Aquinas in the Quarta Via argues that there must be something that is most true, best, etc. and most of all being. The reason for this is due to the fact that "magis et minus dicuntur de diversis secundum quod appropinquant diversimode ad aliquid quod maxime est, sicut magis calidum est, quod magis appropinquat maxime calido. "

Why is it that more and less must be said with reference this sort of necessarily existing maximum?

It seems to me that it is inadequate to say it is in the very meaning of relatives that there be an external exemplar, due to the fact that a further argument is needed to manifest that the proposed exemplar measure is more than something arbitrarily posited.

I am not clear about how such an argument would be conducted to answer my question generally. However, it is unwise to ignore the examples given in the argument: good, true, noble, "et sic de aliis huiusmodi." So I would like to propose an argument I recently encountered that I think satisfactorily answers my question in the case of the good. It is still fresh in my mind and I apologize for the lack of formality in my formulation....

Here it is:
-It is the nature of the good not to be limited in its essence.
-Those things which have the good in a limited way therefore do not possess goodness by their essence.
-If it is not from a thing's nature to possess the good, i.e. its essence is not the cause of its goodness, then there must be some other cause whereby it possesses the good.
-This cause either must possess the good in a greater, but similar manner as said things, and is subject to the same explanation, or it must possess the good in an essential way.
-The former case may not go on infinitely.
-That which possesses the good in an essential way therefore possesses the good in an unlimited way.
-And surely to possess any thing in an unlimited way is the maximum or most way it can be possessed.

Therefore, etc. (Corollary: it also seems you could argue similarly with the other examples)

My next question is: What exactly is the common ratio of the aliis huiusmodi? Are they all transcendentals?

Secondly, where in Aristotle and Aquinas is there a greater explanation of these things (I think I should have asked this long ago...)?

Thirdly, is there an answer to my general question posed above?

13 Comments:

  1. Vincentius said...
    Wow, you've asked many difficult questions in your post. I'll try to contribute to answering some of them.

    First, in response to your argument:
    It seems that the argument concludes that a maximum good exists, through a middle term of something existing that is good through its essence. However valid the argument may be, St. Thomas proceeds in a different order. He concludes that God is Good through His Essence (Q.6, a.3) by the middle term of His simplicity, which itself is proved through the 4th way (Q.3, a.4,6). Also, the argument seems to already include the idea of the maximum good being the cause of the lower goods, which St. Thomas adds as a further premiss. So, at least, the argument doesn't seem to be what St. Thomas has in mind in the 4th way.

    There are two interpretations of the 4th way that seem to me to work. In the first, the major premiss simply means that for there to be a gradation, there must be some form, at least in our minds, in order for us to make a comparison. In this interpretation, you don't see that the "maximum" actually exists until you see that it causes all the lower things, whose existence is manifest, to be what they are.

    In the second interpretation, the major premiss means that in any group in which there is inequality of some kind, there is at least one thing that is greater than the others. (There could be many things having the same highest rank.) According to this interpretation, you don't see that the actually existing maximum is the greatest possible until you see that it is the cause of all being, and there is nothing else that could be greater than it.

    Both of these interpretations, by the way, make sense of the fact that St. Thomas doesn't consider the first premiss of the argument sufficient to prove the existence of God. For if the first premiss were meant to show that there actually exists some being greater than any possible being, why wouldn't all men already call that God?

    In either of these interpretations, the more difficult part of the argument, it seems to me, is to show that the highest in a genus is the cause of all others, not to show that there is a maximum.

    What do you think?
    ho mathetes said...
    Thank you, Vincentius, for you reply.

    Hm. However, I'm afraid it still leaves things unclear to me.

    With respect to your response to my argument, you are correct to take my argument as concluding “that a maximum good exists, through a middle term of something existing that is good through its essence.

    As for the fact that Thomas proceeds in a different order to attribute such properties to God, I wonder if this objection is to the point; God does not enter into the premises of my argument, rather my argument is pertinent to an account of the good in general. Whether this is God, or if God alone is good through his essence, you are right, would be determined later.

