Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thomas Aquinas' "Summa Theologica, Q2, Article 3: Whether God Exists" Or, The Five Ways: A Summary


Objection 1: It seems like God doesn't exist. If you had two things that were constantly opposed, and only one of them was infinite, you'd think that would fucking wipe out the other, wouldn't it? We're not just talking opposites here; it's not like positive and negative, where they just meet at zero and go on their merry fuck way in separate directions. We're talking about real contraries here, fucking going at it, and one of them is infinite. You'd think it would have no problem whatsoever overwhelming the other. As advantages in conflict go, infinity is pretty high up there. But God is supposed to be infinite goodness, so if God exists, there shouldn't be any evil in the world. Well fucking riddle me this, Batman: there IS evil in the world. Pretty sure that means God doesn't actually exist.

Objection 2: Besides, why make shit more complicated than it is? If we can explain everything simply, why throw God into the mix, too? "Oh hey, here are a bunch of equations that perfectly describe how nature works, and, oh, here's how people work. That explains everything? Really? Cool. Also, God exists." Why the fuck did you throw God in there at the end? We got it. Physics and whatever the fuck it is that drives humans, and that's plenty. Who needs God anymore?

Except that God exists, and his very nature is existence. And right now maybe you're all like, "But how can we knoooooow God exists?" Well buckle the fuck up kids because I've got onetwothreefour FIVE FUCKING WAYS you can be sure God is real.

WAY THE FUCK ONE: Motion. Yeah, motion through space, but that's not all - I mean pretty much all sorts of change. See, shit can't be in motion unless it can potentially be in the state it's headed toward. You can't be moving towards the kitchen unless you can get in the fucking kitchen; you can't burn a log unless that log can potentially be burned. When I say 'potential' I just mean that it could be, but it isn't actually. If your hot coffee is on the edge of your desk, it's potentially in your lap scalding you, and you're potentially screaming in agony, even though you're actually working. Then when you knock it down because you have trucks for hands, it's not potentially in your lap, it's actually in your lap. That shit is happening and this is not a drill. And it's not potentially hot; it's actually hot, which is why it burns so fucking much. It's potentially cold, which is why you're running for ice to put on yourself. Got it? Good. But look, shit doesn't move itself into change; your coffee didn't just jump onto your lap, no matter what you tell your roommate so he doesn't think you're a fucking idiot. Something had to move it, something other than itself. And something had to move that thing, too. And so on back; except we can't have an infinite number of movements backwards; something had to start the chain. And that first mover, that thing that is itself unmoved, and not potentially anything? Yeah. That's God.

SECOND WAY: Cause. Shit can't cause itself to come into being, because then it would have existed to cause itself to become before it actually was. If that sentence confused you, good, because it does not make sense for something to exist before it starts existing. So if something gets caused, something else had to cause it. You can't have a causeless effect, that's just silly. And whatever caused that effect is itself an effect of some other cause - and this happens for every chain of events. But that chain has to start somewhere, because we can't go infinitely backwards with these either, now, can we? So there has to be a first cause, something that wasn't caused by anything else, that isn't an effect, something that's just always been. Oh wait, who do we know that has always existed and came before everything else? Yeah that's right GOD. BOOM.

I'M ON FIRE HERE THIRD WAY: Possibility and necessity. Look. For a lot of things, it's possible for them to exist, and possible for them not to exist. Take you, for example - your mother brought you into this world, so it's possible that you exist, but she can sure as fuck take you out, so it's also possible for you not to exist. Now, if something possibly doesn't exist, at some point or another it has to not exist. You can't say, "I guess it could stop existing, it just, you know never has and never will." What? Fuck you. But if all things could, at some point or another, not exist, then at some point, maybe fucking nothing at all existed, and that's fucking ridiculous. If once there was nothing, there would always be nothing. Shit doesn't just magically come into being out of nothingness. And since shit exists now, we have to assume some shit has always existed. But we can't go back for infinity with shit just accidentally existing; no one is that fucking lucky. So there has to be something that doesn't just possibly exist, it exists necessarily. It has to exist. It exists, and there is no other way it could have been. It can't not exist. And we can't have an infinite chain of those, either; something has to exist, and it has to exist for no other reason than fucking BECAUSE. It is its own necessity, that's all it needs, and everything else that must be, is because of this thing. This thing we all call God.

BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE FOURTH WAY: Gradation. Comparison. You know how some things are better than other things? Some people are just straight up better people than others. And how can we say that? How can we know who is more good or less good? How can we know what is more or less of anything? By just comparing it to a maximum. And whatever that maximum is causes all the other things in that category - that's why fire, the hottest fucking thing we've got, makes everything else hot. And what's the greatest good, the good from which everything else comes? Oh, man. Totally God.

Okay. Let’s calm down and JUST KIDDING FIFTH FUCKING WAY: For some reason, shit seems to run pretty smoothly, even though not everything in nature has a brain. I mean, really smoothly. How does shit always seem to work out so great? The sun comes up every single day, crops get sun, sometimes it rains, people get fed, life goes on. It's convenient - maybe too convenient. So convenient, in fact, there's no fucking way it's all accidental. If you want to make watches, you probably shouldn't just put all the parts in a bag and shake 'em up, hoping they'll happen to make a watch. "Oh, man, what a lucky accident that these tiny parts all just happened to fall in the right configuration, completely at random, to make a timepiece in this bag! What're the odds?!" Fuck you, those are the You put that watch together carefully and precisely, and someone put the universe in the same way, this universe that gets shit done. Designer of the Universe, you say? HEY THAT MUST BE GOD.

Now, your silly objections. Here's the thing with evil: God is so fucking powerful he doesn't even need to wipe out evil. He doesn't just get rid of that shit - he actively turns it into good. That's like if He had an infinite army, rather than just wiping out the opposing forces, He fucking converts them to His side. Badass.

As for that simplicity bullshit, it would be great if you really could reduce everything to nature or human action, but, I mean, how many fucking times do I have to tell you we can't go infinitely backwards? No matter how much we learn about how nature happens or humans act, there must be a start, bro. So, yeah, don't tell me shit's too simple for God. Get out of here with those reductionist shenanigans. Without him, you've got nothing.

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You can read this question and the rest of the Summa completely online at New Advent.

33 comments:

  1. thank you for this blogpost. for a moment I was confused as to the beginning of it since it sounded to me like you were on some sort of anti-God rant but later on it was more clearer of what you were trying to say. I agree with these 5 ways especially the whole aspect of us not coming into existence from nothing. I think about it and sure we are composed of cells but where did those cells actually come into existence? Well God of course (to me that would seem). It would be interesting to read an atheist try to explain the origin of all life if they have to explain where time and space came from. :D

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    1. I'll take this one, then. As some others have mentioned, my broski above does not necessarily hold these beliefs. Now, I'd count myself as an atheist, but I do know that i dont truly know everything. I can say that, with certainty. Do you have the balls to accept this devastating news? Can you say you don't know there is a god? I think of "God" as merely a metaphor for the chaos and the effects of everything that has and is happening. God could be gravity for all we know. Gravity exists in anything with mass. Now going down to the sub-sub atomic, there are strings, that constantly warp and change and are believed to have mass and not have mass simultaneously (as i have understood it. Im a 24 yr old non-metaphysicist, so i could be wrong) Now a bit larger than that string cheese, are a whole bunch of other incredibly small objects (gravitons, quarks, etc) that make up protons and neutrons. Now within sed protons and neutrons these subatomic particles are moving around furiously, and results in the proton/neutrons to spin. This spinning, a result of the energy stored within, attracts other protons, neutrons, dust bunnies, whatever to it. From this elements are made. It is believed by some that electrons are more wave-like than physical. So atoms have a very specific electron field that affects the physical world around them. Fast forward... like a lot.... through millennia of star and planet births and deaths to create an abundance of the elements we have today. Now on our planet and undoubtably on others (or moons) conditions were/are/may be such that within a primordial ooze consisting of mostly carbon and water and fuck if i know what else, the simplest forms of life began to emerge, as a result of chaotic and seemingly unpredictable circumstances and interactions between elements RNA emerged. This led to some shit. That shit leveled up to DNA status and from there just refer to Jurassic park to fill in the gaps. Now, going back to the big bang- We may never know... (cont) Right now we can't see that far into the past. (Yes, we can see into the past-those stars in the sky are not where you see them anymore. Some of them may not even exist yet.) It is possible an extremly dense and powerful black hole....shit....could have done any number of things, to speculate would require more time and patience than i have right now. It may not have been a black hole at all. But something as dense and powerful as the big bang is believed to have been dense as fuck and for some reason just blew up. It is also possible that the big bang pails in comparrison to some larger existence. No, im not talking about god. Im talking about the possibility that maybe planets and suns and supernovas and even our universe as we think we know it are relatively tiny. (cont...)

