Saint Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225 – 7 March 1274) was an Italian Catholic philosopher and theologian in the scholastic tradition, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Universalis. He is the most famous classical proponent of natural theology. He gave birth to the Thomistic school of thought (Thomism), which has long been the primary philosophical and theological approach of the Catholic Church.
- Pange, lingua, gloriosi
Quem in mundi pretium
Fructus ventris generosi
Rex effudit gentium.
- Sing, my tongue, the Savior's glory,
Of His Flesh the mystery sing;
Of the Blood, all price exceeding,
Shed by our immortal King.
- Pange, Lingua (hymn for Vespers on the Feast of Corpus Christi), stanza 1
- Sing, my tongue, the Savior's glory,
- Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail;
Lo! o'er ancient forms departing,
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.
- Pange, Lingua, stanza 5 (Tantum Ergo)
- Thus Angels' Bread is made
The Bread of man today:
The Living Bread from Heaven
With figures doth away:
O wondrous gift indeed!
The poor and lowly may
Upon their Lord and Master feed.
- Sacris Solemniis Juncta Sint Gaudia (Matins hymn for Corpus Christi), stanza 6 (Panis Angelicus)
- O saving Victim, opening wide
The gate of heaven to man below,
Our foes press on from every side,
Thine aid supply, Thy strength bestow.
- Verbum Supernum Prodiens (hymn for Lauds on Corpus Christi), stanza 5 (O Salutaris Hostia)
- A hymn is the praise of God with song; a song is the exultation of the mind dwelling on eternal things, bursting forth in the voice.
- Commentary on the Psalms , Introduction
- Anything done against faith or conscience is sinful.
- Commentary on Romans, cap 14, I 3
- Muhammad seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us. His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure. In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men. As for proofs of the truth of his doctrine, he brought forward only such as could be grasped by the natural ability of anyone with a very modest wisdom. Indeed, the truths that he taught he mingled with many fables and with doctrines of the greatest falsity. He did not bring forth any signs produced in a supernatural way, which alone fittingly gives witness to divine inspiration; for a visible action that can be only divine reveals an invisibly inspired teacher of truth. On the contrary, Muhammad said that he was sent in the power of his arms—which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants. What is more, no wise men, men trained in things divine and human, believed in him from the beginning, Those who believed in him were brutal men and desert wanderers, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching, through whose numbers Muhammad forced others to become his followers by the violence of his arms. Nor do divine pronouncements on the part of preceding prophets offer him any witness. On the contrary, he perverts almost all the testimonies of the Old and New Testaments by making them into fabrications of his own, as can be seen by anyone who examines his law. It was, therefore, a shrewd decision on his part to forbid his followers to read the Old and New Testaments, lest these books convict him of falsity. It is thus clear that those who place any faith in his words believe foolishly.
- Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 6.4 (trans. Anton C. Pegis)
- For creation is not a change, but that dependence of the created existence on the principle from which it is instituted, and thus is of the genus of relation; whence nothing prohibits it being in the created as in the subject. Creation is thus said to be a kind of change, according to the way of understanding, insofar as our intellect accepts one and the same thing as not existing before and afterwards existing.
- Summa Contra Gentiles II, 18.2 (see also Summa Theologica I, q. 45, art. 3 ad 2)
- The perfection of the effect demonstrates the perfection of the cause, for a greater power brings about a more perfect effect. But God is the most perfect agent. Therefore, things created by Him obtain perfection from Him. So, to detract from the perfection of creatures is to detract from the perfection of divine power.
- Summa Contra Gentiles, III,69,15
- Natural inclinations are present in things from God, who moves all things. So it is impossible for the natural inclinations of a species to be toward evil in itself. But there is in all perfect animals a natural inclination toward carnal union. Therefore it is impossible for carnal union to be evil in itself.
- Summa Contra Gentiles, III,126,3
- The highest perfection of human life consists in the mind of man being detached from care, for the sake of God.
- Summa Contra Gentiles, III,130,3
- Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do.
- Two Precepts of Charity (1273)
- Reason in man is rather like God in the world.
- Opuscule II, De Regno
- Charity, by which God and neighbor are loved, is the most perfect friendship.
- It must be said that charity can, in no way, exist along with mortal sin.
- We can open our hearts to God, but only with Divine help.
