Summary Against Modern Thought: That God Is Goodness Itself

This may be proved in three ways. The first...
This may be proved in three ways. The first…
See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

This post is one that has been restored after the hacking. All original comments were lost.

Previous post.

A short exercise (I’m traveling) showing God is not just good, like your breakfast taco might have been, but goodness itself.

Chapter 38: That God is Goodness Itself

1 FROM the above we are able to conclude that God is His own goodness.

2 For to be in act is for every thing its own good. Now, God is not only being in act, but is His own being, as proved above.[1] Therefore He is goodness itself and not merely good.

3 Further. The perfection of a thing is its goodness, as we have shown above.[2] Now the perfection of the divine being does not consist in something added thereto, but in its being perfect in itself, as proved above.[3] Therefore God’s goodness is not something added to His essence, but His essence is His goodness.

Notes God is pure act, actuality itself, which is to say, being itself. God has no potentiality. God existence and essence (as was showed earlier) are one. Potentiality (we learned last week) is to have the tendency to imperfection,rather it is the presence of imperfection (think about any real instantiation of a a circle), while being in act is a kind of perfection. Since God is pure act, He is perfect, which is a good, and thus goodness itself.

4 Again. Any good that is not its own goodness is good by participation. Now that which is by participation presupposes something antecedent to itself, from which it derives the nature of goodness. But it is not possible to continue thus to infinity: since in final causes there is no proceeding to infinity, for the infinite is inconsistent with finality: and the good has the nature of an end. We must therefore come to some first good, that is good not by participation in relation to something else, but by its essence. Now this is God. Therefore God is His own goodness.

Notes Perhaps another way to put this is that there must be an ultimate reference. If Goodness Itself isn’t God, then the good is a matter of dispute, mere opinion. And not even mere opinion, because I could have the opinion that good is not a matter of opinion. You cannot even say one thing is better, i.e. more good, than another. Goodness disappears without God. All goodness. There is nothing but brute fact. Which is absurd. Therefore God must be the ultimate comparator.

Transitivity can exist in real choices (A is better or more good then B, B better than C, but C better than A, as perceived by you), but the idea that one thing can be better than another also exists. Again, you can say that a good interocitor is one which is long. A is longer than B, which seems like good is quantitative. But it is the idea that the good exists which is at base. Long interocitors are good, and longer ones better, by definition. But none will be on infinite length. The same idea of “flaw” is present in every material thing. Only God is without this “flaw.”

5 Again. That which is can participate something, but being itself can participate nothing: because that which participates is potentiality, whereas being is act. Now, God is being itself, as we have proved.[4] Therefore He is good not by participation, but essentially.

6 Moreover. In every simple thing, being and that which is are one: for if they be distinct, there is no longer simplicity.[5] Now, God is absolutely simple, as we have proved. Therefore that He is good is not distinct from Himself. Therefore He is His own goodness.

Notes A circle hewn of wood can participate in circleness. But that the circle exists, rather its existence, is act, and to be in act is to exist, and act doesn’t participate in being, it is in being. And we earlier showed that God is being itself, and simple. Don’t forget that “simple” is a technical word here. It means lacking potentiality.


[1] Ch. xxii.
[2] Ch. xxxvii.
[3] Ch. xxviii.
[4] Ch. xxii.
[5] Ch. xviii.


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