Will Durant

The Age Of Faith



The Adventure of Reason




HOW shall we explain the remarkable outburst of philosophy that began with Anselm, Roscelin, and Abelard, and culminated in Albertus Magnus and St. Thomas Aquinas? As usual, many causes conspired. The Greek East had never surrendered its classical heritage; the ancient philosophers were studied in every century in Constantinople, Antioch, and Alexandria; men like Michael Psellus, Nicephorus Blemydes (1197-1272), George Pachymeres (1242?-1310), and the Syrian Bar-Hebraeus (1226?-82) knew the works of Plato and Aristotle at first hand; and Greek teachers and manuscripts gradually entered the West. Even there some fragments of the Hellenic legacy had survived the barbarian storm; most of Aristotle's Organon of logic remained; and of Plato the Meno and the Timaeus, whose vision of Er had colored Christian imaginations of hell. The successive waves of translations from the Arabic and the Greek in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries brought to the West the revelation and challenge of Greek and Moslem philosophies so different from the Christian that they threatened to sweep away the whole theology of Christendom unless Christianity could construct a counterphilosophy. But these influences would hardly have produced a Christian philosophy if the West had continued poor. What brought these factors to effect was the growth of wealth through the agricultural conquest of the Continent, the expansion of commerce and industry, the services and accumulations of finance. This economic revival collaborated with the liberation of the communes, the rise of the universities, the rebirth of Latin literature and Roman law, the codification of canon law, the glory of Gothic, the flowering of romance, the "gay science" of the troubadours, the awakening of science, and the resurrection of philosophy, to constitute the "Renaissance of the twelfth century."

From wealth came leisure, study, schools; schole at first meant leisure. A scholasticus was a director or professor of a school; the "Scholastic philosophy" was the philosophy taught in the medieval secondary schools or in the universities that for the most part grew out of them. The "Scholastic method" was the form of philosophical argument and exposition used in such schools. In the twelfth century, barring Abelard's classes in or near governments, delineates an ideal state, and describes the ideal man. "Today," he consoles us, "everything is bought openly, unless this is prevented by the modesty of the seller. The unclean fire of avarice threatens even the sacred altars. ... Not even the legates of the Apostolic See keep their hands pure from gifts, but at times rage through the provinces in bacchanalian frenzy."13 If we may believe his account (already quoted), he told Pope Hadrian IV that the Church shared liberally in the corruption of the times; to which the Pope in effect replied that men will be men however gowned. And John adds, wisely: "In every office of God's household [the Church], while some fall behind, others are added to do their work. Among deacons, archdeacons, bishops, and legates I have seen some who labored with such earnestness in the harvest of the Lord that from the merits of their faith and virtue it could be seen that the vineyard of the Father had been rightly placed under their care."14 Civil government, he thinks, is far more corrupt than the clergy; and it is good that the Church, for the protection of the people, should exercise a moral jurisdiction over all the kings and states of the earth.15 The most famous passages in the Polycraticus concern tyrannicide:

If princes have departed little by little from the true way, even so it is not well to overthrow them utterly at once, but rather to rebuke injustice with patient reproof until finally it becomes obvious that they are obstinate in their evil-doing. ... But if the power of the ruler opposes the divine commandments, and wishes to make me share in its war against God, then with unrestrained voice I answer that God must be preferred before any man on earth. ... To kill a tyrant is not merely lawful, but right and just.16

This was an unusually excitable outburst for John, and in a later passage of the same volume he added, "provided that the slayer is not bound by fealty to the tyrant." 17 It was a saving clause, for every ruler exacted an oath of fealty from his subjects. In the fifteenth century Jean Petit defended the assassination of Louis of Orleans by quoting the Polycraticus; but the Council of Constance condemned Petit on the ground that even the king may not condemn an accused person without summons and trial.

We "moderns" cannot always agree with the moderni to whom John belonged in the twelfth century; he talks now and then what seems to us to be nonsense; but even his nonsense is couched in a style of such tolerance and grace as we shall hardly find again before Erasmus. John too was a humanist, loving life more than eternity, loving beauty and kindness more than the dogmas of any faith, and quoting the ancient classics with more relish than the sacred page. He made a long list of dubitabilia—"things about which a wise man may doubt"—and included the nature and origin of the soul, the creation of the world, the relation of God's foresight to man's free will. But he was too clever to commit himself to heresy. He moved among the controversies of his time with diplomatic immunity and charm. He thought of philosophy not as a form of war but as a balm of peace: philosophia moderatrix omnium—philosophy was to be a moderating influence in all things; and "he who has by philosophy reached caritas, a charitable kindliness, has attained to philosophy's true end."18


Toward 1150 one of Abelard's pupils, Peter Lombard, published a book which was at once a compilation of Abelard's thought purified of heresy, and a beginning of the formal Scholastic philosophy. Peter, like Anselm, Arnold of Brescia, Bonaventura, and Thomas Aquinas, was an Italian who came to France for advanced work in theology and philosophy. He liked Abelard, and called the Sic et non his breviary; but also he wanted to be a bishop. His Sententiarum libri IV, or Four Books of Opinions, applied and chastened the method of the Sic et non: he drew up under each question of theology an array of Biblical and Patristic quotations for and against; but this Peter labored conscientiously to resolve all contradictions into orthodox conclusions. He was made bishop of Paris, and his book became for four centuries so favorite a text in theological courses that Roger Bacon reproved it for having displaced the Bible itself. More than 4000 theologians, including Albert and Thomas, are said to have written commentaries on the Sentences.

