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Help them pray with their whole bodies by encouraging them to suggest gestures for a psalm prayer no longer than three to four verses. Preschoolers have no qualms about praying spontaneously. They all will eagerly participate. Ask them what THEY want to pray about. You can even review the lesson prayerfully by using the chapter objectives as invocations. For example: For making us your children at Baptism, we pray…; For welcoming us into your Church at Baptism, we pray…; For our new life as friends and followers of Jesus, we pray….

Include parents. Parents want their children to have a positive preschool religious education experience.

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Most of them want to be involved as much as possible. Get to know the parents by greeting them at the door as they drop off and pick up their children before and after sessions. Collect e-mail addresses and send short notes about class activities. Suggest one practical and easy thing parents can do at home each week with their children to reinforce chapter learning. Affirm and encourage parents in their efforts to share our Catholic faith with their children. Invite children to think of an action or movement to accompany each phrase in the psalms below.

Teach only one line a week so that the preschoolers can learn the psalm and gestures by heart. After they have learned one of the psalms well, invite parents to join you for the last ten minutes of a class session and ask the children to pray their psalm prayer for their parents. Praise God!

Sun and moon, praise God! All shining stars, praise God! Mountains and hills, praise God! Wild and tame animals, praise God! All creatures that crawl and fly, praise God! All people, young and old! Let us give glory to God! All countries bow down before you, O God. You do wonderful deeds.

Teach me your ways. O God. Your love for me is great. You are kind. Help me always, O God. Lord God, you know when I sit and stand. You understand me. O God, where can I hide from you? If I fly up to the heavens you are there. If I go to the deepest ocean you are there. Your hand always guides me. How wonderful are your ways, Lord God! Place the petals in a basket on a worktable, along with several glue sticks.

Tell the children that on Easter Sunday we remember that Jesus rose from the dead. Explain that we get ready for Easter by trying to live as Jesus lived. We do these things especially during Lent, the time when we get ready for Easter. Tell the children a paraphrased version of John , emphasizing that the seed grew into a strong plant. Ask volunteers to name what the seed needed to grow water, sun, care, good soil.

Tell the children that Jesus wants us be like the seed during Lent. He wants us to grow and change so that we can share in the joy of his new life. Distribute the worksheet. Explain that it is a picture of a stem that has grown from a tiny seed. Show the children the multi-color flower petals you have traced and cut from construction paper. Tell your preschoolers that every time they share, help others, or act with love, they may use a glue stick to add a petal to the stem. Soon they will have a beautiful flower to take home for Easter. Get the children started by asking them to name a caring or kind act they have done recently.

Reward each story with a flower petal and have the children glue the petal on the stem. Allow time at every session for the children to share their stories and to decorate their Easter flower with petals. Affirm the preschoolers for their efforts to be more like Jesus. Tell them that Jesus invites all of his friends to celebrate and to share his new life.

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If you disable this cookie, we will not be able to save your preferences. This means that every time you visit this website you will need to enable or disable cookies again. Thursday, July 11, Catechist Formation. Share this article:. Given his notion of science whether taken as activity, demonstrative argument or intellectual virtue , we might think that Thomas understands the extension of science to be wider than what most of our contemporaries would allow.

There is a sense in which this is true. Although there is certainly disagreement among our contemporaries over the scientific status of some disciplines studied at modern universities, for example, psychology and sociology, all agree that disciplines such as physics, chemistry, and biology are to be counted among the sciences. Thomas would have known something of science in this sense from his teacher St. Albert the Great c. However, for Thomas, for whom science is understood as a discipline or intellectual virtue disciplines such as mathematics, music, philosophy, and theology count as sciences too since those who practice such disciplines can talk about the subjects studied in those disciplines in a way that is systematic, orderly, capacious, and controlled by common human experience and, in some cases, in the light of the findings of other sciences.

Thomas follows Aristotle in thinking that we know something x scientifically only if our knowledge of x is certain. That is to say, we have demonstrative knowledge of x , that is, our knowledge begins from premises that we know with certainty by way of reflection upon sense experience, for example, all animals are mortal or there cannot be more in the effect than in its cause or causes, and ends by drawing logically valid conclusions from those premises. However, it seems to be a hallmark of the modern notion of science that the claims of science are, in fact, fallible, and so, by definition, uncertain.

Following Aristotle, Thomas thinks the most capacious scientific account of a physical object or event involves mentioning its four causes, that is, its efficient, material, formal, and final causes. Of course, some things of which we could possibly have a science of some sort do not have four causes for Thomas. For example, immaterial substances will not have a material cause. However, Thomas thinks that material objects—whether natural or artificial—do have four causes. For example, for any material object O, O has four causes, the material cause what O is made of , the formal cause what O is , the final cause what the end, goal, purpose, or function of O is , and the efficient cause what brings—or conserves—O in to being.

Here follows a more detailed account of each of the four causes as Thomas understands them. An efficient cause of x is a being that acts to bring x into existence, preserve x in existence, perfect x in existence, or otherwise bring about some feature F in x. For example, Michelangelo was the efficient cause of the David.

