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Thomas Aquinas

Page history last edited by Kanae Bunche 2 years, 7 months ago


St. Thomas Aquinas Background 


St. Thomas Aquinas was born in Roccasecca, Italy, and the youngest of 8 children. He spent the majority of his childhood training among Benedictine monks until he was forced to return due to political resentment for monks' obedience to the pope (Chenu 2021). Although his family was descendants of Emperor Fredrick I and Henry VI they were still recognized as lower nobility (Chenu 2021).

Education for Aquinas contributed greatly to his theology. Aquinas completed his primary schooling at a Benedictine house in Naples (Chenu 2021). In which he studied Aristotle's work, which was his main contributor in inspiring him to pursue philosophy further (Chenu 2021). While pursuing education Aquinas became better connected with the contemporary monastic order, which was focused on a life of spiritual service (Chenu 2021). Aquinas was known as the Dominican friar, philosopher, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the church. Thomas Aquinas was a renowned Italian Dominican philosopher whose theology was accepted by many in the medieval period, and he was titled the “Universal Teacher '' (Chenu 2021). 

  Aquinas joined the Friars Preachers in Dominican in Naples, which is a new religious order that was more democratic, and had a more manual active life of preaching and teaching than the monks (Chenu 2021). He was later ordained in Cologne, Germany in 1250 and continued to teach theology at the University of Paris and Cologne, eventually earning his doctrine in theology.

Aquinas developed his conclusions from the Aristotelian he was responsible for the Summa Theologia and the Summa Contra Gentiles, he wrote hymns and church liturgy (Chenu 2021).

During the later years of his life, Aquinas decided to stop writing because he believed he had a mystical vision that told him that his writings were worth nothing. In January 1274 Saint Thomas Aquinas was traveling on a trip to Lyon, France, and on the way, he became sick and died at the monastery of Fossanova on March 7th, 1274 (Chenu 2021). 


Aquinas Thomas Theology Debated


Scholars have debated many different aspects of St. Thomas Aquinas theology one being “the debate about Thomas Aquinas view on whether a human person survives death”(Toner 2012). This debate revolves around what happens in between our deaths “Do we humans exist then? I will refer to the view that persons cease to exist at their deaths as the corruptionist account, and the view that persons survive their death as the survivalist account”( Toner 2012). Survivalist believes that corruption has a “problematic entailment” (Toner 2012). Especially when it is looked at with Aquinas views because to believe the corruption theory he would believe that someone is going to get punished for someone else's sins. Corruptionist separates the soul from the person and say that the soul of a person is being punished not the person while survivalists argue that it is the person being punished for the sin after they die. Survivalists believe that “human beings survive their death. So the survivalist believes the STt. Thomas himself is now in heaven”. While some argue that this is not compatible with St. Thomas believes that “human beings are composites of form and matter (Toner2012).’ Survivalists make a stance against this by saying that St. Thomas believes that human beings are normally constituted by form and matter but after death, they come to be constituted solely by soul” (Toner 2012). There is a strong debate about what happens to the person after death what is the some believe the body is apart from the soul corruptionist while others believe the soul survives death and is giving its “judgment”.


Aquinas Justice Theology


Thomas Aquinas views justice, not as this singular aspect, but he viewed justice as having multiple different forms. “I answer that There are two kinds of justice. The one consists of mutual giving and receiving, as in buying and selling, and other kinds of intercourse and exchange” (Aquinas 1485). Thomas Aquinas' theology of justice is derived from cardinal virtues which give a basis on what is morally correct behavior and thinking. The virtue of justice is key to Aquinas in regarding relationships. The virtue of justice is “constant willingness to extend to each person what he or she deserves, which in return justice is “particularly vital in persevering community welfare”.

Aquinas has various distinctions on what justice is such as legal justice, particular justice, commutative justice, and distributive justice.


Aquinas commonly associated justice with seeking the common good as two inseparable things. “Thomas' discussions of the common good are rooted in and extend his metaphysical analysis of goodness. The common good is an end to which a community is directed. More specifically, it is good for the individual members of a community”(Farrell 2018). What common good achieves and can do is unify a community by acting as one body. “On the one hand, it consists of the intrinsic ordering of the community; ordering the members among themselves in such a way that a working, unified while is brought about. In the case of human communities” (Farrell 2018). The common good is the foundation to holding on to a justice that will ultimately lead to happiness for all. “Happiness, in one of its various degrees, is the common good qua end of human communities. A community is fully ordered only when all its members have attained happiness” (Farrell 2018). Some steps lead to happiness through justice, by making it a priority to pursue the common good to achieve happiness. Justice is linked to the betterment of the entire community. 


Legal justice according to Aquinas has the purposes of government action according to what the common good is. With legal justice, people will always react thinking selflessly which creates a society where justice is profoundly exhibited (Floyd n.d.). Justice is a general virtue that has no room for one's concerns but the concerns of other individuals, or community welfare (Floyd). In the legal justice community welfare is the goal above all because everyone who is a part of the community is a part of a whole, so looking in the best interest of everyone is also in many ways looking in the best interest of yourself as well because you are affected by your actions just as much as your community is (Floyd n.d.). Legal justice brings up the idea that if something is good for yourself that it will also be good for the community but if something is bad for onesie then it is also bad for the community. However, justice is not fullied just by pursuing legal justice but it moves into Particular Justice.

