Effect of the Fourth Way, Part 1

Every argument for the existence of God proceeds from effects to their Cause.1 Some of St. Thomas' Five Ways proceed from sensibly manifest effects - such as motion, in the First Way - whereas the starting points of other Ways need arguments or manifestations to establish their existence or to clarify their proper natures before proceeding. The effect of the Fourth Way seems especially difficult to determine. First, because St. Thomas is even more terse than usual in this argument, so even understanding how to take his words is problematic. Second, the existence of gradations in truth, nobility, and goodness seems not to be evident. This post will attempt to elucidate different ways of understanding St. Thomas' words when positing these effects, point out clear examples of said effects, and compare this starting point to that of a similar argument given in the Summa Contra Gentiles.

Quarta via sumitur ex gradibus qui in rebus inveniuntur. Invenitur enim in rebus aliquid magis et minus bonum, et verum, et nobile, et sic de aliis huiusmodi.
The Fourth Way is taken from the gradations which are found in things. For there is found in things something more and less good, and true, and noble, and so on with others of this sort.
Frater Asinus made a good beginning already in clarifying what we mean by "good" and "true" and "noble". I only want to point out again the two senses of "truth" the Frater mentioned. Aristotle affirms that truth and falsity are primarily found in the intellect, particularly in affirmations and negations.2 This doesn't seem to be what St. Thomas has in mind in the Fourth Way, because he specifies that more and less truth is found "in things". There is, however, a secondary sense of "truth" that exists in things:
Et quia bonum, sicut dictum est, dicit ordinem entis ad appetitum, verum autem dicit ordinem ad intellectum; inde est quod philosophus dicit VI metaphys., quod bonum et malum sunt in rebus, verum autem et falsum sunt in mente. Res autem non dicitur vera nisi secundum quod est intellectui adaequata; unde per posterius invenitur verum in rebus, per prius autem in intellectu.3
I take this "adequation to the intellect" to be a thing's ability to underlie a true proposition. Food can be called healthy insofar as it causes health in an animal. Similarly, insofar as a thing is a principle of truth in the primary sense, it can derivatively be called true. This is as much to say that something can be called true if it is intelligible, for true predications can be made about anythng that is understood.

We come to the question of the existence of such gradations. Again, truth, more than the others mentioned, requires some work. For it is fairly evident that some things are better than others. For instance, who would deny that a saint (or a humanitarian, to satisfy even the secularists) is better than a mass-murderer? Or that a beautiful work of art is better than a pile of dung? Again, it seems obvious that a king is more noble than a worm, or that courageously dying in battle is more noble than betraying one's friends. But how can one thing be more true than another? Isn't something either true or not?

Using the secondary sense of truth mentioned above, we can see that some things are indeed more apt to be principles of true statements than others. A beaver, for example, is more intelligible than the dam he builds. For understanding the dam completely would still not exhaust the intelligibility of the beaver, but a comprehension of the beaver would include a perfect knowledge of his dam. (N.B. - This higher grade of intelligibility does not refer to the number of true propositions that could be made about the thing, but means that what is intelligible in one includes in principle what is intelligible in the other, with some excess.) Similarly, the knowledge of a whole thing includes whatever is intelligible in its parts, but not necessarily vice-versa. For example, a human being is more true, is more a principle of true statements, than a finger. Therefore, it is clear that there exist some things less true, and some things more true.

Let us now turn to the starting point of an argument given in the Summa Contra Gentiles similar to the Summa Theologiae's Fourth Way:
Potest etiam alia ratio colligi ex verbis Aristotelis. In II enim metaphys. Ostendit quod ea quae sunt maxime vera, sunt et maxime entia. In IV autem metaphys. Ostendit esse aliquid maxime verum, ex hoc quod videmus duorum falsorum unum altero esse magis falsum, unde oportet ut alterum sit etiam altero verius; hoc autem est secundum approximationem ad id quod est simpliciter et maxime verum. Ex quibus concludi potest ulterius esse aliquid quod est maxime ens. Et hoc dicimus deum.4
We notice that the arguments begin similarly. Although - unlike the argument in the Summa Theologiae - the major premiss is given second in this text, it seems to concern a gradation. In this argument, however, St. Thomas specifies one particular gradation, that of truth, rather than lumping several gradations together under a common account. Furthermore, he manifests the gradation of truth (which is taken as given in the Summa Theologiae) by pointing out that of two falsehoods, one can be more false than another; therefore, one truth may be more true than another. But, recalling the two senses of truth given above, it seems that St. Thomas here could only mean truth in the primary sense. For, although "truth" has a secondary meaning insofar as things are principles of true statements, there is no analogate in things to falsity. What would it mean for a thing to be a principle of falsity? Things are not principles of false statements; that role belongs to the will. Therefore, he must mean truth in the first sense, that is, true propositions. So not only is the effect more determined in the argument from the Summa Contra Gentiles, but even the part the arguments seem to share in common is said analogously.