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    2. (cont'd) We don't know. It's just as likely that the scale of the everything we know is the largest that it can be. One thing that seems to be true is that gravity permeates the universe and affects spacetime. Einstein talked a lot about this. Check it out. Now after all of this i could still keep rambling on like Robert Plant, but I think I'll stop. But, honestly... I think a lot... a LOT... of people like you (people who get easily flustered by "some sort of anti-God rant" and who don't actually try to find the answers to how cells came to be, and who would sarcastically want to hear an atheist ya know.... talk about metaphysics and sting cheese) take the easy way out when it comes to existence. "It's God" is a cop out. Educate yourself. Try to understand, as best you can, the world around you. I've got the stones to say I, and science as a whole, may be wrong. Can you say God isn't a thoughtful caring individual who watches over only our precious planet?

      I have no problem with spirituality or a belief in god. But to be a little prick and chuckle as you sip tea and eat your crumpets and say "It would be interesting to read an atheist try to explain the origin of all life if they have to explain where time and space came from. :D" And yeah, sometimes I wish I was as arrogant as some of you... because to admit that you don't know anything is really a very depressing and simultaneously awe-inspiring feeling.

      Peace and love Miss Bobo. I respect you as a person, and hope I haven't offended you. I really do mean no true disrespect. Just a "reality" check

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    3. Cont'd
      AND! Miss Bobo. Riddle me this... Who created god? Besides just... "its own necessity" (quoting Auginas-not you)

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  2. You are my favorite human on the planet today. Not because you are potentially full of shit, but because your shit is full of potential.

    I bow repeatedly as I back away to leave...

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  3. Miss Bobo: I don't think PhiloBro is actually espousing these views rather than summarizing Aquinas, because these arguments are actually damn lousy when you start to analyze them and most professional philosophers, even those who don't consider themselves atheists, would acknowledge that. If you want rebuttals from atheists, go to ironchariots.org and look for "Cosmological argument", "Kalam", "Argument from design" and "Argument from degree". I can't point to a response to the modal argument (3rd), but if you google it you might find one.

    Oh, and the origin of cells? Probably self-replicating molecules like RNA enclosed in a lipid bilayer, but there's no conclusive evidence yet. One thing we do know that there's no evidence of God being involved anywhere in the process.

    Btw, the onus is not on the atheist to try to explain the origin of anything, even though naturalistic explanations are available for a number of questions. It's the theist's responsibility to explain how God is the most logical explanation, because appeals to ignorance ("I don't understand X, therefore X must be the work of God") are not real arguments.

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    1. No he's espousing Aquinas alright, Aquinas sucked its why he could never seal the deal in debates or on paper. The problem is this you can assume all you want but you still don't have evidence of what YOUR claiming.

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  4. @Watoosh...I was about to say the same thing to Miss Bobo.....and I just checked out ironchariots.org. What a great site! Thanks!

    @Philosophy Bro...I just came upon your site yesterday. Brilliant stuff, man. I'm hooked! No other blog (or bro) has made me laugh so much! I love it!

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  5. Yeah Watoosh, I really hope these aren't his actual views, because I would be very disappointed. The first 3 arguments are essentially the same, that something had to come first.

    The fourth argument doesn't actually make any sense, there's no reason why there has to be an absolute greatest good.

    And the fifth one is easily explained by natural selection; everything works smoothly because natural selection make everythig well-adapted to their environment.

