Thomas Aquinass Summa theologiae: A Biography (Lives of Great Religious Books)

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In what appears to be an attempt to counteract the growing fear of Aristotelian thought, Thomas conducted a series of disputations between and De virtutibus in communi On Virtues in General , De virtutibus cardinalibus On Cardinal Virtues , De spe On Hope. In Thomas took leave from the University of Paris when the Dominicans from his home province called upon him to establish a studium generale wherever he liked and staff it as he pleased. He chose to establish the institution in Naples, and moved there to take his post as regent master.

He also preached to the people of Naples every day in Lent, These sermons on the commandments, the creed, the Our Father, and Hail Mary were very popular. On one occasion, in at the Dominican convent of Naples in the chapel of Saint Nicholas , [60] after Matins , Thomas lingered and was seen by the sacristan Domenic of Caserta to be levitating in prayer with tears before an icon of the crucified Christ.

Christ said to Thomas, "You have written well of me, Thomas. What reward would you have for your labor? On 6 December , another mystical experience took place. While he was celebrating Mass, he experienced an unusually long ecstasy. When Reginald begged him to get back to work, Thomas replied: "Reginald, I cannot, because all that I have written seems like straw to me" [63] mihi videtur ut palea. What exactly triggered Thomas's change in behavior is believed by Catholics to have been some kind of supernatural experience of God. On his way to the Council, riding on a donkey along the Appian Way , [67] he struck his head on the branch of a fallen tree and became seriously ill again.

He was then quickly escorted to Monte Cassino to convalesce. For centuries, there have been recurring claims that Thomas had the ability to levitate. For example, G. Chesterton wrote that, "His experiences included well-attested cases of levitation in ecstasy; and the Blessed Virgin appeared to him, comforting him with the welcome news that he would never be a Bishop. One aim of this condemnation was to clarify that God's absolute power transcended any principles of logic that Aristotle or Averroes might place on it. Their inclusion badly damaged Thomas's reputation for many years. In the Divine Comedy , Dante sees the glorified soul of Thomas in the Heaven of the Sun with the other great exemplars of religious wisdom.

But the historian Ludovico Antonio Muratori reproduces the account made by one of Thomas's friends, and this version of the story gives no hint of foul play.

Thomas Aquinas's Summa theologiae: A Biography

Thomas's theology had begun its rise to prestige. Two centuries later, in , Pope Pius V proclaimed St. Thus, he directed the clergy to take the teachings of Thomas as the basis of their theological positions. Leo XIII also decreed that all Catholic seminaries and universities must teach Thomas's doctrines, and where Thomas did not speak on a topic, the teachers were "urged to teach conclusions that were reconcilable with his thinking.

When the devil's advocate at his canonization process objected that there were no miracles , one of the cardinals answered, " Tot miraculis, quot articulis "—"there are as many miracles in his life as articles in his Summa ". A monastery at Naples, near the cathedral of St. Januarius , shows a cell in which he supposedly lived. Between and , they were held in the Basilique de Saint-Sernin, Toulouse.

In , they were returned to the Church of the Jacobins, where they have remained ever since. When he was canonized, his feast day was inserted in the General Roman Calendar for celebration on 7 March, the day of his death. Since this date commonly falls within Lent , the revision of the calendar moved his memorial to 28 January, the date of the translation of his relics to Church of the Jacobins , Toulouse. Thomas Aquinas is honored with a feast day in some churches of the Anglican Communion. Thomas Aquinas was a theologian and a Scholastic philosopher.

Much of his work bears upon philosophical topics, and in this sense may be characterized as philosophical. Thomas's philosophical thought has exerted enormous influence on subsequent Christian theology, especially that of the Catholic Church, extending to Western philosophy in general. Thomas stands as a vehicle and modifier of Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism. It is said that Thomas modified both Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism by way of heavy reliance on the Pseudo-Dionysius.

Thomas Aquinas believed "that for the knowledge of any truth whatsoever man needs divine help, that the intellect may be moved by God to its act. And thus the human understanding has a form, viz. Thomas's ethics are based on the concept of "first principles of action". Virtue denotes a certain perfection of a power. Now a thing's perfection is considered chiefly in regard to its end. But the end of power is act. Wherefore power is said to be perfect, according as it is determinate to its act. Thomas emphasized that " Synderesis is said to be the law of our mind, because it is a habit containing the precepts of the natural law, which are the first principles of human actions.