For my next post, I want to explore the meaning of "gradation" more fully. In the meantime, I look forward to your input on my thoughts given above.
____________________
1. S.T. Q.3,a.2
2. c.f. De Interpretatione, I.1 (16a 9-18) and Metaphysics, VI.4 (1027b 18-29)
3. De Veritate q.1, a.2, c.
4. Summa Contra Gentiles I.13

4 Comments:

  1. Natural_Inquirer said...
    So, Vincentius, if I am to understand you correctly, and I think that this leads into your next post, you are saying that there are certain perfections found in things varying according to kind. These perfections, following Frater Asinus' account, are so named based on their peculiar ratio. And that these perfections are seen more or less in things varying by kind, this difference in kind being where the varying in perfection arises. And finally, that the differences in kind are intimately tied up with these levels of perfection, insofar as they are the kind of thing which more or less is apt to have received these perfections, themselves which are common to all things, but are necessarily dependent, like was said above upon the nature of the thing to which it belongs.

    Is this an adequate understanding of your post?
    Frater Asinus said...
    Salvete!

    Natural_Inquirer,

    I do not see how your comment is showing an understanding of what Vincentius has said in his post. It seems you are making some futher inferences from what he has written. He summarized what he was intending to accomplish in the article when he wrote, "This post will attempt to elucidate different ways of understanding St. Thomas' words when positing these effects, point out clear examples of said effects, and compare this starting point to that of a similar argument given in the Summa Contra Gentiles." And I beleive he accomplished these three goals well. Please follow up on your comment so that we can get a better idea of your meaing. Perhaps, Vincentius, you could clarify this confusion.

    I would like at this time also to point out an interesting and, I beleive, a helpful distinction. I must give credit to John Nieto for this as well. There is a distinction between a dmeonstatio and a via. I do not want to muddle the distinction, but as far as I understand it there can be various demonstations for the existence of God using slightly different middle terms. However,it will belong to one of the five ways in so far as it proceeds from the same effect to same cause. What I mean can be shown by looking at the first way. This is clearly a demonstartion of the existence of God by coming to the first mover. However, Aristotle gives a different proof for the first mover in VII of Physics. This proof still proceeds from the same effect, i.e. mobile bodies, to the same cause, i.e. a first mover. Thus, it should be said that they are diverse proofs, but the same way of proving the existence of God, namely from motion.

    This pertains then to the argument give in the SCG, which, as I beleive Vincentius shows, is a different demonstration than that given in ST, it is still the same way of proving the existence of God.

    I realize the distinction is not necessarily pithy or grand, but it helps me think about these proofs more clearly and I thought that I would pass it along.

    -Pax
    ho mathetes said...
    Very Good, Vincentius.

    Couple of easy clarifying questions for you.

    Text in question:
    "So not only is the effect more determined in the argument from the Summa Contra Gentiles, but even the part the arguments seem to share in common is said analogously."

    1.By 'more determined' you just mean the effect, vis. truth, has been manifested via argument(versus being taken as supposed in the ST parallel text)?

    2.'the arguments'-You mean the parallel ST & SCG text?

    3.'...the part the arguments seem to share in common is said analogously'- The 'part' spoken of analogously are the other transcendentals mentioned in ST?

    ------

    As for your main point...

    In IV autem metaphys. Ostendit esse aliquid maxime verum, ex hoc quod videmus duorum falsorum unum altero esse magis falsum, unde oportet ut alterum sit etiam altero verius; hoc autem est secundum approximationem ad id quod est simpliciter et maxime verum.

    I concede that 'truth' here is best taken in the sense of propositions. If you haven't yet checked it out, Aristotle's text, cited by Aquinas here, in Metaphysics VI.4 (1008b37) further gives support to you reading. There it is obvious from the example presented that Aristotle is talking about propositions.
    ---------
    Other miscellaneous questions:

    1. In what way is an affirmation (or proposition in general) transcendental? Insofar as what is said of the subject is transcendental or(/and) insofar as it affirms, it affirms transcendentally, i.e. in a transcendental mode? Or is it something else?

    2. What is the way in which a 'proposition that excels as being' excel in being when compared to another inferior proposition? Does it have 'more being' insofar as it proposes more truly, i.e. simply as affirming more?


    ...These questions may or may not be relevant in light of the general aim of the continued exposition of the 'big' argument, or they may come up later, so feel free to pass over them if its appropriate.

    Needless to say, I am quite excited to see where this is going. Keep up the good work, fellows.
    Vincentius said...
    Thank you for your comments Mathetes, and please pardon my late reply. I will attempt to clarify what I was thinking:

    1) By "more determined," I simply mean that the effect in the SCG is a part of the effect in the ST; it is more limited and specified. Conversely, the argument in the ST includes the gradation of truth under some more general notion of gradation. I didn't mean the statement to suggest anything about how the effects were manifested. Also, note that a question you raised in your first post, namely, whether there are different arguments for showing a maximum particular to each kind of gradation, is still left undecided. Even if there were different arguments, it seems the way the text in the ST runs is as if one already sees the general principle and proceeds only from it (hence the vague "aliis huismodi"). In other words, even if the general truth can be established by enumeration of the particulars, St. Thomas gives the Fifth Way in the ST as one argument, not many, so we should try to understand it from what is proper to the general effect given, namely, the gradation of transcendentals.

    2) Yes.

    3) No, by "part," I meant that the gradation of truth in the SCG argument is one of the particular gradations listed in the ST argument. There may be a question as to what kind of "part" this is since all the examples seem to be convertible with being, but I thought distinction in ratio would be enough to say that taken together they constitute a whole.

    As to your questions about transcendental propositions, I'll have to think more about them.

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