Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was a priest and theologian of the Dominican order of Roman Catholicism. He is recognized as one of the greatest philosophers of the scholastic tradition, defined as a theoretical movement which dominated much of the Middle Ages, and which uses reason to understand the religious revelations of Christianity.
We will see below a biography of Saint Thomas Aquinas, As well as a brief explanation of his contributions to philosophical and theological thought.
Biography of Saint Thomas Aquinas: philosopher and theologian
Thomas Aquinas was born in 1225 in the kingdom of Naples, near the present-day province of Frosinone. Son of Count Landulf and Countess Theodora of Theati, Thomas Aquinas soon joined the Hohenstaufen dynasty of Roman emperors. In fact, Aquinas’ family hoped he would follow the Benedictine path, as it was the expected destination of any son of the Italian nobility.
Likewise, Thomas Aquinas he began his training very early in educational and religious institutions. At the age of 16 he left the University of Naples, where he had studied with the Dominicans and Franciscans, which in turn had posed a challenge to the clergy for now.
He intended to continue his Dominican education, which his family did not like. In fact, the biographers of Thomas Aquinas explain that his family decided to lock him up for more than a year in the castle of Roccasecca, where he was born. It was to prevent his entry into that order.
Finally, after the closure, he entered the Dominican School in Cologne in 1244, and in 1245 at the University of Paris, where he studied philosophy and theology at the hands of Albert the Great. In 1428 he was appointed professor, and it was at this time that he officially began his academic, literary and public life.
After being in France for many years, where he developed much of his work, Thomas Aquinas returns to Naples. He died in the same town on March 7, 1274 from a sudden illness. Some versions explain that in fact his death was caused by a king of Sicily, who poisoned him with political conflicts. 50 years after his death, Thomas Aquinas was canonized and recognized as one of the most representative intellectuals of the Middle Ages.
Philosophical Thought: Reason and Faith
Aquinas’s philosophical thought is one of the most influential in Christian theology, Especially in the Roman Catholic Church. He is recognized as an important empiricist of the Aristotelian tradition, which influenced the further development of Western philosophy.
Among other things, Aquinas argued that it was impossible for human beings to acquire true knowledge without the help of God, since it is God who has the power to transform intellect into action.
He said, however, that human beings if we have the opportunity to know part of the world naturally (without divine intervention). There were then two types of components of true knowledge. On the one hand, the truth is known by reason, that is, by “natural revelation”.
On another side, the truth is known by faith, which corresponds to a “supernatural revelation”.. The latter is accessible through the sacred scriptures and the teachings of the prophets; while the first concerns human nature.
For Thomas Aquinas, it was possible to find rational evidence for the existence of God and his attributes (truth, goodness, goodness, power, knowledge, unity). Likewise, it was possible to know the Trinity only through special sacred revelations. More than contradictory elements, for Thomas Aquinas reason and faith are complementary, and his research is what leads to true knowledge.
Among the first philosophers, who marked in an important way the works of Thomas Aquinas, we find Plato, the main theories of Aristotle, the Jewish thought Avicenna and the work of Albert the Great, with whom he trained for many years.
Theology and argumentation on the existence of God
The theological thought of Thomas Aquinas is strongly influenced by the works of Augustine of Hippo, the Bible, and the decrees of councils and popes. In other words, that is to say he combines the thought of Greek philosophy with Christian doctrine.
Taking up the link between reason and faith, for Thomas Aquinas, theology (sacred doctrine) is in itself a science. And the sacred scriptures are the faithful replicas of the data of this science, as produced by both revelation and natural knowledge.
For Thomas Aquinas, the ultimate goal of theology is using reason to know God and find true salvation. In the same vein, he spoke of the essential properties of God, arguing that his existence is not obvious and that he cannot be easily tested.
In one of his great works, Summa Theologica, he maintains his ontological arguments about the existence of God: there are five paths which correspond to five qualities of God and are therefore rational proofs of his existence:
- Via Primera: God in simple (cannot be broken down into simpler parts).
- Second way: God is perfect (unlike any other being, he lacks nothing).
- Third way: God is infinite (because his nature is different from the finitude of physics).
- Fourth way: God is immutable (his essence and his character do not change).
- Fifth way: God is unity (he does not diversify in himself).
Also, Thomas Aquinas he maintains that the existence of God can be verified by the movement of objects, By the hierarchy of values and elements of the world, by the way in which natural bodies are ordered and by the world of possibilities.
- Biography of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Saint, theologian, philosopher, priest (2018). Biography. Accessed October 26, 2018.Available at https://www.biography.com/people/st-thomas-aquinas-9187231.
- Thomas Aquinas (2015). New World Encyclopedia. Accessed October 26, 2018. Available at http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Thomas_Aquinas.