Thomas Aquinas  

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"Thomas Aquinas is convinced that the highest good, the summum bonum of the ancient philosophers, cannot be attained by reason alone. The visio beatifica, the mystical vision of God remains the absolute goal — and this goal always depends upon a free gift of divine grace . But man himself must begin the work and prepare for this event. The divine right does not abrogate the human right which originates in reason. "Grace does not destroy nature; it perfects nature (Gratia naturam non tollit, sad perficit)"." --The Myth of the State (1946) by Ernst Cassirer

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Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 7 March 1274) was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. An immensely influential philosopher, theologian, and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism. He was the foremost classical proponent of natural theology and the father of Thomism; of which he argued that reason is found in God. His influence on Western thought is considerable, and much of modern philosophy developed or opposed his ideas, particularly in the areas of ethics, natural law, metaphysics, and political theory.

Unlike many currents in the Church of the time, Thomas embraced several ideas put forward by Aristotle—whom he called "the Philosopher"—and attempted to synthesize Aristotelian philosophy with the principles of Christianity.

His best-known works are the Disputed Questions on Truth (1256–1259), the Summa contra Gentiles (1259–1265), and the unfinished but massively influential Summa Theologica a.k.a. Summa Theologiae (1265–1274). His commentaries on Scripture and on Aristotle also form an important part of his body of work. Furthermore, Thomas is distinguished for his eucharistic hymns, which form a part of the Church's liturgy. The Catholic Church honors Thomas Aquinas as a saint and regards him as the model teacher for those studying for the priesthood, and indeed the highest expression of both natural reason and speculative theology. In modern times, under papal directives, the study of his works was long used as a core of the required program of study for those seeking ordination as priests or deacons, as well as for those in religious formation and for other students of the sacred disciplines (philosophy, Catholic theology, church history, liturgy, and canon law).

Modern influence

Many modern ethicists both within and outside the Catholic Church (notably Philippa Foot and Alasdair MacIntyre) have recently commented on the possible use of Aquinas's virtue ethics as a way of avoiding utilitarianism or Kantian "sense of duty" (called deontology). Through the work of twentieth century philosophers such as Elizabeth Anscombe (especially in her book Intention), Aquinas's principle of double effect specifically and his theory of intentional activity generally have been influential.

It is remarkable that Aquinas's aesthetic theories, especially the concept of claritas, deeply influenced the literary practice of modernist writer James Joyce, who used to extol Aquinas as being second only to Aristotle among Western philosophers. The influence of Aquinas's aesthetics also can be found in the works of the Italian semiotician Umberto Eco, who wrote The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas in 1956.

The Eastern Orthodox Church has had a complex relationship with Aquinas' work. For a long time, Aquinas and scholastic or schoolbook theology was a standard part of the education of Orthodox seminarians. His philosophy found a strong advocate in the person of at least one Patriarch of Constantinople, Gennadius Scholarius. However, in the twentieth century, there was a reaction against this "Latin captivity" of the Orthodox theology (Georges Florovsky), and Orthodox writers have emphasized the otherness of Scholasticism.

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This article contains a selection of thoughts of Thomas Aquinas on various topics. It is not intended as a complete account of Aquinas's thought. Within Aquinas' thought is included the philosophical school of Thomism.

Thomism

Thomism is the philosophical school that arose as a legacy of the work and thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, philosopher, theologian, and Doctor of the Church. In philosophy, his commentaries on Aristotle are his most lasting contribution. In theology, his Summa Theologica was one of the most influential documents in medieval theology and continues to be studied today in theology and philosophy classes.


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