I believe Aristotle listed "relations" as one of the accidents. I am in need of a citation (or at least the name of the work) where I can find this in Aristotle. Appreciate the help!

A bit more background: My interest here is primarily theological. Following Aristotle, Aquinas denied that God has accidents and said that God is fully actual with no potential.

This seems to create a great deal of tension as far as the Christian doctrine of creation goes (among other things). Willful creation, more or less by definition, is an exercise of one's potential. If God is fully actual and has no accidents, then God cannot strictly bear new relations that weren't already fully actualized. He could not willfully create the world.

If God has no accidents and if relations are accidents, this would seemingly make God unrelatable to man. I am exploring this tension, where adopting Aristotle's pagan premises led to conclusions that prima facie weren't compatible with Christian theology.

  • God exists?! 🤔 Mar 7, 2023 at 2:38
  • See Aristotle's Categories: "Aristotle divides what he calls ta legomena (τἃ λεγόμενα), i.e. things that are said, into ten distinct kinds (1b25). Things that are said according to Aristotle, are words (De Int 16a3), and so it is natural to interpret his second system as a classification of words. he thinks that there are ten: (1) substance; (2) quantity; (3) quality; (4) relatives; (5) somewhere; (6) sometime; (7) being in a position; (8) having; (9) acting; and (10) being acted upon (1b25–2a4)." Mar 7, 2023 at 7:21
  • Aristotle does not spell out "relatives are accidents", but it is clear from him arguing that they are not substances e.g. in Metaphysics N, 1088a21-b4. Leo's thesis, p.6 specifically discusses your issue:"Thomas Aquinas says in the Summa Theologica, question 28 that it would be a heresy to say that God is not really Father or Son. But at the same time he admits that God has no accidents. The solution was to admit that certain relational situations involve nothing more than individual substances."
    – Conifold
    Mar 7, 2023 at 8:36
  • God created a problem that we were almost not able to solve.
    – Scott Rowe
    Mar 7, 2023 at 19:17

1 Answer 1


A beautiful question! In case you haven´t found your answer yet as far as accidents in God, I´ll try to clarify it a little bit for you, according to the doctrine of the Angelic Doctor.

It sounds like you already are familiar with the idea of God´s simplicity. In finite beings, there is a real distinction between being a man and being this man (suppositum and essence), there is a real distinction between who I am and the fact that I exist; (alas, I was brought into existence and could cease to exist: being and essence); between being myself, and accidental aspects of who I am, like my hair color, my virtues, etc (substance and accidents).

In God, as you pointed out, there are only rational distinctions, which means that any distinction that we make within God is merely a cognitive device to help our poor little intelects piece together some sort of image of who He is based on what we know about Him from the universe, breaking down so much splendor into smaller rays of light that are more easy to digest.

In God, His Being = His Essence = His faculties to know and to will = His real act of knowing and willing. In Him there is only one "huge" act of knowing and willing, by which, from an eternal present, He wills, creates, and knows all things in present, past and future.

In finite efficient causes, the real relationship with whatever they produce is a mere accident; having created the Pietá was only a small spart of who Michelangelo was, however great that work of art actually is.

However, since God creates all things with one act that is identical with who He is, having created one specific creature or another gets lost in that simple act, in the same way as the ideas of all things that exist (and even those could exist and don´t) are all wrapped up and included in what it means to be Essential Being.

It´s almost like the difference between someone who learns to play a piece by Chopin, and thus participates in his likeness inasmuch as he effectively imiates his model, whereas, in the case of Chopin himself, anything he played would "sound like Chopin" in the most perfect way, since he himself was the effective, subsistent Chopin-ness, Chopin par excellance.

Thus, finite beings participate in the likeness of Eternal Being by the fact (and in the "degree", way, shape and form) that they are.

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