« PreviousContinue »
The Dominican Inter
CHAP. I. and the installation of the Dominicans in the chairs of the
university of Paris,--that we are able to some extent to realise the force of the current on which the thought of the Stagirite was irresistibly borne within those precincts where it was destined so long and so imperiously to reign.
We have now arrived at the chief mental phenomenon preciation or of this century,—the Dominican interpretation of Aristotle.
Of the Franciscan interpretation the earlier history is comparatively unimportant, or serves only to illustrate the antipathies of the Church ; it was condemned by authority, and forsaken by the Franciscans of a later period. The traditional method must be sought in the writings of Albertus and Aquinas. While Albertus has been stigmatized as the 'ape of Aristotle,' Aquinas has been reproached with equally servile deference to the authority of Albertus. To each indictment a large exception may be taken. It would certainly be more accurate to describe the former as the 'ape of Avicenna,' and the latter, in that he followed Averröes rather than Avicenna, widely departed from the example of
his master?. Their method too was different; while Albertus Agent and composed paraphrases of Aristotle, Aquinas was the first
who, in imitation of the great commentary of Averröes, surrounded the text with an elaborate exegesis. It would perhaps be most correct to regard Albertus as the laborious collector of materials from whence succeeding schoolmen with distincter conceptions of science and method were afterwards to draw',- Aquinas, as the inaugurator of that system of scientific theology which formed the boast of the Dominican school.
The philosophy of Thomas Aquinas can only be satisfactorily discussed by considering it both in relation to the
Different methods of
Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas.
1 Avicenna est le grand maître d'Albert. La forme de son commentaire est celle d'Avicenne; Avicenne est cité à chaque page de ses écrits, tandis qu'Averröes ne l'est qu'assez rarement, et parfois pour essuyer le reproche d'avoir osé contredire son maître... Albert doit tout à Avicenne; saint Thomas, comme philosophe, doit presque tout à Averroès.' Renan,
Averroès et l'Averroisme, pp. 231, 236.
2 Prantl, whose estimate of both Albertus and Aquinas inclines to severity, sternly refuses to allow the former any other merit than that of an indefatigable compiler. Er ist nur Compilator, und Alles, durchweg Alles, was er schreibt, ist fremdes gut.' Geschichte der Logik, mı 189.
genuine thought of Aristotle and to the multiform material, CHAP. I. chiefly Arabian, which offered itself to the consideration of philosophers in that age. But first it may be worth while to notice that more general point of view from whence, in contradistinction to thinkers like Gregory and Alcuin, he professed to discern the grounds of reconciliation between Christian and pagan thought. It has been the fashion in Spurious modern times, a fashion first set by Erasmus, to illustrate the age. the labours of the schoolmen by bringing forward some of the most profitless and frivolous details into which, owing to their peculiar exhaustive method of investigation, they were often led'; and, having selected these as fair specimens of the questions whereon the scholastic ingenuity was expended, to dismiss, as unworthy of grave discussion, treatises occupied with such fruitless enquiries as those that concern the attributes and capacities of angelic natures. It was, undoubtedly, much to the disadvantage of the schoolmen, that forgeries like that of the Pseudo-Dionysius, -wherein no less than The Pseudofifteen lengthy chapters are devoted to unfolding the functions, orders, and attributes of angels,—stood, to their apprehension, on the same level as the Gospels or the Apocalypse”.
1 Articles 2 and 3 of Questio LII of the Secunda Secundæ of the Summa, have been favorite illustrations :2. Utrum angelus possit esse in pluribus locis simul. 3. Utrum plures angeli possint esse in eodem loco.
3. Ut docet Dionysius' is an oft recurring expression in Aquinas. For a lengthened period the book appears to have frequently supplanted the Bible as the basis of exposition in English churches. Grocyn, so late as the year 1498, selected the book as the subject of a series of lectures in St. Paul's Cathedral. Its genuineness had, however, been already called in question ; and having commenced his lectures by strongly denouncing such scepticism, the lecturer found himself compelled, before the completion of his course, to inform his audience that internal evidence too conclusive to be resisted had brought home to his own mind the fact that the book was undoubtedly spurious. See Wood-Bliss, i 31. Seebohm's
Oxford Reformers, p. 61. “The Celes.
mnents of the Twelve
CHAP. I. In this however they only shared the delusions of their age; The Testa- nor was Dionysius the only forgery that commanded uni
versal deference. The most influential contribution made by Patriarchs.
Grosseteste to literature, was the translation which he undertook, with the assistance of John Basing, of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Basing, who belonged to the Benedictine monastery of St. Alban's, had discovered the manuscript at Athens, and returned with it to England in the belief that he was bringing an inestimable treasure. No treatise occupied a larger share of the attention of the age, but its spuriousness has long been recognised'. In estimating, accordingly, the labours of the schoolmen, it is only just to bear also in mind the nature of the subject matter which they were sometimes called to interpret and eluci
date. Combination True wisdom, said Aquinas, echoing the thought of Aristotelian Aristotle, is to know the end or Téos of things, and to make philosophy. one's action conducive to the accomplishment of that end.
