Saint Thomas Aquinas


St. Thomas Aquinas is considered one of the most important philosophers in the history of the western civilization. Born in the eleventh century, in the region of Terni on the west coast of Italy, Aquinas experienced a life-time of influence and learning. A product of his environment and time in this world, Aquinas came to be regarded as one of the fathers of modern philosophy. His works on logic, metaphysics, ethics, and sociology are profoundly relevant to our contemporary lives. These and other works can be seen online in the numerous libraries that offer online study of Aquinas.

Aquinas' greatest work, though, is his lengthy treatise, Summa cum sine curve, or the Summa of Natural Philosophy. In this treatise, Aquinas examined the relationship between faith and science, arguing that a faith based on reason is bound to fail over time. He rejected the idea that natural truths are absolute and decried the tendencies of arbitrary opinion. Although Aquinas had some minor criticisms of theology, he looked to science for support and viewed it as a valuable tool in understanding and resolving disputes.

In his letter On Faith and Reason, Aquinas sought to demonstrate how religion differs from natural science and to show how one differs from the other. Unlike natural science, Aquinas argued, a faith based on reason relies on certitude and not experimental evidence. According to Aquinas, a faith based on faith is infallible; whereas a faith based on reason is not. By the use of reason, Aquinas demonstrated how one can know things beyond the natural reality, namely God.

In his Institutes of Elucidation, Aquinas divided philosophy into two types, the divided and the unified. The divided type of philosophy argued that one can know things through reasoning or experience, while the unified type of philosophy explained things through faith and God's will. A number of his teachings directly oppose to the teachings of Origen. For example, Aquinas discusses how we can be in two places at the same time, showing that the soul leaves the body at one point to go to heaven and then returns to earth to undergo another death before being restored to God.

Because of Aquinas' clear rejection of Origen's ideas, most scholars have interpreted his teachings on faith and reason as holding a distinct position separate from that of Origen. However, this division was only understood on a superficial level. No longer was it considered necessary for one to become a "saint" in order to have a clear understanding of his or her teacher. The majority of his students, especially those from his time, became deeply religious and, in turn, taught these same beliefs to others.

It is impossible to understand Saint Thomas Aquinas' teachings on faith and reason without studying his works, which cover nearly three hundred pages. Many of his works have been reprinted, which makes it possible for scholars of religion to study his works today in order to gain an in-depth understanding of how Aquinas taught. If you are interested in learning about the relationship between religion and reason, you may want to consider reading Saint Thomas Aquinas. He is truly the best source for beginning to understand Aquinas' ideas.


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