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Aquinas, Saint Thomas

Aquinas, Saint Thomas

(b. Roccasecca, near Monte Cassino, Italy, ca. 1225; d. Fossanuova, near Maenza, Italy, 7 March 1274)

not a scientist in the modern sense, but a philosopher and theologian whose synthesis of Christian revelation with Aristotelian science has influenced all areas of knowledge—including modern science, especially in its early development.

Thomas, the youngest of nine children, was born in the castle of the Aquino family. His father, Landolfo, and his older brothers served the Holy Roman Emperor; Frederick II, then warring against the papacy; his mother, Teodora of Chieti, was a Lombard. The family’s political situation was precarious, and in 1231 Thomas was placed in the abbey of Monte Cassino for his elementary education. When the abbey was occupied by Frederick’s troops in 1239, Thomas was sent to finish his studies at the recently founded University of Naples; his teachers there were Master Martin in grammar and logic and Peter of Ireland in natural science.

Thomas entered the Dominican order at Naples in 1244, against his family’s wishes, and was sent to Paris, and then to Cologne, for further studies (1245–1252). The Dominicans at the time were in the forefront of intellectual life; in natural science, groups of friars were synthesizing the heritage of Greece and Rome, which soon appeared in the encyclopedias of Thomas of Cantimpré and Vincent of Beauvais. Albertus Magnus, earlier recruited into the order by Jordan of Saxony, was himself paraphrasing in Latin all of the works of Aristotle that had just been brought to the West, thus rendering them intelligible to the younger friars. Studying under Albert, possibly at Paris and certainly at Cologne (1248–1252), Thomas was soon abreast of the most advanced scholarship of his time, including the major Greek, Arab, and Latin sources that were to revivify the intellectual life of the Middle Ages.

Sent to Paris “to read the Sentences” at the priory of Saint-Jacques in 1252, Thomas quickly demon-strated his proficiency as a theologian. There was, however, growing jealousy and antipathy toward the friars (both Dominican and Franciscan) among the secular masters at the University of Paris, and in 1256 the intervention of Pope Alexander IV was required before Thomas and the Franciscan Bonaventure were accepted as masters at the university. During or before this, his first Paris professorship (1256–1259), Thomas composed his commentary on the Sentences, some smaller treatises—including the highly original Deente et essentia (“On Being and Essence”)—and the disputed question On Truth; he also began work on the Summa contra gentiles, of special importance for its evaluation of Arab thought.

From 1259 to 1268 he was back in Italy, first at Anagni and at Orvieto, where he was associated with the papal courts of Alexander IV and Urban IV, respectively; then at Rome (1265–1267), where he taught at the Dominican priory of Santa Sabina and began his famous Summa theologiae; and finally at Viterbo, where he served at the court of Clement IV.

Then, in 1268 or 1269, possibly because of disputes at the University of Paris over the Aristotelianism which he and Albert had introduced, Thomas returned to Paris for a somewhat unusual second professorship (1269–1272). Here he combated both the traditional Augustinian orthodoxy being fostered by such Franciscans as Bonaventure and John Peckham and the heterodox Aristotelianism of Siger of Brabant and his associates, who are usually referred to as Latin Averroists. One of the key issues in the dispute was Thomas’ teaching that the world’s creation in time cannot be demonstrated by reason alone, since there is no philosophical repugnance in a created universe’s having existed from eternity—a thesis with important ramifications for later medieval concepts of infinity.

The condemnation, in 1270, of certain Averroist theses by Étienne Tempier, bishop of Paris, is regarded by some scholars as directed, at least implicitly, against Aquinas’ teaching. Of the later condemnation, in 1277, there can be no doubt that two propositions concern matters taught by Thomas, including his thesis on the unicity of the substantial form in man, which bears on the problem of the presence of elements in compounds. Such controversies drew a series of polemical treatises from Aquinas’ pen, including De aeternitate mundi contra murmurantes (“On the Eternity of the Universe, Against the ‘Murmurers’” [i. e., the traditionalist Augustinians]) and De unitate intellectus contra Averroistas (“On the Unity of the Intellect, Against the Averroists”). The intellectual ferment also stimulated him to further efforts at philosophical and theological synthesis. During these years he elaborated most of his detailed commentaries on Aristotle and worked steadily on the Summa theologiae.

After his second Paris professorship was concluded in 1272, Thomas returned to Italy, this time to Naples, to erect a Dominican studium near the university there. He lectured, directed disputations, and continued writing; but the pace of his work slowed noticeably, partly because of failing health. He suspended all writing activity late in 1273 and died a few months later, while en route to the second Council of Lyons. He was canonized on 18 July 1323 and subsequently was approved by the Roman Catholic Church as its most representative teacher.

Today the name of Thomas is so associated with Catholic orthodoxy that one tends to forget that he was an innovator. In an atmosphere dominated by faith, especially at the University of Paris, he took the leadership in championing the cause of reason. Almost single-handedly he turned the theologians of that university to a study of the pagan Aristotle, to the use of what was then a rigorous scientific method, learned from investigating the world of nature, for probing the mysteries of revelation. Opposing the popular teaching that all knowledge comes by divine illumination, he allowed that man, by sense observation and through the use of unaided reason, could arrive at truth and certitude.

It would be a mistake, of course, to urge that Aquinas’ main concern was with the physical universe. Rather, he was preoccupied with questions about God, the angels, and man; first and foremost he was a metaphysician and a theologian. Yet there can be no doubt that, like Aristotle, his approach to metaphysical problems was through the physical sciences. Like St. Paul, he firmly believed that the invisible things of God are seen through his visible creation, provided it is rightly understood (Romans 1:20). So convinced of this was he that in his later life he turned from his unfinished Summa theologiae to comment on all the physical works of Aristotle. He probably completed his exposition of De caelo et mundo, one of his best works as a commentator, at Naples (1272–1273) and ceased commenting on De generatione et corruptione and the Meteorologica only shortly before his death.

Furthermore, for a man not usually recognized as a scientist, he made noteworthy contributions to medieval science. These can best be indicated by summarizing his more significant teachings relating to the medieval counterparts of physics, astronomy, chemistry, and the life sciences.

In the high scholastic period, foundations were laid for later medieval discussions that adumbrated the distinction in modern mechanics between kinematics and dynamics. The kinematical content of Thomas’ teaching is meager, although he did hold that velocity is a mode of continuous quantity and thus is capable of intensification in the same manner as qualities, thereby allowing for the type of comparison between qualitative change and local motion later made by Nicole Oresme.