As the Lombard's book upheld the authority of the Scriptures and the Church against the claims of the individual reason, it stayed for half a century the advance of rationalism. But in that half century a strange event transformed theology. As the translation of Aristotle's scientific and metaphysical works into Arabic had in the ninth century compelled Moslem thinkers to seek a reconciliation between Islamic doctrine and Greek philosophy; and as the impingement of Aristotle upon the Hebrew mind in Spain was in this twelfth century driving Ibn Daud and Maimonides to seek a harmony between Judaism and Hellenic thought; so the arrival of Aristotle's works in Latin dress in the Europe of 1150-1250 impelled Catholic theologians to attempt a synthesis of Greek metaphysics and Christian theology. And as Aristotle seemed immune to scriptural authority, the theologians were forced to use the language and weapons of reason. How the Greek philosopher would have smiled to see so many world-shaking faiths pay homage to his thought!

But we must not exaggerate the influence of Greek thinkers in stimulating the efflorescence of philosophy in this period. The spread of education, the vitality of discussion and intellectual life in the schools and universities of the twelfth century, the stimulus of such men as Roscelin, William of Champeaux, Abelard, William of Conches, and John of Salisbury, the enlargement of horizons by the Crusades, the increasing acquaintance with Islamic life and thought in East and West—all these could have produced an Aquinas even if Aristotle had remained unknown; indeed the industry of Aquinas was due not to love of Aristotle but to fear of Averroës. Already in the twelfth century the Arabic and Jewish philosophers were influencing Christian thought in Spain. Al-Kindi, al-Farabi, al-Ghazali, Avicenna, Ibn Gabirol, Averroës, and Maimonides entered Latin Europe by the same doors that admitted Plato and Aristotle, Hippocrates and Galen, Euclid and Ptolemy.

Such an invasion by alien thought was a mental shock of the first order to the immature West. We need not wonder that it was met at first with an attempt at repression or delay; we must marvel rather at the astonishing feat of adaptation by which the old-new knowledge was absorbed into the new faith. The initial impact of Aristotle's Physics and Metaphysics, and of Averroës' commentaries, which reached Paris in the first decade of the thirteenth century, shook the orthodoxy of many students; and some scholars, like Amalric of Bene and David of Dinant, were moved to attack such basic doctrines of Christianity as creation, miracles, and personal immortality. The Church suspected that the seeping of Arabic-Greek thought into south France had loosened orthodoxy among the educated classes, and had weakened their will to control the Albigensian heresy. In 1210 a Church council at Paris condemned Amalric and David, and forbade the reading of Aristotle's "metaphysics and natural philosophy," or of "comments"— commentaries—thereon. As the prohibition was repeated by a papal legate in 1215 we may assume that the decree of 1210 had stimulated the reading of these otherwise forbidding works. The Fourth Council of the Lateran allowed the teaching of Aristotle's works on logic and ethics, but proscribed the rest. In 1231 Gregory IX gave absolution to masters and scholars who had disobeyed these edicts, but he renewed the edicts "provisionally, until the books of the Philosopher had been examined and expurgated." The three Parisian masters appointed to attend to this fumigation of Aristotle seem to have abandoned the task. The prohibitions were not long enforced, for in 1255 the Physics, Metaphysics, and other works of Aristotle were required reading at the University of Paris.19 In 1263 Urban IV restored the prohibitions; but apparently Thomas Aquinas assured him that Aristotle could be sterilized, and Urban did not press his vetoes. In 1366 the legates of Urban V at Paris required a thorough study of the works of Aristotle by all candidates for the arts degree.20

The dilemma presented to Latin Christendom in the first quarter of the thirteenth century constituted a major crisis in the history of the faith. The rage for the new philosophy was an intellectual fever that could hardly be controlled. The Church abandoned the effort; instead, she deployed her forces to surround and absorb the invaders. Her loyal monks studied this amazing Greek who had upset three religions. The Franciscans, though they preferred Augustine to Aristotle, welcomed Alexander of Hales, who made the first attempt to harmonize "the Philosopher" with Christianity. The Dominicans gave every encouragement to Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas in the same enterprise; and when these three men had finished their work it seemed that Aristotle had been made safe for Christianity.


To understand Scholasticism as no vain accumulation of dull abstractions, we must see the thirteenth century not as the unchallenged field of the great Scholastics, but as a battleground on which, for seventy years, skeptics, materialists, pantheists, and atheists contested with the theologians of the Church for possession of the European mind.