- Quaestiones de veritate disputatae q 24, art. 15, ad 2
- It is on account neither of God's weakness nor ignorance that evil comes into the world, but rather it is due to the order of his wisdom and the greatness of his goodness that diverse grades of goodness occur in things, many of which would be lacking if no evil were permitted. Indeed, the good of patience would not exist without the evil of persecution; nor the good of preservation of life in a lion if not for the evil of the destruction of the animals on which it lives.
- De Potentia (On Power) q. 3, art. 6, ad 4
- If... the motion of the earth were circular, it would be violent and contrary to nature, and could not be eternal, since … nothing violent is eternal .... It follows, therefore, that the earth is not moved with a circular motion.
- Commentaria in libros Aristotelis de caelo et mundo
- The greatness of the human being consists in this: that it is capable of the universe.
- De Veritate (On Truth) q. 1, art. 2, ad 4
- If man of himself could in a perfect manner know all things visible and invisible, it would indeed be foolish to believe what he does not see. But our manner of knowing is so weak that no philosopher could perfectly investigate the nature of even one little fly.
- Sermon on the Apostles' Creed, prologue (trans. Joseph B. Collins)
- Suppose a person entering a house were to feel heat on the porch, and going further, were to feel the heat increasing, the more they penetrated within. Doubtless, such a person would believe there was a fire in the house, even though they did not see the fire that must be causing all this heat. A similar thing will happen to anyone who considers this world in detail: one will observe that all things are arranged according to their degrees of beauty and excellence, and that the nearer they are to God, the more beautiful and better they are.
- Sermon on the Apostles' Creed, 13-14
- Raynalde, non possum, quia omnia quae scripsi videntur mihi palae. Replying to Reginald of Piperno: Videntur mihi palae respectu eorum quae vidi et revelata sunt mihi.
- Processus, n. 79, 376
- All that I have written seems like straw compared to what has now been revealed to me.
- Reply to Reginald of Piperno after being asked to resume writing "Summa Theologiae" (then left unfinished), after a mystical experience while saying mass on or about 6 December 1273, as quoted in "The Life of Saint Thomas Aquinas: Biographical Documents" (1959) by Kenelm Foster, O.P.
- Variant translations:
- All that I have written seems like straw to me.
- As quoted in The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (1993), by Brian Davies, p. 9
- Everything I have written seems like straw by comparison with what I have seen and what has been revealed to me.
- As quoted in Sacred Games : A History of Christian Worship (1997) by Bernhard Lang, p. 323
- All that I have written seems to me so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.
- As quoted in A Treasury of Quotations on the Spiritual Life from the Writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church (2007) by John P. McClernon
- All that I have written seems to me like straw compared to what has now been revealed to me.
- As quoted in Higher Reality Therapy: Nine Pathways to Inner Peace (2010) by Anthony Falikowski, p. 38
Commentary on the Sentences of Peter LombardEdit
- The order of authority derives from God, as the Apostle says [in Romans 13:1-7]. For this reason, the duty of obedience is, for the Christian, a consequence of this derivation of authority from God, and ceases when that ceases. But, as we have already said, authority may fail to derive from God for two reasons: either because of the way in which authority has been obtained, or in consequence of the use which is made of it. There are two ways in which the first may occur. Either because of a defect in the person, if he is unworthy; or because of some defect in the way itself by which power was acquired, if, for example, through violence, or simony or some other illegal method.
- in Aquinas: Selected Political Writings (Basil Blackwell: 1974), p. 183
- With regard to the abuse of authority, this also may come about in two ways. First, when what is ordered by an authority is opposed to the object for which that authority was constituted (if, for example, some sinful action is commanded or one which is contrary to virtue, when it is precisely for the protection and fostering of virtue that authority is instituted). In such a case, not only is there no obligation to obey the authority, but one is obliged to disobey it, as did the holy martyrs who suffered death rather than obey the impious commands of tyrants. Secondly, when those who bear such authority command things which exceed the competence of such authority; as, for example, when a master demands payment from a servant which the latter is not bound to make, and other similar cases. In this instance the subject is free to obey or disobey.
- in Aquinas: Selected Political Writings (Basil Blackwell: 1974), p. 183
- One who liberates his country by killing a tyrant is to be praised and rewarded.
