By Paul O’Grady (auth.)
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Extra resources for Aquinas’s Philosophy of Religion
God is understood as being itself, self-subsisting being. If Heidegger contends that the history of Western philosophy has involved the forgetting of being, it is hard to square that with Aquinas’s insistence on distinguishing Being from beings. As noted above, a deeply important aspect of Aquinas’s account of God is that humans do not understand God’s essence, that there is not a ratio about God. The reality of God is too great for us; it far exceeds our mental capacities. So God is not captured within a system, or made part of a greater whole.
One of the puzzles in this discussion is about the question whether God is independent or not. It seems that this question is ambiguous. If Philosophy and Theology 21 dependence means some lack or need or imperfection, then it is obvious that God is independent – one might think of this as ontological independence. However, if dependence is taken in a more epistemological sense, then thought about God is dependent on thought about the world. Thought about God only gets purchase through reflection on the cause and principle of what exists.
To insist that descriptions cannot be used in relation to God seems unwarranted, confusing full and partial descriptions. So the case that representational or descriptive language is not possible in relation to God is unproven. What is clear is that God remains mysterious, unlike anything else and never fully grasped by human intellect. Human efforts to talk and understand are conducted in language – which is exactly what theism attempts. Distinguishing between approaches to God which domesticate God and make the divinity into a superbeing is important, but to claim that no representation or description is possible is to overstate the case.