I Don’t Care

I Don’t Care February 10, 2016

Thomas Aquinas pulled a classic BAIT-AND-SWITCH move in Summa Theologica:

 “Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, moved by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.”

“Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.” 

“Therefore we cannot but admit the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.” 

“Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every perfection; and this we call God.” 

“Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.” 

(Summa Theologica, Third Article: Whether God Exists?, emphasis added by me)

My first response to Aquinas’ Five Ways is: I DON’T CARE:

  • I don’t care whether there is a first unmoved mover.
  • I don’t care whether there is a first efficient cause.
  • I don’t care whether there is something that has of itself its own necessity.
  • I don’t care whether there is something that is the cause of the existence or the goodness of all beings.
  • I don’t care whether there is an intelligent being by whom all natural things are directed to their end.

What I care about is whether GOD exists or not.  Aquinas spells out his “Five Ways” in a section titled:

Whether God Exists?

This title leads one to believe that Aquinas will address the issue of whether GOD exists, not whether there is a first unmoved mover, not whether there is a first efficient cause, etc.  So, this is a classic bait-and-switch deception by Aquinas.  Aquinas does NOT address the question at issue.  At any rate, he FAILS to answer the question at issue.

Of course, one can REPAIR the defective arguments presented by Aquinas by simply tacking on a conditional premise at the end:

1.  IF there is a first unmoved mover, THEN God exists.

2. IF there is a first efficient cause, THEN God exists.

3. IF there is something that has of itself its own necessity, THEN God exists.

4. IF there is something that is the cause of the existence or the goodness of all beings, THEN God exists.

5. IF there is an intelligent being by whom all natural things are directed to their end, THEN God exists.

Tacking these additional premises onto the end of Aquinas’ Five Ways makes the arguments relevant to the question at issue, but that hardly gets us to any sort of conclusion on the issue.  NONE of these premises is self-evident, and as far as I can tell, NONE of these premises is true.

I understand that some people believe these premises, and some people argue for some of these premises.  But, I don’t think there is a single premise in this group that is easy to prove to be true or easy to show to be highly probable.  In any case, Aquinas makes no effort, in this passage at least, to provide any reasons or arguments in support of any of these DUBIOUS ASSUMPTIONS.

Aquinas is not alone among great philosophers who lay out obviously CRAPPY arguments.  Most, if not all, of the great historical philosophers that I have read have their bad days and their obviously bad arguments.  Nevertheless, you would think that this embarassing example of obviously CRAPPY arguments for the existence of God would have served as a warning to all future philosophers of religion and Christian apologists to avoid simply asserting such DUBIOUS ASSUMPTIONS without providing some well-thought-out reasons and arguments to support them.

But when I read presentations of the cosmological argument by William Craig and by J.P. Moreland, for example, they tend to provide only the skimpiest of arguments to support this kind of KEY PREMISE in their arguments for God.  Although they do give some sort of reasons, the reasons are often stated in just one, or maybe two sentences, and then they move quickly on to some other subject.

So, here we are 740 or so years after the publication of Summa Theologica, and Christian philosophers are still pulling the same BAIT-AND-SWITCH move:  pretending to present an argument for the existence of GOD, while actually presenting an argument for something else (e.g. the cause of the beginning of the universe).

"I'll try it forthwith! Thanks!"

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