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Refuting the Five Ways of Aquinas

May 27, 2011 By
Homar Murillo Homar Murillo served as the regional coordinator for PATAS-Bicol from 2011 to 2014. He formerly worked as an editorial assistant and science writer for a textbook publishing company. He currently works as a home-based freelance copy editor and writer for various publishing companies, both online and in print.

Saint Thomas Aquinas was one of the best scholastic philosophers of the Roman Catholic Church. Aquinas provided logical grounds for a significant number of Catholic dogmas. Hence, he is considered as a ‘doctor’ and one of the early fathers of the church. Like other scholastics, Thomas Aquinas used the Greco-Roman philosophy, particularly the Aristotelian logic, to provide rational foundation for faith. Aquinas greatest work was the voluminous Summa Theologica. In this work, Aquinas presented five logical ‘proofs’ about the existence of God. These proofs are more commonly known as the quinquae viae or five ways.

Here is the summary of these so-called proofs:

I. First Way: The Argument from Motion

St. Thomas Aquinas, studying the works of the Greek philosopher Aristotle, concluded from common observation that an object that is in motion (e.g. the planets, a rolling stone) is put in motion by some other object or force. From this, Aquinas believes that ultimately there must have been an UNMOVED MOVER (GOD) who first put things in motion. Follow the argument this way:

1) Nothing can move itself.
2) If every object in motion had a mover, then the first object in motion needed a mover.
3) This first mover is the Unmoved Mover, called God

II. Second Way: Causation of Existence

This Way deals with the issue of existence. Aquinas concluded that common sense observation tells us that no object creates itself. In other words, some previous object had to create it. Aquinas believed that ultimately there must have been an UNCAUSED FIRST CAUSE (GOD) who began the chain of existence for all things. Follow the argument this way:

1) There exist things that are caused (created) by other things.
2) Nothing can be the cause of itself (nothing can create itself.)
3) There can not be an endless string of objects causing other objects to exist.
4) Therefore, there must be an uncaused first cause called God.

III. Third Way: Contingent and Necessary Objects

This Way defines two types of objects in the universe: contingent beings and necessary beings. A contingent being is an object that can not exist without a necessary being causing its existence. Aquinas believed that the existence of contingent beings would ultimately necessitate a being which must exist for all of the contingent beings to exist. This being, called a necessary being, is what we call God. Follow the argument this way:

1) Contingent beings are caused.
2) Not every being can be contingent.
3) There must exist a being which is necessary to cause contingent beings.
4) This necessary being is God.

IV. Fourth Way: The Argument from Degrees and Perfection

St. Thomas formulated this Way from a very interesting observation about the qualities of things. For example one may say that of two marble sculptures one is more beautiful than the other. So for these two objects, one has a greater degree of beauty than the next. This is referred to as degrees or gradation of a quality. From this fact Aquinas concluded that for any given quality (e.g. goodness, beauty, knowledge) there must be a perfect standard by which all such qualities are measured. These perfections are contained in God.

V. Fifth Way: The Argument from Intelligent Design

The final Way that St. Thomas Aquinas speaks of has to do with the observable universe and the order of nature. Aquinas states that common sense tells us that the universe works in such a way, that one can conclude that is was designed by an intelligent designer, God. In other words, all physical laws and the order of nature and life were designed and ordered by God, the intelligent designer.

St. Thomas AquinasAt first glance, the proofs of Saint Thomas seem very convincing. However, these arguments are full of logical loopholes and inconsistencies. Saint Thomas was guilty of jumping into conclusions without any empirical support. Hence, it was comparable to jumping from an airplane without a parachute. However, he cannot be totally blamed for this. His way of thinking was just the predictable product of Medieval Catholic Church theological and psychological conditioning, which during that time was the most reliable form of “science.”

Let me briefly discuss each argument:

I. First Way: The Argument from Motion

This argument has committed the logical fallacy known as begging the question. This argument posited more questions than answers. Aquinas concluded that the first mover must be God. However, what motivated God to make the first move? Although motion cannot have infinite regression, this argument assumed that God had been either not moving from infinity or he has been moving ever since. What then is the source of his energy? If nothing can move itself, how then God was able to move himself?

Cosmologically, it can also be equally valid that an impersonal, unconscious force or energy was the first unmoved mover. For instance, according to the Big Bag Theory, all motions, space, energy and matter can be traced back to a singularity at the beginning of the universe. This theory is supported by measurable and verifiable parameters such as the rate of expansion of the universe, the cosmic microwave background radiation and the distances between galaxies.

