De Potentia Dei 3.5

On the Power of God, Question 3, Article 5

Whether there can be anything which is not created by God.

It seems so:


  1. Since a cause is more powerful than its effect, that which is possible to our intellect, which takes its knowledge from things, seems to be more possible in nature. But our intellect can understand something without without understanding it to be from God since an efficient cause does not belong to the nature of a thing, and so without it, the thing can be understood. Therefore, in reality it is much more possible for a thing to be which is not from God.
  2. All things which are made by God are said to be creatures of God. Creation, however, terminates in being (esse): for the first of created things is being (esse), as the Book of Causes has it. Since, therefore, the quiddity of a thing is other than (praeter) its being, it seems that the quiddity of a thing is not from God.
  3. Every action terminates in some act, just as it also proceed from some act; for every agent acts insofar as it is in act, and every agent makes something similar to itself in nature. But prime matter is pure potency. Therefore, the action of the Creator is not able to terminate in it (prime matter); and so not all things are created by God.

Sed contra Is what is said, Rom. xi, 36: From Him and through Him and in Him all things are.

I respond:
. . .

Later philosopher, then, like Plato, Aristotle and their followers, came to a knowledge of universal being itself; and so they alone posited some universal cause of things from which all others proceeded in being, as is clear from Augustine.

Even the Catholic faith accords with this account. And this can be shown by three arguments, of which the first is this. It is necessary that, if some one thing is found in common among many things, it is caused in them by some one thing. For it cannot be that it would belong in common in each because of each one itself, since each one, according as it is itself, would be distinguished from another; and a diversity of causes produces a diversity of effects. Since, therefore, being (esse) is found in common in all things, since according to it they exist and are distinct from each other, it must be of necessity that, not from them themselves, but from some one cause, being (esse) is attributed to them. This seems to be the argument of Plato who wished that, before all multiplicity, there be some unity, not only in number, but even in reality.

The second argument: When some attribute is found to be shared by many things in varying ways, it must be that it is attributed to all those in which it is found in a more imperfect manner by that in which it is found most perfectly. Now, those things which are said (to have this attribute) in a positive manner according to a more and a less, have this from approaching more remotely or more nearly to some one thing. For if each one of them, on account of itself, were to possess this attribute, there would not be a reason why it would be found more perfect in one than in the other. For instance, we see that fire, which is the ultimate in hotness, is the principle of heat in all hot things. It is (necessary), then, to posit One Being (ens) which is the most perfect and most true being. This follows from the fact that there is some most perfect and wholly Unmoved Mover, as is proved by philosophers. It is necessary, therefore, that all other less perfect things receive being (esse) from Him. This is the argument of the Philosopher.

The third argument: That which exists through another is led back (reducitur), as though into its cause, to that which exists through itself. Wherefore, if there were a heat existing through itself, it would have to be the cause of all hot things, which would have heat through the mode of participation. Now, it is (necessary) to posit some Being (ens) which is His Own Being (esse). This follows from the fact that there must be some First Being (primum ens) which is pure act, in which there is no composition. Wherefore, it is necessary that from that One Being all others exist, but have being through the mode of participation. This is the argument of Avicenna.

Replies to Objections

  1. Although the First Cause, which is God, does not enter into the essence of created things, nevertheless, being (esse) which is in created things, cannot be understood except as flowing from the divine being, just as neither could a proper effect be understood except as flowing from a proper cause.
  2. From the fact that being is attributed to the quiddity, not only being (esse), but the quiddity itself, is said to be created. For before it has being it is nothing, except perhaps in the intellect of the Creator, where it is not a creature, but the Creative Essence.
  3. The argument proves that prime matter is not created in itself, but from this it does not follow that it is not created under a form. As such it does have being in act.

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