The Eliminative Method and Argument G6

The argument I labelled G6 concludes that 'one must posit some first necessary being that is necessary through itself' (15.124). And since one must posit this as a consequence of considering what is required to explain the undoubted existence of ordinary real things that '[w]e see ... in the world', the conclusion of G6 is to be read as a claim that a certain kind of extraordinary thing must really exist, and that the way it exists must be very different from the way the things we see in the world exist, just in virtue of its serving as the ultimate explanation of their existence. And so if G6 is an acceptable argument, as I've claimed it is, it provides us with good grounds for maintaining that Alpha does really exist, necessarily, through itself.

The conclusion of my extracted argument G6 is not the final conclusion of the full argument Aquinas himself develops at that point in chapter 15. The full argument concludes finally that 'God is eternal', at least in the sense of being beginningless and endless and probably also in the sense of being timeless. That proposition, which implicitly eliminates beginning, ending, and temporality, is just the sort of thing we'd expect as a result of the eliminative method Aquinas is employing here, especially as compared with G6's affirmative conclusion about 'some first necessary being that is necessary through itself'. And so the extraction of G6 as an existence argument to be considered on its own, although unquestionably a legitimate move logically, may seem to thwart Aquinas's intentions and to give separate expression to a conclusion quite extraneous to his own purposes at this stage of his project.

This impression is accurate in only one unimportant respect, however, and that is that Aquinas himself doesn't designate the G6 portion of his argument as an argument for the existence of anything. But, of course, in his view his project needs no additional existence arguments after chapter 13. And it's worth noticing that G6 is like those arguments of chapter 13 and unlike all the other arguments of chapter 15 in depending not at all on any of the three given starting-points for the eliminative method but only on pretheoretic end p.116

observations regarding ordinary reality. What's more, Aquinas clearly does consider just this G6 portion of his argument to have produced results very important to his project. In fact, the results of the G6 portion have more practical value for him than does the eternality conclusion reached at the end of this argument of his (and at four other points in the chapter), since in the many subsequent arguments up to and including chapter 28 he invokes these G6 results in one form or another at least a dozen times, but

eternality—or, more precisely, sempiternality—only once or twice.

4 G6 results: 16.128, 16.130 (twice), 18.143, 19.150 (twice), 19.151, 22.203, 22.205, 22.206, 24.223, and 26.240; sempiternality: 16.128 and 26.242 (also mentioned in a merely introductory passage in 16.127). (Atemporal eternality, argued for in 15.122 and implied in 15.124, is not invoked in any subsequent chapter up to and including 1.28.) The use of sempiternality in 16.128 clearly harks back to G6, and could be Just as well, or even more accurately, counted as another use of results of G6: "whatever can exist can [also] not exist. But God secundum se cannot not exist, since he is sempiternal.'The only reason I can see for stipulating here that we're talking about God in himself (secundum se) is to call to mind the de se in G6. Contingently existing things considered in themselves (de se) are related indifferently to existing and not existing, whereas existent God considered in himself is not related indifferently to those two states but, rather, cannot not exist.

The salient result of G6 is, of course, the one in its positive conclusion: there is 'some first necessary being that is necessary through itself'. I've discussed that result in Chapter Three, and I'll have more to say about it in this chapter. Here I want just to point out that even Alpha's per se necessity, despite the affirmative look of it, is to be interpreted in the context of Aquinas's chapters 15-28 as the elimination of every sort of dependence.

Summing up my review of G6, I claim that it is an acceptable cosmological argument for the existence of Alpha; that it provides, in a mildly surprising form, what turns out to be a very important premiss for Aquinas's subsequent applications of his eliminative method; and that the apparently affirmative attribution in its conclusion is an appropriate result of the eliminative method when the conclusion is understood as eliminating from Alpha every sort of dependence.

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