    You are also right in saying that the argument includes the idea of “the maximum good being the cause of the lower goods. However, this is not (as I can see) precisely the premise Thomas adds later. His premise is that the highest in any genus is the cause of all things which belong to that genus, a more general statement. This is even more general that my 'corollary' that the same argument applies to other transcendentals. Thomas seems to note the difference between the transcendentals and being in general in his statement "nam quae sunt maxime vera, sunt maxime entia, ut dicitur II metaphys.."

    Whether my argument is what Thomas had in mind for the fourth way is an altogether fair question.

    Also, I am having difficulties with your own possible readings of the fourth way:

    In your first reading, you say that you "don't see that the ‘maximum’ actually exists until you see that it causes all the lower things." This does not seem the way the argument is presented by Thomas. Rather, he concludes explicitly: "Est igitur aliquid quod est verissimum, et optimum, et nobilissimum, et per consequens maxime ens, nam quae sunt maxime vera, sunt maxime entia, ut dicitur II metaphys.." This, which comes before any discussion of causality, is clearly concluding something about all being in general, 'entia,' and hence about actually existing things.

    I would argue along the same lines for your second take of the argument- it does seem that you see that the actually existing maximum is the greatest possible before you see that it is a cause. Wouldn't knowing that it is per se the ‘maximum’ being be adequate to prove that it is greatest possible? Perhaps I would further say that I don't see immediately how the actually existing maximum's property of being 'the greatest possible' would follow from an argument showing it is the highest cause.

    Lastly, I think my argument could be taken as an insufficient proof of God's existence by what I have said above that 'the maximum good being the cause of the lower goods’ needs to be argued for more generally before asserting that this is what we call God. I might note that it seems to me that one might rightly say after proving that there is ‘something that is most of all being’ that this thing is called God. However, to draw this conclusion would not be through the ratio of cause that Thomas seems to commonly be keeping in all the ways (The 1st and 2nd way are through efficient cause more and less known, the 3rd is from a sort of principle of contingency, and hence a principle of material cause, and the 5th is through final cause). So exemplar causality is brought up to keep his arguments uniform.

    Oh, and showing "that the highest in a genus is the cause of all others" does seems difficult in its own right. Let's not ignore that question, either.

    Looking forward to your response, this is subtle stuff.
    ho mathetes said...
    NB: This is one the arguments for God's existence found in Summa Contra Gentiles Book 1 Ch. 13. It's pertinent to the discussion- it's the 4th way w/o mention of causality.

    "Another reason can be drawn from the words of Aristotle. For in 2 Metaph.†2 he shows that those things which excel as true excel as beings: and in 4 Metaph.†3 he shows that there is something supremely true, from the fact that we see that of two false things one is falser than the other, wherefore it follows that one also is truer than the other. Now this is by reason of approximation to that which is simply and supremely true. Wherefore we may further conclude that there is something that is supremely being. And this we call God."
    Frater Asinus said...
    As I am pondering the questions that you, my venerable brethren, have raised, I feel as though I am treading in the land of giants.

    I would like to comment on the two modes of interpreting the 4th way that Vincentius proposed.

    The first in my mind is insufficient. It seems to rely on some ontological pre-existing concept of a "maximum", that does not seem to fit with experience. Perhaps Plato would have accepted this way.

    The second way seems to me the more likely way to proceed. As we can quickly and easily see among things of varying degrees, that there must be some greatest, even more than one greatest. Then we can know that greatest is the cause of all in its genus. This sseems clear because the cause would either be greater, or less, but clearly it cannot be the less, because the less would not be able to give more than it has to cause the greater. Therefore, the greatest must be the cause.The argument then continues as suggested by Vincentius: one sees that there must be a cause because we see that things exist. Therefore, while I cannot point to this thing and say that it is God, I can know that there has to be some highest that is God.

    Now to respond more directly to the difficulties you brought up ho mathetes I wouold say that among the things that one sees it may be clear that one is the greatest, but not that it is the greatest that can be, or to put as you did, that it is maximum per se, but only the maximum among things that I am comparing it to. I believe Vincentius is right when he says that I do not get to "the greatest possible" untill I see that it is the cause of all others

    Now I would have sat back and been quite happy with myself and my little contribution to this noble discussion and perhaps rewarded myself with a glass of wine and a good book, had I not read ho mathetes last entry wherein he included that argument from the Summa Contra Gentiles. Frankly, I am puzzled by that argument.

