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G D His Existence And His Nature -Rev. R. Garigou-Lagrange, O.P.


So far we have defended simply the necessity and the objective or ontological validity of the metaphysical principles of identity, sufficient reason, causality, and finality, which serve as the basis upon which the proofs of God's existence are proximately and immediately grounded. We have seen that these principles are not merely the result of a series of frequently recurring associations, or simple and necessary laws of thought; for they not only affect (internal and external) phenomena, but also being itself. Empiricism and the Subjectivistic Conceptualism of Kant, far from rendering intelligible those facts which we have proved evident to natural reason, attempt to suppress them. It is only traditional Realism or the philosophy of being which upholds and explains them.

Here a new difficulty arises: Does the principle of causality enable us to rise from finite beings to the existence of that infinitely perfect transcendental Being, distinct from the world, which we have in mind when we utter the word God? Does the principle of causality entitle us to put the little word is after the nominal definition of God and say that there is a first cause, distinct from the world and infinitely perfect?

This constitutes the problem of not merely ontological, but also transcendental validity, of the notion of efficient cause and of the principle of causality; and as this notion and its correlative principle presuppose others that are more universal and simpler, the problem here at issue may be considered in a general way as that of the transcendental validity of first ideas and first principles.


28) The objections of modern idealistic and empirical Agnosticism and those of medieval Agnosticism.


Modern Agnosticism, whether it be idealistic or empiristic, denies the ontological validity of first ideas or their bearing upon being beyond phenomena and, a fortiori, their transcendental validity, or that they lead up to a knowledge of God. It confirms its negation by a reference to the antinomies, before which, it claims, reason comes to a halt whenever it seeks to pass beyond phenomena, and especially when it attempts to prove the existence of God and His attributes.

Mention has already been made (no. 13) of the Kantian antinomies, especially the fourth, which directly bears upon the question of the existence of God. On the one hand, the "thesis," which is identical with that defended by the metaphysics of the Schools, concludes to the existence of a necessary being, a fast cause, in order to explain the manifest changes in the universe. But the "antithesis" seems to be no less conclusively demonstrated, namely, that a necessary being and first cause cannot exist outside of the world, for, directly this cause began to act, it would admit that it had a beginning, and would therefore belong to time and consequently to the world.

Moreover, according to the third antinomy of Kant, the first cause must be a free cause. For a series of causes, to be finite, must start with a cause which has no need of being previously determined and which can determine itself. On the other hand, however, the free act would be without a determining cause; for no sufficient reason could be given why the free cause, from being undetermined, should become determined. (For a solution of this antimony see the second volume of this work, infra., no. 61).

The other two Kantian antinomies, which refer to time, space, and matter, are of less importance in the question that concerns us here. With regard to the first, it is questioned whether the world had a beginning or is caused ab aeterno. On this point we remarked above, referring to St. Thomas (Ia, q. 46), that neither the thesis nor the antithesis of this antinomy can be demonstrated, and a positive answer can be given only from revelation, since this question is one of those which depend solely upon the divine freedom. As for the second antinomy, which concerns matter or indefinitely divisible corporeal substance, the difficulty is solved by means of the distinction between potency and act, as we explained when discussing the principle of substance. This distinction will also enable us to solve the third and fourth Kantian antinomies, both of which concern freedom and the First cause.

We know how Kant solves this fourth antinomy, as well as the third, by distinguishing between the world of sense or of sensory phenomena, and the intelligible world or of noumena. On this point he follows the metaphysics of the Schools. The antithesis (empiristic in scope), is true of the world of sense, which does not contain a necessary being, and the empirical point of view does not permit us to ascend to the existence of an uncaused first cause, So far we are in agreement with Kant. As for the thesis (a metaphysico-dogmatic assertion), inasmuch as it admits, outside of the series of sensible objects, a necessary cause in the intelligible or noumenal order, he says it does not involve a contradiction, and we can grant the possibility of a first cause. But does this cause really exist? According to Kant, it can be affirmed only as the result of an act of moral faith. Practical reason postulates the existence of God as the supreme guarantee of the moral order and of the definitive triumph of good, and thus rational theology is subordinated to an independent morality. As for the classical proofs of rational theology, Kant took it upon himself to demonstrate their insufficiency by showing that they are vitiated by that transcendental illusion which lurks in St. Anselm's well-known argument. Reason (Vernunft), relying as it does upon causality, which is nothing but a category of the understanding (Verstand), cannot claim to go beyond the order of phenomena.

We shall see in our exposition of the classical proofs that our concept of causality is defined, not as Kant defines it, as a functioning of phenomena, but of being: for causality means the realization of that which is without being. From this vantage ground it will be possible to conclude to the existence of the primary being or first cause, and to answer the objections formulated by Kant against each of the traditional proofs. For our present purpose it is sufficient to show that the distinction which Kant draws between reason and understanding is false.

When we explained that in each of its three operations (simple apprehension, judgment, and reasoning) the intellect has being for its formal object, we sufficiently proved the falsity of the Kantian distinction between reason (Vernunft) and understanding (Verstand).

See St. Thomas, Ia, q. 79, a. 8 and 9: "Whether reason is distinct from the intellect"; "Whether the higher and lower reason are distinct powers." Also De Veritate, q. 15, a. 1 and 2.


Besides the three degrees of abstraction, there is no other way in which the intellect can be distinguished in its reference to objects of the sensible and intelligible order.

Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. VI, ch. I, Lect. 1 of St. Thomas, and Bk. X, c. III; St. Thomas, Sup. Boëtium de Trinitate, q. 5, a. 1; John of St. Thomas, Cursus Phil., Logica, q. 27, a. 1; De Distinctione Scientiarum; Zigliara, Summa Phil., Vol. I, pp. 296-302.


The first degree abstracts solely from individual matter; it is proper to the experimental sciences, such as chemistry, which considers not this or that particular molecule of water, but the molecule of water as such. The second degree abstracts from all sensible matter, that is to say, from all sensible qualities, but not from quantity; this kind of abstraction is used in mathematics. The third degree abstracts from all that is material (space and time), and only considers being as such and its laws; this abstraction is that of metaphysics. This third degree corresponds in a measure to the operations of what Kant calls reason (which strives to attain the purely intelligible); but the abstractive intuition of this third degree, though empty of all sensible content, is not, as Kant claims, devoid of all reality. On the contrary, it arrives at being, which dominates and transcends all the categories or predicaments or supreme genera, and also at a knowledge of everything which in its definition expresses an immediate relation to being, and, like being, abstracts from everything which is material, from space and time. This degree of abstraction includes: (1) the primary divisions of being into potentiality and actuality, essence and existence; (2) the transcendental properties of being; namely, unity, truth, goodness, and consequently also intelligence (which has a vital relation to being), and free will (which has a vital relation to goodness); (3) the four causes conceived as functioning by reason of the potentiality and actuality into which being is divided.

Kant could not see how the formal reason of causality transcends time as well as space, and how it can have unchanging eternity for its measure.

