This course is a critical examination of Aquinas’ Summa contra Gentiles, focusing on the arguments he presents in defense of the existence and nature of God, and of God’s relationship to the universe and to man. Topics to be covered include: the relationship between reason and faith; the arguments for the existence of God; the nature of God’s intellect; the Problem of Evil; the doctrine of Original Sin.
January – March 2023
The Summa contra Gentiles is, in the words of one commentator, the work of Thomas Aquinas that most resembles a contemporary treatise in the philosophy of religion. In book I, Aquinas presents his views on the relationship between reason and faith, and his arguments for the existence of God and for the nature of God’s attributes. Books II and III are devoted to what he claims reason can tell us about God’s relationship to the universe, including human beings. Book IV is devoted to the truths of the Christian faith that he claims are beyond the reach of reason, though reason can, he believes, be employed to defend orthodox Christianity against heterodox interpretations.
This set of lectures is a critical examination of the most philosophically significant sections of the Summa contra Gentiles, and especially book I. Attention will be given throughout to the arguments that Aquinas presents, and to the following related questions: To what extent is Aquinas an Aristotelian philosopher? What does it mean to say that Thomism is a synthesis of Aristotle and Christianity (and is that an accurate description)? To what extent are Books I-III actually engaged in natural theology (as he and Thomists generally claim), i.e. a defense of the existence of God and nature of God based solely on reason, without reliance on scripture or articles of faith? Topics to be covered include: the relationship between reason and faith; the arguments for the existence of God; the nature of God and of God’s intellect; the Paradox of Omnipotence; the Problem of Evil; the doctrine of Original Sin. In the first class, Aquinas’ positive influence on Western culture will be sketched. But also to be discussed throughout the course are the ways in which his influence has been deleterious.
January – March 2023
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