II. Second Way: Causation of Existence

Saint Thomas Aquinas was partially right into thinking that anything that exists is caused by another. In this argument, he again used the assumption that there could be no infinite regression of causes. However, if this assumption was correct, then what caused God to exist? If nothing can cause itself to exist, how was God able to cause himself? If God has been in existence from eternity, what is the problem with a universe that has been in existence from infinity? This latter assumption is equally logical but much simpler and more probabale. Remember the basic equation of Einstein?

E=mc2

This equation implies that matter can be converted into energy and energy can be converted to matter. It is logical to suppose that matter and energy have always been in existence. The universe as we know today might just be one of the many manifestations of the changes in matter and energy. On the other hand, apparent self-causation has been observed in sub-atomic particles in laboratory settings. Quantum fluctuations are better models that could explain the creation of particles ex nihilo (out of nothing).

III. Third Way: Contingent and Necessary Objects

In this argument Saint Aquinas made the distinction between contingent or potential beings and necessary or actual beings. However, modern physics has demonstrated that there are really no strict definitions of such things. In a universe of probability and chaos, things may exist without necessarily being dependent of other things. On the other hand, as demonstrated by Einstein’s equation, matter and energy are mutually dependent from each other. Hence, their contingency and necessity are reflexive. Furthermore, there are hypothetical situtions wherein backward causation is possible as long as they do not create temporal paradoxes. The best example of this in theoretical physics is the Wheeler–Feynman absorber theory (also called the Wheeler–Feynman Time-Symmetric theory). Basically, this is an explanation of electrodynamics that is based onthe assumption that a solution to the electromagnetic field equations has to be symmetric with reference to time-inversion or retro-causality.

IV. Fourth Way: The Argument from Degrees and Perfection

In this argument, Saint Aquinas attributed all positive absolutes to God as the standard for all things. But it can also be logically possible that God is the absolute perfection of evil. For instance, if there are degrees of cruelty, then God must be the cruelest being. If there are degrees of insanity, then God must be the perfectly insane being. Hence, the so-called standard of “perfection” can be applied to both good traits and bad traits simply because these traits have gradations or degrees of perfection.

V. Fifth Way: The Argument from Intelligent Design

This argument is also known as the teleological argument. This argument is also expounded on the watch-maker argument. The argument from design is used by theologians and fundamentalist preachers as the best argument for the existence of God. This argument has even taken the form of the so-called “creation science.” However, this argument is scientifically and logically false.

Although the universe is admittedly complex and intricate, it does not necessarily mean that it requires a designer. Comparing the universe and biological systems to human-made objects such as a watch is committing a logical fallacy known as false analogy. The way the universe and biological systems operate is very different from the way man-made objects operate. If a complex object needs a creator or designer, what could be more complex than a super-intelligent, all-powerful God? Who then created God?

Contrary to the assumption of an intelligent and purposeful designer, the universe and biological systems exhibit randomness and probability. If the universe and biological systems were purposely designed, then they must not have any superfluous traits.

________________________
*Republished from this entry at http://much-ado-about-nothing-homar.blogspot.com/

43 Responses to Refuting the Five Ways of Aquinas

  1. Ron says:

    He has pretty significant logic however it seems that his logic had an end clearly in mind and that with every “I don’t know.” he inserted god.

    • Kenory says:

      Atheist are not scientist:They are thinkers & talkers too in a circle of arguments:I’m a Physicist and majored in Quantum Mechanics and God believer.What is the greatest mystery in physics today? the the region of uncertainty-Quantum.”How come the quantum?”What is this thing, the “quantum”? It’s a bundle of energy, an indivisible unit that can be sliced no more.Every modern advance in technology owes its success to the discovery of a very peculiar theory of the sub-atomic world called quantum mechanics. Unlike classical physics—the laws of bodies in motion, for instance, which are boringly predictable as they slavishly obey mathematical formulae—the traditional understanding of quantum mechanics is probabilistic, not concrete. One cannot predict behavior in the sub-atomic world in advance; one can only calculate odds.In other words, in classical physics, a tree falling in the forest makes a sound whether a person is there to hear it or not. But in quantum mechanics, nothing can be certain, nothing can be known, unless a mind is there to observe and measure what has occurred. In Schrodeniger’s cat experiment on Quantum,a cat was put in a box with radiation tied on it.If the box is opened the radiation mixes with the air & the cat will die & also if the cat shakes the radiation will kill it:Now after letting the door open,the cat was found dead:So Atheist can your experiment tell us the cause of the dead cat,since you claim to know all-cause?.All that we are claiming to know is because we can observes it the tools appropriate to it.If you don’t have a tool to detect the presence of something,it does not mean it does not exist but you are rather using the wrong tool.Quantum theory seems to require us to step beyond the material to the metaphysical. It suggests a need for consciousness, for mind, for something that is more than just a collection of synapses in a glob of gray-matter. It seems to demand something transcendent, like intelligence or being.

