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Author Topic: St. Thomas Aquinus on Determinism, Free Will, and Divine Foreknowledge  (Read 4661 times)
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« on: February 03, 2009, 11:34:30 AM »

    To be quite honest, I don't feel that I fully understood this text on Thomas Aquinus, so please don't chew my head off if my interpretations are wrong: First off, Aquinus says that God does know about all future contingents and he defines two senses of contingents: in the sense that the contingency is already actual and in the sense that the contingency is in its cause. With the first sense, the contingency is in the present and thus already determined to occur in one way, and with the second sense, the contingency is in the future and can go in an undetermined way. We see contingencies in the second sense because we see everything in chronological order while God sees contingencies in the first manner, since He can see all things, past, present, and future at once.
Aquinus goes on to say that even though God sees everything at once, things still have to necessarily happen in steps, such as planting a seed in the ground, then giving it water and sunlight, and then watching the seed grow into a tree or plant.
    The saint continues to say that the consequent of an antecedent is better viewed not by what it is in itself, but what it is to our soul. A consequent can exist by itself, but it has no meaning unless there is someone present to interpret it as meaningful. Therefore, before anything is meaningful, it has to be seen by God's soul, which is perfect because according to Aquinus, God (and obviously His soul) see all! Therefore, everything that is seen by God has meaning, and because He sees everything, there is not one thing in this world or our own personal world that does not have meaning. If the meaning of things depended on human knowledge, we would be in big trouble because it is impossible for us to know everything due to the nature of how we perceive time (which is only past and present, and excluding the future) but not impossible for God since He can see everything in eternity all at once. If something is not known by God, it has no significance, but luckily for us, God does indeed see everything. Overall, it is because of God's divine foreknowledge of everything that makes it possible for us humans to understand anything at all in this world.
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« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2009, 04:30:14 PM »

Very well written post Alonzo; I think you sure understood this section better than me.

One thing that I would like to comment on concerns what you wrote when you said "If the meaning of things depended on human knowledge, we would be in big trouble..." Is it not humans that give meaning to things?
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