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  6. I thought way 3 argued that if everything can maybe exist or maybe not exist then at some point in the infinite past nothing existed. Not "maybe" at some point in the infinite past nothing existed, but "definitely" at some point in the infinite past nothing existed.

    I know that's stupid, but I thought that was how the original argument went. Am I misremembering?

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  7. wrt way # 1: Bro, just because there's an unmoved mover (and who knows, maybe there is just an infinite regress of movers), that doesn't mean it's Jesus Christ. That's just lazy goddamn thinking right there. It could have been (well, not really) any of a myriad of other gods attested throughout history, or more likely there's some natural explanation.

    wrt way #2: Bro, more laziness? It's the same fucking thing, with 'cause' substituted for 'move'. FFS, college freshmen are coyer about their bullshitting than Aquinas, bro.

    wrt way #3: Yeah okay, this is Philosophy Bro and not Physics Bro, but there's plenty of research in physics that indicates that absolutely nothing is a lot less stable than something. Nature abhors a vacuum, and all that.

    wrt way #4: So good just comes from god? Killing babies is good, so long as god gives the go-ahead? Sorry bro, I need to go make a call to someone about some good psychiatrists.

    wrt way #5: http://tinyurl.com/3v7rlbf

    I love this site, bro, but where's the diversity of viewpoints that normally comes with your other posts? This seems a little lazy.

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  8. To anonymous. I think you will find if you actually explore the site that the Bro is summarising an old text for you. So, your responses should be directed towards those folk who actually still use these arguments (of whom there are many). As for the summary, it is pretty decent, though as Patrick points out, it is debatable how representative this modern take is of Aquinas' actual arguments. For example, the watch example in Way 5 alters the argument somewhat (ignoring the anachronism). Aquinas' original example talks about the directedness of nature, and uses an analogy of an arrow and archer.

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  9. "It's the theist's responsibility to explain how God is the most logical explanation, because appeals to ignorance ("I don't understand X, therefore X must be t"

    For reals. I assume at some point in history, no one had any idea why a circle of light and heat should "rise" and "set" every twelve hours or so. The response (to questioning on that topic given the available information of the time and culture) of "I have no idea" would be a lot more sensible to make than one of "that's clearly a chariot made of fire driven by Helios/Surya/Arvak/[Insert one of the many alleged sun gods here]."

    One could easily imagine one of those Arvak worshipers smiling knowingly upon hearing "I have no idea" from some non-believer of Arvak in response to questioning as to what the magical light circle really is.

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  10. Natural selection would not explain away the fifth way. Natural selection only explains the origin of phenotypes in biological organisms. There's a higher level of order in the universe that can't be explained on Darwinian terms. You might want to google the anthropic coincidences, for example. Actually, natural selection itself is arguably an example of the kind of orderly, directed process in nature that Aquinas suggested needs an explanation.

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  11. It should be noted that the "God" in question is not of any denomination. We are not discussing any god in particular - just a higher power in general.

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  12. Ohh Aquinas.. Anonymous said it best, just pure laziness. Same story different word. I get the infinite regression theory. It's total bunk, but I get what he's saying. Honesty it neither proves nor disproves the concept of a god. It's like saying there must be a god because we have cell phones. Cell phone from cordless phone from corded phone from radio. But it all had to come from somewhere right? Who made the first communicator?
    Just because we can't conceive of an original cause doesn't mean the explanation must be divine. What it means is that we're not smart enough, or it's too long ago for us to know. Deal with it.

    Oh, and PhilosophyBro: well done as usual, and great topic to strike debate =)

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  13. Its funny how everyone here seems to take a side while pretending to be objective.
    Christian, Buddhist, Scientologist, Atheist. We're all humans. Our daily lives are governed by the actions we take. regardless of who we ascribe the motivation for those actions. If I go on a killing spree, I can blame an alcoholic father, an abusive priest, school bullies. but guess what? none of them will go to jail in my place.
    Human consciousness is something we've never fully explored. Emotions, Jealousy, Love, happiness, hate. Those are THE known flaws in the universe, and they all reside inside humans. not some deity or scientific explanation. Theists, why is it so important to convince the Atheists that they are wrong? Likewise Atheists why do you care if someone goes to church every Sunday to pray to air, or worships a cow?
    Thats the real question, whats that unconscious thing that drives us to take sides? Every FUCKING TIME

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  14. "Theists, why is it so important to convince the Atheists that they are wrong?"