- Trans. J.G. Dawson (Oxford, 1959), 44, 2 in O’Donovan, pp. 329-30
On The Perfection of the Spiritual Life (1269-1270)Edit
- Vita enim in hoc maxime manifestatur quod aliquid movet se ipsum; quod autem non potest moveri nisi ab alio, quasi mortuum esse videtur.
- The highest manifestation of life consists in this: that a being governs its own actions. A being that is always subject to the direction of another is somewhat of a dead thing.
- Variant translation: Now slavery has a certain likeness to death, hence it is also called civil death. For life is most evident in a thing's moving itself, while what can only be moved by another, seems to be as if dead. But it is manifest that a slave is not moved by himself, but only at his master's command.
Summa Theologica (1265–1274)Edit
- It was necessary for our salvation that there be a knowledge revealed by God, besides philosophical science built up by human reason. Firstly, indeed, because the human being is directed to God, as to an end that surpasses the grasp of his reason. "The eye hath not seen, O God, besides Thee, what things Thou hast prepared for them that wait for Thee" (Isaiah 64:4). But the end must first be known by men who are to direct their thoughts and actions to the end. Hence it was necessary for the salvation of man that certain truths which exceed human reason should be made known to him by divine revelation.
- Part I, Question 1, Article 1; tr. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (1920, New York: Benziger Bros.)
- Whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.
- I, q. 2, art. 3
- God is the most noble of beings. Now it is impossible for a body to be the most noble of beings; for a body must be either animate or inanimate; and an animate body is manifestly nobler than any inanimate body. But an animate body is not animate precisely as body; otherwise all bodies would be animate. Therefore its animation depends upon some other thing, as our body depends for its animation on the soul. Hence that by which a body becomes animated must be nobler than the body. Therefore it is impossible that God should be a body.
- I, q. 3
- The fire of hell is called eternal, only because it never ends. Still, there is change in the pains of the lost...Hence in hell true eternity does not exist, but rather time.
- I, q. 10, art. 3, ad 2
- As was said above, there does not fall under the scope of God's omnipotence anything that implies a contradiction. Now that the past should not have been implies a contradiction.... Whence, that the past should not have been, does not come under the scope of divine power.
- I, q. 25, art. 4
- Reason may be employed in two ways to establish a point: firstly, for the purpose of furnishing sufficient proof of some principle, as in natural science, where sufficient proof can be brought to show that the movement of the heavens is always of uniform velocity. Reason is employed in another way, not as furnishing a sufficient proof of a principle, but as confirming an already established principle, by showing the congruity of its results, as in astrology the theory of eccentrics and epicycles is considered as established, because thereby the sensible appearances of the heavenly movements can be explained; not, however, as if this proof were sufficient, forasmuch as some other theory might explain them.
- I, q. 32, art. 1, reply obj. 2
- I answer that, It was necessary for woman to be made, as the Scripture says, as a "helper" to man; not, indeed, as a helpmate in other works, as some say, since man can be more efficiently helped by another man in other works; but as a helper in the work of generation. This can be made clear if we observe the mode of generation carried out in various living things. Some living things do not possess in themselves the power of generation, but are generated by some other specific agent, such as some plants and animals by the influence of the heavenly bodies, from some fitting matter and not from seed: others possess the active and passive generative power together; as we see in plants which are generated from seed; for the noblest vital function in plants is generation. Wherefore we observe that in these the active power of generation invariably accompanies the passive power. Among perfect animals the active power of generation belongs to the male sex, and the passive power to the female. And as among animals there is a vital operation nobler than generation, to which their life is principally directed; therefore the male sex is not found in continual union with the female in perfect animals, but only at the time of coition; so that we may consider that by this means the male and female are one, as in plants they are always united; although in some cases one of them preponderates, and in some the other. But man is yet further ordered to a still nobler vital action, and that is intellectual operation. Therefore there was greater reason for the distinction of these two forces in man; so that the female should be produced separately from the male; although they are carnally united for generation. Therefore directly after the formation of woman, it was said: "And they shall be two in one flesh" (Gn. 2:24).
- I, q. 92, art. 1 (Whether the Woman should have been made in the first production of things?)
- As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active power of the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of a woman comes from defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence...On the other hand, as regards human nature in general, woman is not misbegotten, but is included in nature's intention as directed to the work of generation. Now the general intention of nature depends on God, Who is the universal Author of nature. Therefore, in producing nature, God formed not only the male but also the female.
