St. 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 that dominated much of the Middle Ages, and which uses reason to understand the religious revelations of Christianity.
We will see below a biography of St. 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 the year 1225 in the kingdom of Naples, near the present province of Frosinone. Son of Count Landulf and Countess Theodora of Theati, Aquino soon relates to the Hohenstaufen dynasty of Roman emperors. In fact, Aquino’s family expected him to follow the Benedictine path, since it was the expected destination for any son of the Italian nobility.
For this reason, Tomás de Aquino began his education in educational and religious institutions very soon. At 16 he left the University of Naples, where he had studied with the Dominicans and Franciscans, which in turn had represented a challenge for the clergy of the time.
He intended to continue his Dominican training, which did not please his family. In fact, the biographers of Thomas Aquinas say that his family decided to lock him for more than a year in the castle of Roccasecca, where he was born. This was to prevent his entry in said order.
Finally, after the confinement, he entered the Dominican School in Cologne in 1244, and in 1245 the University of Paris, where he was trained in philosophy and theology by Alberto Magno. For 1428 he was appointed professor, and this is the time where he formally begins his academic, literary and public life.
After having spent many years in France, where he developed much of his work, Thomas Aquinas returned to Naples. He died in the same city on March 7, 1274 due to a sudden illness. Some versions say that in fact his death was caused by a king of Sicily, who poisoned him because of 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 thinking: reason and faith
The philosophical thought of Aquino is one of the most influential in Christian theurgy, especially in the Roman Catholic Church. He is recognized as an important empiricist of Aristotelian tradition, which influenced the later development of Western philosophy.
Among other things, Aquino argued that for the human being it was impossible to acquire any true knowledge without God’s help, since it is the latter who has the power to transform the intellect into action.
He said, however, that human beings do have the possibility to know a part of the world in a natural way (without divine intervention). There were then two types of components of true knowledge. On the one hand, the truth is known through reason, that is, through “natural revelation”.
On the other hand, the truth is known through faith, which corresponds to a “supernatural revelation”. The latter is accessible through sacred scripture and the teachings of the prophets; while the first has to do with human nature.
For Thomas Aquinas, it was possible to find rational proofs of 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 Aquinas, reason and faith are complementary, and their search is what leads to true knowledge.
Among the earlier philosophers, who marked importantly the works of Thomas Aquinas, is Plato, the main theories of Aristotle, the Jewish thought Avicenna, and the work of Albertus Magnus, with whom he was trained for many years.
Theology and argument about the existence of God
The theological thought of Thomas Aquinas is influenced in an important way by the work of Augustine of Hippo, the bible and the decrees of councils and popes. That is, it combines the thinking of Greek philosophy with Christian doctrine.
Retaking the connection between reason and faith, for Aquinas, theology (the sacred doctrine) is itself a science. And the sacred writings are the faithful replication of the data of that science, since they have been produced both by revelation and by natural knowledge.
For Aquinas, the ultimate goal of theology is the use of reason to know God and to find true salvation. In the same vein he spoke of the essential properties of God, maintaining that his existence is not evident and that he can not easily put himself to the test.
In one of his great works, Summa Theologica, sustains his ontological arguments about the existence of God: there are five ways that correspond to five qualities of God and are, therefore, rational proofs of his existence:
- First Way: God in simple (does not break down into simpler parts).
- Second Way: God is perfect (unlike any other being, nothing is missing).
- Third Way: God is infinite (because his nature is different from the finitude of physics).
- Fourth Way: God is immutable (his essence and character are not modified).
- Fifth Way: God is unity (does not diversify within himself).
Likewise, Thomas Aquinas argues that the existence of God can be verified through the movement of objects, through the hierarchy of values and elements of the world, through how natural bodies are ordered and through the world of the posibilities.