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The Scholar: Thomas Aquinas. ch9. Intro. Woman thanked God for saving her from tornado & Does that mean God planned the deaths of her neighbors? If God knows things beforehand, are we still responsible. If he knew you will get a C in this class, how can he hold you responsible

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  • Woman thanked God for saving her from tornado & Does that mean God planned the deaths of her neighbors?
  • If God knows things beforehand, are we still responsible. If he knew you will get a C in this class, how can he hold you responsible
    • If there’s one thing he does not know, how can he be all-wise?
  • An attempt to reconcile faith with reason has a “solution”
    • Duel-truth point of view: small human-truth & superior Truth for God
  • Answer: ways of God are “mystery” to human beings
  • Both cases: inconsistencies & ambiguities are evaded
  • Both believers & non-believers feel cheated when asked to accept inconsistent beliefs or simply dismiss the most vital questions of faith
  • Timeless struggle: How can a good, loving, wise, powerful God allow evil? If God gave Adam & Eve a corrupt nature, how can they and we justly be held responsible?
  • Classical Greek philosophy: objective knowledge and logic/reason were valued over faith because knowing was more useful than believing
    • Humans are the most important life-form & the end is to improve our lives
  • Christian values: Humans are fallen & corrupt, finite & ignorant; incapable of avoiding sin & punishment of hell; only saved by God’s grace & must obey the revealed word of God; faith is valued way more than reason as salvation is more important than this world = emphasis afterlife =otherworldly
the god centered universe
The God-Centered Universe
  • Whereas the classical mind was predominantly secular, the medieval mind was chiefly theological.
  • Theology – from the Greek theos (God) and logos (study of) – means “the science or study of God”.
  • The Middle Ages saw philosophers turn from the study of man and nature to “otherworldly” inquiries and the study of God.
the need to reconcile faith and reason
The Need to ReconcileFaith and Reason
  • The basic principles of reason – also called rules of inference – define the limits of rationality. That is, constantly violating them moves us into the realm of the irrational or illogical. They cannot be rationally refuted, since we rely on them in order to reason.
  • One of the most important rules of inference is thelaw of contradiction. It says that no statement can be both true and false at the same time and under the same conditions. A statement (p) and its opposite (~p) is a contradiction, and so is necessarily false.
the seeds of change christain tenets
The Seeds of Change: Christain tenets
  • The Christian religion arose after the death of Jesus Christ (33 C.E), through the efforts of the early apostles and disciples, especially Paul (the 70’s -100’s C.E.).
  • Christianity originally consisted of scattered groups of believers who anticipated the Second Coming of Christ (during his followers’ life time), which would signal the end of the world.
    • saw no need to develop politicalinterests
    • uninterestedin science and philosophy
    • indifferentto much that went on around them
    • Focus on salvation through faith.
    • Devoted to converting non-Christains & to prepare souls for judgment
    • No time/need for philosophical, social, or moral theories
the seeds of change christain tenets1
The Seeds of Change: Christain tenets

Jesus didn’t come back in their life-time after all & the world did not end. Thus…

  • Principles & rules for interpreting the basic teachings of Christ collected as the New Testament
  • Danger: competing interpretations of every kind will make the revealed word chaotic, inconsistent, contradictory, capricious.
    • Must have a criteria for distinguishing revelation from delusion and dogma from error.
    • Must have criteria for choosing criteria for choosing criteria
  • Called for reinterpretation of Christian teachings: Giving all your goods to the poor when the 2nd Coming is immediate, but it’s complicated when it is years away
    • Christians continued to expand as the centuries passed without the 2nd coming: Christianity increased in complexity
may 21 2011 rapture
May 21, 2011 Rapture
  • Harold Camping who is a retired civil engineer said the believers will be taken up into heaven. His calculation is based on his reading of the bible. He’s spread it through advertising, publicity and missionary groups. Hundreds of Christians who believe Camping’s prediction met recently in Delaware, certain that they’ll soon be taken up to be with Jesus. Camping, who made a similar prediction in 1994, insists he’s calculated correctly this time.
augustine between two worlds
Augustine: Between Two Worlds

Aurelius Augustine (354-430) has been described as “a colossus bestriding two worlds” for his efforts to synthesize early Christian theology with his own understanding of Platonic philosophy and Manichean dualism – the belief that God and Satan are nearly evenly matched in a cosmic struggle, and that human beings must choose sides.

