Ours is to Reason, but Why?
7 March is the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas: CPG Mass will be celebrated at Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane
Thomas Aquinas is one of the greatest intellects and problem solvers of all time. He would have made a superb detective! We’ll explain more…
The human intellect and capacity for reason distinguishes us from other animals. Humans (and angels) are the only rational beings. Each profession, in its own way, has a search for truth through discovery and an attainment of perfection. In policing terms, ours is a continuous and very practical search for truth.
Supporting the principles of natural justice, our investigative methods help us to develop reasonable lines of enquiry; to question, to expose facts and counterfactuals, to reason with logic, to draw conclusions, and assist courts in establishing truth.
Such a search for truth has captivated humanity for all time. Pontius Pilate (33 AD) famously stated “What is truth?” (John 18:38) when he was interrogating Jesus Christ, and in response to Our Lord stating He was “bearing witness to the truth.”
Pilate was perhaps not schooled in the Greece philosophers who had codified truths around the essence of Being, Existence and Ethics. Parmenides (c. 500 BC) stated the principle ‘Nothing comes from nothing’, i.e. that there is always an outside cause. Upon such principles, Socrates (c. 470–399 BC) determined from reason alone that a single Creator of all must exist; and was executed for refusing to acknowledge the gods of Athens. Plato (c. 428–348 BC) and Aristotle (384–322 BC) built further; the latter being revered for millennia in all branches of philosophy.
One of the greatest thinkers since Aristotle was the Italian Dominican friar Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 7 March 1274) who is venerated at this time of year. The intellectual ground he covered is vast, and the unfinished Summa Theologica is regarded as one of the most influential works in Western literature. Perhaps the most famous part of the Summa are the five proofs (or Five Ways) for the existence of God. In brief, he demonstrated using facts (the world around us), logic and reason:
An Unmoved Mover. Things move or change. A static ball on a table can be pushed externally by our hand but doesn’t spontaneously move or change of its own accord. There must be a First Mover, regarded as God, at the origin of all change.
First Cause. We see that things are caused. Something can’t be the cause of itself, else it would have existed before itself. Sequence back and the first created elements must have had an external un-created Creator, regarded as God.
Contingency. We observe that things are perishable – they can be, and then not be. The apple rots. If everything existed just once, all would have perished by now; but existence is contingent on something before (e.g. the seed precedes the apple). In this cycle, something, a necessary being – regarded as God – must exist first and imperishably.
Degree. We all use the words ‘best’, ‘worst’, ‘more’, or ‘less’ but each can only be assessed against a standard. Something must exist as the epitome, setting the perfect context for all else – regarded as God.
Final Cause. All things can tend towards the perfection of their nature. A seed fulfils it nature by becoming a mature tree. This cannot be by chance because the process is predictable. The repetitive behaviours embedded in all things must have been programmed by something intelligent which is taken to be God.
Asking Why? about the world around us and by using reason alone we can deduce the existence of God, the one all-powerful Creator, existing infinitely outside of time and space.
How we know about the Trinity, God singularly being three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, is a matter of another story on revelation.
As St. Thomas Aquinas showed in his 49 years of life, we can explain ethics, law itself, economics, psychology, sin and very much besides when applying reason to empirical evidence.
When we ask questions, we seek truth. When we reason, we discover; and when we ask Why? enough we entirely unlock the topic at hand.
Ours is to reason – and that’s Why. If we want to learn how to do it par excellence, look no further than St. Thomas Aquinas.