Saturday, August 20, 2011

Aquinas on Impassibility: SCG (Q.89-90)

I have been meaning to read, and understand, Aquinas’ reasons for his doctrine of impassibility for a while now.  To that end, I want to offer my thoughts on questions 89 and 90 of book 1 of Aquinas’ work Summa Contra Gentiles.  I am aware that these are not the only passages that speak to this doctrine.  I am just biting off this small chuck for this post.

In SCG question 89, (sections 1 – 7) Aquinas argues that passions are excluded from God by reason of their genus.  Ultimately, passions are excluded because they are passive potencies.  Since God has no passive potency, it follows that God has no passions.

In that same question (sections 8 – 15) Aquinas argues that some passions are excluded, not merely because their genus, but on account of their species as well.  His first example is sorrow and pain.  They can’t be found in God because “its subject is the already present evil”.  So the nature of certain passions themselves implies some evil or some lack in the subject, which for Aquinas, means that they are not befitting the nature of God.