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« on: October 02, 2012, 02:52:02 PM »

Since, to my great shame, I have read very little of the scholastics, I thought it might be a good idea to start reading the Summa Theologica. Previous attempts have all failed since I don't know where to start, and, on top of that, it is all very confusing. There is a prima pars, a prima secundae pars (the first second part?) and even a second second part. When I finally chose on of them I get a lot of suppositions which have objections, objections to the objections and then sometimes even objections to the objections of the objections. Needless to say, this gets me confused to no great extent.

So, how many of you have actually read it? What should I read in advance (Aristotle or something?) Where do I start? What are the must-read chapters? Someone has some useful hints or am I just too stupid to get Aquinas?
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« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2012, 03:01:59 PM »

IIRC it was written in question-answer-format which makes it very unreadable. I wonder if there is some classical examples of Scholasticism which were not written in that format?
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« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2012, 03:03:26 PM »

IIRC it was written in question-answer-format which makes it very unreadable. I wonder if there is some classical examples of Scholasticism which were not written in that format?

Duns Scotus perhaps? I never read much of his works either  Embarrassed
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« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2012, 03:07:09 PM »

Since, to my great shame, I have read very little of the scholastics, I thought it might be a good idea to start reading the Summa Theologica. Previous attempts have all failed since I don't know where to start, and, on top of that, it is all very confusing. There is a prima pars, a prima secundae pars (the first second part?) and even a second second part. When I finally chose on of them I get a lot of suppositions which have objections, objections to the objections and then sometimes even objections to the objections of the objections. Needless to say, this gets me confused to no great extent.

So, how many of you have actually read it? What should I read in advance (Aristotle or something?) Where do I start? What are the must-read chapters? Someone has some useful hints or am I just too stupid to get Aquinas?

You could try starting with Peter Kreeft's 2 books, A Shorter Summa: The Essential Philosophical Passages of Saint Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica and A Summa of the Summa in that order, the smaller one first.  That's what I plan to do once I work my way down through the ever-growing stack of books I want to read  Wink
http://www.amazon.com/Shorter-Summa-Essential-Philosophical-Theologica/dp/0898704383/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1349204593&sr=1-1&keywords=a+shorter+summa
http://www.amazon.com/A-Summa-Thomas-Aquinas/dp/089870300X/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_y

Now Papist, being a "honkin' Thomist" may have some good suggestions Grin.
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« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2012, 03:22:20 PM »

I'll order the Shorter Summa.  It should arrive in a few days. It looks like I'll have some reading to do then. I'll tell you if it is worth reading when I finish it.

Other advice is welcome. I'm waiting for Papist too.
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« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2012, 03:24:20 PM »

Since, to my great shame, I have read very little of the scholastics, I thought it might be a good idea to start reading the Summa Theologica. Previous attempts have all failed since I don't know where to start, and, on top of that, it is all very confusing. There is a prima pars, a prima secundae pars (the first second part?) and even a second second part. When I finally chose on of them I get a lot of suppositions which have objections, objections to the objections and then sometimes even objections to the objections of the objections. Needless to say, this gets me confused to no great extent.

So, how many of you have actually read it? What should I read in advance (Aristotle or something?) Where do I start? What are the must-read chapters? Someone has some useful hints or am I just too stupid to get Aquinas?
The most helpful book that I have ever read in addressing Thomistic philosophy is Edward Feser's Aquinas. In addition, he wrote the book The Last Superstion as a refutation of atheism and secularism. Both books go a long way in making Thomas' thought more understandable. In fact, I would say that without Feser, advancing in my degree program in Philosophy would have been much more difficult.
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« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2012, 03:25:08 PM »

Since, to my great shame, I have read very little of the scholastics, I thought it might be a good idea to start reading the Summa Theologica. Previous attempts have all failed since I don't know where to start, and, on top of that, it is all very confusing. There is a prima pars, a prima secundae pars (the first second part?) and even a second second part. When I finally chose on of them I get a lot of suppositions which have objections, objections to the objections and then sometimes even objections to the objections of the objections. Needless to say, this gets me confused to no great extent.

