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Everything that gives each of us our personal identities — consciousness, character, memories and so on — seems rooted in the electrochemical processes of our brains. Where does this leave those who, while secular in outlook, still pine after immortality? A little more than a century ago, the American philosopher William James proposed an interesting way of keeping open the door to an afterlife.

We know that the mind depends on the physical brain, James said. Had James given his lecture a few decades later, he might have used the radio as a metaphor. When a radio is damaged, the music becomes distorted. When it is smashed, the music stops altogether. All the while, however, the signal is still out there, uncorrupted. Alas, little of this supposed evidence for an afterlife has held up under the scrutiny of rigorous investigation.

In the s, a new hope for survivalists emerged: the near-death experience. Moody Jr. Most [ quantify ] Christians understand the soul as an ontological reality distinct from, yet integrally connected with, the body. Its characteristics are described [ by whom? Richard Swinburne , an Orthodox Christian philosopher of religion at Oxford University, wrote that "it is a frequent criticism of substance dualism that dualists cannot say what souls are.

Souls are immaterial subjects of mental properties.

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They have sensations and thoughts, desires and beliefs, and perform intentional actions. Souls are essential parts of human beings". Though all major branches of Christianity — Catholics, Eastern Orthodox , Oriental Orthodox , Church of the East , Evangelical , and mainline Protestants — teach that Jesus Christ plays a decisive role in the Christian salvation process, the specifics of that role and the part played by individual persons or by ecclesiastical rituals and relationships, is a matter of wide diversity in official church teaching, theological speculation and popular practice.

Some [ which?


Some [ who? Other Christians understand the soul as the life, and believe that the dead are sleeping Christian conditionalism. This belief is traditionally accompanied by the belief that the unrighteous soul will cease to exist instead of suffering eternally annihilationism. Believers will inherit eternal life either in Heaven , or in a Kingdom of God on earth, and enjoy eternal fellowship with God. There are also beliefs in universal salvation. Augustine , one of western Christianity's most influential early Christian thinkers, described the soul as "a special substance, endowed with reason, adapted to rule the body".

Some Christians espouse a trichotomic view of humans, which characterizes humans as consisting of a body soma , soul psyche , and spirit pneuma. Paul said that the "body wars against" the soul, "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit" Heb NASB , and that "I buffet my body", to keep it under control. Trichotomy was changed to dichotomy as tenet of Christian faith at the Council of Constantinople in , which Roman Catholics regard as the 8th Ecumenical Council.

The "origin of the soul" has provided a vexing question in Christianity. The major theories put forward include soul creationism , traducianism , and pre-existence. According to soul creationism, God creates each individual soul created directly, either at the moment of conception or some later time. According to traducianism, the soul comes from the parents by natural generation. According to the preexistence theory, the soul exists before the moment of conception. Stances in this question might play a role in judgements on the morality of abortion. The present Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the soul as "the innermost aspect of humans, that which is of greatest value in them, that by which they are in God's image described as 'soul' signifies the spiritual principle in man".

The Catholic Church teaches that the existence of each individual soul is dependent wholly upon God: "The doctrine of the faith affirms that the spiritual and immortal soul is created immediately by God. Protestants generally believe in the soul's existence, but fall into two major camps about what this means in terms of an afterlife. Some, following Calvin , [37] believe in the immortality of the soul and conscious existence after death, while others, following Luther , [38] believe in the mortality of the soul and unconscious "sleep" until the resurrection of the dead.

After death, the spirit continues to live and progress in the Spirit world until the resurrection , when it is reunited with the body that once housed it. This reuniting of body and spirit results in a perfect soul that is immortal and eternal and capable of receiving a fulness of joy. These are co-eternal with God, and animate the spirits. Some Confucian traditions contrast a spiritual soul with a corporeal soul. In Jainism, jiva is the immortal essence or soul of a living organism human, animal, fish or plant etc.

The concept of jiva in Jainism is similar to atman in Hinduism. However, some Hindu traditions differentiate between the two concepts, with jiva considered as individual self, while atman as that which is universal unchanging self that is present in all living beings and everything else as the metaphysical Brahman. And mankind has not been given of knowledge except a little.

It is Allah that takes the Nafs at death: and those that die not He takes it during their sleep: then those on whom He has passed the Decree of death He keeps back their Nafs from returning ; but the rest He sends back for a term appointed. Verily in this are Signs for those who contemplate. In Jainism, every living being, from plant or bacterium to human, has a soul and the concept forms the very basis of Jainism.

