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Article Two

Whether the Perfections of all Things are in God

We proceed to the second article thus:

1. It seems that the perfections of all things are not in God. For it was proved in Q. 3, Art. 7, that God is simple, whereas the perfections of things are many and diverse. The perfections of all things cannot then be in God.

2. Again, contraries cannot occur in the same thing. Now the perfections of things are contrary to one another. Each thing is made perfect by the difference which belongs to its own species, and the differences which divide a genus and constitute its species are contrary to one another. But if contraries cannot be in the same thing, it seems that the perfections of all things cannot be in God.

3. Again, one who lives is more perfect than one who exists, and one who is wise is more perfect than one who lives. Thus to live is more perfect than to exist, and to be wise is more perfect than to live. Now God’s essence, is his existence. His essence cannot then contain within itself the perfection of life, or of wisdom, or any similar perfection.

On the other hand: Dionysius says: “God precontains all existence in one” (5 Div. Nom., lect. 3).

I answer: the perfections of all things are in God. God is said to be perfect in every way because he lacks no excellence discoverable in any genus, as the commentator on 5 Metaph., text 21, remarks. We may see this in two ways. First, any perfection which occurs in an effect must occur in its efficient cause, either in the same mode if the agent be univocal, as in the case of a man who begets a man, or in a more eminent way if the agent be equivocal, as in the case of the sun which contains the likenesses of the things generated by its power. For it is plain that an effect virtually pre-exists in its active cause. But whereas a thing pre-exists in a less perfect way in the potentiality of its material cause, since matter as such is imperfect, it pre-exists in its active cause in a more perfect way, not in a less perfect way, since an agent, as such, is perfect. Now God is the first efficient cause of all things. The perfections of all things must therefore pre-exist in God in a more eminent way. Dionysius argues in similar fashion when he says: “God is not one thing without being another, but is all things, as their cause” (5 Div. Nom., lect. 2). Secondly, it was shown in Q. 3, 73Art. 4, that God is existence which subsists through itself. This proves that he must contain within himself the whole perfection of existence. For it is clear that if a thing which is hot does not possess the whole perfection of heat, this is because it does not participate in heat which is perfect in nature. If the heat were such as to subsist through itself, the thing which is hot would not lack any of the power of heat. Now God is existence which subsists through itself. He cannot then lack any perfection of existence. Dionysius argues in similar fashion when he says: “God exists not in a certain way, but absolutely, comprehensively precontaining the whole in unity within Himself” (5 Div. Nom., lect. 5), to which he adds: “He is the existence of things which subsist.”

On the first point: as Dionysius says (5 Div. Nom., lect. 2): “Just as the sun illumines things in a single way, and thereby contains in a single form within itself the substances of sensible things, and many different qualities, so and all the more must all things pre-exist as a natural unity in the cause of all things.” In this way, things which are in themselves diverse and contrary pre-exist as one in God, without destroying the unity of God. The reply to the second point is then obvious.

On the third point: as the same Dionysius says in the same passage, existence itself is more perfect than life, and life more perfect than wisdom, if we consider them as distinct ideas. But one who lives is nevertheless more perfect than one who merely exists, since one who lives also exists, while one who is wise both lives and exists. Accordingly, although to exist does not include to live and to be wise, since one who participates in existence need not participate in every mode of existence, God’s existence includes life and wisdom, since he who is self-subsistent existence itself cannot lack any perfection of existence.

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