Thomas Aquinas Criticism - Essay

G. K Chesterton (essay date 1933)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Approach to Thomism" in St. Thomas Aquinas, Sheed & Ward, Inc., 1933, pp. 175-95.

[In the following excerpt, Chesterton describes Aquinas's philosophy as difficult but founded on common sense and practical, ordinary truisms.]

The fact that Thomism is the philosophy of common sense is itself a matter of common sense. Yet it wants a word of explanation, because we have so long taken such matters in a very uncommon sense. For good or evil, Europe since the Reformation, and most especially England since the Reformation, has been in a peculiar sense the home of paradox. I mean in the very peculiar sense that paradox was at home, and that men were at home...

(The entire section is 4513 words.)

Étienne Gilson (essay date 1937)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas" in The Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, translated by Edward Bullough, B. Herder Book Co., 1937, pp. 1-36.

[In the following excerpt, Gilson traces the history of philosophy to the time of Aquinas; discusses the difficulties Aquinas faced in adapting the obscured essence of Aristotelianism to theology; and explains Aquinas's function as Doctor of the Church.]

The Man and His Environment

All great philosophies present themselves at first sight and externally as closed systems uncompromisingly opposed to all concessions. The history of philosophy, however, very soon discovers in pursuing its...

(The entire section is 11869 words.)

Katherine Archibald (essay date 1950)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Concept of Social Hierarchy in the Writings of St. Thomas Aquinas," The Historian, Vol. XII, No. 1, Autumn, 1950, pp. 28-54.

[In the following essay, Archibald examines Aquinas's theories concerning the proper structure of society and the importance of hierarchy, status, and privilege.]


St. Thomas Aquinas, who since the century of his birth has been a major influence in the world of theology, philosophy, and social theory, has acquired a new importance in recent decades. The Church, within which he labored, has long honored him as one of its few supreme philosophers. Less than fifty years after his death he was canonized. At the...

(The entire section is 9060 words.)

M.-D. Chenu (essay date 1950)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Works of St. Thomas and Their Literary Forms" in Toward Understanding Saint Thomas, translated by A. M. Landry and D. Hughes, Henry Regnery Company, 1964, pp. 79-99.

[In the following excerpt from a work originally published in French in 1950, Chenu asserts that Aquinas's works must be studied in relation to their genre. She then proceeds to outline the history of the reading, the question, the disputation, and the article.]

I. Thought and Literary Form

After a presentation in general outline of the broad cultural contexts of the life-work of Saint Thomas, it may seem that it is taking things from too far afield to begin a study...

(The entire section is 10184 words.)

Vernon J. Bourke (essay date 1965)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Golden Wisdom" in Aquinas's Search for Wisdom, The Bruce Publishing Company, 1965, pp. 220-30.

[In the following excerpt, Bourke discusses Aquinas's reputation in the half-century following his death.]

"We earnestly exhort you, venerable brethren, to restore the golden wisdom of St. Thomas," wrote Pope Leo XIII in 1879.1 This is one of the best known quotations from the famous letter which touched off the modern revival of interest in Aquinas' personality and thought. Pope Leo reviewed the repeated approvals of Thomism that are found in the words of nearly all the Roman pontiffs in the years since his canonization.2 He also spoke with...

(The entire section is 4154 words.)

John Paul II (lecture date 1979)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Perennial Philosophy of St. Thomas for the Youth of Our Times" in The Whole Truth about Man: John Paul II to University Faculties and Students, edited by James V. Schall, St. Paul Editions, 1981, pp. 209-27.

[In the following excerpt, originally delivered as a lecture in 1979, John Paul II outlines three qualities for which Aquinas gained his reputation: his complete submission to divine revelation, his great respect for the visible world, and his total acceptance of the teaching office of the Church.]

Esteemed professors and very dear students!

  1. It is with a feeling of deep joy that I find myself once more, after no short space of time, in...

(The entire section is 4933 words.)

Arvin Vos (essay date 1985)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Faith as Knowledge, Faith as Belief: Calvin vs. Aquinas" in Aquinas, Calvin, and Contemporary Protestant Thought, Christian University Press, 1985, pp. 1-20.

[In the following excerpt, Vos contends that the seemingly diametrical differences between Calvin's and Aquinas's positions on the nature of faith are not substantive but the result of ambiguous terminology.]

Among Protestants today Thomas Aquinas is best known for his natural theology, specifically the famous Five Ways found in the second question of the Summa Theologiae. Indeed, for many Protestants this is the only part of Aquinas's writings known with a firsthand acquaintance. By...