According to Jainism, there is no beginning or end to the existence of soul. It is eternal in nature and changes its form until it attains liberation. Irrespective of which state the soul is in, it has got the same attributes and qualities. The difference between the liberated and non-liberated souls is that the qualities and attributes are manifested completely in case of siddha liberated soul as they have overcome all the karmic bondages whereas in case of non-liberated souls they are partially exhibited.

Concerning the Jain view of the soul, Virchand Gandhi said. If we believe that the soul is to be controlled by the body then soul misses its power. In Judaism the soul was believed to be given by God to Adam as mentioned in Genesis ,. Then the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Judaism relates the quality of one's soul to one's performance of the commandments mitzvot and reaching higher levels of understanding, and thus closeness to God.

A person with such closeness is called a tzadik. Kabbalah and other mystic traditions go into greater detail into the nature of the soul. Kabbalah separates the soul into five elements, corresponding to the five worlds :. Kabbalah also proposed a concept of reincarnation, the gilgul.

See also nefesh habehamit the "animal soul". The Scientology view is that a person does not have a soul, it is a soul. A person is immortal, and may be reincarnated if they wish. The Scientology term for the soul is " thetan ", derived from the Greek word "theta", symbolizing thought. Scientology counselling called auditing addresses the soul to improve abilities, both worldly and spiritual.

The belief in soul dualism found throughout most Austronesian shamanistic traditions. The "free soul" is said to leave the body and journey to the spirit world during sleep, trance-like states , delirium , insanity , and death. The duality is also seen in the healing traditions of Austronesian shamans, where illnesses are regarded as a "soul loss" and thus to heal the sick, one must "return" the "free soul" which may have been stolen by an evil spirit or got lost in the spirit world into the body.

If the "free soul" can not be returned, the afflicted person dies or goes permanently insane. In some ethnic groups, there can also be more than two souls. Like among the Tagbanwa people , where a person is said to have six souls - the "free soul" which is regarded as the "true" soul and five secondary souls with various functions.

Kalbo Inuit groups believe that a person has more than one type of soul. One is associated with respiration, the other can accompany the body as a shadow. The shaman heals within the spiritual dimension by returning 'lost' parts of the human soul from wherever they have gone. The shaman also cleanses excess negative energies, which confuse or pollute the soul.

Sikhism considers soul atma to be part of God Waheguru. For example: "The soul is divine; divine is the soul. Worship Him with love. The atma or soul according to Sikhism is an entity or "spiritual spark" or "light" in our body because of which the body can sustain life. On the departure of this entity from the body, the body becomes lifeless — No amount of manipulations to the body can make the person make any physical actions. It is the roohu or spirit or atma , the presence of which makes the physical body alive. Many religious and philosophical traditions support the view that the soul is the ethereal substance — a spirit; a non material spark — particular to a unique living being.

Such traditions often consider the soul both immortal and innately aware of its immortal nature, as well as the true basis for sentience in each living being.

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The concept of the soul has strong links with notions of an afterlife, but opinions may vary wildly even within a given religion as to what happens to the soul after death. Many within these religions and philosophies see the soul as immaterial, while others consider it possibly material. In theological reference to the soul, the terms "life" and "death" are viewed as emphatically more definitive than the common concepts of " biological life " and "biological death".

Because the soul is said to be transcendent of the material existence, and is said to have potentially eternal life , the death of the soul is likewise said to be an eternal death. Thus, in the concept of divine judgment , God is commonly said to have options with regard to the dispensation of souls, ranging from Heaven i.

Eternity: God, Soul, New Physics

Typically both Heaven and hell are said to be eternal, or at least far beyond a typical human concept of lifespan and time. According to Louis Ginzberg , soul of Adam is the image of God. In Dada Bhagwan , The Soul is an independent eternal element. The Soul is permanent. In order to experience the Soul you need to attain Self-Realization. In Brahma Kumaris , human souls are believed to be incorporeal and eternal.

God is considered to be the Supreme Soul, with maximum degrees of spiritual qualities, such as peace, love and purity. In Helena Blavatsky 's Theosophy , the soul is the field of our psychological activity thinking, emotions, memory, desires, will, and so on as well as of the so-called paranormal or psychic phenomena extrasensory perception, out-of-body experiences, etc.

However, the soul is not the highest, but a middle dimension of human beings. Higher than the soul is the spirit, which is considered to be the real self; the source of everything we call "good"—happiness, wisdom, love, compassion, harmony, peace, etc. While the spirit is eternal and incorruptible, the soul is not. The soul acts as a link between the material body and the spiritual self, and therefore shares some characteristics of both. The soul can be attracted either towards the spiritual or towards the material realm, being thus the "battlefield" of good and evil.