According to Thomas "…all acts of virtue are prescribed by the natural law: since each one's reason naturally dictates to him to act virtuously. But if we speak of virtuous acts, considered in themselves, i. Thomas defined the four cardinal virtues as prudence , temperance , justice , and fortitude.

The cardinal virtues are natural and revealed in nature, and they are binding on everyone. There are, however, three theological virtues : faith , hope , and charity. Thomas also describes the virtues as imperfect incomplete and perfect complete virtues. A perfect virtue is any virtue with charity, charity completes a cardinal virtue.


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A non-Christian can display courage, but it would be courage with temperance. A Christian would display courage with charity. These are somewhat supernatural and are distinct from other virtues in their object, namely, God:. Now the object of the theological virtues is God Himself, Who is the last end of all, as surpassing the knowledge of our reason. On the other hand, the object of the intellectual and moral virtues is something comprehensible to human reason. Wherefore the theological virtues are specifically distinct from the moral and intellectual virtues.

Thomas Aquinas wrote "[Greed] is a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things. Furthermore, in his Treatise on Law , Thomas distinguished four kinds of law: eternal, natural , human, and divine. Eternal law is the decree of God that governs all creation.

It is, "That Law which is the Supreme Reason cannot be understood to be otherwise than unchangeable and eternal. All other precepts of the natural law are based on this. Whether the natural law contains several precepts, or one only is explained by Thomas, "All the inclinations of any parts whatsoever of human nature, e. The desires to live and to procreate are counted by Thomas among those basic natural human values on which all human values are based. According to Thomas, all human tendencies are geared towards real human goods.

Thomas Aquinas's Summa theologiae : a biography

In this case, the human nature in question is marriage, the total gift of oneself to another that ensures a family for children and a future for mankind. Concerning the Human Law, Thomas concludes, " These particular determinations, devised by human reason, are called human laws, provided the other essential conditions of law be observed Natural and human law is not adequate alone. The need for human behavior to be directed made it necessary to have Divine law.

Divine law is the specially revealed law in the scriptures. Thomas quotes, "The Apostle says Hebrews 7. But the priesthood is twofold, as stated in the same passage, viz, the levitical priesthood, and the priesthood of Christ. Thomas also greatly influenced Catholic understandings of mortal and venial sins. Thomas Aquinas refers to animals as dumb and that the natural order has declared animals for man's use. Thomas denied that human beings have any duty of charity to animals because they are not persons. Otherwise, it would be unlawful to kill them for food.

But humans should still be charitable to them, for "cruel habits might carry over into our treatment of human beings. Thomas contributed to economic thought as an aspect of ethics and justice. He dealt with the concept of a just price , normally its market price or a regulated price sufficient to cover seller costs of production.

He argued it was immoral for sellers to raise their prices simply because buyers were in pressing need for a product. Thomas's theory of political order became highly influential. He sees man as a social being that lives in a community and interacts with its other members. That leads, among other things, to the division of labour.

Thomas made a distinction between a good man and a good citizen, which was important to the development of libertarian theory. That is, the sphere of individual autonomy was one which the state could not interfere with. Thomas thinks that monarchy is the best form of government, because a monarch does not have to form compromises with other persons. Moreover, according to Thomas, oligarchy degenerates more easily into tyranny than monarchy. To prevent a king from becoming a tyrant, his political powers must be curbed.

Unless an agreement of all persons involved can be reached, a tyrant must be tolerated, as otherwise the political situation could deteriorate into anarchy , which would be even worse than tyranny. According to Thomas, monarchs are God's representatives in their territories, but the Church, represented by the popes, is above the kings in matters of doctrine and morality. As a consequence, worldly rulers are obliged to adapt their laws to the Catholic Church's doctrines and determinations.

Following Aristotle's concept of slavery , Thomas justifies this institution on the grounds of natural law. Thomas Aquinas maintains that a human is a single material substance. He understands the soul as the form of the body, which makes a human being the composite of the two. Thus, only living, form-matter composites can truly be called human; dead bodies are "human" only analogously.