- I, q. 92, art. 1, ad 1
- The image of God always abides in the soul, whether this image be obsolete and clouded over as to amount to almost nothing; or whether it be obscured or disfigured, as is the case with sinners; or whether it be clear and beautiful as is the case with the just.
- I, q. 93, art. 8, ad 3
- Not everyone who is enlightened by an angel knows that he is enlightened by him.
- I, q. 111, art. 1, ad 3
- Whether the angel guardian ever forsakes a man?...It would seem that the angel guardian sometimes forsakes the man whom he is appointed to guard... On the contrary, The demons are ever assailing us, according to 1 Peter 5:8: "Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about, seeking whom he may devour." Much more therefore do the good angels ever guard us... the guardianship of the angels is an effect of Divine providence in regard to man. Now it is evident that neither man, nor anything at all, is entirely withdrawn from the providence of God: for in as far as a thing participates being, so far is it subject to the providence that extends over all being.
- I, q. 113, art. 6
- Now the object of the will, i.e., of man's appetite, is the universal good...Hence it is evident that nothing can lull the human will but the universal good. This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone; because every creature has goodness by participation. Thus God alone can satisfy the will of a human being.
- I–II, q. 2, art. 8
- To scorn the dictate of reason is to scorn the commandment of God.
- I-II, q. 19, art. 5
- Beauty adds to goodness a relation to the cognitive faculty: so that "good" means that which simply pleases the appetite; while the "beautiful" is something pleasant to apprehend.
- I–II, q. 27, art. 1, 3
- It is written (1 John 4:16): "He that abideth in charity abideth in God, and God in him." Now charity is the love of God. Therefore, for the same reason, every love makes the beloved to be in the lover, and vice versa...the beloved is said to be in the lover, inasmuch as the beloved abides in the apprehension of the lover, according to Philippians 1:7, "For that I have you in my heart": while the lover is said to be in the beloved, according to apprehension, inasmuch as the lover is not satisfied with a superficial apprehension of the beloved, but strives to gain an intimate knowledge of everything pertaining to the beloved, so as to penetrate into his very soul.
- I-II, q. 28, art. 2
- it is to be observed that four proximate effects may be ascribed to love: viz. melting, enjoyment, languor, and fervor. Of these the first is "melting," which is opposed to freezing. For things that are frozen, are closely bound together, so as to be hard to pierce. But it belongs to love that the appetite is fitted to receive the good which is loved, inasmuch as the object loved is in the lover...Consequently the freezing or hardening of the heart is a disposition incompatible with love: while melting denotes a softening of the heart, whereby the heart shows itself to be ready for the entrance of the beloved.
- I-II, q. 28, art. 5
- The third principle [way doing good to another may give pleasure] is the motive: for instance when a man is moved by one whom he loves, to do good to someone: for whatever we do or suffer for a friend is pleasant, because love is the principal cause of pleasure.
- I-II, q. 32, art. 6
- Thus from the four preceding articles, the definition of law may be gathered; and it is nothing else than an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated.
- I-II, q. 90, art. 4
- But if man's affection be one of passion, then it is moved also in regard to other animals: for since the passion of pity is caused by the afflictions of others; and since it happens that even irrational animals are sensible to pain, it is possible for the affection of pity to arise in a man with regard to the sufferings of animals. Now it is evident that if a man practice a pitiful affection for animals, he is all the more disposed to take pity on his fellow-men: wherefore it is written (Prov. 12:10): "The just regardeth the lives of his beasts: but the bowels of the wicked are cruel." Consequently the Lord, in order to inculcate pity to the Jewish people, who were prone to cruelty, wished them to practice pity even with regard to dumb animals, and forbade them to do certain things savoring of cruelty to animals. Hence He prohibited them to "boil a kid in the milk of its dam"; and to "muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn"; and to slay "the dam with her young."
- I-II, q. 102, art. 6 ad. 8
- Yet if heretics be altogether uprooted by death, this is not contrary to Our Lord's command [in Matthew 13:30], which is to be understood as referring to the case when the cockle [weeds] cannot be plucked up without plucking up the wheat, as we explained above (10, 8, ad 1), when treating of unbelievers in general.
- II–II, q. 11, art. 3, ad. 3
- We ought to cherish the body. Our body's substance is not from an evil principle, as the Manicheans imagine, but from God. And therefore, we ought to cherish the body by the friendship of love, by which we love God.