It is only when the soul is attracted towards the spiritual and merges with the Self that it becomes eternal and divine. Rudolf Steiner claimed classical trichotomic stages of soul development, which interpenetrated one another in consciousness: [93]. In Surat Shabda Yoga , the soul is considered to be an exact replica and spark of the Divine.

Similarly, the spiritual teacher Meher Baba held that "Atma, or the soul, is in reality identical with Paramatma the Oversoul — which is one, infinite, and eternal Eckankar , founded by Paul Twitchell in , defines Soul as the true self; the inner, most sacred part of each person. The ancient Greeks used the word " ensouled " to represent the concept of being "alive", indicating that the earliest surviving western philosophical view believed that the soul was that which gave the body life. Francis M. Cornford quotes Pindar by saying that the soul sleeps while the limbs are active, but when one is sleeping, the soul is active and reveals "an award of joy or sorrow drawing near" in dreams.

Erwin Rohde writes that an early pre- Pythagorean belief presented the soul as lifeless when it departed the body, and that it retired into Hades with no hope of returning to a body. Drawing on the words of his teacher Socrates, Plato considered the psyche to be the essence of a person, being that which decides how we behave. He considered this essence to be an incorporeal, eternal occupant of our being.

Plato says that even after death, the soul exists and is able to think. He believed that as bodies die, the soul is continually reborn in subsequent bodies. However, Aristotle believed that only one part of the soul was immortal namely the intellect logos. The Platonic soul consists of three parts: [99]. Plato also compares the three parts of the soul or psyche to a societal caste system. According to Plato's theory, the three-part soul is essentially the same thing as a state's class system because, to function well, each part must contribute so that the whole functions well.

Logos keeps the other functions of the soul regulated. In Aristotle's view, the primary activity, or full actualization, of a living thing constitutes its soul. For example, the full actualization of an eye, as an independent organism, is to see its purpose or final cause. This organization between form and matter is necessary for any activity, or functionality, to be possible in a natural being. Using an artifact non-natural being as an example, a house is a building for human habituation, but for a house to be actualized requires the material wood, nails, bricks, etc.

However, this does not imply that a house has a soul. In regards to artifacts, the source of motion that is required for their full actualization is outside of themselves for example, a builder builds a house. In natural beings, this source of motion is contained within the being itself.

The various faculties of the soul , such as nutrition, movement peculiar to animals , reason peculiar to humans , sensation special, common, and incidental and so forth, when exercised, constitute the "second" actuality, or fulfillment, of the capacity to be alive. For example, someone who falls asleep, as opposed to someone who falls dead, can wake up and live their life, while the latter can no longer do so.

Aristotle's discussion of the soul is in his work, De Anima On the Soul. Although mostly seen as opposing Plato in regard to the immortality of the soul, a controversy can be found in relation to the fifth chapter of the third book: In this text both interpretations can be argued for, soul as a whole can be deemed mortal, and a part called "active intellect" or "active mind" is immortal and eternal. Following Aristotle, Avicenna Ibn Sina and Ibn al-Nafis , an Arab physician, further elaborated upon the Aristotelian understanding of the soul and developed their own theories on the soul.

His own account of the soul is that the animal powers of the soul are as much powers of the human soul as is the intellectual power—they are all powers in the second mode of per se predication. In that respect they are all alike, and the human soul is thus per se the substantial form of a living body, not per accidens , and the person Socrates is that living body. When that living body ceases to exist through death, so also does the person who is Socratres. Finally, Thomas clearly understands and accepts the implications of his view that Socrates is the living animal, namely, that the continued existence of the human soul after death is not sufficient for the continued existence of the human person.

If the living animal no longer exists after death, then neither does Socrates. If the living animal is not immortal, then neither is Socrates. Consider these objections that Thomas himself considers. There is no resurrection of the body; only the souls of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob live after death. Thomas writes in response that the soul of Abraham is not Abraham, and the life of Abraham's soul is not sufficient for the life of Abraham. The whole composite of Abraham's soul and body must live for Abraham to live. Thus if only Abraham's soul lives after death, Abraham does not.

Summa Theologiae Of course Thomas does not think that the resurrection of the body is demonstrable in philosophy. For him it is a revealed truth, not one of the praeambula fidei. Earlier we saw how Thomas' use of philosophical analysis helped to avoid the potentially distorting view of the theologian upon the nature of the soul.

Here, we see how a revealed truth helps the philosopher avoid an equally distorting philosophical account of the soul and personal identity that would skew the philosophical books toward a personal human immortality without having to live as a human animal.