Modern Agnosticism, in its empirical phase, likewise rejects the transcendent validity of primary ideas, since it does not admit that they have an ontological bearing, but holds that their value is purely phenomenal and empirical. Like the Agnosticism of Kant, this modern form of Agnosticism confirms its denial by appealing to the antinomies in which, so it claims, the rational theology of the Schoolmen becomes hopelessly involved. "On the one hand," writes Spencer, "the absolute is required as first cause, and on the other hand the absolute as such cannot be a cause; it would be related to its effect. If you say that it exists first by itself and afterwards becomes a cause, you are confronted with another difficulty: for how can the infinite become that which it was not from the first? (This would mean that it acquires a perfection). If you say that this can be so because it is free: then you again contradict yourself; for freedom supposes consciousness, and consciousness, being only conceivable as a relation, cannot belong to the absolute,"

First Principles, p. 32.


but implies a duality of subject and object, which is opposed to the perfect simplicity of the Absolute. Along with these objections we have certain well-known classical difficulties, for instance, how can we reconcile the divine simplicity with the plurality of perfections which are formally, and not merely virtually, attributed to God? How can we reconcile God's infinite justice with His mercy, His foreknowledge with the freedom of the human will, the omnipotence of an infinitely good God with the existence of evil?

Before concluding our exposé of these objections, a few words must be said about medieval Agnosticism, whose chief exponent was Maimonides (Rabbi Moses). In these latter days, certain Catholic writers have found fault with the Thomistic doctrine of analogy as scarcely differing from the teaching of Maimonides, except perhaps in words. In matter of fact there is a very real and profound difference between the two positions.

Maimonides did not, like the modern Agnostics, deny the ontological validity of primary ideas, but he so depreciated it that the only logical consequence for him would have been to reject it altogether. It was beyond his comprehension how ideas acquired from finite things can express a perfection which is formally present in the Infinite, and how the plurality of these perfections can be reconciled with the absolute simplicity of God.

In his De Potentia (q. 7, a. 5), where he discusses this question more fully than in the Summa Theologica, St. Thomas sums up the opinion of Maimonides as follows: "According to him, the positive absolute terms (good, wise), when applied to God, must be understood in two ways: (1) To say that God is wise does not mean that wisdom is in Him, but that He performs His works after the manner of a wise man, who ordains all things to a legitimate end; (2) To say that God is good, or that He lives, does not mean that wisdom and life are in Him, but that He is not like non-wise and non-living beings. Others say that the expression, ‘God is good' simply means that God is the cause of goodness which is found in things; in other words, goodness is in God not formally, but solely in a virtual manner, in so far as He is able to produce it." (Cfr. S. Th., Ia, q. 13, a. 2).

In article 7 of the same question of his De Potentia St. Thomas restates the opinion of Maimonides in the following simple words: "Some have thought that nothing which can be attributed to God and the creature belongs to them analogically, but merely in a purely equivocal sense. This was the opinion of Maimonides, as is evident from his writings." "This opinion," adds the Angelic Doctor, "cannot be true. . . . If it were, the words we use to express our knowledge of God would be vain, devoid of meaning, and all the demonstrations of the existence of God given by the philosophers would be sophistical; for instance, that based on the principle that whatever is in potentiality becomes an act by some active being, would not permit us to conclude that all other beings depend for their actuality upon God's being; to conclude thus would be a fallacy of equivocation, and the same is true of the other demonstrations referring to God." The same judgment is expressed in the Summa, q. 13, a. 5.

This Agnostic opinion, according to St. Thomas, is not only false, but also contrary to the faith. He says in effect: "This view is opposed to what the Apostle says: ‘The invisible things of God are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.' (Rom. I, 20)," (Ia, q. 13, a. 5). And in the treatise De Potentia (q. 7, a. 5) he writes: "If this opinion were true, it would be just as correct to say that ‘God is angry,' or that ‘God is a fire,' as to say that ‘God is wise;' but this is contrary to the teaching of the saints and the prophets when they spoke of God (hoc autem est contra positionem sanctorum et prophetarum loquentium de Deo)." It is not, therefore, in a merely equivocal or metaphorical sense that absolute perfections are attributed to God.

In addition to this St. Thomas remarks (De Potentia, q. 7, a. 5): "These perfections are not to be taken simply in a negative sense. To say that God is living, does not merely mean that He is not non-living, that He is not like inanimate beings. A negation is always understood on the basis of an affirmation, for every negative proposition is proved by an affirmative; and hence if the human intellect could not positively affirm anything about God, it could not deny anything about Him, and He would be absolutely unknowable."

Finally, as St. Thomas remarks (Ia, q. 13, a. 2), it is not enough to say that the propositions, "God is good, God is being, merely signify that God is the cause of goodness and of being in created things." It might in like manner be said that "God is a body, or an animal," because He is the cause of bodies and of animals. Corporeity and animality are perfections which by their very nature include imperfection; for this reason they are called mixed perfections, and cannot exist in God except virtually, inasmuch as He can produce them. But on what grounds shall we claim the same for being, goodness, and intellect, all of which, as is generally admitted, are predicated formally of God?

We will now prove the transcendental validity of primary ideas, first directly, and, secondly, indirectly by showing the absurdity of the contradictory proposition.


29) Direct proof of the transcendental validity of primary ideas.


Let us present this proof in its simplest form, without as yet going deeply into the Thomistic doctrine of analogy, as we shall have to do later, when we come to discuss the nature of God and how His various attributes can be reconciled with the divine simplicity.

This proof may be condensed into the following syllogism:

See S. Th., Ia, q. 13, a. 3, c, ad 1um; a. 5; and q. 4, a. 2 and 3.


There is nothing repugnant in the notions of absolute and analogical perfections expressing analogically, according to their proper meaning, the absolutely perfect Being; and in matter of fact they will truly make known this same Being to us, if the universe demands a first cause which possesses these perfections.

It is sufficient to show a priori that there is nothing contrary to human reason in attributing analogically these absolute and analogical perfections to the supremely perfect Being, if such a Being exists. There is no necessity for us to establish a priori the positive possibility of the analogy of attribution; a posteriori proof drawn from the notion of causality will establish the validity of its claim to recognition. (See above no. 8).—Note that the "proper meaning" is understood to be in opposition to the metaphorical sense, as, for instance, when we speak of God's wrath.


Now, the primary notions of being—unity, truth, goodness, cause, end, intellect, will, etc.—denote absolute and analogical perfections.

Therefore, there is nothing repugnant in holding that these primary notions should express analogically the supremely perfect Being; and they will actually and truly make known this Being to us, if the universe demands a first cause which possesses these perfections.

The major of this syllogism becomes evident if we advert to the fact that an absolute perfection (perfectio simpliciter simplex), in contradistinction to a mixed perfection, is one whose formal concept includes no imperfection. The notions of these perfections cannot be said to be unfit to express, after a fashion, the supremely perfect Being; for it is only the imperfect which is incompatible with the idea of God. If, moreover, these perfections are analogical,


Thus by simple attribution or extrinsic denomination, we say of the air that it is healthy, because it is conducive to health in the animal.



Thus the lion is called the king of beasts, because as the king is above his subjects, so is the lion above other animals.



