Outlined Version of the First Cause Argument

Here is the outlined version of Aquinas’s First Cause Argument for the existence of God, also known as the Second Way. The full series of articles can be found here, here, here, and here. Refer to those articles for full, in depth explanations and defenses for the premises.

The very, very condensed version of the argument argument:

  1. Our senses observe essentially ordered series of efficient causes
  2. Nothing can be the efficient cause of itself
  3. Therefore, either the series of efficient causes must have a first cause, a circular regress, or an infinite regress
  4. Essentially ordered series cannot have a circular or infinite regress
  5. Therefore, there must be a first cause

The more precise, expanded version:

  1. Our senses observe that there are efficient causes
  2. Some instances of efficient causes exist in essentially ordered series. Such instances include composite beings, beings which operate within a system, and beings whose essences are distinct from the act of existing and therefore must be conjoined and conserved
  3. Nothing can be the efficient cause of itself
  4. Therefore, either the series of efficient causes must have a first cause, a circular regress, or an infinite regress
  5. Essentially ordered series cannot have a circular or infinite regress
  6. Therefore, there must be a First Cause

What can we know about the First Cause?

  1. Efficient causation is the actualization of potency
  2. As the Prime Mover argument demonstrates, essentially ordered series of potency reduced to act must ultimately lead to a Being of Pure Act
  3. Therefore, the First Cause is a Being of Pure Act
  4. For those beings whose essences are distinct from the act of existing, the First Cause must be a being whose essence and existence are identical
  5. A being whose essence and existence are identical is Pure Being, Pure Existence, Subsistent Being Itself
  6. Therefore, the First Cause is Subsistent Being Itself
  7. The First Cause, since it is Pure Act, has no potencies
  8. Anything that changes has potencies
  9. Therefore, the First Cause cannot change (is immutable)
  10. In order to distinguish objects from other objects, they must have unrealized potencies
  11. Two or more beings of Pure Act would have no potencies, and thus would be indistinguishable, and thus identical
  12. Therefore the First Cause is one
  13. All material objects have potencies
  14. Therefore, the First Cause cannot be material (is immaterial)
  15. To come into or go out of existence is to change
  16. Therefore, the First Cause can never have come into, and can never go out of, existence (is eternal)
  17. Every being which exists within time has potencies
  18. Therefore, the First Cause cannot exist within time (is timeless)

So far we have established one First Cause that is Pure Act and Subsistent Being Itself, making it immutable, immaterial, eternal, and timeless. But there’s more

  1. The First Cause, as Pure Act, ultimately actualizes all potencies, so it is the ultimate efficient cause of everything that happens
  2. Furthermore, as Subsistent Being Itself, it is Pure Existence, and everything else that exists derives its very existence from it
  3. Thus it can be said to be “all powerful” in the relevant sense (is omnipotent)
  4. There are several arguments for the personhood/intelligence of the First Cause
    1. Argument from the Nature of Immaterial Beings:
      1. All material beings are composites of form and matter
      2. All material beings are capable of instantiating only one form at a time, because they are limited by their material nature
      3. An immaterial being would not be limited by material nature, and thus could instantiate multiple forms at once
      4. When an immaterial being instantiates multiple forms, it is said to grasp/understand/conceive of that form. This is what intellect is
      5. The First Cause is immaterial
      6. Therefore the First Cause has intellect
    2. Argument from Proportionate Causality:
      1. All causes must contain their effects either eminently or formally
      2. The First Cause is the ultimate cause of all human attributes
      3. Therefore, the being of Pure Act must contain human attributes either eminently or formally
      4. Many human attributes are material in nature
      5. The being of Pure Act is immaterial
      6. Therefore, the being of Pure Act can only be said to contain these physical/material attributes eminently
      7. Some human attributes, such as personhood and moral nature, are immaterial
      8. Thus the being of Pure Act could be said to contain these attributes formally
      9. Therefore, we can say that the being of Pure Act contains personhood and a moral nature (albeit analogically)

Thus we arrive at one being that is the First Cause of everything, that is Pure Act and Subsistent Being Itself, that from which every other being derives its very existence, which is immutable, immaterial, timeless, eternal, omnipotent, and personal. And this Being we can rightly call God.

 

*Important Note: The argument as presented above is not meant as a syllogism. The argument could be constructed into the format of a syllogism, but the above presentation is not meant to be that. This post is just meant as a general outline of the full, in depth, fleshed out argument as found in the articles linked to above. I will be from time to time editing and refining this outline so as to make it more efficient and less susceptible to criticism. Check back for updates.

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “Outlined Version of the First Cause Argument

  1. […] In other words, the limited, finite beings which contain goodness, being, and perfection only partially, must derive their goodness, being, and perfection from what has these things essentially, or intrinsic to and identical with its very essence. (Some readers may notice that this is, in a sense, very similar to an argument presented alongside the Second Way.) […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s