TA-6106.jpg Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)


Thomas Aquinas was philosopher, theologian, Doctor of the Church (Angelicus Doctor), and patron of Catholic universities, colleges and schools.[1] He was greatly influenced by both scholasticism and Aristotle and is known for his successful synthesis of the two.


Background
Thomas Aquinas was born at Roccasecca, Italy in late 1225, the youngest son of noble parents Landulf, a descendent of the counts of Aquino, and Theodora, a noble woman of Naples.[2] According to the custom of the time he was sent to the Monastary of Monte Cassinoat age five to be educated by the Benedictine monks. At age fourteen he was sent to the University of Naples to further his education and it was there that he was first exposed to the works of Aristotle. At the age of nineteen, and against the wishes of his parents, Thomas departed to join the Dominican Order of Friars. However, he was intercepted by his family on his way to Rome and imprisoned for a period of about two years in an attempt to change his mind. Shortly following his release he professed his vows in the Order of Friars. He then studied under St. Albert the Great, first in Paris and then in Cologne, and at the age of twenty-five he was ordained to the priesthood. He died on March 7, 1274, at the Cistercian monastery of Fossa Nuova at the approximate age of fifty. He is frequently referred to as Thomas because”Aquinas” refers to his residence rather than his surname. [3]


Writing
During his life Thomas composed more than sixty works.[4] His writings can be classified as: 1) exegetical, homiletical, and liturgical; 2) dogmatic, apologetic, and ethical; and 3) philosophical.[5] Although he authored many commentaries on the works of Aristotle, his most important and enduring work is Summa Theologica, which remained unfinished at his death. This work consists of three parts and represents the most complete statement of his philosophical beliefs.


Philosophy
The philosophy of Thomas has exerted tremendous influence on Christian theology, especially within the Roman Catholic Church. Within Western philosophy he stands as a vehicle and modifier of Aristotelian thought which he fused with the thought of Augustine. [6] Thomas was credited with successfully reconciling Augustine’s belief in God’s sovereignty with Aristotle’s emphasis on rational thinking.[7] Thomas stated that our natural appreciation of human good and evil is a natural consequence of our rationality.

Ethically Thomas’ beliefs were based on the concept of “first principles of action”.[8] In Summa Theologica Thomas defined four cardinal virtues; prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude. These virtues are said to be revealed in nature and binding on everyone. Additionally, he identified three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity. These are supernatural in nature and are distinct from other virtues in object, namely, God.

Thomas also distinguished four kinds of law: Eternal law is the decree of God that governs all creation, Human law is that which is applied by governments to societies, Divine law is the specially revealed law in the scriptures and Natural law which is the human “participation” in the eternal law that is discovered by reason.[9] Aquinas believed that both faith and reason discover truth. Reason can lead the mind to God because the virtuous act is one that leads us closer to God.[10]

Thomas’ view of morality does not distinguish between the philosophical and the theological, his theological beliefs are very much a part of his philosophical thought. He explained our natural awareness of good and evil as promulgation of God’s will in his Natural Law Theory.[11]
Thomas followed Aristotle’s belief that all things have ends toward which they are naturally inclined. Thomas believed that humans are rational beings and are therefore affected by their own natural inclinations. By exercising reason humans can discover the natural laws governing their behavior and thus discover how morally they ought to live and behave. Additionally, because they have free will, they can choose whether or not to live morally.[12]


















  1. ^ Kennedy, D. (1912). St. Thomas Aquinas. The catholic encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved
    October 1, 2009 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14663b.htm
  2. ^ Magee, J. (2008). Thomistic philosophy: The enduring thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Thomistic philosphy page.
    Retrieved on October 1, 2009 from www.aquinasonline.com
  3. ^ Kennedy, D. (1912). St. Thomas Aquinas. The catholic encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved
    October 1, 2009 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14663b.htm
  4. ^ Kennedy, D. (1912). St. Thomas Aquinas. The catholic encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved
    October 1, 2009 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14663b.htm
  5. ^ Thomas Aquinas.(2009). Internet encyclopedia of philosophy. Retrieved on October 1, 2009 from
    http://www.iep.utm.edu/aquinas/
  6. ^ Baird, F. E., & Kaufmann, W. (2008). From plato to derrida. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
  7. ^ Hardon, J. A. (1995). Meaning of virtue in Thomas Aquinas. The Catholic Resource Network. Retrieved September 24,
    2009 from http://www.ewtn.com/library/SPIRIT/MEANVIR.TXT
  8. ^ Geisler, N. (Ed.). (1999). Baker encyclopedia of christian apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. p. 727
  9. ^ Pojman, L. (1995). Ethics: Discovering right and wrong. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company
  10. ^ Thomas Aquinas.(2009). Internet encyclopedia of philosophy. Retrieved on October 1, 2009 from
    http://www.iep.utm.edu/aquinas/
  11. ^ Martin, C. (Ed.). The philosophy of Thomas Aquinas introductory readings. New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 153-177.
  12. ^ Waluchow, W. (2003). The dimensions of ethics: an introduction to ethical theory. Peterborough: Boradview Press, Ltd.
    pp. 105-106