ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

293. God and the World. -- Here new differences arise between the peripatetic and the scholastic philosophy: the absolute subordination of the being composed of act and potency to the being that is unmixed actuality, does away with the awkward dualism of finite and infinite which troubled Aristotle in common with many of the ancient philosophers.{1} It likewise preserves the substantial distinction between God and the world. Scholasticism is the sworn enemy of pantheism in every shape and form. The great medieval scholastics all refute not alone the pantheistic systems of the Greeks so far as they knew them, but also the materialistic pantheism of David of Dinant and his followers, and the emanation theory of Avicebron, Avicenna and Averroës.{2}

The subordination of the world to God is illustrated in the three theories of Exemplarism, Creation and Providence.

(1) Exemplarism. In this doctrine, St. Augustine is undisputed teacher of the scholastics (100). God knows all created beings, independently of their existence in time. Before creating the universe He conceived its majestic plan; for He has wrought all things with weight and measure (Pythagoras). God's ideas, says St. Thomas, have no other reality than that of the Divine essence. Since He fathoms the infinite comprehensibility of His being, He not only knows His essence in itself ("objectum primarium"); He sees also the relations between it and creatures, which are its faint, far away imitations ("objectum secundarium"). If other scholastics conceive otherwise the nature of the Divine ideas, all admit, with St. Augustine, that they are the ultimate foundation of the REALITY of CONTINGENT ESSENCES, of their COGNOSCIBILITY, and of the CERTITUDE of all our knowledge: not that we know all things in God (ontologism), but that by synthetic reasoning we see how the attributes of all things necessarily reproduce their uncreated exemplar. These synthetic speculations -- together with the inborn tendency of the intellect towards truth, the final cause of its acts (289) -- reveal the common view-point of the epistomology of the thirteenth century.{3}

(2) Creation (96). According to those Divine ideas, which are the exemplar-cause of the world, God brings forth from nothing, by His creative act, all contingent realities. Scholasticism thus improves on Aristotle, not only by its concept of exemplar-causality which would have been incompatible with the immobility of the peripatetic deity, but also by its theory of efficient causality ("id a quo aliquid fit," 44). The latter sort of cause Aristotle would have more correctly called motor (motus denoting any and every sort of change in a subject), because efficiency, in his concept, does not extend to the production of the original subjects themselves of motion or change. These are presupposed as eternal, like the world resulting from their combination, and motion is regarded as the necessary outcome of their juxtaposition. With the scholastics, on the contrary, not only is the motion of things due to the Divine efficiency, but even their very substance in its deepest and innermost reality. This development of the notion of efficiency may well be said to have made scholasticism more peripatetic than Aristotle himself. The scholastics invariably animadverted on the relations established by the Stagirite between God and the world.

As to the question whether God created the world in time or from all eternity, St. Thomas took up a position which no one before him had ventured to sustain: he declared himself unable to see any contradiction in the concept of eternal creation.{4}

(3) Providence. The Creator retains sovereign power over the creature called into being at the behest of His almighty will. In a manner agreeable to the nature of each created being, He confers existence (esse) on the latter, conserves its essence in existence and co-operates with its activities ("concursus congruens naturae creaturae").{5} He guides and watches over it as Providence. He is also, and in a deeper sense than Aristotle suspected, the final cause of the universe. All things tend towards God: a thesis closely connected, in the case of intelligent creatures, with the scholastic teaching on future life and happiness. The confusion of thought, observable in Aristotle, between motion proper (efficiency) and tendency or inclination by appetite is satisfactorily cleared up by means of the creation theory. The application of scholastic metaphysics to theodicy gave the latter an amplitude and depth which it did not possess either with the Fathers of the Church or with the earlier scholastics. The theodicy of the thirteenth century is one of the most powerful assertions of theism to be found in all history.

{1} This, says RITTER, is a noteworthy advance: "darin muss man einen bedeutenden Fortschritt erkennen" (Gesch. d. Philos., viii., p.253). Cf. WILLMANN, op. cit., ii., p. 340.

{2} Seeing that scholasticism rejects the leading principle of Plotinism (viz., emanation), we cannot understand why M. Picavet in a recent book, supports the contention that Plotinus and not Aristotle is the real parent of scholasticism (Esquisse d'une histoire des philosophies médiévales, 1905).

{3} Hence the scholastics approached the problem of certitude from the METAPHYSICAL rather than from the PSYCHOLOGICAL point of view.

{4} The influence which Moses Maimonides is supposed to have exerted on St. Thomas, has been commonly exaggerated.

{5} Applied to the act of the intellect the Divine concurrence is often called illuminatio; applied to the act of the will it gives rise to the time-honoured controversy between the advocates of a physical premotion or predetermination and the advocates of a simultaneous concurrence.

<< ======= >>