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ST. THOMAS'S FOURTH WAY AND CREATION LAWRENCE DEWAN, 0.P Dominican College ofPhilosophy and Theology Ottawa, Ontario, Canada EXPLAINING that what he means by "creating" is "causing things ex nihilo," Jacques Maritain, the renowned twentieth-century interpreter of Thomas Aquinas, says: ... it is clear that this very fact, that things are created, is only known by us once we know that the First Cause exists; consequently, we cannot make use of it in order to demonstrate the existence of that First Cause. All we know from the outset is that things are caused.1 This remark is made concerning all five ways. At the same time, Maritain presents the five not only as "typically distinct" from each other, but as ... distributed in a certain order in which the depth of thought and the complexity of the discussion increase. In proportion as the mind delves deeper into the world of experience in order to reach the first starting point of its thinking, it discerns in the First Being more and more meaningful aspects, and richer perspectives are disclosed to it.2 Now, I agree entirely as to the depth of the starting-points and the progressively richer perspectives,' but I disagree with Maritain as to the role of the creature's createdness in leading to the knowledge of God in the Fourth Way. How is it "clear" that the createdness of things is only known once we know that a first cause exists? How, in general, does the createdness of things 1 Maritain, Jacques, Approaches to God, tr. Peter O'Reilly (New York: Collier Books, 1962), 64; see Approches de Dieu (Paris: Alsatia, 1953), 79.-ln this paper, "ST'' and "SCG" stand for Thomas Aquinas's Summa theologiae and Summa contra gentiles. 2 Maritain, Approaches, 63; Approches, 76-77. 3 See my paper, "The Number and Order of St. Thomas's FIVE WAYS", Downside Review 92 (1974): 1-18 371 372 LAWRENCE DEWAN, O.P. come to light, and why should it not come to light in things and so lead to the knowledge of the existence of the proper cause of such an effect? Indeed, can one really arrive at a knowledge of the existence of a "First Being" without having seen, by priority, the createdness of being? Let us recall the general plan for a way to God, as presented in the Summa theologiae. We are to reason from the existence of an effect, better known to us than its proper cause, to the existence of that proper cause.4 What is the effect, seen as an effect, in the Fourth Way, and to what "proper" cause does it lead us? The Fourth Way leads to a maximal being, which is cause of being for ALL beings. The universality of this effect is to be noted. The cause in question is viewed as the cause of a universal effect. Thomas does not content himself with saying that there is a first being which is the cause of being for all other beings. That, I would say, would not be wrong, but it would be mild and apt to mislead. Rather, he "goes out of his way," one might say, to establish that the cause of which he is speaking is such as to dominate an entire field in what I would call a "formal " way. After reasoning to the actual existence of the maximal being, by what is clearly an efficient/exemplar causal route,S he adds that such a maximal item is the cause of all things which belong to the same order. He then comes to God, named precisely as he wished to arrive at God in this Fourth Way, viz. as "cause of being for all beings." The importance of the incorporation of this point about the universality of the effect can be better apprec\ated if one looks back at the Summa contra gentiles. The SCG 1.13 argument which corresponds to the Fourth Way does not mention the point about universality at all. It uses Aristotle's Metaph. 2 only to 4 ST 1.2.2: "From any effect one can demonstrate the existence of its proper cause, if, of course, its effects...


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