When Aristotle rejected the Platonic Ideas or Forms, accepting some of the arguments against them that Plato himself had devised in the Parmenides , he did not thereby reject the notion that the telos of philosophical enquiry is a wisdom which turns on what man can know of God. The magnificent panorama provided at the beginning of the Metaphysics as gloss on the claim that all men naturally desire to know rises to and culminates in the conception of wisdom as knowledge of all things in their ultimate or first causes.

For much of the twentieth century, Aristotelian studies had been conducted under the influence of Werner Jaeger's evolutionary hypothesis. On this view, Aristotle began as an ardent Platonist for whom the really real lay beyond sensible reality. With maturity, however, came the sober Macedonian empiricism which trained its attention on the things of this world and eschewed all efforts to transcend it. As for the Metaphysics , Jaeger saw it as an amalgam of both theories. The passage just alluded to at the beginning of the work is ascribed to the Platonic phase.

Other passages have a far more modest understanding of the range and point of a science over and above natural philosophy and mathematics. Platonice loquendo , there are entities which exist separately from sensible things and they constitute the object of the higher science. The more sober view finds a role for a science beyond natural philosophy and mathematics, but it will deal with things those particular sciences leave unattended, e. But these tasks do not call for, and do not imply, a range of beings over and above sensible things. Jaeger found both these conceptions of metaphysics juxtaposed in a crucial passage of Book Six.

Jaeger invites us to see here a monument to a lost hope and an abiding reluctance to bid it a definitive farewell. Aristotle mentions the possibility of an immovable substance, something existing apart from the natural realm. Without such a separate substance, natural philosophy will be first philosophy. If there is such a substance, it will be a kind of being different from material being. The science that studies it will bear on a certain kind of being, immovable substance, immaterial being, not on being as being.

It will be a special, not a universal, science. Jaeger sees Aristotle seeking to glue on to the special science the tasks that belong to a universal science, to make a theology into an ontology. Jaeger's hypothesis dominated interpretations of the Metaphysics until very recently.

Giovanni Reale's book had to await English translation before it could have any impact in English circles of interpretation. By that time, people were turning from Jaeger's account and toward a more direct reading of Aristotle. When we reconsider Thomas as a commentator on the Metaphysics , it becomes clear that his reading is in stark opposition to Jaeger's claims.

But let us first lay out Thomas's view of metaphysics. His question is Aristotle's: is there any science beyond natural science and mathematics? If to be and to be material are identical, then the science of being as being will be identical with the science of material being. That is what Aristotle rejects in the passage just quoted. It is in the course of doing natural philosophy that one gains certain knowledge that not everything that is is material.

At the end of the Physics , Aristotle argues from the nature of moved movers that they require a first unmoved mover. If successful, this proof establishes that there is a first mover of all moved movers which is not itself material. Furthermore, the discussion of intellect in On the Soul III , to which we alluded in the preceding paragraph, points beyond the material world. If the activity of intellect provides a basis for saying that, while the human soul is the substantial form of the body, it can exist apart from the body, that is, survive death, it is an immaterial existent.

The Prime Mover and the immortal souls of human beings entail that to be and to be material are not identical. Since these are acquisitions at the limit of natural philosophy, they represent possible objects of inquiry in their own right. This is pre-eminently the case with the Prime Mover. It seems inevitable that there should be a discipline whose principal aim is to know more about the divine.

How can it be described? Thomas discusses early the way theoretical sciences are distinguished from one another in the course of his exposition of the tractate of Boethius On the Trinity. The text speaks of three kinds of theoretical science, physics, mathematics and theology, and Thomas invokes the methodology of the Posterior Analytics. A scientia is constituted by a demonstrative syllogism. From a formal point of view, a conclusion follows necessarily from the premises in a well-formed syllogism. Still the conclusion may state a merely contingent truth.

What is needed in a demonstrative syllogism is not just the necessity of the consequence but a necessary consequent, and this requires that the premises express necessary truths. That which is necessary cannot be otherwise than as it is; it cannot change. Science thus requires that it bear on immobile things.

There is another requirement of the object of speculative or theoretical knowledge which stems from intellection. The activity of the mind, as has been mentioned, is not a material event; it is immaterial. Since it is the mind that knows, science is a mode of its knowing, and will share its nature. Thomas thus states two essential characteristics of the object of speculation, the speculabile : it must be removed both from matter and from motion. If that is the case then insofar as there are formally different ways in which speculabilia can be removed from matter and motion, there will be formally different speculative sciences.

