God is accessibile to all because what is more cannot come from what is less. The ‘simple’ metaphysics of Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange.

St. Thomas Aquinas, as we know, worked out five “viae” (later called “demonstrations”) to the existence of God. His formulation of them was technical and availed itself of specific philosophical concepts. In their essence, however, the five ways of St. Thomas are simple, and put the spontaneous inferences of the ordinary person into words of philosophical formulation. They belong to natural philosophy and are based on the knowledge of common sense, that is to say what intelligence says to all persons.

In a brief essay dating back to 1941, and now republished by Fede & Cultura, edited by Marco Bracchi and with a preface by Antonio Levi, the great Thomist philosopher and theologian Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange summarized them in a single way, a single line of reasoning so evident and spontaneous that everyone can see it is true, even a child: “What is more comes not from what is less”. In my recent book, Philosophy for All (Fede eCultura, 2016), I reconstructed the historical development of philosophy from Socrates to our times, doing so in the light of the following criterion: “No one gives what he does not have”. Basically speaking, it is the same principle formulated by Garrigou-Lagrange. In fact, what is more cannot come from what is less because in this case the less should give itself what it does not have, what is farthest distant from it.

The principle in question had already been formulated by the early Greek philosophers. According to Anaximander, a thing is either the Beginning or comes from the Beginning. The criterion is the same in this case as well: what comes from the Beginning did not give itself what it has, because in this case it would be the Beginning. He had received what he has, which is like the less from the more.

Another historically posited formulation of the same principle is “nothing is born of nothing”. Nothing is the “least” less there can be. Since anything is more than nothing, the principle sustains that the more cannot stem from the less.

An important consequence of the principle is that the Foundation (the “more”) must be at the beginning and not be a sum – even an infinite one – of “lesses”. The End must also be the Cause. The Omega is also the Alpha. Then again, the Greeks had already use the word Arché (the Beginning) to indicate both the Cause and the End. Jesus Christ speaks about Himself in the same terms in the Gospel.

St. Thomas deepened the selfsame concept on the level of being. The less is what “has being” in the sense that it has received it insofar as being unable to give it to itself. It is a composite and finite lens. The “more” is He who “is”, Being itself (Esse ipsum), who did not receive being from anyone else: He is the Infinite One.

The chapters take up diverse thematic ambits in turn, but always from the same theoretical viewpoint: there are no intelligent entities without Intelligence first; there are no necessary truths without a supreme truth; there is no moral law without a supreme lawmaker; there is no fecund sovereignty without a supremely holy God.

Stefano Fontana

GARRIGOU-LAGRANGE, Réginald, Dio accessibile a tutti. Il più non viene dal meno, Fede & Cultura, Verona 2017.