2. Summary of Summa Contra Gentiles by Thomas Aquinas.

The previous post in the series is here. 

Chapter 1.  In what the office of a wise man consists

The wise man according to the Philosopher is one who orders things rightly.  The wise man may perhaps be skilled in the architectonic, the principal arts which govern other arts.  The druggist is knowledgeable in matters of health.  The ship builder is knowledgeable of sailing, and so on.

These architectonic craftsmen and those who order rightly may not be concerned with the highest causes, which are the ultimate ends of each thing, which is intended by the first author, which is an intellect.  The good of the first author/intellect is truth.  Truth must be the ultimate end of the universe and is the chief aim of wisdom.

To help man pursue Truth, divine wisdom came to man clothed in flesh.  For this I was born, and for this I have come intot hte world, to bear witnes to the truth.  (John 18:37)

Additionally, the wise man must no only pursue truth, but must refute falsehood.


Chapter 2.  The author’s intention in this work

“….the purpose we have in view is, in our own weak way, to declare the truth which the Catholic faith professes, while weeding out contrary errors…”

”…the Mohammedans and pagans, do not agree with us as to the authority of any Scripture by which they may convince in the same way as we are able to dispute with the Jews by means of the old Testament, and with heretics by means of the New.  But the former accept neither.  THUS WE NEED TO HAVE RECOURSE TO NATURAL REASON, TO WHCICH ALL ARE COMPELLED TO ASSENT”.  (My emphasis added.)

Chapter 3.  In what way it is possible to make known the divine truth.

There are two ways we know things to be true about God, one is natural reason, but some truths surpass the capability of human reason, for instance the trinity.

Of those knowable by reason our knowledge of a thing will be proportion to our understanding of its essence, the essence demonstrating what a thing is.  Human capability for reason being informed by the senses and sensibles not being equal to their cause, the essence of God evades us.  Sensibles and intellect do show us that god is and other truths.

“Accordingly, some divine truths are attainable by human reason, while others altogether surpass the power of human reason.”

Degrees of intellect will also hamper us.  Some men are intelligent, some are not.  Angelic intellect, which far surpasses the human, isn’t great enough to know the essence of God.

Also, we should understand this because of the number of every day things in our knowledge, all the properties of which we do not understand.

“Therefore, all that is said about God, though it cannot be investigated by reason, must not be immediately rejected as false, as the Manichaeans and many unbelievers have thought.”


3 thoughts on “2. Summary of Summa Contra Gentiles by Thomas Aquinas.”

  1. Oh my, how times have changed; from Chapter 2:

    “But it is difficult to refute the errors of each individual, for two reasons. First, because the sacrilegious assertions of each erring individual are not so well known to us, that we are able from what they say to find arguments to refute their errors. For the Doctors of old used this method in order to confute the errors of the heathens, whose opinions they were able to know, since either they had been heathens themselves, or had lived among heathens and were conversant with their teachings.”

    Is it significantly easier to know “the sacrilegious assertions” now than in the Good Doctor’s time? Are we back to living in times more reminiscent of those lived in by the “Doctors of old”?

      1. I was thinking more along the lines that we are living among the heathens now–and are more likely to be heathens or recovering heathens ourselves (and therefore are more conversant with their teachings)–more than perhaps was true in Aquinas’s time and place.

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