There Must Be A First: Why Thomas Aquinas Rejects Infinite, Essentially Ordered, Causal Series

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 21 (5):838 - 856 (2013)
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Several of Thomas Aquinas's proofs for the existence of God rely on the claim that causal series cannot proceed in infinitum. I argue that Aquinas has good reason to hold this claim given his conception of causation. Because he holds that effects are ontologically dependent on their causes, he holds that the relevant causal series are wholly derivative: the later members of such series serve as causes only insofar as they have been caused by and are effects of the earlier members. Because the intermediate causes in such series possess causal powers only by deriving them from all the preceding causes, they need a first and non-derivative cause to serve as the source of their causal powers.

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Caleb Cohoe
Metropolitan State University of Denver


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