What does Aquinas mean when he says the existence of God is self-evident?

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In the first question and first article of his Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas begins with the assertion that it seems that God’s existence is self-evident because some knowledge of God’s existence is implanted in all people and even all things. Yet Aquinas must deal with the objection that some...

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In the first question and first article of his Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas begins with the assertion that it seems that God’s existence is self-evident because some knowledge of God’s existence is implanted in all people and even all things. Yet Aquinas must deal with the objection that some people think that God does not exist and that the proposition is not self-evident because of that opposite assertion.

Here is where Aquinas gets technical. He shows how a statement can be self-evident “in itself and in relation to us.” A statement is self-evident in itself when its predicate and subject are the same. This is the reason why the statement “God exists” is self-evident. The subject and the predicate are the same. God actually is existence. He is Being. Therefore, the statement is self-evident.

Yet Aquinas admits that the statement “God exists” is not necessarily self-evident to us because of our limited understanding of God. We have to look further to demonstrate God’s existence by His effects, Aquinas explains. We do indeed have a knowledge of God implanted in us, but it is often confused and not specific.

The statement “God exists,” then, is self-evident in its own terms and in and of itself, but people do not necessarily find it so because of their weakness and imperfect knowledge.

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