- II–II, q. 25, art. 5
- To love is to will the good of the other.
- I-II, q. 26, art. 4
- Man cannot live without joy. That is why one deprived of spiritual joys goes over to carnal pleasures.
- II–II, q. 35, art. 4, ad. 2
- Just as it is better to illuminate than merely to shine, so to pass on what one has contemplated is better than merely to contemplate.
- II–II, q. 188, art. 6
- Variant: Better to illuminate than merely to shine; to deliver to others contemplated truths than merely to contemplate.
- Original Latin: Sicut enim maius est illuminare quam lucere solum, ita maius est contemplata aliis tradere quam solum contemplari.
- To be united to God in unity of person was not fitting to human flesh, according to its natural endowments, since it was above his dignity; nevertheless, it was fitting that God, by reason of his infinite goodness, should unite it to himself for human salvation.
- III, q. 1, art. 2, ad 2
- Whatever was in the human nature of Christ was moved at the bidding of the divine will; yet it does not follow that in Christ there was no movement of the will proper to human nature, for the good wills of other saints are moved by God's will... For although the will cannot be inwardly moved by any creature, yet it can be moved inwardly by God.
- III, q. 18, art. 1, ad 1
- Baptism is the door of the spiritual life and the gateway to the sacraments.
- III, q.73, 3
- Even as in the blessed in heaven there will be most perfect charity, so in the damned there will be the most perfect hate. Wherefore as the saints will rejoice in all goods, so will the damned grieve for all goods. Consequently the sight of the happiness of the saints will give them very great pain; hence it is written (Isaiah 26:11): "Let the envious people see and be confounded, and let fire devour Thy enemies." Therefore they will wish all the good were damned.
- Supplement, Q98, Article 4
- Note: This Supplement to the Third Part was compiled after Aquinas's death by Regnald of Piperno, out of material from Aquinas's much earlier "Commentary on the Sentences".
Unplaced by chapterEdit
- If forgers and malefactors are put to death by the secular power, there is much more reason for excommunicating and even putting to death one convicted of heresy.
- Concerning perfect blessedness which consists in a vision of God.
- All admit that indulgences have some value; for it would be blasphemy to say that the Church does anything in vain.
- Whether God can make the past not to have been?
- Objection 1: It seems that God can make the past not to have been. For what is impossible in itself is much more impossible than that which is only impossible accidentally. But God can do what is impossible in itself, as to give sight to the blind, or to raise the dead. Therefore, and much more can He do what is only impossible accidentally. Now for the past not to have been is impossible accidentally: thus for Socrates not to be running is accidentally impossible, from the fact that his running is a thing of the past. Therefore God can make the past not to have been.
- Objection 2: Further, what God could do, He can do now, since His power is not lessened. But God could have effected, before Socrates ran, that he should not run. Therefore, when he has run, God could effect that he did not run.
- Objection 3: Further, charity is a more excellent virtue than virginity. But God can supply charity that is lost; therefore also lost virginity. Therefore He can so effect that what was corrupt should not have been corrupt. On the contrary, Jerome says (Ep. 22 ad Eustoch.): "Although God can do all things, He cannot make a thing that is corrupt not to have been corrupted." Therefore, for the same reason, He cannot effect that anything else which is past should not have been.
- I answer that, As was said above (Q, A), there does not fall under the scope of God's omnipotence anything that implies a contradiction. Now that the past should not have been implies a contradiction. For as it implies a contradiction to say that Socrates is sitting, and is not sitting, so does it to say that he sat, and did not sit. But to say that he did sit is to say that it happened in the past. To say that he did not sit, is to say that it did not happen. Whence, that the past should not have been, does not come under the scope of divine power. This is what Augustine means when he says (Contra Faust. xxix, 5): "Whosoever says, If God is almighty, let Him make what is done as if it were not done, does not see that this is to say: If God is almighty let Him effect that what is true, by the very fact that it is true, be false": and the Philosopher says (Ethic. vi, 2): "Of this one thing alone is God deprived---namely, to make undone the things that have been done."
- Reply to Objection 1: Although it is impossible accidentally for the past not to have been, if one considers the past thing itself, as, for instance, the running of Socrates; nevertheless, if the past thing is considered as past, that it should not have been is impossible, not only in itself, but absolutely since it implies a contradiction. Thus, it is more impossible than the raising of the dead; in which there is nothing contradictory, because this is reckoned impossible in reference to some power, that is to say, some natural power; for such impossible things do come beneath the scope of divine power.
