Can a Thomist help me with a passage from SCG?

I’ve been struggling over this for awhile, and I still don’t feel like I have it. This concerns why the unmoved mover is intelligent, from Summa Contra Gentiles, book one, chapter 44:

We have shown above that among movers and things moved we cannot proceed to infinity, but must reduce all movable things, as is demonstrable, to one first self-moving being. The self-moving being moves itself only by appetite and knowledge, for only such beings are found to move themselves, because to be moved and not moved lies in their power. The moving part in the first self-moving being must he appetitive and apprehending. Now, in a motion that takes place through appetite and apprehension, he who has the appetite and the apprehension is a moved mover, while the appetible and apprehended is the unmoved mover. Since, therefore, the first mover of all things, whom we call God, is an absolutely unmoved mover, He must be related to the mover that is a part of the self-moving being as the appetible is to the one who has the appetite. Not, however, as something appetible by sensible appetite, since sensible appetite is not of that which is good absolutely but of this particular good, since the apprehension of the sense is likewise particular; whereas that which is good and appetible absolutely is prior to that which is good and appetible here and now. The first mover, then, must be appetible as an object of intellect, and thus the mover that desires it must be intelligent. All the more, therefore, will the first appetible be intelligent, since the one desiring it is intelligent in act by being joined to it as an intelligible. Therefore, making the supposition that the first mover moves himself, as the philosophers intended, we must say that God is intelligent.

I really don’t understand this passage at all.


I get it. God must be desired intellectually, therefore he must be intellectual himself

Can you tell me which translation of the Summa contra Gentiles you are using? :confused:

My own take of that chapter, using the Joseph Rickaby translation, is that Aquinas means to argue that the most perfect cause of things in the created realm is the cause that possesses understanding. For the most perfect causes in the created realm (such as humans) to possess understanding means we can infer that the First Cause, more perfect than all others, must have understanding.

Are you sure you are quoting from chapter 44, because my 44 does not resemble the wording you have supplied?

Well philosophers of India say that their impersonal God has all the components of knowledge, but it is not unified into a Person. Spinoza thought the same I think. So the imperfect First Cause puts those elements together into humans, the perfect effect.

I got this from the DHSPriory website:

What I don’t understand is why something that is intellectually desirable would itself be intelligent.

Why would we desire something that is not intelligent, or that at least does not show intelligent design at its core?

We do not ordinarily admire a junkyard. But otherwise we admire most of creation, and at least partly we admire it as the product of a seemingly great Intelligence.

The laws of the universe are intelligible, and it seems we should from that infer an Intelligent Designer of those laws.

It’s too deep for me too. I’ve never cared much for SCG, much too obscure.


Now I see, said the blind man. :wink:

The Pegis translation is a complete version of the Summa. Rickaby’s translation deletes certain passages as better off left untranslated, presumably because they made no sense to him, or were untranslatable. In the preface to his 1950 translation he argues that Aquinas would have probably approved the deletion, as it would be better to delete than to confuse the reader.

So my thought is maybe the Pegis translation is entire, but entire to a fault?

Rickaby thought so … but then Rickaby was a Jesuit, not a Dominican. :wink:

I think you must go back to Thomas’ Commentary on the 12 book of Aristotle’s Metaphysics to understand what is meant. I don’t have the inclination to do that myself, since Thomas gives a number of proofs to show that the Unmoved Mover is Intelligent. Anyway, here is the link:

P.S. It is interesting that the " anotated " Rickaby translation begins with proof # 6.


And Rickaby footnotes a reference to the fact that Aristotle viewed the universe as eternal.

That has to get in the way of hypothesizing a Prime Mover. Add to that the fact that Aristotle offers nothing in the way of viewing this Prime Mover as a personal God. The leap from a Prime Mover to a personal God is unbelievably gigantic, as Spinoza and Einstein would be glad to insist. Yet Aquinas has bridged the gap by insisting that God must be intelligent, since the laws of the universe appear to be designed. Moreover, God must have will, or the universe would not have been created. Intelligence and Will are the founding principles of personality. From them it is incrementally possible to build an infinitely larger Person at the pulsating center of which we find Love itself.

Yes Aristotle viewed the universe as eternal but Thomas thought that his arguments for God’s existence were valid. ( You must read Thomas’ Commentary on A’s Metaphysics ). But in Thomas’ own works he proves that God is indeed personal. Another point also, I pointed out how Thomas, in De Potentia, Question 3, Artical V, taught that God, in the case of an eternal universe, is eternally creating. ( see my thread, pg 2 on this forum, post # 5 ).

BTW, Aristotle makes it clear ( see his Metaphysics, Book XII ) that God is Intelligent, Simple, Good, and has many other attributes that Thomas argues to as well. About the only thing Aristotle’s God lacked was the act of creation and being a personal God.

P.S. The O.P.‘s question really bugs me. Was something lost from Thomas’ original SCG? Does he cover the concept elsewhere? Perhaps it is covered on one of his lesser known works?

Last night I reread A’s Metaphysics, Book XII and De Anima and found no hints there!! I think I’ll drop an e-mail to a couple of the Dominican Houses in U.K. and the U.S. and see if anyone has an explanation.