Thus sensation and intellection are entitled in a proportionate sense to be called knowledge; for sensation is to the sensible object what intellection is to the intelligible object. Likewise the term being may be applied to substance and accident by reason of a similarity of proportion between them:

See John of St. Thomas, O.P. Cursus Philosophiae, Logica, q. 13, a. 3.







its being


its being



or substance as a mode of being is proportionately related to accident as a mode of being, in that each is being.



or, in other words, capable of existing according to their essentially different modes, there is no reason for regarding it as impossible that they should conform to an infinite mode, provided such a mode includes nothing more than what is implied by the formal concepts of the various perfections; consequently, their manner of expressing God will be analogical, and it is only in a negative and a relative sense that the mode of the divine Being will be known. The development of the minor will make this point clearer.

This minor can be based first of all on the absolutely primary notions of being, unity, truth, and goodness; then, as a corollary to this, it can be shown to apply to the ideas of cause, end, intellect, and will.

As St. Thomas shows (Ia, q. 13, a. 3, c, ad 1um), the absolutely primary notions of our intellect, such as being, truth, goodness, do not include in their formal concept any imperfection, although the limited mode of their realization in created things is an imperfection. In their formal concept they are independent of this mode, and every element of imperfection can be removed from them. In fact, the notion of being does not per se include such limitations as that of species or genus, but dominates (transcends) the genera, and for that reason is called by the Scholastics a transcendental;

Hence "transcendental" has here a different meaning than in the expression "transcendental validity”; the former implies that which dominates the genera or categories of being, while the latter denotes what surpasses created things. The term "transcendental" is employed by Kant in quite a different sense, namely, of all knowledge which is not so much occupied with objects as with the mode of our cognition of these objects, so far as this mode is possible a priori. (Critique of Pure Reason, Intr., c. vii).


though it dominates them, yet it is predicated of all the genera or categories of being, according to essentially different modes; such modes are substance, quantity, quality, action, etc.

Likewise, from, a philosophical consideration of the hierarchical order in the scale of beings, we perceive that the term being applies to all things, to the stone, to the plant, to the animal, to man—though the concept itself of being does not admit of any of the limitations and imperfections essentially inherent in the objects of which it is predicated. If the idea of a man who is infinitely great, powerful, and perfect, manifestly implies a contradiction, it cannot be said to be an absurdity to speak of an infinitely perfect being, one without limitations. The term humanity designates a mixed perfection, which essentially includes imperfection, whereas the notion of being implies pure or absolute perfection.

It is the same with unity, truth, and goodness. For unity is the undividedness of being; truth is the conformity of being with the intellect, or, conversely, the conformity of the intellect with the being that measures it; goodness implies the desirability of being by reason of the perfection inherent in it. There is no imperfection formally implied by these notions, and if an infinitely swift movement is a manifest contradiction, the same cannot be said of infinite goodness.

Moreover, in the order of finite beings we observe that the absolute perfections expressed by these primary notions are essentially analogical, that is to say, they are susceptible of formally existing according to essentially different modes. Being, indeed, by the very fact that it dominates the genera and is found in each of them on different grounds, applies to all of them in an analogical or proportionate sense.

See Aristotle, Met., Bk. X, c. 1; IV, c. 1; Bk. IV, c. 1; Bk. XII, c. 4; Anal. Post., Bk. II, c. 13 and 14; Nicomachean Ethics, I, c. 6. For an understanding of the Aristotelian doctrine on the analogy of proportion one must read the fifth book of the Metaphysics, in which Aristotle classifies the different significations of each metaphysical notion; here he discusses the notions of principle, cause (the four causes), nature or essence, necessity, unity, truth, being, identity, diversity, multiplicity, order, perfection, etc. After having enumerated, according to the order of invention, the various meanings of each of these notions, which are analogical (except those of the categories and the highest genera), he reduces the various meanings to a certain unity, which is the unity of proportionality, in the proper, and not in the metaphorical sense. No better commentary on the general principles of analogy and no better application of the principles can be found than in this fifth book of Aristotle's Metaphysics.


It embraces everything and penetrates into the very differentiae of the genera; it is essentially diversified, according to these diverse modes. We say of substance that it exists in itself; we also speak of accident as existing, but in quite a different sense, namely, in another. The being of accident is not in every respect like that of substance, but it is both like and unlike; in other words, it is analogous. On the other hand, perfect similarity, for instance the similarity between two men who belong to the same human species, may truly be called univocal;

We will not here insist upon the radical difference between the analogue and the univocal (genus or species); we shall discuss this point at length when we come to consider the nature of God and His attributes. It is sufficient to observe here that in direct contrast with the transcendental notions (which are above the categories), every genus, no matter how high in the scale of being it may be, is always univocal; this means that, with regard to each of the objects of which it is predicated, it denotes absolutely the same thing (rationem simpliciter eandem). Hence it is that the genus "animal," when predicated of a man and a dog has the same meaning, namely, a being endowed with vegetative and sensitive life. This generic notion of animality is a common and basic trait to which, if the extrinsic differences are added, we have either man (a rational being) or else dog. Similarly, the higher genus "quality" denotes absolutely the same thing in its different species (habit, potentiality, sensible quality, figure).

With being (ens et res), unity, truth, and goodness, the case is quite different. "Being and unity," says Aristotle, "are not genera; they cannot be further modified by the addition of extrinsic differences (as when, for instance, rationality is added to animality); in fact, it is absolutely necessary that the difference should have being and unity." (Metaph., Bk. I, c. 1; Bk. IV, c. 1; Bk. XII, c. 4). Hence, being and unity penetrate to the very differences of things, and for this reason are predicated of different beings κατ᾿ ἀναλογἰαν, secundum proportionem, or proportionately. (Anal. Post., II, c. 13 and 14). This means that the idea of being is not predicated of the various beings in the same sense (as the note of animality applies in the same sense to all animals); but each participates in being in its own way (ratio entis in omnibus non est simpliciter eadem, sed eadem secundum quid, id est secundum proportionem; the idea being, as applied to all things, is not absolutely the same, but only after a fashion, that is, proportionately). Being as such is by its very nature diversified; it is not a common and basic note to which can be added the difference proper to substance and that proper to accident; since these differences are also being, the word being, as applied to substance and accident, does not denote absolutely the same thing, but proportionally similar things; substance has its own mode of being, and so has accident.


whereas mere homonyms, or words spelled alike, but which otherwise have nothing in common, are called by the Scholastics equivocal terms; thus the term dog, as applied to an animal and to a certain astronomical constellation, is used in what we call an equivocal sense.

The one, the true, and the good are also predicated analogically or proportionally of all the categories of being. We speak of a good fruit, a good quality, a good action, etc. When we say of a fruit that it is good, we refer to its natural quality; but when we say of a virtuous man that he is good, we use the term in quite a different sense, for we mean that he has a moral character.

If, therefore, the notion of being is that of an absolute perfection, it cannot be said to be impossible that it should denote, in its own proper sense, the absolutely perfect Being, for it is only the imperfect which is incompatible with the idea of God. Neither is it an impossibility for this notion of being to be applied analogically to the Supreme Being, for being is capable of realization according to its essentially different modes, and there are no a priori grounds for saying that an infinite mode is inconsistent with the notion of being. Being, according to its formal notion, is a pure perfection without any limitations.

The same must be said of unity, truth, and goodness. Why cannot goodness be realized according to an infinite mode, since in itself this term implies neither limitation nor imperfection? Why can we not say of something that it is absolutely and infinitely good, since de facto in the order of created things it is legitimate to say of things that they are physically or morally good, though, of course, we use the term in essentially different senses?