augustine s life
Augustine’s Life
  • By his own account, Augustine lived a wanton, worldly life – in the North African city of Tagaste - until he was 33
  • Eventually, his Christian mother and Ambrose (c. 339-397), the Bishop of Milan, Augustine encouraged him to turned to the Bible.
    • Had children with mistresses: one child called Adeodatus
  • After his conversion to Christianity, he sold his inheritance, gave the money to the poor, and founded the Augustinian Order, the oldest Christian monastic order in the West.
  • In 396, he was ordained Bishop of Hippo, a Roman coastal city in North Africa. It was a post he held for 34 years.
  • He first defended Manicheanism against Christianity and then reversed
augustine s works
Augustine’s Works
  • After his conversion, Augustine produced more than 230 treatises, two of which – the Confessions (c.400) and TheCity of God(413-426) – remain important philosophical works for Christians and non-Christians alike.
    • Anticipates ideas concerning doubt and certainty, the divided self, consciousness, time, free will and God’s foreknowledge of history
  • The City of God details the fall of Rome in terms of a full-fledged philosophy of history, the first philosophy of history ever. By arguing that the fall of Rome was part of the Christian – not pagan – God’s plan, The City of God signals the end of the ancient worldview.
  • And Augustine’s Confessions are considered by some scholars to be the first true autobiography.
    • Like the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
  • Died shortly after the Vandals reached Hippo
pride and philosophy
Pride and Philosophy
  • Augustine rejected Platonism, Epicureanism, and Stoicism as ways of life
    • Believed classical Greek ideas had too much pride by focusing on human reason and the here/now.
  • He criticized Classical humanism to be indifferent to the need for God’s grace and guidance in the application of reason and moderation of the will
    • Reason is powerless, dangerous, and perverse by itself, without grounded in grace, love, and proper longing
    • Faith alone makes true understanding possible
    • Faith is a necessary condition for productive philosophical inquiry
pride and philosophy more epicurus basing
Pride and Philosophy: More Epicurus basing
  • Accused Epicureans of advocating the pursuit of physical pleasure to the exclusion of all else: “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.”
    • Epicurus said the soul is material and can’t survive in immaterial form
    • Misinterpreted Epicureanism and some Stoicism
  • Said Epicureanism is fit for swine not humans; that they satisfy themselves at the expense of the poor, ignore their own souls by rejection of an afterlife.
  • He respected the Stoics more but mocked their sense of detachment & for their lack of faith in God
    • Wrote about Paul’s encounter with the Stoics and Epicureans
  • Late Stoicism marks the shift from purely pagan to Christian philosophy.
    • M. Aurelius expresses values that became the hallmark of Christian philosophy: devaluing of this life and its temporary nature, a strong sense of duty, and the idea that human beings are related to the Logos
    • But Marcus, Plato, and Epicurus focus on human reason and on this world = Huge difference
  • Took up Paul’s crusade against the “errors” of Greek philosophy = major shift from human-centric classical world view to God-centered medieval worldview.
the life of thomas aquinas c 1225 1274
The Life of Thomas Aquinas (c.1225-1274)
  • Born near Naples, joined the Dominican order after spending time with Benedictine monks.
    • Benedictine = Important, powerful position in Catholic church
      • Established monasteries in the country
  • His family hoped to enjoy his position close to the pope
    • Were disappointed when he joined the Domicans
    • Benetines’ power on decline due to their wealth, influence, & prosperity
the life of thomas aquinas c 1225 1274 dominican
The Life of Thomas Aquinas (c.1225-1274): Dominican
  • Attracted to Dominican monks (monasteries in town)
    • Took vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience
    • Known as Order of Preachers
  • Even after his family held him captive for several months – and some say sent a provocatively dressed girl to tempt him – Thomas resisted. He was even able to write a treatise On Fallacies while in captivity.
the life of thomas aquinas c 1225 1274 uni of paris
The Life of Thomas Aquinas (c.1225-1274): Uni. Of Paris
  • He was sent to Cologne to study with Albertus Magnus, or Albert the Great (c.1200-1280), and then to the University of Paris.
  • University of Paris was supervised by the bishop of Paris, the chancellor of Notre Dame cathedral, and the pope
    • Centers of Medieval learning; conducted in Latin
    • Based on availability of important new translations of philosophical texts
      • Aristotle & commentaries by Arabian scholars from Baghad and Spain and original Arabic and Jewish works of empistemology, metaphysics, and ethics by al-Farabi, ibn-Gabriol, Avicenna, and Averroes
      • Teaching was conducted in the great public debates, disputations, & Domicans were renowned debaters & they held 2 faculty positions there by 1231
    • Only clergy were permitted to study & teach at uni
    • The fundamental philosophical and social movement of the 13th C was toward the synthesis and consolidation of a single spiritual truth
still on aquinas universal teacher albertus magnus
Still on Aquinas: Universal Teacher Albertus Magnus

Albertus was the 1st to realize the need to ground faith in philosophy and science. Otherwise, the church would lose influence in the face of great advances in secular and pagan knowledge.