Thomas thinks that there are different kinds of efficient causes, which kinds of efficient causes may all be at work in one and the same object or event, albeit in different ways. For example, Thomas thinks that God is the primary efficient cause of any created being, at every moment in which that created being exists. This is because God and creatures are efficient causes in different and yet analogous senses.

God is the primary efficient cause as creator ex nihilo , timelessly conserving the very existence of any created efficient cause at every moment that it exists, whereas creatures are secondary efficient causes in the sense that they go to work on pre-existing matter such that matter that is merely potentially F actually becomes F. For example, we might say that a sperm cell and female gamete work on one another at fertilization and thereby function as secondary efficient causes of a human being H coming into existence.

In addition, Thomas thinks b God is the creating and conserving cause of the existence of H itself as long as H exists. Matter in this sense explains why x is capable of being transformed into something that x currently is not. The material cause in this sense is the subject of change—that which explains how something can lose the property not- F and gain the property F.

For example, the material cause for an accidental change is some substance. Such a change is accidental since the substance we name Socrates does not in this case go out of existence in virtue of losing the property of not-standing and gaining the property of standing. The material cause for a substantial change is what medieval interpreters of Aristotle such as Thomas call prima materia prime or first matter.

Prime matter is that cause of x that is intrinsic to x we might say, is a part of x that explains why x is subject to substantial change. For Thomas, substances are unified objects of the highest order. Substances, for example, living things, are thus to be directly contrasted with heaps or collections of objects, for example, a pile of garbage or an army. Thomas thinks that if substantial changes had actual substances functioning as the ultimate subjects for those substantial changes, then it would be reasonable to call into question the substantial existence of those so-called substances that are supposedly composed of such substances.

If Socrates were composed, say, of Democritean atoms that were substances in their own right , then Socrates, at best, would be nothing more than an arrangement of atoms. He would merely be an accidental being —an accidental relation between a number of substances—instead of a substance. At worst, Socrates would not exist at all if we think the only substances are fundamental entities such as atoms, and Socrates is not an atom. Since Thomas thinks of Socrates as a paradigm case of a substance, he thus thinks that the matter of a substantial change must be something that is in and of itself not actually a substance but is merely the ultimate material cause of some substance.

Thomas calls this ultimate material cause of a substance that can undergo substantial change prime matter. Some prime matter therefore is configured by the substantial form of a bug in s at t such that there is a bug in s at t. That being said, Thomas thinks prime matter never exists without being configured by some form. In addition, it is never the case that some prime matter exists without being configured by some substantial form.

A portion of prime matter is always configured by a substantial form, though not necessarily this or that substantial form. Note the theoretical significance of the view that material substances are composed of prime matter as a part. Like the material cause of an object, the expression formal cause is said in many ways. There are at least three for Thomas.

The formal cause of a primary substance x in this sense is the substance-sortal that picks out what x is most fundamentally or the definition of that substance-sortal. For example, for Socrates this would be human being , or, what-it-is-to-be-a-human being, and, given that human beings can be defined as rational animals , rational animal. Of course, Socrates can be classified in many other ways, too, for example, as a philosopher or someone who chose not to flee his Athenian prison.

However, such classifications are not substantial for Thomas, but merely accidental, for Socrates need not be or have been a philosopher—for example, Socrates was not a philosopher when he was two years old, nor someone who chose not to flee his Athenian prison, for even Socrates might have failed to live up to his principles on a given day. A second sense that formal cause can have for Thomas is that which is intrinsic to or inheres in x and explains that x is actually F. There are two kinds of formal cause in this sense for Thomas. First, there are accidental forms or simply, accidents.

Second, there are substantial forms. A third sense of formal cause for Thomas is the pattern or definition of a thing insofar as it exists in the mind of the maker. Thomas calls this the exemplar formal cause. For example, the form of a house can exist insofar as it is instantiated in matter, for example, in a house.

However, the form of or plan for a house can also exist in the mind of the architect, even before an actual house is built. This latter sense of formal cause is what we might call the exemplar formal cause. For Thomas, following St. The final cause of an object O is the end, goal, purpose, or function of O. Some material objects have functions as their final causes, namely, that is, artifacts and the parts of organic wholes. For example, the function of a knife is to cut, and the purpose of the heart is to pump blood.

Therefore, the final cause of the knife is to cut; the final cause of the heart is to pump blood. Thomas thinks that all substances have final causes. However, Thomas like Aristotle thinks of the final cause in a manner that is broader than what we typically mean by function. It is a mistake, therefore, to think that all substances for Thomas have functions in the sense that artifacts or the parts of organic wholes have functions as final causes we might say that all functions are final causes, but not all final causes are functions.

