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Monday, March 12, 2012

0216: Aquinas as Guide and Model for Philosophical Thinking

Entry 0216: Aquinas as Guide and Model for Philosophical Thinking

Cardinal Georges Cottier has explicitly affirmed that, in the Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio, Saint Thomas Aquinas is presented as a model not only for those who have the vocation of theologians, but also for those who have the vocation of philosophers:

San Tommaso e presentato come modello sia per quanti hanno la vocazione di teologo, sia per quanti hanno la vocazione di filosofo. [1]

Here I report some excerpts from Fides et Ratio which confirm Cottier’s affirmation:

The Magisterium's intention has always been to show how Saint Thomas is an authentic model for all who seek the truth. In his thinking, the demands of reason and the power of faith found the most elevated synthesis ever attained by human thought, for he could defend the radical newness introduced by Revelation without ever demeaning the venture proper to reason. (no. 78)

This insistence on the need for a close relationship of continuity between contemporary philosophy and the philosophy developed in the Christian tradition is intended to avert the danger which lies hidden in some currents of thought which are especially prevalent today. (no. 86)

A renewed insistence upon the thought of the Angelic Doctor seemed to Pope Leo XIII the best way to recover the practice of a philosophy consonant with the demands of faith. "Just when Saint Thomas distinguishes perfectly between faith and reason," the Pope writes, "he unites them in bonds of mutual friendship, conceding to each its specific rights and to each its specific dignity." (no. 57)

If it has been necessary from time to time to intervene on this question, to reiterate the value of the Angelic Doctor's insights and insist on the study of his thought, this has been because the Magisterium's directives have not always been followed with the readiness one would wish. (no. 61)

The Church has been justified in consistently proposing Saint Thomas as a master of thought and a model of the right way to do theology. (no. 43)

Although he made much of the supernatural character of faith, the Angelic Doctor did not overlook the importance of its reasonableness; indeed he was able to plumb the depths and explain the meaning of this reasonableness. Faith is in a sense an “exercise of thought”; and human reason is neither annulled nor debased in assenting to the contents of faith, which are in any case attained by way of free and informed choice. (no. 43)

Precisely in the light of this consideration, and just as I have reaffirmed theology's duty to recover its true relationship with philosophy, I feel equally bound to stress how right it is that, for the benefit and development of human thought, philosophy too should recover its relationship with theology. (no. 101)

Looking unreservedly to truth, the realism of Thomas could recognize the objectivity of truth and produce not merely a philosophy of “what seems to be” but a philosophy of “what is.” (no. 44)

Set within the Christian metaphysical tradition, the philosophy of being is a dynamic philosophy which views reality in its ontological, causal and communicative structures. It is strong and enduring because it is based upon the very act of being itself (ipsum actus essendi,) which allows a full and comprehensive openness to reality as a whole, surpassing every limit in order to reach the One who brings all things to fulfilment. (no. 97)

I have judged it appropriate and necessary to emphasize the value of philosophy for the understanding of the faith, as well as the limits which philosophy faces when it neglects or rejects the truths of Revelation. (no. 100)

In itself, the term [Christian philosophy] is valid, but it should not be misunderstood: it in no way intends to suggest that there is an official philosophy of the Church, since the faith as such is not a philosophy. The term seeks rather to indicate a Christian way of philosophizing, a philosophical speculation conceived in dynamic union with faith. (no. 76)


[1] Georges Cottier, “Tommaso D’Aquino, Teologo e Filosofo, nella Fides et Ratio,” in Fede e Ragione: Opposizione, Composizione?, Mauro Mantovani, Scaria Thuruthiyil, and Mario Toso, eds. (Rome: Libreria Ateneo Salesiano, 1999), 187-194.