  • Learning made available by the Crusades
  • Read about Jewish, Christian, and Muslim writers & wrote about them
  • Known as Universal Teacher due to breadth of his knowledge & to his paraphrasing Aristotle, making him more accessible
    • Accused of not being creative and consistent
  • He quoted extensively without alteration:
    • Aquinas learned the value of broad knowledge & extensive documentation
  • Though known as the Dumb Ox due to atrocious writing & slow manners, he surprised Albertus one day with a stunning answer
the task of the scholar
The Task of the Scholar

Shortly before Thomas was born, the church had forbidden the teaching of Aristotle’s natural science and Metaphysics because the sage’s Unmoved Mover was an impersonal, natural force, not a loving, personal God

    • To Aristotle, entelechy (soul) was part of nature, inseparable from the body that housed it, and so naturalism denied the possibility of personal immortality
  • Arisotle’s work on scientific thinking, logic, & nature won many converts & spread though out the Uni. Of Paris; with the accuracy of newly arrived Arabian commentaries on Aristotle.
  • The Church realized that Aristotle must be integrated into Christian theology.
    • This task was accomplished by Tommasod’Aquino “the Dumb Ox of Sicily”
    • Crowning achievements: the Summa Theologicaand Summa contra Gentles
the wisdom of the scholar scholastic philosophy
The Wisdom of the Scholar: Scholastic philosophy
  • The term scholasticism refers to mainstream Christian philosophy in medieval Europe from about 1000 to about 1300, and comes from the Greek scholastikos, meaning “to devote one’s free time to learning”.
  • Scholastic philosophy rested on a strong interest in logical and linguistic analysis of texts and on arguments producing a systematic statement and defense of Christian beliefs.
scholastic philosophers did what
Scholastic philosophers did WHAT?
  • Bible as revealed word of God was central to the defense of Christianity, but always was interpreted in accord with the authority of the church and the wisdom of selected earlier Christian writers
  • Attempted to reconstruct Greek philosophy in a form that not only was consistent with but also supported and strengthened Christian doctrine.
    • Impose hierarchy of knowledge
      • Highest: revelation as interpreted church
      • Next: faith and theology
      • Last; philosophy subordinated to both faith and revelation
the wisdom of the scholar
The Wisdom of the Scholar
  • Medieval scholars were the first professors of philosophy; their task was to teach, expound on texts, and publish educational summations of official doctrine.
  • The emergence of the Scholastic professor of philosophy reflects a move away from the sophos to a less personal view of the thinker as part of a scholarly community.
  • Thomas was an archetype of the scholastic philosopher.
    • Unlike modern professional philosophers, he was NOT free to pursue the truth wherever it led
    • He had to start ‘from the truth’__always ultimately supporting Christian doctrine.
  • Scholastic philosophy: the way a case was made/analyzed became an integral part of what was being claimed, and remains an important concern to today’s scholars
    • Logic & linguistic analysis
    • Intellectual standards were developed for documenting an argument with citations from approved sources
    • Present their arguments publicly and defend them against all comers
      • Precursor to modern professor’s obligation to publish, present, and defend papers
why do people argue about spiritual matters
Why Do People Argue About Spiritual Matters
  • Absent some sort of objective proof or rational argument, all we have to offer about religious matters are appeals to bald assertions of our sincerity
  • Persistent disagreements over matters of faith are not meant to be reduced to assertions of personal feelings (subjective states) but rather are intended to be about claimed realities, about what is true
    • The timeless concerns are about whether or not God actually exists objectively, really exists
    • Our religious questions are about what is “real,” what exists, what is true.
  • In Aquinas’ time, there were conflicting claims about what constituted “standards of evidence” for evaluating matters of theology, church authority, and religious faith.
    • One view held that all truth claims must be tested against revealed truths
      • Revelation was the chief and only reliable source of knowledge of God and God’s ways
    • The other view are those of philosophers and scientists who argued that truth could only discovered through concrete experience and deductive reasoning
god and natural reason
God and Natural Reason
  • Thomas approached this problem from an Aristotelian, “naturalistic” position, sometimes referred to as natural theology because it appeals to natural reason or natural intelligence.
  • “Natural ( of this world) reason” here means reason that is unaided by divine revelation.
  • natural theology is an attempt to “prove” God’s existence by appealing to concrete experience and empirical evidence.
    • Aqinas’ modeled this style after Aristotle
    • Aquinas tried to “prove” God’s existence not using revelations or dogma
  • His “FIVE WAYS” reflect the staples of Christian “apologetics” (offering of reasons to justify the divine origin of faith”

