Root claim of the Five Ways (2)

Causal chains are finite as causal and infinite as chains. Chains of causes are identified by their homogeneity with the effect, e.g. X moves and makes Y move, X is hot and makes Y hot, X is an animal and generates an animal. The cause-effect homogeneity is what makes an indefinite causal chain possible, since if the cause and effect are homogenous we can repeat them indefinitely.

The causal chain is finite because homogenous causes depend on equivocal causes, where “equivocal” means only “non-homogenous”. The Liber de Causis calls these equivocal causes “primary” and there is a long tradition of calling them “universal”. The root claim of the Five Ways is therefore simply the first causal axiom of the Liber de Causis that the primary cause more inflows into the effect than the secondary cause, e.g. principal agents are more responsible for an action than the instruments they use.

The Five Ways can be read as proofs not just for God but for the dependence of homogeneous causes on equivocal ones. Just how many equivocal causes there are other than spiritual beings is a matter for physics to figure out. STA himself had conflicting beliefs about the matter, since on the one hand he was committed to Aristotle’s ideas that the heavenly spheres were universal causes, while on the other hand giving a proof that all equivocal causes are spiritual.

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