So, how many of you have actually read it? What should I read in advance (Aristotle or something?) Where do I start? What are the must-read chapters? Someone has some useful hints or am I just too stupid to get Aquinas?
The most helpful book that I have ever read in addressing Thomistic philosophy is Edward Feser's Aquinas. In addition, he wrote the book The Last Superstion as a refutation of atheism and secularism. Both books go a long way in making Thomas' thought more understandable. In fact, I would say that without Feser, advancing in my degree program in Philosophy would have been much more difficult.

This one?

http://www.amazon.com/Aquinas-Beginners-Guide-Edward-Feser/dp/1851686908/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1349205985&sr=1-1&keywords=Edward+Feser%27s+Aquinas
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« Reply #7 on: October 02, 2012, 03:27:58 PM »

Since, to my great shame, I have read very little of the scholastics, I thought it might be a good idea to start reading the Summa Theologica. Previous attempts have all failed since I don't know where to start, and, on top of that, it is all very confusing. There is a prima pars, a prima secundae pars (the first second part?) and even a second second part. When I finally chose on of them I get a lot of suppositions which have objections, objections to the objections and then sometimes even objections to the objections of the objections. Needless to say, this gets me confused to no great extent.

So, how many of you have actually read it? What should I read in advance (Aristotle or something?) Where do I start? What are the must-read chapters? Someone has some useful hints or am I just too stupid to get Aquinas?
The most helpful book that I have ever read in addressing Thomistic philosophy is Edward Feser's Aquinas. In addition, he wrote the book The Last Superstion as a refutation of atheism and secularism. Both books go a long way in making Thomas' thought more understandable. In fact, I would say that without Feser, advancing in my degree program in Philosophy would have been much more difficult.

This one?

http://www.amazon.com/Aquinas-Beginners-Guide-Edward-Feser/dp/1851686908/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1349205985&sr=1-1&keywords=Edward+Feser%27s+Aquinas
Yes. That's the one. I like the way Feser shows that Thomas' metaphysical system is nothing more than the technical philosophy that serves as a foundation for common sense.
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« Reply #8 on: October 02, 2012, 03:32:10 PM »

Since, to my great shame, I have read very little of the scholastics, I thought it might be a good idea to start reading the Summa Theologica. Previous attempts have all failed since I don't know where to start, and, on top of that, it is all very confusing. There is a prima pars, a prima secundae pars (the first second part?) and even a second second part. When I finally chose on of them I get a lot of suppositions which have objections, objections to the objections and then sometimes even objections to the objections of the objections. Needless to say, this gets me confused to no great extent.

So, how many of you have actually read it? What should I read in advance (Aristotle or something?) Where do I start? What are the must-read chapters? Someone has some useful hints or am I just too stupid to get Aquinas?
The most helpful book that I have ever read in addressing Thomistic philosophy is Edward Feser's Aquinas. In addition, he wrote the book The Last Superstion as a refutation of atheism and secularism. Both books go a long way in making Thomas' thought more understandable. In fact, I would say that without Feser, advancing in my degree program in Philosophy would have been much more difficult.

This one?

http://www.amazon.com/Aquinas-Beginners-Guide-Edward-Feser/dp/1851686908/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1349205985&sr=1-1&keywords=Edward+Feser%27s+Aquinas
Yes. That's the one. I like the way Feser shows that Thomas' metaphysical system is nothing more than the technical philosophy that serves as a foundation for common sense.

Would you recommend the Shorter Summa as well?
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« Reply #9 on: October 02, 2012, 03:35:33 PM »

Since, to my great shame, I have read very little of the scholastics, I thought it might be a good idea to start reading the Summa Theologica. Previous attempts have all failed since I don't know where to start, and, on top of that, it is all very confusing. There is a prima pars, a prima secundae pars (the first second part?) and even a second second part. When I finally chose on of them I get a lot of suppositions which have objections, objections to the objections and then sometimes even objections to the objections of the objections. Needless to say, this gets me confused to no great extent.