In dynamics, he inaugurated some new directions in the study of causality affecting gravitational and projectile motions. Aquinas would probably look askance at the tendency of present-day historians of science to identify Aristotle’s motive powers and resistances with forces and to represent Aristotle’s teaching with precise dynamical equations. His own exegesis of the relevant Aristotelian texts, as opposed to that of Averroës and Avempace, discounts any demonstrative intent on Aristotle’s part and interprets his statements as dialectical efforts to confute his atomist opponents.

Thus, on the disputed question whether motion through a vacuum would take place instantaneously, Thomas did not follow Aristotle literally. He insisted that if, by an impossibility, a vacuum were to exist, motion through it would still take time—that the temporal character of the motion does not arise uniquely from external resistance but, rather, from the proportion of the mover to the moved (which prevents the movements of the heavens from being instantaneous, although they are not impeded by resistance) and also from the continuity of the distance being traversed. The latter reason, particularly, provoked speculation among fourteenth-century thinkers; some, such as Oresme, saw no necessary connection between spatial continuity and velocity limitation and were led on this account to seek some type of resistance internal to the moving body—thereby foreshadowing the modern concept of inertia.

Thomas’ analysis of gravitation is basically Aristotelian, yet it differs in significant respects from that of other commentators. Like all medieval thinkers, he regarded gravitation as the natural motion of a heavy body to its proper place. For Thomas, however, nature was a relational concept, and thus he disagreed with those who defined it as a vis insita or as something absolute; it is a principle of motion, either actively or passively, depending on the particular motion that results.

Aquinas held that the body’s gravity is the proximate cause of its falling, but only in the manner of a “passive principle.” He rejected Averroës’ teaching that the medium through which the body falls plays an essential role in its motion and that there is an active source of such motion within the body, whether this be its gravity or its substantial form. In this respect, Aquinas was also at variance with the later teaching of Walter Burley and the Paris terminists, all of whom saw the cause of falling as some type of active force within the body itself, thereby foreshadowing animist theories of gravitation such as subsequently proposed by William Gilbert. Again, Thomas disagreed with Bonaventure and Roger Bacon, who regarded place as exerting some type of repulsive or attractive influence on the falling body; for Thomas, there was no repulsion involved, and the attractive aspect of place was sufficiently accounted for by its being the end, or final cause, of the body’s movement. Here Thomas implicitly rejected the absolute space and attractive forces later proposed by the Newtonians; his own analysis, it has been remarked, shows more affinity with the ideas behind Einstein’s theory of general relativity, although the two are so remote in thought context as to defy any attempt at detailed comparison.

On the subject of impetus, authors are divided as to Thomas’ teaching. Certainly he has no treatment of the concept to match that found later in Franciscus de Marcia, Jean Buridan, and Oresme, nor does he use it to explain any details of projectile or gravitational motion. In his later writings, particularly the commentaries on the Physics and the De caelo, Thomas clearly defends the original Aristotelian teaching on the proximate cause of projectile motion. In some earlier writings, on the other hand, he speaks of a virtus in the projectile, and, in one text of the Physics commentary, discussing the case of a ball that bounces back from a wall, he mentions that the impetus is given not by the wall but by the thrower. Later Thomists, such as Joannes Capreolus and Domingo de Soto, had no difficulty in assimilating a fully developed impetus theory to Thomas’ teaching, evidently regarding the Aristotelian element in his expositions as reflecting his role as a commentator more than his personal views.

Aquinas took up the problems of the magnet, of tidal variations, and of other “occult” phenomena in a letter entitled De occultis operationibus naturae (“On the Occult Workings of Nature”), whose very title shows his preoccupation with reducing all of these phenomena to natural, as opposed to supramundane, causes. Significantly, Thomas’ analysis of magnetism was known to Gilbert and was praised by him.

Commenting as he did on the De caelo and also, in his theological writings, on the cosmogony detailed in Genesis, Thomas could not help but evaluate the astronomical theories of his contemporaries. He contributed nothing new by way of observational data, nor did he evolve any new theories of the heavens, but his work has an importance nonetheless, if only to show the care with which he assessed the current state of astronomical science. His view of the structure of the universe was basically Aristotelian; he knew of two theories to account for the phenomena of the heavens, both geocentric in the broad sense; that of Eudoxus, Callippus, and Aristotle, and that of Ptolemy. Aquinas generally employed the Eudoxian terminology; he mentions the Ptolemaic system at least eleven times, and five of these are in his late commentary on the De caelo. In most of his references to the Eudoxian or Ptolemaic systems, he refrains from expressing any preference; clearly, he was aware of the hypothetical character of both. At least once, commenting on Ptolemy’s cumbersome theory of eccentrics and epicycles, he voices the expectation that this theory will one day be superseded by a simpler explanation.

The astronomical data reported by Aquinas, according to an extensive analysis by Thomas Litt, were those of a well-informed thirteenth-century writer; he errs in one or two particulars, but on matters of little theoretical consequence. His treatise on comets, included in a work by Lynn Thorndike, is one of the most balanced in the high Middle Ages, rejecting fanciful explanations and pointing out how little is actually known about these occurrences.

In his more philosophical views, however, Thomas was not so fortunate. He believed in the existence of spheres that transport the heavenly bodies and, with his contemporaries, regarded such bodies as incorruptible. He was convinced also of the existence of an empyrean heaven the dwelling place of the blessed and known only through revelation, but nonetheless included in the corporeal universe. He accorded an extensive causality to the heavenly bodies, while excepting from this all actions that are properly human (i.e., that arise from man’s intelligence and deliberate will) and completely fortuitous events, so as to discourage any naïve credence in the astrologers of his day.

Aquinas has no treatment of alchemy to match that of his teacher Albertus Magnus, but he does discuss one topic that had important bearing on later views of the structure of matter, that of the presence of elements in compounds. Earlier thinkers, attempting to puzzle out Aristotle’s cryptic texts, favored one of two explanations of elemental presence offered by Avicenna and Averroës, respectively. Dissatisfied with both, Aquinas formulated a third position, which soon became the most popular among the Schoolmen. He taught that the elements do not remain actually in the compound, but that their qualities give rise to “intermediate qualities” that participate somewhat in each extreme; these intermediate qualities are in turn proper dispositions for a new substantial form, that of the compound, which is generated through the alteration that takes place. Since the elemental qualities remain “in some way” in the compound, one can say also that the substantial forms of the elements are present there, too—not actually, but virtually.

