Creation as Existential Contingency

Creation as Existential Contingency

Keefe, S.J., Donald J. (Fordham University (Emeritus) )

The Saint Anselm Journal 1.1 (Fall 2003)


This article criticizes St. Thomas’ reliance upon “contingency” as the basis for his postulate of the prior possibility of a natural creation, whether creation be understood actively as a divine action independent of the Father’s Missions of the Son and the Spirit or passively, as an ungraced natural order of finite being whose intrinsic intelligibility is governed by the Aristotelian act-potency metaphysical analysis, and is thus reducible to the necessary causes, i.e., the transcendental relations, of matter-form and substance-accident, which together provide the essential intelligibility of material substance. Under this determinist metaphysical analysis, these causes cannot but include its necessary existence as a proper accident integral to its essential form: i.e., existence is already inherent in the Aristotelian essence. Because the Aristotelian essence possesses no potentiality for existential actuation ab extra, i.e., by a Creator, St. Thomas’ use of “contingency” to describe the non-necessary existence of an Aristotelian essence can only be abstract, consequently, it represents an appeal to unreason. At best, his attribution of contingent existence to the essentially uncreatable world of Aristotelian essences amounts to an illegitimate passage from the ideal order of purely logical possibility (mere abstract contingency) to that of metaphysical possibility (essential potentiality), and can provide for no more than a nominal creator or creation.

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