      • Rolando Lejarde says:

        You stated that quantum mechanics is the most reliable tool yet at the end of your argumentation you rely on God which has the ultimate intelligent to clear this thing out.

        I am a logician with all matter related to logic will be my reliable tool to know the unknown and I find yours to be less qualified a theory much less as a fact.

        You are inconclusive.

      • jesusatheist says:

        to paraphrase–”(We achieve some degree of certainty in) All that we are claiming to know (because) we can (observe) (them) (through) the tools appropriate to (know them.)”

        –you mean, the “mind,” if not just the “brain,” is the only reliable tool we use to claim that god exists, of course, in some metaphysical form or something?
        question: how could we ever transcend this “physical” tool, to make it metaphysically appropriate? by using this tool itself?… that is self-referential, illogical, impossible.

        “If you don’t have a tool to detect the presence of something,it does not mean (that that something) does not exist, but (maybe) you are rather using the wrong tool.”

        –what are the other reliable tools that we can use?…some use a “transcendent human mind”(?)..others use “moral reasoning”?..and many use “religious-mystical-experience”?…or “maybe” they are using the wrong tool either!…who then is using the right tool?…what “tool” should we use to know the “appropriate” tool?

        “Quantum theory seems to require us to step beyond the material to the metaphysical. It suggests a need for consciousness, for mind, for something that is more than just a collection of synapses in a glob of gray-matter. It seems to demand something transcendent, like intelligence or being.”

        –Scientists are not religious teachers–if religiosity could be taught. It seems to me that no one has the right to say something about something(?)… it demands that we should all be quiet(?)… it suggests a need for conscious reassessment of what we really need to say(?)…that is, atheism…

  2. EJ says:

    God is pure act. He is infinite, right? He does not get tired.
    Personally, if we ask ‘what motivates God to do that’, we are somehow putting ourselves into doubt that God is powerful, that He can do everything, and that He knows everything.
    Another thing, we can’t wholly/absolutely know God but we can know ‘something’ about Him. Our minds are limited; God is not. :)

    • TabulaRazzah says:

      Is that an attempt for bold statements and begging the question, EJ?

    • Questionnaire says:

      “Personally, if we ask ‘what motivates God to do that’, we are somehow putting ourselves into doubt that God is powerful, that He can do everything, and that He knows everything.”

      [1] Motivation has no connection with being omnipotent and omniscient.

      “Another thing, we can’t wholly/absolutely know God but we can know ‘something’ about Him. Our minds are limited; God is not. :)”

      How can you know something about him?

    • Questionnaire says:

      “Personally, if we ask ‘what motivates God to do that’, we are somehow putting ourselves into doubt that God is powerful, that He can do everything, and that He knows everything.”

      [1] Motivation has no connection with being omnipotent and omniscient.

      “Another thing, we can’t wholly/absolutely know God but we can know ‘something’ about Him. Our minds are limited; God is not. :)”

      How can you know something about him?

      Sources:
      [1] Definition of motivation

  3. Dave says:

    See, the problem with the arguments against I, II, and V is the assumption that our laws of physics apply to an all-powerful being – a completely nonsensical assumption.

    • “Nonsensical assumption”

      lol like God? Anyway, you missed the point. The issue is that Aquinas is exempting his preferred conclusion from the logic of his own premises. Either his premises are false or they are true. if they are FALSE, then his argument is inconclusive since it could be anything. If his premises are TRUE, then his God can’t be an unmoved mover either.

      It’s a special pleading fallacy.

  4. Franz says:

    The first three ways basically lean on an argument that had been postulated ever since the version of exodus was written that contained Moses’ conversation with the “burning bush.” The moment that he hypothesized that “God” was the fundamental causative agent, he stops. In fact we are told that to question beyond that would get us nowhere.

    The basic nature of “God” that can be understood from Moses’ conversation with the “burning bush” is simply “God cannot be comprehended using human understanding.” In fact what “God” answers when Moses’ asks the “burning bush” to identify himself is, “I am what I am.” A modern equivalent phrase would be like, “FUCK OFF, and don’t even go there!!”

    From there where can we go? Well if you believe in Thomas Aquinas, then you’re stuck. While those who don’t buy Aquinas’ arguments are free to ask questions you have nowhere to go.

    On to the last two ways and a pattern can be seen. Both basically agree that there is a standard to things in nature. There is a “perfection”, a “design”, an ultimate object to which we compare ourselves and everything else to.