- Reply to Objection 2: As God, in accordance with the perfection of the divine power, can do all things, and yet some things are not subject to His power, because they fall short of being possible; so, also, if we regard the immutability of the divine power, whatever God could do, He can do now. Some things, however, at one time were in the nature of possibility, whilst they were yet to be done, which now fall short of the nature of possibility, when they have been done. So is God said not to be able to do them, because they themselves cannot be done.
- Reply to Objection 3: God can remove all corruption of the mind and body from a woman who has fallen; but the fact that she had been corrupt cannot be removed from her; as also is it impossible that the fact of having sinned or having lost charity thereby can be removed from the sinner.
Quotes about AquinasEdit
- This dumb ox will fill the world with his bellowing.
- Albertus Magnus, in response to other of his students calling Thomas a "dumb ox" because of his quietude, as quoted in The Great Ages of Western Philosophy : The Age of Belief : The Medieval Philosophers (1962) by Anne Jackson Fremantle
- O excellent Thomas would that you had not been born in the West such that you would have need to advocate the differences of that [Roman] Church! You were influenced by it with regard to both the procession of the Holy Spirit as well as by the difference with respect to the divine essence and energy. For surely, then, you would have been infallible in your theological doctrines, just as you are so too inerrant in these matters of ethics!
- Gennadios Scholarius, Résumé de la Prima Secundae de la Somme théologique de sanit Thomas d'Aquin, in Oeuvres Completes de Georges Scholarios 5, ed. L. Petit -X. Siderides -M. Jugie, Paris, Maison de la Bonne Presse 1933
- We have, among innumerable other works, the Summa theologica, surely one of the most amazing and stupendous products of the human mind. ...never before or since has the wide world been so neatly boxed and compassed, so completely and confidently understood, every detail of it fitted, with such subtle and loving precision, into a consistent and convincing whole.
- Carl L. Becker, The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-century Philosophers (1932)
- The difficulty of dealing with St. Thomas Aquinas in this brief article is the difficulty of selecting that aspect of a many-sided mind which will best suggest its size or scale. Because of the massive body which carried his massive brain, he was called "The Ox"; but any attempt to boil down such a brain into tabloid literature passes all possible jokes about an ox in a teacup. He was one of the two or three giants; one of the two or three greatest men who ever lived; and I should never be surprised if he turned out, quite apart from sanctity, to be the greatest of all. Another way of putting the problem is to say that proportion alters according to what other men we are at the moment classing him with or pitting him against. We do not get the scale until we come to the few men in history who can be his rivals.
- St. Thomas confronts other creeds of good and evil, without at all denying evil, with a theory of two levels of good. The supernatural order is the supreme good, as for any Eastern mystic; but the natural order is good; as solidly good as it is for any man in the street.
- G. K. Chesterton, in "St. Thomas Aquinas" in The Spectator (27 February 1932)
- As a highly Pagan poet said to me: "The Reformation happened because people hadn't the brains to understand Aquinas." The Church is more immortally important than the State; but the State has its rights, for all that. This Christian duality had always been implicit, as in Christ's distinction between God and Caesar, or the dogmatic distinction between the natures of Christ.
But St. Thomas has the glory of having seized this double thread as the clue to a thousand things; and thereby created the only creed in which the saints can be sane. It presents itself chiefly, perhaps, to the modern world as the only creed in which the poets can be sane. For there is nobody now to settle the Manichees; and all culture is infected with a faint unclean sense that Nature and all things behind us and below us are bad; that there is only praise to the highbrow in the height. St. Thomas exalted God without lowering Man; he exalted Man without lowering Nature. Therefore, he made a cosmos of common sense; terra viventium; a land of the living.
His philosophy, like his theology, is that of common sense. He does not torture the brain with desperate attempts to explain existence by explaining it away. The first steps of his mind are the first steps of any honest mind; just as the first virtues of his creed could be those of any honest peasant.