So, how many of you have actually read it? What should I read in advance (Aristotle or something?) Where do I start? What are the must-read chapters? Someone has some useful hints or am I just too stupid to get Aquinas?
The most helpful book that I have ever read in addressing Thomistic philosophy is Edward Feser's Aquinas. In addition, he wrote the book The Last Superstion as a refutation of atheism and secularism. Both books go a long way in making Thomas' thought more understandable. In fact, I would say that without Feser, advancing in my degree program in Philosophy would have been much more difficult.

This one?

http://www.amazon.com/Aquinas-Beginners-Guide-Edward-Feser/dp/1851686908/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1349205985&sr=1-1&keywords=Edward+Feser%27s+Aquinas
Yes. That's the one. I like the way Feser shows that Thomas' metaphysical system is nothing more than the technical philosophy that serves as a foundation for common sense.

Would you recommend the Shorter Summa as well?
I haven't read it; though, I have read the Summa of the Summa by the same author (kreeft). The footnotes are useful, but do not go as far in helping one to undersand the philosophy of Aquinas as does Feser's book. Both are readable.
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« Reply #10 on: October 02, 2012, 03:36:42 PM »

Would you recommend any work of Aristotle? Or is that unnecessary?
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« Reply #11 on: October 02, 2012, 03:38:03 PM »

Thanks for making this thread. I have an abridged Summa that I want to ask Papist about to see if he's seen it.

I was so disappointed to find out that Aquinas wasn't an Orthodox saint, because I knew about Aquinas before even knowing Orthodoxy existed. He was an extremely brilliant theologian and his biography has had a significant influence on me. I have alot of respect for him.

Thanks for the recommendations, Papist.
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« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2012, 03:40:51 PM »

Would you recommend any work of Aristotle? Or is that unnecessary?
You don't need to read anything on Aristotle in particular. If you the book by Feser, you'll get all of the basics on Aristotle, and you'll also see where Aristotle and Aquinas disagree. For any intelligent person taking their first dip into Thomistic philosophy, I suggest Feser.


Also, if you are having any trouble understanding anything Feser discusses in the book, I would be more than happy to answer any questions you might have.
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« Reply #13 on: October 02, 2012, 03:41:29 PM »

Thanks for making this thread. I have an abridged Summa that I want to ask Papist about to see if he's seen it.

I was so disappointed to find out that Aquinas wasn't an Orthodox saint, because I knew about Aquinas before even knowing Orthodoxy existed. He was an extremely brilliant theologian and his biography has had a significant influence on me. I have alot of respect for him.

Thanks for the recommendations, Papist.
Anytime. Smiley
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« Reply #14 on: October 02, 2012, 03:44:13 PM »

I was so disappointed to find out that Aquinas wasn't an Orthodox saint, because I knew about Aquinas before even knowing Orthodoxy existed. He was an extremely brilliant theologian and his biography has had a significant influence on me. I have alot of respect for him.

If the story about how he chased away a prostitute his family hired for him is true then I do think he's awesome.
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« Reply #15 on: October 02, 2012, 03:49:13 PM »

I was so disappointed to find out that Aquinas wasn't an Orthodox saint, because I knew about Aquinas before even knowing Orthodoxy existed. He was an extremely brilliant theologian and his biography has had a significant influence on me. I have alot of respect for him.

If the story about how he chased away a prostitute his family hired for him is true then I do think he's awesome.
These are the kinds of stories that most guys like about saints, i.e. when they are tough. There were actually some Eastern Orthodox theologians who had great respect for Aquinas during the middle ages. The only thing that they really didn't like was the areas in which east and west disagree, such as the filioque.
There is also the question about whether Aquinas thought we are divinized by created or uncreated grace. His language is a bit ambigous at times, but there are places where he makes it clear that he is agreement with the East on this matter. For example, he says:
"full participation in divinity which is humankind's true beatitude and the destiny of human life" (Summa Theologiae 3.1.2).

