Saturday, April 25, 2009

Silence of the Lambs analysis - part 28: Aquinas on the simplicity of God


Earlier described was how part of Lecter's clue to Clarice in Memphis, "First principles...Simplicity", is a reference to medieval philosopher and theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica. It seems appropriate to look in some detail into the concept of God's simplicity, specifically, at some of the the material contained in the Summa Part 1, Question 3: "Of The Simplicity Of God." Question 3 has eight articles; article number seven is of particular interest. The quoted material below is from this seventh article, which is titled, "Whether God Is Altogether Simple":

"[T]he absolute simplicity of God may be shown in many ways. First, from the previous articles of this question. For there is neither composition of quantitative parts in God, since He is not a body; nor composition of matter and form; nor does His nature differ from His [person-substance]; nor His essence from His existence; neither is there in Him composition of genus and difference, nor of subject and accident. Therefore, it is clear that God is nowise composite, but is altogether simple.

"Secondly, because every composite is posterior to its component parts, and is dependent on them; but God is the first being, as shown [earlier]. Thirdly, because every composite has a cause...But God is [uncaused since] He is the first efficient cause. Fourthly, because in every composite there must be potentiality and actuality; but this does not apply to God; for either one of the parts actuates another, or at least all the parts are potential to the whole. ...

"[S]ince God is absolute form, or rather absolute being, He can be in no way composite. ...

"Whatever is from God imitates Him, as caused things imitate the first cause. But it is of the essence of a thing to be in some sort composite; because at least its existence differs from its essence...

"With us composite things are better than simple things, because the perfections of created goodness cannot be found in one simple thing, but in many things. But the perfection of divine goodness is found in one simple thing."

One idea to be derived from this is that there is a contrast between God, who is not a composite, and Gumb's assembled 'suit' of skin, which is to be a composite (of quantitative parts). Another contrast to consider is the one between God, and Gumb himself; for since Gumb is a human being, not only is he a composite of quantitative parts, but his existence differs from his essence. Gumb is unlike God, a fact which would weaken the argument that he can create.

St. Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica on Logos Virtual Library


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