This was a proposal for my final Intro to Philosophy paper. It rambles and searches. You can tell that I'm thinking and that I've internalized Aquinas's writings. But after reading it, you still don't have a clue what my point it. This was the summer of 2003.
The question “Why?” can be taken as necessary to the progress of thought. But what sort of answer is sought? What happens when an answer presents itself? Saint Thomas Aquinas asked the most fundamental why-question: Why is everything as it is?
His five-point attack on agnosticism is initiated at progressively sophisticated perceptions of the condition of the world and the objects in it. In each of his proofs, the declaration of God is taken not so much as a necessary extension of Aquinas' thought process, but as the demand to “show me something else that fills this void as well.” Important to note is that Aquinas is unable to fully paint a picture of (his) God within any one of his five proofs; only when his arguments are considered as one do we understand what Aquinas is seeing. The fact that he seems so sure of his five results when his premises are less than apparent can tell us that he is defining God in relation to his world view; in other words, he deduces a subjective God.
I posit that this is not wrong; not morally, rationally, philosophically, or theologically wrong. Aquinas is of course taking linguistic liberties with the word (not the name) God, but no more than any other reference to God in non-theological texts. The point is that Aquinas, all philosophers in fact, must be taken in context.
Philosophers have a responsibility to their society to provide fundamental answers to fundamental questions. If Aquinas had ended each of his proofs by saying “...and after that I don't know,” or worse, if he had neglected to address these topics at all, he would have been a bad philosopher because he would be rejecting the evidence of popular opinion. On the other hand, if an agnostic tells a theist to reject any supernatural answer because of a lack of large-scale, concrete, empirical data, he would be doing a disservice to the human mind because God is an answer, regardless of its plausibility.
One question that God answers, or rather a problem that the introduction of the supernatural solves, is the horrifying maw of infinity. Aquinas correctly sees the world as being inherently causal on many levels, but the denial of any kind of interrelationship in cause shows a singularly simplistic world view, and it forces him to see the causal structure of the universe as linear. In order to explain the simple fact of (any entity's) existence given linear dependency, one must choose between a world without a beginning and a self-caused entity. I will show that although intercausality could in fact make Aquinas' point for him, the dangers in leaving God (or gods) out of the loop are more likely to prove fatal to his argument.
A reason for Aquinas' narrowness must be considered: that the finiteness of history and fear of infinity was too ingrained in the consciousness of his time for Aquinas to sensibly attack these pillars; that a God that is all cause and no effect is no God at all. A thinker cannot help those he alienates.
This leaves one asking whether God Himself must have an external cause. If He does, then God is in some way dependent, which is absurd (under Aquinas). If He doesn't, then either He is His own cause (which defies definition) or He is (the only entity) of a substance that requires no cause, is somehow everywhere in space and time. At this point we have escaped the necessity of an infinite causal chain, but we are slowly being forced into accepting a counterintuitive God.
My point is that without the concept of God, the question of why the world is as it is would be uninterestingly unenlightening. At least there is a word for all that is not understood about the universe. The philosopher extrapolates as much natural and rational truth from empirical data as she can before saying “God,” at which point the theologian proceeds to ascertain the nature of this God through what he knows to be right, in a transpersonal sense.
I will show that since the philosopher and the theologian are both experiencing the same world, their conclusions must be mutually complementary, independent of the process of discovery. Thus it will be shown that (the existence of a) God is an essential keystone in all discussions of “Why”.