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Saint Thomas Aquinas, (1225 – Fossanova, 7 March 1274) was an Italian priest of the Catholic Church in the Dominican Order, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, He was the foremost classical proponent of natural theology, and the father of the Thomistic school of philosophy and theology. His influence on Western thought is considerable, and much of modern philosophy was conceived as a reaction against, or as an agreement with, his ideas, particularly in the areas of ethics, natural law ####and political theory. In 1245, Aquinas was sent to study at the University of Paris' Faculty of Arts where he most likely met Dominican scholar Albertus Magnus, then the Chair of Theology at the College of St. James in Paris. When Albertus was sent by his superiors to teach at the new studium generale at Cologne in 1248 Aquinas followed him, declining Pope Innocent IV's offer to appoint him abbot of Monte Cassino as a Dominican. Albertus then appointed the reluctant Aquinas magister studentium. After failing in his first theological disputation, Albertus prophetically exclaimed: "We call him the dumb ox, but in his teaching he will one day produce such a bellowing that it will be heard throughout the world." Aquinas taught in Cologne as an apprentice professor , instructing students on the books of the Old Testament and writing Literal Commentary on Isaiah, Commentary on Jeremiah and Commentary on Lamentation. Then in 1252 he returned to Paris to study for the master's degree in theology. He lectured on the Bible as an apprentice professor, and upon becoming a bachelor of the Sentences devoted his final three years of study to commenting on Peter Lombard's Sentences. In the first of his four theological syntheses, Aquinas composed a massive commentary on the Sentences entitled Commentary on the Sentences. Aside from his masters writings, he wrote On Being and Essence for his fellow Dominicans in Paris.
By profession, Aquinas was a theologian rather than a philosopher. Indeed he nowhere characterizes himself as a philosopher, and the references to philosophers found in his own work refer to pagans rather than Christians. Nonetheless much of his work bears upon philosophical topics, and in this sense may be characterized as philosophical. Aquinas' philosophical thought has exerted enormous influence on subsequent Christian theology, especially that of the Roman Catholic Church, extending to Western philosophy in general. Aquinas stands as a vehicle and modifier of Aristotelianism, Augustinian Neoplatonism and Proclean Neoplatonism.
Commentaries on Aristotle
Aquinas wrote several important commentaries on Aristotle, including On the Soul, Nicomachean Ethics and Metaphysics. His work is associated with William of Moerbeke's translations of Aristotle from Greek into Latin.
Aquinas believed "that for the knowledge of any truth whatsoever man needs divine help, that the intellect may be moved by God to its act." However, he believed that human beings have the natural capacity to know many things without special divine revelation, even though such revelation occurs from time to time, "especially in regard to [topics of] faith."
Nature of God
Aquinas believed that the existence of God is neither obvious nor improvable. In the Summa Theologica, he considered in great detail five reasons for the existence of God. These are widely known as the "Five Ways."
Goal of human life
In Aquinas's thought, the goal of human existence is union and eternal fellowship with God. Specifically, this goal is achieved through the beatific vision, an event in which a person experiences perfect, unending happiness by seeing the very essence of God. This vision, which occurs after death, is a gift from God given to those who have experienced salvation and redemption through Christ while living on earth. This ultimate goal carries implications for one's present life on earth. Aquinas stated that an individual's will must be ordered toward right things, such as charity, peace, and holiness. He sees this as the way to happiness. Aquinas orders his treatment of the moral life around the idea of happiness. The relationship between will and goal is antecedent in nature "because rectitude of the will consists in being duly ordered to the last end [that is, the beatific vision]." Those who truly seek to understand and see God will necessarily love what God loves. Such love requires morality and bears fruit in everyday human choices.
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