    I hope my contribution is relevant. I look forward to hearing what you all have to say.
    Natural_Inquirer said...
    I will attempt to address the multiple points made by you my brothers in the following way. Rather than go through each point made, I wish to make a couple of general statements and then move to an exposition of the argument by part. I think that in this way there might be a better understanding of the humble interpretation that I am offering. First, as to Vincentius' two interpretations of what he calls the first premiss. I think that both propositions are incorrect in a sublte manner for the following reasons. In the first you say you don't see that the "maximum" actually exists until you see that it causes all the lower things. I believe this to be incorrect and I don't know how the argument would continue. But I have fewer difficulties with this proposition and would have to think about it some more before I make judgement. The entire second proposition though seems to be totally false. I don't know how this interpretation makes sense of the order St. Thomas pursues.

    It seems to me that the most literal interpretation to take of Thomas' fourth way would go something like this.

    First syllogism

    MAJOR. True, good, noble, etc, are said to be more and less. (This is evidenced by our own speech and experience and needs no elaboration.)

    MINOR. More and less is said according as it compares to what is maximum according to the way you are predicating (i.e. true, good, noble, etc.).
    a. However, this is not immediately evident because what does that mean...there is no experience on these maximums, noble, true, good. Because it is clear that in our experience there is the possibility that there could be something greater than any experience that we have already.
    1. St. Thomas then brings in the example of the gradation of heat, more and less hot. And says that what is known more and less hot is said according to its approximation to the hottest thing (fire). This is in our experience and seems to me to be an argument by example to illustrate the point made abve at II. For it is in our immediate sensitive experience that this gradation is said with reference to fire.

    CONCLUSION. Est igitur aliquid quod est verissimum, et optimum, et nobilissimum, et per consequens maxime ens, nam quae sunt maxime vera, sunt maxime entia, ut dicitur II Metaphys. And I say conclusion because he uses igitur.

    [Now it seems to me the question is why does Thomas continue. To my mind it seems the following account is necessary to show that the maximum just enumerated (i.e. being and the other perfections) is God. We have already shown that these maximums exist, at least according to a literal reading of the text. (If my above interpretation of the text is incorrect please point it out to me.) But it remains to show that this maximum is God.]

    Second part [showing that this maximum just argued to is God]

    So this begins the second part of this proof for the existence of God when he says the following Quod autem dicitur maxime tale in aliquo genere, est causa omnium quae sunt illius generis, sicut ignis, qui est maxime calidus, est causa omnium calidorum, ut in eodem libro dicitur. Once again, though, he uses the example of fire to illustrate the concept he wants us to understant, namely, that there is no other heat except as caused by the maximum heat, that is fire. Therefore, there would similarly be nothing true, good, noble, etc, except as caused by the maximum of these. Therefore, the maximum of these is the cause in these genera, existence inclusive since they are convertible, also it seems that convertability means that there is only one cause here. This is made evident when he says Ergo est aliquid quod omnibus entibus est causa esse, et bonitatis, et cuiuslibet perfectionis, et hoc dicimus Deum.

    ***************************

    Now it seems the whole point is to prove that God exists. Thomas proved that the maximum existed in the first part. However, it remained to be shown that this maximum is God. That was only evident once it is shown that this maximum is the cause of existence, goodnes and all perfections in every being. In this way it is clear that this cause is the first in this order of causality, and being the first is evidently God. This is very long and I do apologize. I had hoped for a humble contribution to this discussion. Please I am open to any correction from error and expect my brothers to point it out to me if error be the case. PAX
    Vincentius said...
    Mathetes,

    I concede your point: having a middle term of self-subsisting Goodness would not make the Summa's train of logic circular if in Q.2 you don't yet see that such a thing is God.

    I don't understand your resolution of my second problem, however. Why would stating the principle more generally be a necessary addition to the argument? It seems that what is necessary is the specific application of the principle to being, goodness, and "quamlibet perfectionem", in other words, those things in which there is the gradation he started with. Especially if your argument is supposed to, mutatis mutandis (how I love to throw the latin around!), apply to all the perfections he names, it seems that any application of the principle that is important for the argument would already be assumed in the first premiss, and therefore unnecessary to add. Therefore, I am still unconvinced that your proposed argument accounts for there being a second premiss.

