Summary Against Modern Thought: Human Events And Higher Causes

Summary Against Modern Thought: Human Events And Higher Causes

Previous post.

There just is no avoiding God’s control—of everything. In what sense that means, read on!


1 From the things shown above we can gather how human actions may be traced back to higher causes and are not performed fortuitously.

2 Of course, acts of choice and movements of the will are controlled immediately by God. And human intellectual knowledge is ordered by God through the mediation of the angels. Whereas matters pertinent to bodily things, whether they are internal or external, when they come within the use of man, are governed by God by means of the angels and the celestial bodies.

Notes We still don’t know how God causes the will which man freely moves. A weak metaphor is that electric company providing the juice for a man’s table saw.

3 Now, in general, there is one reason for this. Everything that is multiform, mutable, and capable of defect must be reducible to a source in something that is uniform, immutable, and capable of no defect. But all things that are within our power are found to be multiple, variable, and defectible.

4 It is clear that our acts of choice have the character of multiplicity, since choices are made of different things, by different people, in different ways. They are also mutable, both because of the instability of the mind, which is not firmly fixed on the ultimate end, and also because of the fluctuating character of the things which provide our circumstantial environment.

That they are defectible, of course the sins of men testify. But the divine will is uniform, because by willing one object it wills all else, and it is immutable and without defect, as we showed in Book One. So, the movement of all wills and choices must be traced back to the divine will, and not to any other cause, for God alone is the cause of our acts of will and choice.

5 Likewise, our understanding has the quality of multiplicity, since we gather, as it were, intelligible truth from many sense objects. It is also mutable, for it advances by discursive movement from one thing to another, proceeding from known things to unknown ones. It is, moreover, defectible, because of the admixture of imagination with sensation, as the errors of mankind show.

On the other hand, the cognitive acts of the angels are uniform: for they receive the knowledge of truth from one fount of truth; namely, God. Their cognition is also immutable, because they see directly the pure truth about things by a simple intuition, not by a discursive movement from effects to their causes or the reverse.

It is even incapable of defect, since they directly intuit the very natures, or quiddities, of things, and understanding cannot err in regard to such objects, just as sense cannot err in regard to proper sensibles. We, however, make guesses as to the quiddities of things from their accidents and effects. Therefore, our intellectual knowledge must be regulated by means of the angels’ knowledge.

Notes It seems to follow angels (good and bad) can only sin at the moment of their creation, when they make the choice. They are anyway always under the direct control of God.

6 Again, in regard to human bodies and the external things that men use, it is obvious that there is in them a multiplicity of admixture and contrariety; and that they are not moved uniformly, since their motions cannot be continuous; and that they are defectible through alteration and corruption.

In contrast, the celestial bodies are uniform in the way of simple beings with no contrariety in their constitution. Their motions are also uniform, continuous, and always in the same condition. Nor can there be corruption or alteration in them. Hence, it is necessary for our bodies, and the others which come under our use, to be regulated by means of the motions of the celestial bodies.

Notes Beginning next week, the tricky subjects of fate and chance!


  1. Joy

    Firstly, just an ‘excuse me’ because I only comment when I’m disagreeing.
    However, it seems that on this argument and the previous week or two where it is claimed that demons are ‘controlled by God’:

    This conflicts with what is claimed earlier in the book (maybe the previous book) where it is claimed that God is pure good and cannot do evil. also with the idea that evil is the absence of goodness or holiness. Which seems to suggest that God cannot touch evil without producing a good effect.
    So that the default spirit is goodness. Just as the light in the dark analogy depicts.

    Thomas seems to have implied both situations which aren’t logically mutually possible.

    Of course without freedom of choice, such things as angels and demons if they exist, just like people, need freedom in order to choose an action, and God must limit his power in order that freedom can exist. Or he would control everything, the universe would be back to clockwork *in the figurative sense.

    It’s the concept of freedom from mechanical causes that, to me, comes about by information, that is the factor.
    That is not made of matter but matter contains it.

    Why bother to try and work this out? I don’t know.

  2. C-Marie

    The Cause that we have a free will, is God, as He is the Creator of our free will.
    The ability to use our free will is gift from God which gift we make use of, through our spiritual, mental and emotional abilities.
    God does not cause us to make certain choices, assessments, etc., but He does continually draw us to Himself, which drawings we can reject, by the use of the gift of the free will that He has given to us.
    God bless, C-Marie

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