Points of Order

As blog owner, and lover of truth, I am pleased with the volume of discussion generated by one of the recent posts. Considering that: further discussion about the Highest Thing (quite obviously the highest in this case) is eminently worthwhile; the subject matter is, as Mathetes points out, extremely subtle; the interpretations of St. Thomas' argument among our group seem to be wildly different; the scope of the topic is quite large for blog-sized posts, with many sub-topics being covered in each comment; and finally, precision and order are most helpful to intellectual progress; I have decided to expand the post into a series, each installment offering a forum for discussing a particular aspect of the argument.

This first post will lay out the topics to be covered by subsequent posts.

The goal of our discussion is to come to an understanding of St. Thomas' Fourth Way, both in the sense of St. Thomas' intention and of its truth. Although it's been posted already in bits and pieces, here is the argument for the sake of reference:

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. Sed magis et minus dicuntur de diversis secundum quod appropinquant diversimode ad aliquid quod maxime est, sicut magis calidum est, quod magis appropinquat maxime calido. 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. 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. Ergo est aliquid quod omnibus entibus est causa esse, et bonitatis, et cuiuslibet perfectionis, et hoc dicimus Deum.
Based on our initial discussion, it seems important to be able to account for the following:
  1. What is the nature of the effect from which the argument proceeds? Especially, why does St. Thomas point out gradations in certain kinds of things: good, true, noble, etc.?

  2. How is the existence of a maximum implied by gradation, especially keeping in mind his example?

  3. Why does he switch from good, true, noble, etc. to being?

  4. Why does he append a "second half" to the argument, especially in light of the similar argument in the Summa Contra Gentiles?

  5. Why must the highest in a genus be the cause of the others, again being attentive to his example?

  6. Why does the argument end in "we" calling such a being God, not "all men", as in other arguments?
I'm assuming Mathetes' question about other texts will be answered in conjunction with the above points. I realize that some discussion is very difficult without addressing the argument as a whole, but hopefully this method will give us greater clarity by limiting the comment threads to one train of thought at a time. Let's leave the original post for discussion solely about Mathetes' proposed argument. Any methodological comments (suggestions for additional questions to consider, etc.) should go here, and, if there are no objections, I'll begin posting on the specific topics right away (meaning tomorrow night, since it's late). Disputemus!


  1. ho mathetes said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    ho mathetes said...
    "Let's leave the original post for discussion solely about Mathetes' proposed argument"

    Namely, my position that there need be an argument (and the character thereof) that more and less is said according to some maximum?

    Or the newly-emerged argument about how to correctly read the fourth way on the whole?

    The problem is: the second question hangs to some degree(haha)on the first.
    Vincentius said...
    Sorry, I should have been more clear. I meant to suggest that we reserve that post for discussions about the merits of the particular argument you laid out for there being a maximum, without proposing alternatives. I agree that whether an argument is necessary is another question. But can't we discuss the validity of the argument and how well it fits the text while still withholding judgment on whether such an argument is necessary to conclude as St. Thomas does?

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