    Because you'd have to be a total dick not to do everything in your power to convince all nonbelievers to believe what they need to believe to avoid the worst pain and suffering imaginable for all eternity in Hell, were you to hypothetically "know" through the power of fatih/religious intuition/whatever that Hell is the case for nonbelievers.

    Or even for theists who don't believe in the Hell contingent on what you believe in thing, you'd still be kind of lame if you were to somehow become aware of the most important thing in the world (an actual god) yet you didn't bother trying to guide others into that same realization.

    "Likewise Atheists why do you care if someone goes to church every Sunday to pray to air, or worships a cow?"

    They probably care because a vast majority of both the US and the global population actually believe in an invisible, all-powerful anthropomorphic father figure who created a 46 billion light year wide collection of space sprinkled with some plasma and some rocks for the purpose of seeing whether certain bipedal primates living on a mote of dust will realize said creator exists.

    They probably care because these same people will, more likely than not, become elected to the highest political offices available and will have access to the most destructive weaponry available.

    They probably care because these same people have sacred texts that explicitly instruct them to engage in wide-scale violence for less than sane reasons.

    But mostly though, it's just really grating to read or hear someone express the idea that an omnipotent super-being who exists outside of time and who guides our development in ways only evident through subtle clues and 2000 year old word of mouth is a reasonable explanation for anything.

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  15. I've recently watched "the known universe" with stephen hawking, in one particular show they have argued that god doesn't exist as IT IS possible for things to just pop into existence. On top of that, since Einstein included time in our coordinate system, before the universe was created the was NO TIME. That actually strips God of his major deed, creation of existence. If anybody interested google will help you find that episode

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  16. @Anonymous: Our Beliefs are heavily influenced by cultures, our societies etc. You believe what you do because of the society you were born into, regardless of how objective or rational you think your beliefs are. Yes you've probably listened to all the different arguments. And in the end? You chose your beliefs. Every one has a right to choose.
    Why do you think you have a right to change their beliefs? don't you realize that you're doing the exact same thing that they are doing? That you sound just as crazy to them as they do to you.
    Perhaps, if we all understood that we wouldn't have to care what each of us believes in. Rather we'll try to figure out how to get along.

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  17. Oh! And good luck in your efforts. Lets see what you can do in one puny lifetime, that no one has succeeded in doing for thousands of years....

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  18. "Why do you think you have a right to change their beliefs? don't you realize that you're doing the exact same thing that they are doing?"

    Why do you think people *shouldn't* have the "right" to argue for or against a belief? Aren't you doing that same thing too? Why shouldn't people choose sides? If you're against choosing sides, shouldn't you refrain from actively choosing and arguing for the side that people shouldn't choose sides? Would you be against people choosing sides on the permissability of slaveholding?

    "You believe what you do because of the society you were born into, regardless of how objective or rational you think your beliefs are."

    What does it matter what events led up to the discovery of a proposed idea or a stance against a proposed idea? The important thing is which idea or stance is accurate and why, not whether the person arguing for or against a given idea is a product of his or her culture.

    "Oh! And good luck in your efforts. Lets see what you can do in one puny lifetime, that no one has succeeded in doing for thousands of years.... "

    Yeah! Take that, Wright brothers! What do you think you are, a couple of birds?

    Also, why exactly should someone who finds something wrong and feels the urge to point out why that something is wrong be seen as a failure if he or she doesn't eradicate the wrong idea from the minds of all sentient beings within his or her own lifetime?

    "That you sound just as crazy to them as they do to you."

    Nope.

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  19. See, I'm an agnostic/possibilianist. I see what you're trying to say, just like everyone else. I also fully agree with you on all of your points; however, at the end of each point, where you go to say "THAT'S GOD. BOOM." etc, I don't see how you actually draw that conclusion. Just because SOMETHING set it in motion, does not mean it was "the God" that modern protestants/catholics/nazarenes/etc believe in. If you are suggesting that there is a god/many gods/higher being(s) of sorts, I fully agree there too, because it's not like the whole universe could possibly have evolved from nothing, as you stated. However (again), this does not prove a single standing religion correct, because it could be any of them, or, none of them.