For example, Thomas does not think that clouds have functions in the sense that artifacts or the parts of organic wholes do, but clouds do have final causes. In the broadest sense, that is, in a sense that would apply to all final causes, the final cause of an object is an inclination or tendency to act in a certain way, where such a way of acting tends to bring about a certain range of effects. For example, a knife is something that tends to cut. A cloud is a substance that tends to interact with other substances in the atmosphere in certain ways, ways that are not identical to the ways that either oxygen per se or nitrogen per se tends to interact with other substances.

In addition, things that jump and swim must be composed of certain sorts of stuffs and certain sorts of organs. Frogs, since they are by nature things that flourish by way of jumping and swimming, are composed of bone, blood, and flesh, as well as limbs that are good for jumping and swimming. That is to say, it is clear that the frog acts as an efficient cause when it jumps, since a frog is the sort of thing that tends to jump rather than fly or do summersaults. Contrast the frog that is unconscious and pushed such that it falls down a hill. In so falling, the frog is not acting as an efficient cause.

As we have seen, some final causes are functions, whereas it makes better sense to say that some final causes are not functions but rather ends or goals or purposes of the characteristic efficient causality of the substances that have such final causes.

In closing this section, we can note that some final causes are intrinsic whereas others are extrinsic. According to Thomas, each and every substance tends to act in a certain way rather than other ways, given the sort of thing it is; such goal-directedness in a substance is its intrinsic final causality.

However, sometimes an object O acts as an efficient cause of an effect E partly because of the final causality of an object extrinsic to O. Call such final causality extrinsic. For example, John finds Jane attractive, and thereby John decides to go over to Jane and talk to her. Thomas thinks there are different kinds of knowledge, for example, sense knowledge, knowledge of individuals, scientia , and faith, each of which is interesting in its own right and deserving of extended treatment where its sources are concerned.

For present purposes, we shall focus on what Thomas takes to be the sources of knowledge requisite for knowledge as scientia, and, since Thomas recognizes different senses of scientia , what Thomas takes to be the sources for knowledge as a scientific demonstration of a proposition in particular. As we have seen, if a person possesses scientia with respect to some proposition p for Thomas, then he or she understands an argument that p such that the argument is logically valid and he or she knows the premises of the argument with certainty.

Therefore, one of the sources of scientia for Thomas is the operation of the intellect that Thomas calls reasoning ratiocinatio , that is, the act of drawing a logically valid conclusion from other propositions see, for example, ST Ia. Reasoning is sometimes called by Thomists, the third act of the intellect. How do we come to know the premises of a demonstration with certainty?

Our coming to know with certainty the truth of a proposition, Thomas thinks, potentially involves a number of different powers and operations , each of which is rightly considered a source of scientia. Before we speak of the intellectual powers and operations in addition to ratiocination that are at play when we come to have scientia , we must first say something about the non-intellectual cognitive powers that are sources of scientia for Thomas.

Thomas agrees with Aristotle that the intellectual powers differ in kind from the sensitive powers such as the five senses and imagination. Nonetheless, Thomas also thinks that all human knowledge in this life begins with sensation. Even our knowledge of God begins, according to Thomas, with what we know of the material world.

Indeed, Thomas thinks that sensation is so tightly connected with human knowing that we invariably imagine something when we are thinking about anything at all. Of course, if God exists, that means that what we imagine when we think about God bears little or no relation to the reality, since God is not something sensible. Given the importance of sense experience for knowledge for Thomas, we must mention certain sense powers that are preambles to any operation of the human intellect.

In addition to the five exterior senses see, for example, ST Ia. In addition, none of the exterior senses enables their possessor to distinguish between the various objects of sense, for example, the sense of sight does not cognize taste, and so forth. Therefore, the animal must have a faculty in addition to the exterior senses by which the animal can identify different kinds of sensations, for example, of color, smell, and so forth with one particular object of experience.

We might think that it is some sort of intellectual faculty that coordinates different sensations, but not all animals have reason. Therefore, animals must have an interior sense faculty whereby they sense that they are sensing, and that unifies the distinct sensations of the various sense faculties. Thomas calls this faculty, following Avicenna, the common sense not to be confused, of course, with common sense as that which most ordinary people know and professors are often accused of not possessing.

Since, for Thomas, human beings are animals too, they also possess the faculty of common sense. In addition to the common sense, Thomas argues that we also need what philosophers have called phantasy or imagination to explain our experience of the cognitive life of animals including human beings. For, clearly, perfect animals sometimes move themselves to a food source that is currently absent. Therefore, such animals need to be able to imagine things that are not currently present to the senses but have been cognized previously in order to explain their movement to a potential food source.

On the assumption that, in corporeal things, to receive and retain are reduced to diverse principles, Thomas argues the faculty of imagination is thus distinct from the exterior senses and the common sense. He also notes that imagination in human beings is interestingly different from that of other animals insofar as human beings, but not other animals, are capable of imagining objects they have never cognized by way of the exterior senses, or objects that do not in fact exist, for example, a golden mountain.