    A simple study of biology will reveal that traits that are useful to some organisms are damning to others. Variety is a basic theme of life. If a living thing has something different it can to to survive better it must do it. There is no standard. There is no design.

    Science has no room to stop. As long as there are scientists, it will not stop. It cannot stop! To science there is no room for “things uncomprehendable using human understanding,” we must try to comprehend things if we are to get anywhere. Science has no room for “an ultimate standard to which we can compare everything to,” everything must be able to change for the greater good. These things are what science is about.

    • Jaaz says:

      Correction, God responds:

      “I am who am,” and later he commands Moses to say to Israel : “I AM has sent me to you”

  5. Will Malven says:

    Your “refutations” fail, because you ignore the concept of origin. What is the origin of your impersonal, unconscious force or energy, your singularity?

    Religion includes faith, mysticism, acceptance of the non-origin of God as a supernatural being. Religion requires the supernatural, the inexplicable, that’s where faith enters the picture. Religion admits it doesn’t know, because God is unknowable. He is taken on faith. God doesn’t require an origin as faith dictates that he is his own origin. That paradigm just won’t work in the atheist’s model.

    In pure atheism, you must explain the source of your singularity–your unconscious force or energy. Claiming that such an material entity “came into existence,” or has always existed, fails the chain of causality and what you are actually doing is invoking mysticism and faith. “I believe what I believe because I believe it.” Or, “God doesn’t exist, because I say he doesn’t exist.”

    Simply saying “I don’t know,” begs the question and immediately violates a primary tenet of science, everything must have an origin that can be scientifically explained. An atheistic, scientific origin narrative must provide a rational, clearly laid out source for everything in the chain.

    Otherwise, you are invoking “magic” and thus admitting that your pure scientific-atheistic origin is in fact a religion–a godless religion, but a religion nonetheless. Pure science, pure atheism has no room for an “uncaused cause.” Additionally, if you simply reply that there is a scientific origin, but we just haven’t found it yet, then you have not ruled out the existence of God as that source.

    The very best that science can say is “We simply do not know.” The claim that there is a non-mystical origin is then reduced to nothing more than a hypothesis until you can prove it using rigorous logic based on scientific evidence.

    You haven’t “refuted” Acquinas’ argument, you have only moved closer to proving its validity.

    • Questionnaire says:

      [1] “What is the origin of your impersonal, unconscious force or energy, your singularity?”

      Isn’t asking the source of a singularity the same with the question “What was before the beginning?”. [2] It is clearly impossible to have an infinite regress of causes. If there is an infinite regress of causes, then the universe did not began to exist.

      [1] “Religion requires the supernatural, the inexplicable, that’s where faith enters the picture.”

      If it is inexplicable or can not be explained, then why do you believe in it/him/her, and why do people even bother to debate about God? How can this God be an explanation to an unexplained phenomena, if he is unexplainable to begin with?

      [1] “Religion admits it doesn’t know, because God is unknowable.”

      If God is unknowable, then why do theists bother to say that God is the first uncaused cause. Why would they even bother to say that God is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent

      [1] “He is taken on faith”

      If you just simply rely on faith, then God is no different than the tooth fairy and Santa Claus.

      [1] “In pure atheism, you must explain the source of your singularity–your unconscious force or energy. Claiming that such an material entity “came into existence,” or has always existed, fails the chain of causality and what you are actually doing is invoking mysticism and faith.”

      Why is “God” the only thing that is claimed to not begin to exist thus not have a cause? Why isn’t it possible that something else even unknown to us exists that doesn’t begin to exist thus doesn’t have a cause?

      [1] “Simply saying “I don’t know,” begs the question and immediately violates a primary tenet of science,”

      Simply saying “I don’t know” means it hasn’t been explained yet, or just lacks the knowledge to explain a phenomena.

      [1] “Otherwise, you are invoking “magic” and thus admitting that your pure scientific-atheistic origin is in fact a religion–a godless religion, but a religion nonetheless”

      Saying that atheism is a godless religion, is like saying “bold is a hairstyle” and “not collecting stamps is a hobby” or “Off is a T.V. channel”. [3] Atheism doesn’t even have a belief in a deity and set of beliefs to begin with.

      [1] “Pure science, pure atheism has no room for an “uncaused cause.” Additionally, if you simply reply that there is a scientific origin, but we just haven’t found it yet, then you have not ruled out the existence of God as that source.”

      Your inexplicable and unknowable God has no room for an uncaused cause, for what I said in my previous statements that he is unexplainable and unknowable to begin with. So you agree, once scientists can find a scientific origin that you need
      rule out the existence of God. Meaning you agree that it is possible that God does not exist..

