The Life of Thomas Aquinas

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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.

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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.

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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. 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. 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.

Thomas Aquinas (1224/6—1274)

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.

St. Thomas Aquinas & the Culture of Life

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.

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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".

St. Thomas Aquinas & the Culture of Life

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. 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.

Early Life and Education, 1224-1252

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.

A History of Philosophy - 24 Thomas Aquinas' Christian Aristotelianism

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. Because natural law is what human beings determine according to their own nature as rational beings , disobeying reason is disobeying natural law and eternal law.

Thus eternal law is logically prior to reception of either "natural law" that determined by reason or "divine law" that found in the Old and New Testaments. In other words, God's will extends to both reason and revelation. Sin is abrogating either one's own reason, on the one hand, or revelation on the other, and is synonymous with "evil" privation of good, or privatio boni [].

Thomas, like all Scholastics, generally argued that the findings of reason and data of revelation cannot conflict, so both are a guide to God's will for human beings. Thomas argued that God, while perfectly united, also is perfectly described by Three Interrelated Persons. These three persons Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are constituted by their relations within the essence of God. Thomas wrote that the term "Trinity" "does not mean the relations themselves of the Persons, but rather the number of persons related to each other; and hence it is that the word in itself does not express regard to another.

This eternal generation then produces an eternal Spirit "who enjoys the divine nature as the Love of God, the Love of the Father for the Word.