Summary Against Modern Thought: Intellectual Creatures & The Universe’s Perfection

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.

Previous post.

Why are we here? There are some hints, but only hints, in this week’s arguments.

Chapter 46 That for the perfection of the universe it was necessary that there should be some intellectual creatures (alternate translation)

1 SUCH being the cause of diversity among things, it remains for us to inquire into the diverse things, as far as this concerns the truth of faith: for this was the third thing we proposed to do. We shall show, first, that as a result of the divine ordinance allotting to creatures that perfection which is best in keeping with their mode, certain creatures were made intellectual so as to occupy the highest point in the universe.

Notes Intellectual creatures? Angels and men. Were there others? Looks like it, maybe: Giants in those days, men of renown.

2 For then is an effect most perfect when it returns to its source; wherefore of all figures the circle, and of all movements the circular, are the most perfect, because in them a return is made to the beginning. Hence, in order that the universe of creatures may attain its ultimate perfection, creatures must return to their principle. Now each and every creature returns to its principle, in so far as it bears a likeness to its principle, in keeping with its being and nature, wherein it has a certain perfection: even as all effects are most perfect when they are most like their effective cause, as a house when it is most like art, and fire when it is most like its generator. Since then God’s intellect is the principle of the creature’s production, as we proved above, it was necessary for the creature’s perfection that some creatures should be intelligent.

Notes This argument is not, I think, conclusive. Grant that, as is true, effects are more perfect the closer they are to their effective cause, but it does not seem to follow that God necessarily had to make creatures that were intellectual, even though it is true intellectual creatures are closer to perfection in the sense Aquinas meant. Though there is certainly plenty of evidence God created a hierarchy of intellectual beings.

3 Moreover. Second perfection in things adds to first perfection. Now, as the being and nature of a thing is considered as pertaining to its first perfection, so is operation considered as belonging to its second perfection. Wherefore, for the complete perfection of the universe, there should be some creatures which return to God not only in likeness of nature, but also by their operation. And this cannot be saved by the act of the intellect and will: since not even God Himself has any other operation towards Himself than these. Therefore it was necessary for the greatest perfection of the universe that there should be some intellectual creatures.

Notes Same thing goes here. There is a hidden premise that makes these arguments sound, and that is God made a complete perfection of the universe. Given that, the other arguments follow. I don’t say this premise isn’t true, but it doesn’t seem available as a first principle, as opposed to being true based on observation.

4 Further. In order that creatures might render perfectly a representation of the divine goodness, it was necessary, as above stated, that things should not only be made good, but also that they should operate for the goodness of others. Now a thing is perfectly likened to another in its operation, when not only the action is of the same species, but also the mode of acting is the same. Hence it was necessary, for the highest perfection of things, that there should be some creatures who act in the same way as God. But it has been proved above that God acts by intellect and will. Therefore it was necessary for some creatures to have intelligence and will.

5 Moreover. Likeness of the effect to its efficient cause is considered on the part of the effect’s form which pre-exists in the agent: for an agent produces its like as regards the form whereby it acts. Now the form of the agent is received in the effect sometimes indeed according to the same mode of being as it has in the agent,–thus the form of the fire generated has the same mode of being as the form of the generating fire,–and sometimes, according to another mode of being,–thus the form of the house which exists intelligibly in the craftsman’s mind, is received in the house that is outside the mind, according to a material manner: and it is clear that the former likeness is more perfect than the latter.

Now, the perfection of the universe of creatures consists in a likeness to God, just as the perfection of every effect consists in a likeness to its efficient cause. Therefore the highest perfection of the universe requires not only the second likeness of the creature to God, but also the first, as far as possible. But the form whereby God produces the creature, is an intelligible form in Him, since He is an agent by intellect, as proved above. Therefore the highest perfection of the universe requires that there should be some creatures in which the form of the divine intellect is reproduced according to an intelligible mode of being: and this means that there should be creatures of an intellectual nature.

6 Again. Nothing but His goodness moves God to the production of creatures, which goodness He wished to communicate to other things by way of likeness to Himself, as shown above. Now likeness to another is found in a thing in two ways: in one way, as regards natural being, as the likeness of fiery heat is in the thing heated by fire; in another way, as regards knowledge, as the likeness of fire is in sight or touch. In order, therefore, that the likeness of God might be in things in such ways as are possible, it behooved that the divine goodness should be communicated by likeness not only in being but also in knowledge. But an intellect alone is capable of knowing the divine goodness. Therefore it was necessary that there should be intellectual creatures.

Notes There is some indication in these arguments why we are here. Why we were created, that is, which otherwise is a complete mystery. If it be necessary that there should be intellectual creatures, and only intellect can known God, it seems God enjoys, or at least desires, our company so that we may know Him. This almost tautological answer is far from all the mystery, however.

7 Further. In all things becomingly ordered the relation of second to last imitates the order of first to all both second and last, though sometimes defectively. Now it has been proved that God comprises all creatures in Himself. And this is reproduced in corporeal creatures, although in a different way: for the higher body is even found to comprise and contain the lower, yet according to quantitative extension, whereas God contains all creatures in a simple manner, and not by extension of quantity. Hence, in order that the imitation of God in this way also might not be lacking to creatures, intellectual creatures were made that prise and contain the lower, yet according to quantitative extension, but simply by way of intelligibility: since what is understood is in the intelligent subject, and is grasped by his intellectual operation.

1 Comment

  1. Oldavid

    As is often the case with ole Tom, the philosophical conclusions get lost or drowned in his deliberations.

    Let me summarise.
    Creation exists exactly as it is because it is the perfect “expression” of infinite Life, Intellect, and Love (pure goodness or benevolence with full measure of Justice and Mercy).

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