Thus, we need to posit two additional powers in those animals. The memorative power is that power that retains cognitions produced by the estimative power. Since a the estimative sense and common sense are different kinds of powers, b the common sense and the imagination are different kinds of powers, and c the estimative power can be compared to the common sense whereas the memorative power can be compared to the imagination, it stands to reason that the estimative power and the memorative power are different powers.

Just as intellect in human beings makes a difference in the functioning of the faculty of imagination for Thomas, so also does the presence of intellect in human beings transform the nature of the estimative and memorative powers in human beings. As Thomas notes, this is why the estimative and memorative powers have been given special names by philosophers: the estimative power in human beings is called the cogitative power and the memorative power is called the reminiscitive power. The cogitative power in human beings is that power that enables human beings to make an individual thing, event, or phenomena, qua individual thing, event, or phenomena, an object of thought.

As for the reminiscitive power, it enables its possessor to remember cognitions produced by the cogitative power. In other words, it helps us to remember intellectual cognitions about individual objects. For example, say that I am trying to remember the name of a particular musician. I employ the reminiscitive power when I think about the names of other musicians who play on recordings with the musician whose name I cannot now remember but want to remember.

Having said something about the non-intellectual, cognitive sources of scientia for Thomas, we can return to speaking of the properly intellectual powers and activities of human beings necessary for scientia. According to Thomas, there are two powers of the intellect, powers Thomas calls the active intellect and the passive intellect, respectively.

Thomas thinks that the intellect has what he calls a passive power since human beings come to know things they did not know previously see, for example, ST Ia. In being able to do this, human beings are unlike the angels, Thomas thinks, since, according to Thomas, the angels are created actually knowing everything they will naturally know. According to Thomas, the blessed angels do come to have supernatural knowledge, namely, knowledge of the essence of God in the beatific vision. Following Aristotle, Thomas believes that the intellect of a human being, in contrast to that of an angel, is a tabula rasa at the beginning of its existence.

The passive intellect of a human being is that which receives what a person comes to know; it is also the power by which a human being retains, intellectually, what is received. For Thomas, therefore, the passive intellect plays the role of memory where knowledge of the nature of things is concerned [see, for example, ST Ia.

For example, say John does not know what a star is at time t. Whereas the passive intellect is that which receives and retains an intelligible form, what Thomas calls the active intellect is the efficient cause intrinsic to the knowing agent that makes what is potentially knowable actually so. However, the forms of material things, although potentially intelligible, are not actually intelligible insofar as they configure matter, but human beings can understand material things.

Therefore, since that which is brought from potency to act is done so only by that which is appropriately actual, we do not know things innately, and we sometimes experience ourselves actually understanding things , there must be a power in human beings that can cause the forms of material objects to become actually intelligible. That power is what Thomas calls the active intellect.

The intellectual act of simple apprehension is simple in the sense that it does not yet imply a judgment on the part of an intellect about the truth or falsity of a proposition. As we have seen, Thomas thinks that all intellection begins with sensation. Therefore, when we come to understand the essence of a material object, say a bird, the form of the bird is first received spiritually in a material organ, for example, the eye. To say that the form of the bird is received spiritually is simply to say that what is received is received as a form, where the form in question does not exist in the sense organ as it exists extra-mentally.

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As Stump , p. In order for this to occur, Thomas speaks of the need of the sensible species being worked on by the power of phantasia. At that point, the agent has a phantasm of the bird; she is at least conscious of a blue, smallish object with wings. From the phantasm, including experiences of similar phantasms stored in phantasia or the reminiscitive power, the power of active intellect abstracts what Thomas calls the intelligible species from the phantasm s , that is, leaves to one side those features the agent recognizes are accidental to the object being cognized in order to focus on the quiddity, nature, or essence of what is being cognized.

The resulting quiddity is received in the possible intellect. So far we have spoken of the third and first acts of the intellect. In this act of the intellect, the intellect compares quiddities and judges whether or not this property or accident should be attributed to this quiddity. For example, Joe comes to know the quiddity of mammality and animality through the first act of intellect and judges correctly that all mammals are animals by way of the second act of understanding.

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To take a more interesting example, if we judge that all human beings have intellectual souls and all intellectual souls are by nature incorruptible , it follows that any human being has a part that survives the biological death of that human being. We would be remiss not to mention God as a source of all forms of knowledge for Thomas. Thomas believes by faith that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is this one immutable being.

However, all of this is consistent, Thomas thinks, with human intellects also being real and active secondary causes of their own acts of knowing. Augustine of Hippo, Ibn Sina [Avicenna], and Ibn Rushd [Averroes], all of whom think God or some non-human intellect plays the role of agent intellect. For a human being, too, is a secondary, efficient cause of his or her coming to know something. Following Aristotle, Thomas thinks of metaphysics as a science in this sense. For Thomas, the subject matter of the science of metaphysics is being qua being or being in common , that is, being insofar as it can be said of anything that is a being.

Contrast, for example, the narrower subject matters of philosophical physics, which studies physical being insofar as it can be investigated philosophically, and natural theology, which studies immaterial being insofar as it can be studied by the power of natural reason alone. The principles of being qua being include those principles that are ever and always employed but are never themselves considered carefully in all disciplines, for example, the principle of identity and the principle of non-contradiction.

