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On Method According to St. Thomas Aquinas

On Method According to St. Thomas Aquinas

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Published by Bart Mazzetti
Definitions of method and related subjects educed from St. Thomas Aquinas
Definitions of method and related subjects educed from St. Thomas Aquinas

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Bart Mazzetti on Jun 26, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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(c) 2013 Bart A. Mazzetti1
1. A statement of method in Aristotle.Aristotle,
On the Parts of Animals
, I.1 (639 b 4-11) (tr. William Ogle).
We must, then, have some clear understanding as to
the manner in which ourinvestigation [5] is to be conducted
; whether, I mean, we are first to deal with thecommon or generic characters, and afterwards to take into consideration special peculiarities; or whether we are to start straight off with the ultimate species. For as yet nodefinite rule has been laid down in this matter. So also there is a like uncertainty as toanother point now to be mentioned. Ought the writer who deals with the works of nature tofollow the plan adopted by the mathematicians in their astronomical demonstrations, andafter considering the phenomena presented by [10] animals, and their several parts, proceed subsequently to treat of the causes and the reason why; or ought he to follow someother method?
2. Note.
According to Aristotle, a method is the manner in which an investigation is to beconducted.It being the case that the manner in which an investigation is conducted is its method, wecan see the rightness of St. Thomas’s speaking of it as a ‘mode’.method: the way of conducting an investigationmode: the way of considering a subject
3. Method as a form of 
.St. Thomas Aquinas,
 In II Phys
., lect 15, n. 1 (tr. B.A.M.).
And so he says first that,
 since it has been shown that change of place is first among all the species of motion, now the change of place which is first must be shown, since there are also many species of it, as has been shown in the seventh book. And also at the same time
according to the same method 
, i.e.
 —that is to say, according to the same
artificialem considerationem
[‘consideration in accordance with the rules of art’
what was said above will now be somewhat clear, as well as what was supposed earlier at theoutset of this eighth book, that some motion happens to be continuous and everlasting 
St. Thomas Aquinas,
 In I Pol.
, lect 1, n. 8 (tr. B.A.M.).
And he says that
the things that have been said are not true: and this will beobvious to someone who wishes to examine the subject according to a method,
that is,
according to the art of considering such things
, which will be set down below. But themode of this art is such….
Cf. Lewis and Short,
 Latin Dictionary
, s.v.
: “according to the rules of art”.
St. Thomas Aquinas,
 In I Sent 
., dist. q. 1, art. 5, ad 1 (tr. B.A.M.).
To the first, then, it must be said that a mode is called
which suits thematter [
competit materiae
 and so the mode that is
in geometry is not
in ethics. And in this respect the mode of this science is most
 because it is most suitable to the matter.
St. Thomas Aquinas,
 In Librum Boetii de Trinitate
, ps. 3, qu., art, pr. 2 (tr. B.A.M.).
And he says these two things because the way in which something is examinedought to be suited [
] both to things and to us. For unless it were suited to things,they could not be understood; but unless it were suited to us, we could not grasp them, asdivine things by their nature are such as cannot be known except by the intellect.
St. Thomas Aquinas,
 Super ad Corinthos
, cap. 1, lect. 3 (tr. B.A.M.).
With respect to the first, one must consider that even in philosophical teachings thesame mode is not suitable [
] to any teaching whatsoever. And so discourses [or ‘lectures’,
] are to be received in accordance with the matter, as is said in the first book of the
(ch. 2, 1094 21 ff.). But then some mode of teaching is most unsuitableto the matter when what is principal in that matter is destroyed by such a mode, whichwould be the case if in intellectual matters one were to use demonstrations involvingmetaphors, which do not transcend imagined things, to which the understanding ought not be led back, as Boethius shows in his book on the Trinity (
 De Trin.
, ch. 2). But principal inthe doctrine of the Christian Faith is the salvation accomplished by the cross of Christ. Andso, in chapter ii, 2 he says,
 I have not judged myself to know anything among you but JesusChrist and Him crucified 
. But he who in his teaching principally relies on the wisdom of the word, considered in itself, empties the cross of Christ. Therefore, to teach in thewisdom of the word is not a mode suitable to the Christian Faith.
St. Thomas Aquinas,
 In I Sent 
., dist. 1, art. 5. c.
I reply that it must be said that the mode of any science ought to be looked intoaccording to the conditions of its matter, as Boethius says, and the Philosopher. Now the principles of this science are received through revelation; and so the mode of receiving the principles themselves ought to be by way of revelation on the part of those in whom theyare infused, as in the revelations of the Prophets; and by way of prayer on the part of theones receiving it, as is clear in the Psalms.But since, besides the infused light, the habit of faith must be distinguished todeterminate objects of belief by the doctrine of its preachers,
according to what is said in
 How are they to believe who have not heard?
just as also theunderstanding of principles naturally placed within us is determined by sensibles that have been received, but the truth of preaching is confirmed by miracles, as it is said in
atthe end [16:20]:
Hence a mode that is
, or “according to the rules of art”, is one which “suits the matter”. From theforegoing texts, then, one may conclude that a method is a mode in accordance with the rules of art, insofar as it suits the matter with which it is concerned.
That is, determinate objects of belief must be produced within the habit of faith by the doctrine of its preachers.

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