God exists because existence is not a predicate

“Existence is not a predicate” means that existence adds nothing to our understanding of the concept. Existence therefore belongs to anything we have a concept of in virtue of something other than itself; something other than what it is. We know, therefore, that there must be some source of the existence of all things who is wholly beyond anything we can form a concept of- an ineffable creator who dwells in unapproachable light.  

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14 Comments

  1. bunthorne said,

    September 25, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    This is gorgeous; it’s like the proof from De Ente in pure distilled form. I’ve noticed before that people sometimes say that Kant was the first to see that existence is not a predicate–but a similar idea, in a more insightful form, is clearly present in De Ente.

  2. a thomist said,

    September 25, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    I formed the argument off of Summa Contra gentiles, Book II chap. 15- first argument.

    One important thing to point out about the argument is that STA is not using “existence” as some kind of “property” as the analytic philosophers might object. Existence here means nothing other than a reality revealed by being said of another, but “reality revealed by being said of another” is much wider than property, nature, accident, etc. More to the point, it is even wider than what Kant means by a predicate (by predicate, Kant means something said of another in such a way as to tell us about what it is).

    When I said “existence is not a predicate” here, I was taking it in Kant’s sense. I don’t think his sense is the first meaning of the word “predicate” (the first meaning is simply what is said of another) but Kant’s account of predication allows us to isolate those things that are said in the order of essence, and when we see that existence cannot arise from this source, we are forced to see that it arises from another who is wholly outside the conceptual order.

    Kant can’t make this move because he places his thought under the artificial contraint of a univocal idea of “is” or “being” which places being as such in the essential order. Here again, he simply is not paying attention towhat words mean: when the word “is” is used without qualification, it indicates existence, not a nature or whatness. That the “what” of something is also a sense of “is” or “exists” is not an occasion to reject one order for another, but to see the analogy of essence upon existence. The “what” is entirely distinct from existence, as Kant saw, but it also cannot be accounted for without the existential order, which Kant did not see. But to be distinct from another, and yet defined by reference to it is the very definition of the analogy of proportion.

  3. a thomist said,

    September 25, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    By saying that that essence cannot be accounted for (“defined” would be okay to say, I we recognize it is a loose sense of the term) we mean first of all that “is” simply speaking means “exists”, and all further meanings presuppose the meaning of the term simply; but second that essential predicates use the idea of existence to be understood. A substance is what does not exist in another, an accident is what exists in another.

  4. Peter said,

    September 26, 2008 at 10:21 am

    At the end of the passage from which you based your argument Aquinas says, “For being is not predicated of beings equivocally, but analogically, and thus a reduction to one must be made.” I’m interested in the “reduction to one.” This is something that he talks about elsewhere, such as in Ia q. 13, art. 5, obj. 1 & its reply.

    “Obj. 1. It seems that the things attributed to God and creatures are univocal. For every equivocal term is reduced to the univocal, as many are reduced to one; for if the name “dog” be said equivocally of the barking dog, and of the dogfish, it must be said of some univocally–viz. of all barking dogs; otherwise we proceed to infinitude. Now there are some univocal agents which agree with their effects in name and definition, as man generates man; and there are some agents which are equivocal, as the sun which causes heat, although the sun is hot only in an equivocal sense. Therefore it seems that the first agent to which all other agents are reduced, is an univocal agent: and thus what is said of God and creatures, is predicated univocally.
    […]
    Reply: Although equivocal predications must be reduced to univocal, still in actions, the non-univocal agent must precede the univocal agent. For the non-univocal agent is the universal cause of the whole species, as for instance the sun is the cause of the generation of all men; whereas the univocal agent is not the universal efficient cause of the whole species (otherwise it would be the cause of itself, since it is contained in the species), but is a particular cause of this individual which it places under the species by way of participation. Therefore the universal cause of the whole species is not an univocal agent; and the universal cause comes before the particular cause. But this universal agent, whilst it is not univocal, nevertheless is not altogether equivocal, otherwise it could not produce its own likeness, but rather it is to be called an analogical agent, as all univocal predications are reduced to one first non-univocal analogical predication, which is being.”

    It seems pretty clear that every equivocal term is reduced to the univocal. On the other hand, I don’t understand how this relates to talk about “univocal agents”. He makes this move every time, and frankly I’m not really sure how that move works. Perhaps you could explain your take on the “reduction to one” and how this relates to univocal and non-univocal agents?

  5. a thomist said,

    September 27, 2008 at 1:08 am

    Causality and analogy very much alike: both involve a before and after (prius and posterius is usually put in the cluncky English “prior and posterior” but “before and after” is better) both are essentially kinds of order involving dependence, and both essentially involve likeness.This is enough to start to show various ways in which analogy and causlaity can be “reduced to one”, although the English word “reduce” has a bit too much baggage (reductionism, for example) so it would be better to take the more literal sense of “led back”. Both analogues and causal relationships are led back to some one thing- a primary analogue in the one case, the cause (or the first cause of many) in the other case.

    Among analogues, there is a double leading back: to the first thing we name X, and the thing most deserving the name X. The former is, by definition, known first. Whatever we lead the analogues back to is sais univocally of all it applies to- the first meaning we understand of the word “father”, for example, is said of every man who has a child. In this sense, analogues reduce to univocal.

    Something similar happens among causes. We see this plant generates that one, for example, and that’s the first sort of thing we call causality. But this does not tell us the cause of generation as such. Now the latter more deserves to be called a cause than the former, since the cause of generation as such is the cause of why this plant generates, but not vice versa. The first kind of causes (where this plant causes that one) are called univocal causes, the latter kind of cause (where we view the cause of generation as responsible for the generative activity of this plant and that one) is called equivocal agency or causality. Because equivocal causality more deserves to be called a cause, we reduce causality to equivocal causality. Because analogues are led back to some root meaning said univoally of some multitude, we lead them back to univocals.