    There is absolute truth in that SOMETHING created all of this, but once it comes down to who/how/when/why, it is all a matter of opinion, until someone thinks up a way to time travel.

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  20. A lot of you(many of you are not doing this as well) are automatically attaching what your idea of God is to you, to this article. You're misinterpretting the whole article by doing so. Bro isnt talking about the christian god, or any other religions god. If you dont understand what im saying by now you need to open your mind a little more... funny thing is the people who dont understand it are the ones who truly believe they do, and will be the pissed off by this comment.. wait, maybe i dont understand it??? holy shitttt

    keep it up bro! love your writing

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  21. ironchariots? what a fucking embarrassing site. try real skeptical philosophy.

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  22. I love the writing, even though Aquinas is full of shit for the reasons listed above. Just because they're lousy arguments doesn't mean they weren't influential arguments, so they're certainly worth a summary.

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  23. Creationist agenda:

    1. Find unknowns.
    2. Fill unknowns with word "god"
    3. No evidence necessary.

    My hat's off to you, bro.

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  24. I'm studying for the Catholic priesthood right now and if my philosophy professor's summarized Aquinas the same way you did I would be a freakin' brilliant philosopher by now. Keep it up, Philosophy bro!

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  25. No need for there to be a cause! Infinity doesn't have a beginning or an end!

    Also, God doesn't 'exist' - he's not here... I exist, the tree out my window exists, if God exists then where is he?

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  26. You all have the right to believe what you will. I believe in and have always believed in God. IF I am wrong in my beliefs then when I die I have nothing to lose, I will just cease to exist. But if I am right as I believe then I have eternity to spend with the God that created all things in Heaven. If I chose not to believe and I die and I am right then I cease to exist as well. But if I am a non-believer and I am wrong then that equals eternity in Hell. God gave us free will. Its our choice which path we go.

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  27. @Andrey- I am a big fan of Stephen Hawking myself, and have also seen all of his specials. Indeed, I find it very welcome to hear a brilliant astrophysicist weigh in from a purely scientific perspective. He theoretically illustrates that the Universe came into existence from nothing, completely eliminating the need for a higher power.

    @Jessica- To say it is an absolute truth that something created the Universe is just bad thinking. From a philosophical standpoint, when you apply this question to the Truth Test it falls on its ass because there is no rational way to prove one way or the other. Again, from a purely objective, philosophical perspective, there is NO way to prove the existence of a god, Karma, or reincarnation, and this is because religion is based on faith. If you are a believer, you do so on the grounds that you have faith in the absence of proof.

    @Anon (Commenting on the constant battle between atheists and theists)- What pisses me off about people threatening Hell and eternal damnnation is the fact that not only does this imply that you think Eastern Religions are completely wrong; but also, the fact that if God is so merciful and just and loving as everyone says, why is he punishing those non-believers who are good people and lead good lives? The Dalai Lama is arguably one of the most peaceful, respectable humans on the planet; however, he does not believe in your God, he is a Tibetan Buddhist. You mean to tell me that God is going to send the Dalai Lama to Hell? If a god does exist that will make value judgements upon our death, I believe he will show a bit more discretion.

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  28. Millenniums ago, when there was nothing but rock and vapor, someone in the coach section from a passing spacecraft took a crap,flushed the toilet,and science explains the rest. Done.

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  29. Bros and Chick-Bros,

    This is one article of one question in St. Thomas' entire Summa Theologia, there is a lot more to his philosophy yo (If you wanna try to refute it I'd suggest reading the other articles of this question at least). Most of these comments are full of strawman, spiced up with some ad hominem. St. Thomas is totally talking about God as the Catholic Church teaches, not any other "god" or "God".

    @Jessica

    It does suggest God (the one the Catholic Church teaches) because one it's St. Thomas Aquinas (a Catholic saint) and two any lesser "god" wouldn't have existed or had the power to make the "first ____" by it's own definition.

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