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An Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas

An Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas

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An Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas

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  1. An Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas Prof. Rob Koons St. Louis King of France, Austin May 28, 2014

  2. Overview of Series • May 28: The Nature and Destiny of Man (SThI q75 and 76; I-II, q1 and 3). • June 4: The Proof of the Existence and Perfection of God (STh I, q2-5 and q44, a5; SCG I, q13, 37 and 72) • No meeting June 11 • June 18: Social and Political Thought (STh I-II, q90, 94, 95, 105; SCG III, q 122-3, 128-9) • June 25: Moral and Theological (Spiritual) Virtues(STh I-I, q18, 55, 61, 62)

  3. Tonight’s Topics • The Life of St. Thomas Aquinas • A Short History of Thomism • St. Thomas on Faith and Reason • Aristotle’s Philosophy • The Structure of the Summa Theologiae • The Unity of Happiness (Summa Th. I-II, q1-3) • The Soul and the Body (Summa Th. I, q75-76)

  4. The Life of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-66) • Noble family • Joins the Dominicans. Kidnapped by his family. • With St. Albert the Great in Cologne, Paris. • Doctorate at the University of Paris (with St. Bonevantura). • Guest of St. Louis, King of France. • Commentaries on Aristotle, the Scriptures, the two Summas. • Battles with arch-conservatives and Averroists. • “Thou hast written well of me.” “I can write no more…all that I have written is but straw.”

  5. Ups and Downs • Theses condemned by Stephen Tempier, bishop of Paris in 1277. • Canonized by Pope John XXII in 1323. Condemnation revoked. • Council of Trent (1545-63). Works placed on the altar. Still eclipsed by Blessed John Duns Scotus (1266-1308). • Proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1567 by Pius V. • Pope Leo XIII in AeterniPatris(1879): urges all Catholic theologians and teachers to look to Thomas for guidance. Made patron saint of Catholic colleges and schools.

  6. Pope Leo XIII on Aquinas …he is rightly and deservedly esteemed the special bulwark and glory of the Catholic faith. With his spirit at once humble and swift, his memory ready and tenacious, his life spotless throughout, a lover of truth for its own sake, richly endowed with human and divine science, like the sun he heated the world with the warmth of his virtues and filled it with the splendor of his teaching…. He reasoned in such a manner that in him there is wanting neither a full array of questions, nor an apt disposal of the various parts, nor the best method of proceeding, nor soundness of principles or strength of argument, nor clearness and elegance of style, nor a facility for explaining what is abstruse. (AeterniPatris17)

  7. Other Popes • Pope Innocent VI: “His teaching above that of others, the canonical writings alone excepted, enjoys such a precision of language, an order of matters, a truth of conclusions, that those who hold to it are never found swerving from the path of truth, and he who dare assail it will always be suspected of error." (1352-62) • Pope Urban V: “"It is our will, which We hereby enjoin upon you, that ye follow the teaching of Blessed Thomas as the true and Catholic doctrine and that ye labor with all your force to profit by the same." (1362-72)

  8. St. John Paul II “[T]he Magisterium has repeatedly acclaimed the merits of Saint Thomas’ thought and made him the guide and model for theological studies.… The Magisterium’s intention has always been to show how Saint Thomas is an authentic model for all who seek the truth. In his thinking, the demands of reason and the power of faith found the most elevated synthesis ever attained by human thought, for he could defend the radical newness introduced by Revelation without ever demeaning the venture proper to reason.”

  9. The Virtues of St. Thomas • Clarity, clarity, and still more clarity. • Lack of egoism, self-consciousness. • Fairness to opposing positions. No “straw men”. • Charity to all. Seeks the element of truth in every philosophy. • Asks all the relevant questions – even “awkward” ones. • The most learned man in all Western history – photographic memory, of all of the Scriptures, Church Fathers, Aristotle, Moslem and Jewish commentators. • A great contemplative, as well as a scholar.

  10. Brief History of Thomism • Disciples of St. Thomas defend him against the condemnation of 1277, culminating in his canonization. • Works revived during the Council of Trent. (1545-63) Thomas Cardinal Cajetan writes commentary. Declared Doctor of the Church. • The Salamanca school in Spain. F. Suarez (1548-1617), L. de Molina. • The Angelicum founded in Rome. Six volume Summa Philosophicapublished in 1777. • Neo-Scholasticism of the 1800’s. Leo XIII’s AeterniPatri. Pius X’s Twenty-Four Thomistic Theses.