and "The gift of grace surpasses every capability of created nature, since it is nothing short of a partaking of the Divine Nature, which exceeds every other nature. And thus it is impossible that any creature should cause grace. For it is as necessary that God alone should deify, bestowing a partaking of the Divine Nature by a participated likeness, as it is impossible that anything save fire should enkindle." (Summa Theologiae I-II.112.1)
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« Reply #16 on: October 02, 2012, 03:51:36 PM »

There is also the criticism that he tries to over-rationalize concerning God. but Aquinas states:
It was necessary for man's salvation that there should be a knowledge revealed by God besides philosophical science built up by human reason. Firstly, indeed, because man is directed to God, as to an end that surpasses the grasp of his reason: "The eye hath not seen, O God, besides Thee, what things Thou hast prepared for them that wait for Thee" (Isaiah 64:4). But the end must first be known by men who are to direct their thoughts and actions to the end. Hence it was necessary for the salvation of man that certain truths which exceed human reason should be made known to him by divine revelation. (Summa Theologiae I, q. 1, a 1).
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« Reply #17 on: October 02, 2012, 03:59:39 PM »

I was so disappointed to find out that Aquinas wasn't an Orthodox saint, because I knew about Aquinas before even knowing Orthodoxy existed. He was an extremely brilliant theologian and his biography has had a significant influence on me. I have alot of respect for him.

If the story about how he chased away a prostitute his family hired for him is true then I do think he's awesome.

And how about the levitation thing? That IS awesome.
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« Reply #18 on: October 02, 2012, 03:59:58 PM »

Thanks to Papist and Cyrillic!!!

I've put Feser's book on my Amazon wish list.  Looks fascinating!
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« Reply #19 on: October 02, 2012, 04:02:35 PM »

I was so disappointed to find out that Aquinas wasn't an Orthodox saint, because I knew about Aquinas before even knowing Orthodoxy existed. He was an extremely brilliant theologian and his biography has had a significant influence on me. I have alot of respect for him.

If the story about how he chased away a prostitute his family hired for him is true then I do think he's awesome.

And how about the levitation thing? That IS awesome.
I don't remember a levitation thing, but it is said that he was granted a vision of the Divine Splendor at the end of life (you might call it God's engergies), and his response was, "Everything I have written is straw." From that point on he never wrote again, and the Summa remains unfinished. Most Catholocis believe that after "seeing God" he was struck by how inadequate human language is for expressing Divine Truth. Some Eastern Orthodox believe that it means he repeneted of all of his "evil scholasticism."  Cheesy
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« Reply #20 on: October 02, 2012, 04:03:13 PM »

Thanks for making this thread. I have an abridged Summa that I want to ask Papist about to see if he's seen it.

I was so disappointed to find out that Aquinas wasn't an Orthodox saint, because I knew about Aquinas before even knowing Orthodoxy existed. He was an extremely brilliant theologian and his biography has had a significant influence on me. I have alot of respect for him.

Thanks for the recommendations, Papist.

Hey, a saint is a saint.  God makes them, the Church (Catholic or Orthodox) just recognizes His work.  Wink Wink
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« Reply #21 on: October 02, 2012, 04:07:10 PM »

I was so disappointed to find out that Aquinas wasn't an Orthodox saint, because I knew about Aquinas before even knowing Orthodoxy existed. He was an extremely brilliant theologian and his biography has had a significant influence on me. I have alot of respect for him.

If the story about how he chased away a prostitute his family hired for him is true then I do think he's awesome.

And how about the levitation thing? That IS awesome.
I don't remember a levitation thing, but it is said that he was granted a vision of the Divine Splendor at the end of life (you might call it God's engergies), and his response was, "Everything I have written is straw." From that point on he never wrote again, and the Summa remains unfinished. Most Catholocis believe that after "seeing God" he was struck by how inadequate human language is for expressing Divine Truth. Some Eastern Orthodox believe that it means he repeneted of all of his "evil scholasticism."  Cheesy
And that remains my favorite part about him. "Seeing God" destroys any attempts on us trying to write out what "Seeing God" actually is.
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« Reply #22 on: October 02, 2012, 04:08:35 PM »