The subsequent influence of Thomas’ teaching has been traced in considerable detail by Anneliese Maier, who characterizes it as inaugurating a modern direction that dominated treatments of the problem in later Scholasticism (Studien III, pp. 89–140). Duns Scotus and his school, particularly, became enamored of the theory and attempted a consistent development of its ramifications. Nominalists such as William of Ockham and Gregory of Rimini took it up, too, as did such Paris terminists as Buridan, Oresme, Albert of Saxony, and Marsilius of Inghen. The basic explanation continued to be taught through the sixteenth century and, coupled with Aristotelian teaching on minima naturalia, became the major alternative to a simplistic atomist view of the structure of matter before the advent of modern chemistry.

In biology and psychology, Aquinas followed Aristotle, Galen, and the medieval Arab tradition; his work is noteworthy more for its philosophical consistency than for its scientific detail. He wrote commentaries on Aristotle’s De anima. De sensu et sensato, and De memoria et reminiscentia, all based on the texts of William of Moerbeke, his fellow Dominican. Also, ca. 1270, he composed a letter to a Master Philippus, who seems to have been a physician and professor at Bologna and Naples on the motion of the heart (De motu cordis), explaining how the principle “Whatever is moved, is moved by another” is saved in this phenomenon. Like his contemporaries, he believed in spontaneous generation and countenanced a qualified type of evolution in the initial formation of creatures. Catholic thinkers, on the basis of his philosophy, have been more open to evolutionary theories than have fundamentalists, who follow a strict, literal interpretation of the text of Genesis.

Thomas was a mild man, objective and impersonal in his writing, more cautious than most in giving credence to reported facts. He showed neither the irascible temperament of Roger Bacon, nor the subtle questioning of Duns Scotus, nor the pious mysticism of Bonaventure. Calm and methodical in his approach, Proceeding logically, step by step, he offered proof where it could be adduced, appealing to experience, observation, analysis, and (last of all) authority. He appreciated the importance of textual criticism, and possibly was one of the instigators of Moerbeke’s many Latin translations of scientific treatises from the original Greek. He had a penetrating intellect and a strong religious faith, both of which led him to seek a complete integration of all knowledge, divine as well as human. Working with the science of his time, he succeeded admirably in this attempt, thus providing a striking example for all who were to be similarly motivated in the ages to come.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

I. Original Works. Standard editions of Aquinas are the Leonine edition, S. Thomae Aquinatis opera omnia, iussu Leonis XIII edita (Rome, 1882- ), a critical edition still in process (American section of the Leonine Commission at Yale University, New Haven, Conn.); Parma edition, S. Thomae opera omnia, 25 vols. (Parma, 1852–1873; photographically reproduced, New York, 1948–1949); Vivès edition, D. Thomae Aquinatis opera omnia, S. E. Fretté P. Maré, eds., 32 vols (Paris, 1871–1880).

English translations of major works include Summa theologiae, trans, and commentary, T. Gilby et al., eds., 60 vols. planned (New York-London, 1964-); Summa theologiae, English Dominicans trans., 22 vols., 2nd ed. (New York-London, 1912–1936); Summa contra gentiles (On the Truth of the Catholic Faith), A. C. Pegis et al., trans., 5 vols. (New York, 1955–1956); (Chicago, 1952–1954).

English translations of scientific writings include Commentary no Aristotle’s PhysiCs, R. J. Blackwell et al., trans. (New Haven, Conn., 1963); Exposition of Aristotle’s Treatise On the Heavens, R. F. Larcher and P. H. Conway, trans. (Columbus, Ohio, 1963–1964), mimeographed, available from College of St. Mary of the Springs, Columbus; Exposition of Aristotle’s Treatise On Generation and Corruption, Bk. I, chs. 1–5, R. F. Larcher and P. H. Conway, trans. (Columbus, Ohio, 1964)—a above; Exposition of Aristotle’s Treatise On Meteorology, Bks. I–II, chs. 1–5 R. F. Larcher and P. H. Conway, trans. (Columbus, Ohio, 1964)—as above. Except on comets in Lynn Thorndike, Latin Treatises on Comets Between 123 and 1368 A. D. (Chicago, 1950), pp. 77–86, Aristotle’s De Anima With the Commentary of St. Thomas Aquinas, K. Foster and S. Humphries, trans. (New Haven, Conn., 1951); Exposition of the Posterior Analytics of Aristotle, P. Conway, trans. (Quebec, 1956)—mimeographed, available from La Librairie Philosophique M. Doyon, Quebec, Canada; The Letter of St. Thomas Aquinas De Occultis Operibus Naturae, with a commentary, J. B. McAllister, trans., The Catholic University of America Philosophical Studies, 42 (Washington, D. C., 1939).

II. Secondary Literature. General works on Aquinas include V. J. Bourke, Aquinas’s Search for Wisdom (Milwaukee, 1965), an excellent biography; M. D. Chenu, Toward Understanding St. Thomas, A. M. Landry and D. Hughes, trans. (Chicago, 1964), a good introduction to Thomas’ intellectual milieu; K. Foster, ed. and trans., The Life of Saint Thomas Aquinas: Biographical Documents (Baltimore, 1959); W. A. Wallace and J. A. Weisheipl, “Thomas Aquinas, St.,” in The New Catholic Encyclopedia (New York, 1967), a compendious survey of his life and works.

Aquinas’ scientific work is discussed in Thomas Litt, Les corps célestes dans l’univers de saint Thomas d’Aquin, Philosophes Médiévaux, VII (Louvain-Paris, 1963), the best on Thomas’ astronomy; Anneliese Maier, Studien zur Naturphilosophie der Spätscholastik, I, Die Vorläufer Galileis im 14, Jahrhundert, Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 22 (Rome, 1949); II, Zwei Grundprobleme der scholastischen Naturphilosophie, Edizioni..., 37 (Rome, 1951); III, an der Grenze von Scholastik und Naturwissenschaft, Edizioni...,41 (Rome, 1952); IV, Metaphysische Hintergründe der spätscholastischen Naturphilosophie, Edizioni..., 52 (Rome, 1955); V. Zwischen Philosophie und Mechanik, Edizioni..., 69 (Rome, 1958). These are the most complete sources; consult the index of each volume under “Thomas von Aquin.” Some of this material is summarized in English in E. J. Dijksterhuis, The Mechanization of the World Picture, C. Dikshoorn, trans. (Oxford, 1961); W. A. Wallace, ed. and trAns., Cosmogony, Vol. X of Aquinas’ Summa theologiae (New York-London, 1967), with notes and appendices on Thomas’ science and its background.

William A. Wallace, O. P.