We cannot, therefore, affirm that these primary notions are insufficient in themselves to enable us to acquire some positive knowledge of God, if He exists. But it is only in a negative and relative way that the divine mode of being, of unity, truth, and goodness is known by us, and hence we speak of such goodness as non-finite or supreme.

This was evidently the conviction of St. Thomas

St. Thomas says explicitly: "Whatever good we attribute to creatures, preexists in God, and that in a more excellent and higher way. Hence it does not follow that God is good, because He causes goodness; but rather, on the contrary, He diffuses goodness in things because He is good." (Ia, q. 13, a. 2). And in Contra Gentes, Bk. I, c. 30, towards the end, we read: "The names which we use to express the supereminent mode in which the aforesaid perfections exist in God, have either a negative force, as when we say that God is infinite; or else they express His relation to other beings, as when we say that He is the first cause or the highest good."


when he opposed Maimonides.

What has just been said of being, unity, truth, and goodness, must also be said of the notions of efficient cause, end, intellect, and will. In truth, these latter notions are not classed among the transcendentals,

These transcendentals, according to the Scholastics, are six in number: being, thing, the one, something, the true, and the good. (See St. Thomas, De Veritate, q. 1, a. 1; De Potentia, q. 9, a. 7, ad 6um, 13um).


which dominate all the genera of being and are found present according to their various modes, analogically, in each of them. The notions of cause, end, intellect, and will are not in fact found in all the genera, but are defined by their immediate relation to one of the transcendentals, and thus in their formal concept transcend the limitations or imperfections of the genera, and, like the transcendentals to which they are essentially related, are analogical.

Thus the efficient cause and the final cause are related to being, for they constitute the sufficient extrinsic reasons why a thing is not self-existent. To cause or produce implies no imperfection, for it means nothing else but the realization of something. We can see that an all-perfect being cannot be the formal principle of physical heat or light, because heat and light, implying limitation, cannot be formally in such a being. But why cannot an infinitely perfect Being be a realizing principle, just as it is of the very nature of light to illumine and of fire to heat? And if this Being can be an efficient cause, it a fortiori can be a final cause, which is the supreme raison d’être of the order we perceive in things.

We can eliminate from the efficient cause that imperfect mode which is found to be its inseparable accompaniment in finite causes; for there is nothing in the notion of such a cause which militates against this; and since, like being, it is analogous, we cannot say on a priori grounds that it is opposed to an infinite mode. This mode would explain why the causal or realizing action is not an accident, but is identified with the infinite being of the agent; why it is not transitory and passing, but permanent and eternal; why it is not formally transitive, but formally immanent, though capable of producing an external effect, for which reason it could truly be called a virtually transitive action. And this eternal action, which would add nothing to the being of the primary agent—why could it not have its effect in time, at a moment previously willed, if it is a free action, and if it dominates time and its product, like the movement of which it is the measure? The formal concept of causality does not per se include any of those imperfections which are found in finite beings. To say that an action is causal, means that it is a realizing action, but not necessarily accidental, temporal, formally transitory and transitive. These imperfections constitute the created mode of causality, but this notion, for the sole reason that it denotes an absolute and analogical perfection, is susceptible also of another mode.

Substance, i. e., “that which is capable of existing in itself and not in another," implies no imperfection in its concept. True, it does not seem to be an analogical perfection, since it constitutes a genus (the first of the categories). But it is not considered as a genus except inasmuch as it is capable of existing in itself, though not identified with its existence. And there is nothing to prevent a substance from existing, not only in itself, but also by itself. (See Ia, q. 3, a. 5, ad 1um).


As for the notions of intellect and will, the former is defined by its immediate relation to being, the latter by its immediate relation to goodness. Therefore, like being and goodness, the notions of intellect and will are analogical, and like them, too, they imply no imperfection. As we shall see, the same must be said about the intellectual virtues of wisdom and prudence (providence) and about the virtues of the will—justice and mercy.

Undoubtedly, the intellect, like the will, is a faculty or power capable of acting, and distinct from the numerous acts which it produces; but this is merely the finite mode of the intellectual life which, because it is an absolute and analogical perfection, is susceptible of a higher mode. Since the formal object of the intellect is being, is there anything repugnant in the notion that there should be an intellect which is the adequate measure of being, of all things, both real and possible, and which is, therefore, omniscient? And since the knowledge of everything that is intelligible would be the constant attribute of such an intelligence, why could it not be said to be the identification of absolute intelligence with pure being? Reason cannot prove this to be an evident impossibility.

The same must be said of the will, which is specified by goodness in general, and is free to accept or reject any particular form of good which may be presented to it. In us, of course, the will is simply a faculty distinct from its acts of love or the volitions which it produces. But why should it be unreasonable to admit an absolutely perfect will, which would be an eternal act of love identified with the supreme good, the constant object of this love, and therefore free in its love of finite goods?

Finally, the virtues of the intellect and of the will—wisdom, mercy, justice—are in us accidents, qualities, acquired habits which are capable of development. But that is merely their finite mood of being; the formal concept of these virtues is independent of this mode, and implies no imperfection, and as an analogical concept, it is not incompatible with a higher mode of being. Wisdom formally denotes knowledge acquired by a scrutiny of the highest causes, and this knowledge need not be the result of a transitory act proceeding from an intellectual habit acquired by study and experience. Why should it be impossible to admit an infinite and eternal wisdom which would exhaust all the possibilities of whatever is knowable?

Our conclusion is that it is not incompatible with reason to assume that these primary notions express analogically the supreme and perfect Being, and that de facto they will truly make known to us this Being if the universe demands a first cause possessing these perfections.

Thus far we have shown that it is not contrary to reason to predicate in an analogical sense these absolute and analogical perfections of a supremely perfect Being, if such a Being exists. It is not necessary to establish a priori the positive possibility of this attribution,

See supra, no. 8.


because it can be proved a posteriori, by way of causality.

The proofs for the existence of God will plainly show that the movement which is in the universe demands a mover who does not need to be moved himself; that contingent beings ultimately demand a cause necessary in itself; that composite and imperfect beings demand an absolutely simple and perfect cause, and that, finally, the order in the universe necessarily presupposes an intelligent designer. The first cause thus required must possess those absolute perfections which are to be found in the world, for otherwise it could not be said to have caused them, and there would be no resemblance or analogy between this cause and its effect—which would be contrary to the very notion of cause (see Ia, q. 4, a. 3). To be the cause of another being means, indeed, to bring this other being into existence, to actualize or determine it. Now, since a determining cause, as such, is restricted by the limits of its own determination, it follows that between the cause and its effect there must be a resemblance, not necessarily generic or specific, but at least analogical. This is the meaning of the principle: Omne agens agit sibi simile—every agent produces its own kind—which is derived directly from the principle of causality.

Before returning to this way of causality, we know that it is not contrary to reason to state that the absolutely perfect Being, if it exists, can be expressed analogically by means of the primary notions. The positive perfections in God will be made known to us by an analysis of the principle of causality; by the processes of negation and eminence we shall acquire a negative and relative knowledge of the divine mode of these perfections.

These considerations constitute the direct defence of the transcendental validity of primary notions, which may be succinctly formulated thus: these notions express the absolute and analogical perfections that the first cause of necessity possesses. This direct defence can be supplemented by an indirect proof showing the absurdity of the contrary assumption.