I was so disappointed to find out that Aquinas wasn't an Orthodox saint, because I knew about Aquinas before even knowing Orthodoxy existed.
Even though St. Seraphim of Seroph is not a cannonized Catholic Saint, I have great respect for him. I learned about him via a very holy Franciscan Friar (CFR), who passed away a few years ago. This friar loved all things Byzantine.
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« Reply #23 on: October 02, 2012, 04:19:00 PM »

I was so disappointed to find out that Aquinas wasn't an Orthodox saint, because I knew about Aquinas before even knowing Orthodoxy existed. He was an extremely brilliant theologian and his biography has had a significant influence on me. I have alot of respect for him.

If the story about how he chased away a prostitute his family hired for him is true then I do think he's awesome.

And how about the levitation thing? That IS awesome.
I don't remember a levitation thing, but it is said that he was granted a vision of the Divine Splendor at the end of life (you might call it God's engergies), and his response was, "Everything I have written is straw." From that point on he never wrote again, and the Summa remains unfinished. Most Catholocis believe that after "seeing God" he was struck by how inadequate human language is for expressing Divine Truth. Some Eastern Orthodox believe that it means he repeneted of all of his "evil scholasticism."  Cheesy
And that remains my favorite part about him. "Seeing God" destroys any attempts on us trying to write out what "Seeing God" actually is.

 Grin
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« Reply #24 on: October 02, 2012, 04:19:15 PM »


I was so disappointed to find out that Aquinas wasn't an Orthodox saint, because I knew about Aquinas before even knowing Orthodoxy existed.
Even though St. Seraphim of Seroph is not a cannonized Catholic Saint, I have great respect for him. I learned about him via a very holy Franciscan Friar (CFR), who passed away a few years ago. This friar loved all things Byzantine.
Ah yes, Saint Seraphim of Sarov, another great saint.

Now if only you could help me convince my fellow Orthodox on respecting St. Augustine more  Grin
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« Reply #25 on: October 02, 2012, 04:24:34 PM »


I was so disappointed to find out that Aquinas wasn't an Orthodox saint, because I knew about Aquinas before even knowing Orthodoxy existed.
Even though St. Seraphim of Seroph is not a cannonized Catholic Saint, I have great respect for him. I learned about him via a very holy Franciscan Friar (CFR), who passed away a few years ago. This friar loved all things Byzantine.
Ah yes, Saint Seraphim of Sarov, another great saint.

Now if only you could help me convince my fellow Orthodox on respecting St. Augustine more 

St. Augustine is pretty good, I have all his sermons on the New Testament. However I like St. Ambrose better Grin

Aquinas references St. Augustine a lot, it seems.
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« Reply #26 on: October 02, 2012, 04:25:01 PM »


I was so disappointed to find out that Aquinas wasn't an Orthodox saint, because I knew about Aquinas before even knowing Orthodoxy existed.
Even though St. Seraphim of Seroph is not a cannonized Catholic Saint, I have great respect for him. I learned about him via a very holy Franciscan Friar (CFR), who passed away a few years ago. This friar loved all things Byzantine.
Ah yes, Saint Seraphim of Sarov, another great saint.

Now if only you could help me convince my fellow Orthodox on respecting St. Augustine more  Grin
Well, maybe his book of retractions which he wrote at the end of his life might be helpful. Smiley
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« Reply #27 on: October 02, 2012, 06:33:03 PM »

IIRC it was written in question-answer-format which makes it very unreadable. I wonder if there is some classical examples of Scholasticism which were not written in that format?

Awaiting the arrival of the book Papist recommended me I looked into Aquinas' Summa contra Gentiles. It has a better format. His ideas about the essence of God in it seem a little strange to my eastern eyes.
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« Reply #28 on: October 02, 2012, 06:49:39 PM »


I was so disappointed to find out that Aquinas wasn't an Orthodox saint, because I knew about Aquinas before even knowing Orthodoxy existed.
Even though St. Seraphim of Seroph is not a cannonized Catholic Saint, I have great respect for him. I learned about him via a very holy Franciscan Friar (CFR), who passed away a few years ago. This friar loved all things Byzantine.
Ah yes, Saint Seraphim of Sarov, another great saint.

