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Sunday, November 4, 2018

Thomas Aquinas: The Philosopher and The Politician

Randall Collins, in his book The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change, notes that Thomas Aquinas was not only a great philosopher but also an astute politician. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 9, “Academic Expansion as a Two-Edged Sword: Medieval Christendom,” of Collins’s book (Page 479):
The greatness of Thomas Aquinas is as an intellectual politician. He was a man of moderation, going as far as possible with the new intellectual capital of the time, but sharply distinguishing himself from the radicals. It is not surprising that the church in centuries long past his time would lean increasingly upon him for its official doctrine in a world of secularism and science. Aquinas strikes the balance between science and theology, and he does it far on the side of reason and, as much as possible, of empiricism. Aquinas holds that each level of being has its mode of knowledge. Since humans are not angels (which are simultaneously pure forms, logical species, and Intelligences), we cannot directly apprehend the intelligible world of universals, as the “Averroists” claimed; instead humans must proceed by means of particulars. It is emblematic of Aquinas that he places man in the very middle of the metaphysical cosmos: highest of the material order, the human soul is just below the angels, which are the immaterial Ideas leading up to God. 
Aquinas systematized the philosophical and theological doctrines and completely reconstructed the premises of the philosophical argument to bring about a compromise between the Aristotelian radicals (the Averroists) and the Augustinian theocrats.

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