Aquinas (Foundation to Christian Theology)

Aquinas Aristotle's ideas on Form and Matter Aristotle's Four Causes Aquinas' Four Causes Aristotle and the prime mover God's relationship to matter How do angels differ from humans? More things that Aquinas thought about angels Points from Aquinas' 'Summa Theologica' :The Purpose of Man

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  • Created by: Livi
  • Created on: 29-05-09 14:07


  • Thomas Aquinas (1224/5-1274)
  • greatest medieval theologian, extremely influential, especially for the Roman Catholic Church
  • spent most of his life as a Dominican monk
  • wrote a significant number of books
  • was overweight and appeared to be slow in conversation so was called the 'dumb ox'
  • drew heavily upon the philosophy of Aristotle
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Aristotle's ideas on Form and Matter

  • Taught by Plato
  • One of the greatest philosophers ever
  • lived in Greece
  • was an empiricist- believed experience is the primary source of knowledge

FORM- what makes a thing what it is, related to it's 'end' function e.g an axe's form=power to chop. (if it lost this ability it would no longer be an axe.)
MATTER- material which makes the thing. e.g an axe's matter=wood ad metal

  • Everything comprises of matter and form
  • Philosophy begins with a study of the world, with a study of ends/purposes (telos)
  • When we study individual things, we come to an understanding of their form
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Aristotle's Four Causes

These describe how something exists

Causes (aitia=laws/explanations)

My Frog Eats Fish

MATERIAL CAUSE- what something is made of

FORMAL CAUSE- what a thing is, it's design, how it can be recognise

EFFICIENT CAUSE- the maker of the thing, or the preceding energising force

FINAL CAUSE- purpose of the thing, what it's for, it's telos (end)

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Aquinas' Four Causes

Many years later, Aquinas took Aristotle's four causes and applied them to God

MATERIAL CAUSE- how human's gain knowledge of the outside/external world and use it in proof of the existence of God

FORMAL CAUSE- essential to his theory of the nature of man-his concept of God

EFFICIENT CAUSE- to explain the physical world and human action directed by our will e.g. sexual desire

FINAL CAUSE- explains the nature of human will itself which naturally tries to become at one with God

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Aristotle and the prime mover

His beliefs...

  • All movement/change requires a mover/changer
  • If anything changes then it must have been changed by something
  • Everything changes, including the universe
  • There must be something bringing about this change.
  • There cannot be an infinite series of causes-there has to be something that is itself unchanged/unmoved = PRIME MOVER=GOD

The prime mover...

  • Can't be in time or space otherwise it would be moved
  • Causes the movement of things as the FINAl CAUSE

Aquinas argued that God is both the efficient and final cause of creation.

Aquinas said... "Hence it remains that nothing can be created except through God alone, who is the first cause...In the beginning God created the Heavens and the earth..."

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God's relationship to matter

  • Aquinas distinguishes between the Greek view of creation and the biblical view.
  • He argued that God is the world's active source

This means that there is no other creator of matter other than God. God creates ex nihilo (out of nothing) He therefore....

  • Acts freely
  • Doesn't have to act
  • Is sovereign
  • Cannot change (because he isn't matter)
  • is not form and matter
  • is sheer actuality
  • is pure act-pure form
  • calls everything into existence
  • everything is dependent on him
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How do angels differ from humans? 1

Aquinas makes a distinction between spirit and matter

'spirit' is understood in a Greek sense- that which is immaterial over and against matter

Identifies this by using the biblical category of angels

According to Aquinas, Angels....

  • are between God and creation
  • are spirit
  • exist with an imperishable body
  • position themselves in particular places, unlike God who exists in all places and all times
  • were created having the disposition to love God but do not necessarily automatically love God
  • were pure form without matter
  • are individual

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How do angels differ from humans? 2

Aristotle thought... a human's soul is his or her form all human beings share the same form- human nature the human soul does exist after death, it is the animating force (unlike Plato)
Aquinas agreed that the human soul is pure form. All humans share the same form-human nature so it is matter which makes human beings unique from angels.

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More things that Aquinas thought about angels 1

Angels are....

  • Above our intellect
  • immaterial, don't have bodies
  • pure spirit- because they're completely spiritual, not material
  • able to adopt human bodies when they need to communicate with humans e.g Angel Gabriel in the bible
  • not necessarily alive
  • not able to do things humans do e.g eat, poo, sex
  • God's messengers

There primary reasons is....

  • to inform humans of God
  • to lead us to God
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More things that Aquinas thought about angels 2

They're not in the creation story because people might focus more on the messenger than the message.
J.Collins said....
"Thus men ride with angelic assistance to a more perfect knowledge of God drawn from a knowledge of creation."

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Points from Aquinas' 'Summa Theologica' :The Purpo

  • HAPPINESS= the goal of human life. every human being is on the path towards completing their potential. this consists in the contemplation of the divine essence. Happiness and contemplation of the divine essence= identical and inseparable.
  • The contemplation of the divine essence is not only necessary for happiness, but it cannot bring world goods, fame, power, health or pleasure etc.
  • A state of happiness can only exist when we are no longer seeking anything, but our will naturally seeks the divine essence.
  • Human nature- will is the efficient cause and
  • happiness-contemplation of the DE is the final cause
  • The final and complete happiness is withheld from is until we're in Heaven
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