      Sources:
      [1] Your statements
      [2] Kalam Cosmological Argument
      [3] Definition of atheism

  6. Christian says:

    Actually, the Christian belief is that God exists outside of time. No beginning nor end, only being. An eternal present.

    • Questionnaire says:

      “Actually, the Christian belief is that God exists outside of time. No beginning nor end, only being. An eternal present.”

      Why can’t the cause of our universe be within space and time that is separate from our own?

  7. John Grove says:

    @Will Malven
    “Religion admits it doesn’t know”
    Actually, it does. And not only does it claim to know I would dare say you probably would tell me which god it is right? And which god saved you. Uh huh.

    “God doesn’t require an origin as faith dictates that he is his own origin.”
    This is nothing but a tautology.

    “In pure atheism, you must explain the source of your singularity–your unconscious force or energy.”
    Your right we shouldn’t study to find answers we should just assume the bible is correct and never look for any answers. Pathetic.

    “Claiming that such an material entity “came into existence,” or has always existed, fails the chain of causality and what you are actually doing is invoking mysticism and faith.”
    No form of cosmology makes claims without backing it up. In the cyclic model, according to Turok, the Big Bang was big, but it wasn’t the beginning, Cambridge University mathematical physicist Neil Turok says. He theorizes that the universe is engaged in an eternal cycle of expansion and contraction: There have been many Big Bangs, and there will be many more.

    Other models like Stephen Hawkings attribute material to other possibilities. No model is dogmatic as it is mostly mathematical models. I find it ironic however that the universe needs a cause but a god(s) do not. And if you reply that your god is the cause of all causality without proof of any kind then you are not advancing anything whatsoever except your own credulity to superstitious notions.

    “I believe what I believe because I believe it.”
    Sounds just like what I hear almost daily from Christians.

    “God doesn’t exist, because I say he doesn’t exist.”
    Read an atheist book knucklehead. No evidence is ever given for god(s) existence except arguments from ignorance and appeals to things unknown. In other words “god of the gap” fallacy insertion.

    “Simply saying “I don’t know,” begs the question and immediately violates a primary tenet of science, everything must have an origin that can be scientifically explained.”
    Saying “I don’t know” violates nothing and shows humility. Scientists all the time say ” we don’t know” to a variety of things. This is how science advances but studying the “I don’t know” questions. And as far as your last statement, read Endless Universe by Neil Turok.

    “you are invoking “magic” and thus admitting that your pure scientific-atheistic origin is in fact a religion–a godless religion,”
    I would almost say I “hate” Christians for their outright idiotic and moronic thinking. No book I have ever read on cosmology (since you love speaking on “origins”) invokes anything without warrant from the facts of science. Some things are speculative to be sure and await confirmation but this is how advances get made. To suggest that scientists can’t make speculations to their models and further tests betrays what science is. BTW, Christians think they are experts in science and scientific thinking when 99.9% know absolutely nothing about science.

    “Pure science, pure atheism has no room for an “uncaused cause.”
    Not true. Virtual particles may be uncaused. The decaying of an atom may be uncaused too. You are merely spouting off your own ignorance. A mere rant, nothing more.

    “The very best that science can say is “We simply do not know.”
    I am assuming we are talking about “origins” still. That is the very best that any one can say. Didn’t you just say “religion doesn’t admit to know”? Now you are changing your tune and castigating those who study origins. I will cast my lot with those who study these things over the opinions of bronze age tribesmen sitting in a tent guessing on these things any day.

    “You haven’t “refuted” Acquinas’ argument, you have only moved closer to proving its validity.”
    Ah the religious, gotta love them…If you can’t win an argument just display your unfalsifiable faith to the world.

  8. John Grove says:

    “Actually, the Christian belief is that God exists outside of time. No beginning nor end, only being. An eternal present.”

    Of course, the correct answer to a god who is not part of reality is “Who cares?”

  9. Correction says:

    Ontological Argument
    1.)It is possible that a god exists
    2.)If it is possible that a god exists, then a god exists in some possible world.
    3.)If a god exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
    4.)If a god exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
    5.)If a god in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists.
    6.)Therefore, a maximally great being exists.

    You see, your god is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient.. Then it is possible that your god exists not only outside of time. Your first statement contradicts your god’s attributes.

  10. Abby says:

    You say that God is really complex. You are wrong. He does not have thousands of body parts. He is one being. He doesn’t have conflicting emotions. He is actually so simple that our infinite minds cannot understand how simple he is; therefore, we find hm complex.

    • John Grove says:

      “You say that God is really complex. You are wrong”
      And exactly how do you know this? Where do you get this information about this god of yours?

      “He does not have thousands of body parts. He is one being”
      Cite your proof.