    It seems that you then argue as to why he might include the premiss even if it the existence of a maximum being were sufficient to conclude (?). But I don't find the argument from the uniformity of the five ways convincing. First of all, St. Thomas has already said that ALL arguments for the existence of God will be through the ratio of causality (c.f. Q.2 a.2); so the premiss can't just be a bonus thrown in to maintain parallelism with the other arguments.

    Second, I'm not convinced that exemplar causality is the primary mode used in the fourth way. (Although getting into this issue before we're agreed about how to take the argument would probably not be productive.)

    Third, it seems contrary to St. Thomas' usual mode and his explicitly stated intention of brevity to add an unnecessary premiss in order to make the structure of the writing "rounded out".

    Please let me know if I've misunderstood you, or just blundered.

    It's late now (again...sigh), so my first full-out post on the topic will have to wait. This conversation has already helped me tremendously, though, and I hope to continue it.
    ho mathetes said...
    Hello Gents,

    I apologize for posting in relative haste, but my day tomorrow will be busier than I expected. I don't mean to hurry things. Also, this post is in response to Frater's post, Inquirer’s post, and earlier--not to Vincentius’ latest post; I haven’t had a chance to look at that yet.

    Been thinking things over, and found a commentary on the 4th way by Etienne Gilson, who I know as no particular master of Aquinas, but nevertheless I think makes some good points in his "Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas "....

    The position I would like to examine is the claim that the 'major premise' and the conclusion we are discussing is in fact merely speaking to "any group in which there is inequality of some kind, there is at least one thing that is greater than the others," as Vincentius puts it, and Frater speaks of more pointedly in the same way when he states: "...we can quickly and easily see among things of varying degrees, that there must be some greatest, even more than one greatest. Then we can know that greatest is the cause of all in its genus" (Emphasis mine).

    I think is there is a false construal assumed in each of these accounts.

    Here is the text I am discussing, so we don't need to go back and forth:
    He states, "Invenitur enim in rebus aliquid magis et minus bonum, et verum, et nobile.... Sed magis et minus dicuntur de diversis secundum quod appropinquant diversimode ad aliquid quod maxime est...Est igitur aliquid quod est verissimum, et optimum, et nobilissimum, et per consequens maxime ens, nam quae sunt maxime vera, sunt maxime entia."

    I want to argue that maxime in the quoted text can be taken in one of two ways: 'relatively,' that is the maximeis taken as the highest degree of actuality in each kind (and as I see how Vincentius and Frater have taken it), or 'absolutely,' that is the maximeis taken as the highest degree of actuality in the highest degree possible, simply speaking (and hence transcending any genus).

    I have a few arguments that support the second reading. First, those which are given as "found in things" can reasonably be taken as transcendentals when considered in their highest degree: the good and the true seem indisputably so, and as I said before, an argument could be made for the noble. Moreover, the conclusion of the first section equates these properties with being most of all, which is perhaps the transcendental most of all, when he states: "et per consequens maxime ens...so here we have an even more obvious case. Thirdly, if this reading is not taken then the Contra Gentiles argument simply does not follow: if maxime verum et al are not convertible with the absolute maxime ens then the conclusion is not about God at all but merely what is most of all in some genus; surely this reading of Thomas would be absurd. Lastly, by way of negative textural argument, the transcendentals are never explicitly limited to being of some kind, so why take the text in this way?

    The difference in reading is significant precisely because if you take maxime in an absolute sense, the conclusions drawn at the end of the first section could easily be seen as concluding to the actually existing maximum being simply speaking, which (if Thomas wanted to make this point, as he does in SCG) all men call God.

    The question then would be, as Inquirer notes: why does he move to causes after this? As I have proposed already, cause is brought up in order to help this argument have a ratio of cause in conformity with the other ways. “The 1st and 2nd way are through efficient cause more and less known, the 3rd is from a sort of principle of contingency, and hence a principle of material cause, and the 5th is through final cause” Showing that the maximum being is also the cause of being establishes that it is an exemplar cause, this is clear. This manifest all five ways as each arguing from different causes, and for that reason gives the five ways a very impressive completeness. What pertinence would this common ratio have in the ST that it wouldn’t have in SCG? In the ST the arguments are proportioned to beginners, vis. metaphysicians, who are in a long standing habit of seeing things through the ratio of cause, as the major conclusions about God in the Physics & Metaphysics are argued through such a ratio, and so arguments under such a ratio would be better proportioned to them.

