How does Aquinas propose balancing faith and reason? How is his demonstration of the existence of God similar to that of philosophy, especially Aristotle? In what ways does Aquinas distinguish between body, mind, and soul?

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Thomas Aquinas was attempting to reconcile Christian faith with Aristotelian philosophy, a need that had become urgent with the translation and publication of many of the Greek philosopher's works. Aquinas noted that philosophers like Aristotle started with ideas, discernible through reason, that could not be disputed, what we would think...

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Thomas Aquinas was attempting to reconcile Christian faith with Aristotelian philosophy, a need that had become urgent with the translation and publication of many of the Greek philosopher's works. Aquinas noted that philosophers like Aristotle started with ideas, discernible through reason, that could not be disputed, what we would think of as "truths."

As a theologian, though, Aquinas had to grapple with things that stemmed from his faith (i.e., those things that were revealed to man by God). He argued that these things could be reconciled. Philosophers could ponder things that depended on faith, and theologians could seek truths through reason. This was true even though they came from different "starting points."

Ultimately, Aquinas believed that religious faith and philosophical inquiry would lead to the same place. To use a frequently-cited example, Aquinas sought to prove the existence of God through reason. He offered five "proofs," each of which began with a philosophical or even quasi-scientific axiom, derived from the philosophy of Aristotle. For example, he reasoned that everything that happened in the world had a cause. Accepting that the world was finite, he claimed that at some point, everything had to have a "first cause," which he attributed to God. Similarly, he posited that since everything was in motion, there had to be a "prime mover" that had started things moving. This was based on the (erroneous) Aristotelian belief that the natural state of bodies was rest. Similarly, he reasoned that the philosophical ideal of perfection was only understandable if God existed and that the universe was incomprehensible without a designer. Each of these is a very limited explanation of his philosophy, which was very complex, but it should be clear that Thomas Aquinas attempted to find points of agreement between philosophy and religious faith, a project that sometimes took him into ruminating on the natural world.

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