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St. Thomas Aquinas

His life and work

J.W. Lane

on 6 February 2014

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Transcript of St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Thomas
Free Will
Biography Continued
Unhappy with his decision, Aquinas' family captured him and locked him away for a year.
Biography Continued
Biography Continued
Aquinas would eventually go to the University of Paris. There he studied the philosophy of Aristotle, bringing it into dialogue with Christianity.
Toward the end of his life, Aquinas had a vision of heaven that had a profound impact on him. He died in 1274.
Aquinas' Thought
Aquinas was both a theologian and philosopher of unrivaled ability. He wrote a 3,000 page book called the Summa Theologica, or Summary of Theology. We're going to look at his thought on God, man, morality, and politics.
Aquinas taught that faith and reason were distinct, albeit complementary ways of attaining a knowledge of God.
Aquinas taught that any reasonable person can know God exists. He offers the "Five Ways" to establish God's existence using human reason alone.
His Life & Work
The Five Ways
An Analogy
We can infer several things about the First Mover from the aforementioned argument:

Of all His attributes, it is God's simplicity that makes Him particularly unique. It means that He is identical with His attributes.
This is where freedom comes in. God doesn't force people to cooperate with His designs. The will has the capacity to freely choose between alternatives.
We can overcome sin through God's help, and by developing virtue, or morally good habits. The four cardinal virtues are justice, prudence, fortitude, and temperance.
In addition to the cardinal virtues, God grants us the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. We must cooperate with Him in developing these virtues.
Aquinas' political theory is based on his moral theory. On his estimation, politics, or the just ordering of society, have to be grounded in natural law.
According to Aquinas, human beings are social by nature. Why? Because they lack the resources necessary to perfect themselves. Human beings can only grow in perfection through their interactions with others.
more on simplicity
Trinity Continued
In my own soul, I'm capable of understanding myself as a concept, and I'm capable of choosing myself as a good.
However, due to God's simplicity, He is identical to His self-concept and self-will. These things aren't separate from God: They ARE God!
What's it Mean?
For Aquinas, the Holy Trinity is an ever present, dynamic and ecstatic exchange of interpersonal love.
Why Create?
Why did God create the universe? Simply put:
1. God recognizes His own goodness.
2. God knows that rational creatures would benefit
from His goodness - it would make them happy.
3. God creates spontaneously and gratuitously: He
creates for our benefit alone.
Aquinas on Man
What is a Man?
Soul-Body Union
What's It Mean?
Hylomorphism implies that you are not your soul. Your soul is only a part of you. You are a soul-body union: spiritual and material at the same time.
Aquinas on Morality
If we cooperate with God's wise designs that are manifest in the natural law, then we will be fulfilling the purpose for which we were created.
Aquinas on
Aquinas on God
Trinity Continued
Something similar is always going on in God. He's always understanding Himself and choosing Himself.
A human being is a soul-body union. A soul is an immaterial substance capable of intellect and will. A body is a material substance capable of sensation and growth.
The Problem
Aquinas was a brilliant theologian and philosopher whose insights into God, man, morality and politics enjoy ongoing relevance.
God's Existence
The Five Ways are metaphysical arguments for the existence of God. So, to understand any of them fully, we have to know something about scholastic philosophy.
For Aquinas, human beings are created in the image and likeness of God. Their purpose is to attain happiness by knowing and loving Him.
Natural Law
Eternal law is made manifest in the order we see that governs the material universe. This actual order, and our participation therein is called the Natural Law.
The problem comes in when we favor finite goods over the ultimate Good, or when we turn to finite goods in disordered ways. This is called "sin."
Virtue Continued
Thomas Aquinas was born in 1224 in the town of Roccesecca, Italy. His wealthy family hoped he would one day become an abbot. Instead, he joined the newly formed mendicant Dominican order.
According to one story, Aquinas' brothers even sent a prostitute into his cell to tempt him away from the Dominicans. He drove her out with a log from the fire.
The First Way
With these causes in mind, we can proceed to Aquinas' First Way, which states:
1. In the world, things are in motion.
2. Any moving thing must be put in motion by
another moving thing.
3. There must be a First Mover, Itself unmoved, and
we call It God.
