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  • It seems at first weird that we might learn from Thomas Aquinas.

  • He was a medieval saint, who was reputed to have levitated

  • and had visions of the Virgin Mary.

  • He was much concerned with explaining how angels speak and move.

  • And yet, he continues to matter because he helps us with the problem

  • which continues to bedevil us:

  • how we can reconcile religion with science,

  • and faith with reason.

  • Aquinas was both a philosopher and a saint.

  • Refusing either to lose his faith or mindlessly believe,

  • he developed a new understanding of the place of reason in human life.

  • Aquinas's monumental contribution was to teach Western Europeans civilisation

  • that any human being, not just a Christian,

  • could have access to great truths, whenever they made use of

  • God's greatest gift to human beings: reason.

  • Aquinas broke a logjam in Christian thinking -

  • the question of non-Christians could have both wisdom

  • and at the same time, no interest in or even knowledge of Jesus.

  • Aquinas universalised intelligence.

  • He opened the Christian minds to the insights of all of humanity

  • from across the ages and the continents.

  • The modern world, insofar as it insists that good ideas can come from any quarter,

  • regardless of creed or background, remains hugely in Aquinas' debt.

  • Thomas Aquinas was born to a noble family in Italy in 1225.

  • As a young man, he went to study at the University of Naples

  • and there came into contact with a source of knowledge which had just then been rediscovered -

  • the texts of ancient Greek and Roman authors.

  • Aquinas then became an academic at the University of Paris

  • and an exceptionally prolific writer,

  • producing nearly 200 pieces about Christian theology

  • in less than three decades.

  • His books bear beautiful and strange titles,

  • like the Summa Theologica,

  • and Summa Contra Gentiles.

  • Such was his devotion to knowledge

  • even at the moment of his death at the age of 49,

  • Aquinas was reputed to have been in the middle of writing an extended commentary

  • on the Song of Songs.

  • After he died, he was canonised in the Catholic church

  • and he is now the "patron saint of teachers".

  • Aquinas's starting point was that some of the world's greatest thinkers

  • have not been Christian,

  • but this didn't bar them from having huge insights,

  • because, as Aquinas proposed, the world can be usefully explored

  • through reasons and not just through faith.

  • To explain how this could work,

  • Aquinas brilliantly proposed that universe and all its dynamics

  • operate according to two kinds of law

  • For Aquinas, a lot of the world follows natural laws.

  • We can find out for ourselves how to smelt iron,

  • build an aqueduct, or organise an economy.

  • And none of these relies on believing in God.

  • Aquinas discussed Jesus is in junction to

  • Jesus may have given this idea a particular memorable formulation,

  • considered Aquinas,

  • but it's in fact been a cornerstone of moral principles

  • in most societies at most times.

  • How could this be possible?

  • Well, the reason, Aquinas argued,

  • is that it's an idea that belongs to natural and not eternal law.

  • Aquinas considered that in a few situations

  • God does works simply through eternal law,

  • outside of human reason.

  • And he cited prophetic revelations and the visits of angels as examples.

  • However, he reassured us the most useful knowledge

  • can be found by atheists and secular-minded people

  • within the realm of natural law.

  • Aquinas's ideas unfolded at a time when Islamic culture

  • was going through very similar dilemmas as Christianity

  • in terms of how one can reconcile reason and faith.

  • For a long time the Islamic caliphates in Spain, Morocco and Egypt

  • had flourished by being open to knowledge from all over the world,

  • generating a wealth of new scientific ideas and philosophy.

  • However, due to the increasing influence of fanatical religious leaders,

  • Islam had become more dogmatic and oppressive by the time Aquinas was born.

  • It had, for example, reacted violently against the Muslim philosopher Averroes.

  • Like Aquinas, Averroes's been deeply influenced by Aristotle,

  • and had argued that reason and religion could be compatible.

  • However, the caliphates, anxious never to depart from the literal words of God,

  • made sure that Averroes's ideas would be banned

  • and his books burned.

  • Aquinas knew that the Muslim world's increasingly radical rejection of reason

  • was harming what had once been its thriving intellectual culture.

  • And it was overwhelmingly thanks to Aquinas's ideas

  • that Christianity did not suffer the same process of stultification.

  • Though Aquinas was a man of deep faith,

  • he provided a philosophical framework for open scientific inquiry.

  • He reminds us that knowledge can and should come from multiple sources,

  • from intuition but also from rationality,

  • from science but also from revelation,

  • from pagans but also from monks,

  • that sounds obvious, until we notice just how often

  • civilisation has been and is still being harmed by people's refusal

  • to take this brilliant idea on board.

It seems at first weird that we might learn from Thomas Aquinas.

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PHILOSOPHY - Thomas Aquinas

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    杜姸儀 に公開 2021 年 08 月 27 日
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