ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

309. Doctrinal Features of Thomism. -- (1) Doctrinal solidarity. -- In the Thomistic synthesis we are struck with the close doctrinal solidarity, the masterly co-ordination of the great leading ideas: everything is here inter-related and unified. And this is precisely the reason why Thomism has ever and always held its place as one of the most masterly presentations of scholasticism.

(2) Innovations. -- This solidarity of doctrine is secured by a masterly use of the common fundamental theories, together with the introduction oJ a number of new theories calculated to strengthen the cohesion of the whole system. By embracing those new theories, St. Thomas breaks with the tradition of the earlier scholasticism: he emphasizes the close relationship between philosophy and theology; he combats plurality of forms by unity of substantial principle; to the theory of the "rationes seminales" he opposes that of the passive evolution of matter; to the hylemorphic composition of spiritual substances he opposes the doctrine of subsisting forms; against the Augustinian theory of the identity of the soul with its faculties he advocates the theory of their real distinction; instead of the voluntarism of the Augustinians he embraces an intellectualist conception of the psychic life. It is in these doctrinal innovations, combined with his profound grasp of the common theories, that we are brought face to face with the unrivalled excellence of St. Thomas's philosophical achievements.{1}

And St. Thomas is bold and thorough in his advocacy of his new theories: he follows out their logical consequences in all directions. In this he excels both Albert his master and St. Bonaventure his friend.{2} At the same time he is moderate and tolerant. In his scientific relations with others he never tries to propagate his views by sharp or imperious controversy, but always by mild persuasiveness: adversaries like Peckham bear witness to his diginified and pacific attitude in the midst of heated controversy.{3}

It has been thought possible to detect in the earlier works of St. Thomas a tendency to admit the earlier scholasticism, before striking out on his own personal lines (cf. 286). It is only natural that in his youth he would have adopted the teaching of his masters (he was only eighteen when studying under Albert at Cologne). This fact is of interest; for it helps us to a "psychological study" of St. Thomas; but it does not affect in any way his final and mature philosophical synthesis.

(3) Peripateticism. -- Though personal in his choice of new doctrines, and eclectic in his details and illustrations, the Angelic Doctor's genius has a close kinship with that of Aristotle. But so far was he from imitating the Averroïsts in their servile abdication of personal thought that he proclaimed the argument from authority to be the last and weakest of arguments in philosophy ("locus ab auctoritate . . . est infirmissimus"). He extended the scope of peripateticism; he developed its teachings in the direction of a strongly marked individualism, whilst Duns Scotus was to give them rather a more distinctly realist interpretation.

{1} It is remarkable how strongly his disciple, William of Tocco, has emphasized those innovating tendencies of his master's teaching: "Erat enim novos in sua lectione movens articulos, novum modum et clarum determinandi inveniens et novas inducens in determinationibus rationes, ut nemo qui ipsum audisset nova dicere et novis rationibus dubia definire, dubitaret quod eum Deus novi luminis radiis illustraret, qui statim tam certi coepisset (esse) judicii, ut non dubitaret, novas opiniones docere et scribere, quas Deus dignatus esset, noviter inspirare" (Acta SS., vii Martii, n. 15).

{2} Compare, for instance, the theory of unity of form in Albert and in St. Thomas; or the hesitating view of St. Bonaventure on the distinction between the soul and its faculties with the frank and firm attitude of St. Thomas.

{3} See a descriptive essay -- historical, though a little fanciful -- on the scenes to which we allude, by Père Jacquin (under the n.d.p. M. Delengre) in the Annales Dominicaines (5th March, 1904): "S. Thomas d'Aquin, un épisode de sa carrière universitaire à Paris ". Cf. 311.

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