We have noted the presence of unbelief in a small minority of the European population. Contact with Islam through the Crusades and the translations extended this minority in the thirteenth century. The discovery that another great religion existed, and had produced fine men like Saladin and al-Kamil, philosophers like Avicenna and Averroës, was in itself a disturbing revelation; comparative religion does religion no good. Alfonso the Wise (1252-84) reported a common disbelief in immortality among the Christians of Spain;21 perhaps Averroism had trickled down to the people. In southern France there were in the thirteenth century rationalists who argued that God, after creating the world, had left its operation to natural law; miracles, they held, were impossible; no prayer could change the behavior of the elements; and the origin of new species was due not to special creation but to natural development.22 At Paris some freethinkers—even some priests—denied transubstantiation;23 and at Oxford a teacher complained that "there is no idolatry like that of the sacrament of the altar."24 Alain of Lille (1114-1203) remarks that "many false Christians of our time say there is no resurrection, since the soul perishes with the body"; they quoted Epicurus and Lucretius, adopted atomism, and concluded that the best thing to do is to enjoy life here on earth.25

The urban industrialism of Flanders seems to have promoted unbelief. At the beginning of the thirteenth century we find David of Dinant, and near its end Siger of Brabant, leading a strongly skeptical movement. David (c. 1200) taught philosophy at Paris, and entertained Innocent III with his subtle disputations.26 He played with a materialistic pantheism in which God, mind, and pure matter (matter before receiving form) all became one in a new trinity.27 His book, Quaternuli, now lost, was condemned and burned by the Council of Paris in 1210. The same synod denounced the pantheism of another Parisian professor, Amalric of Bene, who had argued that God and the creation are one. Amalric was compelled to retract, and died, we are told, of mortification (1207).28 The Council had his bones exhumed, and burned them in a Paris square as a hint to his many followers. They persisted nevertheless, and enlarged his views to a denial of heaven and hell and the power of the sacraments. Ten of these Amalricians were burned at the stake (1210) .29

Free thought flourished in the southern Italy of Frederick II, where St. Thomas grew up. Cardinal Ubaldini, friend of Frederick, openly professed materialism.30 In northern Italy the industrial workers, the business classes, the lawyers, and the professors indulged in a measure of skepticism. The Bolognese faculty was notoriously indifferent to religion; the medical schools there and elsewhere were centers of doubt; and an adage arose that ubi tres medici, duo athei— "where there are three physicians two of them are atheists."31 About 1240 Averroism became almost a fashion among the educated laity of Italy.32 Thousands accepted the Averroistic doctrines that natural law rules the world without any interference by God; that the world is co-eternal with God; that there is only one immortal soul, the "active intellect" of the cosmos, of which the individual soul is a transitory phase or form; and that heaven and hell are tales invented to coax or terrify the populace into decency.33 To appease the Inquisition, some Averroists advanced the doctrine of twofold truth: a proposition, they argued, might seem true in philosophy or according to natural reason, and yet be false according to Scripture and the Christian faith; they professed at the same time to believe according to faith what they doubted according to reason. Such a theory denied the basic assumption of Scholasticism—the possibility of reconciling reason and faith.

Towards the end of the thirteenth, and throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the University of Padua was a turbulent center of Averroism. Peter of Abano (c. 1250-1316), professor of medicine at Paris and then of philosophy at Padua, wrote in 1303 a book, Conciliator controversiarum, designed to harmonize medical and philosophical theory. He earned a place in the history of science by teaching that the brain is the source of the nerves, and the heart of the vessels, and by measuring the year with remarkable accuracy as 365 days, six hours, and four minutes.34 Convinced of astrology, he reduced almost all causation to the power and movement of the stars, and practically eliminated God from the government of the world.35 Inquisitors accused him of heresy, but Marquis Azzo d'Este and Pope Ho-norius IV were among his patients, and protected him. He was accused again in 1315, and this time escaped trial by dying a natural death. The inquisitors condemned his corpse to be burned at the stake, but his friends so well concealed his remains that the judgment had to be executed in effigy.88

When Thomas Aquinas went from Italy to Paris he discovered that Averroism had long since captured a part of the faculty. In 1240 William of

Auvergne noted that "many men" at the University "swallow these [ Averroistic] conclusions without investigation"; and in 1252 Thomas found Averroism flourishing among the University youth.37 Perhaps alarmed by Thomas' report, Pope Alexander IV (1256) charged Albertus Magnus to write a treatise On the Unity of the Intellect Against Averroës. When Thomas taught at Paris (1252-61, 1269-72) the Averroistic movement was at its height; its leader in France, Siger of Brabant, taught in the University from 1266 to 1276. For a generation Averroism and Catholicism made Paris their battlefield.

Siger (1235?-? 1281), a secular priest,38 was a man of learning: even the surviving fragments of his works quote al-Kindi, al-Farabi, al-Ghazali, Avicenna, Avempace, Avicebron, Averroës, and Maimonides. In a series of commentaries on Aristotle, and in a controversial tract Against Those Famous Men in Philosophy, Albert and Thomas, Siger argued that Albert and Thomas falsely—Averroës justly—interpreted the Philosopher.39 He concluded with Averroës that the world is eternal, that natural law is invariable, and that only the soul of the species survives the individual's death. God, said Siger, is the final, not the efficient, cause of things—He is the goal, not the cause, of creation. Led like Vico and Nietzsche by the fascination of logic, Siger played with the dismal doctrine of eternal recurrence: since (he argued) all earthly events are ultimately determined by stellar combinations, and the number of these possible combinations is finite, each combination must be exactly repeated again and again in an infinity of time, and must bring in its train the same effects as before; "the same species" will return, "the same opinions, laws, religions."40 Siger was careful to add: "We say this according to the opinion of the Philosopher, but without affirming that it is true."41 To all his heresies he appended a similar caution. He did not profess the doctrine of two truths; he taught certain conclusions as, in his judgment, following from Aristotle and reason; when these conclusions contradicted the Christian creed he affirmed his belief in the dogmas of the Church, and applied only to them, not to philosophy, the label of truth.42