One actually existing substance comes from body and soul. A human is a single material substance, but still should be understood as having an immaterial soul, which continues after bodily death. In his Summa theologiae Thomas clearly states his position on the nature of the soul; defining it as "the first principle of life". Because the intellect is incorporeal, it does not use the bodily organs, as "the operation of anything follows the mode of its being. According to Thomas the soul is not matter, not even incorporeal or spiritual matter.

If it were, it would not be able to understand universals, which are immaterial. A receiver receives things according to the receiver's own nature, so for soul receiver to understand receive universals, it must have the same nature as universals. Yet, any substance that understands universals may not be a matter-form composite.

So, humans have rational souls, which are abstract forms independent of the body. But a human being is one existing, single material substance that comes from body and soul: that is what Thomas means when he writes that "something one in nature can be formed from an intellectual substance and a body", and "a thing one in nature does not result from two permanent entities unless one has the character of substantial form and the other of matter. The soul is a " substantial form "; it is a part of a substance, but it is not a substance by itself. Nevertheless, the soul exists separately from the body, and continues, after death, in many of the capacities we think of as human.

Substantial form is what makes a thing a member of the species to which it belongs, and substantial form is also the structure or configuration that provides the object with the abilities that make the object what it is. For humans, those abilities are those of the rational animal. In any given substance, matter and form are necessarily united, and each is a necessary aspect of that substance. However, they are conceptually separable. Matter represents what is changeable about the substance—what is potentially something else.

For example, bronze matter is potentially a statue, or also potentially a cymbal. Matter must be understood as the matter of something. In contrast, form is what determines some particular chunk of matter to be a specific substance and no other. When Thomas says that the human body is only partly composed of matter, he means the material body is only potentially a human being.

The soul is what actualizes that potential into an existing human being. Consequently, the fact that a human body is live human tissue entails that a human soul is wholly present in each part of the human. Aquinas addressed most economic questions within the framework of justice, which he contended was the highest of virtues. He says that justice is "a habit whereby man renders to each his due by a constant and perpetual will. Joseph Schumpeter, in his History of Economic Analysis , concluded that "All the economic questions put together matters less to him than did the smallest point of theological or philosophical doctrine, and it is only where economic phenomena raise questions of moral theology that he touches upon them at all.

Aquinas was careful to distinguish the just , or natural, price of a good from that price which manipulates another party. He determines the just price from a number of things. First, the just price must be relative to the worth of the good. Aquinas holds that the price of a good measures its quality: "the quality of a thing that comes into human use is measured by the price given for it. This worth is subjective because each good has a different level of usefulness to every man.

Thomas Aquinas's Summa theologiae: A Biography

Aquinas argues, then, that the price should reflect the current value of a good according to its usefulness to man. He continues: "Gold and silver are costly not only on account of the usefulness of the vessels and other like things made from them, but also on account of the excellence and purity of their substance. Aquinas also wrote extensively on usury , that is, the lending of money with interest. He condemned its practice: "to take usury for money lent is unjust in itself, because this is to sell what does not exist, and this evidently leads to inequality which is contrary to justice.

Charging a premium for money lent is a charge for more than the use of the good. Thus, Aquinas concluded that the lender is charging for something not his own, in other words, not rendering to each his due. Thomas Aquinas viewed theology , or the sacred doctrine , as a science, [65] the raw material data of which consists of written scripture and the tradition of the Catholic Church. These sources of data were produced by the self-revelation of God to individuals and groups of people throughout history.

Life and Works of Thomas Aquinas - Benjamin Richards

Faith and reason, while distinct but related, are the two primary tools for processing the data of theology. Thomas believed both were necessary—or, rather, that the confluence of both was necessary—for one to obtain true knowledge of God. Thomas blended Greek philosophy and Christian doctrine by suggesting that rational thinking and the study of nature, like revelation, were valid ways to understand truths pertaining to God.

According to Thomas, God reveals himself through nature, so to study nature is to study God. The ultimate goals of theology, in Thomas's mind, are to use reason to grasp the truth about God and to experience salvation through that truth. The central thought is Gratia non tollit naturam, sed perficit.