Now if only you could help me convince my fellow Orthodox on respecting St. Augustine more 

St. Augustine is pretty good, I have all his sermons on the New Testament. However I like St. Ambrose better Grin

Aquinas references St. Augustine a lot, it seems.

Can't be Latin without the St. Augustine influence.  Wink
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« Reply #29 on: October 02, 2012, 07:19:21 PM »


I was so disappointed to find out that Aquinas wasn't an Orthodox saint, because I knew about Aquinas before even knowing Orthodoxy existed.
Even though St. Seraphim of Seroph is not a cannonized Catholic Saint, I have great respect for him. I learned about him via a very holy Franciscan Friar (CFR), who passed away a few years ago. This friar loved all things Byzantine.
Ah yes, Saint Seraphim of Sarov, another great saint.

Now if only you could help me convince my fellow Orthodox on respecting St. Augustine more 

St. Augustine is pretty good, I have all his sermons on the New Testament. However I like St. Ambrose better Grin

Aquinas references St. Augustine a lot, it seems.

Can't be Latin without the St. Augustine influence.  Wink

Ita est, amice Wink


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« Reply #30 on: October 02, 2012, 07:39:46 PM »

IIRC it was written in question-answer-format which makes it very unreadable. I wonder if there is some classical examples of Scholasticism which were not written in that format?

Awaiting the arrival of the book Papist recommended me I looked into Aquinas' Summa contra Gentiles. It has a better format. His ideas about the essence of God in it seem a little strange to my eastern eyes.

Please share those ideas. One particular quote from the Summa Contra Gentiles is the following: "For by its immensity, the divine substances surpases every form that our intellect reaches. Thus, we are unable to apprehend it by knowing what it is. Yet, we are able to have some knowledge of it by knowing what it is not." (SCG I.14.2) This seems to square with Eastern thought. 
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« Reply #31 on: October 02, 2012, 07:46:55 PM »

IIRC it was written in question-answer-format which makes it very unreadable. I wonder if there is some classical examples of Scholasticism which were not written in that format?

Awaiting the arrival of the book Papist recommended me I looked into Aquinas' Summa contra Gentiles. It has a better format. His ideas about the essence of God in it seem a little strange to my eastern eyes.

Please share those ideas. One particular quote from the Summa Contra Gentiles is the following: "For by its immensity, the divine substances surpases every form that our intellect reaches. Thus, we are unable to apprehend it by knowing what it is. Yet, we are able to have some knowledge of it by knowing what it is not." (SCG I.14.2) This seems to square with Eastern thought. 

He's making some positive statements on the essence of God.

"Book I:Chapter 22: That in God being and essence are the same.

From what was proved above, however, we can further prove that His essence or quiddity is not something other than His being [...] If, then, the divine essence is something other than its being, the essence and the being are thereby related as potency and act. But we have shown that in God there is no potency, but that He is pure act. God's essence, therefore, is not something other than His being.  "

The ST (1:12:1) has something about the essence of God too:

"Since everything is knowable according as it is actual, God, Who is pure act without any admixture of potentiality, is in Himself supremely knowable. But what is supremely knowable in itself, may not be knowable to a particular intellect, on account of the excess of the intelligible object above the intellect; as, for example, the sun, which is supremely visible, cannot be seen by the bat by reason of its excess of light.

Therefore some who considered this, held that no created intellect can see the essence of God. This opinion, however, is not tenable. For as the ultimate beatitude of man consists in the use of his highest function, which is the operation of his intellect; if we suppose that the created intellect could never see God, it would either never attain to beatitude, or its beatitude would consist in something else beside God; which is opposed to faith. For the ultimate perfection of the rational creature is to be found in that which is the principle of its being; since a thing is perfect so far as it attains to its principle. Further the same opinion is also against reason. For there resides in every man a natural desire to know the cause of any effect which he sees; and thence arises wonder in men. But if the intellect of the rational creature could not reach so far as to the first cause of things, the natural desire would remain void.

