Aquinas, Thomas

(c. 1225-74)
   Perhaps the most influential Christian philosopher of all time, Thomas Aquinas was born near Aquino, of which his father was Count, in 1225 or 1227. He entered the Dominican Order and studied under Albert the Great in Cologne and Paris.Thomas Aquinas himself afterwards taught and wrote there and in many other places, culminating in Naples, where, in 1273, he, so his biographer reports, experienced a heavenly vision that made all that he had written seem as straw. He died on his way to the Council of Lyons and was canonised some fifty years later. His vast written output (the estimates hover around eight million words) contains not one but three systematic theologies (Summa Theologiae, which alone runs to nearly two million words, Summa contra Gentiles and Compendium Theologiae) and writings on many and varied theological and philosophical topics. Perhaps best known philosophically for his 'five ways' to prove the existence of God and his brilliant synthesis of Aristotelianism and the Bible, Aquinas' theological influence has been rivalled only by that (outside the Bible) of Augustine of Hippo, of Luther and of Calvin. Aquinas was officially regarded as the philosophical authority for Roman Catholics from Pope Leo XIII's 1879 encyclical until Vatican II. Almost every area discussed in medieval philosophy is treated by him: in philosophy of mind he follows Aristotle in claiming that the soul is the form of the body; in ethics he propounds a naturallaw theory; in epistemology he argues that knowledge begins with the senses; in metaphysics he argues that things are composed of both form and matter - the exceptions being angels, which are pure form, prime matter, which is pure matter, and God, who is being itself. Thomas also made significant contributions to aesthetics, politics and philosophy of law. For Christian philosophers even today the 'angelic doctor' (as he was nicknamed) is still the first port of call when trying to work out a Christian line in some area of philosophy, as is witnessed by the more than 6, 000 commentaries that The Catholic Encyclopedia reports as having been written on Thomas Aquinas' work.
   Further reading: Aquinas 1882-, 1920-5, 1955-7, 1963-80, 1993a and 1993b; Clark Mary T. 1972; Davies 1992; Kenny 1969a and 1980; Kretzmann and Stump 1993; Martin 1988; Stump 2003; Velde 2005; Weisheipl 1974

Christian Philosophy . . 2015.

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