By this analysis, Thomas has provided the necessary background for understanding the text of Boethius but also more importantly that of Aristotle as it is developed in the chapter from which Werner Jaeger quoted in order to display the failure of the Aristotelian project. Of things defined, i. And these differ because snub is bound up with matter for what is snub is a concave nose , while concavity is independent of perceptible matter.

This makes it clear that the way in which natural things are separated from sensible matter is the way in which the definition common to many things abstracts from the singular characteristics of each. But it is the matter as singular that is the principle of change in things, so the common definition has the requisite necessity for science. This or that man comes to be, but what-it-is-to-be-a-man does not come to be or pass away.

Lines, points, numbers, triangles—these do not have sensible qualities whether stated universally or singularly. The fact that we define mathematicals without sensible matter does not commit us to the view that mathematicals actually exist apart from sensible matter. In the commentary on Boethius to which reference has been made, Thomas has early on recalled another fundamental aspect of Aristotle's thought. The objects of thought are either simple or complex, where complex means that one thing is affirmed or denied of another. Knowledge of simples is expressed in a definition, that of the complex in a proposition.

Thinking of human nature without thinking of singular characters of this man or that is a matter of definition, not of assertion, as if one were denying that human nature is found in singular matter. So too defining mathematicals without sensible matter is not tantamount to the judgment that mathematicals exist apart from sensible matter.

These are both instances of abstraction, where abstraction means to think apart what does not exist apart. Thus it is that the question of metaphysics turns on what Thomas calls separatio. To separate differs from abstraction in this that separation is expressed in a negative judgment, an asserted proposition: this is not that, that this exists apart from that.

The relevant separation for metaphysics is the negative judgment that to be and to be material are not the same. That is, there are things which exist apart from matter and motion—not just are defined without, but exist without matter and motion. What then is the subject of metaphysics? The discussion of definition in effect bore on the middle terms of demonstrative syllogisms.

The suggestion is that formally different modes of defining, with respect to removal from matter and motion, ground the formal difference between types of theoretical science. The subject of a demonstration in natural philosophy is defined without singular but with common or universal sensible matter; the subject of a mathematical demonstration is defined without any sensible matter.

How can the subject of metaphysics be expressed? The possibility of the science depends on our knowing that some things exist apart from matter and motion. Mathematics does not presuppose the separate existence of its objects; metaphysics does. Why not then say that metaphysics deals with things separated from matter and motion, that is with a particular kind of being? But that is not the subject ever assigned to this effort by Aristotle. The methodological reasons can be found in chapter 17 of Book Seven of the Metaphysics : the subject of a science must always be a complex.

That is why the subject of this discipline is being as being. Why should we say that, in our desire to learn more about separate substances, we should take as our subject all the things that are? The short answer is this: in order to be a theology, metaphysics must first be an ontology. Separate substance, divine being, is not directly accessible for our inspection or study.

We come upon our first secure knowledge of a god in the proof of the Prime Mover. Tantalizingly, once seen as a necessary requirement for there being any moved movers, the Prime Mover does not become a thematic object of inquiry in natural philosophy. One obvious reason for this is that such an entity is not an instance of the things which fall under the scope of the science.

Knowledge of it comes about obliquely and indirectly. The same restriction is operative when the philosopher turns his culminating attention to a deity. How can he know more about the first cause of things? If the Prime Mover is known through moved movers as his effects, any further knowledge of him must be through his effects. It is by describing the effect as widely as possible that one seeks to come to a knowledge of the first cause unrestricted by the characteristics of mobile things. That characterization is being as being. The subject of metaphysics is being in all its amplitude in order to acquire a knowledge of the cause of being that will be correspondingly unbounded.

Earlier we indicated the difference between philosophy and theology in the writings of St. That distinction takes theology to mean discourse that takes its rise from the revealed truths of the Bible. But there is also a theology which constitutes the defining telos of philosophical inquiry. In the following passage, Thomas contrasts the two theologies in a way which throws light on what was said in the preceding paragraph. Philosophical theology is not some science distinct from metaphysics; it is simply the name that can be given to metaphysics because it appeals to a god as the cause of its subject.

This may make it seem that knowledge of a god is merely a bonus, a tangential consideration; on the contrary, it is the chief aim of the science. But the divine can only be known indirectly, through its effects. For this reason, metaphysics can be viewed as an extended effort to examine substance in order to come to knowledge of the first cause. And given the principle that we name things as we know them ST Ia. Thomas says that the truth of the proposition a god exists is knowable in itself, because the predicate is included in the essence of the subject.