30) Indirect proof of the transcendental validity of primary notions.


To deny this validity, or even to declare it to be doubtful, involves the contention that reason left to itself must always at least remain in doubt concerning the existence of a transcendental primary cause. What would follow from this?

Such an invincible doubt would refer either to the primary cause as such, or to its transcendental character.

If the existence of a primary cause must remain forever in doubt, it follows either that a thing may begin to exist without a cause, or that the ensemble of things which are not self-existent may exist without a cause, in which case the principle of causality itself is doubtful, and the principle of contradiction is no longer certain, for then it may be that some things exist neither by themselves nor are produced by a cause, and consequently do not differ from nothingness; for it is of the very nature of nothingness to be neither self-existent nor conditioned, and since it is a non-entity, it is independent of the principle of sufficient reason. Now, to doubt the principle of contradiction, or the opposition between being and nothingness, is absurd.

If the invincible doubt is concerned only with the transcendence of the primary cause, it follows that this cause is perhaps immanent, not really distinct from the world, which is composite and changing; that it is a creative becoming, a creative evolution,

According to Bergson (L'Evolution Créatrice), the principle of all things is a consciousness in process of evolution, a consciousness which has gradually developed in the intellectual life and is ever seeking to transcend it.


or a creative idea,

See Hegel, Logik.


which admits of composition and change; and in that case we are confronted with the absurdities of Pantheism and must admit with Hegel that a creative becoming, which is its own sufficient reason, implies a contradiction in terms.

Hence we see that this indirect proof of the transcendental validity of primary notions is a proof of God's existence by the logical method known as reductio ad absurdum.

We have yet to discuss the question how these primary notions enter into the a posteriori demonstration of the existence of God. What is the middle term of this demonstration, and how can it be given transcendental validity?


31) The middle term of our demonstration is analogical. The force of such a demonstration.


As we have already remarked, it is by means of analogical, and not by means of univocal concepts that we demonstrate the existence of God. The middle term, therefore, will have to be an analogous term, and the proof will assume the following syllogistic form: The world necessarily demands a primary extrinsic cause. Now, we call the primary extrinsic cause of the world by the name of God. Therefore, God exists.

We here presuppose only the nominal definition of God, the idea that comes to the mind when the word God is mentioned. This is the middle term of all the demonstrations which follow (cfr. Ia, q. 2, a. 2, ad 2). It is an analogical term, which is all that is required. Though analogical, it has a sufficient unity, so that the syllogism does not contain four terms. Cajetan shows in his treatise, De Nominum Analogia (ch. 10), that a concept which has unity of proportion can be the middle term in a syllogism, provided it has the same extension in the major and minor. For this condition to be realized, the term must be employed according to the similarity of proportion which exists between the analogues, and not according to what properly constitutes this analogue in itself. For instance, the relative concept of cause, which we shall use as middle term in all our demonstrations, must denote causality, both in the major and in the minor, causality not precisely as it applies in the order of created things, but in this that the causality of created things is similar, by a certain similarity of proportion, to causality of a higher order. Whatever is predicated of a similar object as such, is predicated also of that which it resembles (quidquid convenit simili in eo quod est simile, convenit etiam illi cujus est simile; Cajetan, ibid.). The principle of identity, or of contradiction, which assures us of the formal validity of the argument, must not be restricted to equivocal notions. "Contradiction consists in the affirmation and negation of the same attribute of the same subject, and not in the affirmation and negation of the same univocal attribute in the same univocal subject. The identity between things and their objective reasons has the force of an identity which is by way of proportion." (Cajetan, ibid.).

This is not a logical thesis set up for the purpose of demonstrating the existence of God, but is clearly expressed by Aristotle, who was the first to establish the theoretical principles of demonstration (Anal. Post., II c. xii and xiv; cfr. the Comment. of St. Thomas, Lect. 17 and 19). After having discussed the middle term when it is univocal, he remarks: ῎Ετι δἄλλος τρόπος ἐστὶ κατὰ τὸ ἀνάλογον ἐκλέγειν (there is another way in which we say that the concept is common by way of analogy, i.e., by way of proportion). The comment of St. Thomas on this passage is as follows: "But when the concept is a common analogue, the unity of proportion between the analogous objects reveals certain other characteristics, as, for instance, that they are of the same generic or specific nature."

John of St. Thomas (Cursus Phil., Logica, q. 93, a. 5), has cast into a concise formula what Aristotle, St. Thomas, Cajetan, and the Thomists generally teach concerning analogy: "The analogue of proportion, which is intrinsic in its reference to all that is analogous to it, reunites in a single concept the notions of one, inadequate, and imperfect. In fact, this concept does not abstract from the analogues in this sense that it contains potentially only, and not actually, that which differentiates the analogues, but in this sense, that it does not denote these differences explicitly, although it contains them actually." This is the same as saying with Aristotle that being does not admit of differences which are extrinsic to it, and thus we cannot abstract perfectly the notion of being from its differences, as we can the notion of genus from that of species. (See infra, Part II, ch. III).— Later, in discussing the divine attributes, we shall see that St. Thomas, by submitting the analogue of a genus to the finest of distinctions, holds an intermediate position between the Agnosticism of Maimonides and that of the Nominalists-revived by the Modernists—and the exaggerated Realism of Gilbert de la Porrée, which reappears in the writings of Rosmini and other Ontologists. (See Billuart, ed. 1857, t. I, pp. 51-62).—These two extreme opinions result from considering the analogue univocally, whence it follows that, if the analogical concept denotes a formal attribute in God, it posits in Him a real distinction (Gilbert de la Porrée), or if it does not admit this distinction in God, it is because this analogical concept does not denote one of His formal attributes. Like Scotus, Suarez (Disp. Meraph., 2, sect. I, no. 9; sect. II, nos. 13, 21, 34) seems to have misconceived the important distinction between the analogue and the univocal. From what he says, one must logically conclude that being is diversified, like genus, by extrinsic differences. We fail to see how being can still be predicated of these differences, and we are once more confronted with the full force of the arguments of Parmenides against multiplicity. If the differentiating modes of being are not themselves being, then the multiplicity of beings is an illusion, for all things are one. There is only one reply to this argument, namely, that being is not univocal, but analogical, and implicitly includes its differentiating modes. (I Met., c. 5; Comment. of St. Thomas, Lect. 9; XIII Met., c. 11).  Moreover, this logical thesis is closely connected with another, which declares that there is a real distinction between essence and existence in created beings and which refutes this same argument of Parmenides from the metaphysical point of view. (See infra, Vol. II, ch. III). On this question of a real distinction, whether it was held by St. Thomas, and what is the importance of this doctrine in the Thomistic synthesis, we are compelled to disagree completely with Chossat (Dict. de Théol. Cath., art. "Dieu," cols, 889-890). See in the Revue des Sciences Phil. et Theol., of April, 1909, the article by Garrigou-Lagrange, entitled, "La distinction réelle entre essence et existence et le principe d'identité," See also what Chossat, Gardeil, and Mandonnet have written on this subject in the Revue Thomiste, 1910.