  11. Thomism in the 20th and 21st Centuries • Garrigou-Langrange, teacher of John Paul II at the Angelicum. • Existential Thomism: Etienne Gilson, Jacques Maritain, Joseph Owens. Influences Vatican II. • River Forest/Laval/Aristotelian Thomism: De Conninck, Weisheipl, William Wallace, Benedict Ashley, Ralph McInerny. • TranscendentalThomism. Bernard Lonergan, Karl Rahner. • Lublin/Phenomenological Thomism. John Paul II. • Analytical Thomism: Elizabeth Anscombe, Peter Geach, John Haldane, David Oderberg, Edward Feser.

  12. Themes of St. Thomas • Natural knowledge comes through the senses, not by direct divine illumination. • In this life, we know God only by His effects, not as He is in Himself. • The unity of truth, the consistency of faith and reason. • Doctrine of analogy: we can speak truly of God’s perfections, although there is an infinite difference. • The reality of the physical world, as created by God and known by human science. • Moderate ‘realism’ about common or universal ‘natures’. • The will is guided by the intellect.

  13. Faith and Reason • Two distinct ways of knowing God: by natural reason (natural theology) and by faith (sacred theology). • There is no possible real conflict between the two, although faith reveals truths far beyond the capacity of reason. Any conflict can be only apparent, due to bad reasoning on one side or the other. • Natural theology is valuable for sacred theology. • St. Thomas was, by profession, a theologian. However, it is possible to extract from his works a coherent philosophy. • No artificial separation of faith and reason. He philosophizes as a faithful Christian.

  14. St. Thomas and Aristotle • St. Thomas calls Aristotle “The Philosopher”. • G. K. Chesterton (in his book, Saint Thomas Aquinas) writes, “St. Thomas made Christendom more Christian by making it more Aristotelian.” • Most obvious tension: Aristotle clearly believed that the physical universe had no beginning. • Aquinas argued that Aristotle did not think that this could be philosophically demonstrated. • He also argued that a beginningless creation was possible, although we know by faith that God did not choose to do so. • On other points, Aquinas argued that the Averroists (following Averroes or ibnRushd) had misinterpreted Aristotle (especially on the denial of an immortal, individual human soul).

  15. Plato’s Theory of “Forms” • A “Form” is the kind of essence that Socrates sought: the Form of Justice, the Good, Humanity, etc. • Forms are not physical objects, nor something private, subjective or merely mental. A “third realm”. • Examples: mathematical objects, like the triangle. • For Plato, material objects (including us) are faint, imperfect copies of some perfect Form. • This fact has normative implications: something is a better F the more perfectly it copies the form of the F. Better triangles, better men. • In modern philosophy, Plato’s Forms are classified as “abstract objects”. They are typically called “universals”.

  16. The Philosophy of Aristotle • Aristotle (388-322 BC) was Plato’s student. • Influenced all later Christian philosophers, including Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. • Wrote on many subjects: biology, chemistry, astronomy. • Best-known: Ethics, Politics, Metaphysics.

  17. “Moderate” Realism about Universals • Aristotle agreed with Plato that universals (forms) must exist to make science and thought possible. • However, he rejected the idea that material objects were mere “copies” of separately existing Forms. • Instead, he insisted that the Forms existed “in” particular objects. A universal (like humanity or justice) exists only insofar as there actual humans or just people.

  18. The Possibility of Change • “It is a distinctive mark of substance, that, while remaining numerically one and the same, it is capable of admitting contrary qualities (accidents), the modification taking place through a change in the substance itself.” • Example from Physics, 1: “the unmusical man becomes musical.”

  19. Denials of the Possibility of Change • Denied by Parmenides and his disciples (the Eleatic philosophers). Zeno (the creator of the famous paradoxes, like Achilles and the tortoise) was one of these. • Argument from the impossibility of thinking of the non-existent. Change involves a transition from non-being to being (or vice versa). However, it is impossible for some thing to have non-existence.

  20. Denials of the Possibility of Change • Argument from the causal impossibility of change. • Any new thing must come from either being or non-being. • If it comes from being, it already exists, and so isn’t new. • Nothing can come from non-being. • Consequently, no new thing can come to be.

  21. Potential and Actual Being • Aristotle rebuts these arguments by introducing a distinction between two kinds of being: potential and actual. • To speak or think of a thing, it must have at least potential being, not necessarily actual being.

  22. The Causation of Change • Change comes from both being and non-being (in different ways). • For a change to occur, there must be something that exists before and after the change (the substance). • There must also be the absence or privation of some accident (e.g., being non-musical). • The non-musical man becomes musical (i.e., a musical man). Change begins with a combination of being (as a substance) and non-being (of an accident in the substance).

