Thomas Aquinas

Authored by: John F. Wippel

Medieval Philosophy of Religion

Print publication date:  July  2013
Online publication date:  October  2014

Print ISBN: 9781844652211
eBook ISBN: 9781315729626
Adobe ISBN: 9781317546481


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Thomas Aquinas was born in 1224/25 in his family’s castle at Roccasecca, Italy. After receiving elementary schooling at the nearby Benedictine abbey of Monte Cassino, in 1239 he began to study liberal arts and philosophy at the newly founded studium generale at Naples. While a student there, he joined the Dominican Order in 1244, much to the chagrin of his family who wanted him to become a Benedictine. At the request of his mother, he was forcibly taken from the Dominicans by soldiers and detained at the family castle for a year or more; but all efforts on the part of his family to persuade him not to become a Dominican failed. In 1245 his family permitted him to rejoin the Dominicans, who promptly sent him to Paris for further studies. There he came into contact with Albert the Great, and after some years in Paris, journeyed to Cologne with Albert, under whom he studied from 1248 until 1252. From 1252 until 1256 he studied theology at the University of Paris and fulfilled the requirements for becoming a magister in theology, including lecturing on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, which resulted in his Commentary on the Sentences. At this time he also published his first two philosophical opuscula: De ente et essentia (On being and essence) and De principiis naturae (On the principles of nature). In 1256 he delivered his inaugural lecture as magister, and during 1256–9 served as Master in Theology at the University of Paris and produced some of his major writings including, among others, his Disputed Questions De veritate (On truth) and five public Quodlibetal Disputations. From 1259 until late 1268 Aquinas served as lecturer or as Regent Master in different Dominican houses of study in Italy and continued to write at a prodigious pace, producing his Summa contra Gentiles (begun in Paris and completed in Italy), the First Part of his Summa theologiae and many other writings too numerous to mention here. In late 1268 he returned to the University of Paris to resume his duties there as Regent Master in Theology. His writings during this period included many of his twelve commentaries on Aristotle, seven more Quodlibetal Disputations, other major Disputed Questions, subsequent parts of the Summa theologiae, and many other works (Torrell 2005: 330–59). In 1272 he was recalled to Italy to set up a Dominican studium generale in Naples, and continued to publish until December 1273, when he ceased writing. On his way to take part in a general Council of the Church at Lyons early in 1274, he became seriously ill and died on 7 March. Apart from four or five philosophical opuscula, his commentary on the Book of Causes and twelve commentaries on Aristotle, most of his writings are theological rather than philosophical in literary genre; but many of these are also important sources for his philosophical thought (Wippel 2000: xvi–xxii).

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