Hence it must be absolutely granted that the blessed see the essence of God. "

Then the SCG 1:48:1 has:

"Now, it appears from what we have said that primarily. and essentially God knows only Himself. "

Quite confusing all this.
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« Reply #32 on: October 02, 2012, 08:11:11 PM »


He's making some positive statements on the essence of God.

"Book I:Chapter 22: That in God being and essence are the same.

This must be understood in light of the fact that Aquinas constantly nails home the point that the rational creature of his own power cannot see the essence of God. Hence, for him to say that God's essence is his existence is not to say that he knows the essence of God. He is merely denying (i.e. using the apophatic approach) that God suffers from the same division of essence and existence that we do. Or in other words, he saying that God does not depend on any other being. Ask Aquinas what it is like for a being to be such that essence and existence coincide, and he would say, "I dunno." In fact, Aquinas believes that this unity of essence and existence is the protection of God's divine transcendence:
"It follows, therefore, that to know self subsistent being (a being in which essence and existenec coincide) is natural to the divine intellect alone; and this is beyond the natural power of any created intellect; for no creature is its own existence, forasmuch as its existenec is participated." ST. I. Q. 12. A. 4
From what was proved above, however, we can further prove that His essence or quiddity is not something other than His being [...] If, then, the divine essence is something other than its being, the essence and the being are thereby related as potency and act. But we have shown that in God there is no potency, but that He is pure act. God's essence, therefore, is not something other than His being.  "
Again, when reading the above, we must keep in mind statements from Aquinas like the following: "But we cannot know in what God's essence consists, but solyt in what it does not consist." S.T. I. Q2. a. 3 Thus, wehn he talks about God's essence and exsitence coinciding, or states that God is pure act, he is merely denying (again here is the apophatic approach)... He is deying that God is composed of essence and existence, or act and potency like we are. Aquinas has no idea what it is like to lack such compositions. He merely knows that he can deny those compositions of God.
The ST (1:12:1) has something about the essence of God too:

"Since everything is knowable according as it is actual, God, Who is pure act without any admixture of potentiality, is in Himself supremely knowable. But what is supremely knowable in itself, may not be knowable to a particular intellect, on account of the excess of the intelligible object above the intellect; as, for example, the sun, which is supremely visible, cannot be seen by the bat by reason of its excess of light.

Therefore some who considered this, held that no created intellect can see the essence of God. This opinion, however, is not tenable. For as the ultimate beatitude of man consists in the use of his highest function, which is the operation of his intellect; if we suppose that the created intellect could never see God, it would either never attain to beatitude, or its beatitude would consist in something else beside God; which is opposed to faith. For the ultimate perfection of the rational creature is to be found in that which is the principle of its being; since a thing is perfect so far as it attains to its principle. Further the same opinion is also against reason. For there resides in every man a natural desire to know the cause of any effect which he sees; and thence arises wonder in men. But if the intellect of the rational creature could not reach so far as to the first cause of things, the natural desire would remain void.

Hence it must be absolutely granted that the blessed see the essence of God. "
[/quote] Now here is a true point of contention between Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. Catholics and Orthodox Christians both agree that no one can comprehend the essence of God. Even by Divine aide, we will never be able to do so. But Catholics believe that is possible to apprehend (experience) the essence of God without comprehension. This distinction protects us from falling into pantheism. What is more, even this apprehension (in heaven) without comprehension is only possible by participation in the uncreated grace of God. Eastern Orthodox Christians, on the other hand say that there is not even an apprehension of God's essence, but that creatures only participate in his Divine energies. In either case, I think both are saying that God is absolutely transcendent, but that we do become divinized. Catholics say it by arguing that we don't comprehend God's essence, but we apprehend it by aide of God's uncreated grace (in heaven). Eastern Orthodox Christians say it by saying that we have no experience of God's essence at all, not even by apprehension by participation in God's grace, but we do participate in God's life by means of his energies. In either case, I'm a philosopher and not a theologian, so I will not delve into which language is best used here. I will say that if anyone thinks we know what God's essence is in itself, that person is a heretic. I would also say that anyone who denies theosis is also a heretic. I think Aquinas would agree with me.
Then the SCG 1:48:1 has:

"Now, it appears from what we have said that primarily. and essentially God knows only Himself. "

Quite confusing all this.

