Thomas Aquinas (St.)
- University of Naples, liberal arts
- University of Paris, Dominican House of Studies
- Cologne, theology, under Albert the Great (Albert Magnus)-1248
Ideas and Contributions
- 1252-1259, teacher at University of Paris
- 1259-1268, teacher at assorted places in Italy
- 1268-1272, University of Paris
- 1272-1273, University of Naples
Thomas Aquinas was at the center of the 13th century Christian doctrinal
crisis caused by the rediscovery of Greek science, culture, and thought.
He based many of his ideas on those of Aristotle, recasting them to fit
his Christian theological framework. For example, he added the interior
senses (cogitative power, imagination, memory) to Aristotle's five senses.
Aquinas believed that intellect makes experience understandable by extracting
general, non-sensory traits.
Thomas Aquinas felt that the process of gaining knowledge was not like
the process of pouring water into a vessel. A pupil is not simply
the receiver of good things from without, but is a living agent.
All the teachers in the world can do him no good unless they adopt methods
which will stimulate the activity of his mind. No one can know for
another, each one must know for himself; teachers are only intended to
excite the latent energies of our minds and to help us in knowing.
In his "Hints to Teachers" he warns against overloading the mind of the
beginner with a multitude of "useless" questions. Instead, the teacher
should give the student a clear knowledge of them (questions), bearing
in mind the capacity of the pupil; establish them by a few good, strong
arguments, if proofs are necessary, and then pass onto something more
particular, without consuming valuable time in dealing with hair-splitting
arguments which the bigger cannot understand, and in the study of which
there is little profit and much annoyance.
Aquinas espoused the hylomorphic view [metaphysical idea which
says that all natural bodies are made up of both primary matter and substantial
form] of the oneness of the body and soul. He believed that man's rational
soul was immortal and proposed "the inclusion of the history of nature
in the history of the spirit and at the same time noted the importance
of the history of spirit for the history of nature. Man is situated ontologically
(i.e., by his very existence) at the juncture of two universes, 'like
a horizon of the corporeal and of the spiritual.' In man there is not
only a distinction between spirit and nature but there is also an intrinsic
homogeneity of the two. . . . [The] body is the matter and the soul is
the form of man." (Britannica Online)
Although his ideas were controversial for many centuries, his views became
the official philosophy of the Roman Catholic church in 1897. Thomistic
psychology is still taught in Catholic schools today.
- Summa de Homine, part of Summa Theologica (1266-1273)
- On Being and Essence
- On Truth
Britannica Online. (1994-1997). Thomas Aquinas and Thomism: Life and
works. Retrieved 1997 from http://www.britannica.com
Zuzne, L. (Ed.) (1957). Names in the history of psychology. New York:
John Wiley & Sons.
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