Aquinas’s Intellectual Justification for the Existence of God

by | May 6, 2007 | Stress Blog | 33 comments

This is an excerpt from Tom Woods’s book “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization“. Let me make clear that my religious views are not open to public debate. I’m not Catholic, I’m Christian, and that’s about all I’ll say about that. I want to inspire debate on whether Aquinas was right, and offer something close to proof, rather than pure faith, of the existence of a Supreme Being. Here’s the passage:

He [Aquinas] begins with the idea that every effect requires a cause, and that nothing that exists in the physical world is the cause of its own existence. This is known as the principle of sufficient reason. When we encounter a table, for instance, we know perfectly well that it did not come into existence spontaneously. It owes its existence to something else: a builder and previously existing raw materials.
An existing thing Z owes its existence to some cause Y. But Y itself, not being self-existing, is also in need of a cause. Y owes its own existence to cause X. But now X must be accounted for. X owes its existence to cause W. […]
In this case, we are faced with the following problem: Every cause of a given effect itself demands a cause in order to account for its own existence; this in turn requires a cause, and so on. If we have an infinite series on our hands, in which each cause itself requires a cause, then nothing could ever have come into existence.
Saint Thomas therefore explains that there must be an Uncaused Cause – a cause that is itself not in need of a cause. This first cause can therefore begin the series of causes. This cause, Saint Thomas says, is God. God is the one self-existing being whose essence is part of His very essence.

And so on. But if everything requires a cause, except God, then everything doesn’t require a cause. Unless God is the one exception to the rule. But if there’s an exception to the rule, how can the rule be a rule?

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