But it is not knowable to us, because the essence of a god is unknowable to us. He also says that the essence of a god is existence, that such a being is ipsum esse subsistens , and yet that we cannot know this essence. How is any of this coherent? Mustn't one know what one is talking about to deny anything of it, in particular to deny that it is knowable to us? How can Thomas simultaneously assert what the essence of a god is and deny that we know it? In order to understand why his claims about the existence and essence of a god are not incoherent, we need to place them within the context of Aristotle's Posterior Analytics.

According to Aristotle, one mode of per se predication, the first, is that in which the predicate of the proposition is included within the definition of the subject. We've already seen the second, where the subject is included in the defintion of the predicate, the mode appropriate to the powers of a subject.

So in the first mode, if one immediately knew the essential definition of the subject, one would immediately know that a particular proposition is per se true simply by knowing that its predicate is included within that essential definition. Any proposition in which the predicate is included in the essential definition of the subject is knowable in itself.

For instance, Thomas thinks that anyone who knows the language will know the truth of a proposition like a whole consists of the sum of its parts. Because the terms are related in this fashion and so fundamental in the language, no special knowledge is necessary to grasp its truth. Such a proposition is thus knowable in itself but also to us.

However, clearly this account leaves open the possibility of subjects in which the essential definition is either unknown or even unknowable. For instance, if we suppose that H2O is the essential definition of water, we have to recognize that there will be many who will not know it. So that water is H2O will be knowable in itself, even if unknowable to us, until we engage in Chemistry.

Consider the mind. Clearly we use the term 'mind' meaningfully in any number of sentences. But perhaps, as Colin McGinn has argued, the actual nature of mind is incomprehensible to limited minds such as ours. In that case it might be knowable in itself, and yet strictly unknowable to us. Thus the distinction between what is knowable in itself and what is knowable to us is not incoherent. What of the claims that the essence of a god is not just unknown to us, but unknowable to us, that the essence of a god is His existence, and that it is ipsum esse subsistens?

Don't these remain jointly inconsistent and thus incoherent, even if the underlying distinction is not? In claiming that the essence of a god is not knowable to us, Thomas is talking about its accessibility to philosophical inquiry. The human mind of itself is proportioned to knowing material things. It can only know immaterial things insofar as causal arguments can be made to posit the existence of such things as necessary to the explanation of material things—causes that are only appealed to when one has excluded the possibility of a material explanation of the phenomenon.

But we've already seen that to claim that something is immaterial is not to know any property of it, much less its essence. Still, it remains available to Thomas to claim that while the knowledge of the essence of a god is unknowable to philosophy, it is known to us by Revelation.

Indeed, he appeals to God's revelation to Moses on Sinai to establish the claim that God's essence is ipsum esse subsistens —that is to say, the being who reveals Himself to Moses identifies Himself as what the philosophers are looking for but cannot find in its essence.


Summa theologiae Ia. It is not something that can be known by both Revelation and Philosophy. So the essence of God is knowable in itself, and also to the learned. But the learned are not the philosophers. Rather they are all those who know it by faith in God's revelation. So, can the existence of God be philosophically demonstrated? If God's essence is His existence, and His essence remains in principle philosophically unknowable to us, how could it be demonstrated? In fact, Aquinas claims that it can be demonstrated that there is a god, and that there is only one god.

That God's essence remains in principle philosophically unknowable to us is the basis for Aquinas' denial that the existence of God can be demonstrated a priori. And any reliance upon knowledge of the essence that is only known to us by faith would by that fact cease to be properly philosophical. However, we have seen that Aquinas relies upon the distinction between nominal definitions of terms and essential definitions of the subjects referred to by those terms.

To demonstrate the existence of a god one may use nominal definitions that appeal to a god as the cause of various phenomena. This is to argue a posteriori. Again, some will claim that Aquinas isn't really interested in proving the existence of God in these Five Ways. After all, he already knows the existence of God by faith, and he is writing a theological work for beginners.

What need is there of proving the existence of something he already knows exists? The Ways are very sketchy, and don't even necessarily conclude to a single being, much less God or the Christian God. In addition, Aquinas claims that God's essence is his existence and that we cannot know His essence, so we cannot know His existence. Aquinas must really intend the Five Ways as less than proofs; they are more like incomplete propaedeutic considerations for thinking adequately about God in Sacred Theology.

In effect, Aquinas doesn't think philosophy can in fact demonstrate the existence of God. But as elsewhere these claims are ambiguous and suffer at the hands of Thomas' own texts. In the first place, the objection that he already knows by faith that God exists has some merit in it, if we understand it as directed at a reading of Thomas that would have him attempting a foundational enterprise of grounding religious faith in what is rationally demonstrable by Philosophy.

