The Thomistic Argument for the Existence of God

The Thomistic Argument for the Existence of GodI have been highlighting the arguments for the existence of God as presented by Edward Feser in his work, Five Proofs. Thus far, the Aristotelian argument, the Neoplatonic argument, and the Augustinian argument have all been covered. This brings us to the fourth argument presented in the book, which is the Thomistic argument for the existence of God.


  1. For any of the things we know from experience (stones, trees, dogs, human beings, etc.), there is a distinction to be drawn between its essence and its existence.
  2. If this were not a real distinction – a distinction between aspects of reality itself and not merely between ways of thinking or talking about reality – then we could know whether or not a thing exists simply by knowing its essence.
  3. But we cannot know whether or not a thing exists simply by knowing its essence.
  4. If it were not a real distinction, then the things we know from experience would exist in a necessary way rather than in a merely contingent way.
  5. But in fact they exist in a merely contingent way, and not in a necessary way.
  6. If there could in principle be more than one thing the essence of which is identical to its existence, then two or more such things would be distinguishable in the way that species of the same genus are distinguished, or members of the same species are distinguished, or in the some other way.
  7. But they cannot be distinguished in any of these ways.
  8. So, there could not in principle be more than one thing the essence of which is identical to its existence.
  9. So, for any of the things we know from experience, if the distinction between its essence and its existence were not a real distinction, then there could not in principle be more than one of them.
  10. But in fact, for each of the things we know from experience, there is, or could be, more than one of them.
  11. So, for each of the things we know from experience, the distinction between its essence and its existence is a real distinction.
  12. For anything the essence of which is really distinct from its existence, its existence must be imparted to it either by itself or by some cause distinct from it.
  13. But if it imparted existence to itself, it would be the cause of itself.
  14. Nothing can be the cause of itself.
  15. So, it cannot impart existence to itself.
  16. So, for anything the essence of which is really distinct from its existence, it existence must be imparted to it by some cause distinct from it.
  17. Since its essence and existence remain really distinct at every moment at which it exists, including here and now, its existence must be imparted to it by some cause distinct from it at every moment at which it exists, including here and now.
  18. So, for each of the things we know from experience, its existence must be imparted to it by some cause distinct from it at every moment at which it exists, including here and now.
  19. Either this cause is itself something the essence of which is distinct from its existence, or it is something whose essence and existence are identical, something that just is subsistent existence itself.
  20. If this cause is something the essence of which is distinct from its existence, then its own existence too must be imparted to it by some cause distinct from it at every moment at which it exists, including here and now.
  21. The causal series this would generate would be a hierarchical one, which cannot regress infinitely but must have a first member.
  22. The first member could only be something whose essence and existence are identical, something that just is subsistent existence itself.
  23. So, either directly or indirectly, each of the things we know from experience has its existence imparted to it at every moment at which it exists, including here and now, by some cause whose essence and existence are identical, something that just is subsistent existence itself.
  24. Since there cannot in principle be more than one thing the essence of which is identical to its existence, this cause which is subsistent existence itself is unique.
  25. Since it is unique, anything other than it that exists must be something the essence of which is distinct form its existence.
  26. Anything the essence of which is distinct from its existence will, either directly or indirectly, have its existence imparted to it by a cause which is subsistent existence itself.
  27. So, this unique cause which is subsistent existence itself is the cause of everything other than itself.
  28. Since whatever lacks a real distinction between its essence and its existence would exist in a necessary rather than contingent way, this unique cause which is subsistent existence itself exists in a necessary way.
  29. Whatever is subsistent existence itself need not and could not have had a cause of its own.
  30. So, this unique cause which is subsistent existence itself is uncaused.
  31. If that which is subsistent existence itself had some potentiality for existence which needed to be actualized, then existence would have to be imparted to it by some cause.
  32. So, that which is subsistent existence itself has no potential for existence which needs actualization, but rather exists in a purely actual way.
  33. Whatever is purely actual must be immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal, perfect, omnipotent, fully good, intelligent, and omniscient.
  34. So, each of the things of our experience has its existence imparted to it at every moment by a cause which is Subsistent Existence Itself, one, necessarily existing, the uncaused cause of everything other than itself, purely actual, immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal, perfect, omnipotent, fully good, intelligent, and omniscient.
  35. But for there to be such a cause is for God to exist.
  36. So, God exists.

– Edward Feser, Five Proofs


 

– Lucas G. Westman

 

2 thoughts on “The Thomistic Argument for the Existence of God

  1. Hello Lucas,

    I very much enjoyed this post. I myself am launching a deep philosophical reading into Aquinas (and Paul) over at my blog firstobjection.wordpress.com. Hope you enjoy!

    Liked by 2 people

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