In the Summa, Aquinas, working from an Aristotelian philosophical position, argues that the rationality of the universe points to a creator. If I am correct in interpreting his work, he says that the rationality of the intellect (per tabula rasa) is merely a reflection of the rationality of the universe, that is, that rationality is not a feature of the mind, but a feature of the universe which imprints itself on the mind. Now, if that is the case, how can you argue that the rationality of the universe implies a designing intellect? If we adopt an anthropocentric methodology similar to Aristotle's, would it not be only by analogy to the human intellect that we could guess at the nature and features of a divine mind? And if that is the case, would not the preposition that rationality is not a feature of the intellect prevent this kind of move. Or is his argumentation a bit more subtle, or completely different from the way I understood it?

  • How about the rationality of God imprints that on the universe, and the rationality of the universe imprints onto the human intellect? A sort of chain of rationality flowing from God through the universe to the human intellect. Dec 1, 2012 at 23:58
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    I understand that we're asserting that God created a rational universe. But why should the rationality of the universe point to an intellect? How can YOU argue, from your point of you, that the rationality you see point to the Supreme Intellect in this particular line of reasoning? Dec 6, 2012 at 20:29
  • @LeChef: It doesn't. Its a supposition. In the same way I might assert the axioms of ZFC. Personally, I don't think the supreme intellect is cognisable by us. One has to resort to other means. Or other means are thrust upon us. Dec 6, 2012 at 21:34
  • @LeChef: Ok, I think I understand you now. You're saying that why should Intellect be an attribute of God? Is that right? Dec 6, 2012 at 21:36
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    @Singularity - I don't see how that relates to this question, but of course not. First, YOU didn't design the universe (does knowing what a chair is make you "equivalent to the designer?). Second, the known universe is not all of the universe. Jan 17, 2013 at 0:05

1 Answer 1


As stated here,

...rationality is the characteristic of any action, belief, or desire, that makes their choice a necessity.

So, attributing rationality to the universe, means that somehow the universe needed to favor some actions to take place. But at least with humand kind, there is no proof that the universe needs humanity at all.

Also, if rationality of the human intellect were a reflection of a rational universe, then every human action attributable to rationality, should be a reflection of the nececities of the universe. But again actions taken by humanity have no consecuense for the universe.

Aquinas' argument could be blamed on being anthropocentric, as he is attributing a very optimistic human qualifier to the universe itself, as is rationality.

Pretty much in the same way, life and death are qualifiers that could be applied too, even when they are contradictory.

If we try to be fair, we have to give those qualifiers only to region of the universe that has been influenced by human kind. So, we need to consider for instance the volume within the region covered by the first human-made electromagnetic emissions, compared with the region outside that volume. In wich case we could tell that the universe is only negligibly rational.

As there is no such thing as a rational universe, Aquinas' argument is false.

Even when it could be true that if there were a rational universe, it's because of there could exsist a creator.


Is the universe rational?

Aquinas says yes, it is rational because we are rational.

We use the word rational only to describe human actions, or thoughts.

Let's extend that use not only to describe humans, their actions and thoughts, but also everything we have influenced or altered somehow.

Now, what region of the universe is actualy human, and thus rational.

I have to say that only a negligible region - even considering that our influence is moving across the universe at the speed of light, with our TV and radio broadcasts.

How can someone say that the whole "thing" has some "caracteristic", when that "caracteristic" is observed only in a negligible part of that "thing".

It seems to me more fair to tell that the universe is not rational at all.

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    You haven't answered my question. I ask how is it that he argues that the rationality of the universe can be used to argue that the a creative intellect must exist if he argues that the rationality of the human mind is not an attribute of the mind. If he had argued that the human mind is rational, then he could have argued more easily that the Godhead's mind is also rational by analogy. I want to understand what he was doing, if anything. Dec 1, 2012 at 17:48
  • You are right, I've edited my answer accordingly
    – rraallvv
    Dec 1, 2012 at 23:11
  • Why do you say that the universe is not rational? Dec 2, 2012 at 0:00
  • Isn't he simply saying that the universe obeys physical laws, and as the human is manifestly material object in this universe, it too must manifest rationality? Dec 2, 2012 at 0:04
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    MoziburUllah - I said quite the opposite. Did you bother reading the above? @rraallvv - Still not addressing my question (I don't know what all that is about electromagnetic waves or laws or whatnot). Aquinas states that that rationality is not a feature of the human mind, but of the universe which imprints itself on the mind. If that is the case, then we can't say that a mind must have produced the universe because the universe is rational because Aquinas rules out rationality as a feature of minds. Unless he want to assert that God's is a rational mind unlike ours, but then why mention us? Dec 6, 2012 at 20:32

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