St.

Thomas Aquinas’ Five Ways
The First Way: Argument from Motion
1. Our senses prove that some things are in motion.
2. Things move when potential motion becomes actual motion.
. Only an actual motion can convert a potential motion into an actual motion.
!. "othing can be at once in both actuality an# potentiality in the same respect $i.e.% if both actual an# potential% it is
actual in one respect an# potential in another&.
'. Therefore nothing can move itself.
(. Therefore each thing in motion is move# by something else.
). The se*uence of motion cannot e+ten# ad infinitum.
,. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover% put in motion by no other- an# this everyone un#erstan#s to be
.o#.
The /econ# Way: Argument from 0fficient 1auses
1. We perceive a series of efficient causes of things in the worl#.
2. "othing e+ists prior to itself.
. Therefore nothing is the efficient cause of itself.
!. 2f a previous efficient cause #oes not e+ist% neither #oes the thing that results.
'. Therefore if the first thing in a series #oes not e+ist% nothing in the series e+ists.
(. The series of efficient causes cannot e+ten# ad infinitum into the past% for then there woul# be no things e+isting
now.
). Therefore it is necessary to a#mit a first efficient cause% to which everyone gives the name of .o#.
The Thir# Way: Argument from 3ossibility an# "ecessity $4e#uctio argument&
1. We fin# in nature things that are possible to be an# not to be% that come into being an# go out of being
i.e.% contingent beings.
2. Assume that every being is a contingent being.
. For each contingent being% there is a time it #oes not e+ist.
!. Therefore it is impossible for these always to e+ist.
'. Therefore there coul# have been a time when no things e+iste#.
(. Therefore at that time there woul# have been nothing to bring the currently e+isting contingent beings into
e+istence.
). Therefore% nothing woul# be in e+istence now.
,. We have reache# an absur# result from assuming that every being is a contingent being.
5. Therefore not every being is a contingent being.
16. Therefore some being e+ists of its own necessity% an# #oes not receive its e+istence from another being% but
rather causes them. This all men spea7 of as .o#.
The Fourth Way: Argument from .ra#ation of 8eing
1. There is a gra#ation to be foun# in things: some are better or worse than others.
2. 3re#ications of #egree re*uire reference to the 9uttermost: case $e.g.% a thing is sai# to be hotter accor#ing as it
more nearly resembles that which is hottest&.
. The ma+imum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus.
!. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being% goo#ness% an# every other
perfection- an# this we call .o#.
The Fifth Way: Argument from ;esign
1. We see that natural bo#ies wor7 towar# some goal% an# #o not #o so by chance.
2. Most natural things lac7 7nowle#ge.
. 8ut as an arrow reaches its target because it is #irecte# by an archer% what lac7s intelligence achieves goals by
being #irecte# by something intelligence.
!. Therefore some intelligent being e+ists by whom all natural things are #irecte# to their en#- an# this being we call
.o#.
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Anselm: Ontological Argument for God’s Eistence
/t. Anselm% Archbishop of 1antebury $16?1165&% is the originator of the ontological argument% which he #escribes in
the Proslogium as follows:
@0ven aA fool% when he hears of B a being than which nothing greater can be conceive# B un#erstan#s what he hears%
an# what he un#erstan#s is in his un#erstan#ing.B An# assure#ly that% than which nothing greater can be conceive#%
cannot e+ist in the un#erstan#ing alone. For suppose it e+ists in the un#erstan#ing alone: then it can be conceive# to e+ist
in reality- which is greater.B Therefore% if that% than which nothing greater can be conceive#% e+ists in the un#erstan#ing
alone% the very being% than which nothing greater can be conceive#% is one% than which a greater can be conceive#. 8ut
obviously this is impossible. Cence% there is no #oubt that there e+ists a being% than which nothing greater can be
conceive#% an# it e+ists both in the un#erstan#ing an# in reality.
The argument in this #ifficult passage can accurately be summariDe# in stan#ar# form:
1. 2t is a conceptual truth $or% so to spea7% true by #efinition& that .o# is a being than which none greater can be
imagine# $that is% the greatest possible being that can be imagine#&.
2. .o# e+ists as an i#ea in the min#.
. A being that e+ists as an i#ea in the min# an# in reality is% other things being e*ual% greater than a being that
e+ists only as an i#ea in the min#.
!. Thus% if .o# e+ists only as an i#ea in the min#% then we can imagine something that is greater than .o# $that is% a
greatest possible being that #oes e+ist&.
'. 8ut we cannot imagine something that is greater than .o# $for it is a contra#iction to suppose that we can
imagine a being greater than the greatest possible being that can be imagine#.&
(. Therefore% .o# e+ists.
2ntuitively% one can thin7 of the argument as being powere# by two i#eas. The first% e+presse# by 3remise 2% is that we
have a coherent i#ea of a being that instantiates all of the perfections. Otherwise put% 3remise 2 asserts that we have a
coherent i#ea of a being that instantiates every property that ma7es a being greater% other things being e*ual% than it
woul# have been without that property $such properties are also 7nown as 9great?ma7ing: properties&. 3remise asserts
that e+istence is a perfection or great?ma7ing property.
Accor#ingly% the very concept of a being that instantiates all the perfections implies that it e+ists. /uppose B is a being that
instantiates all the perfections an# suppose B #oesnEt e+ist $in reality&. /ince 3remise asserts that e+istence is a
perfection% it follows that B lac7s a perfection. 8ut this contra#icts the assumption that B is a being that instantiates all the
perfections. Thus% accor#ing to this reasoning% it follows that B e+ists.