    One main textual objection I can see to my reading would be how the example of ‘more and less hot,’ which clearly is a case of a supreme of some genus, and hence a ‘relative’ maximum. Why this example? Gilson, commenting on this difficulty, states what should be attended to in the example is how it exemplifies the more basic point about the fact of more and less being measured by a maximum. If one reads the example this way, it is just a manuductio, and is in conformity with the rest of my reading.

    In sum, it seems to me critical how one takes ‘maximum’ here and I think something like my position follows from taking it in an absolute way.
    ho mathetes said...
    Vincentius, you are keeping me up past my bedtime ;)

    But surely this is better than dreams.

    Alright, I just went over your reply to me and I will give a tentative response...

    The way I am proposing to resolve your second problem was twofold.

    First, by saying "...However, this is not (as I can see) precisely the premise Thomas adds later. His premise is that the highest in any genus is the cause of all things which belong to that genus, a more general statement," I was just attempting to fix what I thought was merely a misread/false exegesis of the text, as Aquinas does not "add as a further premise" the principle "maximum good are the cause of the lower goods." In the text, it is rather "the highest in any genus is the cause of all things which belong to that genus."

    Secondly, I agree that "what is necessary is the specific application of the principle to being, goodness, and "quamlibet perfectionem", in other words, those things in which there is the gradation he started with." But it seems to me, if you are attempting to argue for a universal cause, that you further want to see not only the principle's application to the given cases but to all cases (& it is patently Aquinas' intention as seen from text at the end of the argument: " Ergo est aliquid quod omnibus entibus est causa esse, et bonitatis, et cuiuslibet perfectionis") and this is the effect of stating the principle as universally as possible.

    It's clear from this how the broader principle would not "already be assumed in the first premiss, and therefore unnecessary to add."

    As for your objection about "ALL arguments for the existence of God will be through the ratio of causality (c.f. Q.2 a.2)," this is not merely a question directed me but also to Aquinas himself, who clearly does not bring up causality in the parallel SCG text. I wonder if it is possible to argue from effect to cause, but not under that ratio. I am not sure, though (I wonder what it would mean to do that). Does Q.2, a.2 say that we must both argue from effect to cause and under that ratio? Is that obvious?

    On another note, my recent post to Frater and Inquirer addresses how the premise of causality, while not being necessary for the argument, isn't a crass "bonus thrown in." That text I think also implicitly answers your last frivolity objection. I can say more on that later.

    Your concern about exemplar causality as a mode of argument here is fair, and is duly noted as a question to deal with later.

    I give you my best, friends. Now do me the favor of tearing it apart :)
    ho mathetes said...
    Had to laugh:

    Gilson on the 4th way:
    "None of the Thomistic proofs have given rise to so many different intrepertations"
    Frater Asinus said...
    Fellow Quarentes,

    I am going to address this post more directly to the first of ho mathetes last three posts.

    Let it be known that Vincentius and I have consulted a recognized master on this, namely John Francis Nieto, and I beleive that Vincentius and I are more or less on the same page with regards to how to take this argument.

    I would first like to just look at the transcendetals and examine them each with reagards to their particular character and then their common ratio. I beleive that this will help shed some light on how to take the argument.

    I will follow Thomas' order.

    Verissimum: What is true can be said in two ways. Namely with respect to essentia and esse, or things and propostions. This arises from the two acts of the intellect that Aristotle brings up in III De Anima. Vincentius will consider this more directly in a future post, but it is important to see that this indeed an appropriate distinction. To understand this transcendental. Truth in the first sense is with regard to the form itself as abstracted, and in the second sense, with regard to negative and affrimative ennunciations. Thus in the first sense one speaks of true abstraction, that is the essence as abstracted is the same as form of the thing outside. Truth is said in second sense in so far as a propostion corresponds to reality.

    It should be noted that the order I just provided here for the senses of truth, is following the operations of the intellect. However, the first sense of truth given is actually an extended sense, truth first being said of true and false propositions. (Again, Vincentius will address this matter) So much for truth...