The causes of being qua being are the efficient, formal, and final causes of being qua being, namely, God. For Thomas, metaphysics involves not only disciplined discussion of the different senses of being but rational discourse about these principles, causes, and proper accidents of being. Note that Thomas therefore thinks about the subject matter of metaphysics in a manner that differs from that of contemporary analytic philosophers.

Contemporary analytic philosophers tend to think about metaphysics as the philosophical discipline that treats a collection of questions about ultimate reality see, for example, Van Inwagen , p. However, this contemporary understanding of the subject matter of metaphysics is too broad for Thomas since he thinks there are philosophical disciplines distinct from metaphysics that treat matters of ultimate reality, for example, the ultimate causes of being qua movable are treated in philosophical physics or natural philosophy, the ultimate principles of human being are treated in philosophical anthropology.

For Thomas, when we think about the meaning of being wisely, we recognize that we use it analogously and not univocally. Thus, one of the things the metaphysician does, thinks Thomas, is identify, describe, and articulate the relationship between the different senses of being. In one place Thomas distinguishes four different senses of being Disputed Questions on Truth q.


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Being in the primary sense is substantial being, for example, Socrates, or a particular tree. Again, although the same word is used to speak of these four realities, the term being does not have precisely the same meaning in these four cases, although all four meanings are related to the primary meaning of being as substance.

Another distinction Thomas makes where being is concerned is the distinction between being in act and being in potency. Being in potency does not actually exist now but is such that it can exist at some point in the future, given the species to which that being in potency belongs. In contrast, being in act exists now. For example, say Socrates is not tan right now but can be tan in the future, given that he is a rational animal, and rational animals are such that they can be tan.

Socrates is therefore not tan in act, but rather tan in potency see, for example, On the Principles of Nature , ch. The distinction between being in act and being in potency is important because it helps solve a puzzle raised by Parmenides, namely, how something can change. The viability of the distinction between being in act and being in potency can be confirmed by thinking about the way we commonly speak and think.

For example, compare a rock and a very young person who is not yet old enough to see. Both of them do not actually see, but not in the same sense. For we rightly negate the ability to see of a rock; it does not actually have the ability to see, nor does it potentially have such an ability, given the sort of thing that it is. However, although a very young human person, like the rock, does not actually have the ability to see, that young person is nonetheless potentially something that sees.

If a being were fully actual, then it would be incapable of change. If a being were purely potential, then it would not, by itself, actually exist.

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Thus, actually existent beings capable of change are composites of act and potency. The principle of actuality in a composite being explains that the being in question actually exists or actually has certain properties whereas the principle of potentiality in a composite being explains that the being in question either need not exist—it is not in the nature of that thing to exist—or is a thing capable of substantial change such that its matter can become part of some numerically distinct substance.

Where act and potency are concerned, Thomas also distinguishes, with Aristotle, between first and second act on the one hand and active and passive potency on the other. A substance s is in first act or actuality insofar as s , with respect to some power P, actually has P. For example, the newborn Socrates, although actually a human being, only potentially has the power to philosophize and so is not in first act with respect to the power to philosophize.

On the other hand, Socrates, when awaiting his trial, and being such that he is quite capable of defending the philosophical way of life, is in first act with respect to the habit of philosophy, that is, he actually has the power to philosophize. A substance s is in second act insofar as, with respect to some power P, s not only actually has P but is currently making use of P. For example, imagine that Socrates is sleeping, say, the night before he makes his famous defense of the philosophical way of life. When he is sleeping, although Socrates is in first act with respect to the power to philosophize, he is not in second act with respect to that power although he is in potency to the second act of philosophizing.

Socrates, when he is actually philosophizing at his trial, is not only in first act with respect to the power to philosophize, but also in second act. Consider now the difference between active and passive potency. Imagine Socrates is not now philosophizing. He is resting. Nonetheless, he is potentially philosophizing.

However, his potency with respect to philosophizing is an active potency, for philosophizing is something one does ; it is an activity. Insofar as Socrates is not now philosophizing, but is potentially philosophizing, he has an active potency. Now imagine Socrates is hit by a tomato at time t at his trial. Socrates can be hit by a tomato at t because he has, among other passive potencies, the ability to be hit by an object.

Having the ability to be hit by an object is not an ability or potentiality Socrates has to F , but rather an ability or potentiality to have F done to him ; hence, being able to be hit by an object is a passive potentiality of Socrates. Thomas thinks that nothing can be understood, save insofar as it has being. Natural being is what philosophers and empirical scientists study, for example, non-living things, plants, animals, human beings, colors, virtues, and so forth. However, some beings that we think about follow upon the consideration of thinking about beings of nature, notions such as genus, species, and difference.

