Aseity

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Aseity (from Latin a "from" and se "self", plus -ity) refers to the property by which a being exists in and of itself, from itself, or exists as so-and-such of and from itself.[1] The word is often used to refer to the Christian belief that God contains within himself the cause of himself, is the first cause, or rather is simply uncaused, though many Jewish and Muslim theologians have also believed God to be independent in this way.[1] Notions of aseity as the highest principle go back at least to Plato and have been in wide circulation since Augustine, though the use of the word 'aseity' began only in the Middle Ages.[1]

Meaning[edit]

Aseity has two aspects, one positive and one negative: absolute independence and self-existence.[1] In its negative meaning, which emerged first in the history of thought, it affirms that God is uncaused, depending on no other being for the source of His existence. In its positive meaning, it affirms that God is completely self-sufficient, having within Himself the sufficient reason for His own existence.[2] The first concept derives from "the God of philosophers", while the second one derives from "the living God of Revelation" (I am who I am: Exodus3:14).[3]

Often, as a part of this belief God is said to be incapable of changing.[1] Changing implies development. Since God was and is and is to be the Absolute Perfection, there is no further need to change: he is αὐτουσία (unchanged: Gregory of Nyssa),[4][5] actus purus[6] and ipsum esse subsistens[7][8] (Thomas Aquinas).

Many (St. Thomas, for instance) have also thought that aseity implies divine simplicity: that God has no parts of any kind (whether spatial, temporal, or abstract), since complexes depend on their individual parts, with none of which they are identical.[9] A further implication often drawn among classical theists has been that God is without emotion or is "impassible" for, it is said, emotion implies standing as patient (pass-) to some agent – i.e., dependence.[10] This is so because although God has created everything, He is not in dependence on His creation.

Philosophical considerations[edit]

Whether or not this being should be described as God turns on whether the label 'Creator' is a rigid designator of God. Given that most theists understand all that is not God to be brought about by God, and that many (for example, St. Aquinas) argue from the non-aseity of the universe to the existence of God, this problem is somewhat theoretical.

Aseity has also been criticized as being logically incompatible with the concept of God as a being or of God as existing.[11] Furthermore, it can be argued that for the notion of aseity not to be logically circular or inconsistent, the supposed entity to which it applies would have to be identified with its properties, instead of instantiating, exemplifying or having its properties, and would therefore be a nonsentient force or potential of indeterminate vitality (see Monad). This, however, seems to contradict the notion that God is a person or a causal agent, for what person or agent can also be a property (or complex of properties)?[12]

See also[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Alston, William P. "Aquinas and Hartshorne: A Via Media", in Divine Nature and Human Language. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989.
  • Hartshorne, Charles. The Divine Relativity: A Social Conception of God. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1948.
  • Morris, Thomas V. Our Idea of God. Chap. 6. Downer's Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1991.
  • Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, I, Q. 3. Many editions.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Sauvage, George (1907). "Aseity". Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent. Retrieved July 15, 2012. 
  2. ^ Clarke, W. N. (January 1, 2003). "Aseity (Aseitas)". New Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved July 15, 2012. 
  3. ^ Jean Daniélou (1957). "The God Of True Philosophy". God and the Ways of Knowing. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. p. 210. Retrieved July 15, 2012.  ISBN 0-898-70939-3; ISBN 978-0-89870-939-1.
  4. ^ Pohle, Joseph (1911). Dogmatic Theology, Vol. 1: God, His Knowability, Essence, and Attributes. Freiburg im Breisgau: B. Herder.  pp. 162, 172, 174.
  5. ^ See also occurrences.
  6. ^ Pohle (1911). P. 164.
  7. ^ Pohle (1911). Ibid..
  8. ^ See also occurrences.
  9. ^ Summa Theologica, I, Q. 3, Art. 7.
  10. ^ For an exposition of Augustine's theory of emotions, especially with respect to God's perfection, see Nicholas Wolterstorff's "Suffering Love" in Philosophy and the Christian Faith, ed. Thomas V. Morris (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 1988).
  11. ^ Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1951) 236ff.
  12. ^ Richard M. Gale, On the Nature and Existence of God

External links[edit]