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Writing your own summary

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You now have an opportunity to practise writing your own summary of a philosophical argument. We have looked at a summary of Aquinas' ' fourth way'.

  • Imagine you are writing the summary for someone who has not necessarily read The Five Ways
  • Use your own words. (Consider using some direct quotation - though this is not essential).
  • Don't forget to use reporting expressions.

A note on length: It is difficult to say how long any summary should be in an essay - the length will depend on the complexity and length of the original argument, but also the purpose you have for summarising the argument in your essay. In this exercise, try to limit your summary to the length of The Fourth Way summary - about 100 words.

Read Aquinas's ' Fifth Way' now.

Write a summary of the fifth way in the box below.

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Check your answer

Student summary of Aquinas' Fourth Way

The fourth way examines the gradation which is found in things. Aquinas draws our attention to details in things; that some are better than others, and other things are less so, in comparison to one thing which must be the maximum. For example, that which is hotter in comparison to that which is hottest. This he applies also, to qualities such as nobility, perfection, truth. He then quotes a passage from Metaph ii, which claims that the maximum of, say heat, is also the cause of all hot things. Aquinas concludes:

... there must be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God ( The Five Ways, p.85)

Aquinas' Fifth Way

The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move toward an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.

From The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas

Have a look at the following student summary. How does it compare with your own? Are there any substantial differences? Bear in mind that every student will summarise a text slightly differently.

Sample student summary of Aquinas' Fifth Way

The fifth and final proof Aquinas has for the existence of God relates to what he calls 'the governance of the world'. He deduces that things that lack knowledge - that is birds, plants natural bodies - behave as if with purpose, and achieve or work toward certain ends. These natural bodies, Aquinas suggests, utilise the best means available to them, and almost always behave in the same way to produce these ends. This, Aquinas claims, is evidence of design. For:

...whatever lacks knowledge cannot move toward an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence... ( ibid, p 85)

Aquinas concludes that there is an intelligent being who directs all these bodies to their end. This is God.

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