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Metaphysics

Thomas Aquinus -Katherine B.

Thomas Aquinas was born in Roccasecca, Italy, in 1225. At the age of five he was sent to the Abbey of Monte Cassino where he lived for eight years, puzzling over the question “What is God?”. At thirteen, he was forced to relocate to the University of Naples due to political instability in Monte Cassino. At the university, Aquinas began to form his theological philosophy while studying the works of Aristotle, Averroes, and Maimonides. He then joined an order of Dominican monks, was kidnapped by his family in attempts to eradicate his new beliefs, then was later released and returned to the order. Later, he went on to teach theology at the University of Paris before dying in 1274.

Aquinas attempted to reconcile theology and philosophy for the medieval mind, as the medieval society struggled with answering the question “What is?” through ideals of both faith and reason as the two often contradicted one another. Religion (predominately Catholicism in the medieval ages,) taught that God is the simply the answer to everything. This idea that God is the answer to everything, God created everything that is, and the confusion regarding the nature of being is answered by “God’s will”. Catholicism indirectly suggests that we can’t wholly understand the nature of existence and reality (meta) because we don’t have the same divinity and absolute knowledge that God has, therefore we should just accept the things we don’t understand because we’re not as smart as God. Contrasting, reason suggests that the more we ponder “what is ultimately there” and “what it’s like”, the closer we will get to answering the questions of our realities and existences.

So what exactly did Aquinas do? He brought about the idea that faith and reason can work harmoniously to answer questions about being, existing, and reality, and also co-exist within society. On an unrelated note, he proposed that religion and government should not be intertwined, as faith should be practiced within oneself, while the government must rule their people with reason. This exemplifies how one can live and think with both faith (within oneself) and reason (acting within society). Aquinas, though devoutly religious, philosophized that reason and scientific inquiry is essential to exploring and understanding metaphysics. He was a forerunner of spiritual men who attempted to unify theology and philosophy, which within our 21st century mindset, is quite common. So in our modern day, Aquinas’ ideas may not be that mind-blowing or paradigm-shifting. But in the intellectually deprived medieval ages, he proposed a revolutionary idea to harmonize theology and philosophy in order to study what is.

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Discussion

4 thoughts on “Thomas Aquinus -Katherine B.

  1. “…reason suggests that the more we ponder ‘what is ultimately there’ and ‘what it’s like,’ the closer we will get to answering the questions of our realities and existences.”

    I like the similarity here with the mathematical idea of asymptotes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asymptote), where a line approaches zero, but actually runs for eternity without reaching it. How do you think Aquinas might respond to this metaphor? Is there a certain point at which ‘faith’ might be said to cross the distance that reason cannot?

    If not faith, do you think that other human activities (storytelling, philosophy, Conor Oberst bands) fulfill the same purpose?

    Interesting things to consider that could have interesting applications for your Phil’s Day Off…

    Nice work getting your blog out there so quickly!

    Mr. J

    Posted by bryanjack | October 9, 2013, 12:57 am
  2. I think Aquinas would agree that reason approaches an ‘asymptote’ of some sorts when trying to answer ‘what is ultimately there’ and ‘what it’s like’. He suggests that we keep getting closer to answers, but never states that we’ll ultimately reach an answer.

    I personally think that that’s exactly what faith is for. When we have unanswerable questions which lie past the realm of truth answerable by reason, that’s when one must either accept what they do not know, or find faith in something much greater than ourselves.

    Posted by katbilan | October 14, 2013, 5:05 am
  3. Great job on your blog post! It’s incredible to think that ideas that are now relatively new and that are still being used were originally though of a long time ago! I was wondering how Aquinas’ ideas on religion and the separation of government and religion were accepted when he first proposed them and if his proposal affected the first application of a government not affected by religion?

    Posted by emilysaint05 | October 15, 2013, 5:10 am
  4. Thomas Aquinas disproved Al-ghazils methods multiple times and disproved a many of his theories but something that they can both relate on is what is god? Aquinas as you said was very inerested in the theory of god as was my theologian. No matter how much our theologians disagree, this was an amazing post.. Good job!

    Posted by imtiazpaiman99 | October 15, 2013, 6:00 pm

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