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On Aquinas - Herbert McCabe - Caps. 1 e 2

On Aquinas - Herbert McCabe - Caps. 1 e 2

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Published by: Felipe Oliva on Jun 18, 2012
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06/18/2012

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Chapter1
AquinasHimself
If
youwanttoplaceAquinashistorically,thinkofhimaslivingforabouthalfacenturyalmostexactlyinthemiddleofthethirteenthcentury.HewasborninwhatwenowcallItalyandatatimewhenthepoliticsofthatregionweredominatedbytheendlessconflictbetweenthePopeandtheEmperordowninthesouth.Thomas'sfamily,forpartofthetimeanyway,wereontheEmperor'ssideagainstthePope.Oneofthethingsthehalf-ChristianEmperorFrederickhaddonewastofoundthenewUniversityofNaples,whichwassetuptotrainhiscivilservantsinconsciousanddeliberateoppositiontothepapal-chartereduniversitiesofParisandBologna.BeinginthesouthofItaly,itwasinconstantcommunicationwiththeIslamiccivilizationoftheMediterranean,acultureimmenselymoresophisticatedinthosedaysthananythingyetavailableinChristianEurope.ItisnotsurprisingthentofindthatThomaswassentattheageofaboutfifteentothisnewuniversity.Youwenttoauniversitymuchyoungerinthosedays-assoonasyouacquiredafairlyelementaryeducationand,ofcourse,werefluentenoughinLatintoconversewithandlearnfrompeoplefromallovertheplacewithdifferentlanguagesoftheirown.Attheuniversitytwothingshappenedtohimatthisimpressionableagewhichclearlydeterminedtherestofhislife.FirstofallhemetanIrishmancalledPeter(PetrusHibernicus),whointroducedhimtosomebewilderingand
 
OnAquinas
exciting
newthinkingthatwasfilteringinfromIslamicsources.AwholelotoftextsofAristotlewerebeginningtomaketheirwaythroughNaplesintoEurope,textsthatnobodytherehadseenbefore.Aristotle,astudentandcriticaldiscipleofPlato,andateacherofAlexanderofMacedon,wasamarinebiologistwhonotonlyobservedandclassifiedhisspecimensbutusedthesamemethodsinallsortsofotherareaslikephysics,astronomy,thestudyofsociety,andofwhatmakeshumanbeingstick.Hefoundtimetoinventlogicinitsmodernsense,andmoreoverwasintenselyinterestedinwhatwewouldnowadayscallphilosophyofscience-questionsaboutwhatitmeanstopursuesuchstudies,andquestionsaboutlanguageitselfandsoon.MedievalEuropewasbeingquitesuddenlyhitbysystematicscientificinvestigationandthinking.ManyofAristotle's
answers
turnedouttobewrong,butthatdidn'tmatter.Itwasthemethodthatmattered.ThisiswhattheyoungAquinasencounteredandfellinlovewith.OneoutstandingfeatureofitallwasthatitseemedcompletelysubversiveofChristianity,especiallyasitcamethroughChristendom'smainenemy,Islam.Thisdidn'tworrytheEmperortoomuchbutitmusthavepresentedanexcitingchallengetoThomas.Anywayhespentmuchofhislifepainstakinglyshowingthat
if
youfoundAristotleright,broadlyspeaking,thatdidn'tmeanyouhadtostopbeingaChristian;andindeeditsometimeshelpedyoutoexpresstheGospel.ThatinterestedThomasbecauseoftheotherthingthathappenedtohiminNaples.Hediscoveredahousewithhalfadozenstudentsinitwhowerebandedtogetherandcallingthemselves'preachingbrethren'.TheyhadcometheretodiscoverthenewlearningpreciselyinordertopreachtheGospelandalsotogetnewrecruits.TheywerewhatwenowadayscalltheDominicans.Thomasfoundthemandtheirlife--inthosedaysratheraustere,casuallycommunal,demo-cratic-veryappealing.Somuchsothatafterhisstudiesat
2
 
AquinasHimself
Napleshetoldhisfamilyhewantedtobeoneofthesepreachingbrethren-whichwasratherlikeasonofaTorylandownerintheeighteenthcenturytelling,say,SquireWeston(inHenryFielding'snovel
TomJones)
thathewantedtobeaMethodistfield-preacher.Therewasanalmightyrow.Theydidn'tmindhimbecomingapriest(hewasevidentlynevergoingtobeofmuchuseonthebattlefield),butthatmeantaproperpriestandpreferably,say,eventuallytheAbbotofMonteCassino;butthisbeggingfriarthingwasridiculous.Whenhetriedtorunoffwiththefriarshisfamilyevenkidnappedhimandlockedhimup-ratherlikeSquireWestondidwithSophie.Butintheend,likeSophie,hehadhiswayandwenttodohisstudiesamongstthefriars-partlyatCologneunderAlberttheGreat,anotherbiologistandalsoexcitedbyAristotle.WhenhehadfinishedtherehewassenttoParis,whereheinstantlybecameembroiledinthefuriousinfightingcausedbythenewfriars,asortof'militanttendency'youmightsay,tryingtoinfiltratetheratherconservativeacademicestablishment.
It
didn'thelpthattheycamepartiallyequipped,
it
seemed,withalotofpagan(Averroistic)Aristotelianviews.Ithelpedevenlessthattheywerealsoseenaspapalagentstryingtosubverttheacademicindependenceoftheuniversity.FinallythefacultywentonstrikebutbypapalpressureThomaswasintroducedintothechairoftheology,essentiallyasastrike-breakerI'mafraid.Fromthenonhespenthislifeinteachingbutalsodoingvariouspoliticaljobsandwasconcernedbothwiththeecumenicalmovementoftheday-reconciliationwiththeEasternchurches-andwiththeintellectualandpastoralstrategytobeusedagainstthethreatofIslam.Inthe1260swhenAquinaswasinhisfortiesandatthepeakofhisformhedidastupendousamountofwork,writingcommentariesonAristotleandwritingmostofthe
SummaTheologiae
aswellasbiblicalcommentaries.Heworkedhimselfliterallytodeath.Hehadanervousbreakdownanda
3

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