These are the sorts of beings studied in logic, Thomas thinks. In additional to logical beings, we could also mention fictional beings such as Hamlet as an example of a being of reason. Where the meanings of being are concerned, Thomas also recognizes the distinction between being in the sense of the essentia essence or nature or form or quod est what-it-is of a thing on the one hand and being in the sense of the esse or actus essendi or quo est that-by-which-it-is of a thing on the other hand see, for example, SCG II, ch.

According to Thomas, all created substances are composed of essentia and esse. The case where there is the clearest need to speak of a composition of essentia and esse is that of the angels. In speaking of act and potency in the angels, Thomas does not speak in terms of form and matter, since for Thomas matter as a principle of potentiality is always associated with an individual thing existing in three dimensions.

Bonaventure, did indeed argue that angels were composed of form and spiritual matter. However, Thomas thinks the notion of spiritual matter is a contradiction in terms, for to be material is to be spread out in three dimensions, and the angels are not spread out in three dimensions. Angels are essentially immaterial beings, thinks Thomas. This is not to say that angels cannot on occasion make use of a body by the power of God; this is how Thomas would make sense of the account of the angel Gabriel talking with the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Gospel according to Luke; whatever Mary saw when she claimed to talk to the angel Gabriel, according to Thomas, it was not a part of Gabriel.

However, because angels are not pure act —this description is reserved for the first uncaused efficient cause alone for Thomas—there is need to make sense of the fact that an angel is a composite of act and potency. Thus, Thomas speaks of a composition of essentia being in the sense of what something is and esse being in the sense that a thing is in the angels, for it does not follow from what an angel is that it exists. In other words, where we can distinguish essentia and esse in a thing, that thing is a creature, that is, it exists ever and always because God creates and conserves it in being.

Of course, substances composed of form and matter, for example, human beings, non-rational animal, plants, minerals, are creatures too and so they are also composed of essentia and esse. Thomas thinks there are two kinds of truths about God: a those truths that can be demonstrated philosophically and b those truths that human beings can come to know only by the grace of divine revelation.

Thomas thinks there are at least three mutually reinforcing approaches to establishing truths about God philosophically: the way of causation ; the way of negation , and the way of perfection or transcendence. Thomas makes use of each one of these methods, for example, in his treatment of what can be said truly about God by the natural light of reason in ST. Thomas offers what he takes to be demonstrations of the existence of God in a number of places in his corpus.

His most complete argument is found in SCG, book I, chapter There is also an argument that Brian Davies , p. There are a number of things to keep in mind about the five ways. First, the five ways are not complete arguments, for example, we should expect to find some suppressed premises in these arguments.

To see this, we can compare the first way of demonstrating the existence of God in ST Ia. Whereas the former is offered in one paragraph, the latter is given in 32 paragraphs. Indeed, as we shall see, Thomas does not think that God could be first in a temporal sense because God exists outside of time. Third, as Thomas makes clear in SCG I, 13, 30, his arguments do not assume or presuppose that there was a first moment in time.

Nor do the five ways attempt to prove that there was a first moment of time. Although Thomas believes there was a first moment of time, he is very clear that he thinks such a thing cannot be demonstrated philosophically; he thinks that the temporal beginning of the universe is a mystery of the faith see, for example, ST Ia. Interestingly, even on such a supposition, Thomas thinks he can demonstrate philosophically that there is a God. The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. Now [ 12 ] in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because [ 6 ] in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one.

Now [ 7 ] to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, [ 8 ] if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But [ 9 ] if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, [ 10 ] neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; [ 11 ] all of which is plainly false. Therefore, [ 13 ] it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, [ 14 ] to which everyone gives the name of God Fathers of the English Dominican Province, trans.

The second premise, third premise, seventh premise, the inference to the eighth premise, and the fourteenth premise likely require further explanation. As for premise 2 , we should note that Thomas assumes the truth of a principle often called the principle of causality. The principle of causality states that every effect has a cause. The principle of causality is a piece of common sense that arguably also plays a pivotal role in all scientific inquiry.

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Of course, when it comes to our understanding of the nature of ultimate causes, it may be that we run into certain limits to human understanding. This is something Thomas admits, as will be seen below. Given the importance of the principle of causality in everyday life and scientific work, to deny the principle of causality in the context of doing metaphysics would seem to be ad hoc see Feser , p. Premise 3 is a metaphysical principle.

Consider a scenario that would constitute a denial of premise 3 : there is an x such that, absolutely speaking, x causes itself to exist. However, this is not possible. Although x can be the efficient cause of itself in one respect, for example, an organism is an efficient cause of its own continued existence insofar as it nourishes itself, it cannot be the efficient cause of itself in every respect.

This is easiest to see in the case of something bringing itself into existence. In order for x to perform the act of bringing x into existence at time t , x must already exist at t in order to perform such an act. However, if x already exists at t to perform the act of bringing x into existence at t , then x does not bring itself into existence at t , for x already exists at t. However, the same kind of reasoning works if x is a timelessly eternal being.