  23. Causation Requires Potentiality • When change happens, there was already a potentiality for the new state in the changing thing. • Potentialities for new states are rooted in the actual nature of a thing, not just in what we can imagine or conceive of.

  24. Causation Requires an Agent • In addition for a potentiality for change in the thing that changes (the “patient”), we also need an outside “agent”, with an active power of producing the change. • This “agent” must exist separately from the “patient”, or else we could not explain why the change did not happen sooner: the change happens only when the agent and patient come into mutual contact (or appropriate proximity) with one another.

  25. This Applies also to Animals and Persons • Animals and people may appear to act spontaneously, with no external agent, but we can in fact always find an agent-patient pair. • In many cases, the organism is stimulated into action by some perceived change in the environment. • In every case, we can find some part of the organism acting (as a relatively external agent) upon some other part: such as molecules in the in the stomach or heart acting upon neurons, which in turn act on the brain, stimulating further behavior through perception of some internal state.

  26. Potentialities always Depend on Some Actuality • These are complementary notions. • However, actuality is more fundamental than or “prior to” potentiality, in several ways: • The potentiality of a thing is always grounded in its actual nature. • A potentiality is always a potentiality for some kind of actuality, not vice versa. Actuality is prior in definition. • Potentialities are never actualized except by the presence of actual agents. • As a consequence, a being of pure actuality is possible, but not a being of pure potentiality.

  27. The Necessity of Stability • Heraclitus argued that nothing whatsoever endures from one moment to the next. • Aristotle argues that this is impossible. Change implies that something is changed: the thing changed must in some respects endure. • In simple case: substances endure, accidents change.

  28. What about Substantial Change? • There are two kinds of change that don’t fit Aristotle’s simple model (as presented in The Categories): generation (creation), and destruction of substances. • Aristotle believed that some substances (plants, animals, perhaps blobs of pure element or of a mixture) do come into and go out of existence.

  29. Aristotle’s Physics, Book 1 • In this chapter, Aristotle introduces the notion of ‘matter’ (hule -- lumber). • Matter = “the primary substratum of each thing from which it comes to be without qualification (I.e., from which it is generated), and which persists in the result (after the thing is destroyed).” • Substratum = that which endures through a change.

  30. In what sense does the matter endure? • Not as actual substance. • For Aristotle, one substance cannot be composed of, constituted by another substance or substances. A substance is a thing that exists in and of and by itself, not through the existence of other things.

  31. Generating & Destroying a Complex Individual Substance Potentiality B complex A Particles A Particles Actuality

  32. Form and Matter • Aristotle’s view is called ‘hylomorphism’ (or ‘hylemorphism’). • Substances are “composed” of both form (morphe --- the same word Plato used) and matter (hule – Aristotle’s coinage). • Socrates’ humanity is his form: that by which Socrates exists, that by which his matter is his matter (as opposed to being an actual corpse).

  33. Form is the Actuality; Matter is Potentiality • The “matter” of a substance is its potentiality to produce new substances, either by extruding parts of itself, or by being utterly destroyed and leaving behind some residue of itself. • The “form” of a substance is the principle of its actual nature, here and now. The form explains what active powers and passive potentialities a thing has. • This is why a being of pure actuality, like God, must be immaterial.

  34. Pure Form • Just as actuality is prior to potentiality, so form is prior to matter. • Thus, it is possible for a substance to exist as pure Form (God, the angels, the human soul after death and before the resurrection), but it is impossible for anything to exist as pure, unformed Matter. • The human soul can exist after death because its pure intellectual functions (unlike the functions of non-rational animality, like sensation) don’t require physicality in their very definition.

  35. Rejecting Dualism • Nonetheless, before death (and after the Resurrection) human beings are (like other animals) body-soul (or matter-form) composites. • The rational soul acts as the form of the body – fully responsible for the body’s being (in actuality) a living, organic thing. • Leads naturally to the “theology of the body” (as John Paul II put it). What happens to the body has spiritual significance – the body’s isn’t a mere external contraption attached to an essentially immaterial human being.

  36. The Four “Causes” • The Material Cause: what is a thing made of? • The Formal Cause: what is the fundamental nature of a thing? What is it? • The Efficient Cause: what agent brought this thing into existence? • The Final Cause: what is the end or purpose for which the thing exists? • These obviously apply to human artifacts, tools. • Also to organs. • Aristotle argues that all four apply universally, to all substances. • The most controversial is the last one.

