Taking on the Summa Theologica

One reason I started this blog is that I felt I need to put down my thoughts on what I read somewhere for future reference. I am terribly undisciplined in that sense. I read a lot and I think I absorb what I read fairly well but I tend to forget where I got whatever ideas I encounter, which is terribly unpractical for a scholar.

Anyway. I have decided to take on a BIG reading project: Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologica. I recently bought it (fairly cheaply due to the dollar) and now its time to get started on it – I try not to fill my shelves with unread books.

Having only read a few articles of Thomas before it is indeed impressive to encounter his thinking straight on. In the first Questio I was struck by article eight: ”Wheter Sacred Doctrine is a Matter of Argument”.

However, it is to be borne in mind, in regard to the philosophical sciences, that the inferior sciences neither proove their principles nor dispute with those who deny them, but leave this to a higher science; whereas the highest of them, viz., metaphysics, can dispute with one who denies its principles, if only the opponent will make some concession; but if he concede nothing, it can have no dispute with him, though it can answer his objections. Hence Sacred Scripture, since it has no science above itself, can dispute with one who denies its principles only if the opponent admits some at least of the truths obtained through divine revelation; thus we can argue with heretics from texts in Holy Writ, and against those who deny one article of faith we can argue from another. If our opponent believes nothing of divine revelation, there is no longer any means of proving the articles of faith by reasoning, but only of answering his objections – if he has any – against faith.

This seems exactly right to me – reasoning about faith is only possible with one that at least shares something of that faith. To discuss with one that shares nothing of it is pointless. This is very intreresting when it comes to interpreting the so called proofs of God’s existence in the second Question. Whatever the use for this proofs are, it is not to prove God’s existence to those without faith. This is clear also from the tone Thomas uses when expunding the proofs – he treats them very matter of factly, as if they were undramatic, almost selfevident. He is not trying to prove something that is under serious dispute.

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