Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas

03.05.2015 |

Episode #6 of the course “Brief history of Medieval philosophy”

Thomas Aquinas, who was later made an “Angelic Doctor” of the Catholic church, as well as declared a saint, was one of the most influential medieval Christian theologians. Beginning his studies at age five, he joined a monastery at age 17 and devoted his entire life to expounding upon people’s understanding of God. Aquinas was a scholar who turned down church appointments—such as the Archbishop of Naples—to write more than 20 massive texts about knowing God, building a relationship with God, and the specifics of biblical interpretation.

Although St. Thomas Aquinas was deeply entrenched in the history and application of Christian philosophy, he considered “philosophers” to be pagans who fell short of the wisdom of divine revelation. Aquinas described four supreme virtues of temperance, prudence, fortitude, and justice. He preached and wrote that people should obey their natural tendencies toward these virtues and attempt to cultivate faith, hope, and charity within themselves. Aquinas believed in four types of law that governed all of creation: divine, eternal, natural, and human. Divine law was issued in scripture, eternal law was God’s omnipotent decree, natural law included laws of the world (like gravity), and human law governed society. Aquinas supported the hierarchy established in Genesis, stating that animals were created specifically for human use.

His most well-known work, Summa Theologica, was one of the most influential theological works in history and one of the most well-known texts in the Middle Ages. In over 3,500 pages, Aquinas spells out much of his theological philosophy, including the two pages containing his most famous Five Arguments for the existence of God. Aquinas saw the tome as a book for beginning theology students. It cycles through topics including the existence of God, the truth about creation, and the purpose of human nature, and it covers them each thoroughly, although the work remains unfinished.


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