    Optimum: The best is said with of the that which is most good. The Good has the account of the desireable. This is clear because the Good is the proper object of the will, and the proper operations of the will is to desire or reject.

    Nobilissimum: That noblest is the superlative of being. Etymologically speaking nobilis comes from knowable, or cognobilis. (As a matter of fact the first definition that you will find of nobilis is known)The account of the noble then is emminence of being. For the more being a thing has, the more knowable it is.

    It is noteworty to bring up the "et sic de aliis huiusmodi." Possible candidates for these unnamed transcendentals are the beautiful, and the one. I do not propose to give an exhaustive account, but it is important to see that there are others to be considered and Thomas does not seem to want to exclude them from his argument.

    Already a common ratio has been vaguely manifesting itself for each of the above. I have, perhaps prematurely, been reffering to the all as transcendentals. Therefore, they all have the account of standing outside of any particular genus. This is not unrelated to their convertability with ens.
    Indeed, seeing their convertability with ens, and knowing that ens cannot belong to any category is the very reason we may call them all transcendentals.
    That this ens cannot be a category is clear from the following argument given somewhere in the Metaphysics. Let being be a genus, any genus must have some species under it, the species must have a species making difference that does not come from the genus, but nothing is outside of being, therefore etc.

    I beleive this answers the second question that ho_maathetes preseneted in the original post.

    I argue then, that since there is this common ratio, and since Thomas is arguing in a universal way, indifferent to using one transcendental or the other, then it is necessary that the argument be taken as such. Namely in a way that can treat of all of the transcendentals universally, without resolving to anything peculiar to anyone of them. Perhaps that can be seen already, but I hope that Vincentius' next post will make this more evident.

    Ho_mathetes, I realiize that all your points were not addressed, but I figured that I would proceed one step at a time in order to not bore you all with excessively lengthy posts. I do want to say that I object to saying that the demonstration in the SCG is the same as in the ST. Also ratio of cause?!?! I am afraid I have been left in the dust of your take-off in to metaphysical stratosphere. Please come back to earth and help me.

    I look forward to reading more posts.
    ho mathetes said...
    Hello Friends,

    Best wishes to you all. I have a sense of relief that Mr. Nieto has been consulted. I am anxious to hear more about what you have learned. But take your time.

    Frater, I am trying to understand your post. It's clearly answering the 'second question' I originally posed, on the one hand.

    But what is the upshot of stating "Thomas is arguing in a universal way, indifferent to using one transcendental or the other, then it is necessary that the argument be taken as such. Namely in a way that can treat of all of the transcendentals universally, without resolving to anything peculiar to anyone of them."?

    Is this merely a concession to the point in one of my previous post, namely that "the maxime is taken as the highest degree of actuality in the highest degree possible, simply speaking (and hence transcending any genus)."?

    Or are you making a further argument against the first part of another claim of mine, that "you further want to see not only the principle's application to the given cases but to all cases."

    Please clarify this for me. Also, I am somewhat unsure which of the various specific obscurities of mine you are feeling left behind about with regard to my musings about "ratio of causes."

    That post on the transcendentals was wonderful to read, thank you for the research and careful writing that went into it!
    Frater Asinus said...
    I apologize for my ambiguity. I am afraid that I had intended to write more and then realized that I had gone on too long already so I cut myself short.

    I guess in the end I thought it was important to just show that it is necessary to take this argument in a way that is not particular to any onf the transcendentals, in order to manifest in a later post that in order to treat of the transcendentals universally it is neccessary to see that they exist through causality, and causality alone. I was trying to separate out the argument in the SCG so that it might be explained yet still maintain the integrity and, as I see it, perfection of the fourth way in the ST.

    As for my question on the "ratio of cause", I guess I am just plain confused on what the distinction is between that and the cause. I have some idea what could be meaant by that distinction, but my understanding of it would not make sense being used in this context.
    ho mathetes said...
    Thank you, Frater.

    I appreciate you clarification.

    I propose we postpone the 'ratio of a cause' discussion to see if it will be relevant after the latest & more promising exposition which you and Vincentius will be presenting.
    ...
    "They (the transcendentals) exist through causality, and causality alone"--well if I'm in the stratosphere, it would appear you are in the exosphere! Take pictures, send a postcard.

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