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Aquinas, Thomas

Aquinas, Thomas

WORKS BY AQUINAS

SUPPLEMENTARY BIBLIOGRAPHY

Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) is by common consent the greatest theologian of the Middle Ages. His work gave a new clarity and comprehensiveness to the systematization of theology, and his philosophical judgment, which was matured in the study of Aristotle, never wavered. These qualities of judgment, organization, and clarity are to be found in his discussions of social and political questions, but it is important to remember the theological context of these questions if his treatment of them is to be understood.

Nearly everything of importance that Aquinas has to say about social and political matters is to be found in the second part of his Summa theologica. This great work, a systematic survey of the whole field of Christian theology, is divided into three parts. The first of these is devoted to God and the creation, the second to man and his nature, and the third to Christ and the sacraments. The second part contains a long series of discussions of the end of man, the law by which he is guided to this end, and the virtues and vices which help or hinder him on his way. This part of the Summa theologica is thus a massive survey of human nature viewed as part of the divine plan of the universe. For convenience it is divided, in turn, into two main sections (referred to as 1, 2 and 2, 2 in what follows), which together comprise 403 questions, each arranged in the form of a series of debates between clearly contrasted positions. The problems we shall discuss occupy no more than about 20 of these questions and are thus only a small fraction of the whole work. The arrangement of the discussions required that Aquinas should summarize earlier arguments and give his judgment on one side or the other. We can only understand what he is saying if we understand both the place of these questions in his work as a whole and the tradition of discussion of which his questions and answers form a part. In what follows we shall, therefore, have to devote a good deal of attention to the background and context of the discussion.

The problems discussed by Aquinas which fall within our field are those concerned with property, trade, the just price, usury, and the political community in general, and we shall speak of them in turn.

Property. The traditional view of private property, which was still accepted in the twelfth century, ascribed its origin to human sin. The ideal community was one in which “no-one called anything his own, but they had all things common” (Acts 4.32). This view was being modified in the late twelfth century by lawyers who drew a distinction between use, which was private except in times of necessity, and ownership (dominium), which ought to be common. Then Aristotle’s Politics, which was translated into Latin about 1250, introduced the medieval West to the view that private property is a necessary instrument of the good life. This view brought with it a radical transformation of the theory of property, and Aquinas was the first who combined a defense of the Aristotelian view of private property with a full discussion and criticism of traditional texts (2, 2, q. 66, art. 2). On all important points Aquinas was decisively on the side of Aristotle. He accepted the view that private property is necessary for the orderly conduct of human society. In answer to the traditional texts he asserted that the ideal of having all things common refers only to times of need; but in this connection he made the important concession that “he who is in great need may take what he needs from another’s goods if he can find no-one to give them to him”: such “stealing” is no sin (2, 2, q. 66, art. 7).

Aquinas’ view, here as everywhere, was expressed with masterly clarity. His powerful arguments were too necessary to the rapidly developing society of the thirteenth century to meet much opposition. The last outpost of conservatism was the Franciscan order, which maintained its formal rejection of private property until 1322, when Pope John xxii revoked the arrangement whereby the Roman church held property in trust on behalf of the Franciscans. At the same time the pope declared heretical the doctrine of the absolute poverty of Christ and his disciples. In this pronouncement we may see the official disappearance of the old view of the inherent sinfulness of private property and the triumph of the view expressed by Aquinas.

Trade. There was no theory of trade in the early Middle Ages. Merchants were necessary to provide luxuries for the rich and adornments for the church, and their activities were protected accordingly. But when merchants grew in numbers, wealth, and organized power, the tide of criticism began to rise. The legal theories of the twelfth century reflected this growing aversion and fear. Gratian’s authoritative collection of canon law contained texts (e.g., Luke 19.45, on the ejection of traders from the Temple) that were held to prove that no Christian ought to be a merchant. The theoretical objection to merchants (as opposed to craftsmen or farmers) arose from the fact that they bought commodities in order to sell them, unchanged, at a higher price. This was the sin of avarice, and it was held to be an almost inescapable sin in trade. The study of Aristotle yielded a further argument to an already existing hostility, since he asserted (Politics 1319a, 1328b) that the life of a trader was incompatible with moral excellence. As a student of Aristotle, Aquinas was much less favorable to trade than to private property. His account of the place of merchants in society (De regno ii, 3) is wholly inspired by Aristotle. Like Aristotle, he greatly preferred a self-sufficient to a commercial state, and he justified this preference by pointing to the risk of the failure of foreign food supplies in time of war, the corruption of manners brought about by the presence of foreigners, and the cupidity, frauds, and unwarlike dispositions induced by trade. Nevertheless, despite these dangers, merchants ought not to be entirely excluded from the state, because no state can be found that does not lack some commodities and have an excess of others. Even the perfect state, therefore, needs some merchants, but the fewer the better.

Aquinas had little more than this to say about trade in general, but (in common with other medieval authors) he presented relatively full discussions of two problems that arise from trade: the problems of the just price and of usury. This emphasis can be easily explained. As a theologian his main interest lay in distinguishing between permissible and reprehensible practices. He was not concerned with building up a theory of trade but a system of morals, and moral problems in trade chiefly arise from the sale of goods, including the sale of money, for profit, or usury. Usury in fact is only a special case of the unjust price.

The just price. The theory of the just price is a distinctively medieval contribution to economic theory, and it influenced economic thought as long as the labor theory of value was a living issue, far into the nineteenth century. But there is an important distinction between medieval theorists and modern economists: medieval theorists were not so much concerned with what does happen as with what ought to happen. Aquinas’ thought on the subject follows the common medieval pattern, although his argument is immensely superior in clarity and refinement to that of most other medieval writers. He accepted the general definition of the just price, which may be stated in the form of an equation: just price equals cost to seller. This equation makes it clear that changes in demand ought to have no place in determining prices. To charge more to someone in dire need is the sin of avarice. But the meaning of the phrase “cost to seller” still remains to be determined, and it is here that Aquinas (2, 2, q. 77) introduced some refinements of considerable interest. For example, he argued that the seller may count the personal damage he receives in parting with a cherished object as part of his cost, although he may not equally count the personal value which the buyer attaches to the same object. Further, while accepting the principle that it is sinful to buy something in order to sell it unchanged at a higher price, he argued that lapse of time between buying and selling may justify a rise in price. Aquinas devoted some attention to the new factors introduced by lapse of time: for example, labor may have been expended, or danger incurred, in moving or keeping the goods; or the goods may have improved in quality (e.g., wines), so that the seller may lose more in parting with them than he gained in acquiring them. These examples illustrate the beginnings of the analysis of the economic concept of cost, and they show how careful attention to detail could gradually turn theories that were primarily ethical in origin into descriptions of the economic process.

