Aquinas and His "Five Ways," an Expression of Assumed Faith
The Five Ways of the existence of God, penned by the famed Thomas Aquinas are reported to be some of the most practical and real philosophical arguments of the existence of God. Though they are with much merit the reality of each both ends and begins with simple faith. Once again the reader or philosopher is left to interpret the logic of Aquinas statements all ending with an assumption of faith, faith therefore becoming the very structure and skeleton of his proofs.
Though the works are of coarse well thought they were created in a time when the propriety to question the ultimate truths was unheard of. The faith of Aquinas and of the whole era in which he wrote is assumed through the dialogue of his proofs, in many ways nullifying each individual proof as just another representation of faith. This work will briefly explain and define each proof and then will attempt to demonstrate the point of faith within each of the five ways and the arguments associated with it.
In the entire set of proofs, Aquinas demonstrates the use of reason and scientific thought. He spends many sentences formulating, within his own mind and for the reader the explanations of the previous assertion. With or without these explanations, it is clear that his speaking to an audience that both assumes and believes that God exists. Even today: "Many human beings have reasons for such a belief that are informal versions of one of the five ways; they suppose, for example, that because there is order in the universe there must be a principle of order."
The 'First Way"
In the "First Way" Aquinas relates the existence of God to the process of change. Aquinas states that within this world all people admit that things exist which are in the process if change and that this change is initiated by a force other than itself. Aquinas then goes on to say that if this is the case, and it obviously is that there must have been an initial force that changed something into something else because the thing cannot be what it is and what it has the potential to be simultaneously.
Closing the work Aquinas gives the property of this initial being or force of change to God, as the process cannot be infinite in either direction, it must have a finite first and last. "So we have to come to some first initiator of change which is not in a process of change initiated by something else, and everyone understands that this is God."
Clearly, Aquinas outlines his context of history, charging "everyone" with a belief in God, and therefore a blind assumed tenet of reality, an unchangeable fact of life. Refutation of this argument is fairly simple and clearly accepted by millions of people and that is that the very nature of faith is blind, faith cannot be affirmed by proof as it is then no longer faith.
The "Second Way"
In the "Second Way" Aquinas comes closest to outlining what many would consider to be the law of nature. Within nature there is a pattern or order of things and events, these patterns are observable and tend to exemplify the best possible outcomes over and over again. The divine law of nature states that if this type of best order or pattern exists that there must be a source of this plan, and that would be the divine.
Aquinas' Second Way attempts to demonstrate a clear link between the notion of efficient cause and an ultimate source for such a cause. Eliminating itself as the source of the efficient cause, Aquinas once again assumes that there is a divine power called God who defines and demonstrates the initial and continues most efficient cause.
We find, in things around us that we sense, an order of efficient causes./
But we do not find -- nor could there be -- anything that is the efficient cause of itself./
For if anything were, it would have to be prior to itself, and this is impossible. "
Martin 150) Once again Aquinas dismisses the infinite by saying simply that we as people must exclude the infinite as a possibility.
The simplest argument against such a case would be that we as humans and of like minds are simply unable to conceive of infinite, a testament to the finite possibilities of the human mind rather than the finite possibilities of the universe. Finite must assume a series of cause first, last and intermediary and according to Aquinas the only possible solution would be that God is the initial efficient cause. "Hence we must suppose some first efficient cause, and this is what all call 'God'."
Refuting this objection is that all things have a beginning and an end, as what they are. Before they are, they are simply potential. Their matter may exist but the "what" of the thing is not there until it is.
The "Third Way"
In the "Third Way" Aquinas steps away from the word usage that ends his reason with the existence of God but clearly there are hints of these assumptions within the text. In a sense the third way brings to mind the extinction of species. As the best analogy of what Aquinas is speaking of there are three serious arguments against his logic. First he states that if something has the ability to both exist and then to not exist then it is not real.
Any environmentalist with any historical memory would call this assumption a falsehood simply at surface merit. That which no longer exists at this time does not negate its reality in another. How then do we have petroleum products or even photographs or even renderings of bygone species? Additionally it also assumes that time is completely linear and that there is no possibility for intertwining time lines. For example, that each species or group of species occurs on its own schedule and that the schedules of other species simply coincide with or overlap in time the others.
If, then, everything had the possibility of not being, at some time there would be nothing real.
But if this were the case, then there would be nothing now: since that which does not exist only begins to exist through something that does exist. Hence if nothing were in existence, it would be impossible for anything to begin existing, so nothing would now exist. This is clearly not the case.
Again, Aquinas assumes that there is even a remote possibility that "nothing" (or a state of nothingness) ever existed. Only then, if "nothing" ever existed could there ever be or have been a creator, Aquinas would call God.
We must suppose, then, something that is necessary in itself, which does not owe its necessity to some outside cause, but rather causes the necessity of the other things: and this is what all say is God." (Martin 156) And lastly, this argument closes with the assumption that if anything is real (e.g. present without the possibility of being not present) then it must be necessary. This would exclude the possibility that humans, as necessary beings would ever have the possibility of not existing and this, by modern scientific ideals is clearly not the case! Though there are many who would refute this with the expression that there is no possibility for the extinction of a being, man who was created by God and can do everything that can be done by man, that in some sense man is an arm of God and possesses the ability to eliminate anything that would cause his extinction.
The "Fourth Way"
The "Fourth Way" cannot truly be understood without a better explanation of the text which Aquinas references, Metaphysics. Yet, it can be broken down to reveal the greatest meaning of the statements. Aquinas explains that the degree to which a thing is, good, bad, hot and cold and can only be so by virtue of a comparison, demonstrates the fact that there must be something else that is the most of that virtue. Therefore if there is any good or right within the world, existing in things and in people then there must be something that is clearly the most good, and to Aquinas this must be God.
To refute this proof there is only a few things that clearly come to mind as weaknesses. The first being, that an assumption that there must be a pure example of any descriptive virtue is clearly an assumption. Is it not possible to assume that through comparison of one thing to another that there is something that exists outside this world that exemplifies the perfect form of any one virtue, without faith. Secondly, it is assumed through this proof that virtues can be independent of one another in one being, that of God, and yet because he/she is God…