History of Philosophy Workshop: John O'Callaghan, "What the Hell Are the Conclusions of the Quinque Viae of Aquinas?"


Location: Maritain Library (Geddes 437)

Apotheosis Of St Thomas Aquinas

Please join us as we continue our lunchtime history of philosophy workshops! Each meeting will consist of a presentation by a graduate student or faculty on a project that they are working on in the history of philosophy, followed by a period of comments/questions from the other participants. The workshop is designed to give grad students and faculty the opportunity to develop ideas and receive helpful feedback on projects/papers in a friendly and low stakes environment. 

This week's presenter is Professor John O'Callaghan, whose talk is titled "What the Hell Are the Conclusions of the Quinque Viae of Aquinas?"

Abstract: The conclusions of Aquinas’ Quinque Viae for demonstrating that deum esse present a problem for understanding just what it is that Aquinas is attempting to achieve in those arguments. It is commonly thought that he is attempting to demonstrate philosophically the existence of God. But Aquinas’ own discussion prior to the Quinque Viae suggests that he does not believe one can demonstrate the existence of God. The issue is complicated by the fact that the Latin term ‘deus’ is a common noun and that Latin does not have either a definite or an indefinite article to disambiguate in modern Western translations between “the god” and “a god”, much less “God.” Aquinas himself argues in the Summa, subsequent to the Quinque Viae, that ‘deus’ is a common noun, not a proper name. Thus, it would seem that the conclusions of the Quinque Viae should be taken to be demonstrating the existence of a god, not the existence of God. Some have argued precisely for that position. I will argue here that that claim is partly incorrect and partly correct. It is incorrect because in the use of ‘deus’ the conclusions do involve “God”, not “a god.” However, employing Aquinas' distinction between autonomous philosophy and Sacra Doctrina, I will also argue that the conclusions are properly theological conclusions about God involving identity claims, and not properly philosophical conclusions about God's existence. Thus, the claim is partly correct because they do not philosophically demonstrate the existence of God. Nor, however, do they demonstrate the existence of God theologically. I will explain why.

Lunch is provided with sign-up! For more information, please email Dylan MacFarlane (dmacfarl@nd.edu). We hope to see you there!