Problem with Aquinas' Third Way?

Is there a God? If so, what is She like?

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ficino
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Problem with Aquinas' Third Way?

Post by ficino » Wed Aug 31, 2016 8:17 pm

Here is another "issue" of mine with Thomism.

In his Third Way of proving God’s existence (ST 1a Q. 2 Art. 3), Aquinas appeals to our experience that some things can exist or not exist, since things are found to be generated and pass away. But when a thing passes away, on Aristotelian assumptions, its matter just no longer is organized by the “old” form; the matter receives one or more “new” forms, and something different arises. In Aristotle there is no pure disappearance of a thing into nothingness, and pure matter never is found separate from form. So Aquinas is only entitled to conclude that if all things are able not to be, then at some time they would all undergo corruption at once. He is not entitled to conclude that at some time there would have been nothing at all. So he is not entitled to his ensuing deduction from contingent things’ existence now that there must be an uncaused cause.

Maybe at various points all things do undergo corruption at once, as in ancient notions of the universe's ending in fire to be replaced by a new one. That's different from imagining some point in infinite time past when all contingent things suddenly would have become nothingness.

Am I missing something about the Third Way?

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Terrapin Station
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Re: Problem with Aquinas' Third Way?

Post by Terrapin Station » Wed Sep 21, 2016 5:00 pm

Not that I'm agreeing with Aquinas, but the problem I see with your argument here is that you're basically saying that Aquinas' view can not hold beause Aristotle would say something different. The fact that B has a different view than A doesn't imply that A's view is incorrect. If Aquinas is incorrect, it has nothing to do with anyone else having a different view.

Skip
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Re: Problem with Aquinas' Third Way?

Post by Skip » Wed Sep 21, 2016 7:17 pm

The fact that Aquinas was talking through his theological hat might be relevant here.
Of course, he's entitled to say whatever nonsense he likes - who's going to impose sanctions on a dead guy?

Justintruth
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Re: Problem with Aquinas' Third Way?

Post by Justintruth » Fri Sep 30, 2016 8:31 am

I think that matter is what stays the same if something changes from one essence to another but if the cange is from some essence to nothing no matter remains.

Dontaskme
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Re: Problem with Aquinas' Third Way?

Post by Dontaskme » Fri Sep 30, 2016 10:14 am

Justintruth wrote:I think that matter is what stays the same if something changes from one essence to another but if the change is from some essence to nothing no matter remains.
Reminds of this quote...

Image

Justintruth
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Re: Problem with Aquinas' Third Way?

Post by Justintruth » Fri Sep 30, 2016 3:57 pm

Or the one from Jimmy Hoffa: "It's mind over matter. If you don't mind. It don't matter!"

But my son reminds me: "Ther's a little bit of Jimmy Hoffa in every can of Alpo!

ficino
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Re: Problem with Aquinas' Third Way?

Post by ficino » Sat Oct 01, 2016 3:02 am

Thank you for the answers, everyone.

I may be unfamiliar with a discussion somewhere within Aquinas' vast corpus. As far as I'm aware, he does not demonstrate that when something passes away, it passes away into pure nothingness. As I said in my OP, it seems to me that he trades on this possibility in the third way, without establishing that a thing undergoes corruption into pure nothingness. It's not enough for the Third Way if things merely undergo corruption into other things or complexes of things. Aquinas needs an account of corruption that establishes that a thing in actuality, a form-in-matter, can suffer the disappearance of its form and its matter. does he provide one somewhere?

ficino
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Re: Problem with Aquinas' Third Way?

Post by ficino » Sat Oct 01, 2016 10:39 pm

Actually, Thomas himself notes that in natural corruption, the matter persists while the form is replaced by another form: “in generatione naturali quando corruptio unius est generatio alterius per hoc quod forma una inducitur et alia expellitur, remotio formae praeexistentis se tenet ex parte causae materialis; et ideo secundum ordinem causae materialis praecedit naturaliter introductionem alterius formae..." (In IV Sent. d. 17 q. 1 a. 4 qc. 1 co.), i.e.
"In natural generation, when the corruption of one thing is the generation of another thing through this, that one form is brought in and another form is expelled, removal of the preexisting form has to do with the material cause; and therefore according to the order of the material cause, it [i.e. departure of the preexisting form] naturally precedes the introduction of the second form."

This is basically what we get in Aristotle's De Generatione et Corruptione I.

So I think in the Third Way, Thomas is going from "things are generated and undergo corruption" to "there was nothing" as though corruption is disappearance into pure nothingness and not into other things. So there's a quaternio terminorum.

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