That Siger had a large following at the University is evident from his candidacy for the rectorship (1271), though it failed. Nothing could better prove the strength of the Averroistic movement in Paris than its repeated denunciation by the Bishop of Paris, Etienne Tempier. In 1269 he condemned as heresies thirteen propositions taught by certain professors in thn University:

That there is only one intellect in all men. ... That the world is eternal.... That there never was a first man.... That the soul is corrupted with the corruption of the body.... That the will of man wills and chooses from necessity. ... That God does not know individual events..,. That human actions are not ruled by Divine Providence.48

Apparently the Averroists continued to teach as before, for in 1277 the Bishop issued a list of 219 propositions which he officially condemned as heresies. These, according to the Bishop, were doctrines taught by Siger, or Boethius of Dacia, or Roger Bacon, or other Parisian professors, including St. Thomas himself. The 219 included those condemned in 1269, and others of which the following are samples:

That creation is impossible. ... That a body once corrupted [in death] cannot rise again as the same body.... That a future resurrection should not be believed by a philosopher, since it cannot be investigated by reason. ... That the words of theologians are founded on fables.... That nothing is added to our knowledge by theology.... That the Christian religion impedes learning___That happiness is obtained in this life, not in another. ... That the wise men of the earth are philosophers alone. ... That there is no more excellent condition than to have leisure for philosophy.44

In October, 1277, Siger was condemned by the Inquisition. He passed his last years in Italy as a prisoner of the Roman Curia, and was murdered at Orvieto by a half-mad assassin.45


To meet this frontal attack upon Christianity it was not enough to condemn the heretical propositions. Youth had tasted the strong wine of philosophy; could it be won back by reason? As the mutakallimun had defended Mohammedanism from the Mutazilites, so now Franciscan and Dominican theologians, and secular prelates like William of Auvergne and Henry of Ghent, came to the defense of Christianity and the Church.

The defense divided itself into two main camps: the mystic-Platonic, mostly Franciscans; and the intellectual-Aristotelian, mostly Dominicans. Benedictines like Hugh and Richard of St. Victor felt that the best defense of religion lay in man's direct consciousness of a spiritual reality deeper than all intellectual fathoming. "Rigorists" like Peter of Blois and Stephen of Tournai argued that philosophy should not discuss the problems of theology, or, if it did, it should speak and behave as a modest servant of theology —ancilla theologiae.46 It should be noted that this view was held by only a sector of the Scholastic front.47

A few Franciscans, like Alexander of Hales (1170?-1245), adopted the intellectual approach, and sought to defend Christianity in philosophical and Aristotelian terms. But most Franciscans distrusted philosophy; they felt that the adventure of reason, whatever strength and glory it might bring to the Church for a time, might later elude control, and lead men so far from faith as to leave Christianity weak and helpless in an unbelieving and unmoral world. They preferred Plato to Aristotle, Bernard to Abelard, Augustine to Aquinas. They defined the soul, with Plato, as an independent spirit inhabiting, and thwarted by, the body, and they were shocked to hear Thomas accepting Aristotle's definition of the soul as the "substantial form" of the body. They found in Plato a theory of impersonal immortality quite useless for checking the bestial impulses of men. Following Augustine, they ranked will above intellect in both God and man, and aimed at the good rather than the true. In their hierarchy of values the mystic came closer than the philosopher to the secret essence and significance of life.

This Platonic-Augustinian division of the Scholastic army dominated orthodox theology in the first half of the thirteenth century. Its ablest exponent was the saintly Bonaventura—a gentle spirit who persecuted heresy, a mystic writing philosophy, a scholar who deprecated learning, a lifelong friend and opponent of Thomas Aquinas, a defender and exemplar of evangelical poverty under whose ministry the Franciscan Order made great gains in corporate wealth. Born in Tuscany in 1221, Giovanni di Fidanza came for some unknown reason to be called Bonaventura—Good Luck. He nearly died of a childhood malady; his mother prayed to St. Francis for his recovery; Giovanni thereafter felt that he owed his life to the saint. Entering the Order, he was sent to Paris to study under Alexander of Hales. In 1248 he began to teach theology in the University; in 1257, still a youth of thirty-six, he was chosen minister-general of the Franciscans. He did his best to reform the laxity of the Order, but was too genial to succeed. He himself lived in ascetic simplicity. When messengers came to announce that he had been made a cardinal they found him washing dishes. A year later (1274) he died of overwork.