Metaphysics is the most abstract of the theoretical philosophies. Its subject matter is being, or existence itself, and it considers the most fundamental causes of all being.
These causes include, but are not limited to the following: 1) act (actuality): real being or existence, 2) potency (potentiality): the real capacity for being, and 3) change (motion): the reduction from potency to act.
Aquinas on the Trinity
Aquinas tries explaining the Holy Trinity through an analogy. He asks us to imagine our souls. A soul has two functions: intellect and will. Intellect is the capacity to understand concepts; will is the capacity to choose between alternatives.
Me as a concept
in my intellect
Me as an object
of my own will
My soul
God as a concept
in His intellect
God as an object
of His own will
God the Father
God as a concept
in His intellect
God as an object
of His own will
God the Father
This is actually a Person:
God the Son
This is actually a Person:
God the Holy Spirit
Soul and body are not two natures united; rather, their union forms a single thing: a living, human person.
The soul gives "form" to the body: it orders the matter into a living, organized whole. When soul and body separate, the matter returns to a disorganized state (it decomposes). The view that the soul informs the body is known as "hylomorphism."
Aquinas believed that God had a wise plan for how He would create the universe. This plan is called the Eternal Law.
Ordered Toward the Good
Although the will is free, it is always ordered toward some good. This should be obvious: people do what they think is going to benefit them.
The Ultimate
As creations of God, we're ordered toward an ultimate Good: namely God Himself.
The Ultimate Good
We can see that we're ordered toward an ultimate Good when we think about the fact that all finite goods leave us unsatisfied. We long for something that will make us happy for all time. Only God can satisfy us like that.
The Beatific Vision
Those who love God will one day experience His ultimate Goodness: they will directly behold Him. We call this the Beatific Vision because it will make us supremely and eternally happy.
Natural Law
This makes sense since God Himself exists, not as an isolated individual, but as a joyous exchange of interpersonal love!
There are several different types of societies:
1. Family. The family is the most basic society. It arises from our natural inclinations toward companionship and procreation.
2. Village. Families gravitate toward one another and form villages. Division of labor within the village leads to greater affluence.
3. Political Society. Villages eventually grow into political societies. In addition to greater economic benefits and protection, societies afford their members opportunities to grow morally and intellectually.
Types of Societies
Aquinas identifies six types of societies based on two criteria: (1) how they are ruled, and (2) whether they are justly ruled (that is, for the common good).
Ruled by One
Ruled by a Few
Ruled by Many
What's best?
On Aquinas' estimation, a monarchy is always best. Why? A few reasons:
1. Monarchical governments imitate
God's governing of the universe.
2. Monarchs get things done. They
don't have to deliberate with others.
On the one hand, there are certain things about God that He must reveal to us (the Holy Trinity). This is the domain of faith. However, faith is never blind: it is a type of knowledge accepted on the basis of Divine Authority.
On the other hand, there are certain things about God that we can under-stand without His help (His existence). This is the domain of reason. We can know a lot about God without the
help of Revelation.
The science of first and universal causes
The science of correct thinking
- Mathematics
- Physics
- Metaphysics
- Ethics
- Politics
To understand the first way, try imagining a mirror. A mirror is an actual thing, and it has the potential to reflect an image.
Now imagine a mirror that reflects an image of a person. And let's say that mirror is set up in such a way that it rec-eives its image from another mirror, and another, and so
on ad infinitum.
Even if the series of reflecting mirrors were infinite, there couldn't be the reflection of a person in any of them unless there was a first, real person to initiate the series.
An Analogy Continued
We will only be considering the first of the Five Ways.
Similarly, in any series of moving things, wherein one is dependent for its motion on another, there must be a First Mover Who initiates the whole series.
Pure Being
The First Mover must be pure Being, or Actuality with no potentiality. He is the absolute fullness of all positive perfections.
The First Mover must be eternal. Lacking potential, He undergoes no change. As such, He enjoys the fullness of interminable life.
The First Mover must be utterly simple, or possessing no constitutive parts. His simplicity means that He is what He has.
You possess goodness.
God is Goodness.
You have love.
God is Love.
You have power.
God is Power.
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