CT 32: The Volition of God

Chapter 32 is short but perplexing. I have the sense that Thomas is glossing over quite a bit. He says,

We perceive, further, that God must have volition. For He understands Himself, who is perfect good, as is clear from all that has been hitherto established. But good as apprehended is necessarily loved, and love operates through the will. Consequently God must have volition.

We love that which we understand to be good. As human beings, our understanding is often faulty, and we value what we ought not, and seek what we know isn’t good for us. But there’s always something in what we love that we see as good. God, of course, has perfect understanding, and knows precisely how good each thing is (which I imagine is the extent to which its perfections mirror God’s perfections). Defined in this way, yes, goodness necessarily evokes love. And love (as opposed to “being in love”) is not a feeling, it’s an act of will, the choice to go out of my way for another’s good.

So I can accept this paragraph; but I think there’s some background work to be done in the area of defining the good, and love, and the relationship between them.

Thomas continues,

Moreover, we showed above that God is the first mover. But the intellect, assuredly, does not move except through the intermediacy of appetite, and the appetite that follows intellectual apprehension is the will. Therefore God must have volition.

First of all, God is immobile. So we’re talking about God’s intellect moving other beings, not himself.

I think what Thomas is saying here is that first we decide what to do, and then we choose to do it. Before we cause anything to move, we must have done both things in ourselves; and so with God. Since God makes other things move, and since God is intellect, God must also have volition, because they go together.

If you’re thinking that in the next chapter Thomas is going to show that God’s intellect and volition are identical, you’re right. There’s a pattern emerging here.

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