By cause and effect it was shown that when we come to the first moved mover (man) that we necessarily come to the unmoved mover (G0d) for if we continue to infinity in the sequence of cause and effect, we will never come to a beginning, or end which is contrary to our experience, we have a beginning

So the unmoved mover, is a self moving being (God) the moveable mover is the one that is moved (man)
Man is moved by desire, or inclination towards the good by the power of the will
Man is also moved or guided by the power of intelligence towards the Truth, the knowable which is God

The appetite of the will is for the good, the appetite for the intelligence is for the truth.

Both are found in God as one, and God is His attributes, the Good, and the Truth.

Man can choose by the power of his will, to move or not move, to desire or not desire.

While that which is desired and known is the unmoved mover (God) who is the first mover of all things.

God is related to man through man’s appetites not by something physical (the particular good but by the appetite for something spiritual, the absolute Good, and the absolute True, or truth The absolute Good and True is prior to the particular good, for God is prior to His creation. So God is desired by man’s will and intelligence, the object of man’ appettencies, in knowing God, man’s intelligence is united to the Divine Intelligence, we conclude God is intelligent (Ontologically we say God is His attributes, God is Intelligence)


From article 16: " Consequently, in opposition to this doctrine, we must maintain that the intellectual soul of man, by being united to the body, has its vision turned toward phantasms, and is informed (informare) in its intellection only through species acquired from phantasms. This agrees with the statement of Dionysius in Book I of the De caelestia hierarchia * for he says: “The divine light can shine upon us only when screened round about by many sacred veils.” Hence the soul, while united to the body, is capable of attaining a knowledge of separate substances only so far as it can be led thereto through species derived from phantasms. But in this way the soul will not attain quidditative knowledge of those substances, because their order of intelligibility transcends completely that of the intelligible species of material things abstracted from phantasms. However, we can in this way attain some [non-quidditative] knowledge of those separate substances, we can know that they exist (quia sunt); just as from lowly and deficient effects we proceed to lofty causes, but only to the extent that we know they exist. And while we know that these superior causes exist, at the same time we know that they are not of the same nature as their effects, and this knowledge consists in knowing what they are not, rather than what they are. Consequently it is true to say that, inasmuch as we grasp the quiddities which we abstract from material things, our intellect can, by turning to those quiddities, apprehend separate substances, so that it knows them to be immaterial, just as are the quiddities themselves which are abstracted from matter. Thus, thanks to the reflective power of our intellect, we are brought to a knowledge of intelligible separate substances. Nor is there cause for wonder if in this life we are incapable of knowing separate substances in their very essence, but can know only what they are not. For it is only in this way that we can know even the quiddity and nature of the celestial bodies. Thus in the De caelo et mundo * Aristotle shows that the celestial bodies are neither heavy nor light, generable nor corruptible, nor subject to contrariety. ( underlining mine ).

This commentary seems to indicate that man’s ability to determine that God has understanding or is intelligent ( S.C.G., Book 1, chapter 44 ) depends on the fact that God’s immateriality or simplicity implies that he possesses understanding or intelligence. So I think if one researches the attributes of immateriality* in Thomas is the key to understanding that mysterious passage in SCG, Book 1, chapter 44.


You will be presenting them with quite a challenge. At the same time, if you are in give and take mode with the Dominicans, you might inquire if dropping that passage from translation in the Rickaby translation was a violation of the original source or actually a prudential move by the translator.

Just a thought. :shrug:

P.S. We have three Dominicans here in Lubbock, but I’m not sure they are the scholars we need for this job.

I’m sure you have given a correct " off the cuff " explanation. I am going to attempt to back it up with source quotes from Thomas and Aristotle.

Very good.


Yn’s post 14 looks pretty good. I may not have to bother the Dominicans. I’m following my own thougths here beginning with the information Dr. Ludwig Ott provides on God’s knowledge in Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. He references S.T. 1, ques 14, art 1 where Thomas says " intelligence " follows upon God’s immateriality, which refers back to S.T. 3 - 11, and then I have to pin down the term " intelligibles, " and " unmoved mover " in the context of knowing, etc.

You have to admit, the O.P. asked a very perceptive question. Thomas of course would assume that the reader already knew all this and more. So he didn’t stop to elaborate.



The soul of man is spiritual with the spiritual faculties of volition and intellection, and God is Pure Spirit. If God created intelligence, then He must have intelligence to give, and we know He is Pure Being We also know all things are contained in God, yet we are not part of God, in God we have our being.

I made a few correction in wording in the original post eg. (knowable instead of known) I also added a few words to clarify a statement.

It’s a great question that Rickaby answered by deleting the passage so as not to allow the question to be asked in his translation. Perhaps he felt as baffled as Pegis, thinking he could not do the passage any more justice than Pegis had done it (which seems to be precious little). But I will hold off until you have figured this out, as you seem to have the scent of a solution.

I sent the passage of the Pegis translation to a Dominican here in Lubbock, and asked him not to reply if it didn’t make his day. :smiley:

Can’t wait to hear what they have to say. I’ve been studying on and off all day, get hints but nothing definite. I did find out what " intelligibles " were, they are the universal natures which the intellect " abstracts " from the sensibles it receives from things existing outside the mind. These universal natures do not exist in reality, only in the mind. But they are instantiated in the individuals. For example " horse " exists only in the mind, but there are individual horses. The ideal horse, the universal, exists only as an object of thought.It is this ideal which is called an intelligible. It is called that because it is known by the intellect. Now intelligibles actually exist the Divine Intellect as their source because it is God who creates the individuals instantiating his ideas, which we abstract from the sensibles.


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