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SOME BRIEF REMARKS CONCERNING THE QUIQNUE VIAE OF SAINT THOMAS In the quinqué viae to the existence of God Saint Thomas claims to be arguing in an a posteriori manner. That is to say, he argues from things or actions which fall within the sphere of the natural, empirical experience of human beings to that Being on which all those things and actions depend. By reflection on the facts of experience the individual is able to discover 'the existential relationship of dependence of empirical realities on a being which transcends them.'1 These facts of experience on which the quinqué viae are based are held by Saint Thomas to be quite familiar to everyone. Consequently, the proofs do not require the discovery of any new empirical data, which the method of the natural sciences would call for. Nor is there any new discovery in these proofs such as an explorer might make in coming across as unknown river, mountain or the like. What is required is attention and reflection rather that research or exploration. Such a point of view rather reminds me of some passages in Wittgenstein 's Philosophical Investigations. Consider just this one: 126. Philosophy simply puts everything before us, and neither explains nor deduces anything. — Since everything lies open to view there is nothing to explain. For what is hidden, for example, is of no interest to us. One might also give the name "philosophy" to what is possible before all new discoveries and inventions.2 The point that Wittgenstein has in mind is that it is not the business of philosophy to add to our information, or yet to alter our language. Philosophy makes no difference of this sort. But it does make a difference in that by it we may achieve a clear view, a command, a grasp, of what was always there to be seen, but which had not been seen in all of its bearings and connexions. In this sense what is required in the understanding of the quinqué viae is not discovery, but rather attention and reflection upon our experience and the way in which we speak about 1 Copleston, F. C, Aquinas, Baltimore, Penguin Books., 1959. page 109. 2 Wittgenstein, Ludwig, (G. E. M. Anscombe, translator). Philosophical Investigations, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1959. 126. 80 The quinqué viae of St. Thomas81 this experience. We start from familiar facts. Mention of these facts is made in the quinqué viae themselves. Let us review these. In the prima via Saint Thomas says that 'it is certain, and it is clear from sense-experience, that some things in this world are moved.' We must be careful to understand the use of the term 'motion.' The saint is not referring only to local motion. Rather we must understand the term to be used in its broader sense of change. This is to say that from 'X could be Y' we can empirically infer ?, in fact is.' Or, in Thomistic terminology we say that the term 'motion' refers to a reduction from a state of potentiality to one of act. In the secunda via the saint begins with the remarks that 'we find in material things an order of efficient causes.' In our experience of things and their relations to one another we are aware of efficient causality. Thus while in the prima via Saint Thomas begins with the fact that some things are in motion or a state of change, the secunda via is based upon the fact that some things act upon other things, as efficient causes. As the starting point for the tertia via 'we find among things some which are capable of existing or not existing, since we find in things that some things come into being and pass away.' To put this in other terms some things are corruptible or perishable, and we notice this fact. The quarta via notes that we 'find in things that some are more or less good and true and noble and so on [than are others].' We can make meaningful statements about this or that being better than something else. Finally in the quinta via it is maintained that 'we see that some things which lack knowledge...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 80-93
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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