His books were well written, clear, and concise. He pretended to be a mere compiler, but he infused order, fervor, and a disarming modesty into every subject that he touched. His Breviloquium was an admirable summary of Christian theology; his Soliloquhem and Itinerarium mentis in Deum (Journey of the Mind to God) were jewels of mystic piety. True knowledge comes not through perception of the material world by the senses, but through intuitionof the spiritual world by the soul. While loving St.Thomas, Bonaventura frowned upon the reading of philosophy, and freely criticized some of Aquinas' conclusions. He reminded the Dominicans that Aristotle was a heathen, whose authority must not be ranked with that of the Fathers; and he asked could the philosophy of Aristotle explain a moment's movements of a star?48 God is not a philosophical conclusion but a living presence; it is better to feel Him than to define Him. The good is higher than the true, and simple virtue surpasses all the sciences. One day, we are told, Brother Egidio, overwhelmed by Bonaventura's learning, said to him: "Alas! what shall we ignorant and simple ones do to merit the favor of God?" "My brother," replied Bonaventura, "you know very well that it suffices to love the Lord." "Do you then believe," asked Egidio, "that a simple woman might please him as well as a master in theology?" When the theologian answered in the affirmative, Egidio rushed into the street and cried out to a beggar woman: "Rejoice, for if you love God, you may have a higher place in the Kingdom of Heaven than Brother Bonaventura!"49

Obviously it is a mistake to think of "the" Scholastic philosophy as a dreary unanimity of opinion and approach. There were a hundred Scholastic philosophies. The same university faculty might harbor a Thomas honoring reason, a Bonaventura deprecating it, a William of Auvergne (1180-1249) following Ibn Gabirol into voluntarism, a Siger teaching Averroism. The divergences and conflicts within orthodoxy were almost as intense as between faith and unbelief. A Franciscan bishop, John Peckham, would denounce Aquinas as sternly as Thomas denounced Siger and Averroës; and Albertus Magnus, in an unsaintly moment, wrote: "There are ignorant men who would fight by every means the employment of philosophy; and particularly the Franciscans—brutish beasts who blaspheme that which they do not know." 50

Albert loved knowledge, and admired Aristotle this side of heresy. It was he who first among the Scholastics surveyed all the major works of the Philosopher, and undertook to interpret them in Christian terms. He was born at Lauingen, Swabia, about 1201, son of the rich count of Bollstadt. He studied at Padua, joined the Dominican Order, and taught in Dominican schools at Hildesheim, Freiburg, Ratisbon, Strasbourg, Cologne (1228-45), and Paris (1245-8). Despite his preference for the scholastic life he was made Provincial of his Order for Germany, and Bishop of Ratisbon (1260). Tradition claims that he walked barefoot on all his journeys.51 In 1262 he was allowed to retire to a cloister at Cologne. He left its peace when he was seventy-six (1277) to defend the doctrine and memory of his dead pupil Thomas Aquinas at Paris. He succeeded, returned to his monastery, and died at seventy-nine. His devoted life, unassuming character, and vast intellectual interests show medieval monasticism at its best.

Only the quiet routine of his monastic years, and the massive diligence of German scholarship, can explain how a man who spent so much of his time in teaching and administration could write essays on almost every phase of science, and substantial treatises on every branch of philosophy and theology.* Few men in history have written so much, or borrowed so much, or so frankly acknowledged their debts. Albert bases his works almost title for title on Aristotle; he uses Averroës' commentaries to interpret the Philosopher; but he corrects both of them manfully when they differ from Christian theology. He draws on the Moslem thinkers to such an extent that his works are an important source for our knowledge of Arabic philosophy. He cites Avicenna on every other page, and occasionally Maimonides' Guide to the Perplexed, He recognizes Aristotle as the highest authority in science and philosophy, Augustine in theology, the Scriptures in everything. His immense mound of discourse is poorly organized, and never becomes a consistent system of thought; he defends a doctrine in one place, attacks it in another, sometimes in the same treatise; he had no time to resolve his contradictions. He was too good a man, too pious a soul, to be an objective thinker; he was capable of following a commentary on Aristotle with a long treatise in twelve "books" In Praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in which he argued that Mary had a perfect knowledge of grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.

* Albert's major works in philosophy and theology: I. Logic: Philosophia rationalis; De praedicabilibus; De prae die amends; De sex principiis; Perihermenias (i.e., De interpretatione); Analytica priora; Analytica posteriora; Topica; Libri elenchorum. II. Metaphysics: De imitate intellectus contra Averroistas; Metaphysica; De fato. III. Psychology: De anima, De sensu et sensato, De memoria et reminiscentia; De intellectu et intelligibili; De potentiis animae. IV. Ethica. V. Politico. VI. Theology: Summa de creaturis; Summa theologiae; Commentarium in Sententias Petri Lombardi; Conrmentarium de divinis nominibus. The first five treatises here listed fill twenty-one volumes of Albert's works, which are still incompletely published.

What, then, was his achievement? Above all, as we shall see, he contributed substantially to the scientific research and theory of his time. In philosophy he "gave Aristotle to the Latins"—which was all that he aimed to do; he promoted the use of Aristotle in the teaching of philosophy; he accumulated the storehouse of pagan, Arabic, Jewish, and Christian thought and argument from which his famous pupil drew for a more lucid and orderly synthesis. Perhaps without Albert, Thomas would have been impossible.