This unity of proportion is the basis of all reasoning in natural theology. Having demonstrated the existence of God and that He is not dependent upon matter, this unity of proportion will be our authority for asserting also of rational beings that immateriality explains why they have intelligence (a positive analogical concept), and hence that they have a will and that this will is free (likewise positive analogical concepts); it is also true, in a proportionate sense, to say of God that His absolute immateriality is the reason why He knows all things (Ia, q. 14, a. 1), and why His will is absolutely free (Ia., q. 19, a. 1, 2, 3).

Further on (Vol. II, ch. III) we shall explain more at length that there are not two unknown elements in each of these proportions, but two terms known immediately with their created mode, one term expressing the untreated analogue which is mediately known (the first cause), whence we infer the presence of the fourth term, which until then remained unknown. It may be expressed by saying that there is a similarity of proportion between the creature with its mode of being and the first cause with its mode of being.

32) This analogical knowledge enables the human mind to grasp the fact of God's existence, and to perceive something of His essence; but it is not a quidditative perception, that is, a perception of what properly constitutes the essence of the Deity.


From what has been said it follows that this analogical knowledge cannot be a knowledge of the divine essence such as it is in itself (prout est in se); nor can we positively define the same by any definition strictly so-called; however, by means of this knowledge we can perceive the existence of God and gain some idea of His essence. This is the common teaching of the School-men (see St. Thomas in the Summa Theol., Ia, q. 12, a. 12; q. 13, a. 1; q. 88, a. 3; Cajetan, De Nominum Analogia; Scotus, In I, Dist., 3, q. 1; Capreolus, In I, d. 2, q. 1, a. 1, 4th to 8th conclusion). True, as Cajetan remarks (Comment. in Iam, q. 88, a. 3 § Adverte), there was some difference of opinion on this point between the Scotists and the early Thomists. Scotus and his school admitted that we can acquire a natural knowledge of the divine essence by reasoning, whereas the Thomists denied this and maintained that we cannot know naturally what God is (quid est), but only that He is (quia est), and what He is not (quid non est). However, as Cajetan observes, in the above-mentioned treatise and in his De Ente et Essentia (c. VI, q. 14), the difference between the two schools is merely a matter of words. "We must distinguish," he writes, "between knowing an essence (cognoscere quidditatem), and knowing it quidditatively (cognoscere quidditative). To know an essence, it suffices to apprehend one of its essential predicates, for instance, one that is generic; to know it according to its quiddity, we must apprehend all its essential predicates, down to the ultimate difference. On the basis of this distinction it must be affirmed that we can acquire a natural knowledge of the divine essence by reasoning, and that is what Scotus meant; but we cannot know the divine essence according to its quiddity, and that is what the early Thomists had in mind." To know God according to His quiddity is the same as to know Him as He is in Himself, and this knowledge demands that human nature be raised to the supernatural order. Unaided natural reason alone cannot know what constitutes the Deity, in which the absolute perfections are identified. It can acquire positive knowledge only of the analogical predicates common to God and to creatures (such as being, act, one, true, good, etc.), and the divine mode of the absolute perfections is known only negatively and relatively. Aristotle called this knowledge derived from common predicates, knowing that a thing is (Anal. Post., II, c. VIII; Comment. of St. Thomas, Lect. 7), and that is the reason why the early Thomists said that we can know of God only that He is, which evidently did not mean that theodicy was restricted to the mere affirmation of His existence.

This conclusion, formulated by Cajetan, admitted by Suarez (Disp. Met., disp. XXX, sect. 12), and unanimously accepted by the Scholastics,

Cfr. Chossat, Dictionnaire Apologétique, art. "Agnosticisme," cols. 58-62.


can easily be proved. From the fact that we cannot naturally know God except by His effects, the perfection of which is necessarily an inadequate expression of the divine perfection (Ia, q. 12, a. 12),

See also, Ia, q. 13, a. 5.


we can affirm but three points: (1) that these effects necessarily demand the existence of a first cause which exists of and by itself; (2) that whatever perfection there is in the effects must pre-exist in the cause; (3) that the perfections which formally do not imply any imperfection, that is to say, of which reason formally abstracts from the created mode, which is essentially imperfect, must exist in God according to a divine mode. We may even say that absolute perfections, such as being, truth, goodness, intellect, freedom, justice, mercy, can be found without any admixture of imperfection only in God. "None is good but God alone," we read in the Gospel of St. Luke (XVIII, 19), which means that wherever else they are found, these perfections invariably have an admixture of imperfection. Therefore, we predicate them formally of God, according to an intrinsic denomination (see infra, Vol, II, ch. 3). But we do not positively know the nature of the divine mode, according to which they are identical with the divine essence, and hence we say that they exist in God formaliter eminenter-formally and eminently. "But to express the super-eminent mode according to which these perfections exist in God, only such terms are available which have either a negative meaning, as when we say that God is eternal or infinite, or else express His relation to creatures, as when He is said to be the first cause or supreme good" (C. Gentes, I, c. XXX, towards the end). The error of Maimonides and of some of our own contemporaries

See Dictionnaire Apologétique de la Foi Catholique, article "Agnosticisme," cols. 38, 66.


is to apply what St. Thomas said of the mode in which the perfections are verified in God, to the formal reason of these absolute perfections. If this were correct, the only knowledge we could have of God would be by means of extrinsic, negative or relative terms, as when we say metaphorically that He is angry with a sinner. Our knowledge of absolute perfections is analogical and positive, and we affirm them of God as expressive of causality (per viam causalitatis); "not that God is good because He causes goodness, but, on the contrary, He diffuses goodness in things because He is good." (Ia, q. 13, a. 2). The mode in which these perfections exist in God, we express either negatively, as when we speak of unlimited goodness, or else in an eminent sense (relatively), as when we speak of sovereign goodness. Hence we do not positively know in what precisely the mode consists intrinsically according to which these perfections are predicated of God; we possess but a negative and relative knowledge of this mode, and in this sense we can truthfully say that we cannot know what God is (prout est in se seu quidditative). It is only by means of the common concepts of analogy that we can acquire a knowledge of God (cfr. Cajetan, In Iam, q. 39, a. 1). Similarly, theodicy can never define the divine intellect, the divine will, the divine movement, as they are in themselves; it can conclude that intellect, will, and causality belong to God, but it cannot give us any other than a negative or relative knowledge of the divine mode of these attributes.

See Zigliara, Summa Phil., Vol. II, p. 488.


Moreover, the created and human mode will enter into the propositions which we shall formulate concerning God, so that when absolute perfections are attributed to Him, the attribution itself will be formal, but not so the mode of attribution. St. Thomas says in the Contra Gentes (Bk. I, ch. 30): "Names of this kind can be both affirmed and denied of God: affirmed on account of what the name signifies (formal reason); denied because of the mode of its signification (created mode)." In fact, he adds, "since our intellect derives its ideas through the senses, it either conceives of a thing and designates it in the abstract (as goodness), and then the thing signified is simple, but not subsisting; or else it thinks of a thing and designates it in the concrete (individual good), and then the thing signified is subsisting, but not simple. Such is the mode of created things, whereas that which pertains to God is both simple and subsisting. Hence there is always an element of imperfection in the mode in which we speak of God; when we have stated that He is good, we add that He is goodness itself, subsisting goodness, not goodness in the abstract; likewise, having asserted that He exists, we add that it is not that He has existence, but that He is existence, subsisting existence, ipsum esse subsistens." (Cfr. Contra Gentes, ibid.).

