This is a question Aquinas wanted to explore so that he may have a basis for his beliefs. Aquinas believe God existed, but wanted his own evidence to back up his claims. Most philosophers of the time believed that everything has always been in existence, therefore there is no reason for a creator. Aquinas believed that there needed to be a necessary cause for a universe filled with contingent beings. Aquinas developed a cosmological argument to help explain that the universe did need a creator. In this essay, I will discuss Aquinas’ cosmological argument, the difference between per se and per accidens causes, and how Aquinas uses this to state that all contingent things in the universe cannot begin a single contingent being, thus a necessary being is required This we call God. In philosophy, there are different types of being. A necessary being is a being that always existed, that will always exist, and that can’t not exist. There is contingent being which is a being that could have not existed without the help of something else. An example would be you. You could have not existed without your parents. Aquinas starts his cosmological argument by stating that the world is composed of contingent things meaning that something or someone must have cause the existence.
Nothing came from nothing it had to have come from something. There has to be something that caused the contingent beings existence a necessary being which Aquinas calls God. The universe could have not come from nothing something had to set everything in motion for more creation to exist. Aquinas uses the terms per se cause and per accidens to explain the necessity of a necessary being in a universe filled with contingency. The term per se means in and of itself. It alone means it can exist on its own without any help or causation. Per se can exist on its own per accidens cannot, it requires an extraneous circumstance. Using the example of a person taking a rope and pulling a chair, the person causes the motion which is per se. because we have someone or something to pull the chair, it will move. That is considered per se it requires a singular being to cause its motion. Aquinas says this can be seen as an example for the existence of God. The term per accidens means by chance, and cannot exist without any prior causation. Without someone or something to pull the rope, the chair stands up and the rope lays on the ground. Using the rope and chair example, the chair would not move no matter how many ropes you put on it it requires a necessary being. The rope and the chair without movement is nothing. But with something to pull the rope and the chair (God) Ii has movement and suddenly has meaning. This pulling of the rope can be related to when God created the universe, and then there was light as in the book of Genesis states. There is no other explanation for the creation of the universe of contingent beings, because we first needed a necessary being to set things in motion. There were many criticisms towards Aquinas’ Cosmological Argument,t he first being the Epistemological Objection. The Epistemological Objection essentially states that any claim about God is beyond the limits of human knowledge.
This means that no human, or mortal can make a claim or statement on God’s existence, for God is assumed to be the highest level of all beings (according to Augustine and the Great Chain of Being). Since we cannot see God, or know God, it is beyond all human measure and intelligence to make any claims about God. Another criticism for the Cosmological Argument was by Bertrand Russell. He made the claim that the argument commits the fallacy of composition. To commit the Fallacy of Composition means to infer something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole (meaning like it is half true). Aquinas’ argument is incomplete because it focuses on only half truths. The example that Russell gave was that every human has a mother, so you can deduce that the human species had a mother. The final criticism we discussed in class was by JCC Smart with his Why not? objection. Smart stated that there is no complete answer or explanation for God’s existence. We may never know who or what created the universe, but it’s best not to worry about that answer, for it may be nothing at all. The answer to the question Why does anything exist? might very well be, Why not?. Aquinas believed that among the things whose existence needs explanation are contingent beings that depend for their existence upon other beings. What is contingent exists because of the existence of a necessary being. This may also be associated with the term blind faith. These criticisms all have their place.
They all tie into the same theme that we may never know if there is a God, and that it is better not to question the creation of the universe and its possible creator. However, Aquinas would challenge these arguments by saying why not believe in something greater than ourselves? We may not know what created the universe but it is better to believe in the existence of a God, than not to believe at all, in my opinion. In fact, to say that the universe does not have a creator, or doubt a creator’s existence is difficult to imagine. Life, as Aquinas states is contingent, it requires something more to exist a necessary being to start life and matter to exist and this we should call God. To conclude, I side with Aquinas on the statement that God exists. I believe that everything came from something, and it just doesn’t make enough sense that the universe came from nothing. The necessary being behind all the contingent has to be God, for there is no other concrete evidence stating that it wasn’t just as there is no concrete proof that there is. It’s a personal choice to believe or not.
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