.Particular Justice is more locally instead of thinking about the whole community we are concerning ourselves with the people who are closest to us such as neighbors, colleagues, and other people we interact with daily, it turns into the common good of individuals not the common good of a community, making this form of justice more intimate and personal (Floyd). 

“Aquinas holds that justice, taken as a virtue of individuals, is not a single virtue but a system of several species or kinds, of which there are at least two forms, on that makes us want to treat persons, taken singly, as they deserve (Particular justice)” (Farrell 2018). There are two forms of particular Justice that Aquinas discusses such as commutative and distributive justice. Both distributive and commutative justice stand by the intent of “seeking to preserve equality between persons by giving to each person is due”(Farrell 2018). More specifically commutative justice goes into the concerns of where ‘mutual dealings’ are taking place between individuals. Meaning those who are buying and selling conduct their business fairly. Community justice is exhibited when “the value of the product is equal to what one pays for the product. And the person should be paid the amount that is comparable to the value he sells. The type of equality the commutative justice seeks is a matter of quantity."

While distributive justice corners how collective goods and responsibility are faulty, appreciated among people who stand in a social community. Aquinas makes a clear point that distributive justice is about equal quantity but “due proportion’ amount of work, or are paid equal wages for doing an equal amount of work (Floyd n.d.). Aquinas thinks a person of the higher social station will require a greater proportion of goods. In the matter of distributive justice, then what is due will be relative to what one deserves depending on his efforts or station in life.

Aquinas connection to broader themes


Aquinas theology covers aspects of marriage and women. Aquinas expresses the importance of marriage and specifically how fornication should be forbidden until a person is married, “Aquinas argues against fornication, Aquinas holds that marriage is necessary for the good of progeny. His argument has a naturalistic basis”(McCluskey 2007). Aquinas being devoted to his Catholic beliefs held strong beliefs regarding the secrecy of marriage. He expresses the importance of marriage regarding procreation, “Its primary purpose is oriented toward a Nation good i.e the survival; of the two human species, and it is structured in such a way to promote this goal”(McCluskey 2007). Aquinas has a perspective that the purpose of marriage is to make sure the human species continues to be in existence. Without this holy matrimony the human race as we know it will be in danger. The other importance of marriage that Aquinas points out is friendship, and being that friendship implies equality, then anything that goes against equality within a marriage should most definitely be forbidden, and prohibited ( McCluskey 2007). 


Although St. Thomas Aquinas makes these strong statements regarding marriage and what he believes is the purpose of marriage, he goes into the roles of a woman in marriage and her “limitations”. Aquinas expresses that a woman is in many ways created on behalf of failure in the male semen, “Aquinas’s terms. The default production is male; female results only if there is a departure from the norm, due to defect, weakness, or overpowering external effect on the male semen. His words suggest that women by nature are less than perfect and thereby less than desirable” Aquinas believed that women were defective (McCluskey 2007). Aquinas proudly proclaims that women are weak, undesirable, and the product of failure. Aquinas's view on women and their capabilities is very narrow, he also believes that a woman is incapable of morally instructing her child but will need a man to help raise the child due to her lack of rationality.  St. Thomas Aquinas stands by this idea that women have one main duty in life in the lives of men is reproduction, placing women in this “maternal role” (McCluskey 2007). This view, although contradicting the bible, was a strong belief by Thomas Aquinas and soon believed by many of his followers known as Thomas. 





St. Thomas Aquinas' significance in theology because it brought much controversy regarding the Dominican order. Aquinas' teaching was the opposite of what was currently being taught during the thirteenth-century catholic Church (Elizabeth 1963). It brings about knowledge on different ways in which people can interpret justice and the common good. Aquinas was able to make use of religion and interpreting politics for followers to understand how the two can interact in a just “appropriate manner”. Aquinas' views made the government even focus on the “common good” of the people to have a government that benefited all. In a time where tradition was god and anyone thinking of making any changes was greatly ridiculed, Aquinas, fully immersed in that life decided to stand strong on his beliefs and create new ways of looking at the world with the intent of informing, educating, and seeing true just change. Aquinas showed true passion for his beliefs through dedicating his life to writing about his theologies, in his massive books such as the Summa Theologie gives us insight into his perspective of God and politics. 




Aquinas,Thomas.1485. “The Justice and Mercy of God..”Summa Theologiae of Summa Theologica. 

Chenu , Marie-Dominique. 2021. “St. Thomas Aquinas.” Encyclopædia Britannicahttps://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Thomas-Aquinas (December 13, 2021). 

Ferrell,Dominic.2018. “Wanting the Common Good:Aquinas on General Justice.” The review of Metaphysics 71 (March) 517-549.

Lowe,Elizabeth.1983. “Wanting the Common Good:Aquinas on General Justice.” Summary. New York,Routledge. 212-25

McCluskey,Colleen.2007. “An Unequal Relationship Between Equals:Thomas Aquinas on Marriage.”History of Philosophy Quarterly 24 (January) 1-18.

Thomas Aquinas: Moral Philosophy.” Internet encyclopedia of philosophyhttps://iep.utm.edu/aq-moral/#H3 (December 13, 2021). 

Toner, Patrick.2012. “St. Thomas on punishing souls.”International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 71 (April) 103-116.






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