But that reading is anachronistic, and does not attend to the context of the Summa Theologiae. There is no reason to think that Thomas thinks the proofs are necessary for the rationality of religious faith. They are part of the enterprise of showing that Sacra Doctrina meets the condition of a science as described by Aristotle in the Posterior Analytics , which he had argued in the first question of the Summa , an issue that is different from the question of the broad rationality of religious faith. He cites Aristotle's distinction between demonstrating the existence of some subject, and going on to demonstrate properties of that subject by appeal to the essence of the subject as cause of those properties.

The first kind of demonstration is called demonstration quia , the second demonstration propter quid. In order to have any science at all, the subject matter must exist. So demonstration quia must precede demonstration propter quid.

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  8. If you want to have a science of unicorns, you have to show me that there is at least one unicorn to be studied. There is no science of what does not exist. So there are two demonstrative stages in any science, the demonstration of the existence of the subject quia , and the demonstration of the properties of the subject through its essence propter quid. Aquinas' denial that the essence of God can be known philosophically is a denial that one can have propter quid scientific understanding of a god through philosophy.

    It is not a denial that there can be demonstration quia of the existence of a god. There is no reason to deny that Thomas thinks the Five Ways are proofs or demonstrations in the most robust sense, namely that which he appeals to as set out by Aristotle in the Posterior Analytics. One source of the ambiguity in the objections comes about because it is claimed that Aquinas does not think one can demonstrate the existence of God.

    But in terms of the Posterior Analytics one cannot demonstrate the existence of anything under a proper name. One can only demonstrate in the relevant sense using common nouns, since such nouns are the only ones that have definitions, either nominal or essential. So strictly speaking it is true that Thomas doesn't think one can demonstrate the existence of God in the Five Ways.

    It is for that reason that Thomas himself thinks one must actually argue additionally that a god must be utterly unique, and thus that there can be only one, which he does several questions after the Five Ways Summa Theologiae Ia. It is the utter uniqueness and singularity of a god that undermines the objection that whatever the philosophical arguments terminate in, it is not the god of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, a god who is only known by faith.

    That is simply to deny Thomas' claim that the god Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe in can be known, but only partially by philosophical analysis. If the demonstrations work, as Thomas thinks they do, what other god would the Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe in? There is no other god. Given God's revelation, He must be identified with the utterly unique being the philosopher's argument terminates in. Finally, the sketchy character of the Ways reflects the fact that they are directed at beginning students.

    However the audience of beginners that Thomas has in mind are not beginners in Philosophy. They are beginners in Sacra Doctrina. As we have seen, in the medieval educational setting such beginners would be thoroughly steeped in the philosophical disciplines before ever being allowed to study Sacra Doctrina. So Aquinas could expect his readers to know the much more extensive and complete arguments he was gesturing at with the Five Ways, arguments to be found in detail in other figures like Aristotle, Avicenna, and so on, as well as in other works of his own, the Summa Contra Gentiles for example.

    In short, even if the Five Ways are judged to be unsound demonstrations, a judgment that requires close analysis and examination of the filled out arguments, there is no reason to suggest that Thomas took them any less seriously as demonstrations or proofs in the fullest sense.

    Now, even though there can be no demonstration propter quid of God's essence or nature, this does not mean that philosophical theology is left with a bare knowledge of the existence of God, and nothing more. However, recognizing that the way in which God possesses these perfections must be different from the way in which creatures possess them, one must deny that God has them in the creaturely mode.

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    So, while on the basis of effect to cause arguments we can say that God is just, wise, good, perfect, and so on, we do not know what it is for God to be just, wise, good, and perfect. We end up denying of God the creaturely mode of these perfections. In this way God is approached negatively by denying things of Him rather than by directly knowing what God is. This account relies heavily upon the use of analogous names in talking about God and creatures. Substance is being in the primary sense, which is why the science of being as being is effectively a science of substance.

    In the crucial middle books of the Metaphysics —Seven and Eight—we have an analysis of substance which takes off from material substance, which is a compound of matter and form, and arrives at a notion of substance as form alone. This definition does not fit material substance, of course, but it is devised in order to be able to apply the term substance to the immaterial things whose existence has been established in natural philosophy.

    This extension of names, whose natural habitat is sensible things, to God is another instance of analogous naming for Thomas. Names common to God and creatures bring out another feature of our knowing. If we ask what the primary analogate of names common to God and creatures is, the answer is: the meaning of the term as it applies to creatures. The word must be refined before it can be applied to God and this means the formation of an extended meaning which leans on the primary meaning for its intelligibility.

