Aristotle, Aquinas & Emergence

I was asked to write an article relating the teaching of Aquinas to contemporary science for the journal Scientia et Fides. I decided to use and further develop the material contained in my doctoral dissertation. I expanded my reinterpretation of the classical notion of emergence, with its emphasis on the role of downward causation, in terms of the fourfold notion of causation in Aristotle and Aquinas, and the theory of divine action offered by the latter. The PDF version of the article is available HERE.

Abstract of the article:

One of the main challenges of the nonreductionist approach to complex structures and phenomena in philosophy of biology is its defense of the plausibility of the theory of emergence and downward causation. The tension between remaining faithful to the rules of physicalism and physical causal closure, while defending the novelty and distinctiveness of emergents from their basal constituents, makes the argumentation of many proponents of emergentism lacking in coherency and precision. In this article I aim at answering the suggestion of several thinkers to redefine emergence and downward causation in terms of the broader Aristotelian view of causation. In addition, I further develop this interdisciplinary conversation to include theological implications of emergentism, analyzed in reference to Aquinas’ understanding of divine action in terms of the same fourfold division of causes—bringing thus natural science, philosophy, and theology into creative and fruitful dialogue.

Keywords: emergence; downward causation; hylomorphism; teleology; Aristotle; Aquinas.


Can we give God a name?

I’m publishing one of my papers that I wrote during my first year at the GTU. I tried to publish it in Nova et Vetera but did not succeed. I think it is a good stuff and that is why I decided to share it here with everybody who might be interested in the topic of analogical predication in theology. I will add my unpublished papers in the new section of my blog that you can enter clicking on “Unpublished Papers” in the main menu on the left-hand side of the home page of my blog.

Can we Give God a Name? Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth’s Teaching on Analogy


Man reaches the highest point of his knowledge about God when he knows that he knows Him not, inasmuch as he knows that which is God transcends whatever he conceives of Him. (St. Thomas Aquinas, De Potentia, 7, 5 ad 14)

One of the most basic linguistic tools in theology is analogy. Although many would agree that predicating in theology is of analogous nature, it is by no means easy to bring unity among different ontological and epistemological presuppositions accepted by various theologians when they speak about analogy.

In this essay I will go back to the controversy between the most prolific and influential Calvinist theologian of the 20th century Karl Barth, and the position presented by Thomas Aquinas and his followers. I will first provide the reader with a necessary outline of Aquinas’ and Barth’s respective ways of defying and understanding analogy, with an additional reference to ontological presuppositions they seem to accept. Secondly, I will analyze the philosophical and historical background of this theological controversy. Finally, I will try to present main lines of argumentation concerning possible ways of convergence and divergence between the proponents of analogia entis and analogia fidei, and express my opinion on the possibility of a reconciliation between Aquinas’ and Barth’s positions. However, the main point of this essay is to introduce new participants of the debate to its sources and course.

Link to the paper at