Like Albert, Thomas came of lordly stock, and gave up riches to win eternity. His father, Count Landulf of Aquino, belonged to the German nobility, was a nephew of Barbarossa, and was among the highest figures at the Apulian court of the impious Frederick II. His mother was descended from the Norman princes of Sicily. Though born in Italy, Thomas was on both sides of northern origin, essentially Teutonic; he had no Italian grace or deviltry in him, but grew to heavy German proportions, with large head, broad face, and blond hair, and a quiet content in intellectual industry. His friends called him "the great dumb ox of Sicily."52

He was born in 1225 in his father's castle at Roccasecca, three miles from Aquino, and halfway between Naples and Rome. The abbey of Monte Cas-sino was near by, and there Thomas received his early schooling. At fourteen he began five years of study at the University of Naples. Michael Scot was there, translating Averroës into Latin; Jacob Anatoli was there, translating Averroës into Hebrew; Peter of Ireland, one of Thomas' teachers, was an enthusiastic Aristotelian; the University was a hotbed of Greek, Arabic, and Hebrew influences impinging upon Christian thought. Thomas' brothers took to poetry; one, Rainaldo, became a page and falconer at Frederick's court, and begged Thomas to join him there. Piero delle Vigne and Frederick himself seconded the invitation. Instead of accepting, Thomas entered the Dominican Order (1244). Soon thereafter he was sent to Paris to study theology; at the outset of his journey he was kidnaped by two of his brothers at their mother's urging; he was taken to the Roccasecca castle, and was kept under watch there for a year.53 Every means was used to shake his vocation; a story, probably a legend, tells how a pretty young woman was introduced into his chamber in the hope of seducing him back to life, and how, with a flaming brand snatched from the hearth, he drove her from the room, and burned the sign of the cross into the door.54 His firm piety won his mother to his purposes; she helped him to escape; and his sister Marotta, after many talks with him, became a Benedictine nun.

At Paris he had Albert the Great as one of his teachers (1245). When Albert was transferred to Cologne Thomas followed him, and continued to study with him there till 1252. At times Thomas seemed dull, but Albert defended him, and prophesied his greatness.55 He returned to Paris to teach as a bachelor in theology; and now, following in his master's steps, he began a long series of works presenting Aristotle's philosophy in Christian dress. In 1259 he left Paris to teach at the studium maintained by the papal court now in Anagni, now in Orvieto, now in Viterbo. At the papal court he met William of Moerbeke, and asked him to make Latin translations of Aristotle directly from the Greek.

Meanwhile Siger of Brabant was leading an Averroistic revolution at the University of Paris. Thomas was sent up to meet this challenge. Reaching Paris, he brought the war into the enemy's camp with a tract On the Unity of the Intellect Against the Averroists (1270). He concluded it with unusual fire:

Behold our refutation of these errors. It is based not on documents of faith but on the reasons and statements of the philosophers themselves. If, then, there be anyone who, boastfully taking pride in his supposed wisdom, wishes to challenge what we have written, let him not do it in some corner, nor before children who are powerless to decide on such difficult matters. Let him reply openly if he dare. He shall find me here confronting him, and not only my negligible self, but many another whose study is truth. We shall do battle with his errors, and bring a cure to his ignorance.56

It was a complex issue, for Thomas, in this his second period of teaching at Paris, had not only to combat Averroism, but also to meet the attacks of fellow monks who distrusted reason, and who rejected Thomas' claim that Aristotle could be harmonized with Christianity. John Peckham, successor to Bonaventura in the Franciscan chair of philosophy at Paris, upbraided Thomas for sullying Christian theology with the philosophy of a pagan.

Thomas—Peckham later reported—stood his ground, but answered "with great mildness and humility."57 Perhaps it was those three years of controversy that undermined his vitality.

In 1272 he was called back to Italy at the request of Charles of Anjou to reorganize the University of Naples. In his final years he ceased writing, whether through weariness or through disillusionment with dialectics and argument. When a friend urged him to complete his Sumrna theologica he said: "I cannot; such things have been revealed to me that what I have written seems but straw."58 In 1274 Gregory X summoned him to attend the Council of Lyons. He set out on the long mule ride through Italy; but on the way between Naples and Rome he grew weak, and took to his bed in the Cistercian monastery of Fossanuova in the Campagna. There, in 1274, still but forty-nine, he died.

When he was canonized witnesses testified that he "was soft-spoken, easy in conversation, cheerful and bland of countenance... generous in conduct, most patient, most prudent; radiant with charity and gentle piety; wondrous compassionate to the poor."59 He was so completely captured by piety and study that these filled every thought and moment of his waking day. He attended all the hours of prayer, said one Mass or heard two each morning, read and wrote, preached and taught, and prayed. Before a sermon or a lecture, before sitting down to study or compose, he prayed; and his fellow monks thought that "he owed his knowledge less to the effort of the mind than to the virtue of his prayer."60 On the margin of his manuscripts we find, every now and then, pious invocations like Ave Maria!61 He became so absorbed in the religious and intellectual life that he hardly noticed what happened about him. In the refectory his plate could be removed and replaced without his being aware of it; but apparently his appetite was excellent. Invited to join other clergymen at dinner with Louis IX, he lost himself in meditation during the meal; suddenly he struck the table with his fist and exclaimed: "That is the decisive argument against the Manicheans!" His prior reproved him: "You are sitting at the table of the King of France"; but Louis, with royal courtesy, bade an attendant bring writing materials to the victorious monk.62 Nevertheless the absorbed saint could write with good sense on many matters of practical life. People remarked how he could adjust his sermons either to the studious minds of his fellow monks, or to the simple intellects of common folk. He had no airs, made no demands upon life, sought no honors, refused promotion to ecclesiastical office. His writings span the universe, but contain not one immodest word. He faces in them every argument against his faith, and answers with courtesy and calm.