The different branches of knowledge may be regarded as ranking in dignity according as they are concerned with ends of greater or less importance; but all these ends merge in a common centre, all truth is harmonious. The true philosopher is he, who rising above these individual ends, seeks out the final end, the attainment of ultimate truth, the perfection of the understanding. There are two paths whereby he is enabled to attain to this absolute truth,—reason and faith'. Some truths, such as the doctrine of the Trinity, and that of the Incarnation, altogether transcend the powers of
in Aquinas of
ere long became almost the authorised theology; it became, as far as such transcendant subjects could be familiarised to the mind, the vulgar belief.” Milman's Hist, Latin Christianity, Bk. XIV c. 2.
1 The work has recently received a full investigation at the hands of Mr. Sinker of Trinity College, Cambridge, in the Norrisian Prize Essay of 1868. Mr. Sinker enumerates no less than thirty-one existing MSS. of Grosseteste's version. He shews that the original was known to Origen and was the work probably of a
Jewish Christian who lived in the earlier half of the second century.
How great a sensation was produced by the publication of this worthless book is shown by the fact of its being mentioned by every chronicler ... It is lamentable to think that these two wretched forgeries (the “Testaments' and the Pseudo-Dionysius) were the Greek books that mainly occupied Grosseteste's attention.' Luard's Preface to Grosseteste Epistole.
Contra Gentiles, cc. 3 and 4.
the human understanding. These faith only can arrive at. CHAP. I. There are others which reason seems enabled to grasp unaided by revelation, such as the existence and unity of God'. This distinction, however, constitutes no real difference in the truths themselves, for it exists only in relation to the human intellect; with God, all truth is one and simple. That reason was never intended to be our sole guide to belief, Aquinas pointed out, was evident; its insufficiency for that purpose is manifest. In the first place, all natural knowledge takes its rise in experience, or the evidence of the senses; but how can sepsible objects teach us to comprehend the Creator? how can the effect explain the cause? Again, this knowledge differs from itself in degree and in kind: the philosopher is familiar with ideas to which the ploughman is a stranger; the knowledge of the angel transcends by a yet greater interval that of the philosopher. And again, even in the province that the natural reason calls its own,—the visible, the sensible,-how incomplete, obscure, and confused is the knowledge it can acquire! How then can we be surprised that it should fail to attain to the mysteries of the divine, the invisible nature? If, moreover, reason were the only path whereby mankind could attain to truth, how evil would be our lot! How many, by sheer indisposition for the task of investigation, would fail to pursue it! The aversion to serious intellectual effort, the pressing cares of daily life, native indolence and social claims, call away the many to more obvious pursuits. How uncertain, too, are the results to which the natural reason can attain, how often are they contested and overthrown'! Properly regarded, therefore, natural and revealed truth will appear as complementary to each other. The divine knowledge in the mind of Christ, said Aquinas, does not extinguish that in the human soul,
1 Summa i Quæst. 11 art. 3.
9. Ratio enim humana in rebus divinis est multum deficiens. Cujus signum est quia philosophia de rebus humanis est multum deficiens. Cujus signum est, quia philosophi de rebus humanis naturali investigatione per. scrutantes in multis erraverunt, et
sibi ipsis contraria senserunt. Ut ergo esset indubitata et certa cogni. tio apud homines de Deo oportuit quod divina eis per modum fidei traderentur, quasi a Deo dicta, qui mentiri non possit.' Secunda Se. cundæ, Quæst. 11 art. 4.
Influence of Aquinas in modern
CHAP. I. but invests it with a new brilliancy'. The natural reason
cannot prove the truth of divine knowledge, but may be worthily employed in illustrating and defending it'.
Such, in general terms, is the theory which underlies the theology.
teaching of Aquinas. The thought may fail to strike us as original or novel, but that it should thus fail, is perhaps the strongest evidence how the influence of the Angelic Doctor has permeated our whole theology; and it can scarcely be denied that it presents a sober and dignified estimate of the ground whereon rational belief may take its stand. It long inspired the defenders of the faith. It has been echoed in every variety of tone by those whose contempt for the schoolmen has only been equalled by their ignorance of the scholastic literature. It was, after Albertus, the first serious and systematic effort to construct a general formula which should anticipate and meet each and every objection which scepticism, in the garb of the philosopher, might urge against the Christian faith.
The true test of every such general formula must however be sought in its specific application; and it is when the transition has been made from the broad platform of comprehensive principles to the investigation of individual cases, that we are best enabled to gauge the merit of the dominant conception. On the other hand, it is only just to remember that errors of method may bring discredit upon the soundest hypothesis. But from whichever point of view we may form
1 Summa, III Quæst. ix art. 1.
2 There is a marked resemblance to Aquinas in the theory developed by Dryden in the first forty lines of the Religio Laici. The following coincidence of thought would suggest that the poet must have derived the idea either directly or indirectly from the schoolman:-*Sensibilia autem ad hoc ducere intellectum nostrum non possunt, ut in eis divina substantia videatur quid sit, cum sint effectus causæ virtutem non æquantes.' Contra Gentes, 1 c.3. How can the less the greater comprehend ? | Or finite reason reach infinity? | For what could fathom God were more than He !'
Compare also Secunda Secunda, Quæst. II art. 4. Dryden, as Johnson has remarked, was far superior in learning to Pope, and though he enter. ed Trinity during the Puritan ascend. ancy, he shared in those scholastic influences which strongly affected our Anglican theology in the seven. teenth century. Few of Macaulay's criticisms are more unjust than that wherein he affirms of the poet that his knowledge both of the Church which he quitted and of the Church which he entered were of the most superficial kind.' Hist. England, 11° 197.