Usury. The problem of usury was the biggest single problem in medieval social theory. There was no area in which practice and theory were in such conspicuous conflict. Usury, whether open or concealed, was ubiquitous and necessary, but all the arguments, whether Biblical or philosophical, were against it. The arguments found in Aristotle served only to reinforce those used by Biblical commentators. The problem could not be solved, but it could be mitigated by refining the notion of usury, and Aquinas contributed several such refinements. In the first place he gave a subtle explanation of the nature of the evil of usury: it is unjust per se because it exacts the return of something that does not exist. He explained this by drawing a distinction (2, 2, q. 78, art. 1) between things that are consumed as they are used (e.g., food) and things that may be used without being consumed (e.g., a house). Only in the second case can use be separated from ownership. Money belongs to the first class. Therefore, he who sells money must sell it outright. He who exacts a price in the form of an annual payment and then demands a return of his capital is guilty of being paid twice for the same thing. No seller is entitled to receive more than an exact equivalent of what he has given up. This brings us back to the problem of the just price and to the question, “What exactly has the seller of money given up?” With his usual scrupulous regard for the facts, Aquinas agreed that the seller of money may receive damage through loss of enjoyment greater than the sum of money immediately involved. For this damage compensation is due, and this is not usury. Also, like most writers from the early thirteenth century onward, Aquinas agreed that a man who invests in a business and assumes a share of the risk is entitled to a share in the profit while retaining his rights in his capital. He fitted this into his general theory of usury by saying that, unlike the usurer, the risk sharer retains the ownership of his capital by membership in the firm. He did not seem to see that this makes a serious break in his general argument that money is a commodity which can be used only by being consumed. It was not until 1546 that this objection was developed by Charles Dumoulin in his refutation of the scholastic theory of usury.

The political community. In his general attitude to politics Aquinas displayed the same basic Aristotelianism that we find elsewhere in his social thought. The abandonment of Augustinian pessimism with regard to political society is characteristic of several writers of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, but Aquinas gave fuller and more coherent expression to this tendency than any previous medieval writer. He accepted the argument of Aristotle’s Politics that the state exists for the good life (1, 2, q. 92, art. 1) and that the common good is in some sense different in kind and superior to the good of the individual (1, 2, q. 90, art. 2). He saw the political community as a natural institution based on reason, which would have existed among men even if man had never sinned (1, q. 96, art. 4); and he argued that the natural end of man in political society can, in large measure at least, be achieved under a pagan ruler (2, 2, q. 10, art. 10). He went very far in accepting statements of Aristotle that have seemed to others barely consistent with a Christian view, for example, that “the perfect community is the state (civitas)” and that “the individual is to the perfect community as the imperfect to the perfect” (1, 2, q. 90, art. 2). But in interpreting such statements it is necessary, here as elsewhere, to remember their context. The state did not mean to Aquinas what it meant to Aristotle, still less of course what it means to us. The political community was a vaguer concept in the thirteenth century than it was in fourth-century Athens, and the “perfect community” had none of the sinister totalitarian implication of post-Hegelian theory. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that Aquinas attached less importance to individuality than he did to the good of the community. What interested him most in politics was law, and most of his discussions of political topics occur in those sections of the Summa theologica concerned with the relations between divine and human law and between natural and positive law. His definition of law as “an ordinance of reason, for the common good, promulgated by one who has the care of the community” (1, 2, q. 90, art. 4) is the basis of all his political thinking. For him, the political community was at once corporate and authoritarian, rational and natural, but certainly not utilitarian or “liberal” in the modern sense.

Aquinas’ great contribution to social and political thought lies in his emphasis on the importance of reason and nature in the universe. In his hands Aristotle became the main instrument for bringing the idea of natural order to its fullest development in medieval thought. A veneration for nature runs through all the work of Aquinas and explains his careful (however brief) attention to the details of social and economic life. His lucidity in exposition and moderation in argument complete his qualifications for being regarded as the Christian Aristotle.

R. W. Southern

[For the historical context of Aquinas’ work, seeEconomic thought, article onancient and medieval thought, and the biography ofAristotle.]

WORKS BY AQUINAS

Summa theologica. 22 vols. Translated by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province. London: Oates & Washbourne, 1912–1925.

Opera omnia. 25 vols. New York: Misurgia, 1948–1950.

On Kingship: To the King of Cyprus. Translated by Gerald B. Phelan. Revised with an introduction and notes by I. Th. Eschmann. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1949.

The Political Ideas of St. Thomas Aquinas: Representative Selections. Edited with an introduction by Dino Bigongiari. New York: Hafner, 1953.

Selected Political Writings. Edited with an introduction by A. P. d’Entrèves. New York: Macmillan, 1959.

SUPPLEMENTARY BIBLIOGRAPHY

Baldwin, John W. 1959 The Medieval Theories of the Just Price: Romanists, Canonists, and Theologians in the Twelfth and the Thirteenth Centuries. American Philosophical Society, Transactions, Vol. 49, part 4. Philadelphia: The Society.

Gilby, Thomas 1958 The Political Thought of Thomas Aquinas. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Nelson, Benjamin N. 1949 The Idea of Usury: From Tribal Brotherhood to Universal Otherhood. Princeton Univ. Press.

Noonan, John T. JR. 1957 The Scholastic Analysis of Usury. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Tooke, Joan D. 1965 The Just War in Aquinas and Grotius. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

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Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas


Thomas Aquinas held that revelation was essential for grasping truth of faith but he relied on reason to understand the world that God created. Mindful of this division, Thomas warned against dogmatic interpretations in areas of faith that might have to be abandoned if subsequent natural evidence falsified them. Convinced that Aristotle's (384322 b.c.e.) natural philosophy provided the most accurate interpretation of cosmic operations, Thomas refused to Christianize natural philosophy and, to the greatest extent possible, he applied reason to both science and theology.


Life and works

Thomas Aquinas was born near Monte Cassino, Italy, around 1225. He was the youngest of nine children. After elementary education in the abbey of Monte Cassino, Thomas was sent to Naples in 1239, where he studied at the University of Naples. In 1244, while still at Naples, Thomas entered the Dominican order, contrary to the wishes of his family. From 1245 to 1252, Thomas studied at Paris and then Cologne. At Cologne, and perhaps at Paris, Thomas's teacher was Albert the Great (Albertus Magnus) (c. 12061280), one of the great scientists and natural philosophers of the Middle Ages and a thorough student of Aristotle's writings. After training as a theologian, Thomas became a professor of theology at the University of Paris (12561259). He spent the years between 1259 and 1268 in Italy serving different popes at their papal courts. During 1269 to 1272, Thomas returned to another professorship at the University of Paris, after which he returned to Naples, where his health began to fail. Thomas died in 1274 while on his way to the second Council of Lyons.

Thomas was a prolific author who left approximately fifty works that have been thus far identified. He wrote on numerous topics, the most significant of which are his theological treatises, especially his famous Summa of Theology (Summa theologiae), commentaries on books of the Bible, and commentaries on various works of Aristotle, especially those on natural philosophy, which include Aristotle's Physics, On the Heavens, On Generation and Corruption, Meteorology, and On the Soul. In addition, Thomas composed sermons, letters, and replies to queries.

Thomas on the relationship of faith and reason

Issues of science and religion in the Middle Ages involve the relationship between natural philosophy and religion. By the time Thomas began writing, Aristotle's works on logic and natural philosophy had been adopted as the basic curriculum in faculties of arts of medieval universities. Because Aristotle's natural philosophy raised issues that were directly relevant to theology and the Catholic faith, it was inevitable that Thomas, who was both a theologian and a natural philosopher, would have to confront those issues in his works on theology and natural philosophy.

When Thomas dealt with issues of science and religion, he was guided by his overall view of the relationship between faith and reason. Thomas emphasized the importance and power of reason, but insisted that it was inadequate to gain knowledge of unseen things, such as God, for which faith and divine revelation are essential. For knowledge of the physical cosmos and its regular operations, however, reasonembodied in the works of Aristotlewas Thomas's instrument for understanding those operations. But reason was also an instrument for the study of theology. In the very first question of his Summa of Theology, Thomas asked whether theology is a science and replied affirmatively. He is usually regarded as the scholar who gave credence to the claim that theology is a science, a claim that was widely assumed in the late Middle Ages.

Two principles derived from the early Christian leader Augustine of Hippo (354430 c.e.) and expressed in the Summa of Theology, guided Thomas in his explanations of natural phenomena. He insisted: (1) that the truths of Scripture must be held inviolate, but that (2) no passage in Scripture should be interpreted rigidly and dogmatically because it might later be proved false by convincing arguments, thus leading to a loss of credibility that would inhibit nonbelievers from adopting the faith.


Thomas and Aristotle

Although Aristotle's natural philosophy formed the basic curriculum in the arts faculties of medieval universities, those aspects of his work that conflicted with basic Christian beliefs evoked opposition through most of the thirteenth century. In the 1260s, and 1270s, when Thomas was writing, the opposition was led by the Franciscan theologian Bonaventure (12211271), whose neoconservative Augustinian colleagues eventually prevailed upon the bishop of Paris to condemn certain of Aristotle's articles deemed offensive to the faith; thirteen articles were condemned in 1270 and 219 articles were condemned in 1277, three years after the death of Thomas. Since Thomas was a supporter of Aristotle's philosophy, as were many Dominicans, some of the hostility was plainly directed against him and his colleagues. It was not until 1325, two years after the canonization of Thomas Aquinas, that the bishop of Paris, Stephen Bourret, revoked the condemnation of all articles condemned in 1277 that were directed against the teachings of Thomas.

The most significant idea condemned in 1277 was Aristotle's claim for the eternity of the world, which was denounced at least twenty-seven times in a variety of contexts. In a treatise he titled On the Eternity of the World, Thomas neither rejected nor accepted the eternity of the world. By absolute power, God could have created a world that was coeternal with God. For as Thomas argued, "The statement that something was made by God and nevertheless was never without existence . . . does not involve any logical contradiction." If God wishes, God can choose not to precede any effect God decides to produce, and thus God can make the world eternal. Although God could make the world coeternal with God, an eternal world would still be a created effect, because it is wholly dependent on an immutable God, thus guaranteeing that the world cannot be coequal with God. Of the articles condemned in 1277, Article 99 was probably directed against Thomas's interpretation of the eternity of the world. Thomas's approach to the question of the world's duration proved popular and found supporters up through the Renaissance. Bonaventure and others were convinced that Aristotle had denied the personal immortality of the soul, but Thomas thought Aristotle had believed it.

Since Aristotle firmly believed that every material thing is derived from previous matter, he would have been opposed to the Christian doctrine of creation from nothing. Article 185 condemned the view that something could not be made from nothing. Indeed, the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 had declared belief in creation from nothing to be an article of faith. On this issue, Thomas, and all Christians, were compelled to reject Aristotle's interpretation.

Thomas's conception of the physical world and its operations was basically the same as that held by Aristotle, from whom he derived it. In his commentaries on Aristotle's natural philosophy, Thomas considered the numerous problems Aristotle presented, accepting most of Aristotle's solutions, but disagreeing on some important issues. Although Thomas believed with Aristotle that the existence of void spaces was impossible, he disagreed with the absurd consequence Aristotle deduced from the assumption of motion in a vacuum, namely that because of an absence of material resistance, a body would move instantaneously in a vacuum and, as a consequence, no ratio could obtain between motions in a hypothetical void and motions in a space filled with matter. Thomas rejected these conclusions. A body falling or moving in a void space would have a definite speed and take a definite time to move successively between two distant points. This is so, argued Thomas, because any distance in a three-dimensional void has prior and posterior parts that a body must traverse to get from one point to another, which requires time. Hence there could indeed be a ratio between motions in a vacuum and motions in a plenum.

In a letter to a soldier, Thomas explained how bodies could perform actions that do not follow from the nature of their constituent elements, as, for example, the attraction of a magnet for iron. Thomas regarded such actions as occult, explaining the causes of such phenomena by the behavior of two kinds of superior agents: (1) celestial bodies, or (2) separate spiritual substances, which included celestial intelligences, angels, and even demons. A superior agent can either communicate the power to perform the action directly to an inferior body, as is the case with the magnet; or the superior agent can, by its own motion, cause the body in question to move, as, for example, the moon causes the ebb and flow of the tides.

Whatever disagreements Thomas had with Aristotle, whether doctrinal or otherwise, it is obvious that Thomas was an Aristotelian in natural philosophy. As an Aristotelian natural philosopher and a professional theologian, one may appropriately inquire how Thomas related natural philosophy and theology, the medieval equivalent of the relations between science and religion. Thomas followed in the path of his teacher, Albert the Great, and generally refrained from introducing theological ideas into his treatises on natural philosophy, whereas he did not hesitate to introduce natural philosophy to elucidate his theological discussions. As a theologian doing natural philosophy, Thomas could easily have resorted to theological appeals and arguments in his natural philosophy, but he did not think it appropriate to do so. As he explained in a reply to one of forty-three questions sent to him by the master general of the Dominican order, "I don't see what one's interpretation of the text of Aristotle has to do with the teaching of the faith." Thomas refused to Christianize Aristotle's natural philosophy and to confuse natural philosophy with theology. In this, Thomas followed the practice of most medieval theologians and natural philosophers.

See also Aristotle; Augustine; Christianity, Roman Catholic, Issues in Science and Religion; Creatio ex Nihilo; Creation; God


Bibliography

copleston, frederick c. aquinas. harmondsworth, uk: penguin books, 1955.

thomas aquinas. summa theologiae, vol. 10: cosmogony, trans. and ed. william a. wallace. london: blackfriars, 1967.

dijksterhuis, e. j. the mechanization of the world picture, trans. c. dikshoorn. oxford: clarendon press, 1961.

gilson, etienne. history of christian philosophy in the middle ages. london: sheed and ward, 1955.

pegis, anton c., ed. introduction to saint thomas aquinas. new york: modern library, 1948.

wallace, william a. "aquinas on creation: science, theology, and matters of fact." thomist 38 (1974): 485-523.

wallace, william a. "aquinas, saint thomas." in dictionary of scientific biography, vol. 1, ed. charles c. gillispie. new york: scribner, 1970.

weisheipl, james a. friar thomas d'aquino: his life, thought, and work. garden city, n.y.: doubleday, 1974.

weisheipl, james a. "motion in a void: aquinas and averroes." in st. thomas aquinas 1274-1974, commemorative studies, ed. a. a. mauer. toronto: pontifical institute of medieval studies, 1974.

edward grant

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Thomas Aquinas, Saint

Saint Thomas Aquinas (əkwī´nəs) [Lat.,=from Aquino], 1225–74, Italian philosopher and theologian, Doctor of the Church, known as the Angelic Doctor, b. Rocca Secca (near Naples). He is the greatest figure of scholasticism, one of the principal saints of the Roman Catholic Church, and founder of the system declared by Pope Leo XIII (in the encyclical Aeterni Patris, 1879) to be the official Catholic philosophy.

Life

St. Thomas came of the ruling family of Aquino, was educated as a child at Monte Cassino, and later studied at Naples. To his family's disappointment he entered (1244) the new Dominican order. In 1245 he began to study in Paris with Albertus Magnus, whose favorite pupil he became, and in 1248 he accompanied Albertus to Cologne. From there, Thomas went again (1252) to Paris, where he gained a great reputation and became professor of theology. He was leader of the friars in the controversy that occurred when the seculars sought to limit the friars' privileges at the university. After 1259 he spent several years in Italy as professor and adviser at the papal court.

His return to Paris (1269) was probably precipitated by the furor over Siger de Brabant and his Averroistic reading of Aristotle. The doctrinal struggle with Siger resulted in victory for Thomas and the triumph of his position. In 1272 he left Paris for Naples to organize a house of studies. Two years later when he and his companion, Brother Reginald, were at Fossanuova, on the way to the Council of Lyons, where he was to be a papal consultant, St. Thomas died.

He was canonized in 1323 and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1567. His tomb is in the Basilica of St. Sernin at Toulouse. Feast: Mar. 7. In art St. Thomas is usually associated with a sacramental cup (representing his devotion to the sacrament) or a dove (representing the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) or depicted with a sun on his breast.

Philosophy and Work

St. Thomas's student nickname was the Dumb Ox, because he was slow in manner and quite stout. He was, however, a brilliant lecturer and a clear, sharp thinker, as his works show—not only in their rigid application of reason, but also in their Latin diction, which is admirably exact and simple. His spiritual character is manifest in the humility and charity of his conduct and the use to which he put his theories in his devotional works, notably in the Mass and office for the feast of Corpus Christi (June 21), which he wrote at Urban IV's request (1264). The four hymns of this Mass and office, Laude Sion Salvatorem,Pange Lingua,Sacris solemniis, and Verbum supernum (ending with O Salutaris Hostia), are classed among the greatest of Christian hymns.

No single work of St. Thomas can be said fully to reveal his philosophy. His works may be classified according to their form and purpose. The principal ones are Commentary in the Sentences (a series of public lectures; 1254–56), his earliest great work; seven quaestiones disputatae (public debates; 1256–72); philosophical commentaries on Aristotle's Physics, Metaphysics, De anima, Ethics, part of the De interpretatione, and the Posterior Analytics; treatises on many subjects, including the Summa contra Gentiles (1258–60); and, most important of all, Summa theologica (1267–73), an incomplete but systematic exposition of theology on philosophical principles. St. Thomas's philosophy is avowedly Aristotelian; the methods and distinctions of Aristotle are adapted to revelation.

The 13th cent. was a critical period in Christian thought, which was torn between the claims of the Averroists and Augustinians. Thomas opposed both schools, the Averroists led by Siger de Brabant, who would separate faith and truth absolutely, and the Augustinians, who would make truth a matter of faith. St. Thomas held that reason and faith constitute two harmonious realms in which the truths of faith complement those of reason; both are gifts of God, but reason has an autonomy of its own. Thus he vindicated Aristotle against those who saw him as the inspiration of Averroës and heresy.

The first principle of philosophy according to St. Thomas is the affirmation of being. From this he proceeded to a consideration of the manner in which the intellect achieves knowledge. For humans all knowledge begins by way of the senses, which are the medium through which he grasps the intelligible world, the universal. According to the position of Thomas, which is known as moderate realism, the form or the universal may be said to exist in three ways: in God, in things, and in the mind (see universals). He argues that it is by the knowledge of things that we come to know of God's existence. In the natural order what God is can be known only by analogy and negation.

Thomas's conviction that the existence of God can be discovered by reason is shown by his proofs of the existence of God. His metaphysics relies on the Aristotelian concepts of potency and act, matter and form, being and essence. A thing that requires completion by another is said to be in potency to that other; the realization of potency is called actuality. The universe is conceived of as a series of things arranged in an ascending order of potency, an act at once crowned and created by God, who alone is pure act. Two other pairs of metaphysical concepts—matter and form, essence and being—are special cases of potency and act. St. Thomas's moral philosophy is derived from these distinctions as well, since the opposite of being does not exist and since the good is identical with being, evil is but the absence of good.

Influence

For a long time Thomas was either ignored or misunderstood by even the greatest philosophers, but his teachings ultimately triumphed. That they are official in the Roman Catholic Church does not mean that Catholics may not adhere to other philosophies, notably the Scotist teachings, developed from the doctrines of Duns Scotus. St. Thomas's synthesis is now recognized as one of the greatest works of human thought. His wide-embracing philosophy can be applied to every realm of human life.

