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CHAPTER XXIIIThat in God there is no Accident

EVERYTHING that is in a thing accidentally has a cause for its being therein, seeing that it is beside the essence of the thing wherein it is. If then there is anything in God accidentally, this must be by some cause. Either therefore the cause of the accident is the Divinity itself, or something else. If something else, that something must act upon the divine substance: for nothing induces any form, whether substantial or accidental, in any recipient, except by acting in some way upon it, because acting is nothing else than making something actually be, which is by a form. Thus God will be acted upon and moved by some agent, which is against the conclusions of Chapter XIII. But if the divine substance itself is the cause of the accident supposed to be in it, then, — inasmuch as it cannot possibly be the cause of it in so far as it is the recipient of it, because at that rate the same thing in the same respect would actualise itself, — then this accident, supposed to be in God, needs must be received by Him in one respect and caused by Him in another, even as things corporeal receive their proper accidents by the virtue of their matter, and cause them by their form. Thus then God will be compound, the contrary of which has been above proved.4848A body, according to St Thomas, is made up of a potential subject, called ‘matter,’ connaturally extended in space; and further of an actuating principle of energy, called ’substantial form,’ which is so united to the potential subject, or ‘matter,’ that the latter thereby becomes an individual body within a definite species, deriving its power of action from the ’substantial form,’ or principle of energy.>

4. In whatever thing anything is accidentally, that thing is in some way changeable in its nature: for accident as such may be and may not be in the thing in which it is. If then God has anything attaching to Him accidentally, it follows that He is changeable, the contrary of which has above been proved (Chap. XIII, XV).

5. A thing into which an accident enters, is not all and everything that is contained in itself: because accident is not of the essence of the subject. But God is whatever He has in Himself. Therefore in God there is no accident. — The premises are proved thus. Everything is found more excellently in cause than in effect.4949Shakespeare’s genius was a better thing than Shakespeare’s Othello. Ordinarily, the cause is not permanently exhausted by the effort of causation; more remains behind than has been put into the effect. A man is more proud of what he can do than of what he has done. There would be small satisfaction in viewing a work of your mind, or of your hands, if you felt that your hand had lost its cunning, and your mind was now effete. But God is cause of all: therefore whatever is in Him is found there in the most excellent way possible. But what most perfectly attaches to a thing is the very thing itself. This unity of identity is more perfect than the substantial union of one element with another, e.g., of form with matter; and that union again is more perfect than the union that comes of one thing being accidentally in another. It remains therefore that God is whatever He has.


Hence Augustine (De Trinitate, v, c. 4, n. 5): “There is nothing accidental in God, because there is nothing changeable or perishable.” The showing forth of this truth is the confutation of sundry Saracen jurists, who suppose certain “ideas” superadded to the Divine Essence.5050Intentiones. For intentio meaning idea, see B. I, Chap. LIII. The reference is to archetypal ideas of creation, something akin to the Platonic Ideas, the “multitude of things intelligible,” discussed in Chap. L-LV of this book. The ‘Saracen jurists’ (Saracenorum in jure loquentium) are apparently Avicenna and his school, against whom these chapters are directed.

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