Such is the knowledge that human reason, when left to its own resources, can acquire of God. It knows that He exists and has some idea of His essence, but it does not know Him as He is in Himself (in what properly constitutes Him as God). In a similar manner we know our friends, but we do not fully enter into their sentiments, such as they are in themselves.


33) Solution of the objections raised against the transcendental validity of primary notions.


Marcel Hébert, in an article entitled "Anonyme et Polyonyme," in the Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale, 1903, p. 241, proposed the following objection against the doctrine which we have just presented: "This doctrine of analogy presupposes that we admit the fact of a ‘causal connection' between God and the world: between a God who, as a perfect substance, creates a world of imperfect substances, which participate in varying degrees in His infinite perfection. But this causal connection is itself an analogy. The theologians say that God is the ‘analogical cause' of the world. Now all these analogies are based on a primary analogy, and the only way in which the theologians avoid what is known as begging the question, is by assuming the fact of creation as certain on other grounds. That we have the certainty of faith on this head is irrelevant to the point in dispute, since we are here concerned only with that certitude which is acquired by reasoning. Now, what has reason to say about this fundamental problem? We know quite well that it is not content with a series of phenomena, but demands an absolute raison d'être; it does not, however, in any way demand that there should be a realization of this absolute in any ‘particular substance,' transcendent by reason of its relation to the essence of things."

Thus M. Hébert, like the Abbé Le Roy, admits that the principle of causality, leading to an extrinsic cause (whatever is set in motion, is set in motion by another), "derives its apparent lucidity from a spatial image which has been introduced surreptitiously into a metaphysical problem; it supposes that movers and things movable are distinct substances (so-called postulate of morcellation), which is denied by Pantheism."

Rev. de Mét. et de Mor., July, 1902, pp. 398 ff.: "La dernière idole."


"We cannot, without having recourse to anthropomorphism, introduce the idea of causality in the psychological sense, and besides, this would simply result in the admission of a world-soul."



We answered this objection, though not completely, when we showed that the sufficient reason for the existence of a contingent being must be an actualizing or realizing sufficient reason. This is the principle of causality, in no sense anthropomorphic, of which we make use in proving the existence of God. It abstracts from every particular image derived either from external experience (postulate of morcellation), or from internal experience (psychological causality); it is conceived as a function of being, which is the formal object of the human intellect, considered not as human, but as intellect (for the proper object of the human intellect qua human is the essence of sensible things, and not being). Hence anthropomorphism is out of the question. Moreover, as we have already remarked, it matters not whether the world from which we start to prove the existence of God is a single substance, or a number of substances, provided only we can say of it that it has multiplicity and becoming. From what we know of the principles of identity and of sufficient reason we must say that the world has not its raison d'être within itself, that it is contingent, and that for a reality to be its own sufficient reason, it must be in every respect identical with itself, that it must be to being as A is to A; in other words it must be Being itself (ipsum esse), pure actuality, and hence essentially distinct from the world, which is multiplex and changing. To deny this would be to deny that the principle of identity is the fundamental law of reality as well as of thought, and to admit with Hegel that the fundamental law is contradictory or absurd. A world-soul, one in substance and multiple in the phenomena by which it is determined, would be contingent. From the very fact that it is capable of receiving a multiplicity and variety of modes, it follows that it is not pure identity, pure being, absolute perfection; the very principle of identity itself demands that it have a cause, since it is by nature composite; for elements in themselves different cannot of themselves be united. It is not here a question of any veiled reference to the argument of St. Anselm, but simply a matter of appealing to the supreme principle which governs thought.

There is a more serious difficulty than the one presented by Hébert, namely, that we cannot positively apply to God the analogical concept of being (and affirm the existence of God), except by assuming that the concept of cause is one of transcendental validity; but this assumption is not only gratuitous, it is also unwarranted: for the transcendental validity of the concept of cause, far from being able to establish the ontological validity of the concept of being, presupposes the latter, since being is the most universal of all concepts and implied in every other.

The objection, when cast into syllogistic form, reads something like this: The transcendental validity of the most universal ideas cannot, without begging the question, be based upon the validity of an idea that is less universal in extent. Now, in the preceding proofs the transcendental validity of the most universal concepts (being, unity, truth, etc.) is based upon the validity of the less universal concept of cause. Therefore, the transcendental validity of the most universal concepts of being, truth, unity, etc., is without sufficient foundation.

For the sake of brevity and clearness, we will give a formal answer. We distinguish the major as follows: we admit that, considered in the abstract, the most universal of concepts do not depend for their transcendental validity upon that of a less universal concept; relatively to us, however, it is a different matter. St. Thomas declares that the proposition, "God exists," considered in itself, is self-evident, but not so for us (est per se nota quoad se, non quoad nos; Ia, q. 2, a. 1). The sun, for instance, is a source of light in itself, but not so for the owl, whose vision is so feeble that it can only see at night.

So far as we are concerned, I draw another distinction: that the most universal of concepts cannot depend for their transcendental validity upon that of a concept less universal in extent is true in the sense that there is nothing these concepts in themselves denote, which prevents their being attributed; but if it be a question of the actual attribution of such concepts, then the reverse is true, if the less universal concept is essentially relative to the world of which we have direct knowledge, and by means of which we rise to a knowledge of hitherto unknown things of a higher order. Now this is precisely the case with the concept of cause, for in direct contrast with the most universal concepts of being, unity, etc., which are absolute, that of cause is essentially relative, referring to the effect produced.

Cfr. Summa Theol., Ia, q. 13, a. 7: "Whether names which imply relation to creatures, are predicated of God ex tempore?"


That is why we proved first of all that there is nothing which the most universal concepts of being, unity, truth, goodness, in themselves denote that would render it impossible for an infinitely perfect being, if such a one exists, to be expressed by these concepts, because they represent absolute and analogical perfections, and from this point of view the notion of being is prior to that of cause. But the actual attribution of these perfections to God, for us, rests upon this principle: that the world demands a first cause possessing these perfections. Just as the necessity of a first cause, too, depends in its final analysis upon the analogous concept of being, just as the principle of causality refers indirectly to the principle of contradiction, so the concept of cause, not being absolute, but relative to the world which is caused, may serve as the connecting link between the lower and the higher, that is, between the finite which is directly known, and the infinite which we are striving to know.

