He Who Is: A Study in Traditional Theism

By E. L. B. D. Mascall | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
THE TRADITIONAL APPROACH

(2) THE FIVE WAYS

IT must be admitted that St. Thomas himself does not explicitly state the very general argument which has been outlined in the last chapter, or claim that his Five Ways are only different forms of one more ultimate proof. On the other hand, there is one of the Ways to which he obviously ascribes very special importance, so much so that in the Summa contra Gentiles he lays almost exclusive emphasis on it. This is the Kinetological Argument, or Argument from Motion, which he collects out of Books V to VIII of the Physics of Aristotle; it occurs in substance also in Books XI and XII of the Metaphysics. In his later work, the Summa Theologica, St. Thomas stated the Argument from Motion, not in practical isolation, but merely as the first of the Five Ways, and moreover gave it a much shorter and less closely Aristotelian form.1 This may show some change in the Angelic Doctor's estimate of the argument, but there are two other factors that may have been responsible for it. The first is that the Contra Gentiles sets out to be a primarily philosophical work, whereas the Summa Theologica, as its name implies, is primarily theological; the second is that the Contra Gentiles was written to refute the teaching of the Muslim philosophers Averroes and Avicenna and hence naturally meets them on their own Aristotelian ground.

In its full form the Argument from Motion is of very considerable complexity. It can be stated in either a direct or an indirect way and is highly technical. It will perhaps be sufficient to give the main points of the former in the text, and to relegate a summary of the full argument to a footnote.2 The starting-point of the

____________________
N.B.--
"Movement" means any kind of change.
"Move" is always a transitive verb.
"Being moved" does not necessarily mean "being moved by something else," but simply "being in motion."
1
Cf. J. Rickaby, Studies in God and his Creatures, p. 33 f. A shorter form is also given in the Compendium Theologiae, I, iii and iv (qu. by Wicksteed, Dogma and Philosophy, p. 281 f.), but it is not quite so compressed as in the Summa Theologica.
2
The Argument from Motion is stated by St. Thomas in ch. xiii of the First Book of the Summa contra Gentiles. A full discussion is given in Gilson Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, ch. iv.

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