Improving upon the custom of his time, he made explicit acknowledgments of his intellectual borrowings. He quotes Avicenna, al-Ghazali, Averroës, Isaac Israeli, Ibn Gabirol, and Maimonides; obviously no student can understand the Scholastic philosophy of the thirteenth century without considering its Moslem and Jewish antecedents. Thomas does not share William of Auvergne's affection for "Avicebron," but he has a high respect for "Rabbi Moyses," as he calls Moses ben Maimon. He follows Maimonides in holding that reason and religion can be harmonized, but also in placing certain mysteries of the faith beyond the grasp of reason; and he cites the argument for this exclusion as given in the Guide to the Perplexed.63 He agrees with Maimonides that the human intellect can prove God's existence, but can never rise to a knowledge of His attributes; and he follows Maimonides closely in discussing the eternity of the universe.84* In logic and metaphysics he takes Aristotle as his guide, and quotes him on almost every page; but he does not hesitate to differ from him wherever the Philosopher strays from Christian doctrine. Having admitted that the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Redemption, and the Last Judgment cannot be proved by reason, he proceeds on all other points to accept reason with a fullness and readiness that shocked the followers of Augustine. He was a mystic in so far as he acknowledged the suprarationality of certain Christian dogmas, and shared the mystic longing for union with God; but he was an "intellectualist" in the sense that he preferred the intellect to the "heart" as an organ for arriving at truth. He saw that Europe was bound for an Age of Reason, and he thought that a Christian philosopher should meet the new mood on its own ground. He prefaced his reasonings with Scriptural and Patristic authorities, but he said, with pithy candor: Locus ab auctoritate est infirmissimus—"the argument from authority is the weakest."96 "The study of philosophy," he wrote, "does not aim merely to find out what others have thought, but what the truth of the matter is."67 His writings rival those of Aristotle in the sustained effort of their logic.

* "If," says the learned Gilson, "Maimonides had not been moved by Averroës to a special notion of immortality, we might say that Maimonides and Thomas agreed on all important points." 65 It is a slight exaggeration, unless we rank the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Atonement as unimportant elements of the Christian faith.

Seldom in history has one mind reduced so large an area of thought to order and clarity. We shall find no fascination in Thomas' style; it is simple and direct, concise and precise, with not a word of padding or flourish; but we miss in it the vigor, imagination, passion, and poetry of Augustine. Thomas thought it out of place to be brilliant in philosophy. When he wished he could equal the poets at their own game. The most perfect works of his pen are the hymns and prayers that he composed for the Feast of Corpus Christi. Among them is the stately sequence Lauda Sion salvatorem, which preaches the Real Presence in sonorous verse. In the Lauds is a hymn beginning with a line from Ambrose— Verbum supernum prodiens—and ending with two stanzas—O salutaris hostia—regularly sung at the Benediction of the Sacrament. And in the Vespers is one of the great hymns of all time, a moving mixture of theology and poetry:

  Pange, lingua, gloriosi corporis mysterium
sanguinisque pretiosi, quem in mundi pretium
fructus ventris generosi, rex effudit gentium.

Nobis datus, nobis natus ex intacta virgine,
et in mundo conversatus, sparso verbi semine,
sui moras incolatus miro clausit ordine.

In supremae nocte cenae recumbens cum fratribus,
observata lege plene cibis in legalibus,
cibum turbae duodenae se dat suis manibus.

Verbum caro panem verum verbo carnem efficit,
fitque sanguis Christi merum, et, si sensus deficit,
ad firmandum cor sincerum sola fides sufficit.

Tantum ergo sacramentum veneremur cernui,
et antiquum documentum novo cedat ritui;
praestet fides supplementum sensuum defectui.

Genitori genitoque laus et iubilatio
salus, honor, virtus quoque sit et benedictio;
procedenti ab utroque compar sit laudatio.*
Sing, O tongue, the mystery of the body glorious,
and of blood beyond all price, which, in ransom of the world,
fruit of womb most bountiful, all the peoples' King poured forth.

Given to us and born for us from an untouched maid,
and, sojourning on the planet, spreading seed of Word made flesh,
as a dweller with us lowly, wondrously He closed His stay.

In the night of the Last Supper, with apostles while reclining,
all the ancient law observing in the food by law prescribed,
food He gives to twelve assembled, gives Himself with His own hands.

Word made flesh converts true bread with a word into His flesh;
wine becomes the blood of Christ, and if sense should fail to see,
let the pure in heart be strengthened by an act of faith alone.