If we wish to consider the further question, how the concepts of being and cause are inter-related, and why it is that being holds the first place, we must bear in mind that there are five stages in the process of human knowledge. (1) For us the concept of being denotes a perfection without any admixture of imperfection; it is an analogical concept, which means that it is capable of existing according to essentially different modes, and from this point of view an infinite mode is not beyond the scope of being. (2) Since the notion of cause is closely associated with that of being, we conceive of it as a perfection without admixture of imperfection and one that is analogical. In fact, causality is defined as a realization. Now, there is nothing of imperfection implied in the notion that something is realized or comes into existence; besides, there is nothing to prevent this perfection of being, which is realized in the present order of things in different modes, from accommodating itself to an infinite mode of being. (3) All the finite realities of which we have knowledge, in the multiplicity and becoming that they imply, appear to us as contingent, and hence of necessity demand an actualizing raison d’être or a cause. This exigency, expressed by the principle of causality, is itself based upon being, just as the latter principle depends upon that of contradiction or identity. The contingent being, since it is not unconditioned, can exist only through or by something else, which means that it demands a cause. The concept of cause being essentially relative, enables us to transcend the finite order of things. That which is finite, composite, and subject to change cannot of itself explain its actuality, and hence its cause must be sought in something outside of it and above it. Here again it is the concept of being upon which the principle of causality ultimately rests, and which, in conjunction with that of cause, forces us to rise above the world in seeking the raison d'être of its existence. (4) By the very fact that finite beings are composite and subject to change, the cause which they postulate must itself be free from composition and change, otherwise the cause would demand another cause of a higher order. Hence we must conclude that this cause is absolutely simple and immutable, that it is pure being. In this way we arrive at the supreme analogue of being, and by a negative and relative process we determine the non-finite and eminent mode of being by which God is constituted essentially distinct from the world. (5) Finally, starting not from the notion of being in general (analogous concept), but from the Divine Being (supreme analogue), we negatively and relatively determine the mode of the divine causality (the supreme analogue), and perceive that this dominating causality is pure cause, not caused, not pre-moved, that it is its own activity, its own action, and transcends time, and consequently is the cause of time as well as of movement, of which it is the measure, though always retaining its freedom of action. Thus the demands of being in general prepare the way for the transcendental application of the principle of causality, and by this means the mind acquires its knowledge of the supreme analogue of being, which, in turn, enables us to determine, though in an imperfect manner, the mode of the divine causality. In this way being retains its primacy in the order of invention (in via inventionis), and also in the order of judgment by means of the ultimate causes of things (in via judicii).

Concerning the ascending and descending order in the process of reasoning, consult St. Thomas, Ia, q. 79, art. 8 and 9.


We have already remarked (no. 23), that what the mind first of all acquires is a confused concept of being before that of the mode of being or of the phenomenon. By means of this latter concept the confused concept of being becomes more clearly defined; being is conceived as a substance, and the notion of substance thus acquired, acts as a searchlight and clarifies the concept of the mode of being, of accident, or of the phenomenon.

See St. Thomas, Ia, q. 85, art. 3 and 5.


Thus the primacy of being is assured and continues to be the objective light of our intellect, causality being subordinate to being as one of its modes.

Objection. But to attribute causality to a God who transcends the world seems to be inconceivable, or at least dubious (fourth antimony of Kant). In fact, such attribution necessitates that God be the absolutely immobile first cause. Now, an immobile first cause which, though not being the principle of its action, would produce effects that would begin to exist, is inconceivable. Therefore, the attribution of causality to a God who transcends the world is inconceivable.

Reply. I distinguish the major as follows: that it is necessary to admit God to be the absolutely immobile first cause, of which we shall have positive knowledge, both as to what is formally implied in the concept of cause, and as to the divine mode of causality—this I deny; that we shall have positive knowledge of what is formally implied in the concept of cause, but that we shall have only a negative and relative knowledge of the divine mode of such causality—this I concede. But it is precisely this imperfect knowledge of the mode of the divine causality which renders the problem so mysterious. We may say that no positive concept can be formed of the mode of this causality, but we speak of it in negative and relative terms, as when we say that it is an uncaused cause, or that it is a cause which, by reason of its eminence, transcends time, of which it is the cause as well as of movement, though still retaining its freedom of action. (See no. 36, proof of the existence of God by the argument from motion).

Objection. But even if it be granted that the relative concept of cause is a sufficient basis for the actual attribution of absolute concepts, it does not seem possible that these same concepts, considered in themselves, can be predicated of a transcendental God. In fact, God, if He is transcendental and infinite, differs from the creature in a far greater measure than the creature differs from nothingness. Now, between the creature and nothingness there is no analogy. With far more reason, therefore, must this be the case between a transcendental and infinite God and the creature. The major of this objection is undeniable. The distance which separates the creature from nothingness is but negatively infinite, since one of the terms is negative, thus enabling creative power to bridge the gulf. Between the creature and God, on the contrary, there is a positively infinite distance, since both terms are positive, and hence absolutely unapproachable. That omnipotence itself could transform or transubstantiate a creature into God, is inconceivable.

Reply. As in the answer to the preceding objection, we distinguish the major as follows: That a transcendental and infinite God differs in a far greater measure from the creature, than the creature differs from nothingness—this I admit, if we consider God and the creature according to their respective modes of being, for one of these modes is infinite, whereas the other is finite; but if we consider being according to its formal aspect, then the proposition must be denied; for this formal aspect is verified both in the creature and in the transcendental cause which it postulates, not, however, in nothingness.

Objection. But under this formal aspect being, compared with God, takes precedence of Him and is more universal than He. Now, nothing can take precedence of God. Hence the reply is unconvincing, and the difficulty remains.

Reply. Being in its formal aspect has a priority that is logical with reference to God and is logically more universal than He, according to our imperfect mode of conception. But it has no real priority, nor any universality of the real order of containment and causality.

See Billuart, De Deo, dissert. V, art. II, § 11.


Since our knowledge is abstracted from sensible things, we conceive of being in general and the analogue, before we come to know the supreme analogue or primary Being. But when we realize that this latter is the self-subsistent Being, infinite plenitude of being, capable of producing everything than can possibly exist, then we see clearly that being abstracted from sensible things is truly subsequent to primary Being.

Objection. Nevertheless, if we consider the absolute perfections, not as isolated, by themselves, but as interrelated, their coexistence does not seem possible in one and the same transcendental being. In fact, if they exist formally in God, they posit in Him a real-formal multiplicity which is incompatible with His absolute simplicity. If, on the other hand, they are identified eminently in the Deity, they are formally destructive of each other, and have but a virtual existence after the manner of mixed perfections. Then the statement, "God is good," can have but one meaning, namely, that God is the cause of goodness. This brings us back to the opinion of Maimonides. And as God is the cause of bodily things, we could just as well affirm of Him that He is corporeal, as to say that He remains unknowable.

Such is the general antinomy of the one and the multiple, with which reason clashes whenever it seeks to attribute the primary notions to God. The multiplicity of the absolute perfections attributed to God, not only virtually, but formally, seems to destroy the divine simplicity, or conversely, to be destroyed by it.

Apart from this general antinomy, other difficulties present themselves. How, for instance, can we reconcile (a) the divine simplicity with that duality of subject and object which is an essential condition of knowledge; (b) the free act of God, which would seem to imply something contingent and defectible, with His absolute immutability; (c) the divine life, which seems to imply a process of becoming, with that same absolute immutability; (d) the permission of evil with God's supreme goodness and omnipotence; (e) infinite mercy with absolute justice?

Reply. We must postpone the solution of these difficulties concerning the reconciliation of the divine attributes until the proofs have been given for God's existence. These proofs will be sufficiently established by defending the twofold validity, ontological and transcendental, of primary ideas in general, and of each one in particular, especially those of being and cause. After we have proved the existence of a primary cause which transcends the created universe, after we have shown that this cause must be the self-subsistent Being, and deduced the principal attributes of that Being, we shall be able to explain why there can be no conflict between the various attributes, and thus resolve the alleged antinomies.

Having established the fact of the demonstrability of the existence of God, we now pass on to the demonstration itself.


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