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CHAPTER XXIVThat God acts by His Wisdom228228That is to say, not by arbitrary whim or irrational wilfulness. The thesis is against the Nominalists, who denied the intelligible essences (intelligibilia) which are the reasons of things (rationes rerum).

THE will is moved by some apprehension.229229The apprehension may be of a sensible object, provoking passion, or it may be an intellectual apprehension. In God of course there is no passion, and no intellect that can present things otherwise than as they are. But God acts by willing. Since then in God there is intellectual apprehension only, and He understands nothing otherwise than by understanding Himself, whom to understand is to be wise (B. I, Chap. LIV), it follows that God works out all things according to His wisdom.

2. Every agent acts in so far as it has within it something corresponding to the effect to be produced. But in every voluntary agent, as such, what corresponds to the effect to be produced is some intellectual presentation of the same. Were there no more than a mere physical disposition to produce the effect, the agent could act only to one effect, because for one physical cause there is only one physical mode of operation (ratio naturalis unius est una tantum). Every voluntary agent therefore produces its effect according to the mode of intellectual operation proper to itself. But God acts by willing, and therefore it is by the wisdom of His intellect that he brings things into being.

3. The function of wisdom is to set things in order. Now the setting of things in order can be effected only through a knowledge of the relation and proportion of the said things to one another, and to some higher thing which is the end and purpose of them all: for the mutual order of things to one another is founded upon their order to the end which they are to serve. But it is proper to intelligence alone to know the mutual relations and proportions of things. Again, it is proper to wisdom to judge of things as they stand to their highest cause.230230The ‘highest cause’ is here then to be the final cause. Thus the purpose of the navigation is the ‘highest cause’ of the parts of a ship, as such; and to judge of those parts in view of navigation belongs to nautical ‘wisdom.’ Thus every setting of things in order by wisdom must be the work of some intelligence.231231A formal logician might quarrel with this argument: ‘All work of intelligence and wisdom is a setting of things in order; therefore all setting of things in order is a work of intelligence and wisdom:’ an illogical conversion. St Thomas however does not argue in that way. He gives us to understand that to set things in order is a peculiar work of intelligence, which cannot be done by chance, least of all when the things ordered are complex and manifold, as are the endless details of nature. Chance events, as Aristotle observes, are rareties and exceptions: the course of nature, so uniform, or so seldom varied, cannot be the work of chance. Thus that very uniformity of nature now taken to militate against religion, is taken by St Thomas for an argument of divine contrivance. But the things produced by God bear an orderly relation to one another, which cannot be attributed to chance, since it (sit not sint) obtains always or for the most part. Thus it is evident that God, in bringing things into being, intended them in a certain order. Therefore His production of them was a work of wisdom.

All this is confirmed by divine authority, for it is said: Thou has made 92all things in wisdom (Ps. ciii, 24); and the Lord in wisdom founded the earth (Prov. iii, 19).

Hereby is excluded the error of some who said that all things depend on the absolute will of God, independent of any reason.


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