- G. K. Chesterton, in "St. Thomas Aquinas" in The Spectator (27 February 1932)
- The philosopher can reflect on the ordinary man's awareness of attaining truth, but he has not at his disposal some extraordinary and special means of proving that we can know truth or that 'knowledge' is knowledge. If a philosopher were to comment that in this case we can never prove that we can attain proof and that if we cannot prove it we can never know it, Aquinas might reply that the sort of proof which the philosopher is looking for is inherently useless and indeed impossible, but that it does not follow that we cannot both attain truth and also know that we can attain it. We do not need any further guarantee of our ability to attain truth than our awareness or recognition of the fact that we do in fact attain it.
- Frederick Copleston, Aquinas: An Introduction to the Life and Work of the Great Medieval Thinker (1955)
- Thomas Aquinas, who has likewise been brought under the imputation of magic, was one of the profoundest scholars and subtlest logicians of his day. He also furnishes a remarkable instance of the ascent which the friars at that time obtained over the minds of ingenious young men smitten with the thirst of knowledge.
- It was to be expected that a man who thus immersed himself in the depths of thought should be an inexorable enemy to noise and interruption. We have seen that he dashed to pieces the artificial man of brass that Albertus Magnus, who was his tutor, had spent thirty years in bringing to perfection, being impelled to this violence by its perpetual and unceasing garrulity. It is further said, that his study being place in a great thoroughfare, where the grooms were all day long excersing their horses, he found it necessary to apply a remedy to this nuisance. He made, by the laws of magic, a small horse of brass,which he buried two or three feet under ground in the midst of the highway, and, having done so, no horse would any longer pass along the road.
- Aristotle had not been popular in the ancient world, but his ideas were picked up by the materialistically-minded Arabs as they were developing their culture, and from there his works were introduced into Western Europe. They became the rage, stimulating a whole intellectual revival. It soon became necessary for the church to deal with this point of view, and through the genius of Thomas Aquinas all of the church ideas were rewritten within the framework of Aristotle's ideas with their mythological character reduced to a bare minimum.
- Morton Kelsey, Myth, History & Faith: The Mysteries of Christian Myth & Imagination (1974)
- [According to St. Thomas] the soul is not transmitted with the semen, but is created afresh with each man. There is, it is true, a difficulty: when a man is born out of wedlock, this seems to make God an accomplice in adultery. This objection, however, is only specious. (There is a grave objection, which troubled Saint Augustine, and that is as to the transmission of original sin. It is the soul that sins, and if the soul is not transmitted, but created afresh, how can it inherit the sin of Adam? This is not discussed.)
- Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (1945), Chapter XIII: Saint Thomas Aquinas
- There is little of the true philosophic spirit in Aquinas. He does not, like the Platonic Socrates, set out to follow wherever the argument may lead. He is not engaged in an inquiry, the result of which it is impossible to know in advance. Before he begins to philosophize, he already knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith. If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation. The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading. I cannot, therefore, feel that he deserves to be put on a level with the best philosophers either of Greece or of modern times.
- Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (1945), Chapter XIII: Saint Thomas Aquinas
- In speaking of Thomas Aquinas, who, it is true, had not attained at the time when Roger Bacon wrote to the commanding position of authority which was afterwards accorded to him in the schools, he couples him with Albertus Magnus, and says that they both became teachers before they had been adequately taught, and lectured on a philosophy and a theology which they had imperfectly learned.
- Francis Seymour Stevenson, Robert Grosseteste: Bishop of Lincoln (1899)
- St. Thomas Aquinas ...in the Summa, which remains the greatest work of medieval thought, accepts the idea that certain animals, spring from the decaying bodies of plants and animals, and declares that they are produced by the creative word of God either actually or virtually. He develops this view by saying, "Nothing was made by God, after the six days of creation, absolutely new, but it was in some sense included in the work of the six days"; and that "even new species, if any appear, have existed before in certain native properties, just as animals are produced from putrefaction."
- Andrew Dickson White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896) Vol.1 p. 55
- The life and teaching of St Thomas Aquinas could be summed up in an episode passed down by his ancient biographers. While, as was his wont, the Saint was praying before the Crucifix in the early morning in the chapel of St Nicholas in Naples, Domenico da Caserta, the church sacristan, overheard a conversation. Thomas was anxiously asking whether what he had written on the mysteries of the Christian faith was correct. And the Crucified One answered him: "You have spoken well of me, Thomas. What is your reward to be?". And the answer Thomas gave him was what we too, friends and disciples of Jesus, always want to tell him: "Nothing but Yourself, Lord!"