Premise 7 shows that Thomas is not in this argument offering an ultimate efficient causal explanation of what is sometimes called a per accidens series of efficient causes, that is, a series of efficient causes that stretches perhaps infinitely backward in time, for example, Rex the dog was efficiently caused by Lassie the dog, and Lassie the dog was efficiently cause by Fido the dog, and so forth.

If he did have such a per accidens causal series in mind, then premise 7 would be subject to obvious counter-examples, for example, a sculptor is the efficient cause of a sculpture. However, it routinely happens that a sculpture outlives its sculptor. In such a case, we can take away the efficient cause the sculptor without taking away the effect of its efficient causation the sculpture. Unless we are comfortable assigning to Thomas a view that is obviously mistaken, we will look for a different interpretation of premise 7.

This interpretation of premise 7 fits well with what we saw Thomas say about the arguments for the existence of God in SCG, namely, that it is better to assume at least for the sake of argument that there is no beginning to time when arguing for the existence of God, for, in that case, it is harder to prove that God exists.

With such an interpretation of premise 7 in the background, we are in a position to make sense of the inference from premises 6 and 7 to premise 8. Finally, premise 14 simply records the intuition that if there is an x that is an uncaused cause, then there is a God. Of course, Thomas does not think he has proved here the existence of the Triune God of Christianity something, in any case, he does not think it possible to demonstrate.

Rather, Thomas believes by faith that the absolutely first efficient cause is the Triune God of Christianity. However, to show philosophically that there is a first uncaused efficient cause is enough to show that atheism is false. To put this point another way, Thomas thinks Jews, Muslims, Christians, and pagans such as Aristotle can agree upon the truth of premise As will be seen, Thomas thinks it possible, upon reflection, to draw out interesting implications about the nature of an absolutely first efficient cause from a few additional plausible metaphysical principles.

Thomas thinks I can know what a thing is, for example, a donkey, since the form of a donkey and my intelligible species of a donkey are identical in species see, for example, SCG III, ch. Therefore, we cannot naturally know what God is. Thomas thinks this is true even of the person who is graced by the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity in this life; knowing the essence of God is possible for human beings, Thomas thinks, but it is reserved for the blessed in heaven, the intellects of whom have been given a special grace called the light of glory [see, for example, ST Ia.

Although we cannot know what God is in this life, by deducing propositions from the conclusions of the arguments for the existence of God, Thomas thinks we can, by natural reason, come to know what God is not. To say that God is not composed of parts is to say that God is metaphysically simple see, for example, ST Ia. Since nothing can cause itself to exist all by itself, whatever is composed of parts has its existence caused by another. Therefore, God does not have parts.

As Thomas notes, the denial that God the Creator has parts shows how much God is unlike those things God creates, for all the things with which we are most familiar are composed of parts of various kinds. However, there are a number of ways in which something might be composed of parts. The most obvious sense is being composed of quantitative parts, for example, there is the top inch of me, the rest of me, and so forth.

Since God is not composed of parts, God is not composed of quantitative parts. Thomas thinks that material objects, at any given time, are also composed of a substance and various accidental forms. The substance of an object explains why that object remains numerically one and the same through time and change. For example, Thomas would say that a human being, say, Sarah, is numerically the same yesterday and today because she is numerically the same substance today as she was yesterday.

However, Sarah is not absolutely the same today compared to yesterday, for today she is cheerful, whereas yesterday she was glum. Thomas calls such characteristics—forms a substance can gain or lose while remaining numerically the same substance— accidental forms or accidents.


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  7. At any given time, Sarah is a composite of her substance and some set of accidental forms. Now, we have shown that God is not composed of parts. Therefore, God also is not a composite of substance and accidental forms. However, features that a being has at one time that it does not have at another are accidental forms.

    Thus, beings that change are composed of substance and accidental forms. However, God is not composed of substance and accidents. Therefore, God does not change see, for example, ST Ia. Indeed, the fact that God is not composed of parts shows that God is not only unchanging, but also immutable unchangeable , for if God can change, then God has properties or features that he can gain or lose without going out of existence.

    However, properties or features that a being can gain or lose without going out of existence are accidental forms. Therefore, if God can change, then God is composed of substance and accidental forms. However, God is not composed of parts, including the metaphysical parts that we call substance and accidental forms. Therefore, God cannot change, that is, God is immutable. Thomas contends that God does not exist in time see, for example, ST Ia. To see why he thinks so, consider what he thinks time is: a measurement of change with respect to before and after.

    Thomas thinks time is neither a wholly mind-independent reality—hence it is a measurement —nor is it a purely subjective reality—it exists only if there are substances that change. Therefore, if something does not change, it is not measured by time, that is, it does not exist in time. However, as has been seen, God is unchanging. Therefore, God does not exist in time. Thomas thinks that we can not only know that God exists and what God is not by way of philosophy, but we can also know—insofar as we know God is the first efficient cause of creatures, exemplar formal cause of creatures, and final cause of creatures—that it is reasonable and meaningful to predicate of God certain positive perfections such as being, goodness, power, knowledge, life, will, and love.