      “He doesn’t have conflicting emotions. He is actually so simple that our infinite minds cannot understand how simple he is; therefore, we find [sic]hm complex.”

      And these are the same Christians that get mad at atheists for having scientific postulates that have only mathematical support when in reality they make large claims without a shred of evidence to support anything. Claims that are only backed by their imaginations.

  11. PICASA says:

    that’s the IRONY.
    The term god was defined as the “Unmovable Mover” or “Non-causable Cause”…
    and yet st. aquinas stated that no living being shall exist without a cause?

    Supposing a (borrowed) analogy:

    A (caused) B to move/exist/happen …
    B (caused) C to move/exist/happen …
    C (caused) D to move/exist/happen …
    D (caused) E to move/exist/happen …
    E (caused) F to move/exist/happen …

    Y (caused) Z to move/exist/happen …

    WHEN WHAT CAUSED “A” TO MOVE/ EXIST/ HAPPEN ???

    “god…” period. period. period. (for he is the exemption to all the RULES.)

    –so that ended each argument? with no reason why he became such so?
    ILLOGICAL.

  12. Me says:

    Ok guys, these are all fallacies no one is saying hey god doesn’t exist but instead they are saying these “proofs” actually disproof god because of the way they are being argumented and brought up. The way he tries to prove lacks information and quickly jumps from one thought to the next. It’s just… Read about the philosophical fallacies and accept, at least, that these proofs are flawed.

  13. BobRN says:

    I’m not in a position to respond to your entire post at this time, so I’ll limit myself to your attempt to refute Thomas’ first way, the Argument from Motion (with some touches on the third way). Reading your refutation reveals a basic misunderstanding of what Thomas was trying to demonstrate and a misunderstanding of his terms.

    First, it’s a common misconception that Thomas was attempting to demonstrate the existence of the God of Christian revelation. While certainly Thomas believed that the God of Christian revelation is God, he was aware that what could be known about God by reason is limited to that God exists and that God is “that thing which nothing greater can be conceived.” The Christian God as Trinity, involved in the human journey, who sent his Son for our salvation, etc… can only be known by revelation. This is why the Nicene Creed doesn’t begin, “I believe in God…” but begins, “I believe in God the Father…” That God exists can be known by reason. That God is Father requires revelation.

    What we can know about God from reason is that God is that thing which nothing greater can be conceived. From this, it follows that God is a necessary Being. A necessary Being is “one of which the existence is included in and identical with its very essence;” “whose existence is its own essence and nature eternal, all-perfect, infinite.” You are thinking of God as one who is in existence (like other contingent beings, regardless of their dependence or independence from other contingent beings), rather than one who is existence. To be God is to exist. So, God is not a being. God is Being. Thomas asked, “Can it be demonstrated that God exists?” Can it be demonstrated that there exists one for whom existence is essence, whose very nature is to exist? We can see from that understanding of God that the question, “What is the source of God’s energy?” is absurd. God exists outside, transcends the boundaries of energy and matter.

    It’s important, too, to understand what Thomas meant by “motion.” Motion, for Thomas, isn’t simply the change from sitting still to moving, but is “the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality.” His example of fire and wood help make this clear. Fire is actually hot, while wood is potentially hot. The fire causes the wood to move from potentially hot to actually hot. Since nothing can cause its own reduction from potentiality to actuality, there must be that one who is actuality. When you claim that “it can also be equally valid that an impersonal force or energy was the first unmoved mover,” you again make the error of thinking of the unmoved mover as one who is in existence rather than one who is existence. But, everything that is in existence has only the potential for actuality. God is actuality.

  14. Michael Bridges says:

    Your argument against the Fifth Way isn’t actually an argument against it at all, you have actually begun criticizing Paley instead of Aquinas, as Aquinas’ Fifth Way is about how all things that follow natural laws achieve a goal or purpose, and how if a non-sentient being achieves a goal it must have been directed to do so by a conscious sentient being, which Aquinas says is God, which ties in to his Arrow and Archer analogy. However, Aquinas does not talk about the complexity of the world in his fifth argument, you have simply tied it, extremely strenuously may I say, to Paley’s watch analogy and begun to criticize that instead, which I think makes you look more foolish than you would have if you had simply left your argument against the fifth way blank and admitted that you could not think of any points against this, although there is many available such as the way that Aquinas provides no evidence for the idea that everything existing within the natural world has a goal or purpose, or that not everything that has a goal necessarily fulfills it which goes against the idea of an omnipotent God which you have mentioned, albeit in the wrong context, which would go against several religions that believe this. Overall your argument against the fifth way is non-existent as you have started talking about completely irrelevant subjects and philosophers, I’ve been studying this in school for 2 months and I already know the difference between these two philosophers and their arguments, which apparently you do not. Therefore can I suggest that you go back to school and learn a bit more before you try to do this again, and hopefully next time you’ll talk about what you actually want to talk about, instead of going off on a tangent to what you were starting off talking about. :)

  15. Anon says:

    I have read a lot of blog posts on Aquinas over the last few weeks. This is by far the poorest written and worst-argued of them all.

