The Five Ways of Knowing

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The Five Ways of Knowing: Thomas

St. Thomas Aquinas listed what he saw as five intellectual proofs of the existence of God—proofs that were dependent on reason and observation, yet not the revealed word of God. For centuries, the five ways were regarded as the truth and revered by theologians and common folk alike. The five ways deal with reason and observation. The first way, Aquinas explained, revolves around a first mover. As described by Young, W. (2004) this is, “the change of something from being at rest to being in motion is a change in its nature from potential to actuality, and this is only possible if something that is already active sets the potential mover in motion” (p. 530). Essentially, without believing in an unmoved mover, nothing in the world would be explicable. The first way generally posits that there must be a first mover, and that first mover must be God. According to Cahn (2009), Whatever is moved must be moved by another. If that by which it is moved be itself moved, then this also must needs be moved by another and that by another mover, consequently, no other mover, seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are moved by the first mover; as he staff moves only because it is moved by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, moved by no other; and this everyone understands to be God. (p. 60). My question is who caused God to move and who or what gave God the energy to begin the movement? As stated by Cahn (2009), “motion is nothing else than the reduction of something potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality” (p. 60). Given his argument, it is only logical to counter act this with the question, what or who was in a state of actuality that gave energy and actuality to God?

I feel it worthy to present the question as to why this ‘first mover’ must be God. How do we know the first mover wasn’t a collection of aliens or a cookie for that matter? If it turns out a chocolate chip cookie was indeed the ‘first mover’, would this make cookies God? I’m wondering why we must logically draw some conclusion that this God, that defies the exact rationale of the argument for this ‘way’, must have been the ‘first mover’. Who moved the first mover? Why must be conclude that the first mover must be God and did not have a mover to move itself into existence?

The second way essentially centers on God’s existence needing to be demonstrated. Basically stated, there are causes for everything. The second way can be explained partially by stating that there is nothing that can be the efficient cause of itself, as this would mean it would have to be before itself which is preposterous (Cahn, 2009, p. 60). The author goes on to explain that it is impossible that this causation can be infinite because cause and effect is always in motion, and the ultimate outcome is always depended on the previous cause and effect. Therefore, without a first cause there could be no final cause. The nonexistence of a cause does not link into the observation, therefore it should seem obvious that there must be a first cause, and this cause must be God (pp. 60-61).

I find this argument to have merit, as something generally does cause something else to occur. Yet, once again, what caused God to come into existence? This ‘way’ explains that nothing can cause itself to exist, yet he makes the claim that clearly God did just that. Perhaps the ‘big bang theory’, or other theories discussing matter, energy, atoms molecules and parts- perhaps even at a quantum mechanics level could be used to more logically explain this infinite existence of the world. Personally, this seems like a more probably explanation for the creation of the Universe. Considering the ‘first cause’ argument could be an infinite argument, this clearly points to the argument that there may be no first cause, which could...
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