1000 BCE 500 BCE 0 500 CE 1000 CE 1500 CE 2000 CE


Thomas Aquinas 1225 - 1274

Thinking based in Christian monasteries

  • Favoured byRCs
  • Influenced by Aristotle
  • “Five Ways” or “Five arguments for the existence of God”
  • a cosmological argument (4 of the 5)
  • a teleological argument (the 5th)


Thomas Aquinas’s “Five Ways”

1. Everything is changing – but something must have caused it.

2. Every effect must have a cause

3. Things come into existence, and cease to exist. There must be a cause.

4. Excellence must come from perfection

5. The harmony of things suggests design.

This all must be God!

proving the existence of god first motion
Proving the Existence of God: First Motion
  • First Motion: billiard balls moved by cue ball; I am given life (anti-motion) by my already moving (alive) parents, who were given life by their moving parents…etc.
    • The first mover has to exist out the series of becoming
    • God is the Unmoved Mover
  • P. 234: Is there any other explanations for motion besides an “unmoved mover”? If so, what is it? If not, is Thomas’ conclusion sound?

The Cosmological Argument

  • cosmos - the world or universe; orderly structure
  • based on what can be seen
  • concept of contingency - dependent on something that may or may not happen

The Cosmological Argument

The Unmoved Mover

  • Thomas Aquinas’ “First Way”
  • everything that is in motion (changed) is moved by something else
  • infinite regress is impossible
  • emphasis on dependency
  • “… it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, moved by no other, and this everyone understands to be God”.



The Cosmological Argument: The Uncaused Causer

Efficient cause (fetus/acorn)

  • Thomas Aquinas’ “Second Way”
  • everything that happens has a cause
  • infinite regress is impossible
  • emphasis on agency
  • “There is no case known … in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself … it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God”


  • P235: Discuss the cosmological argument. Is Thomas’s reasoning sound or not? Are you comfortable with the possibility that there is no “first cause”? If there isn’t, can we explain the existence of the universe at all? Discuss

The Cosmological Argument: Possibility and Necessity

  • Thomas Aquinas’ “Third Way”
  • things come into being and later cease to exist
  • some contingent beings exist
  • if any contingent beings exist, then a necessary being must exist (the cause of the universe must be external to it and must always have existed)
  • Relies on the principle of sufficient reason (nothing happens without a reason) and the principle of plenitude (given infinity and richness of the universe, any real possibility must occur)
  • God’s existence is necessary


  • P 236: Scholastic arguments often hinged on whether or not something was conceivable. One cardinal principle held that no one could even conceive of absolute nothingness. Do you agree? Do you find the argument from necessity convincing?

The Cosmological Argument


  • Thomas Aquinas’ “Fourth Way” : qualitative
  • in this world there is a scale of more good and less good
    • Argument from gradation = hierarchy of the souls
  • this cannot be an infinite scale
  • there must therefore exist “perfection” at one end of the scale - which is what everyone knows as God


  • P238: Do you have any sense of grades of being? Is there anything in your own experience that supports Thomas’ argument? Discuss the argument from gradation?

The Teleological Argument


The Argument from Design

  • Thomas Aquinas’ “Fifth Way”
  • everything works to some purpose (end = telos)
    • Thomas: entire world exhibits order & design; implies intelligence, conscious intent of designer
  • observed beneficial results suggest there is a pattern of direction behind this
  • Modern examples: cells, chromosomes, molecules… exhibit order
  • this must be God!

Thomas Aquinas 1225-1274


The Teleological Argument

The Argument from Design

Thomas Aquinas 1225-1274

“… whatever lacks knowledge cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed … therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God”

Summa Theologica

  • P 238: Is order the same thing as design? Does the universe seem to be ordered and well designed?
problems w 5 ways
Problems w/ 5 Ways
  • First 3 ways failed to establish the existence of a good and loving being
    • Even the ever-existing Prime Mover or Uncaused Cause does not describe God
    • Can’t establish the existence of a qualitative different of being
  • The 5th argument only establishes that the universe is ordered. Without the argument of gradation, Thomas can make a case only for an eternal something that follows orderly pattern
    • “something” is already described by contemporary science as the universe; it certainly is not a description of God
more commentary on the five
More Commentary on the FIVE

Thomas’ arguments begin with empirical observations and then attempt to show that the only logically consistent, adequate explanation for them requires the existence of God. If other equally plausible arguments can account for these observations, then Thomas has not conclusively proved the existence of God; he has at best shown that God’s existence is a possibility or probable.

