Thoughts on my essay for highschool

Here’s how I explain the Catholic explanation of the existence of God in ~500 words.
(Had to cut the intro to fit on the forum)

Prima Via: The Argument of the Unmoved Mover

Aquinas uses the term “motion” to describe any of the many kinds of change within the universe, but the argument works the same regardless of these specifics. It goes as follows:

P1) Change within the universe exist because of an external cause

P2) There cannot be an infinite regression of external causes.

P3) Therefore there must be an uncaused cause.

From the Catholic perspective, this “uncaused cause” is described as God. It’s important to recognize that this argument describes an “accidental” series of causes because the existence of member B of the series necessitates member A for its creation but not its continuing existence

Secunda Via: The Argument of First Cause

This argument is largely very similar to the previous but the difference lies in the important detail of an “essential” cause.

P1) Everything we see has an essential cause.

P2) There cannot be an infinite regression of essential causes.

P3) Therefore there must be an uncaused essential cause.

An “accidental” series can be described as temporal but an “essential” series is better described as hierarchical. For example, a person’s existence occurred because of their parents, and their parent’s parent’s and so forth; but a person’s existence occurs because of cells they are made up of, and the atoms that make those up, and the particles that make those up and so forth. In the first, the parents don’t need to exist anymore, whereas in the second all parts must exist at once for the person to exist.

Logically, this necessitates the continued existence of a first cause (AKA God) that more fully fits the description proposed by the Catholic Church. This is because this God must permeate everything and be theoretically able to intervene (being the basal cause). IE omniscient and omnipotent. It also necessitates this God (in a personified sense) willing the continued existence of the universe implicating some sort of love (in the theological sense) for it. Finally, with the philosophical assumption that purpose comes externally (typically by a creator) this means that God is the origin of purpose and morality making “him” inherently omnibenevolent.

This still requires a significant jump to Catholicism specifically, as this only lays the groundwork by arguing for God. However, the version of God necessitates allows for and heavily suggests the presence of “revelation”. As CCC 287 says “Beyond the natural knowledge that every man can have of the Creator,124 God progressively revealed to Israel the mystery of creation”

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That’s incorrect. It’s the groundwork for describing a god-like being. It doesn’t work for God unless to presuppose the existence of God. Which is what you are trying to prove.

You can’t assume that which you are trying to prove.


I agree. You have to at least explain P1. Anyone can ask you:

  • how do you know change in the universe exists because of an external cause? For example the body grows itself naturally and gets old. You need food in order to live but you know you need food because the body tells you need it. (internal cause for change)
    P2 is empirically proven that as far as we know nothing lasts forever (which is not helping your argument at all since you want to prove some things are eternal)
    P3 is your goal to prove so you cannot use it as argument.
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Point 3 needs to be proven not assumed.

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Maybe try some historical evidence too if your essay is about “proof for Catholicism”. If the resurrection didn’t happen, than Catholicism is a joke and there’s plenty of evidence for it.

If in an accidental series of causes it isn’t necessary for a previous cause to continue to exist, I.E your grandfather no longer needs to exist, then why do you presume that the first cause still needs to exist?

To justify the first cause’s continued existence you need to resort to your second argument, so the first argument doesn’t prove anything without the second argument. On its own the first argument proves nothing, so why use it?

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No, that’s nonsense. It demonstrates the need for an eternal, immutable, pure act of being as the uncaused cause for reality. Of all the objections you could raise to where it goes wrong, simply assuming the conclusion is not one of them, and you’ve never demonstrated otherwise on the basis of the argument, you just immediately attack the motive.

He went wrong with the first argument. The Argument from Motion isn’t about an accidental series. In fact, Aquinas believed that an accidental series could proceed to an infinite regress (or at least that an infinite regress of accidental causes couldn’t be demonstrated as self contradicting) so objected to the claim that philosophy alone could demonstrate a universe needed a beginning. So it’s a bit nonsensical to assume that Aquinas was trying to show otherwise here.

And all three points would, of course, need expansion to show how they follow. There needs to be more between. 500 words seems too short if he’s actually trying to demonstrate. If it’s something like Catholic school and the teacher just wants a brief highlight of these two arguments then 500 words could work.

The argument from motion and the argument from efficient causes are both very similar, so similar I think it would confuse some.

What’s going on is that Aquinas is demonstrating from different first principles. The argument from motion is related to the principles of act and potency. The argument from efficient causation is related to principles of causality. There is a great deal of overlap in the notions, though they’re not identical.

