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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
How Can the Absolute be a Cause?
By Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
 
From the ‘Quæstiones Disputatæ’

THE RELATIONS which are spoken of as existing between God and creatures are not really in Him. A real relation is that which exists between two things. It is mutual or bilateral then, only when its basis in both correlates is the same. Such is the case in all quantitive relations. Quantity being essentially the same in all quanta, gives rise to relations which are real in both terms—in the part, for instance, and in the whole, in the unit of measurement and in that which is measured.  1
  But where a relation originates in causation, as between that which is active and that which is passive, it does not always concern both terms. True, that which is acted upon, or set in motion, or produced, must be related to the source of these modifications, since every effect is dependent upon its cause. And it is equally true that such causes or agencies are in some cases related to their effects, namely, when the production of those effects redounds in some way to the well-being of the cause itself. This is evidently what happens when like begets like, and thereby perpetuates, so far as may be, its own species…. There are cases, nevertheless, in which a thing, without being related, has other things related to it. The cognizing subject is related to that which is the object of cognition—to a thing which is outside the mind. But the thing itself is in no way affected by this cognition, since the mental process is confined to the mind, and therefore does not bring about any change in the object. Hence the relation established by the act of knowing cannot be in that which is known.  2
  The same holds good of sensation. For though the physical object sets up changes in the sense-organ, and is related to it as other physical agencies are related to the things on which they act, still, the sensation implies, over and above the organic change, a subjective activity of which the external activity is altogether devoid. Likewise, we say that a man is at the right of a pillar because, with his power of locomotion, he can take his stand at the right or the left, before or behind, above or below. But obviously these relations, vary them as we will, imply nothing in the stationary pillar, though they are real in the man who holds or changes his position. Once more, a coin has nothing to do with the action that gives it its value, since this action is a human convention; and a man is quite apart from the process which produces his image. Between a man and his portrait there is a relation, but this is real in the portrait only. Between the coin and its current value there is a relation, but this is not real in the coin.  3
  Now for the application. God’s action is not to be understood as going out from Him and terminating in that which He creates. His action is Himself; consequently altogether apart from the genus of created being whereby the creature is related to Him. And again, he gains nothing by creating, or, as Avicenna puts it, His creative action is in the highest degree generous. It is also manifest that His action involves no modification of His being—without changing, He causes the changeable. Consequently, though creatures are related to Him, as effects to their cause, He is not really related to them.  4
 
 
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