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Article Six

Whether there is any Accident in God

We proceed to the sixth article thus:

1. It appears that there are some accidents in God. It is said in 1 Physics, texts 27, 30, that a substance can never be an accident. This means that what occurs as accident in one thing cannot be the substance of another, and is used to prove that heat is not the formal substance of fire, since heat occurs as an accident of other things. Now wisdom, virtue, and the like occur as accidents in ourselves, and are also ascribed to God. They must therefore be in God as accidents.


2. Again, in every genus there is something which is first, and there are many genera of accidents. Hence if the principles of these genera are not in God, there will be many things which are first, and which are not in God. But this is impossible.

On the other hand: every accident is in a subject. But God cannot be a subject, since “an absolute form cannot be a subject,” as Boethius says (De Trin.). There cannot then be any accident in God.

I answer: what we have already said makes it quite clear that there cannot be any accident in God. In the first place, a subject is related to its accident as the potential to the actual, and is actualized through its accident in a particular way. But potentiality is altogether alien to God, as we explained in Q. 2, Art. 3. In the second place, God is his existence. But as Boethius says (Lib. de Hebd.), existence itself cannot be augmented by the addition of anything else, although that which is something may have something else added to it. A thing which is hot may have something other than heat added to it, such as whiteness, but heat itself cannot contain anything other than heat. In the third place, what exists through itself is prior to what exists accidentally. But God is altogether primary being, and therefore nothing in him can exist accidentally. Nor can there be in God any inherent accident, such as the accident of laughing in man. Accidents of this kind are caused by the principles of the subject, whereas nothing in God is caused, since God is the first cause. There is therefore no accident in God.

On the first point: virtue and wisdom are not predicated of God and of ourselves univocally, as will be shown (Q. 13, Art. 5). It does not then follow that they are accidents in God as they are in us.

On the second point: principles of accidents are reducible to prior principles of substance because substances are prior to their accidents. God is not the primary content of the genus “substance.” He is nevertheless first in relation to all being, and outside every genus.

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