    Both men and God are said to be wise. What can we mean when we say that God is wise? Not the same thing as when we say that Socrates is wise. Socrates became wise and wisdom is a trait which with age and forgetfulness he could lose. Thus to be Socrates and to be wise are not the same thing. This is captured by noting that while we say God is wise, we also say he is wisdom. This suffices to indicate the way in which the meaning of the term as applied to God involves negating features of its meaning as it applies to men.

    If God is thus named secondarily by the common name, so that the creature is primarily named by it, nonetheless God's wisdom is the cause and source of human wisdom. Ontologically, God is primary and the creature secondary. Names analogously common to God and creature thus underscore the way in which what comes to be known first for us is not first in reality, and what is first in reality is not first in our knowledge.

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    It is evident that material substances exist contingently. They come into being and they pass out of being.

    While they exist, their existing is not what they are. Thomas accepts from Boethius that it is self-evident that what a thing is and its existing differ diversum est esse et id quod est. Material things depend upon causes to exist, both to become and to be. There is no need to dwell on this except insofar as it provides a springboard to speak of immaterial substance. Only in God is it the case that what he is and his existing are identical: God is His own existence.

    The phrase Thomas uses to express this is ipsum esse subsistens. Of course this is paradoxical. Existence is the actuality of a substance, not itself something subsistent. This is true with material substances. But when we ask what we mean by saying that God exists, we have to negate aspects of material existence in order to avoid speaking of Him as if he were a contingent being. The problem that Thomas now faces is how to speak of the immaterial substances which are less than God although superior to material substances, that is, angels. For a material thing to exist is for its form actually to inhere in its matter.

    But what is it for a pure form to exist? Since immaterial substances less than God are dependent on the divine causality in order to exist, existing cannot be what they are of their essence. In short, in angels too there is a distinction of essence and existence. Thomas notes that a created separate substance is what it is and not another thing: that is, it has the perfection it has, but not unlimited perfection. It is a being of a kind, not being as such. Gabriel is perfect as to his nature, but he lacks the perfection of being Raphael or Michael. Form thus operates as a restriction on existence as such.

    In God alone is there unrestricted existence; He is existence, ipsum esse subsistens. Here we have an argument for the fact that God's essence is his existence, because His essence is not a restriction of esse to a finite expression or character. And yet it remains true that while we know the fact, we do not know the why of the fact because the knowledge of God's essence remains unknown to us.

    Thomas' Moral Doctrine is primarily eudaimonistic and virtue based. Human beings always act for an end that is conceived of as good. A desired good provides the motive for initiating and completing some act. Action begins in desire and ends in satisfaction or joy in completion— the achievement or acquisition of the good apprehended and desired. Properly human action proceeds from and is under the control of intellect and will.

    While human beings have many appetites informed by sense cognition of the world, they also have rational appetite that is informed by an intellectual apprehension of the world and the goods within it appropriate to human flourishing. Errors of apprehension are certainly possible, and yet a human action always originates in the apprehension of some apparent good by intellect and the desire for it by the will informed by the apprehension.

    Will is rational appetite. Actions are judged to be good or bad in relation to real human goods for which they are either conducive good or detrimental bad. Given the complexity of human life and the goods appropriate to it, it may well happen that a particular action may be judged to be good in many ways, and yet also bad in others.

    For one to have acted well simply is for one to have done something that is good in every respect. There is one single ultimate human good that provides an ordering of all other human goods as partial in relation to it, namely, happiness or better in the Latin beatitudo. When Aristotle sought to isolate the human good, he employed the so-called function argument. If one knows what a carpenter is or does he has the criteria for recognizing a good carpenter. So too with bank-tellers, golfers, brain surgeons and locksmiths.

    If then man as such has a function, we will have a basis for deciding whether someone is a good human being. But what could this function be? Just as we do not appraise carpenters on the basis of their golf game or golfers on the basis of their being able to pick locks, we will not want to appraise the human agent on an incidental basis.

    So too we do not appraise the carpenter in terms of his weight, the condition of his lungs, or his taste buds. No more would we appraise a human being on the basis of activities similar to those engaged in by non-human animals. The activity that sets the human agent apart from all others is rational activity.

    The human agent acts knowingly-willingly. If this is the human function, the human being who performs it well will be a good person and be happy. Thomas argues that there is one single end for all human beings, and that it is happiness. However, that is a formal description of the end, leaving open the material specification of just what that happiness is for a human being.