Guide for the Perplexed, by Moses Maimonides, Friedländer tr. , at sacred-texts.com
SOME of the recent philosophers who adhere to the theory of the Eternity of
the Universe hold that God produces the Universe, that He by His will designs and determines its existence and form: they reject, however, the theory that this act took place at one certain time, and assume that this always has been the case, and will always be so. The circumstance that we cannot imagine an agent otherwise than preceding the result of its action, they explain by the fact that this is invariably the case in all that we produce; because for agents of the same kind as we are, there are some moments in which they are not active, and are only agents in potentia; they become agents when they act. But as regards God there are no moments of non-action, or of potentiality in any respect; He is not before His work, He is always an actual agent. And as there is a great difference between His essence and ours, so is also a great difference between the relation of His work to Him and the relation of our work to us. They apply the same argument to will and determination; for there is no difference in this respect whether we say He acts, wills, designs, or determines. They further assume that change in His action or will is inadmissible. It is therefore clear that these philosophers abandoned the term "necessary result," but retained the theory of it: they perhaps sought to use a better expression, or to remove an objectionable term. For it is the same thing, whether we say in accordance with the view of Aristotle that the Universe is the result of the Prime Cause, and must be eternal as that Cause is eternal, or in accordance with these philosophers that the Universe is the result of the act, design, will, selection, and determination of God, but it has always been so, and will always be so; in the same manner as the rising of the sun undoubtedly produces the day, and yet it does not precede it. But when we speak of design we do not mean it in this sense; we mean to express by it that the Universe is not the "necessary result" of God's existence, as the effect is the necessary result of the efficient cause; in the latter case the effect cannot be separated from the cause; it cannot change unless the cause changes entirely, or at least in some respect. If we accept this explanation we easily see how absurd it is to say that the Universe is in the same relation to God as the effect is to the efficient cause, and to assume at the same time that the Universe is the result of the action and determination of God.
Having fully explained this subject, we come to the question whether the cause, which must be assumed for the variety of properties noticed in the heavenly beings, is merely an efficient cause, that must necessarily produce that variety as its effect, or whether that variety is due to a determining agent, such as we believe, in accordance with the theory of Moses our Teacher. Before I discuss this question I will first explain fully what Aristotle means by "necessary result"; after that I will show by such philosophical arguments as are free from every fallacy why I prefer the theory of Creatio ex nihilo. It is clear that when he says that the first Intelligence is the necessary result of the existence of God, the second Intelligence the result of the existence of the first, the third of the second [and so on], and that the spheres are the necessary result of the existence of the Intelligences, and so forth, in the well-known order which you learnt from passages dealing with it, and of which we have given a résumé in this part (ch. iv.)--he does not mean that the one thing was first in existence, and then the second came as the necessary result of the first; he denies that
any one of these beings has had a beginning. By "necessary result" he merely refers to the causal relation: he means to say that the first Intelligence is the cause of the existence of the second: the second of the third, and so on to the last of the Intelligences: and the same is also the case as regards the spheres and the materia prima: none of these preceded another, or has been in existence without the existence of that other. We say, e.g., that the necessary result of the primary qualities are roughness [and] smoothness, hardness [and] softness, porosity and solidity; and no person doubts that heat, cold, moisture, and dryness are the causes of smoothness and roughness, of hardness and softness, porosity and solidity, and similar qualities, and that the latter are the necessary result of those four primary qualities. And yet it is impossible that a body should exist with the primary qualities without the secondary ones; for the relation between the two sets of qualities is that of causality, not that of agent and its product. just in the same way the term "necessary result" is used by Aristotle in reference to the whole Universe, when he says that one portion is the result of the other, and continues the series up to the First Cause as he calls it, or first Intellect, if you prefer this term. For we all mean the same, only with this difference, that according to Aristotle everything besides that Being is the necessary result of the latter, as I have already mentioned: whilst, according to our opinion, that Being created the whole Universe with design and will, so that the Universe which had not been in existence before, has by His will come into existence. I will now begin in the following chapters my proofs for the superiority of our theory, that of Creatio ex nihilo.