  16. AtheistExile says:

    Modern cosmology and physics makes the God hypothesis irrelevant. There is no need for a Prime Mover to explain existence or origins.

  17. Gabriel says:

    I cam here to see Aquinas refuted, I leave disappointed.

  18. t says:

    Your counter argument to point one was the worst “cop out” I have ever seen. The whole “begging” the question is really something you do as a last resort if you have no other points to resort to. As for the “Big Bang” theory there have been numerous Universities who have refuted it, as simply matter eventually comes from somewhere.Even Aristotle reasoned in one higher being to which we all come from.

  19. Mark Klinger says:

    you arent really refuting these correctly.

    His arguement is one of ontology, and you cant use non a priori reasoning to refute apriori reasoning.

    Saying hes wrong because we discovered a bunch of a shit using a method we have no way of justifying(yes im talking about science, look up problem of induction) a thousand years later isn’t logically proving(refuting) his incorrectness.

    Thats why it’s so difficult to prove anyone right or wrong in philosophy.

  20. Martin says:

    Good grief, these are horrible “refutations”. The arguments are not even stated correctly. If “refuting” strawmen makes you feel good, I say go for it. Don’t think you’ve actually touched Aquinas, though.

  21. derek says:

    You don’t have to read further than the first paragraph of your ‘refutation’ to see that you don’t understand Aquinas enough to disprove anything he’s established. He never said ‘nothing can move by itself.’ By making this mistake, you’ve completely and utterly missed the point–and the truth–of the argument.

    If you do decide to seriously study Aquinas and his writings, then maybe I’ll consider reading the rest of your ‘work.’

    All the best.

  22. Haru says:

    I have some problems with the supposed counter argument to Aquinas’ ways. The maker of the supposed counter argument equated God with the objects of the universe which is not what Aquinas intended because God is not necessarily bound by empirical evidence.

    The first counter argument is one of the statements that equated God (unmoved mover) with an object (something being moved). Firstly, the supposed counter argument did not exactly have a common ground with Aquinas due to the fact that the person who tried to refute Aquinas’ statement asked what caused God to move, why He moved or how He did it. In a philosophical or scientific perspective, the answer to those questions are unknown, HOWEVER, Aquinas deduced that the universe was not created by an object but by an entity that transcends laws of physics. If such a being did not transcend those laws, that being cannot be called God. But from what I understand in modern physics, time may actually have a beginning, but what caused it to be is unknown, or it might be God (given that science does not have a term for Him). The person kept on asking based on empirical evidence, but Aquinas basically implied (from science) that objects have a beginning (God). The person can go on in circles and won’t get anywhere because the person concludes based on objects — things that God created (according to Aquinas)

    The same goes for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th. There can be no infinite regression. The person should’ve stopped there because, again, questions as to why, how or when a God started everything is scientifically unknown NOR IS IT NECESSARY to refute God’s existence because that person limits God in the first place, or the cause of everything for that matter, to mere objects: things that had a beginning, not something that started it all.

    Sure, logic always begs a reason for everything, but you really have to think that the beginning of everything, or the truth, or the universe, or the uncaused causer, cannot be simplified in terms of the empirical because the randomness and certain order of the universe to the sub atomic particles were what came to exist after they were created. Ironically, one of the proponents of the big bang was a Catholic priest who probably recognized the limitations of the laws of science and believed that the undeterminable beginning or energy source that started everything was actually what we call God.

  23. Cristero says:

    I see, that you do not understand St. Thomas.

  24. starandrock says:

    Not impressed by the author’s rebuttals to Aquinas. A good eye can see where he/she has slipped in the chain of logic, or diverted the topic. An example:

    “Aquinas concluded that the first mover must be God. However, what motivated God to make the first move?”

    –Suddenly, the topic has shifted from whether or not a god created/set the universe in motion, to WHAT MOTIVATED GOD. Two completely different questions/topics and the latter (ironically) now assumes that God does indeed exist.

    “Although motion cannot have infinite regression,…”

    –You’re admitting Aquinas is correct here.

    “…this argument assumed that God had been either not moving from infinity or he has been moving ever since. What then is the source of his energy? If nothing can move itself, how then God was able to move himself?”