(The entire section is 8414 words.)

Ralph McInerny (essay date 1988)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Action Theory in St. Thomas Aquinas" in Miscellanea Mediaevalia, Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1987, pp. 13-22.

[In the following essay, written in 1987, McInerny examines Aquinas's thoughts on the common good and ultimate end, particularly the distinction between conceiving and realizing perfection.]

In this paper I shall be discussing an issue in Thomistic moral theory that seems to have its parallel in Aristotle. Students of Aristotle have often considered the relation between the analysis of decision in Nicomachean Ethics III, where the model is an end/means one, and that in Nicomachean Ethics VI and VII, where the preferred model is the practical...

(The entire section is 4272 words.)

Jean Porter (essay date 1990)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Permanent Significance of Thomas Aquinas" in The Recovery of Virtue: The Relevance of Aquinas for Christian Ethics, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1990, pp. 172-79.

[In the following excerpt, Porter extols Aquinas for his unsurpassed handling of problems in his own time, as well as for providing a strong foundation on which to build in the future.]

The history of Aquinas' influence in the ecumenical church is filled with ironies. In 1879, Aquinas' intellectual authority was held up by Leo XIII, in his famous encyclical Aeterni Patris, as "a singular safeguard and glory of the Catholic Church," because "with his own hand he vanquished all errors of...

(The entire section is 3457 words.)

Eleonore Stump (essay date 1991)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Aquinas on Faith and Goodness" in Being and Goodness: The Concept of the Good in Metaphysics and Philosophical Theology, edited by Scott Mac-Donald, Cornell University Press, 1991, pp. 179-207.

[In the following essay, Stump explains Aquinas's theory of the will and its relationship to the intellect, faith, and goodness; frames objections to Aquinas's accounts; and responds to those objections.]

1. Introduction

Recent work on the subject of faith has tended to focus on the epistemology of religious belief, considering such issues as whether beliefs held in faith are rational and how they may be justified. Richard Swinburne, for...

(The entire section is 14101 words.)

Oliva Blanchette (essay date 1992)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Introduction: Being with Order" in Perfection of the Universe according to Aquinas: A Teleological Cosmology, The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992, pp. 1-31.

[In the following excerpt, Blanchette explains Aquinas's philosophy of being, as well as what he meant by the perfection of the universe.]

The idea of the universe and its perfection is not one we think of readily. Moreover, if we do think of the universe as a whole, we are not inclined to think of it as perfect. Our idea of perfection is no less vague and vacillating than our idea of the universe. Physicists think of the universe as a whole in their cosmology, but only in terms of their abstract...

(The entire section is 15465 words.)

Paul J. Wadell (essay date 1992)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Happiness: The One Thing Everybody Wants" in The Primacy of Love: An Introduction to the Ethics of Thomas Aquinas, Paulist Press, 1992, pp. 44-62.

[In the following excerpt, Wadell discusses Aquinas's inquiries into happiness, including the requirements for attaining true happiness, the need to purify one's desires, false notions of happiness, and why perfect happiness can be found only in God.]

Anybody who promises to make us happy has our attention. We may be skeptical, but we will listen. Everyone wants to be happy, and if we doubt this we only have to recall how much of our energy is devoted to seeking what we think will bring us joy. This is why when...

(The entire section is 8652 words.)

John I. Jenkins (essay date 1997)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "'Scientia' and the Summa theologiae" in Knowledge and Faith in Thomas Aquinas, Cambridge University Press, 1997, pp. 78-98.

[In the following excerpt, Jenkins discusses the structure and nature of the Summa Theologiae and argues that its intended audience was advanced students in theology.]

The Summa theologiae is the chefd'oeuvre of St. Thomas Aquinas. Although all of Aquinas's works are powerful and important, and several are masterpieces, the Summa theologiae is his most comprehensive and is thought by most to be his greatest. The sheer organization of such a large amount of disparate material in the four volumes of this...

(The entire section is 9644 words.)

Thomas Franklin O'Meara (essay date 1997)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Patterns in the Summa theologiae" in Thomas Aquinas, Theologian, University of Notre Dame Press, 1997, pp. 41-86.

[In the following excerpt, O 'Meara discusses some of the patterns and structures Aquinas used in his consideration of Christian theology.]

All beautiful attributes showered throughout the world in separate drops flow together whole and complete, and move toward the font of goodness. When we are drawn to the graciousness, beauty, and goodness of creatures, we ought to be borne away to the One in whom all these little streams commingle and flow.

Summa contra gentiles (2,...

(The entire section is 18168 words.)