Grace does not destroy nature, but perfects it. Thomas believed that truth is known through reason natural revelation and faith supernatural revelation. Supernatural revelation has its origin in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and is made available through the teaching of the prophets, summed up in Holy Scripture, and transmitted by the Magisterium , the sum of which is called "Tradition". Natural revelation is the truth available to all people through their human nature and powers of reason. For example, he felt this applied to rational ways to know the existence of God.

Though one may deduce the existence of God and his Attributes Unity, Truth, Goodness, Power, Knowledge through reason, certain specifics may be known only through the special revelation of God through Jesus Christ. The major theological components of Christianity, such as the Trinity , the Incarnation , and charity are revealed in the teachings of the Church and the Scriptures and may not otherwise be deduced.

Revealed knowledge does not negate the truth and the completeness of human science as human, it further establishes them. First, it grants that the same things can be treated from two different perspectives without one canceling the other; thus there can be two sciences of God. Second, it provides the basis for the two sciences: one functions through the power of the light of natural reason, the other through the light of divine revelation. Moreover, they can, at least to some extent, keep out of each other's way because they differ "according to genus".

Sacred doctrine is a fundamentally different kind of thing from theology, which is part of philosophy ST I. Faith and reason complement rather than contradict each other, each giving different views of the same truth. As a Catholic Thomas believed that God is the "maker of heaven and earth, of all that is visible and invisible.

Since the generation of one thing is the corruption of another, it was not incompatible with the first formation of things, that from the corruption of the less perfect the more perfect should be generated. Hence animals generated from the corruption of inanimate things, or of plants, may have been generated then.

Additionally Thomas considered Empedocles 's theory that various mutated species emerged at the dawn of Creation. Thomas reasoned that these species were generated through mutations in animal sperm , and argued that they were not unintended by nature ; rather, such species were simply not intended for perpetual existence. That discussion is found in his commentary on Aristotle's Physics :. The same thing is true of those substances Empedocles said were produced at the beginning of the world, such as the 'ox-progeny', i.

For if such things were not able to arrive at some end and final state of nature so that they would be preserved in existence, this was not because nature did not intend this [a final state], but because they were not capable of being preserved. For they were not generated according to nature, but by the corruption of some natural principle, as it now also happens that some monstrous offspring are generated because of the corruption of seed.

Augustine of Hippo agreed strongly with the conventional wisdom of his time, that Christians should be pacifists philosophically, but that they should use defense as a means of preserving peace in the long run. For example, he routinely argued that pacifism did not prevent the defence of innocents. In essence, the pursuit of peace might require fighting to preserve it in the long-term. Clearly, some special characteristics sets apart "war" from "schism", "brawling", and "sedition".

While it would be contradictory to speak of a "just schism", a "just brawling" or a "just sedition" the three terms denote sin and sin only "war" alone permits sub classification into good and bad kinds. Curiously, however, Augustine does not work up a terminological contrast between "just" and "unjust" war.

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Some years later, the School of Salamanca expanded Thomas's understanding of natural law and just war. Given that war is one of the worst evils suffered by mankind, the adherents of the School reasoned that it ought to be resorted to only when it was necessary to prevent an even greater evil.

A diplomatic agreement is preferable, even for the more powerful party, before a war is started. Examples of " just war " are: [ citation needed ]. A war is not legitimate or illegitimate simply based on its original motivation: it must comply with a series of additional requirements: [ citation needed ]. Under this doctrine, expansionist wars, wars of pillage, wars to convert infidels or pagans , and wars for glory are all inherently unjust.

Thomas believed that the existence of God is self-evident in itself, but not to us. Now because we do not know the essence of God, the proposition is not self-evident to us; but needs to be demonstrated by things that are more known to us, though less known in their nature—namely, by effects. Thomas believed that the existence of God can be demonstrated. Briefly in the Summa theologiae and more extensively in the Summa contra Gentiles , he considered in great detail five arguments for the existence of God, widely known as the quinque viae Five Ways. Concerning the nature of God, Thomas felt the best approach, commonly called the via negativa , is to consider what God is not.

This led him to propose five statements about the divine qualities:. Following St. Augustine of Hippo , Thomas defines sin as "a word, deed, or desire, contrary to the eternal law. Natural law is an instance or instantiation of eternal law. Volume 57 , Issue 2 March Pages Related Information.

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Thomas Aquinas's Summa theologiae: A Biography (Bernard McGinn)

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