Religion B2: Aquinas's Five Proofs


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St. Thomas Aquinas was the greatest medieval philosopher. He tried to show the harmony between faith and reason, and between Christianity and philosophy. Aquinas's views have been very influential, especially in Catholic thought.

Aquinas gave five classic "proofs" for the existence of God. These are on a class handout, which in turn is taken from his massive Summa Theologica (Part 1, Question 2, Article 3). The class handout also includes a whimsical "Five proofs for the existence of Santa Clause" -- which I'll use in class to make some points about Aquinas's arguments.

These computerized exercise materials are copyrighted (c) 2002 by Harry J. Gensler; but they may be distributed freely.

Aquinas's Proofs 1 to 3

1 - FIRST MOVER: Some things are in motion, anything moved is moved by another, and there can't be an infinite series of movers. So there must be a first mover (a mover that isn't itself moved by another). This is God.

2 - FIRST CAUSE: Some things are caused, anything caused is caused by another, and there can't be an infinite series of causes. So there must be a first cause (a cause that isn't itself caused by another). This is God.

3 - NECESSARY BEING: Every contingent being at some time fails to exist. So if everything were contingent, then at some time there would have been nothing -- and so there would be nothing now -- which is clearly false. So not everything is contingent. So there is a necessary being. This is God.

Aquinas's Proofs 4 and 5

4 - GREATEST BEING: Some things are greater than others. Whatever is great to any degree gets its greatness from that which is the greatest. So there is a greatest being, which is the source of all greatness. This is God.

5 - INTELLIGENT DESIGNER: Many things in the world that lack intelligence act for an end. Whatever acts for an end must be directed by an intelligent being. So the world must have an intelligent designer. This is God.

Web resources

Click below to read Aquinas's writings: Click below to read an article about Aquinas: Note that you can (if you use the Windows version of this program) access further Web resources by going to the "Help" menu above and then picking "Internet Web" options.

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