« Prev Chapter XV. That God is to all things the Cause… Next »

CHAPTER XVThat God is to all things the Cause of their being

HAVING shown (Chap VI) that God is to some things the cause of their being, we must further show that nothing out of God has being except of Him. Every attribute that attaches to anything otherwise than as constituting its essence, attaches to it through some cause, as whiteness to man.211211We do not ask, what made man a rational animal, because man must be a rational animal, if he is to be man at all. But we may well ask: What made the Englishman white and the Chinaman yellow? To be in a thing independently of causation is to be there primarily and immediately, as something ordinary (per se) and essential. It is impossible for any one attribute, attaching to two things, to attach to each as constituting its essence. What is predicated as constituent of a thing’s essence, has no extension beyond that thing: as the having three angles together equal to two right angles has no extension beyond ‘triangle,’ of which it is predicated, but is convertible with ‘triangle.’ Whatever then attaches to two things, cannot attach to them both as constituting the essence of each. It is impossible therefore for any one attribute to be predicated of two subjects without its being predicated of one or the other as something come there by the operation of some cause: either one must be the cause of the other, or some third thing must be cause of both. Now ‘being’ is predicated of everything that is. It is impossible therefore for there to be two things, each having being independently of any cause; but either these things must both of them have being by the operation of a cause, or one must be to the other the cause of its being. Therefore everything which in any way is, must have being from that which is uncaused; that is, from God (B. I, Chap. XV).

2. What belongs to a thing by its nature, and is not dependent on any causation from without, cannot suffer diminution or defect. For if anything essential is withdrawn from or added to nature, that nature, so increased or diminished, will give place to another. If on the other hand the nature is left entire, and something else is found to have suffered diminution, it is clear that what has been so diminished does not absolutely depend on that nature, but on some other cause, by removal of which it is diminished. Whatever property therefore attaches to a thing less in one instance than in others, does not attach to that thing in mere virtue of its nature, but from the concurrence of some other cause. The cause of all effects in a particular kind will be that whereof the kind is predicated to the utmost. Thus we see that the hottest body is the cause of heat in all hot bodies, and the brightest body the cause of brightness in all bright bodies. But God is in the highest degree ‘being’ (B. I, Chap. XIII). He then is the cause of all things whereof ‘being’ is predicated.212212This argument rests unfortunately on a theory of physical nature, to which there is no counterpart in rerum natura, the theory of the ‘four elements,’ a physical presentation of Plato’s doctrine of Ideas. Fire was taken to be ideally hot, and the cause of all heat: air ideally cold, and the cause of all cold: water ideally humid, and cause of all humidity; earth ideally dry, and cause of all dryness. The mediaeval mind delighted in this recurrence to unity, ascribing all the particulars of a kind to some one source and cause, the perfect expression of that kind. Thus motion was traced to one primum mobile, political power to the Emperor, etc. The unities of nature are not so easy to discern in the light of our increased knowledge. Nature is more manifold and broken into detail than as St Thomas knew it. It is true that the sun, “warmest and brightest of beings,” is the chief cause of heat and light that make human existence on earth possible; — to the sun we owe the coal-forests, — and we may observe that the sun is thus an image of God in the universe: but this is an analogy, not an argument. St Thomas’s conclusion, so far as I see, gains no support from modern physics: but, metaphysically, it may be urged thus. — God is ex hypothesi the ideal Being, the fulness of Being: the name ‘God’ means no less than that. If then there be a God at all, all other being must be derived from Him.


3. The order of causes must answer to the order of effects, since effects are proportionate to their causes. Hence, as special effects are traced to special causes, so any common feature of those special effects must be traced to some common cause. Thus, over and above the particular causes of this or that generation, the sun is the universal cause of all generation; and the king is the universal cause of government in his kingdom, over the officials of the kingdom, and also over the officials of individual cities. But being is common to all things. There must then be over all causes some Cause to whom it belongs to give being.

4. What is by essence, is the cause of all that is by participation, as fire is the cause of all things fiery, as such. But God is being by His essence because He is pure being; while every other being is being by participation, because there can only be one being that is its own existence (B. I, Chapp. XXII, XLII). God therefore is cause of being to all other beings.

5. Everything that is possible to be and not to be, has some cause: because, looked at by itself, it is indifferent either way; and thus there must be something else that determines it one way. Hence, as a process to infinity is impossible, there must be some necessary being that is cause of all things which are possible to be and not to be.213213Understand, ‘and yet are.’ This is the argument for the existence of God, known as the ‘argument from contingent being.’

6. God in His actuality and perfection includes the perfections of all things (B. I, Chap. XXVIII); and thus He is virtually all. He is therefore the apt producing cause of all.

This conclusion is confirmed by divine authority: for it is said: Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all things that are therein (Ps. cxlv, 6). And, All things were made by him, and without him was made nothing (John i, 3). And From whom are all things, by whom are all things, in (unto) whom are all things (Rom. xi, 16).

« Prev Chapter XV. That God is to all things the Cause… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection