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As a theological and philosophical movement from the 13th century to the 20th, Thomism may be defined as a systematic attempt to understand and develop the basic principles and conclusions of St. thomas aquinas in order to relate them to the problems and needs of each generation. As a doctrinal synthesis of characteristic tenets of philosophy and theology, it is more difficult to define because of the variety of interpretations, applications, and concerns of different generations and individual Thomists. The Aristotelian-Christian synthesis of St. Thomas originated in opposition to 13th-century Augustinianism and Latin averroism. Thomism likewise developed, floundered, and revived in the midst of opposing currents of thought. Thus Thomists, in developing and defending the basic insights of their master, could not help but be affected by problems and polemics of their day. Consequently the term "Thomism" applies to a wide variety of interpretations of St. Thomas by those who have professed loyalty to his thought and spirit.

Notion. Since the 13th century Thomism has come to represent one of the most significant movements in Western thought, particularly in the Catholic Church. Revived in the 16th century, it was espoused by leading theologians and philosophers of various religious orders in defense of Catholic teaching. Its revival in the 19th century as Neothomism, sometimes identified with neoscholasticism, was enthusiastically encouraged by Pope leo xiii and his successors as offering the soundest means of combating modern errors and solving modern problems, particularly in the social order. Far from advocating a safe, closed system, the pontiffs have encouraged rigorous philosophical analysis and the confronting of contemporary problems with the wisdom of St. Thomas.

In a wide sense Thomism is the philosophy or theology professed by anyone who claims to follow the spirit, basic insights, and often the letter of St. Thomas. In this sense, medieval Augustinianism, scotism, protestantism, nominalism, idealism, and materialism are not Thomistic, whereas suarezianism is. In the strict sense Thomism is a philosophy and theology that, eschewing eclecticism, embraces all the sound principles and conclusions of St. Thomas and is consistent with the main tradition of Thomistic thinkers. In this sense Suarezianism, molinism, casuistry, and other forms of eclecticism are not Thomistic. Because of professed eclecticism, Francisco Suárez, Luis Molina, Gabriel Vázquez, and others are not considered Thomists in the strict sense. On the other hand, Tommaso de Vio Cajetan, Domingo Báñez, Jacques Maritain, and others are considered Thomists despite divergent interpretations of particular points and occasional defense of views rejected by the Thomistic tradition. Clearly Thomism is an analogical term embracing various interpretations and developments more or less faithful to the mind and spirit of St. Thomas.

Basic Doctrines. The basic doctrines of Thomism can best be appreciated in the historical context of concrete concerns of an age or polemic. Both in philosophy and in theology, however, certain principles are commonly recognized as characteristic. These characteristics are discussed briefly before the historical development of Thomism is examined.

St. Thomas clearly distinguished between the realm of nature and the realm of supernature: the first is the domain of reason and philosophy, the second is that of faith and theology. Although Thomas Aquinas wrote strictly philosophical works, such as commentaries on Aristotle and short treatises, his most original contributions were made in the course of theological speculation wherein a personalized Aristotelian philosophy served as the handmaid to his theology. Thomists, recognizing the importance of philosophy, consider certain principles of Thomistic philosophy as indispensable for Thomistic theology.

Thomistic Philosophy. In the Thomistic order of teaching the first science to be studied after the liberal arts is natural philosophy, then moral philosophy, and finally metaphysics. No attempt is made here to indicate all the basic principles of these sciences, but the more important are noted briefly.

  1. All physical bodies are composed of a purely passive principle called primary matter and an active principle of nature called substantial form in such a way that the first actualization of pure potentiality is the unique substantial form and nature of a body (see forms, unicity and plurality of; matter and form).
  2. Each physical body is rendered numerically unique solely by determined matter (materia signata ), and not by form, haecceitas, or any collection of accidents (see individuation).
  3. Since primary matter is the principle of individuation, of quantity, and of corruptibility, there can be no "spiritual matter" in separated substances and no multiplication of individuals within their species. In Thomistic doctrine each separated substance, or angel, is unique in its species, necessarily existent by nature, but contingent by creation and preservation.
  4. In all created substances there is a real distinction between activities, powers or faculties, and essential nature; this is also true of faculties of the soul, both sentient and intellective (see accident; distinction, kinds of; substance).
  5. The unique substantial form of man is his rational soul, which has three spiritual powers, a thinking intellect, an agent intellect, and a will that freely determines itself. The activities of these faculties and powers of the soul demonstrate the spirituality and immortality of the soul (see soul, human; immortality).
  6. By nature man has the right to cooperate with other men in society in the pursuit of personal happiness in the common good; this pursuit of happiness is guided by conscience, laws both natural and positive, and virtues both private and public (see ethics).
  7. Rejecting both idealism and positivism, a realist metaphysics recognizes universal ideas as existing only in the mind of creatures and God; individuals possessing similar characteristics in nature, however, proffer a legitimate foundation for universal knowledge (see universals). This epistemological position presupposes the psychological principle that nothing exists in the intellect that was not first in sense knowledge (see epistemology; knowledge).
  8. From the visible things of the universe the human mind can know the existence of God as the first efficient, supreme exemplar, and ultimate final cause of all creation (see god in philosophy, 2; god, proofs for the existence of).
  9. God has no nature other than the subsistent fullness of pure actual being (esse ), having no potentiality or limitation of any kind. Every creature, on the other hand, is characterized by a disturbing distinction between his inner nature and his actuality of borrowed existence (esse ). (see essence and existence; potency and act.)
  10. The metaphysical concept of being (ens ) is analogically, and not univocally, said of God, substances, and accidents, such that each is recognized to be radically (simpliciter ) different, and only relatively similar in some respect (see analogy).

Thomistic Theology. While recognizing the unique position of the Bible in Christian theology, Thomistic theology, like other scholastic theologies, is an attempt to systematize revealed truths in a human manner so as to make revelation better appreciated by the orderly, logical, scientific mind. In matters of divine faith there is no difference between Thomistic theology and any other Catholic theology, but in the matter of undefined dogmatics there are certain conspicuous characteristics of Thomism that may be briefly listed.

  1. Beyond the order of nature there is a higher, supernatural order of reality, including truths of revelation, grace, merit, predestination, and glory, that man could never know unless God revealed its existence (see revelation, theology of; super-natural).
  2. This supernatural order of divine reality is not simply modally (i.e., quoad modum ) beyond the powers of nature, but substantially (i.e., quoad substantiam ) in such a way that pure nature can neither strive toward nor attain it (see grace and nature).
  3. Notwithstanding the essential transcendence of faith and grace, there is a harmony between faith and reason and between grace and nature, for there is only one author of both. Thus there can be no contradiction between faith and reason, and grace perfects nature (see faith and reason).
  4. Although reason can, objectively speaking, demonstrate the existence of God, providence, the immortality of the human soul, and other praeambula fidei, it can in no way demonstrate the saving truths of revelation, such as the incarnation, predesti-nation, life everlasting, and the Trinity. On the other hand, reason can in no way disprove them (see apologetics).
  5. Man is not only a true secondary cause, but he is a free agent. Nevertheless whatever good man accomplishes is due to the grace of God, while whatever sin man commits is due to himself. God's universal causality in no way deprives man of his freedom, for God moves all things according to their natures, and man's nature is to act freely (see premotion, physical).
  6. Predestination of certain persons to grace and glory is a free gift of God's mercy. Divine foreknowledge of the predestined is not through scientia media or through a foreknowledge of how man will react to grace, but simply through God's free choice (see predeterm1nation).
  7. The primary motive of the Incarnation of the Word is the Redemption of fallen mankind so that if Adam had not sinned, God would not have become man. (see redemption [theology of].)
  8. The sacraments as an encounter with the Passion and death of Christ are not only symbols of faith, but also instrumental causes of grace in the soul and in the Church. Since Christ is the true minister of all Sacraments, they effect what they signify ex opere operato (see instrumental causality).
  9. The Church as the Mystical Body of Christ is the sole custodian of faith and the Sacraments. Sent to preach the Word to the world, the true Church of Christ must preserve unblemished the purity of divine revelation and the integrity of the Sacraments. This guardianship is in no way contrary to the development of doctrine under the Holy Spirit (see doctrine, development of).
  10. Eternal life consists essentially in seeing God face to face, from which vision flows the fullness of happiness. Thus the essence of beatitude consists in the intellectual vision. In order to receive this beatific vision, however, the created intellect must be elevated by the light of glory (lumen gloriae ).

One characteristic of Dominican Thomism, long since abandoned, was its opposition to the doctrine of the immaculate conception. Bound by an oath of loyalty to the basic teachings of St. Thomas, the majority of Dominican theologians and preachers believed that St. Thomas had denied the doctrine defended by John dunsscotus and popularized by the laity. Whatever may have been the true mind of St. Thomas, faced as he was with the special circumstances of the 13th century, it is historically certain that Dominican opposition in later centuries was unfortunate and unfaithful to his spirit. The doctrine that developed in later centuries was more orthodox than that opposed by St. bernard of clairvaux, St. albert the great, St. bonaventure, and St. Thomas himself.

Since the many variations of philosophy and theology that may be labeled Thomistic can be understood only in their historical context, most of the remainder of this article is devoted to a general historical survey of Thomism from the death of St. Thomas to the end of the 18th century. The renewal of Thomism in the 19th and 20th centuries is treated mainly elsewhere (see neoscholasticism and neothomism).

General Survey

Apart from the Thomistic revival in the 19th century, the two major phases of Thomism may be designated as "early Thomism," which extends from the death of St. Thomas to the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, and "second Thomism," which extends from the Reformation to the 19th-century renewal.

Early Thomism. The death of St. Thomas on March 7, 1274, was deeply mourned by the city of Naples, the vicinity of Fossanova, the Roman province of the Dominican order, and the schools of Paris. Miracles connected with his death and burial initiated a cult centered largely in Naples. Lamentations, panegyrics, and letters extolling his learning and sanctity expressed profound grief at his passing (Birkenmajer, 135). Shocked by news of his death, the faculty of arts at Paris (including siger of brabant and peter of auvergne) addressed a moving letter on May 3 to the general chapter of the order meeting in Lyons. They requested that the body of so great a master be given permanent resting place in the city that "nourished, fostered, and educated" him; they further requested that certain philosophical writings begun but not completed at Paris and other works promised by Thomas be sent without delay (ibid. 4).

St. Thomas, however, left no immediate disciples worthy of his genius. His first successor at Paris, hannib aldus de hannibaldis, followed Thomas faithfully in his commentary on the Sentences (125860), but he was created cardinal in 1262 and died in 1272. Thomas's second successor was romano of rome (d. 1273), who was more Augustinian than Aristotelian or Thomistic (Grabmann, Geschichte, 61). reginald of piperno, Thomas's constant companion and confessor, for whom he wrote a number of less profound treatises, gave posterity no indication of his grasp of Thomas's teaching. Peter of Auvergne and other masters in the faculty of arts who eagerly read Thomas's philosophical commentaries could not have attended lectures in the theological faculty, where he was teaching. Even the earliest Thomists who may have known him personally, such as william of macclesfield, giles of lessines, bernard of trille, and Rambert dei Primadizzi, were never enrolled under Thomas as their master. Consequently there was little, if any, academic continuity between Thomas and those who later defended his teaching.

The "innovations" of Thomas Aquinas were strongly opposed during his lifetime, particularly by Franciscans, secular masters in theology, and Dominicans trained in the older Augustinian tradition. This tradition, influenced by the Fons vitae of Avicebron, claimed: (1) the identification of matter with potentiality and form with actuality, thus positing a forma universalis and a materia universalis in all creatures; (2) a certain actuality, however slight, in primary matter; and (3) that substantial form confers only one determinate perfection. From this followed the famosissimum binarium Augustinianum, namely, the hylomorphic composition of all created being, both spiritual and corporeal, and the plurality of substantial forms in one and the same individual. Thomas, on the other hand, maintained: (1) that matter and form are principles only of corporeal substances; (2) that primary matter is a purely passive, potential principle, having no actuality whatever; and (3) that in a single composite there can be only one substantial form conferring all perfections proper to it. Since these "innovations" were inspired by the "new Aristotelian learning" and supported by the growing menace of Latin Averroism, it was natural for the old school to associate Thomas with Averroists in the faculty of arts, even though he had explicitly attacked the fundamental errors of Latin Aver-roism.

More than any other Thomistic innovation, denial of universal hylomorphism and of plurality of forms aroused strongest opposition from the old school. For john peckham, Franciscan regent master from 1269 to 1271, both denials led to heresy. Denial of universal hylomorphism apparently eliminated the distinction between God and creatures; denial of plurality led to denial of the numerical identity of Christ's body on the cross and in the tomb. In a famous disputation with Thomas in 1270 over plurality of forms, Peckham was apparently unable to convince the masters of Paris, and possibly Bp. Étienne tempier, of the heretical implications of Thomas's view. Nevertheless Peckham persisted in his conviction.

Condemnation of Thomistic Teachings. At the height of the first Averroist controversy in 1270, Thomas's systematic use of Aristotle could not be ignored; it was not ignored by the Franciscans, particularly not by Bonaventure. After Thomas's death Averroists disregarded the condemnation of 1270 and even the prohibition of 1272 against discussing theological matters in the faculty of arts. By 1276 Albert the Great was apprised of the growing tendency to associate Averroism with all who used Aristotle in theology. To avert rash condemnation of his own efforts and those of Thomas, Albert journeyed from Cologne to Paris in the winter of 127677. This arduous journey was of no avail. Word had reached Rome of dissensions in Paris, and john xxi ordered Bishop Tempier to conduct an investigation. On March 7, 1277, acting on his own authority, Tempier proscribed 219 propositions, excommunicating all who dared to teach any of them (Chartularium universitatis Parisiensis, ed. H. Denifle and E. Chatelain, 4 v. [Paris 188997] 1:543555). Although no person was mentioned in the decree, it was clear to all that the condemnation was directed principally against Siger of Brabant, boethius of sweden, and Thomas Aquinas. Of the 16 propositions generally considered to be Thomistic, the only serious issue, mentioned four times, is the denial of universal hylomorphism and its ramifications. The Paris condemnation made no mention of the unicity of substantial form. Because of this deliberate omission, robert kilward by, Dominican archbishop of Canterbury, issued a condemnation of 30 theses on March 18, 1277, in a special convocation of masters in Oxford (ibid. 1:558559). Of the 16 propositions in natural philosophy, five bear directly on the unicity of substantial form and six logically presuppose or follow from it. Whoever deliberately defended the propositions condemned was to lose his position in the university.

Reaction to the Condemnation. On April 28 John XXI endorsed the decree of Tempier and implemented its measures. Kilwardby's action, however, was quickly resented by the Dominican order. On receiving news of this action Peter of Conflans, Dominican archbishop of Corinth, disapproved strongly, protesting the inclusion of theses that were not heretical. In reply Kilwardby insisted that he wanted only to prevent the theses from being taught in the schools "because some are manifestly false, others deviate philosophically from the truth, others are close to intolerable errors, and others are patently iniquitous, being repugnant to the Catholic faith" (ibid. 1:560). The last phrase clearly referred to the doctrine of unicity of substantial form. Kilwardby's arguments against the doctrine were answered in 1278 by Giles of Lessines in his De unitate formae. On April 4, 1278, nicholas iii created Kilwardby cardinal bishop of Porto with residence in Rome.

The Dominican general chapter meeting in Milan on June 5, 1278, appointed two visitators, Raymond of Meuillon and John Vigoroux, to investigate and to take action against the English Dominicans "who have brought scandal to the Order by disparaging the writings of the venerated Friar Thomas Aquinas" (Monumenta Ordinis Fratrum Praedicatorum historica, ed. B. M. Reichert [Rome-Stuttgart-Paris 1896 ] 3:199). With the appointment of John Peckham to the See of Canterbury on Jan. 28, 1279, the doctrinal estrangement of the two orders became inevitable. On May 21 of that year the Dominican general chapter meeting in Paris strictly forbade all irreverent or unbecoming talk against Thomas or his writings, no matter what the personal opinion of individuals might be. Thus reverence for the person and writings of Thomas Aquinas was imposed on the whole Dominican order.

Franciscan Opposition. As early as 1272 Franciscans, emphasizing the Augustinian orthodoxy of Bonaventure, compiled lists of doctrines "in which Bonaventure and Thomas disagree." Toward the end of 1279, william de la mare, successor to Peckham in the is, completed a Correctorium fratris Thomae in which 117 passages of Thomas Aquinas were "corrected" according to Scripture, Augustine, and Bonaventure. This work was officially adopted by the general chapter of the Franciscans held at Strassburg on May 17, 1282, when it forbade diffusion of the Summa theologiae of Thomas except among notably intelligent lectors, and then only with the corrections of William in a separate volume reserved for private circulation (Archivum Franciscanum historicum 26:139).

Two years after the Franciscan capitular decision at Strassburg, Archbishop Peckham renewed Kilwardby's prohibition at Oxford on Oct. 29, 1284. In a letter to the masters of Oxford, November 10, he insisted that it was not Thomas who had originated the dangerous doctrine of unicity but the Averroists. In private letters to the chancellor of Oxford, Dec. 7, 1284, and to the bishop of Lincoln, June 1, 1285, Peckham reiterated his personal objections to the unicity of form in man.

In the schools of Paris and Oxford Thomist doctrines, particularly of unicity and individuation, were attacked as heretical and "condemned" by the Franciscans roger marston, richard of middleton, peter john olivi, matthew of aquasparta, and walter of bruges. It was against this background that the early Thomist school developed.

Dominican Legislation. From 1286 until the canonization of St. Thomas (1323), the Dominican order did everything possible to promote the study and defense of Thomistic teaching among its members. The Paris chapter of June 11, 1286, strictly commanded every friar to study, promote, and defend the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas; those who acted contrary were to be deprived of whatever office they held and penalized. The chapter of Saragossa, May 18, 1309, determined that all lectors were to teach from the works of Thomas and resolve questions according to his doctrine. Disregard of this legislation by durandus of saint-pourÇain and james of metz prompted the chapter of Metz, June 3, 1313, to forbid any friar openly to lecture, resolve questions, or answer objections contrary to what was commonly held as the opinion of the venerable doctor. The chapters of London (1314) and Bologna (1315) reiterated the regulation of Metz, adding that superiors should be particularly vigilant that nothing be taught or written contrary to the teaching of Aquinas. By such legislation the order established Thomism as its official teaching.

Early English School. One of the earliest defenders of Thomas in England, though more in an administrative than academic capacity, was william de hothum, who incepted at Paris in 1280 and was elected provincial of the English Dominicans in 1282. He is said to have written a treatise De unitate formarum, but he is best known for his defense of richard knapwell, who incepted at Oxford in 1284. By his own admission Knapwell became convinced of Thomistic doctrine only gradually. At the time of his inception, over which Hothum presided, Knapwell had become a convinced Thomist. He vigorously defended the doctrine of unicity of form in the schools of Oxford in opposition to Roger Marston, notwithstanding the prohibition of Peckham. Denounced to the archbishop for publicly determining a quaestio in favor of unicity, Knapwell was summoned to present himself in London on April 18, 1286. On the advice of Hothum he did not answer the summons, presumably on grounds of exemption from jurisdiction. Having written Correctorium corruptorii "Quare" (128283), he was convinced that there was nothing heretical in the teaching of Thomas Aquinas. On April 30, 1286, Peckham convoked a solemn assembly, condemned eight theses of Knapwell as heretical, and excommunicated him and all who aided or counseled him. Hothum, who was present, protested on grounds of privilege of exemption and lodged an appeal to the pope. Knapwell went to Rome personally to plead his case, but the Holy See happened to be vacant until the election of nicholas iv, a Franciscan. When the appeal was finally entertained in 1288, the Franciscan pope imposed perpetual silence on Knapwell, who is reported to have died in Bologna a broken man (see correctoria).

At Oxford the defense was continued by robert of orford, who wrote his Correctorium "Sciendum" before becoming a master about 1287. In his Quodlibeta (128993) he refuted the attacks of giles of rome and henry of ghent against the teaching of Thomas Aquinas. thomas of sutton wrote Contra pluralitatem formarum before becoming a Dominican in 1282. Being trained in philosophy outside the order, he maintained a predilection for the pure Aristotle and an independence of interpretation. Nevertheless a number of his writings were thought to be so Thomistic as to circulate as authentic works of Thomas Aquinas (Roensch, 4651). He even completed Thomas's unfinished commentary on the Perihermeneias and De generatione. As a Dominican master in theology (after 1293) he confronted the new attacks of Duns Scotus, robert cowton, and Henry of Ghent and took part in the controversy between Franciscans and Dominicans on whether evangelical poverty belongs to the essence of Christian perfection or is only a means to it. Many historians consider Sutton to have been the most eminent of early English Thomists, even though his later writings were restricted by the exigencies of controversy.

Sutton's contemporary was the eminent controversialist William of Macclesfield, who incepted under Sutton at Oxford c. 1299. Before 1284 he composed Correctorium corruptorii "Quaestione" against William de la Mare and a defense of the unicity of form. During his academic career he defended the teaching of Thomas Aquinas against Henry of Ghent and godfrey of fontaines.

Thomistic teachings were also defended by nicholas trevet in his Quodlibeta and Quaestiones disputatae as well as by thomas waleys. After 1320 the influence of william of ockham was strongly felt in England even among Dominicans, notably by robert holcot. A conspicuous exception was thomas of claxton, who in his commentary on the Sentences (c. 1400) strongly defended the real distinction of essence and existence (esse ) in creatures and the analogy of being.

Early French School. After Peter of Auvergne, Bernard of Trille, and Giles of Lessines, the most prominent and versatile French Thomist was john (quidort) of paris. He not only defended the teaching of Thomas in his Correctorium "Circa" (before 1284), two treatises on the unicity of form, and vigorous replies to Henry of Ghent, but he developed the Thomistic doctrine of separation of Church and State in his celebrated De potestate regia et papali (c. 1302). He fully appreciated the Thomistic doctrine of essence and existence, but he was less Thomistic in his views concerning the Eucharist; these were twice censured and twice defended without satisfactory results. A popular preacher called Predicator monoculus, he was well aware of contemporary trends and abuses of justice and warned of the proximity of anti-Christ.

Among the more vigorous opponents of Henry of Ghent and Godfrey of Fontaines was the Dominican bernard of auvergne, who acutely understood and ardently defended Thomas, his "master."

The most prolific French Dominican was harvey nedellec, a polemicist who later became master general. Having studied Aristotle outside the order, he never appreciated the Thomistic distinction between essence and esse in creatures. As a theologian he wrote a valuable Defensio doctrinae fr. Thomae (130312) and remained a polemicist throughout his life, attacking the doctrines of Henry of Ghent, peter aureoli, and his own confreres James of Metz and Durandus of Saint-Pourçain for departing from the teaching of Thomas Aquinas. Apart from his Aristotelian rejection of the real distinction of essence and esse, he had a profound and subtle understanding of Thomas. He lived to see the canonization of St. Thomas, which he helped to bring about. He was known by the scholastic title of Doctor rarus.

One of the best representatives of the French Thomistic school was william of peter of godin, whose Lectura Thomasina (129298), a commentary on the Sentences, manifested a calm and profound understanding of all traditional Thomistic doctrines (Grabmann, Mittelalt. Geist. 2:572575). The principal controversy in his career involved the Franciscan view of the absolute poverty of Christ. A younger contemporary, Armand de Belvézer, wrote an influential commentary on Thomas's De ente et essentia (132628) and firmly opposed the view of john xxii concerning the beatific vision, as had all Thomists. peter of la palu was an enthusiastic promoter of Thomas whose knowledge of Thomism left something to be desired. A nobleman by birth, Peter was deeply involved in legal and moral questions of the day, notably papal and regal power, privileges of mendicants, Franciscan poverty, and the trial of Peter John Olivi.

Carmelites. Early Carmelite theologians, though favorably disposed to defend Thomas, were more eclectic than Dominicans and some seculars. The Quodlibeta and Summa of Gerard of Bologna (d. 1317) manifest the influence of Thomas, Henry of Ghent, and Godfrey of Fontaines. The most outstanding early Carmelite master at Paris was Guy Terrena of Perpignan (d. 1342), who was more influenced by Godfrey than by Thomas. More Thomistic, but still eclectic, was john baconthorp, lecturer at Oxford and Cambridge.

Early German School. German Dominicans of the 13th century were strongly influenced by St. Albert the Great. Albert's disciples preferred to develop the mystical and Neoplatonic elements of his thought. According to Grabmann the earliest representatives of Thomism in Germany were john of sterngassen, Gerard of Sterngasse, and nicholas of strassburg, all of whom depend heavily on Thomas for their commentaries on the Sentences and for their Quaestiones disputatae (Grabmann, ibid. 1:393404). john of lichtenberg, master in theology at Paris, 131112, borrowed many passages from the Summa theologiae for his commentary on the Sentences. Henry of Lübeck (d. 1336), writing after the canonization of St. Thomas, was less hesitant to cite "venerabilis doctor beatus Thomas de Aquino, qui omnibus allis cautius et melius scripsit." Even at Paris Henry openly taught the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas on the principle of individuation, the real distinction, and the interpretation of Augustine "secundum doctorem Thomam" (Grabmann, ibid. 1:421424).

Early Italian School. After Hannibaldus de Hannibaldis, the most faithful defender of Thomas was Rambert dei Primadizzi of Bologna (c. 12501308), possibly a disciple, who replied to the Correctorium in his Apologeticum veritatis of 128687. The foremost promoter of the cause in Italy was the octogenarian bartholomew of lucca, who studied under Thomas in Rome, accompanied him to Naples in 1272, and there received word of his death. Initiative for the canonization of Thomas came with the establishment of a separate province for Naples and Sicily in 1294. Bartholomew supplied much biographical information to William of Tocco (c. 12501323), promoter of the cause, and to bernard gui, procurator general, when the cause was first introduced at Avignon in 1318. Bartholomew was a historian and a political theorist rather than a speculative theologian; he played no small role, however, in vindicating Thomas. In 1316 the Dominican john of naples defended the thesis in Paris that the doctrine of Friar Thomas "could be taught at Paris with respect to all its conclusions" (Xenia Thomistica 3:23104). remigio de' girolami is considered by Grabmann to have been a disciple of Thomas and the teacher of dante alighieri, at least by way of public lectures in Florence. The theology of the Divina Commedia is mainly Thomistic, although the cosmology is more Albertinian and Neoplatonic.

The practical theology of Thomas Aquinas was disseminated in Italy through the De officio sacerdotis of Albert of Brescia (d. 1314), the Compendium philosophiae moralis of bartholomew of san concordio, and the alphabetical handbook Pantheologia of Raynerius of Pisa (d. 1351). Italians, having no sympathy for the condemnations of 1277, did everything possible to popularize St. Thomas and his teaching.

Canonization and Vindication. Thomas Aquinas was canonized with exceptional solemnity by John XXII at Avignon on July 18, 1323. In a general congregation of all Parisian masters specially convoked on Feb. 14, 1325, Stephen Bourret, bishop of Paris, formally revoked his predecessor's condemnation so far as it "touched or seemed to touch the teaching of blessed Thomas" (Chartularium universitatis Parisiensis, 2:280). With this vindication of St. Thomas, his followers turned to the diffusion of his doctrine in opposition to other schools, particularly Scotism and nominalism. About 1330 a certain Durandellus, probably a disciple of John of Naples, composed an Evidentia Durandelli contra Durandum. Later durandus of aurillac forcefully promulgated the teachings of Thomas Aquinas. This diffusion, however, was temporarily halted by the black plague, the Western Schism (13781417), and the general decline of learning and religious life in the second half of the 14th century.

Diffusion of Thomism. The establishment of new universities in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Bohemia, Vienna, Cracow, and Louvain, the religious reform of the Dominican order under Bl. raymond of capua (c. 133099), and the multiplication of manuscripts of St. Thomas contributed to the diffusion of Thomism. In the 14th century the Summa theologiae was translated into Armenian, Greek, and Middle High German. By the 15th century Thomism occupied a respected place in theological thought. St. antoninus of Florence, self-taught in Thomistic theology, faced new moral problems in his Summa theologiae moralis. The Dominican general chapter of 1405 renewed norms for teaching in the order. At the Council of Constance (141418) the Dominican general, Leonardo Dati (d. 1425), developed and defended the supremacy of pope over council. Opposition to John wyclif and John hus, occasioning the Council of basel (143138), stimulated John Nider (c. 13801438), John Stojkovic of Ragusa (c. 13901442), and John Torquemada (13881468) to develop a notable ecclesiology that helped to overcome the conciliarist movement. At the University of Cologne secular masters, such as henry of gorkum and the Belgian John Tinctor (fl. 143469), began lecturing on the Summa of St. Thomas. Henry of Gorkum wrote an introduction to the Summa (Quaestiones in partes S. Thomae ) and a number of original Thomistic treatises, De praedestinatione, De iusto bello, etc.

The most remarkable of early 15th-century Thomists was John Capreolus, who incorporated a profound knowledge of St. Thomas into his Defensiones theologiae Divi Thomae, a commentary on the Sentences, in which he ably refuted the doctrines of Duns Scotus, Durandus of Saint-Pourçain, gregory of rimini, and Peter Aureoli. The brilliance of this work merited for him the title of Princeps Thomistarum.

During the second half of the 15th century many Dominican and secular professors in German universities lectured on the Summa of St. Thomas, e.g., Kaspar Grunwald in Freiburg, Cornelius Sneek and John Stoppe in Rostock, and Leonard of Brixental (d. 1478) in Vienna. At Cologne the most outstanding defenders of Thomism against Albertists were Gerard of Heerenberg (de Monte, d. 1480), Lambert of Heerenberg (de Monte, d. 1499), and John Versor (fl.147585). One of the most noteworthy Dominican lecturers on the Summa at Cologne in this period was Gerhard of Elten (fl. 147584). Toward the end of the 15th century the Hungarian Dominican Nicholas de Mirabilibus wrote the treatise De praedestinatione, which presented the traditional teaching of the Thomistic school.

In this period a remarkable commentary on the Summa was written by a prolific Belgian of Roermond, denis the carthusian, known as Doctor exstaticus; he manifested a profound grasp of Thomistic, patristic, and biblical teaching.

The invention of printing helped to spread not only the text of St. Thomas's major works, but also numerous Thomistic commentaries, expositions, manuals, and defenses. In Italy significant contributions were made by peter of bergamo, regent at Bologna, whose Tabula aurea (1473) is the only complete index to the works of St. Thomas; he also wrote one of the last concordances of Thomistic doctrine (Concordantia conclusionum ). Among his disciples were dominic of flanders, whose Summa divinae philosophiae was the best-known commentary prior to that of Conrad Köllin; Tommaso de Vio Cajetan; and Girolamo savonarola, whose Triumphus crucis was an adaptation of the Summa contra gentiles and an early Thomist manual of apologetics.

peter nigri (schwarz), rector of the University of Budapest in 1481, wrote a large Clypeus Thomistarum, which is a strong defense rather than an exposition of Thomistic teaching, and numerous polemical works against the Jews.

Among notable editors of St. Thomas's works were Paul Soncinas (d. 1494), who also published a compendium of Capreolus, and the Venetian Antonio Pizzamano.

Despite the strength of the Thomistic school, it had to compete with Scotism and the growing popularity of nominalism. The Protestant reformation brought Thomism to an end in countries lost to Rome, but it gave impetus to "second Thomism" in countries that remained Catholic.

Second Thomism. With the Reformation Thomism received new vitality in Spain and Italy. Doctrinal problems raised by reformers forced theologians to reexamine basic questions in terms of Sacred Scripture, apostolic tradition, and systematic theology. The outstanding characteristic of this phase was the gradual replacement of the Sentences by the Summa theologiae of St. Thomas. Begun in Germany in the 15th century, it spread to Paris, then to Spain and Italy. The Council of trent (154563) not only introduced needed reforms, but it also reenforced the teaching of theology and philosophy in Catholic universities and seminaries. New religious orders founded during the counter reformation frequently claimed St. Thomas as their official teacher; and even older orders, reformed in the spirit of Trent, made serious efforts to teach Thomistic doctrine. Diocesan seminaries as well, fulfilling the spirit of Trent and of Roman pontiffs such as pius v, introduced manuals of philosophy and theology that were in some way "ad mentem S. Thomae Aquinatis." The outstanding characteristic of Thomism after the Council of Trent was the multiplication of manuals that claimed to be more or less Thomistic.

The initial harmony of reform and revival met serious obstacles both from within and from without (see scholasticism, 2). The first internal obstacle was the controversy between Dominicans and Jesuits concerning grace in the Congregatio de auxiliis (15981607). The deadlock that ensued produced centuries of mutual mistrust in philosophy and theology. The second internal obstacle was the rise of a new moral theology in the 17th century known as casuistry. This divided theologians into probabilists, probabiliorists, and Jansenists; it also diverted attention from fundamental principles to particular cases, quantitative distinctions, and legalism that led to an academic moral theology in following centuries. At the center of this development stood St. alphonsus liguori, whose Theologia moralis (175355) influenced all later moralists and disputants. The third internal obstacle for Thomism was the writing of textbooks in philosophy that would be relevant to modern philosophers and scientists. After Trent textbooks of Thomistic philosophy were written for seminaries; these were largely summaries of Aristotle or adaptations of the Summa theologiae. With the birth of modern science and philosophy in the 17th century one of two courses was generally followed: ignoring modern science or abandoning ancient philosophy. After I. Newton and C. wolff modern science and philosophy won the day in Catholic seminaries and universities. By the middle of the 18th century the Thomistic school was dead; the name of Thomas was rarely seen in seminary textbooks of philosophy, and even the name "Thomists" had to be defined as "those who follow blessed Thomas" (Phil. Lugdunensis: Metaph. [Lyons 1788] 308).

Before Trent. Prior to the reorganization of the University of Paris under Louis XI, an innovation was made by the Belgian Dominican Peter crockaert. Originally a secular professing ockhamism, Crockaert became a Dominican at Paris in 1503 and finally became a Thomist who was sympathetic to humanism. In 1509 he began lecturing on the Summa of St. Thomas instead of the Sentences of Peter Lombard. Among his illustrious disciples was Francisco de vitoria, with whom he edited the Summa theologiae 1a2ae. At Cologne Conrad kÖllin, the most prominent Thomist of his day and first opponent of Martin Luther's doctrine on marriage, followed the German practice of lecturing on the Summa and in 1512 published a substantial commentary on the 1a2ae in Cologne, the influence of which extended far beyond Germany.

In Italy Tommaso de Vio cajetan lectured on the Summa at the University of Pavia (149799) at the invitation of Duke Sforza. His published commentary, however, was written between 1507 and 1520, when he was general of the Dominican order and cardinal priest of St. Sixtus. This commentary not only revived Thomistic studies in Italy but influenced the interpretation of many Thomistic doctrines. In other writings Cajetan denied that reason could demonstrate the immortality of the human soul. Consequently many of his contemporaries and successors disagreed with his views, notably the Dominicans Ambrogio Catarino (14871553), Bartolomé Spina (c. 14801546), Giovanni Crisostomo javelli, Bartolomé de medina, Melchior cano, Domingo bÁÑez, and "many theologians" of the Sorbonne in 1533 and 1544. Cajetan's influence on Thomism increased when Pius V ordered the publication of his commentary with the complete works of Thomas Aquinas in 1570 and Leo XIII ordered it to be published in the critical edition of St. Thomas (v. 312; Rome 18881906). The Italian revival of Thomism was augmented by ferrariensis (Francesco Silvestri of Ferrara), also general of the Dominican order, who is best known for his commentary on the Summa contra gentiles, which is also included in the Leonine edition of St. Thomas (v. 1315; Rome 191830). A penetrating commentary on the Summa theologiae 1a was written by Javelli; into this he inserted a Quaestio de Dei praedestinatione et reprobatione, in which he departed from traditional Thomistic teaching in his efforts to pacify Luther. Moreover, Javelli wrote one of the first manuals of philosophy "ad mentem S. Thomae" in three volumes, later entitled Totius rationalis, divinae ac moralis philosophiae compendium; this was printed many times in Venice and Lyons between 1536 and 1580.

Spain was the principal center of second Thomism. Having taught at Paris, Francisco de Vitoria returned to Spain, bringing with him Peter Crockaert's method of lecturing on the Summa theologiae. As professor in the principal chair of theology at Salamanca, succeeding the Thomist Diego de Deza (c. 14431523), he exerted considerable influence directly on the University of Salamanca and indirectly on the Universities of Valladolid, Seville, Evora, Alcalá, and Coimbra. The precision, lucidity, and humanist flavor of his lectures can be seen in his published commentary on the Summa theologiae 2a2ae (7 v.; Salamanca 193252). From 1526 to 1541 Vitoria conducted a series of conferences (Relectiones theologicae 12) on problems of current interest dealing with ecclesiastical and civil power, relation of pope to council, conditions in the New World, causes of just war, and the divorce of henry viii (3 v.; Madrid 193335). Spanish universities henceforth had three distinct chairs of theology: Thomist, Scotist, and nominalist. Among outstanding disciples who continued Vitoria's work were Domingo de soto, Cano, Pedro de Sotomayor (d. 1564), and Martin de Ledesma (d.1574). Domingo de Soto, constantly concerned with current problems, wrote exhaustively on law in De jure et justitia and Pelagianism in De natura et gratia, and defended Bartolomé de las casas in the controversy with Juan Ginés de Sepulveda concerning American Indians. Cano, an aggressive opponent of the Jesuits, was the first to give serious consideration to the sources of theological speculation in his De locis theologicis. Medina, disciple of Cano and father of probabilism, wrote a lengthy commentary on the whole Summa, only part of which has been published.

The Thomistic revival extended beyond the Dominican order to seculars, Augustinians, reformed Carmelites, and jesuits, whose society was approved in 1540.

Early Jesuit Legislation. In the early constitutions composed between 1547 and 1550 St. ignatius of loyola wrote, "In theology the Old and New Testaments and the scholastic doctrine of St. Thomas are to be read, and in philosophy Aristotle" (Const. 4.14.1). His own training at Alcalá, Salamanca, and Paris brought him into close contact with St. Thomas and Dominicans. The section De sacrae theologiae studiis specified that the Summa of St. Thomas was to be covered by two professors in a period of eight years, two years being devoted to the 2a2ae. Early professors, such as Claude le jay and Francisco de toledo, a disciple of Domingo de Soto, were Thomists in philosophy and theology. Ignatius, however, expressed hope for a new work "more accommodated to our times"; Gerónimo nadal, a companion, claiming to find prolixity in St. Thomas, hoped that some day a new theology would be written that would conciliate Thomist, Scotist, and nominalist factions. These desires inspired later Jesuits to seek greater freedom to depart from the teaching of St. Thomas (Beltrán de Heredia, 392393). The Ratio Studiorum of 1586 under the fifth superior general, Claudius acquaviva, granted more liberty to depart from St. Thomas, particularly where he differed from current views, such as those respecting the Immaculate Conception and clandestine marriages. New legislation and problems of the Counter Reformation produced a radical departure in Concordia liberii arbitrii cum gratiae donis (Lisbon 1588) by Luis de molina. This departure was continued by Gabriel vÁzquez and by Francisco suÁrez, the most influential of all Jesuit writers. By a decree of 1593 Jesuits were ordered to return to the doctrine of St. Thomas; henceforth no one who was not truly zealous for the doctrine of St. Thomas was to teach theology (nullus ad docendum theologiam assumatur, qui non sit vere S. Thomae doctrinae studiosus ). A thoroughly Thomistic Summa philosophiae (5 v.; Ticino 161823) was compiled by the Italian Jesuit Cosmo alamanni. Belgian Jesuits, notably Robert bellarmine, applied Thomistic principles to problems of the day.

Trent and Thomism. The Council of Trent, convoked to define Catholic doctrine and to reform the Church, was guided inevitably by the mind and spirit of St. Thomas (Walz, 440). Contrary to legend, the Summa of St. Thomas was not enshrined on the altar with the Scriptures. Nevertheless, Tridentine decrees followed closely the wording and teaching of Thomas Aquinas, especially concerning justification, Sacraments in general, and the Eucharist in particular. Outstanding Thomist theologians at the council were Domingo de Soto, Cano, Bartolomé Spina, Ambrogio Catarino, Franscesco Romeo (d. 1552), Bartholomew of the Martyrs (151490), Pedro de soto, Francisco foreiro, Bartolomé de carranza, Giacomo nacchianti, Ambrose Perlargus, Jerome Oleaster, Thomas Stella, and Peter Bertano.

One far-reaching effect of the disciplinary decrees of Trent was the establishment of seminaries for better education of the clergy. After the first Catholic university was established in Dillingen (1549), others were established rapidly in Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, and the New World (Manila 1611). This created a demand for good teachers of philosophy and theology as well as for orthodox textbooks. In 1562 petition was made for a catechism that would give a clear explanation of Catholic doctrine. This work was entrusted to Cardinal Seripandus; three Dominicans, Leonardo Marini (150973), Egidio Foscarari (151264), and Foreiro; and Mutio Calini, bishop of Zara. After the death of Seripandus in 1563, direction was given to Cardinal Charles borromeo. This Catechismus Romanus was published by order of Pius V in 1566 and was the basis for all Catholic catechisms up to the 20th century.

In 1567 Pius V declared Thomas Aquinas a Doctor of the universal Church and ordered that his complete works be collected and published in Rome with the Tabula aurea of Peter of Bergamo (Rome 157071). This Piana, or first Roman edition of the Opera omnia, added greatly to the diffusion of Thomistic teaching.

Congregatio de Auxiliis. Molina's Concordia of 1588 was condemned by the Spanish Inquisition, banned in Spain, and vehemently attacked at Salamanca by Báñez and Pedro de ledesma. In 1594 the opposing positions concerning grace and free will were publicly debated in Valladolid by the Jesuit Antonio de Padilla and the Dominican Diego Nuño. Soon heated debates were held throughout Spain.

Two issues were prominent: efficacy of grace in the free will of man and God's foreknowledge of man's free actions. Molina, rejecting the teaching of St. Thomas, posited a middle knowledge (scientia media ) whereby God sees all possible reactions of individual men in various circumstances. Knowing how man will react, God gives grace accordingly. Insisting on man's free choice of grace, contrary to John calvin, Molina taught that God offers grace to all men. If man accepts grace, God concurs simultaneously (concursus simultaneous ) with man in meritorious actions. Báñez, and Dominicans generally, insisted on the primacy of God's universal causality and taught that free will cannot choose grace unless it is physically premoved by God to do so (praemotio physica ). God foreknows those who will be saved because He gives intrinsically efficacious grace to those whom He wills. To Dominicans the Jesuit position appeared to be Pelagian. To Jesuits the Dominican position appeared to be Calvinist.

Between 1594 and 1597, 12 reports were forwarded to Rome, where clement viii established a commission under the presidency of Cardinals Madrucci and Arrigone. On March 19, 1598, and again in November, the commission submitted its report condemning Molina's book. Fearing to make a hasty decision, Clement VIII requested the Dominican and Jesuit generals to appear with their theologians. On Feb. 22, 1599, began the long series of conferences called congregatio de auxiliis. From March 19, 1602, onward, the debates took place in the presence of the pope. Defenders of the Dominican position were Diego Álvarez and Tomás de lemos. The debates continued under paul v, who presided over the last session, in which ten cardinals voted for the condemnation of Molina and two voted against, namely, Bellarmine and Duperron. After 20 years of debate and 85 conferences before two popes no official verdict was given; but in a decree of Aug. 28, 1607, Paul V forbade each side from charging the other with heresy and from using inflammatory language. In 1611 the Holy Office required that all books concerning grace be examined in Rome before publication. In 1612 Aloysio Aliaga, confessor to the king of Spain, requested a decision on the controversy; but Paul V replied that "more circumspect deliberations are still needed." Numerous ponderous tomes were in fact published. The Belgian Dominican Jacques Hyacinthe Serry (16581738), disciple of Alexander Natalis, wrote a detailed account of the proceedings in his large Historia congregationum de auxiliis (Louvain 1700; definitive ed. Antwerp 1708) under the pseudonym A. Le Blanc. Serry continued the controversy in numerous writings, notably Schola Thomistica vindicata (Cologne 1706) against the Jesuit historian Gabriel Daniel.

17th-Century Commentaries and Textbooks. The tragic case of Galileo galilei and the new philosophy of René descartes isolated rather than challenged Thomist thinkers. Theologians, divorced from scientific movements of the day, produced extensive commentaries and summaries of St. Thomas, often repeating their predecessors. Philosophers, clinging to the orderly universe of Aristotle, used Thomistic theology to explain Aristotelian philosophy in isolation from contemporary issues. The Jesuits of Coimbra, known as Coimbricenses, composed a college text of Aristotelian philosophy (15921606). The reformed Carmelites of Alcalá, known as complutenses, cooperated in a Cursus artium (7 v.; 162428) that was used at Salamanca since 1627 and in many seminaries. The Carmelites of Salamanca, known as salmanticenses, began to write a cooperative commentary on the Summa in 1631 that was not completed until 1704, Cursus theologiae (20 v.; Paris 187083), and a Cursus theologiae moralis in seven volumes between 1665 and 1709.

The most outstanding Thomist of the early 17th century was john of st. thomas, who wrote a Cursus philosophicus thomisticus that expounded Aristotelian logic and natural philosophy; ethics and metaphysics were studied in theology. He also compiled an extensive commentary on the Summa called the Cursus theologicus. A contemporary of Cornelius Otto jansen, he was the last of the great line of Iberian commentators in second Thomism. Among his better-known contemporaries were Jerome de Medices (d. 1622), John Paul Nazarius (d. 1646), Francisco de Araujo (d. 1664), Mark Serra (15811645), John Ildephonse Baptista (d. c. 1648), Antonio de Sotomayor (c. 15581648), and a Belgian secular, Francis sylvius. In this period mystical theology was developed by Tomás de vallgornera in his Mystica theologia Divi Thomae (1662).

Probabilist Controversy. probabilism is the theory of moralists who admit as a legitimate rule of conduct an opinion that is only probable even when there is current an opinion that is recognized as more probable. It entered the Thomistic school in 1577 with the publication of Medina's commentary on the Summa theologiae 1a2ae. While admitting the strength of the traditional Thomist view that the safer opinion ought always to be followed, he declared that it is morally licit to follow any probable opinion even though the opposite is more probable (in Summa theologiae 1a2ae, 19.56). All Spanish and Portuguese Dominicans after Medina taught probabilism until 1656, when it was explicitly forbidden by the general chapter of Rome. The last Dominican probabilist was Pedro de Tapia (15821657).

Probabilism entered Jesuit theology with Gabriel Vázquez, who explicitly quoted Medina. Thereafter Jesuit theologians defended probabilism in the battle against Jansenist rigorism. The laxist view of probabilism quickly degenerated into casuistry, notably in the writings of the Jesuits Tomas sÁnchez, Antonio de Escobar y Mendoza, Juan caramuel lobkowitz, and the Sicilian Theatine Antonino diana. Jansenist opposition to probabilism and casuistry, which lasted for more than two centuries, was renewed by Pasquier Quesnel. Probabilism, first condemned by innocent xi in 1665, was frequently condemned by the Holy See and by later Thomists. St. Alphonsus Liguori, who considered himself a disciple of St. Thomas, reached a compromise in his Theologia moralis (175355) that allowed licit choice of contradictory moral opinions only when they are equally probable (equiprobabilism). A detailed history of probabilism and rigorism was written by the Italian Dominican Daniel concina.

Decline of Second Thomism. Even before the French Revolution and the Napoleonic occupation brought "second Thomism" to an end, there was little vitality among philosophers and theologians. In Spain the Thomist school was represented mainly by Discalced Carmelites and the Dominican cardinal Pedro de godoy. In France the tradition was carried on by Guillaume Vincent de contenson, Antonin Reginald, Jean Baptiste gonet, Antoine goudin, and Antonin massouliÉ. In Belgium the outstanding representative was Charles René billuart, whose principal work was a commentary on the Summa in 18 volumes. In Italy Thomism was best represented by the Jesuit philosopher Sylvester maurus and by the Dominican Vincenzo gotti (16441742), whose principal work was Theologia scholastico-dogmatica iuxta mentem D. Thomae (16 v.; Bologna 172735). In Germany the Benedictines of Salzburg fostered Thomistic studies, notably Ludwig Babenstuber (16601715), who wrote Philosophia thomistica (Salzburg 1706) and Cursus theologiae moralis (Augsburg 1718); Paul Mezger, who wrote Theologia thomistico-scholastica Salisburgensis (Augsburg 1695); Alfons Wenzel (16601743); Placidus Renz senior (d. 1730); and Placidus Renz junior (d. 1748). In Switzerland the Cistercians Raphael Köndig and Benedict Hüber published a Harmonia of theological philosophy and philosophical theology "consonant with the doctrine of St. Thomas and Thomists" (2 v.; Salem 1718).

By the second half of the 18th century the complete works of St. Thomas had been printed eight times, the last being the second Venice edition (174588), begun by Bernard M. de Rossi (16871775). By then there was little interest in reading the text of St. Thomas outside the Dominican Order.

(For the Thomistic revival in the 19th and 20th centuries, see scholasticism, 3.)

Bibliography: r. verardo, Enciclopedia filosofica, 4 v. (Venice-Rome 1957) 1:170913. Bulletin Thomiste (1924). r. garrigou-lagrange, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350) 15.1:8231023. h. hurter, Nomenclator literarius theologiae catholicae, 5 v. in 6 (3d ed. Innsbruck 190313) v. 24. j. quÉtif and j. Échard, Scriptores Ordinis Praedicatorum, 5 v. (Paris 171923); continued by r. coulon (Paris 1909); repr. 2 v. in 4 (New York 1959). p. wyser, Der Thomismus (Bibliog. Einführungen in das Studium der Philosophie 1516; Bern 1951). m. grabmann, Die Geschichte der katholischen Theologie seit dem Ausgang der Väterzeit (Freiburg 1933); Mittelalterliches Geistesleben, 3 v. (Munich 192556). a. m. walz, Compendium historiae ordinis praedicatorum (2d ed. Rome 1948). k. werner, Geschichte des Thomismus, v. 3 of Der hl. Thomas von Aquino (Regensburg 1859); Die Scholastik des spáter Mittelalters, 5 v. (Vienna 1881). f. j. roensch, Early Thomistic School (Dubuque 1964). m. burbach, "Early Dominican and Franciscan Legislation Regarding St. Thomas" Mediaeval Studies 4 (1942) 139158. v. beltrÁn de heredia, "La enseñanza de Santo Tomás en la Compañía de Jesús durante el primer siglo de su existencia," Ciencia tomista 11 (1915) 387408. c. giacon, La seconda scolastica, 3 v. (Milan 194450); Le grandi tesi del tomismo (2d ed. Milan 1948). a. birkenmajer, Vermischte Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der Mittelalterlichen Philosophie, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Philosophie und Theologie des Mittelalters (Münster 1891) 20.5 (1922). d. a. callus, The Condemnation of St. Thomas at Oxford (2d ed. Oxford 1955). s. szabÓ, ed., Xenia thomistica, 3 v. (Rome 1925). g. m. manser, Das Wesen des Thomismus (Thomistische Studien 5; 3d ed. Fribourg 1949). n. del prado, De veritate fundamentali philosophiae christianae (Fribourg 1911). a.g. sertillanges, Les Grandes thèses de la philosophie thomiste (Paris 1928), Eng. Foundations of Thomistic Philosophy, tr. g. anstruther (St. Louis 1931), É. h. gilson, The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, tr. l. k. shook (New York 1956); The Spirit of Thomism (New York 1964). b. davies, The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Oxford 1992). r. ingardia, Thomas Aquinas: International Bibliography, 19771990 (Bowling Green, Ohio 1993). t. f. o'meara, Thomas Aquinas Theologian (South Bend, Ind. 1997). j.-p. torrell, Initiation a saint Thomas d'Aquin, v. 1, Sa personne et son oeuvre (Fribourg 1993), v. 2, Saint Thomas d'Aquin, maître spirituel (Fribourg 1996). r. cessario, Les thomisme et les thomistes (Paris 1999). j. f. wippel, The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas: From Finite Being to Uncreated Being (Washington, D.C. 2000).

[j. a. weisheipl]


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The epithet "Thomist" has been applied since the fourteenth century to followers of St. Thomas Aquinas; the earlier "Thomatist," occasionally used, was dropped toward the end of the fifteenth century. The term has a different implication according to the three main historical periods that can be distinguished. First, until the beginning of the 1500s, during a period of vigorous Scholasticism and competition among several schools, Thomism stood in metaphysics for the doctrine of a composition of essence and existence in all created beings; and in noetics it opposed both nominalism and the Neoplatonic concept of illumination by the Ideas. Second, from the sixteenth until the eighteenth century Thomism flourished in the golden age of Spanish Scholasticism. (At this time Thomists unreservedly applied to theology the metaphysical concept of the premotion of all secondary causes by the first cause.) Third, beginning about the middle of the nineteenth century there was a revival of Thomism that was authoritatively endorsed by the Catholic Church. Since then it has been claimed for Thomism that it represents the philosophia perennis of the West; Thomists have engaged in many-sided dialogue with thinkers from other traditions and disciplines and have been constructive in applying Thomistic principles to modern social and political problems.

We shall take these periods in order, noting beforehand that a unified philosophy, inspired by the writings of Thomas, persists throughout. In the philosophy of Thomas phenomenology is not divided from ontology; the world is real and composed of many real and distinct things, all deriving from one fount and all related by the analogy of being. Man is a single substance composed of body and soul; his knowledge begins from experience of the material world, and his understanding is developed through reason; his free activity determines his personal and eternal destiny.

Thirteenth to Sixteenth Century

When Thomas died in 1274, much of his teaching was still regarded as startling. Despite the affection in which he had been held (this was greater in the faculties of arts than in those of divinity) and despite his writings against the Latin Averroists, there developed a bitter opposition expressed in criticism and censure. It came from the representatives of the traditional Augustinian theology and was reinforced by the Franciscan masters. Conservative, yet by no means obscurantist, they included Thomas in their suspicions of what can be simplified as the "this-worldliness" of the new Aristotelianism. Étienne Tempier, bishop of Paris, was commissioned by Pope John XXII (Peter of Spain, the famous logician, who was an able natural philosopher) to investigate the charges against the new philosophy; he exceeded his instructions and in 1277, in a scissors-and-paste syllabus, he condemned 219 propositions, about a dozen of which can be traced to Thomas. In the same year Robert Kilwardby, the ex-provincial of the English Dominicans and now the archbishop of Canterbury, forbade the teaching of Thomas at Oxford, and his successor, John Peckham, acridly continued the same policy; they led the group called the Cantuarienses. As is evidenced in William de La Mare's list of correctives (correctoria ) issued to be appended to Thomas's writings, many of the points at issue were highly technical, and some of them may now seem even trivial; the debate, much of which Thomas himself anticipated in his Quaestiones Quodlibetales, revolves round what to him were contrastsbut to his critics were conflictsbetween nature and grace, reason and faith, determinism and freedom, the existence of the universe from eternity and its beginning in time, the soul as biological form and as spirit, and the role of the senses and of divine enlightenment in the acquisition of knowledge.

Although the censures had no force outside Paris and Oxford and the criticisms were more moderate in substance than they were in tone (they judged Thomas to be dangerous rather than heretical), his fellow Dominicans were quick to rally to his defense, to get the condemnations reversed and to correct the corrections, which they called corruptions. Thomas's old master, Albert the Great, so much the leader of the new movement that it has been called Albertino-Thomism, interposed at Paris; Pierre of Conflans, archbishop of Corinth, and Giles of Lessines remonstrated with Kilwardby; and Richard Clapwell, prior of Blackfriars, Oxford, progressively adopted Thomas's positions and stoutly maintained them against Peckham. The school was strengthened by a brilliant group of English and French Dominicans, and it was adopted by the Dominican order at successive general chapters. It could always count on support from the Roman Curia, which was favorably inclined toward Greek philosophy. The Ecumenical Council of Vienne (13111312) endorsed man's psychophysical unity, and in 1323 John XXII canonized Thomas and solemnly commended his doctrine. Henceforth he was a received authority.

Among the Thomists of these first fifty years John of Paris and Thomas Sutton were outstanding; other noteworthy teachers were Raymond Martin, a contemporary of Thomas who worked on the frontiers of Arabic science, William of Macclesfield, William of Hothun (archbishop of Dublin), Thomas Joyce (Jorz), Robert of Orford, Rambert of Bologna, Bernard de la Treille (Bernard of Trilia), Hervé de Nedellec, Nicholas Trivet, James of Lausanne, Ptolemy of Lucca, Peter de la Palu, James of Metz (uneasily attached to the school), and Remigio de Girolami, the master of Dante Alighieri. In their hands the distinctions between essence and existence, matter and form, and substance and accident became sharper, although some of these scholars were reluctant to go beyond Aristotle to support, as Thomas did, the concept of an act of a form. Of particular interest is a German group deriving more directly from Albert than from Thomas and imbued with strains of Neoplatonism from Proclus and Avicenna; within this group were Ulrich of Strasbourg, Dietrich of Vrieberg (Freiburg), Berchtold of Mosburg, and, most famous of all, Meister Eckhart, whose Thomism is not generally considered to have been unequivocal. All these men were Dominicans; the secular master Peter of Auvergne and the Augustinian friars Giles of Rome and James of Viterbo can also be ranged with them.

As the later Middle Ages drew on, the enterprise of integrating a wide-ranging philosophy in theology was succeeded by more piecemeal investigations, and the schools settled down to their own party lines with a sharpened logic but some loss of originality. In the rivalry between the Dominicans and the Franciscans, Thomism was matched against Scotism, and this set the tone of its development: In fact, however, as Dominic de Soto later acknowledged, the agreements between the two were more important than their differences. Moderate realism was represented at all the universities and adhered to at Louvain, at Cologne, and later at Heidelberg. Thomism itself must be reckoned a minority movement, and some prominent Dominicans did not belong to the school. Durandus of Saint-Pourçain steadily ran counter to Thomas's teaching, and the Cambridge Dominican Robert Holkot did not fall in with it. A central figure is John Capreolus, called the Princeps Thomistarum, whose writings are a mine of information on the disputes with Scotists and Ockhamists. Although Capreolus chose Thomas's "Commentary on the Sentences " for his expositions rather than the better organized Summa Theologiae, he, together with Serafino Capponi de Porrecta, bequeathed to their order the habit of systematically articulating the whole corpus of Thomas's teaching. Less confined to the classroom and closer to life and the historical movement of ideas was St. Antoninus, archbishop of Florence, the moralist who is a major authority for medieval economics.

The influence of the Renaissance was already beginning to make itself felt, and the first period of Thomism closed nobly in north Italy with Bartholomew of Spina, Crisostomo Javelli, Francis Sylvester (or Ferrariensis), and Thomas de Vio (or Cajetan). The last two, the classical commentators on the Summa contra Gentiles and the Summa Theologiae, respectively, were friends and opponents, particularly on the metaphysics of analogy. Both were responsive to the renewed vitality of Latin Averroism, and for them the unity of their school lay more in an inner consistency of approach than in a common subscription to a list of propositions, such as marked later Scholasticism when it had retreated or been banished from the profane world into the ecclesiastical academies. Cajetan, the master of a nervous style that fitted the subtle analysis at which he excelled, was a good scholar and a man of affairs. His standing in the school is second only to that of Thomas himself, although there is some question whether he was not a better Aristotelian than a Thomist. It is alleged that his emphasis on existence as the act of substance rather than on esse as the act of being may have encouraged the habit of discussing essences apart from existence, which was treated as a predicate.

Sixteenth to Nineteenth Century

The second period, coterminous with the golden age of Spain, also had its origins in Burgundy and also declined through an inability to adjust to an expanding world outside its frontiers. In the fifteenth century Dominic of Flanders developed Thomas's exposition of the Metaphysics, and Peter Crockaert of Brussels, the master of Francisco de Vitoria (the father of international law), was the first of a great line of masters associated with the University of Salamanca. It was the faculty of this university that intervened with the Spanish government to humanize colonial policy. They forsook the crabbed angularities of fifteenth-century Scholasticism for a more flowing baroque style; at the same time, however, they found what they regarded as the formal logic of Aristotle to be a sufficient instrument for their debates, and the advances made on it (the subtilitates anglicanae ) were neglected. Although they are chiefly famous as Tridentine divines, the theological questions that they consideredthe relations of efficacious grace and free will, of authority and conscienceoccasioned sustained philosophical discussion.

Among these sixteenth-century authors, the following are well worth study: Melchior Cano for scientific method and Bartholomew de Medina, Dominic de Soto, and Martin de Ledesma for moral theory. Dominic Báñez is much admired for his high Thomism in metaphysics and natural theology. These were Dominicans, but the best-known writer of the group is the Jesuit Francisco Suárez, who is impressive by virtue of the breadth of his interests and the organization of his voluminous writings, although strict Thomists would reckon him an eclectic and would think that he achieved his clarity by too concrete a habit of thought. The Jesuits were at this time taking the lead in higher education, and of all the orders they were the most aware of contemporary scientific research. Courses of philosophy began to be given apart from theology, and the teamwork of the Jesuits at Coimbra produced the volumes titled Conimbicenses (1592), and of the Carmelites at Alcalá de Henares those titled Complutenses (1624). In twentieth-century Thomistic studies John of St. Thomas perhaps became more influential than Cajetan, and his Cursus Philosophicus, digested in Josef Gredt's Elementa Philosophica, may be recommended as of lasting value.

Yet by the end of the seventeenth century Thomism was important only in the centers of ecclesiastical learning; it was part of the establishment, more honored, perhaps, than listened to. Its monument is the Casanata Library in Rome, founded with two chairs of Thomist exegesis. Its philosophy served mainly as a prolegomenon to theological studies and was conducted in the "essentialist" temper of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Christian Wolff. In this spirit Antoine Goudin wrote his significantly titled Philosophia Juxta D. Thomae Dogmata (Milan, 1676), which by 1744 had gone through fourteen editions. Salvatore Roselli's six-volume Summa Philosophiae (Rome, 1777) was written in response to the reiteration of the Dominican commitment to Thomas's doctrine made by the master general, John Thomas Boxadors. Both works influenced the revival of Thomism in the next century. But few Thomists took part in the dialogue of philosophers from René Descartes to G. W. F. Hegel, and the writings of the school were studied only by those with antiquarian tastes or a special interest in the history of philosophy.

Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

The situation began to change about the middle of the nineteenth century. A circle of teachers at Piacenza, Naples, and Rome who were dissatisfied with the eclectic doctrines that then served for clerical studies and were critical of the developed Kantianism of Georg Hermes, the accommodated Hegelianism of Anton Günther, the antirationalism of traditionalism, and the ontologism of Antonio Rosmini began to look to the synthesis of Thomas. The Dominicans themselves had remained faithful to Thomas, but their temper was somewhat rabbinical and concentrated on the letter of the text; and except in Spain and southern Poland they had been scattered in the troubled times after the French Revolution. At the beginning of the nineteenth century a secular canon, Vincenzo Buzzetti, inspired two brothers, Serafino and Domenico Sordi, who later became Jesuits, and Giuseppe Pecci, the brother of the future Leo XIII, to the work of the restoration of Thomism. They were joined by Gaetano Sanseverino, who contributed the five-volume Philosophia Christiana (Naples, 1853), and were supported by the influential Jesuit periodical Civiltá cattolica. The movement gathered strength with the affirmation of the rights of reason at the First Vatican Council (18691870) and with the teaching of two great professors at the Gregorian University, Matteo Liberatore and Josef Kleutgen, and of two Dominican cardinals, the Corsican Thomas Zigliara and the Spaniard Zefirín Gonzales. Finally, Leo Kill's encyclical Aeterni Patris (1879) sounded the recall to Thomas's basic doctrines in order to meet modern needs. Succeeding popes have reinforced this recommendation, not without embarrassment to those not wedded to Thomas's system, and even to those Thomists who would not have philosophy inculcated according to administrative needs. In practice, however, and despite the scares of the Modernist movement and the antimetaphysical temper since the 1940s, the injunctions have not proved irksome; and many forward-looking thinkers have discovered that Thomas was a benign and generous patron of their studies.

A history of neo-Thomismthe title is not relished by many in the school who do not see themselves committed to an absolute systemremains to be written. One characteristic of neo-Thomism has been its willingness to assimilate influence from outside its own tradition, which is a tribute to the depth and versatility of its principles. Another is that it has not been preoccupied with ecclesiastical matters; it inspired the social teaching of Leo XIII, with the result that many laypeople and statesmen have consulted it in developing the ideals and practice of Christian democracy. Nor has the conduct of speculation been reserved to clerics, and in the mid-twentieth century Thomism had no names more eminent than those of Jacques Maritain and Étienne Gilson. Although it appeals primarily to Catholics, its adherents are not necessarily Catholics, or even Christians. It presents no fixed image of conformity.

The Spanish works of high Thomism (the names of Norberto del Prado and Jaime Ramírez may be mentioned) have seemed to stand apart from the streams of contemporary thought, and the chief agencies that have taken Thomism into the world debate have been the University of Louvain and the French Dominicans. The Institut Supérieur at Louvain was founded in 1889 by Désiré Mercier, later cardinal, to bridge the gap between modern science and philosophy, particularly with respect to the problem of knowledge. In connection with this effort, the work of Joseph Maréchal was noteworthy. The French Dominicans have made contributions important both in critical research and in the popularization of Thomistic philosophy, and they have been alert to consider the most seemingly disparate interests; their periodicals, the Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques and the Revue thomiste, provide probably the best index to the activities of the school. From the universities of Munich and Münster has come important work, and the names of Martin Grabmann and Otto Geyer are illustrious. Other outstanding figures are Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange of the University of St. Thomas in Rome and R. Welty and I. M. Bocheński of the University of Fribourg. A strong stream of Thomism is evident in the work of A. E. Taylor at Edinburgh, Kenneth Kirke at Oxford, E. L. Mascall at London, and Mortimer Adler at Chicago. Distinguished work comes from the Medieval Institute in Toronto, and there are flourishing centers of Thomistic study in Washington, D.C.; River Forest, Illinois; St. Louis; Montreal; and Sydney. The enumeration, however, is incomplete and perhaps invidious. The bibliographies of the Bulletin thomiste bear witness to a worldwide interest in Thomistic thought on the part of both philosophers and theologians.

See also Albert the Great; Aristotle; Augustinianism; Averroism; Avicenna; Báñez, Dominic; Capreolus, John; Cajetan, Cardinal; Dante Alighieri; Descartes, René; Eckhart, Meister; Essence and Existence; Garrigou-Lagrange, Réginald Marie; Giles of Rome; Gilson, Étienne; Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich; Holkot, Robert; John of Paris; John of St. Thomas; Kilwardby, Robert; Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm; Maréchal, Joseph; Maritain, Jacques; Medieval Philosophy; Mercier, Désiré Joseph; Neoplatonism; Ockhamism; Peckham, John; Proclus; Renaissance; Rosmini-Serbati, Antonio; Scientia Media and Molinism; Scotism; Soto, Dominic de; Suárez, Francisco; Taylor, Alfred Edward; Thomas Aquinas, St.; Ulrich (Engelbert) of Strasbourg; Vitoria, Francisco de; Wolff, Christian.


Bourke, V. J. Thomistic Bibliography, 19201940. St. Louis, 1945.

Dezza, Paolo. Alle origini del Neotomismo. Milan: Fratelli, 1940.

Gilson, Étienne. History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages, 277294, 361436, 471485. New York: Random House, 1955. This work contains excellent bibliographies.

Mandonnet, Pierre, and Jean Destrez. Bibliographie thomiste. Paris, 1921.

Roensch, F. J. The Early Thomistic School. Dubuque, IA: Priory Press, 1964.

Wulf, Maurice de. Histoire de la philosophie médiévale, 5th ed., Vol. II, 3351, 112151, 197203, 272277. Louvain: Institut Supérieure de Philosophie, 1925.

Thomas Gilby, O.P. (1967)


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Thomism is a philosophical system of thought based on the writings of Thomas Aquinas, from his death in 1274 to the present. As a philosophy Thomism may be viewed as a moderate realism developed within medieval and Renaissance scholasticism that has been in continuous dialogue with alternate systems of thought in the modern and contemporary periods. The focus here is on Thomism specifically as it relates to science, technology, and ethics in the present.

Notion and Relevance

Thomas of Aquino (1225–1274) was a Dominican who studied under Albert the Great (c. 1200–1280) in Paris and Cologne and then taught at the University of Paris and in various Italian cities. Thomas was a prolific writer, known in his own day as a commentator on Aristotle, who adapted his thought to explicating the Catholic faith. Thomas was himself competent in the science of nature in the Aristotelian sense, and owed much to Albert's knowledge of the biological and psychological sciences. The relevance of both Albert and Thomas to modern science and its problems has been explored extensively by three contemporary Dominicans, Benedict M. Ashley, William A. Wallace, and James A. Weisheipl (1923–1984).

Modern science differs from scientia as understood in the Thomistic tradition, where it is defined as true and certain knowledge acquired by demonstration through prior knowledge of principles and causes. Modern science makes a lesser epistemic claim, only to knowledge acquired by hypothetico-deductive reasoning yielding conclusions with a high degree of probability but that fall short of certitude. Mathematical logic is instrumental for science, but science itself remains fallible and revisable. For Thomists this is too pessimistic. They would say that philosophers of science should rediscover the epistemology of Aristotle's Posterior Analytics, and rather than basing their reasoning on logic alone, could also focus on concepts provided by the philosophy of nature developed within the Aristotelian tradition (Wallace 1996).

For Thomism's relevance to technology a balanced view is that of a former Dominican and Wallace student, Paul T. Durbin. Durbin insists, first, that technology in the present day is essentially related to science, and second, that an identifiable social group is the carrier of technology. Thus the term technology can be taken to cover this scientific and technical community, including its inner structure and functions, its products, its particular values, and its implicit view of human nature. The term philosophy of technology then means a set of generalizations or a systematic treatment, in philosophical language, of one or another or all of the above social phenomena.

With regard to ethics, of the three terms—science, technology, and ethics—the last has the most explicit and enduring relationship to Thomism. There ethics is seen as the philosophical study of voluntary human action, with the purpose of determining what types of activity are good, right, and to be done, or bad, wrong, and not to be done, so that human individuals might live well. As a philosophical study, ethics treats information derived from a person's natural experience of the problems of human living. The term ethics is etymologically connected with the Greek ethos, meaning customs or behavior, and is the same as moral philosophy, similarly connected with the Latin mores, also meaning customs or behavior. It is a practical science in the sense that its objective is not simply to know, but to know which actions should be done and which should be avoided, so as properly to translate knowledge into action. Thus understood, only one thesis on ethics is listed among various theses seen as essential to Thomism. This states that humans have by nature the right to cooperate with others in society in the pursuit of personal happiness in the common good, and that this pursuit of happiness is guided by conscience, laws both natural and positive, and virtues both private and public. Briefly, Thomistic ethics is a virtue ethics that infers from nature what humans ought to do or be to achieve their proper perfection.

Historical Overview

Albert and Thomas wrote in the medieval period of high scholasticism. Albert was the first to appreciate the importance of the newly imported Greek-Arabic learning for science and philosophy, and he set himself to making encyclopedic summaries for his students, which earned for him the title "the Great" in his own lifetime. He had many followers among German Dominicans, including Meister Eckehart (c. 1260–1327) and Theodoric of Freiberg (c. 1250–1310), the second of whom worked out the first correct theory of the rainbow. But Albert's work bore principal fruit in the monumental synthesis elaborated by his pupil Thomas. Called the "Angelic Doctor," Thomas brought natural philosophy and metaphysics into the heart of theology to develop the unique synthesis known as Thomism. Its major teachings are that first matter is pure potentiality and its first actuation is by substantial form; that the human rational soul is the unique substantial form of the human body, endowed with powers that are really distinct from it; that human knowledge originates with the senses but is capable of attaining universals; and that humans can reason to the existence of God and some of God's attributes from the visible things of the world.

In later scholasticism Thomism became the official doctrine of the Dominican Order, where it was championed by Harvey Nedellec (1250 or 60–1323), John of Naples (d. 1330), and Jean Capréolus (c. 1380–1444). The Renaissance was the period of great commentaries on Thomas known as "Second Thomism," when Dominicans exerted strong influence at Paris and Salamanca as well as northern Italy. The more famous of the figures of Second Thomism were Thomas de Vio Cajetan (1469–1534), who debated the German religious reformer Martin Luther on the Eucharist; Francisco de Vitoria (1486?–1546), who developed the theory of natural law during Spain's period of colonial expansion; and Vitoria's colleague Domingo de Soto (c. 1494–1560), whose work foreshadowed to a degree Galileo Galilei's law of falling bodies (Wallace 2004). The same period saw the foundation of the Jesuits, who were initially trained as Thomists but then developed their own versions of Thomism. Jesuits and Dominicans later entered into prolonged controversy over the efficacy of God's grace on human free will and God's foreknowledge of human free actions, and were convinced that many modern evils stem from false philosophy, to which Thomas's thought would supply a needed corrective.

Developmental Thomism

The period from the mid-sixteenth to the late nineteenth century saw little development within Thomism. The system itself had received strong endorsement by the Council of Trent (1545–1563), and, as what may be referred to as Scholastic Thomism, it was taught in Catholic seminaries as a philosophical preparation for the study of theology. It was often seen as the "perennial philosophy," an integrated system that gave enduring answers to central questions about reality and knowledge. And it was largely unaffected by the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, which was mainly concerned with physical sciences that seemed to have little relevance to Catholic teaching.

This situation changed dramatically after the issuance in 1879 of the encyclical Aeterni Patris of Pope Leo XIII (1810–1903), which gave rise to a movement known variously as neo-scholasticism or neo-Thomism (or, among Dominicans, "Third Thomism.") The stimulus came from the labors of medieval historians such as Maurice De Wulf (1867–1947) and Martin Grabmann (1875–1949), who had recovered works of medieval thinkers and focused attention on Thomas's thought as containing answers to pressing contemporary problems. With Pope Leo's endorsement, Thomism underwent extensive development in the twentieth century and came in dialogue with other philosophical movements. Arguably it is the most extensively developed systematic philosophy in the present day.

In this expanded sense, the term Thomism has itself undergone a change of meaning. An "ism" need not refer exclusively to an original system of thought. It might also refer to a system of thought that has taken on new meaning in light of developments that were unforeseen and unknown by its originator. In this alternate sense René Descartes could not be a Cartesian nor could Immanuel Kant be a Kantian. This sense would apply to those who came after them and assimilated new knowledge into their syntheses in ways consistent with the principles they had established, while rejecting matter that had been superseded in the interim. This is obviously a more speculative enterprise, but it is in this sense that one might speak of one or more developmental Thomisms.

Types of Thomism

The development of overriding importance is the growth of modern science in its classical and contemporary senses and how this affects Thomism as a whole. Allied to this are three subsidiary developments that may be characterized as different types of Thomism. Of these, two have already achieved the status of movements, namely, Existential Thomism, which arose from confrontation with existentialist thought, and Transcendental Thomism, which arose from the confrontation with Kantianism and other forms of idealism seen in the works of Continental philosophers. A third, resulting from the confrontation with Anglo-American philosophy, may be described as Analytical Thomism, though it is not yet regarded as a movement.

EXISTENTIAL THOMISM. The two philosophers most identified with this movement were the Frenchmen Jacques Maritain (1882–1973) and Étienne Gilson (1884–1978), both former students of Henri Bergson (1859–1941). Maritain became interested in the thought of Thomas after being converted to Catholicism. His most lasting achievements have been in the area of epistemology, in elucidating the different degrees of knowledge and their interrelationships, so as to constitute an integral, Christian humanism. He also made substantial contributions to social and political philosophy and to constructive critiques of modern culture and art. In his theoretical philosophy he stressed the authentic existentialism of Thomas, maintaining the primacy of existence in a realist philosophy of being, and seeing this as also providing the basis for an understanding of knowledge and of love.

Gilson did his early work on Descartes, which led him to a study of medieval philosophy and of Thomism in particular. He saw the philosophy of the Middle Ages as a Christian philosophy, one that, while keeping the orders of faith and reason distinct, considers Christian revelation as an indispensable auxiliary to reason. In Thomas he found a metaphysics of existence that conceives God as the very act of being (Ipsum Esse) and creatures as beings centered on the act of existing (esse). His disciples regarded his existential metaphysics as a corrective to the essentialism that had insinuated itself in Renaissance and rationalist versions of Thomistic thought.

TRANSCENDENTAL THOMISM. The roots of this movement can be traced to Désiré Mercier (1851–1926) and Maurice Blondel (1861–1949), and to the efforts of two Jesuits, Jean-Pierre Rousselot (1846–1924) and Joseph Maréchal (1878–1944), to rehabilitate critical philosophy in light of the teachings of Thomas. Maréchal's thought passed through several phases, but in a later formulation he proposed the act of judgment as an affirmation of absolute reality that objectifies the form or concept and so grasps it as being. Then, beyond the concept, the intellect is made aware of a further intelligibility by its own tending, in a dynamism unleashed by the concept itself, toward something infinite and absolute—actually the infinite act of existing that is God. The intellect thus "constitutes" its object as belonging, in a finite and participatory way, to the realm of the real.

Maréchal's innovative views gained new insights from dialogues with phenomenology by two German Jesuits, Karl Rahner (1904–1984) and Emerich Coreth (b. 1919), and by analyses of modern science by a Canadian Jesuit, Bernard Lonergan (1904–1984). From these have emerged a new metaphysics in which the being investigated is that which occurs in consciousness. So Coreth writes of an immediate unity of being and knowing in the very act of knowing, and Lonergan looks upon being as whatever is to be known by intelligent grasp and reasonable affirmation, and so extrapolates from the being of consciousness to the being of the cosmos. For Rahner an analysis of the performance of the human spirit discloses an innate drive to being as absolute and really existing, which itself is human nature as "spirit in the world" or finite transcendence. They elaborate these insights in various ways through the use of what is called a transcendental method.

ANALYTICAL THOMISM. Like phenomenology, analytical philosophy is more a method or way of doing philosophy than it is a philosophy itself. Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) was one of its pioneers, and after him came the logical positivists, with their anti-metaphysical programs, and finally a more relaxed conception of linguistic analysis, culminating in the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951). One of Wittgenstein's students, Elizabeth Anscombe (1919–2001), along with her husband Peter Geach (b. 1916) were the first analysts to attend to Thomism in their writings. A related thinker is Alasdair MacIntyre (b. 1929), whose work in Aristotelian politics and virtue ethics brought him to the study of Thomas. Also noteworthy is the work of John N. Deely, a former Dominican and student of Weisheipl, who recovered the work on semiotics of the early-seventeenth-century Thomist John Poinsot, known in the Dominican Order as John of St. Thomas. By the early twenty-first century, the most distinctive contributor to the emerging movement is John J. Haldane, of the University of Aberdeen, who has published extensively in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of God from a Thomist perspective.

Areas of Continuing Research

Thomists in the United States seem more inclined to pursue the analytical route than the other two movements, and have two main areas of research. The first focuses on an analysis and critique of scientific concepts with reference to the Aristotelian-Thomistic heritage, particularly the latter's use of first matter and transient entities to develop a view of creation and evolution that concords with recent theories of cosmogenesis (the origin of the cosmos). The second focuses on problems in bioethics, particularly through a recovery of Thomas's teaching on delayed hominization as this relates to the study of homogenesis.

On the theme of cosmogenesis, this line of research associates God's creative act at the beginning of time with the "big bang" theory of cosmic origins (Wallace 2002). Time began some 13 billion years ago by the production by God, ex nihilo (out of nothing), of the primordial mass-energy of which the universe is now composed. Along with the act of creation, God as prime mover also initiated the "big bang," releasing the enormous energy of the primitive mass for the formation of the natures now found in the universe. These are, in order, transient natures, inorganic natures, plant natures, animal natures, and human nature. They correspond to the stages of evolution commonly accepted among scientists: the period of fundamental particles impelled at high energy; that of element and compound formation; the two periods of biogenesis, wherein first plants and then animals were generated; and finally that of hominization, when Homo sapiens first appeared. All of these stages except the last were accomplished by a natural process Thomas referred to as "the eduction of [substantial] form from the potency of first matter" (Summa Theologiae I, q. 90, a. 2).

The final stage of cosmic evolution would then be hominization, the appearance of humans with a special type of substantial form, an immaterial (and immortal) soul. Here there is a break in the line of causality extending back to creation, because, according to Catholic teaching, such a soul cannot be educed from the potency of matter. Up to this point the entire process of evolution can bring organisms to a level just below that of thought and volition, but they cannot progress to the final stage. Here God's creative act is again required. This second input of divine causality is the production, ex nihilo, of the immaterial souls of the first humans, tailored to match the ultimate disposition of first matter, as this has been prepared, over billions of years, for their reception.

With regard to bioethics, an important advance has been in the recovery of Thomas's teaching that the beginning of human life is a gradual process: that the human soul is not infused into the incipient organism at fertilization but rather is prepared for by a succession of substantial forms that dispose first matter for the reception of an intellective soul (Wallace 1995). Less well known is his speculation that the reverse process may occur at the ending of human life, namely, that the human soul may depart from the body well before all signs of life have disappeared from it. Both views are opposed to the notion of immediate hominization, commonly taught in Catholic circles, namely, that human life begins at fertilization, when the rational soul is infused by God into the body, and terminates at death, when the same human soul departs from the body.

With regard to human generation, Thomas followed Aristotle in holding that the conception of a male child was not completed until the fortieth day after intercourse, whereas that of the female child was not completed until the ninetieth day. The details of Thomas's treatment, now referred to as delayed hominization, were worked out on the basis of Aristotle's teaching as developed by medieval commentators, particularly Avicenna (980–1037). Little empirical evidence was available to support the various steps of the argument. In the early twenty-first century, however, the human reproductive process is being studied intensively, and much evidence can be brought to bear on the problem of hominization.

Catholic theologians have advanced two lines of argument that generally favor Thomas's solution. The first, proposed by Norman M. Ford (1988), is based on the possibility of twinning in the formation of the fetus and is essentially an argument from individuation. This would propose that the definitive individuation of the human fetus does not occur until fourteen days after conception, and thus that the intellective soul, and so the human person, need not be present before that time. The second argument, advanced by Joseph F. Donceel (1970), is based on the organ systems required first for sensitive life and then for the exercise of reason, which would involve the senses, the nervous system, the brain, and especially the cortex. The time when such organ systems are present in the human fetus must be ascertained by embryology. This probably occurs somewhere between several weeks and the end of the third month after conception, and so it is possible, on this theory, that human animation does not occur before this time.

Both of these conclusions, if accepted, would have far-reaching implications for future work in human genetics. Because the Catholic Church has thus far not taken a definitive position on the precise time when the human soul is present in the developing organism, the question remains open to discussion.


SEE ALSO Christian Perspectives;Thomas Aquinas;Virtue Ethics.


Ashley, Benedict M. (1985). Theologies of the Body: Humanist and Christian. St. Louis, MO: Pope John Center.

Deely, John N. (1990). Basics of Semiotics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Donceel, Joseph F. (1970). "Immediate Animation and Delayed Hominization." Theological Studies 31(1): 76–105.

Durbin, Paul R. (1968). Philosophy of Science: An Introduction. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Durbin, Paul R. (1986). "Ferment in Philosophy of Science: A Review Discussion." The Thomist 50 (1986): 690–700.

Ford, Norman M. (1988). When Did I Begin? Conception of the Human Individual in History, Philosophy, and Science. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Furton, Edward J., and Louise A. Mitchell, eds. (2002). What Is Man, O Lord? The Human Person in a Biotech Age. Boston: National Catholic Bioethics Center.

John of St. Thomas. (1985). Tractatus de Signis: The Semiotic of John Poinsot, ed. John N. Deely. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Kretzmann, Norman, and Eleonore Stump, eds. (1993). The Cambridge Companion to Aquinas. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Wallace, William A. (1989). "Nature and Human Nature as the Norm in Medical Ethics." In Catholic Perspectives on Medical Morals, eds. Edmund D. Pellegrino, John P. Langan, and John Collins Harvey. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic.

Wallace, William A. (1995). "St. Thomas on the Beginning and Ending of Human Life." In Sanctus Thomas de Aquino Doctor Hodiernae Humanitatis. Studi Tomistici, 58. Libreria Editrice Vaticana: Pontificia Accademia di S. Tommaso, pp. 394–407.

Wallace, William A. (1996). The Modeling of Nature: Philosophy of Science and Philosophy of Nature in Synthesis. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press.

Wallace, William A. (2000). "Thomas Aquinas and Thomism." In The History of Science and Religion in the Western Tradition: An Encyclopedia, ed. Gary B. Ferngren. New York and London: Garland.

Wallace, William A. (2002). "Fides et Ratio: The Compatibility of Science and Religion." In What Is Man, O Lord? eds. Edward J. Furton and Louise A. Mitchell. Boston: National Catholic Bioethics Center.

Wallace, William A. (2004). Domingo de Soto and the Early Galileo: Essays on Intellectual History. Collected Studies Series, CS 783. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.

Wallace, William A., and James A. Weisheipl. (1967). "Thomas Aquinas, St." In New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 14.

Weisheipl, James A. (1967). "Thomism." In New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 14, continued in "Scholasticism, 3," 12: 1165–1170.

Weisheipl, James A. (1974). Friar Thomas d'Aquino: His Life, Thought, and Work. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Weisheipl, James A., ed. (1980). Albertus Magnus and the Sciences: Commemorative Essays, 1980. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies.


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Challenging the Averroists.

St. Thomas of Aquino in Italy, more commonly called Thomas Aquinas (1224 or 1225–1274), represents for many the pinnacle and climax of medieval philosophy, and his study has been recommended by popes from Leo XIII to the present occupant of the chair of Peter. A man large in soul as well as in body, Thomas was generally magnanimous in his writings toward his doctrinal enemies: a man must love his enemies, because they help him come closer to the truth. But he reserved his harshest words for the averroiste, clerics who upheld the teachings of Aristotle even when they contradicted the Scriptures. Thomas believed that truth is one and cannot contradict itself; therefore the dual truth system of the Latin Averroists was unthinkable. Moreover, he challenged the Averroists to debate him openly and not simply to talk with young boys (a reference to the age of the arts students and the fact that philosophy was taught in the arts faculty) on street corners.

Acknowledging the Natural World.

Thomas, who as a student at Naples got an early grounding in the New Philosophy, discerned the value in Aristotle's thinking precisely because of its naturalism, the view that there existed a natural explanation for all phenomena. For Aristotle, this world is the real world; reality is not elsewhere in some transcendent realm as in Plato's thought. Christianity, moreover, is in its essence an "incarnational" religion, the foundational doctrine being that God became man. The Christian theologian therefore needs a philosophy that gives an accounting of the natural world, including the autonomy of the human person. A world in which creatures exercise their own proper causality, even while maintaining an existential dependence upon Being itself for their being, renders more glory to God in Thomas's view. This is a radically different view than that taken by the Ash'arites, a group of Muslim theologians, who believed that it is God alone who is acting in all the causes appearing in the world. It is God causing the effect of heat in the presence of the fire or, in a modern rendering, it is God causing letters to appear on the computer screen, not the person entering the data.


introduction: Every believing Christian, as well as every believing Jew and Muslim, is obliged to hold that God is both transcendent (that is, totally other than the world) and immanent (that is, somehow present to it). To give a coherent account of this tension, however, requires a sophisticated metaphysics, indeed a metaphysics of existence. St. Thomas Aquinas, here in the eighth question of his masterpiece, the Summa theologiae, explains how God is present to the world without being a part of it, thus avoiding the extremes of deism on the one hand and pantheism on the other.

God exists in everything; not indeed as part of their substance or as an accident, but as an agent is present to that in which its action is taking place. For unless it act through intermediaries every agent must be connected with that upon which it acts, and be in causal contact with it: compare Aristotle's proof that for one thing to move another the two must be in contact. Now since it is God's nature to exist, he it must be who properly causes existence in creatures, just as it is fire itself sets other things on fire. And God is causing this effect in things not just when they begin to exist, but all the time they are maintained in existence, just as the sun is lighting up the atmosphere all the time the atmosphere remains lit. During the whole period of a thing's existence, therefore, God must be present to it, and present in a way in keeping with the way in which the thing possesses its existence. Now existence is more intimately and profoundly interior to things than anything else, for everything as we said is potential when compared to existence. So God must exist and exist intimately in everything.

source: Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae (Cambridge, England, and New York: Blackfriars, 1964), 1.8.1c. Reprinted in Medieval Philosophy, Vol. II of Philosophic Classics. 4th ed. Ed. Forrest E. Baird (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2003): 352.

Being as Act.

To claim, therefore, that Thomas worked out a synthesis between Christianity and Aristotelianism is true as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. It can also be claimed with some justification that Thomas goes beyond Aristotle, not simply because he had the benefit of Divine Revelation, but because he was a better philosopher. His core insight—that being is fundamentally an act, or, in other words, is that which makes any thing real—opens a dimension beyond Aristotle's and, indeed, any predecessor's metaphysics, just as Einstein's fourth dimension goes beyond the speculations of any previous physicist. This being-as-act enabled Thomas to account not only for the absolute transcendence of God—that God is totally other than creation—but also for his immanence—that God is present to creation in some intimate way. Aquinas thus avoids pantheism on the one hand—the view that God is all things or is a part of all things—and deism on the other—the eighteenth-century notion that God is responsible for creating the universe, but that is the end of his involvement, like the clockmaker who winds up the clock and then walks away.

An Authentic Existentialism.

The "concept" of existence is a slippery one—the tendency of the human mind is to think in terms of "things"—and it is little wonder that Thomas's theories were not fully grasped until the twentieth century, spurred by the insights of the school known as Existentialism. Most philosophers in his own time identified Thomas's naturalism with the heterodox Aristotelianism of the Latin Averroists, and when the bishop of Paris drew up his list of condemned teachings three years after Thomas's death in 1274, some two dozen of Thomas's teachings were included. Thus, paradoxically, the thinker who in time became virtually identified with Catholic orthodoxy was shortly after his death under a cloud of suspicion for heresy.

Rebellious Dominican

Not long after the death of St. Thomas Aquinas, members of his order rallied around his teachings and defended them against attacks from both the seculars and the Franciscans. He was, in short, the official Doctor of the Order of Preachers. There is always someone, however, who refuses to conform, and in this case it was the Dominican friar, Durandus of Saint-Pourçain. He seems to have been a personage of some note, since he was entrusted by Pope John XXII with an important diplomatic mission. For his success he was rewarded with the bishopric of Limoux (1317), a truly singular title since no one before him or after held the title. He soon abandoned that position to become bishop of Le Puy (1318), then of Meaux (1326), a post he held until his death in 1334.

His wrong in the eyes of his fellow Dominicans, however, was that he refused to become a Thomist. He believed that in everything that was not a matter of faith, one should rely upon reason rather than on the authority of any master, no matter how famous or revered. He ended up by writing three commentaries on Peter Lombard's Sentences, which is not unlike writing three doctoral dissertations on the same subject. For the first he received a warning from the order, eventually having 91 articles censured by a theological commission. His second version resulted in no fewer than 235 articles being condemned as deviating from St Thomas. His third attempt showed little amendment on his part, but by that time he was bishop (successively of three sees) and seemed no longer to care.

The reaction at his passing gives some sense of how strongly most Dominicans felt about remaining loyal to Thomas and his teachings. The epitaph of the wayward Dominican featured this piece of doggerel, inspired by the fact that the first syllable of Durandus' name is "dur," a Latin root meaning "hard":

Durus Durandus jacet hic sub marmore duro, An sit salvandus ego nescio, nec quoque curo. "Here lies the hard Durand beneath the hard tombstone, Whether he is saved or not, I don't know, nor do I care."


Brian Davies, The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).

—, "Thomas Aquinas," in A Companion to Philosophy in the Middle Ages. Eds. Jorge J. E. Gracia and Timothy B. Noone (London: Blackwell, 2003): 643–659.

Etienne Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. Trans. L. K. Shook (New York: Random House, 1956).

see also Visual Arts: Intellectual Influences on Art in the Later Middle Ages


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Thomism. Christian philosophical theology based on the writings of St Thomas Aquinas. Although some propositions of Aquinas were initially condemned, his system was established in the 16th cent. onwards (known as Second Thomism, but also, confusingly, as Neo-Thomism/Neo-Scholasticism) as the basis of Roman Catholic theology and education. This was powerfully reinforced by Leo XIII in his encyclical Aeterni Patris (1879) which gave rise to what is more properly known as Neo-Thomism. More recent writing on Aquinas has rejected the distorting lenses of the various Thomistic schools, and by returning to the text of Aquinas' works has emphasized the significant divergences between Aquinas and his commentators. (For transcendental Thomism, see RAHNER, K.)


views updated May 17 2018

Thomism Philosophy of Saint Thomas Aquinas, one of the major systems in scholasticism. Aquinas blended the philosophy of Aristotle with Christian theology. Using Aristotle's concept of matter and form, he conceived a hierarchy in which spirit is higher than matter, soul higher than body, and theology above philosophy.

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