Aquinass Philosophy of Religion

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The depiction above of the Islamic philosopher is a detail from the Triumph of St. But it does not follow that there must inevitably be a place for philosophy in our educational systems. It is rare in the United States, for instance, to encounter philosophy before college, and rare outside Catholic universities for philosophy to be required in college. It was a pleasant feature of a recent year spent living in Morocco to find that almost everyone there, from pharmacists to cab drivers, had a basic grasp of what philosophy is, acquired from their high school days.

In this country, in contrast, even well-educated people often have little idea of what philosophy actually consists. At the university, we think of philosophy as an essential offering in the humanities. But there is nothing inevitable even about this, as reflection on the history of the subject reveals. Philosophy, as it is generally studied in the modern university, springs from ancient Greece and the writings of Plato and Aristotle.

There followed several centuries of darkness—a true Dark Ages, as much as medievalists dislike the phrase—until philosophical forms of thought began to reemerge in the ninth century.

Thomas Aquinas: Introduction

Around the same time, one finds distinct and quite independent philosophical movements afoot in Byzantium, in Latin Western Europe, and in the Islamic world. In time, the Latin tradition would become ascendant, as fostered within the European university and eventually reinvigorated by the Enlightenment and the rise of modern science. These developments, however, were still centuries away. In the year , by far the most robust and impressive philosophical tradition was found not in Europe, but in the Middle East.

Eventually, however, the center shifted—first to the western part of the Islamic world in northern Africa and southern Spain, and then north to Christian Europe. What we call the Middle Ages was, in Islam, the great classical era of philosophy and science. After several centuries of flourishing, however, the study of philosophy and science faded in Muslim countries, even while it was being pursued with increasing vigor in the Latin West. Sources available on the Web include St. The monumental Aquinas Summa Theologiae by various translators, a sixty-one-volume English translation, is the standard modern English translation, with each volume containing useful introductions, notes, and appendices.

However, since it is a multiauthor translation, there is an unevenness in the quality.

Aquinas, Philosophy, and Theology - Oxford Scholarship

Pegis, et al. Of special interest to students of philosophy of religion is Shanley , which contains a highly informative commentary. McDermott is a great collection of thematically selected readings drawn from different works—each contextualized in terms of genre of writing, date and central ideas—many of which are relevant to philosophy of religion discussions. Corpus Thomisticum.

Maurer, A. Super Boethium De Trinitate St. Thomas Aquinas: Faith, Reason, and Theology.

Toronto: PIMS, This edition has a useful thirty-page introduction. The Division and Methods of the Sciences. He outlines the divisions and methods of speculative science, distinguishing mathematics, physics, and divine science. The useful introduction has a discussion of Aquinas on methodology.

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McDermott, Timothy. Thomas Aquinas: Selected Philosophical Writings. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Pegis, A. Anderson, V.


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Bourke, and C. The pressing question was this: are the world of rationality, philosophy conceived of without Christ, and the world of faith compatible? Or are they mutually exclusive? Elements that affirmed the incompatibility of these two worlds were not lacking, but St Thomas was firmly convinced of their compatibility indeed that philosophy worked out without the knowledge of Christ was awaiting, as it were, the light of Jesus to be complete. This was the great "surprise" of St Thomas that determined the path he took as a thinker.

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Showing this independence of philosophy and theology and, at the same time, their reciprocal relationality was the historic mission of the great teacher. And thus it can be understood that in the 19th century, when the incompatibility of modern reason and faith was strongly declared, Pope Leo XIII pointed to St Thomas as a guide in the dialogue between them. In his theological work, St Thomas supposes and concretizes this relationality.

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Faith consolidates, integrates and illumines the heritage of truth that human reason acquires. The trust with which St Thomas endows these two instruments of knowledge faith and reason may be traced back to the conviction that both stem from the one source of all truth, the divine Logos, which is active in both contexts, that of Creation and that of redemption. Together with the agreement between reason and faith, we must recognize on the other hand that they avail themselves of different cognitive procedures.

Reason receives a truth by virtue of its intrinsic evidence, mediated or unmediated; faith, on the contrary, accepts a truth on the basis of the authority of the Word of God that is revealed. St Thomas writes at the beginning of his Summa Theologiae: "We must bear in mind that there are two kinds of sciences. There are some which proceed from a principle known by the natural light of the intelligence, such as arithmetic and geometry and the like. There are some which proceed from principles known by the light of a higher science: thus the science of perspective proceeds from principles established by geometry, and music from principles established by arithmetic.

So it is that sacred doctrine is a science, because it proceeds from principles established by the light of a higher science, namely, the science of God and the blessed" ia, q.


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This distinction guarantees the autonomy of both the human and the theological sciences. However, it is not equivalent to separation but, rather, implies a reciprocal and advantageous collaboration. Faith, in fact, protects reason from any temptation to distrust its own abilities, stimulates it to be open to ever broader horizons, keeps alive in it the search for foundations and, when reason itself is applied to the supernatural sphere of the relationship between God and man, faith enriches his work.

According to St Thomas, for example, human reason can certainly reach the affirmation of the existence of one God, but only faith, which receives the divine Revelation, is able to draw from the mystery of the Love of the Triune God. Moreover, it is not only faith that helps reason. Reason too, with its own means can do something important for faith, making it a threefold service which St Thomas sums up in the preface to his commentary on the De Trinitate of Boethius: "demonstrating those truths that are preambles of the faith; giving a clearer notion, by certain similitudes, of the truths of the faith; resisting those who speak against the faith, either by showing that their statements are false, or by showing that they are not necessarily true" q.

The entire history of theology is basically the exercise of this task of the mind which shows the intelligibility of faith, its articulation and inner harmony, its reasonableness and its ability to further human good.

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The correctness of theological reasoning and its real cognitive meaning is based on the value of theological language which, in St Thomas' opinion, is principally an analogical language. The distance between God, the Creator, and the being of his creatures is infinite; dissimilitude is ever greater than similitude cf. DS