Saint Thomas Aquinas Essay

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But a glance at the actual text of Aquinas' Summa Theologica shows the way his philosophical argumentation and system-building proceed: Aquinas asks a question, then introduces philosophical objections, then resolves the dispute with reference to scripture but also to syllogistic logic, empirical evidence, and common sense. Aquinas proves both by Aristotelian logic but also by scriptural reference that "the fool has said in his heart that there is no God" that it cannot be asserted that God's existence is self-evident ("Summa" Question 2 Article 1). This willingness to combine dogma with clear and obvious logic seems to derive from Aquinas' dual focus as a Dominican on learning and preaching to ordinary persons: the system of Christian doctrine should therefore be justifiable both in terms of basic common sense and the most advanced sort of philosophical inquiry.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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Aquinas' influence as a thinker, though, relies more on the systematic character of his thought. James Hinz notes that, in the sixteenth century, Aquinas' Scholasticism was still alive and well even after the Catholic Church's monopoly on Christian religion had been challenged: Hinz refers to Schegk as the "father of Protestant Scholasticism," who would write numerous commentaries on Aristotle, from a standpoint that otherwise theologically was more in agreement with Luther than with Aquinas (Wikipedia, "Jakob Schegk"). This is worth noting in case we are tempted to see Aquinas as relevant only to the specific study of Catholicism -- his emphasis on the Classical naturalism of Aristotle was capable of attracting emulators even across doctrinal divides. Indeed Aquinas also has had an influence on ethical thinking without any specific reference to God or religion at all: since the nineteenth century, the philosophical analysis of ethics has been divided into Kantian and Utilitarian approaches. We can see this with an ethical writer like John Rawls, who is attempting to reclaim a Kantian position, or like Peter Singer, who is rather provocatively occupying the most stubborn Utilitarian position conceivable. Because Aquinas' view of ethical behavior depends more on the notion of personal virtue -- rather than the universalistic appeals to society at large which mark the Kantian categorical imperative and the cold-blooded Benthamite calculus alike -- Aquinas has offered an example for ethical writers like the Cambridge Wittgensteinian G.E.M. Anscombe (Wikipedia, "G.E.M. Anscombe."). And it is worth noting that one of the major twentieth century inheritors of Aquinas was the Irish writer (and seriously lapsed Catholic) James Joyce, who took from Aquinas not only the categorical system-building approach to thought, but also an aesthetic theory based on Aquinas' notions of consciousness and representation.

Works Cited

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica. Online at: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1002.htm

Soccio, Archetypes of Wisdom (8th edition).

Wikipedia.org, "Jakob Schegk."

Wikipedia.org, "G.E.M. Anscombe." [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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