Sunday, April 10, 2011

My First Thomistic Argument

I define a "Thomistic" argument as one that depends upon either principles or actual statements of Thomas Aquinas. Why have a Thomistic argument? There are many people who have a high regard for Aquinas and consider most or all of what he has to say as being "the last word" regarding a topic. So if one wants to communicate or argue with them, using a Thomistic argument come in handy.

Ed Feser has argued against ID on the basis of Thomistic arguments. And so one way of trying to refute him is by using a Thomistic argument.
In Thomism versus the Design Argument, Feser says:

"As I have said many times, it is its eschewal of immanent final causality that makes ID theory “mechanistic” in the specific sense of “mechanism” that A-T philosophers object to...."

If I understand it, the point is that God created the universe so that it had the ability to produce life, and that no intervention by God was needed to make this happen.

Anyway, Aquinas writes in his Summa Theologica, Question XCI, "The Production of the Body of the First Man," Second Article, Reply to Objection 3:

"The movement of the heavens causes natural changes, but not changes that surpass the order of nature and are caused by the divine power alone, as for the dead to be raised to life, or the blind to see; and the making of man from the slime of the earth is a work of this sort."

It seems clear that Aquinas thought that it required divine intervention in order to create man from preexisting material. Therefore it does not seem that there is any barrier to thinking that divine intervention may have been needed to create the first living cells. So there does not seem to be any legitimate Thomistic objection to ID.


Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

So would everything God does via nature be a miracle? What is "natural" action according to ID? I think the difference that you are missing is that, for Thomas, the rational (i.e. human) soul has powers that are strictly incommensurable with (i.e. irreducible to) material construction, whereas lesser forms are not. As such, the creation of each human substance is a directly divine act, whereas the progression of lesser forms, based of course on fundamental prior grounding of natural kinds in creation by God, does not require God's direct action.

I recently wrote a post about this topic you might want to read:

And here is a much longer previous post on the same topics:

Bilbo said...

Hi Codg,

I haven't had anyone post a comment in so long that I gave up looking for them and just noticed yours. I'll try reading your post before I respond. Thanks.

Bilbo said...

I read your first post, which doesn't seem to bring up the issue you bring up here: that forming the human body is qualitatively different than forming "lesser" forms of life.

Perhaps that's what Aquinas meant, though that doesn't seem to be context.