God's Perfection and Goodness

Brian Davies

in Thomas Aquinas on God and Evil

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199790890
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199914418 | DOI:
God's Perfection and Goodness

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If God is the Creator of everything that has esse, if God is ipsum esse subsistens, and if God accounts for there being any universe at all (for there being something rather than nothing), how can we seriously think of ourselves as being able to know what he is? Or how can we take ourselves to say anything about God that is literally true? Aquinas was acutely aware of these questions. There have been theists who have spoken about God as if he were a part of the universe, something to be thought of as an individual that we can single out among many other individuals. To be sure, such thinkers always insist that God is unique in various ways. But the ways in question always seem to amount to a matter of degree—along the lines: I know some facts; yet lots of people know more than I do; and God knows even more than them. For people thinking in this way there is no obvious problem when it comes to our knowledge and talk about God. For them, God is just one more object alongside others. But this was not how Aquinas thought of God. So he had questions to answer that other theists did not. This chapter is concerned with what Aquinas had to say about the propositions “God is perfect” and “God is good.” It begins by discussing what Aquinas had to say about what we might call “God-talk in general”.

Keywords: Thomas Aquinas; God; good; God-talk; questions

Chapter.  7091 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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