Due to his advances in terms of nearly every field of philosophy and religion, St. Thomas Aquinas was a remarkable catholic theorist and a prolific author. Thomas Aquinas was an outstanding scholastic thinker, theologian, and political philosopher who served as a Dominican bishop and priest in Italy (Ilodigwe 19). Important philosophical and religious questions that persisted in later eras of philosophy occupied his whole activity. The most well-known part of his writings is his exposition of God’s existence, particularly the notable five reasons he presented to prove the existence of the Creator. The five-ways concept was designed to justify God’s absolute truth, as well as to illustrate both the potential and the limitations of religious philosophy and natural theology. In general, the arguments can be assessed as successful since St. Thomas Aquinas provided rational justification and used the principles of the cosmological method.
Aquinas offers five arguments for God’s original presence in the Summa work. Specifically, the evidence from motion, the evidence from efficient causation, the evidence from required against potential existence, the evidence from levels of excellence, and the evidence from the universe’s structure. The five arguments share a common pattern: Aquinas does not introduce the concept of an ideal being at the outset of each argument.
The first argument presented by Thomas includes motion; according to Thomas, the truth that any moving object requires a mover proves the existence of the Almighty, the Unmoved Mover. According to the second theory, God is the First Cause since in order for the chain of visible causes and consequences to correspond, it needs to have a commencement. Thirdly, if everything is contingent, then nothing could have existed since everything may have been absent at one point. Therefore, in this case, God is necessary to explain how everything exists. The fourth method demonstrates that there are many degrees of anything, such as greater and lesser greatness or greater and lesser accuracy. As a baseline for all of the comparative gradations, the presence of such degrees necessitates the presence of a Perfect Being. The fifth method asserts that God is the implied Grand Creator or constructor of the universe based on the behavior of objects.
Aquinas bases the reasoning on the concept gained from a logical knowledge of the common objects that individuals perceive with their experiences, as opposed to starting with the intrinsic ideas of excellence. In other terms, Aquinas’ approach starts with a property of the cosmos that can be examined, and then he supports the argument that God is the primary reason by assessment and logical inference (Ilodigwe 20). The five ways follow this basic pattern, with the exception that each one deals with a different aspect of the cosmos (Ilodigwe 20). These include motion manifestations, effective causality, the reality that separates obligatory from possible beings, or, in addition, the truth of natural perfection and the reality of arrangement in the universe.
Aristotle essentially influenced Aquinas in a specific way, providing factual evidence to support each of the enlightening truths that have been seen. However, the essential factor is that, after examining the relevant evidence, it is possible to demonstrate that God’s presence is the only plausible theory for it (Ilodigwe 20). The ontological methodology and the cosmological methodology of St. Thomas Aquinas are distinct from one another. The ontological methodology is a normative method that shifts from the domain of reasoning to the domain of emergence, as the word “ontology” indicates (Ilodigwe 20). The ontological position establishes the reality of God’s authority from the notion of God by commencing with the God’s concept and exclusively employing the tools of rational thought (Ilodigwe 20). It is asserted that the presence of God stems logically from the conception of God since the idea of God assumes his actuality (Ilodigwe 20). Therefore, to reject God’s presence is to accept a paradox or a conflict.
Contrarily, the cosmological method is a separate technique in that, unlike the ontological principle, it does not depend only on practical reasoning. Rather than beginning with the perception of the world, as the word “cosmos” indicates, it infers the presence of God as probable cause for particular observed aspects of the world (Ilodigwe 21). The cosmological justification is equally as widespread as the ontological one; nevertheless, it obviously resonates more with empiricist academics considering its retrospective nature (Ilodigwe 21). Aquinas introduces his thoughts by questioning the ontological perspective that arises from Anselm before offering his cosmological evidence for God’s presence (Ilodigwe 21). It is crucial to concentrate on each way individually, starting with the way of motion, in order to gain a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the arguments, their underlying mechanics, and how Aquinas expresses them. The evidence from motion is well-known, and it serves as the finest example of how Aristotle’s science influenced Thomas Aquinas.
The First Way
The Summa Theologiae contains the first argument or way, known as the evidence from motion. Regarding the reasoning from motion, it should be noted that Aquinas employs the concept “motion” broadly to denote change rather than simply movement (Ilodigwe 21). Since nothing in the world is impervious to alteration and degradation, this wide definition of motion encompasses the actuality of things being and then dissipating, making the term potentially applicable to everything (Ilodigwe 21). Aquinas is explicit that transformation is a fundamental aspect of the entire universe. Aquinas’ goal, however, is to explain the origin of motion by highlighting this aspect of the world (Ilodigwe 21). Nevertheless, the contradiction in this situation is that the object that is functioning and moving and hence prompts another to engage cannot be responsible for its own mobility but instead needs to be explained by another. In other terms, it is difficult to take responsibility for its activity if it is capable of changing anything from prospective to genuine since it is already genuine (Ilodigwe 22). It is challenging to accomplish this unless someone can explain what motivates something to behave.
The Second Way
Aristotle’s notion of efficient correlation is precisely what Aquinas uses to formulate his argument from it. Conversely, his main objective is to support the presence of God by using the phenomena of efficient causation (Ilodigwe 23). The objective of Aquinas is to use efficient causation as proof for the concept of God, not merely to note this feature (Ilodigwe 23). Aquinas ultimately questions the reality of effective causation in order to prove the presence of God (Ilodigwe 23). The efficient causation of an object is what causes the object to exist, but, at the same time, no efficient causation is a main reason in and for itself. In this manner, logical rationalization can be recognized as a manifestation of the successfulness of the arguments.
The Third Way
The third piece of evidence is a declaration that there are potential creatures as opposed to required beings, which is a judgment about nature. The idea of feasible and essential entities, as well as the contrast between them, is key to the evidence (Ilodigwe 24). A potential being, according to Aquinas, is a dependent self or an entity that , in other terms, can or cannot occur (Ilodigwe 24). On the other hand, an essential entity attributes its presence to itself alone and not to any other creature (Ilodigwe 25). It is feasible to claim that certain hypothetical entities owe another specific one their being, and in this way, it is possible to explain how they arose.
The Fourth Way
The evidence from categories of excellence begins with a factual assertion that there are different levels of merit for objects, similar to preceding arguments. Nothing is as evident as the reality that people evaluate objects on a relative basis since some items have a greater or lesser worth than others (Ilodigwe 26). Aquinas believed that it was always assumed that there was something that embodied the attribute in an issue to a superlative degree anytime someone made comparative judgments about objects. In addition to the notion that relative degree implies a superlative degree, the criterion by which people assess an object’s worth is a superlative degree (Ilodigwe 26). As a result, anything is superior to another in as much as it approaches the ideal more accurately.
The Fifth Way
The assumption of the reasoning is that people can see a concrete and predefined type of order in the world. In another sense, the cosmos is initially designed, and events occur in accordance with a predetermined plan that is embedded in them rather than merely arising randomly (Ilodigwe 27). People therefore, cannot comprehend the structure that the world has unless they assume that there is a certain creator. There is always the assumption that if there is a system, there additionally has to be a developer since a system cannot exist without a creator (Ilodigwe 27). Considering that the world is ordered, a creator, whom we recognize as God, must have formed it. Due to the planet’s inherent order, God must have been its creator.
The God of Aquinas
The God of Aquinas can be considered as the Almighty and superior being that exists in reality and this fact should be perceived as original and initial. As presence is a component of God’s principle or nature, according to Aquinas, the claim that God is real is self-evident in and of itself (Ilodigwe 29). Aquinas reasoned that since something knowledgeable had to guide creatures toward their ultimate objective, God must be doing it. The God of St. Thomas Aquinas can be described as not only the most powerful being and the ultimate rules but also as a smart being that created the universe with a concrete purpose. Consequently, people and their lives should have their own goals and intentions due to the initial will of the Almighty. In fact, Aquinas utilized the cosmological method, logical argumentation, and religious principles in his five ways; thus, the justifications can be considered successful due to the inclusion of evidence and sources.
To summarize, the five ways that were elaborated by St. Thomas Aquinas in order to justify the existence of God are essential examples of philosophical heritage. In fact, by analyzing the five arguments, it is feasible to formulate various questions and argue the idea. Indeed, the arguments can be assessed as successful since the theory of Aquinas is widely recognized and possesses different types of evidence and logical explanations, for instance, the concepts of Aristotle. In addition to being the most omnipotent being and the author of all principles, the God of St. Thomas Aquinas can be defined as a wise being who designed the universe with a particular goal.
Ilodigwe, Damian. “Aquinas and the Question of God’s Existence: Exploring the Five Ways.” International Journal of Philosophy and Theology, vol. 6, no. 1, 2018, pp. 19-32.