    Nonetheless, in knowing that, for example, God is good is a correct and meaningful thing to say, we still do not know the essence of God, Thomas thinks, and so we do not know what God is good means with the clarity by which we know things such as triangles have three sides , mammals are animals , or this tree is flowering right now. Why this is the case will become clear in what follows. For Thomas, concepts are not [usually] the objects of understanding; they are rather that by which we understand things [see, for example, ST Ia. Therefore, words relate to things through the medium of intellectual conception.

    We can therefore meaningfully name a thing insofar as we can intellectually conceive it. Although we cannot know the essence of God in this life, we can know that God exists as the absolutely first efficient cause of creatures, we can know what God is not, and, insofar as we know God as the absolutely first efficient cause of creatures and what God is not, we can know God by way of excellence.

    It is this last way of knowing God that allows us to meaningfully predicate positive perfections of God, thinks Thomas. Knowing God by way of excellence requires some explanation. First, whatever perfection P exists in an effect must in some way exist in its cause or causes, otherwise P would come from absolutely nothing, and ex nihilo nihil fit from nothing, nothing comes.

    Note that the traditional theological doctrine of creation ex nihilo , which Thomas accepts, does not contradict the Greek axiom, ex nihilo nihil fit. Whereas the latter means that nothing can come from absolutely nothing, the former does not mean that creatures come from absolutely nothing. Rather, creation ex nihilo is shorthand for the view that creatures do not have a first material cause; according to the traditional doctrine of creation ex nihilo , creatures do, of course, have a first efficient , exemplar formal , and extrinsic final cause, that is, God.

    Some perfections are pure and others are impure. A pure perfection is a perfection the possession of which does not imply an imperfection on the part of the one to which it is attributed; an impure perfection is a perfection that does imply an imperfection in its possessor, for example, being able to hit a home run is an impure perfection; it is a perfection, but it implies imperfection on the part of the one who possesses it, for example, something that can hit a home run is not an absolutely perfect being since being able to hit a homerun entails being mutable, and an absolutely perfect being is not mutable since a mutable being has a cause of its existence.

    Second, creatures possess perfections such as justice, wisdom, goodness, mercy, power, and love. However, justice, wisdom, goodness, mercy, power, and love are pure perfections. Third, God is the absolutely first efficient cause, which cause is simple, immutable, and timeless. Therefore, whatever pure perfections exist in creatures must pre-exist in God in a more eminent way ST Ia. Therefore, we can apply positive predicates to God, for example, just , wise, good, merciful, powerful, and loving, although not in such a way that defines the essence of God and not in a manner that we can totally understand in this life ST Ia.

    Not only can we meaningfully apply positive predicates to God, some such predicates can be applied to God substantially, Thomas thinks see, for example, ST Ia. One applies a name substantially to x if that name refers to x in and of itself and not merely because of a relation that things other than x bear to x.

    However, given the radical metaphysical differences between God and creatures, what is the real significance of substantially applying words such as good , wise , and powerful to God? Why can we not properly predicate the term wise of God and human beings univocally? When we attribute perfections to creatures, the perfection in question is not to be identified with the creature to which we are attributing it.

    For example, when we say, John is wise , we do not mean to imply John is wisdom. In fact it is important to say both God is wise and God is wisdom itself when speaking of the wisdom of God, Thomas thinks. For if we say only the latter, then we may fall into the trap of thinking that God is an abstract entity such as a number which is false, as the ways of causality, negation, and excellence imply. Thus, when we use the word wise of John and God, we are not speaking univocally, that is, with the precisely same meaning in each instance.

    On the other hand, if we merely equivocate on wise when we speak of John and God, then it would not be possible to know anything about God, which, as Thomas points out, is against the views of both Aristotle and the Apostle Paul, that is, both reason and faith. Rather, Thomas thinks we predicate wise of God and creatures in a manner between these two extremes; the term wise is not completely different in meaning when predicated of God and creatures, and this is enough for us to say we know something about the wisdom of God.

    It is correct to say, for example, God is wise , but because it is also correct to say God is wisdom itself , the wisdom of God is greater than human wisdom; in fact, it is greater than human beings can grasp in this life. P A human being, for example, Socrates, is identical to his soul, that is, an immaterial substance; the body of Socrates is no part of him.

    Thomas thinks P is false. In fact, in his view there are good reasons to think a human being is not identical to his or her soul. To take just one of his arguments, Thomas thinks the Platonic view of human beings does not do justice to our experience of ourselves as bodily beings.

    For Thomas, Plato is right that we human beings do things that do not require a material organ, namely, understanding and willing for his arguments that acts of understanding do not make use of a material organ per se , see, for example, ST Ia. However, anything that sees, hears, touches, tastes, and smells is clearly also a bodily substance. We experience ourselves as something that sees, hears, touches, tastes, and smells. Although Thomas does not agree with Plato that we are identical to immaterial substances, it would be a mistake—or at least potentially misleading—to describe Thomas as a materialist.