Only God knows himself, we do not.
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« Reply #33 on: October 02, 2012, 08:31:58 PM »

This is very informative, thank you Papists!

One thing: what's the difference between apprehending and comprehending the essence of God?

But Catholics believe that is possible to apprehend (experience) the essence of God without comprehension. This distinction protects us from falling into pantheism. What is more, even this apprehension (in heaven) without comprehension is only possible by participation in the uncreated grace of God.

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« Reply #34 on: October 02, 2012, 08:53:30 PM »

This is very informative, thank you Papists!

One thing: what's the difference between apprehending and comprehending the essence of God?



In Thomistic terms the distinction is as follows. To apprehend something mentally is to say, "oh, there it is." To comprehend something is to be able to wrap one's mind around it and even be able to define it. In heaven, the blessed will apprehend God, as the Bible says we shall see him face to face. But we will never will be able to wrap our minds around what the essence of God is i.e. we will never comprehend him.
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« Reply #35 on: October 02, 2012, 09:04:25 PM »

This is very informative, thank you Papists!

One thing: what's the difference between apprehending and comprehending the essence of God?


Here is an analogy. Imagine a person from some remote jungle, who has never seen a car, is dropped in New York City. He opens up the hood of a car and sees an engine, but he has no idea what on earth it is, nor what the parts are for. He apprehends the engine, but he does not comprehend the engine.
In a similar way, we will apprehend God in heaven, but we will never comprehend him. In fact, it is absolutely impossible to comprehend him.
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« Reply #36 on: October 02, 2012, 09:05:37 PM »

I'm just waiting for Isa to return to the forum to start writing posts about how stupid Aquinas is, and then provide maps to prove his point.  Grin
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« Reply #37 on: October 02, 2012, 09:13:37 PM »

Well since Isa isn't here and can't speak for himself, but what's his opinion of Aquinas anyway, Papist?
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« Reply #38 on: October 02, 2012, 10:35:41 PM »

Well since Isa isn't here and can't speak for himself, but what's his opinion of Aquinas anyway, Papist?
Mostly, I was making a light-hearted joke, but perhaps it was bad form because Isa is not here.

That being said, it seems that he thinks Aquians' entire philosophical system is just plain silly.
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« Reply #39 on: October 02, 2012, 10:40:56 PM »

Is that rooted in the whole existence preceeds essence bit?
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« Reply #40 on: October 02, 2012, 10:45:24 PM »

Is that rooted in the whole existence preceeds essence bit?
Yes that the seems to be the main point of contention. Unfortunately, in our conversations he often conflates Plato's view on the matter with that of Aquinas and Aristotle.
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« Reply #41 on: October 03, 2012, 02:40:33 AM »

Well, maybe his book of retractions which he wrote at the end of his life might be helpful. Smiley

Any book he wrote can be helpful with that if they are read without polemical pre-conceptions. Everything that I've read from him is simply beautiful. And those are just translations. The Latin ones must be even more beautiful.
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« Reply #42 on: October 05, 2012, 11:21:54 AM »

I recommend that you pick up two books in particular: 

(1) Summa Theologiae: A Concise Translation, ed. Timothy McDermott.  This is a faithful paraphrase presented in paragraph form.  It was strongly recommended to me by a Catholic theologian who teaches Aquinas.  This is a great way to first step into the Summa.

(2) Holy Teaching, ed. Frederick Bauerschmidt.  Bauerschmidt's footnotes and explanations are very helpful.   

One other possibility:  Instead of beginning with the Summa, begin instead with Aquinas's commentaries on the New Testament, several of which are available online.
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