10. Summa Contra Gentiles by Thomas Aquinas. Summary Bk1 Chapters 19

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Chapter 19

That in God there is nothing violent or beside nature

Aristotle concludes there is nothing violent or outside of nature in God.  From Chapter 19 of SCG

For whatever has in itself anything violent of beside nature has something added to itself, since that which belongs to a thing’s essence cannot be violent or beside nature.  Now no simple thing has in itself anything that is added, for this would mean it is composite.  Since, then, God is simple as shown above, there can be nothing in him that is violent or beside nature.

(This was a tricky passage for me.   Aquinas assumes in this work that violence is unnatural.  He does not assume that in the Summa Contra Gentiles.  I think the big Summa does a better job here.  First, he digs in teaching as to the goodness of God. Thomas says in Pars Prima Question 6 Article 1.  Of his desirableness.

I answer that, To be good belongs pre-eminently to God. For a thing is good according to its desirableness. Now everything seeks after its own perfection; and the perfection and form of an effect consist in a certain likeness to the agent, since every agent makes its like; and hence the agent itself is desirable and has the nature of good. For the very thing which is desirable in it is the participation of its likeness. Therefore, since God is the first effective cause of all things, it is manifest that the aspect of good and of desirableness belong to Him; and hence Dionysius (Div. Nom. iv) attributes good to God as to the first efficient cause, saying that, God is called good “as by Whom all things subsist.”

Good was certainly created, all perfections pointing act to him as the cause.  God being perfect, simple, and without part, must be good as well. Q6 A2

I answer that, God is the supreme good simply, and not only as existing in any genus or order of things. For good is attributed to God, as was said in the preceding article, inasmuch as all desired perfections flow from Him as from the first cause. They do not, however, flow from Him as from a univocal agent, as shown above ([29] Q [4], A [2]); but as from an agent which does not agree with its effects either in species or genus. Now the likeness of an effect in the univocal cause is found uniformly; but in the equivocal cause it is found more excellently, as, heat is in the sun more excellently than it is in fire. Therefore as good is in God as in the first, but not the univocal, cause of all things, it must be in Him in a most excellent way; and therefore He is called the supreme good.

God is essentially good.  Q6 A3

Further, everything is good by its own goodness. Therefore if there is anything which is not good essentially, it is necessary to say that its goodness is not its own essence. Therefore its goodness, since it is a being, must be good; and if it is good by some other goodness, the same question applies to that goodness also; therefore we must either proceed to infinity, or come to some goodness which is not good by any other goodness. Therefore the first supposition holds good. Therefore everything is good essentially.

Finally in Q6 A4 he shows hat all things are good by the divine goodness.

I answer that, As regards relative things, we must admit extrinsic denomination; as, a thing is denominated “placed” from “place,” and “measured” from “measure.” But as regards absolute things opinions differ. Plato held the existence of separate ideas ([32] Q [84], A [4]) of all things, and that individuals were denominated by them as participating in the separate ideas; for instance, that Socrates is called man according to the separate idea of man. Now just as he laid down separate ideas of man and horse which he called absolute man and absolute horse, so likewise he laid down separate ideas of “being” and of “one,” and these he called absolute being and absolute oneness; and by participation of these, everything was called “being” or “one”; and what was thus absolute being and absolute one, he said was the supreme good. And because good is convertible with being, as one is also; he called God the absolute good, from whom all things are called good by way of participation.

[e] Although this opinion appears to be unreasonable in affirming separate ideas of natural things as subsisting of themselves — as Aristotle argues in many ways — still, it is absolutely true that there is first something which is essentially being and essentially good, which we call God, as appears from what is shown above ([33] Q [2], A [3]), and Aristotle agrees with this. Hence from the first being, essentially such, and good, everything can be called good and a being, inasmuch as it participates in it by way of a certain assimilation which is far removed and defective; as appears from the above ([34] Q [4], A [3]).

[f] Everything is therefore called good from the divine goodness, as from the first exemplary effective and final principle of all goodness. Nevertheless, everything is called good by reason of the similitude of the divine goodness belonging to it, which is formally its own goodness, whereby it is denominated good. And so of all things there is one goodness, and yet many goodnesses.

SCG is a bit, or a lot, of an abridgement.  I’m finding that Thomas leaves out some of his goodies.  In chapter 10, he leaves out 2 of his proofs for the existence of God.  Here he doesn’t show all his work describing the goodness of God.  I put it in here for you.  He starts with the belief that God is good, shown in PP Q6.  In the little Summa he goes on to show that violence would be unnatural for God. Back to SCG.)

God being highest, there is no necessity imposed upon him, there being nothing that could impose upon him.  Nothing is compulsory in him.

Everything is done by a thing due to it’s nature.  If it does something unnatural, it must do that thing because of outside compulsion or coercion.  Nothing can compel God, 1. because he is primary, and 2. because he is immovable, therefore there can be no unnatural act in him.   All things he does will be natural to him.




My commentary is in parenthesis.

I am reading the Fr. Laurence Shapcote, OP translation.  I have the opera Latin/English 2 volume set from the Aquinas Institute.  You can buy it here.   I think you can find it in less expensive out of copyright editions if you look for the Dominican Friars Translation on Bezos’ site, or for free at archive.org.

I’m reading about 35 chapters per month. It’ll take about two years.  A few pages a day will get it done.   Join me.

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  1. Pingback: 11. Summa Contra Gentiles by Thomas Aquinas. Summary Bk1 Chapters 20-25 – ScottHambrick.com

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