  37. Final Causation • In the inorganic world: consider cycles, like the water cycle or rock cycle. Each stage exists “for the sake of” the next one. • The basic laws of nature are not just regularities. They represent the ways things act, exercising their active powers and passive potentialities. • Powers and potentialities point forward, to a possible future. This is the final cause. Aquinas: “Every agent acts for an end, otherwise one things would not follow from the action of the agent more than another.” (ST I, q44, a4) • Final causation is the “cause of causes”, the fundamental basis for all explanation.

  38. Implications of Final Causation • Biology is thoroughly teleological: ‘genes’, ‘enzymes’, ‘cells’, ‘organs’ – all are defined in terms of their function. • The natural function of the human intellect is the basis of the distinction between reason & madness, knowledge & opinion, science & pseudo-science. • The natural function of the human will is the basis of ethics and political philosophy: the human person is naturally ordered to the life of justice and virtue.

  39. Structure of the Summa • The Summa Theologiae is divided into four Parts, comprising a total of 512 “questions”. • Part I: God and Creation • Part I-II: Human Nature (Happiness, Passions, Habits, Law, Grace) • Part II-II: The Virtues and Vices • Part III: Christ and the Sacraments • Each question is further subdivided into a considerable number of “articles”. • Each article, in turn, follows a fixed pattern.

  40. The Structure of an Article • 1. The article begins with a question, almost always a Yes-or-No question. • 2. An answer is then given to the question that Aquinas finds inadequate. This section is always preceded by the words “It seems…” It is vitally important that one realize that Aquinas is not endorsing this initial answer. He will invariably either reject it altogether, or find it only partially true. This can be confusing, because Aquinas always tries very hard to be fair to every opinion. He does his best to state the case for the opposing view as clearly and persuasively as he can. • 3. Several arguments for the erroneous answer are given, each labeled as an “objection”. As I just mentioned, these arguments can sound quite persuasive, but Aquinas will later explain what is wrong with them.

  41. Structure of an Article • 4. Aquinas gives a better answer to the question, preceded by the words “To the contrary…” He will generally accept this second answer, although in some cases he will take the position that both answers are partly right and partly wrong. • 5. Aquinas finally resolves the tension with a section that begins “I respond that…” Here he gives what he takes to be the correct answer and the essential reason why this answer is correct. Pay very careful attention to this section – this is where Aquinas lays out the foundation of his thought. • 6. The plausible but wrong arguments given in section 3 are refuted, one by one.

  42. Finding the Summas • Summa Theologiae (or Theologica): • • Summa of the Summa, edited by Peter Kreeft (Ignatius Press, 1990). • (most of the works of St. Thomas, in both English and Latin). • Summa Contra Gentiles • Jacques Maritain Center, Notre Dame: • • Book One: God, translated by Anton C. Pegis (University of Notre Dame Press, 2012).

  43. Part I-II. Q1: Man’s Final End • Whether it belongs to man to act for an end? Yes • Whether it is “proper” to the rational nature to act for an end? (I.e., do only rational creatures do so?) No • Whether human acts are “specified”(made what they essentially are) by their ends? Yes • Whether there is one ultimate end of human life? Yes • Whether one man can have several ultimate ends at the same time? No • Does a man will whatever he does for the sake of this ultimate end? Yes • Whether all men have the same ultimate end? Yes

  44. Part I-II. Q2:In What Happiness Consists • In wealth? • In honor? • In fame or glory? • In power? • In any good of the body? • In pleasure? • In any good of the soul? • In any created thing?

  45. Part I-II. Q3:What Happiness Is • Is happiness something created or uncreated (i.e., God)? Uncreated object; created enjoyment. • Is happiness an activity? Yes • Is happiness an activity of the sensory soul, or only of the intellectual? Strictly speaking – only the intellectual • Is it an activity of the intellect or the will? The intellect • The contemplative or the practical intellect? The contemplative • The contemplation of the sciences? Imperfect, Yes. Perfect, No. • Contemplation of angels? No • Vision of the divine essence? Yes

  46. Part I. Q75:Man’s Soul • Whether the soul is a body? No • Does the human soul “subsist” (can it exist “on its own”)? Yes • Are the souls of brute animals subsistent? No • Is a man a soul? No (he is composed of soul and body) • Is the soul itself composed of matter and form? No • Is the human soul naturally incorruptible? Yes • Is a human soul the same as an angel? No

  47. Part I, Q76:Union of Body & Soul • Is the principle of the human intellect also the “form” of the body? Yes • Does each man have his own intellectual principle? Yes • Does each man have multiple souls? No • Is there in man any “form” other than the intellectual soul? No • Is it proper or fitting for the human intellectual soul to be united with a body? Yes • Is the soul essentially or only ‘accidentally’ united to the body? Essentially • Is it united to the body by another body? No