  • His first 3 Ways argue that infinite series is impossible: FAILED
    • According to modern math & science, it is possible ( just add one or negative one)
  • It is also argued that nature exhibits as much ugliness and disorder as it does design and purpose. What’s the telos for starving children and freak accidents?
    • Many observer of nature fail to see the world as well designed
more comments on his five
More comments on his Five
  • Don’t be to quick to reject his Five, said philosophy historian
  • Jones reasons that Thomas’ Five rests on whether or not they account motion, cause, goodness, and design by distinguishing between explanations inside a system or for the system as a whole.
    • Example: science explains the inside of the system and Thomas accounts for the universe as a whole.
  • Let’s see about that difference:
    • 1953 Uni of Chicago’ biochemist put methane, ammonia, and hydrogen together & the mixture became organic compounds and amino acids (building blocks for organic matter)
      • First evidence for the possibility that organic life could evolve from inorganic matter
      • Such experiments might explain the origins of life within the universe but not the universe as a whole: Where did the energy and matter come from? Someone had to create Miller and the chemicals
      • Scientist can explain the steps within the universe but who accounts for matter & energy?
  • Thus, Thomas stands between science & religion: attempts to reconcile faith, reason, and experience.
query p241
Query p241
  • In 1999 the Kansas Board of Education attracted attention when it ruled against mandating the teaching of evolution in science classes. Thus, the national debates about the adequacy of explanations of the origins of life. Do you think distinguishing between explanations inside a system and explanations that account for the system as a whole could help avoid controversies regarding “science versus religion” in our schools?
complications for natural theology
Complications for Natural Theology

Aquinas’ challenge: various articles of faith seem to contradict each other & inconsistent with common experience (similar difficulty faced Jewish and Muslim philosophers as well)

  • God is the wise (First Cause), then He wills everything: nothing occurs by chance
    • His foreknowledge and He causes everything, then every event must occur exactly as it does
    • Thomas argues that every event occurs doe so out of necessity__nothing that happens can be mere possible
      • Then how can humans be free
      • Yet FREE WILL __freedom to choose our own actions_ is necessary condition for moral responsibility
      • We can’t justly be held responsible for events over which He controls
the problem of evil
The Problem of Evil
  • The problem of evil is arguably the most important theological question, which is this: If God can prevent the destructive suffering of the innocent, yet chooses not to, He is NOT good. If God chooses to prevent the suffering, but cannot, He is NOT omnipotent. If God cannot recognize the suffering of the innocent, He is NOT wise.
  • Quick answers involves absurdities & callousness that’s inconsistent with charity:
    • suffering builds character (starvation, molestation, or torture of children)
    • We’re unable to understand ways of God: then this GAP must apply to everything else about God
  • Contradiction: God is the cause of everything except evil
  • Thomas’ solution : though God did not deliberately will evil, He willed the real possibility of evil. Evil must always be possible when love and goodness are free choices.
more problem of evil
More Problem of Evil
  • Thomas: God willed the creation of a rich, ordered universe (allowed defects/suffering) in which His love could be multiplied. He did not directly will suffering; He willed rational, sensitive creatures
  • To him, the price of feeling and awareness is pain and suffering
  • To Thomas, God is worthy of love freely given; love under coercion is contradiction;
  • Perfection of the universe requires a range of beings, some of which get sick, decay, die…etc
    • He could NOT create humans who do not suffer
query p244
Query p244
  • Reflect on the idea that God CHOSE to allow evil in order to allow free will and love. Do you think freedom with the real possibility of abuse is better than forced limitation, no matter how “good” the reasons for limitations? What might this imply about forms of governments? About censorship? About banning books or rock and roll or drugs?...Has Thomas provided a satisfactory solution to the problem of evil
  • Why doesn’t God make His existence clearly indisputable to everyone?
  • Why not use his OMNIPOTENCE to create us so that we do not suffer and do wrong?
  • Thomas refused to speculate God’s motives & accepts limits of human minds when it comes to infinite
  • He turned to mysticism late in his life
  • Though his arguments contain confusion & problems, he magnificently combined science with faith and faith need not be a substitute for philosophical rigor
  • Questions about ultimate causes remain beyond the scope of science, but they do not disappear just because scientists cannot answer them.
  • Rene Descartes faced the same tension but chose reason over faith