    –Aquinas never assumed that God needed to “move” at all in any sense that our material world does. Since God is claimed to be pure spirit, NONE of the laws of nature that we know of apply to Him. He needs no source of energy! Energy is something material! Good grief Charlie Brown!

    Because God is supposedly a spirit (NO material qualities!) you must argue only from philosophy and learn to leave science in it’s place with matter and energy.

    Looks like the “product of Medieval Catholic Church theological and psychological conditioning” is has still got the upper hand on you… for now.

  25. SMF says:

    I am a complete novice at this. I found it all fascinating. All I can add is my favorite quote, “The process of scientific discovery is, in effect, the continual flight from wonder”.-Einstein I think science benefits from wonder (God?) and God is at least in some fashion part of scientific discovery. I think to understand one you need the other. Without one, they both, God and science, fall apart. I don’t believe in intelligent design and I can’t stand bible thumpers. I doubt my faith CONSTANTLY. You know what, since this reply isn’t proving or refuting anything, I’ll stop.

  26. Ralph says:

    The explanations for (most of) these problems are addressed by Aquinas himself in different parts of Summa Theologica. For the first three, he explains that God is not a body, and not composed of matter, and therefore does not require a cause. For the fourth, he explains that being is goodness, and that only goodness exists. “Evil” does not actually exist, but rather, is a lack of goodness. (He may have gotten that from Augustine, who said basically said that if something where deprived of all goodness, it would be altogether nothing; therefore as long as something is, it is good). So, God can’t be the epitome of “bad” things, because only good things actually exist.

  27. Noy says:

    The problem with this argument is that it holds the assumption that God is subject to the natural process of cause and effect hence the argument explicitly showcase the question “who created God”?

    with the diversity of how we see things, as far as natural laws of creation are concerned, whatever caused the first quark,spark or whatever happened that ignited this massive creation, Laws, order, complexities and mystery portrayed by this universe we live in..
    that something must be transcendent from time and space since it must exist to be able to ignite spacetime. therefore Infinite. if something is infinite, does it need to be created?

    while others might argue that there might be something infinite that jump started the universe, it doesn’t necessarily have to be conscious, moreover, doesn’t have to be God. on the contrary, we all recognize the Laws governing Nature, each creation that exists today serves a purpose to Nature and to surrounding beings. we also see specification despite of complexities.. this actually points out to a pattern, some sort of design. while some might argue that creation has no design then qoutes evolution via random process and natural selection.. although this too is a possibility, but given the results, details and how things roll..and the fact that nothing specific could come out from something random..the contrary conclusion would be though the process appears as random,only to us but not to God..

    i believe everything that has been proven in Science ..but i reject the conclusion that Atheists suggest from scientific accounts.
    nice read!

  28. eristic1 says:

    How did a nontemporal, nonspatial being cause the first thing to exist, to move, etc.? Although science might not be able to account for the first cause, first move, so on, the best philosophy can provide, it seems, is a placeholder. To say that God is is/existence/being is not saying much. Augustine said that evil is being distanced from God. Using an analogy, God is the sun and the farther from the source of light, the darker or the more evil the thing becomes. But then, an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent God cannot be bright throughout?

    By the way, why is atheism married to science? I did not receive the invitation, lol.

  29. MVP says:

    However, what motivated God to make the first move?
    A. the first move was made, because He wants to be glorified. To know why He wants that to happen, one may need to study further the Summa. Please note that on this question of yours, you have philosophically assumed that God is true, and you are asking for His motivation.

    What then is the source of his energy?
    A. This question is an informal fallacy as well. It’s like saying, ‘who energized the first energy?’

    If nothing can move itself, how then God was able to move himself?
    A. The statement, ‘nothing can move itself’ is actually the statement being challenged by the first way. It started with this scientific reasoning, to lead the way to stating the next scientific reasoning (i.e., ‘If every object in motion had a mover, then the first object in motion needed a mover’), which will show the dilemma.

    The mover of the first object can’t be nothing. Since it was illogical for nothing to be the mover of the first object, Thomas have equated this first mover to God.

    This is the beauty of the summa. It is not mixing philosophy and religion haphazardly. It tries to fry philosophy on its own grease, so to speak.

  30. mythopeia says:

    You clearly don’t understand Aquinas, and you also don’t understand philosophy and logic. There’s no real need to refute you because your page is so funny. But I wanted you to know how trained philosophers view your website.

  31. Mike says:

    What an absurd “refutation” of Aquinas. But you really need to understand Aristotle’s metaphysics before you can understand the five ways. I recommend Edward Feser’s books for this. Start with “The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism”, or look up his blog.

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