Thomas Aquinas was an Italian theologian, philosopher and a very influential priest, born in the year 1225 CE. He was an important thinker of the Scholastic school of thought, where he was titled as the Doctor Communis and the Doctor Angelicus.
Most of modern western philosophy stemmed as a reaction to the ideas put forward by Thomas Aquinos, especially in the realm of morality, ethics, natural law and metaphysics. The complete works of Thomas Aquinas are classified as a distinct philosophy namely ‘Thomism’. He was one of the first few thinkers who fully advocated natural theology.
Despite sharp criticism of Aristotle’s philosophy by the Church of his time, he fully embraced Aristotle’s views and called him ‘the Philosopher’. He further worked to find a common ground between Aristotle’s philosophy and the teachings of the Church. He wrote various commentaries on the Aristotelian philosophy, such as Nicomachean Ethics, Metaphysics, and On the Soul.
According to Aquinas, a human can gain knowledge when divine guidance is bestowed upon him. That does not imply that human beings lack the capability and the capacity to learn new things, in fact humans are able to make full use of their capabilities to learn various new things without any divine help, but the truths about faith and belief can be learned only through divine revelation.
He put forward his concept of virtue, classifying them into two types: cardinal and theological. The cardinal or the natural type of virtue includes temperance, prudence, fortitude and justice. The three theological virtues are hope, faith and charity. He further explained as to what classifies as complete and perfect virtue. Any virtue with charity becomes complete; a cardinal virtue becomes perfect through charity.
Thomas differentiated between four different kinds of law, namely Natural, Human, Divine and Eternal. The decree of God without which His creation cannot be governed is the Eternal law. This law cannot be changed or understood by mortals without understanding the Supreme Reason. The logic which is applied to the Eternal law in order to understand it is called the Natural law. Natural law is based on a vital principle: good is to be promoted and evil is to be eradicated. Laws created for further determination of natural phenomena with the help of scientific efforts and critical observations are called Human laws. It is the law applied by the government on societies so as to control them.
The commandments sent to us directly by God through religious scriptures are what constitute the Divine law.
Towards the economic aspect of the society, Thomas contributed by giving the principles of honesty and justice. The price of a commodity should be enough to cover the cost of its production and marketing, and should not be increased unreasonably just because that commodity is in large demand by the consumers.
Aquinas held the belief that human beings are formed of a single material, where soul is its form, without which the material body is ‘human’ only in analogous terms. The actual, awake human comprises of both the soul and the body. After death, the human body perishes, but the soul continues to exist long after the death of the body.
In his Summa theology, Thomas defines the nature of the soul as life’s first principal. It is immaterial, and an act done by the body. It is independent of the body, and it is this independency which differentiates soul from other forms found in matter.
Thomas Aquinas has been given the honor of being titled as a Saint by the Church. He is also famously called the Doctor of the Church. He died on 7 March 1274, in Fossa Nuova. His hymns and theological philosophy are to be studied mandatorily by the students of Christianity and those seeking to be deacons and priests. He remains one of the most important theologians and philosophers of our times.