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Guide for the Perplexed, by Moses Maimonides, Friedländer tr. [1904], at


IN this chapter I shall explain to you how the Mutakallemim prove the Unity of God. They contend that the Maker and Creator of the Universe, the existence of whom is testified by all nature, is One. Two propositions are employed by them in demonstrating the Unity of God, viz., two deities or

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more would neutralize each other, and if several deities existed they would be distinguished from each other by a specific difference.

First Argument.

The first argument is that of mutual neutralization, and is employed by the majority of the Mutakallemim. It is to the following effect:--If the Universe had two Gods, it would necessarily occur that the atom--subject to a combination with one or two opposite qualities--either remained without either of them, and that is impossible, or, though being only one atom, included both qualities at the same time, and that is likewise impossible. E.g., whilst one of the two deities determined that one atom or more should be warm, the other deity might determine that the same should be cold: the consequence of the mutual neutralization of the two divine beings would thus be that the atoms would be neither warm nor cold--a contingency which is impossible, because all bodies must combine with one of two opposites; or they would be at the same time both warm and cold. Similarly, it might occur that whilst one of the deities desired that a body be in motion, the other might desire that it be at rest; the body would then be either without motion and rest, or would both move and rest at the same time. Proofs of this kind are founded on the atomic theory contained in the first proposition of the Mutakallemim, on the proposition which refers to the creation of the accidents, and on the proposition that negatives are properties of actual existence and require for their production an agens. For if it were assumed that the substance of this world which, according to the philosophers is subject to successive production and destruction, is different from the substance of the world above, viz., from the substance of the spheres--a fact established by proof-and that as the Dualists assert, there are two divine beings, one of whom rules this world without influencing the spheres, whilst the other governs the world above without interfering with this world--such theory would not involve the mutual neutralization of the two deities. If it were then objected, that the existence of two deities would necessitate an imperfection in both of them, in so far as one deity would be unable to influence the province of the other, the objection would be met by the reply that this inability need not be considered a defect in either of them: for that which is not included within the sphere of action of a being can of course not be performed by that being, and an agens is not deficient in power, if it is unable to perform what is intrinsically impossible. Thus we, Monotheists, do not consider it a defect in God, that He does not combine two opposites in one object, nor do we test His omnipotence by the accomplishment of any similar impossibility. When the Mutakallemim noticed the weakness of their argument, for which they had some apparent support, they had recourse to another argument.

Second Argument.

If there were two Gods, there would necessarily be some element common to both, whilst some element present in the one would be absent in the other, and constitute the specific difference between them. This is a philosophic and sound argument for those who are able to examine it, and to obtain a clear insight into its premises, which will be further explained, in our exposition

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of the view of the philosophers on this point. But it cannot be accepted by those who admit the existence of divine attributes. For according to their opinion, the Primal Cause includes many different elements. They represent its wisdom and its omnipotence as two different things, and again the omnipotence as different from the will. Consequently it would not be impossible that either of the two divine beings possessed several properties, some of which would be common to both, and some peculiar to only one of them.

Third Argument.

This argument is likewise based on one of the Propositions of the Kalâm. For some of the Mutakallemim belonging to the old school assume, that when the Creator wills a thing, the will is not an element superadded to the essence of God: it is a will without a substratum. In accordance with the propositions which we have mentioned, and of which, as you will see, it is difficult to form a true conception, they say that one will, which is independent of any substratum, cannot be ascribed to two beings: for, as they assert, one cause cannot be the source of two laws for two essences. This is, as I told you, the method of explaining one difficulty by means of another and still greater difficulty. For as they define the Will, it is inconceivable, and some have, therefore, considered it to be a mere non-entity: others who admit its existence, meet with many insuperable difficulties. The Mutakallemim, nevertheless, establish on its existence one of the proofs for the unity of God.

Fourth Argument.

The existence of an action is necessarily positive evidence of the existence of an agens, but does not prove the existence of more than one agens. There is no difference whether the existence of one God be assumed or the existence of two, or three, or twenty, or any number. This is plain and clear. But the argument does not seem to prove the non-existence of a multitude of deities; it only shows that their number is unknown; the deity may be one sole being, but may also include several divine beings. The following supplemental argument has therefore been advanced: possibility is inapplicable to the existence of God, which is absolute: the possibility of the existence of more than one God must therefore be denied. This is the whole essence of the proof, and its fallacy is self-evident; for although the notion of possibility cannot be applied to the existence of God, it can be applied to our knowledge of God: for an alternative in our knowledge of a thing does not involve an alternative in the actual existence of the thing, and perhaps there is neither a tripartite deity as the Christians believe, nor an undivided Unity as we believe. This is clear to those who have been taught to notice the conclusions implied in given premises.

Fifth Argument.

One of the modern Mutakallemim thought that he found a proof of the Unity of God in the idea of requisiteness. Suppose there were two divine beings; if one of them were able to create the universe, the second God would be superfluous, and there would be no need for his existence. If, on the other hand, the entire universe could not be created or governed except

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by both of them, each of them. would be imperfect in to far as he would require the co-operation of another being, and would thus be limited in power. This argument is, in fact, only a variation of "the mutual neutralization of two deities." There is this difficulty in such proofs, that a certain degree of imperfection is ascribed to a Being which does not accomplish tasks beyond its sphere. We do not call a person weak because he cannot move a thousand hundredweights, and we do not say that God is imperfect because He cannot transform Himself into a body, or cannot create another being like Himself, or make a square whose diagonal should be equal to one of its sides. In the same manner we should not consider it an imperfection in God, if He were not the only Creator, and if it were absolutely necessary that there should be two Creators; not because the one God required the assistance of the other, but because the existence of both of them was equally necessary, and because it was impossible that it should be otherwise. Further we do not say that the Almighty is imperfect, because He does not, according to the opinion of the Mutakallemim, produce a body otherwise than by the creation of atoms, and by their combination with accidents created in them. That inability is not called want or imperfection, since another process is impossible. In like manner the Dualist might say, that it is impossible for one Being to act alone, and that this circumstance constitutes no imperfection in either of the Deities, because the absolute existence of one Deity necessitates the coexistence of the other. Some of the Mutakallemim, weary of these arguments, declared that the Unity of God is a doctrine which must be received as a matter of faith, but most of them rejected this theory, and reviled its authors. I, however, hold, that those who accept this theory are right-minded, and shrink from admitting an erroneous opinion; when they do not perceive any cogency in the arguments, and find that the proofs advanced in favour of the doctrine are inconclusive, they prefer to assume that it could only be received as a matter of faith. For the Mutakallemim do not hold that the Universe has any defined properties on which a true proof could be founded, or that man's intellect is endowed with any such faculty as would enable him to form correct conclusions. It is, however, not without a motive that they defend this theory: they wish to assume such a form of the Universe, as could be employed to support a doctrine for which otherwise no proof could be found, and would lead us to neglect the investigation of that which in fact can be proved. We can only appeal to the Almighty and to those intelligent persons who confess their error when they discover it.

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