|Philosophy 102: Introduction to Philosophical Inquiry
Aquinas' Argument from Gradation
1. There are degrees of goodness in different things.
2. There are degrees of being is different things--the more being, the more goodness
(the Great Chain of Being is assumed).
3. For there to be degrees of being at all there must be something which has being in
the highest degree.
Therefore a Being in the Highest Degree or Perfect Being must exist.
1. The Great Chain of Being: extends from unformed inorganic matter to man to God.
2. E.g., a rabbit is higher than a snake and an angel is higher than a
person--more form, more complexity.
Summary of Objections:
1. How can the degrees of being be measured? Which is higher, a rose or a crocus?
2. What could be the standard of comparison of two kinds of things? Arent some
things better and are less complex than others? Consider also the argument from
fitness in biology.
3. The argument from polar opposites implies an all-powerful Devil--For there to be
degrees of being at all there must be something which has worst in the lowest degree.
Are there two gods--a good one and an evil one?
4. Aquinas answers "the worst degree" has no being--Augustines example
of sunlight: shadow does not exist in itself, but is the absence of sunlight.
5. Candidates for being in the highest degree could be nature or matter
rather than God.
6. Goodness does not exist in things in themselves but is a function of human purpose and