Research Workshop: “The Premises of Aquinas’s Third Way”

Charles Perkins (UCSB)

Friday, April 28th, 2023 (12:10-2:00 PM) Baker (180) Room 107


There are two main textual issues in Aquinas's third way that have been ignored or framed as unsolvable in the recent literature. The first issue concerns the exact wording of the reductio argument for the third way's subconclusion, according to which, if everything in existence were contingent, nothing would exist at the present time. Some scholars argue that the first premiss in this reductio should translate into English as "It is impossible for everything to be like this [contingent]." Others argue that the same premiss should translate into English as "It is impossible for [contingent] things like this to always exist." I argue that recent insights into the semantics of Latin suggest the second translation is more correct. Resolving this issue gives a more complete idea of the third way's logical structure. The second textual issue concerns the final statement "...quod omnes dicunt Deum" or "This all speak of as God." Some have questioned the quality of this final premiss in the third way. I show that, given relatively recent insights into the nature of reference and rigid designation, the logical consequences of this final premises are much more far-reaching and important than the secondary literature has suggested. 

Charles Perkins is a graduate student in residence at UC Santa Barbara. He received a B.A. in Philosophy and English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (M.A., Philosophy). Their research interests include logic, the philosophy of math, metaphysics, and the history of analytic philosophy.

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