  6. Sanzi said,

    October 13, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    And that creator is the pure reason Kant talked about. See, necessary beings cannot be separate entities: they have to exist in every probability and position.

    • Paradox said,

      November 19, 2014 at 4:04 pm

      I don’t think I understand.
      If you are okay answering a few questions, I would like to get down to exactly what you mean.
      You said:

      necessary beings cannot be separate entities: they have to exist in every probability and position.

      Does this mean that what is necessary “exists” in all circumstances (possible worlds, perhaps?), and also occupies all space? Your second qualifier, as far as I can discern, implies that necessary things are omnipresent, and thus there can only be one necessary thing.

  7. Dan said,

    December 10, 2012 at 6:13 am

    All numbers are finite . The set of ‘all finite numbers’ can ,in all respects, be considered the ‘source of all finite numbers’ . However, the set of all finite numbers, by simple fact that it generates ALL finite numbers, must itself be non-finite , ie. infinite . By the same token,hypothetically speaking , ‘the source of all existents’ by virtue of the fact that it generates ALL existence , must be non-existent . An all-creating God does not exist . And , by virtue of logic , it cannot exist. Problem, thomists ? *trollface* .

    • Zia said,

      December 10, 2012 at 11:27 am

      Wait, how does a “set,” an abstraction, generate or provide anything? By definition, abstractions do not have causal powers, so obviously they cannot “generate” anything. The way I see it, a “set” is a description, not a mechanism or a source from where numbers come.

      • Dan said,

        December 14, 2012 at 11:02 am

        “Wait, how does a “set,” an abstraction, generate or provide anything? By definition, abstractions do not have causal powers, so obviously they cannot “generate” anything” . QUICK ! Someone tell all those damn rocket scientists and computer engineers .Their doing it wrong!
        Mathematics is a speculum that you apply to appearances to get essences .It reflects generative and causal structure of reality, although it may not be obvious to the neophyte how you can ‘extract’ causes out of it .
        You’re asking what does ‘F=m1m2G /(r^2)’ have to do with falling apples , that’s not something I have to teach you, it’s something you have to learn by yourself.
        While it contains the causal structures of the World , since it is essence , in the inner structure of Mathematics no ‘part’ causes any any other part . Rather , they all support one another in eternal harmony .

        Trying to understand the world without this knowledge is like trying to understand continental drift with the perspective of an ant.

        Now, as for my argument :
        God is greater than all finite things .
        God is not greater than Himself (as He is unmoving with respect to Himself) .
        Therefore God is not a finite thing , while still being a ‘source’ for all finite things .
        The same is true for existent things . I will go into more detail in my other reply .

    • December 10, 2012 at 11:53 am

      ‘the source of all existents’ by virtue of the fact that it generates ALL existence , must be non-existent . An all-creating God does not exist . And , by virtue of logic , it cannot exist.

      But I actually do think (some version of) this! There is simply no idea of existence by which one can catch God and creatures at the same time, i.e. as subsets to a single idea. Existence does not divide into divine and created existence as a common idea specified by a pair of contraries. I’m aware of the paradoxes and difficulties of what I’m saying, and of the objections to it in the scholastic tradition.

      The argument you give is given in all of its essentials by Meister Eckhart in his Parisian Questions and in many other places. He doesn’t use mathematical sets, but mathematicals are difficult to map onto the existent order anyway, and so your argument would be better made through considerations of causality. The cause of fire need not be fire, and so the cause of existence need not exist.

      When St. Thomas concludes from the existence of creatures to the existence of God, “exists” does not mean the same thing. In the first, it is a statement about the intrinsic, ontological reality of something; in the second it is not, but rather a logical reality expressing merely that something is so. See reply to objection 2 here.

      • Dan said,

        December 14, 2012 at 11:06 am

        I’m sorry , I can’t seem to properly understand the ‘jargon’ in that document . Heh … perhaps I’m getting old . Einstein always said ‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” .
        Anyway, I said in my other reply I’d go into more detail about what I meant . If God maintains the Boundary (horos) for all finite things, then he cannot be a finite thing, for the Boundary would expand outside to include Him, leaving no one to support that Boundary . It is the same for existent things . Existence , like finitude , is a limiting attribute . Trying to image God ‘existing’ in any ordinary sense of the word is like trying to imagine the greatest possible number . Who can name ‘the biggest number’? . An existing thing must be separated from other existing things , and contained within a Space that is ‘in potential’ , greater than all those things .
        For God no such concept applies . For greater clarity, let us envision how God would proceed in creating the World, and so what is His relationship to it :
        Isn’t space amazing ? It isn’t a substance, yet it can contain any substance .An ether filling all space and having no resistance would be indistinguishable from empty space . How did God create space ,if there was no per-existing space in which to ‘put space’? How did he create time , if there was no time in which to do so? .What about matter? We can’t image God making the World out of a foreign material, since there was nothing outside God . What is hypostasis for all these things ? Try and think of a few scenarios . The answer will likely elude you in its simplicity .
        We can think of unicorns , and other non-substantial things . Our capacity to think and imagine need not be ‘substantial’ . That doesn’t apply to God .

        The relationship of God to the World is analogous to the relationship of a Thinker to his Thoughts .
        However, God is unboundedly infinite and perfect , while any ‘thinker’ we can think of is not .
        Space stems from His ability to separate concepts in His mind .
        Time stems from His eternal idea of Order .
        Trough this thought, we know His power in the World , as He knows Himself . And that is His Omniscience .
        As no one can ‘be’ in a literal way in his own thoughts , neither can God ‘be’ in the World of existents .
        And that is the hypostasis. Hope it was simple enough .

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