Second !ersion
As it turns out% there are two #ifferent versions of the ontological argument in the Prosologium. The secon# version #oes
not rely on the highly problematic claim that e+istence is a property an# hence avoi#s many of the obFections to the classic
version. Cere is the secon# version of the ontological argument as Anselm states it:
.o# is that% than which nothing greater can be conceive#.B An# @.o#A assure#ly e+ists so truly% that it cannot be
conceive# not to e+ist. For% it is possible to conceive of a being which cannot be conceive# not to e+ist- an# this is greater
than one which can be conceive# not to e+ist. Cence% if that% than which nothing greater can be conceive#% can be
conceive# not to e+ist% it is not that% than which nothing greater can be conceive#. 8ut this is an irreconcilable
contra#iction. There is% then% so truly a being than which nothing greater can be conceive# to e+ist% that it cannot even be
conceive# not to e+ist- an# this being thou art% O Gor#% our .o#.
This version of the argument relies on two important claims. As before% the argument inclu#es a premise asserting that
.o# is a being than which a greater cannot be conceive#. 8ut this version of the argument% unli7e the first% #oes not rely
on the claim that e+istence is a perfection- instea# it relies on the claim thatnecessary e+istence is a perfection. This latter
claim asserts that a being whose e+istence is necessary is greater than a being whose e+istence is not necessary.
Otherwise put% then% the secon# 7ey claim is that a being whose non?e+istence is logically impossible is greater than a
being whose non?e+istence is logically possible.
More formally% the argument is this:
1. 8y #efinition% .o# is a being than which none greater can be imagine#.
2. A being that necessarily e+ists in reality is greater than a being that #oes not necessarily e+ist.
. Thus% by #efinition% if .o# e+ists as an i#ea in the min# but #oes not necessarily e+ist in reality% then we can
imagine something that is greater than .o#.
!. 8ut we cannot imagine something that is greater than .o#.
'. Thus% if .o# e+ists in the min# as an i#ea% then .o# necessarily e+ists in reality.
(. .o# e+ists in the min# as an i#ea.
). Therefore% .o# necessarily e+ists in reality.
This secon# version appears to be less vulnerable to Hantian criticisms than the first. To begin with% necessary e+istence%
unli7e mere e+istence% seems clearly to be a property. "otice% for e+ample% that the claim that x necessarily e+ists entails
a number of claims that attribute particular properties to x. For e+ample% if x necessarily e+ists% then its e+istence #oes not
#epen# on the e+istence of any being $unli7e contingent human beings whose e+istence #epen#s% at the very least% on
the e+istence of their parents&. An# this seems to entail that x has the reason for its e+istence in its own nature. 8ut these
latter claims clearly attribute particular properties to x.
An# only a claim that attributes a particular property can entail claims that attribute particular properties. While the claim
that x e+ists clearly entails that x has at least one property% this #oes not help. We cannot soun#ly infer any claims that
attribute particular properties to x from either the claim that xe+ists or the claim that x has at least one property- in#ee#%
the claim that x has at least one property no more e+presses a particular property than the claim that x e+ists. This
#istinguishes the claim that x e+ists from the claim that x necessarily e+ists an# hence seems to imply that the latter% an#
only the latter% e+presses a property.
Moreover% one can plausibly argue that necessary e+istence is a great?ma7ing property. To say that a being necessarily
e+ists is to say that it e+ists eternally in every logically possible worl#- such a being is not Fust% so to spea7% in#estructible
in this worl#% but in#estructible in every logically possible worl# I an# this #oes seem% at first blush% to be a great?ma7ing
property. As Malcolm puts the point:
2f a housewife has a set of e+tremely fragile #ishes% then as #ishes% they are inferior to those of another set li7e them in all
respects e+cept that they are not fragile. Those of the first set are #epen#ent for their continue# e+istence on gentle
han#ling- those of the secon# set are not. There is a #efinite connection between the notions of #epen#ency an#
inferiority% an# in#epen#ence an# superiority. To say that something which was #epen#ent on nothing whatever was
superior to anything that was #epen#ent on any way upon anything is *uite in 7eeping with the every#ay use of the terms
superior an# greater.
"evertheless% the matter is not so clear as Malcolm believes. 2t might be the case that% other things being e*ual% a set of
#ishes that is in#estructible in this worl# is greater than a set of #ishes that is not in#estructible in this worl#. 8ut it is very
har# to see how transworl# in#estructibility a##s anything to the greatness of a set of #ishes that is in#estructible in this
worl#. From our perspective% there is simply nothing to be gaine# by a##ing transworl# in#estructibility to a set of #ishes
that is actually in#estructible. There is simply nothing that a set of #ishes that is in#estructible in every possible worl# can
#o in this world that canEt be #one by a set of #ishes that is in#estructible in this worl# but not in every other worl#.
An# the same seems to be true of .o#. /uppose that an omniscient% omnipotent% omnibenevolent% eternal $an# hence% so
to spea7% in#estructible&% personal .o# e+ists in this worl# but not in some other worl#s. 2t is very har# to ma7e sense of
the claim that such a .o# is #eficient in some relevant respect. .o#Es in#estructibility in this worl# means that .o# e+ists
eternally in all logically possible worl#s that resemble this one in certain salient respects. 2t is simply unclear how
e+istence in these other worl#s that bear no resemblance to this one woul# ma7e .o# greater an# hence more worthy of
worship. From our perspective% necessary e+istence a##s nothing in value to eternal e+istence. 2f this is correct% then
AnselmEs secon# version of the argument also fails.
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