.g. ST la.15.1c, quoted in n. 4 above.

investigating his systematic treatment of the topic calls for some terminological adjustment. He doesn't make much use of the Latin word for 'mind' (mens) even in discussing human beings. In his developed adaptation of Aristotelian philosophical psychology, what corresponds most closely to the broad notion ordinarily conveyed by our use of 'mind' is the notion of the rational part of the human soul (anima rationalis)—the rational as distinguished from the nutritive and sensory parts of the soul. But in his theology, natural and otherwise, Aquinas typically uses the narrower term intellectus for what I've been calling 'mind' as an attribute of God. In its primary, ordinary application (to human beings) intellectus has a precise sense, picking out just the cognitive faculty of the rational part of the human

soul (and not also its appetitive faculty, will).

6 However, like most other philosophers, Aquinas sometimes also uses such terms broadly—e.g. when he says that the human faculty of rational cognition 'is called mind, or intellect', and even very broadly, as when he refers to 'the human soul, which is called intellect, or mind' (ST la.75.2c). For recent general discussions of Aquinas's philosophy of mind, see e.g. Kenny 1993; Kretzmann 1993.

Of course, Aquinas means a good deal more than that when he uses the word to describe, or even simply to designate, God, as can clearly be seen, for instance, in a passage from very near the beginning of SCG: 'The first originator and mover of the universe is intellectus, as will be shown below' (1.4). He does have reason to prefer that terminology, as we'll see, and so in this investigation of mind as an aspect of God's essence I'm going to use various forms of the word 'intellect' and words plainly related to it, roughly corresponding to members of the family of Latin words that Aquinas uses in this connection.

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