The terms New Thomism,neo-Thomism, and neo-scholasticism are used for a school of philosophy of the 20th cent. The Catholic leaders of this school were Étienne Gilson and Jacques Maritain, who sought to apply Thomistic principles to modern economic, political, and social conditions. Non-Catholics also have adapted Thomistic principles to modern life; a leader among them is Mortimer Adler.

Bibliography

His works have been widely translated, the more important ones in various versions. Volumes of selections of his works are also available. See G. K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas (1933); E. Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas (1956); M. D. Chenu, Toward Understanding St. Thomas (1964); J. A. Weisheipl, Friar Thomas D'Aquino (1974).

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Thomas Aquinas (ca. 1225-1274)

Thomas Aquinas (ca. 1225-1274)

One of the most profound scholars and subtlest logicians of his day. Aquinas was born around 1225 in Roccasecca, Italy. He was educated under the Benedictine Monks of Monte Cassino and in the University of Naples, and entered the Society of Preaching Friars, or Dominicans, at 17 years of age. His mother, indignant that he should take the vow of poverty and thus remove himself from the world for life, employed every means in her power to induce him to change his mind. In order to remove Aquinas from her influence, the friars relocated him from Naples to Terracina, from Terracina to Anagnia, and from Anagnia to Rome.

His mother followed him in all these changes of residence but was not permitted to see him. At length she induced his two elder brothers to seize him by force. They kidnapped him while he was traveling to Paris, where he had been sent to complete his course of instruction, and they carried him off to the castle of Aquino, where he had been born. Here Aquinas was confined for two years, but he found a way to correspond with the superiors of his order, and he finally escaped from a window in the castle.

Aquinas exceeded most men in the severity and strictness of his metaphysical disquisitions and thus acquired the name of "Seraphic Doctor." He was canonized by Pope John XXII in 1323.

Because of his association with Albertus Magnus, he shared many legends of magical powers. For example, it was said that because his study was placed in a great thoroughfare where the grooms exercised their horses, Aquinas found it necessary to apply a magical remedy to this nuisance. He made by the laws of magic a small brass horse, which he buried two or three feet underground in the middle of this highway so that horses would no longer pass along the road. The grooms were compelled to choose another place for their daily exercises.

Another legend claimed that Aquinas was offended by the perpetual chattering of an artificial man made of brass, constructed by his tutor Albertus Magnus, and he dashed the automaton to pieces. Aquinas was also supposed to have written some tracts on alchemy.

However, his credulity regarding demonology and witchcraft had an unfortunate influence on witchhunters, and he was later cited as an authority by such writers as Heinrich Kramer and Jakob Sprenger, authors of the infamous Malleus Maleficarum. Although Aquinas did not accept the concept of a pact with the Devil, he endorsed the belief of diabolical association, and the incubus and succubus. He echoed Albertus Magnus in claiming that when Satan tempted Christ on the mountain-top, he carried Christ on his shoulders, and this belief was used by later witchhunters to endorse the theory of transvection, or magical transport of witches through the air. Aquinas also believed in the power of the evil eye used by old women who had an association with the Devil. His argument that heretics should be burned was later used to justify the burning of witches.

It should be stressed that Aquinas's credulity was characteristic of his time, and his theses concerning the Devil reflected the conclusions of theological dogmas of his day. Nevertheless, his discussions were used by later and lesser individuals to justify the witchcraft delusion.

The major works of Aquinas include the Summa Theologica and the Summa contra Gentiles. His great intellectual and theological achievements have somewhat overshadowed the mystical side of his character, and it should be remembered that he ended his life as a contemplative mystic.

He died March 7, 1274, in Fossanova, Italy.

Sources:

St. Thomas Aquinas and His Legacy. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1994.

Stockhammer, Thomas. Thomas Aquinas Dictionary. New York: Philosophical Library, 1965.

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Aquinas, Thomas, St

Aquinas, Thomas, St (c.1225–74). Dominican philosopher and theologian, recognized as one of the greatest thinkers of the Catholic Church. He was canonized in 1323 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1567. Feast day, 28 Jan. Aquinas's major works include commentaries on Aristotle and the Bible, general treatises (Summae) on Christian doctrine, and discussions of particular topics such as Truth and Evil. Central to his outlook is the notion of God as Creator ex nihilo (out of nothing). On Aquinas's account, God is the cause of there being anything apart from himself. In the light of this view, Aquinas further argued that God is not one of a class of spiritual beings; he is sui generis, not an individual, omniscient, omnipotent, changeless (meaning ‘timeless’), perfect, incomprehensible, and the cause of all that comes to pass, including the choices of his creatures. Aquinas rejected determinism and believed in free will, but he also insisted that the free actions of creatures are directly caused by God as Creator of everything.

In the areas of ethics and psychology Aquinas resembles Aristotle. He rejected a sharp mind-body dualism, and he held that criteria of human goodness are discovered by a study of human nature which is essentially bodily and social. But according to Aquinas, human beings can be transformed by grace to a level not anticipated by philosophy. He also held that by faith one can have access to truths about God not themselves demonstrable philosophically. These truths include doctrines like the Trinity and the Incarnation, which Aquinas believed to be revealed by God. See also THOMISM; QUINQUE VIAE.

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Aquinas, Saint Thomas

Aquinas, Saint Thomas (1225–74) Italian theologian and philosopher, Doctor of the Church. St Thomas is the greatest figure of scholasticism. His Summa Theologiae (Theological Digest, 1267–73) was declared (1879) by Pope Leo XIII to be the basis of official Catholic philosophy. Thomas joined the Dominican Order in 1244, and studied under the Aristotelian philosopher Albertus Magnus. In 1252 he became a professor of theology in Paris, and rapidly distinguished himself as a major authority on Aristotle. Aquinas disagreed with the Averroist and Augustinian schools by arguing that faith and reason are two complementary realms; both are gifts of God, but reason is autonomous. His four hymns for the feast of Corpus Christi are among the greatest devotional pieces. Thomas was canonized in 1323. Thomist metaphysics, a moderate form of realism, was the dominant world view until the mid-17th century. Other writings include Commentary in the Sentences (1254–56), and Summa Contra Gentiles (Against the Errors of the Infidels, 1259–64). His feast day is March 7.

http://www.newadvent.org/summa

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Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas (Dominican philosopher and theologian): see AQUINAS.

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Aquinas, Saint Thomas

Saint Thomas Aquinas: see Thomas Aquinas, Saint.

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Aquinas, Thomas

Aquinas, Thomas

See Thomas Aquinas

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Thomas Aquinas, Saint

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