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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Aseity (from Latin a "from" and se "self", plus -ity) refers to the property by which a being exists of and from itself, or exists as so-and-such of and from itself. The word is often used to refer to the Christian belief that God contains within himself the cause of himself, though many Jewish and Muslim theologians have also believed God to be independent in this way.<ref name="new advent" /> Notions of the aseity of the highest principle go back at least to Plato and have been in wide circulation since Augustine, though the use of the word 'aseity' began only in the Middle Ages.

Often, as a part of this belief God is said to be incapable of changing. Many, (St. Thomas, for instance) have also thought that aseity implies divine simplicity: that God has no parts of any kind (whether spatial, temporal, or abstract), since complexes depend on their individual parts with none of which they are identical. A further implication often drawn among classical theists has been that God is without emotion or is "impassible" for, it is said, emotion implies standing as patient (pass-) to some agent – i.e., dependence.

Philosophical considerations

Whether or not this being should be described as God turns on whether the label 'Creator' is a rigid designator of God. Given that most theists understand all that is not God to be brought about by God, and that many (for example, St. Aquinas) argue from the non-aseity of the universe to the existence of God, this problem is somewhat theoretical.

Aseity has also been criticized as being logically incompatible with the concept of God as a being or of God as existing. Furthermore, it can be argued that for the notion of aseity not to be logically circular or inconsistent, the supposed entity to which it applies would have to be identified with its properties, instead of instantiating, exemplifying or having its properties, and would therefore be a nonsentient force or potential of indeterminate vitality (see Monad). This, however, seems to contradict the notion that God is a person or a causal agent, for what person or agent can also be a property (or complex of properties)?

See also


  • Alston, William P. "Aquinas and Hartshorne: A Via Media", in Divine Nature and Human Language. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989.
  • Hartshorne, Charles. The Divine Relativity: A Social Conception of God. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1948.
  • Morris, Thomas V. Our Idea of God. Chap. 6. Downer's Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1991.
  • Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, I, Q. 3. Many editions.

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