Of course accepting the principles he begins with in these arguments isn’t meant to be done blindly. He defends the act and potency distinction and his positions on causality elsewhere.

The argument from contingency also overlaps a little. His argument from perfections and teleology are more unique, but I think also harder to grasp when read out of context.

I’m not saying it’s wrong (it is, but for the purpose of this discussion we’ll assume it’s not) but that you can’t jump immediately from ‘an eternal, immutable, pure act of being’ to God.

What you are doing would be effectively saying ‘hey, we’ve got an eternal, immutable, pure act of being and that is how we describe God’.

To build on that and make it more obvious at least to me. It is like saying my pet is soft and furry. We say rabbits are soft and furry therefore my pet is a rabbit when your pet could be a cat. We have no proof the there.

And to be even more specific, we would have no evidence at that point in the argument that either cats or bunnies existed.

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Well, if given the arguments (just for the sake of argument here) we’ve got one eternal, immutable, pure act of being which has all its perfections actualized (perfectly good) which is capable of effecting all possible things (omnipotence) and that has all such things as it’s essence in an intelligible manner (omniscience) and acts to create other things out of no pre-existing matter by knowledge and intrinsic principle and without an external impetus (thus having will), and this origin of reality and being is the only thing which should be called God.

That the being called God in the Bible is the being described above is something else entirely. True, if that’s your point.

But can’t you see what you are doing? You have a definition of the Christian God and you are formulating arguments that you need to match those definitions. You will accept any that do and reject any that don’t.

It doesn’t have to be omnipotent or omniscient. It certainly doesn’t need to be good (this might be the worst of all worlds - and there are certainly enough arguments to back that up).

Notwithstanding that matter may well have pre-existed if we’re in a cyclical universe. And if it’s cyclical it isn’t infinite in time.

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This is simply questioning the motivations and not the arguments themselves (which haven’t been given in this topic).

You’re just begging the question against the arguments given elsewhere which claim to demonstrate all three necessarily follow and that it could not be otherwise.

That would be an issue for the Kalam argument, but even if it were the case it doesn’t get around any of the cosmological arguments put forward by Aquinas and many other theologians.

You’re just begging the question against the arguments given elsewhere which claim to demonstrate all three necessarily follow and that it could not be otherwise.

That would be an issue for the Kalam argument, but even if it were the case it doesn’t get around any of the cosmological arguments put forward by Aquinas and many other theologians.

You bet I’m questioning the motives. Because they are not a search for the truth. They are a search for arguments that back up an already defined religious concept.

And if you think a cyclical universe doesn’t counter any cosmological arguments then I’m willing to listen to your reasons why.

That objection is fallacious in the face of actual arguments.

I know we’ve been over this before and posted in the same topics about this.

Aquinas does not suppose a start to the universe in any of his arguments, nor do any of the arguments claim to demonstrate a start to the universe. Aquinas did not think any philosophical argument could demonstrate a start, so he did not try to. What more needs to be said since the arguments have nothing to do with your objection? The objection is a non sequitur.

We can start here:

‘Since the Universe could, under different circumstances, conceivably not exist (contingency), its existence must have a cause.’

That’s not true in a cyclical universe. It always has existed, could not conceivably not exist (it’s eternal) and is it’s own cause.

‘Whatever begins to exist has a cause.The Universe began to exist.Therefore, the Universe had a cause.’

That’s not true in a cyclical universe either. It didn’t ‘begin to exist’. So the term ‘whatever begins to exist’ cannot refer to a cyclical universe.

‘Nothing comes from nothing’.

There never has been nothing so the term has no meaning.

Atheists are the ones who typically object to the perception that theists treat the universe as a single object instead of a collection of objects. Does any one thing in reality (not just the universe as a whole) begin to exist? Yes? Thus yadda yadda God, if you understand the arguments.

A cyclical universe still undergoes change, is composed of parts and divisible into parts or sections, etc… etc…

Eternal in this context does not mean existing for infinite time but having no successive moments or progression.

A universe existing for infinite time or in a cycle does not get around not being simple, not being pure act, not existing by true necessity since it’s essence isn’t identical to its existence as demonstrated by the arguments.

‘Nothing comes from nothing’.

Exactly why even a cyclical universe whose act of existence is not self explanatory needs a cause which is self explanatory and can’t be an ontological brute fact.

These are all just strawmen which don’t understand the cosmological arguments put forward by Aquinas.

Before I comment, what is the context of this paper? What’s the writing prompt?

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