five ways

   'The five ways' is a familiar name for the five arguments for the existence of God that Thomas Aquinas presents in Summa Theologiae (Ia, q2, a3). Thomas believes that human reason can come to knowledge of the existence of God by reasoning from the effect to the necessary cause. In the first way he begins with the fact of movement in the world (being in Act), which requires a first mover. In the second way he argues that the existence of efficient causation requires a first efficient cause. According to the third way, things that exist contingently do not exist at all points in time. But then (Thomas claims) if we retroject backwards far enough, we should come to a time when nothing existed. But if there were a time when nothing existed, then, without a necessary being to bring everything into existence, nothing would have ever come to exist. Each of these ways can be seen as a form of the cosmological argument. The fourth way looks to a maximum good as necessary as a standard and ground for the relative finite goods that we experience. This parallels some forms of the moral argument. Finally, the fifth way identifies the ends to which objects in creation work as evidence for a final causal ground of order and design. This final way is a form of the argument to design. Each of these arguments has found its share of criticism. For instance, Thomas's reasoning on the third way is not convincing: why is it impossible that it might have been that at any given time of the past there was at least one contingent entity? Further, Thomas has been critiqued for his easy move from each argument to the conclusion 'and this everyone knows to be God'. Finally, some object that in Thomas these arguments appear like a prolegomenal epistemic justification of theology, but that is to misread him in light of contemporary issues of foundationalism.
   Further reading: Aquinas 1963-80; Jay 1946; Kenny 1969b

Christian Philosophy . . 2015.

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