Therefore such great sacrament venerate we on our knees;
let the ancient liturgy yield its place to this new rite;
let our faith redeem the failure of our darkened sense.

To Begetter and Begotten praise and joyful song,
salutation, honor, power, blessings manifold;
and to Him from both proceeding let our equal praise be told.

Thomas wrote almost as much as Albert, in a life little more than half as long. He composed commentaries on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, on the Gospels, Isaiah, Job, Paul; on Plato's Timaeus, on Boethius and Pseudo-Dionysius; on Aristotle's Organon, Of Heaven and Earth, Of Generation and Corruption, Meteorology, Physics, Metaphysics, On the Soul, Politics, Ethics; quaestiones disputatae—On Truth, On Power, On Evil, On the Mind, On Virtues, etc.; quodlibeta discussing points raised at random in university sessions; treatises On the Principles of Nature, On Being and Essence, On the Rule of Princes, On the Occult Operations of Nature, On the Unity of the Intellect, etc.; a four-volume Summa de veritate catholicae fidei contra Gentiles (1258-60), a twenty-one-volume Summa theologica (1267-73), and a Compendium theologiae (1271-3). Thomas' published writings fill 10,000 double-column folio pages.

* The final stanzas are also sung in the Benediction of the Sacrament; and the entire hymn is used as the processional on Holy Thursday.

The Summa contra Gentiles, or Summary of the Catholic Faith Against the Pagans, was prepared at the urging of Raymond of Peñafort, General of the Dominican Order, to aid in the conversion of Moslems and Jews in Spain. Therefore Thomas in this work argues almost entirely from reason, though remarking sadly that "this is deficient in the things of God."68 He abandons here the Scholastic method of disputation, and presents his material in almost modern style, occasionally with more acerbity than befitted him whom posterity would call doctor angelicus and seraphicus. Christianity must be divine, he thinks, because it conquered Rome and Europe despite its unwelcome preaching against the pleasures of the world and the flesh; Islam conquered by preaching pleasure and by force of arms.69 In Part IV he frankly admits that the cardinal dogmas of Christianity cannot be proved by reason, and require faith in the divine revelation of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.

Thomas' most extensive work, the Summa theologica, is addressed to Christians; it is an attempt to expound and to defend—from Scripture, the Fathers, and reason—the whole body of Catholic doctrine in philosophy and theology.* "We shall try," says the Prologue, "to follow the things that pertain to sacred doctrine with such brevity and lucidity as the subject matter allows." We may smile at this twenty-one-volume brevity, but it is there; this Summa is immense, but not verbose; its size is merely the result of its scope. For within this treatise on theology are full treatises on metaphysics, psychology, ethics, and law; thirty-eight treatises, 631 questions or topics, 10,000 objections or replies. The orderliness of argument within each question is admirable, but the structure of the Summa has received more praise than its due. It cannot compare with the Euclidean organization of Spinoza's Ethics, or the concatenation of Spencer's Synthetic Philosophy. The treatise on psychology (Part I, QQ. 75-94) is introduced between a discussion of the six days of creation and a study of man in the state of original innocence. The form is more interesting than the structure. Essentially it continues, and perfects, the method of Abelard as developed by Peter Lombard: statement of the question, arguments for the negative, objections to the affirmative, arguments for the affirmative from the Bible, from the Fathers, and from reason, and answers to objections. The method occasionally wastes time by putting up a straw man to beat down; but in many cases the debate is vital and real. It is a mark of Thomas that he states the case against his own view with startling candor and force; in this way the Summa is a summary of heresy as well as a monument of dogma, and might be used as an arsenal of doubt. We may not always be satisfied with the answers, but we can never complain that the Devil has had an incompetent advocate.

* The Summa to and including Part III, Question 90, is by Thomas; the remainder may be by Reginald of Piperno, his companion and editor.


1. Logic

What is knowledge? Is it a divine light infused into man by God, without which it would be impossible? Thomas parts company at the very outset from Augustine, the mystics, the intuitionists: knowledge is a natural product, derived from the external corporeal senses and the internal sense called consciousness of the self. It is an extremely limited knowledge, for up to our time no scientist yet knows the essence of a fly;70 but within its limits knowledge is trustworthy, and we need not fret over the possibility that the external world is a delusion. Thomas accepts the Scholastic definition of truth as adequatio rei et intellectus—the equivalence of the thought with the thing.71 Since the intellect draws all its natural knowledge from the senses,72 its direct knowledge of things outside itself is limited to bodies—to the "sensible" or sensory world. It cannot directly know the super-sensible, meta-physical world—the minds within bodies, or God in His creation; but it may by analogy derive from sense experience an indirect knowledge of other minds, and likewise of God.73 Of a third realm, the supernatural— the world in which God lives—the mind of man can have no knowledge except through divine revelation. We may by natural understanding know that God exists and is one, because His existence and unity shine forth in the wonders and organization of the world; but we cannot by unaided intellect know His essence, or the Trinity. Even the knowledge of the angels is limited, for else they would be God.

The very limitations of knowledge indicate the existence of a supernatural world. God reveals that world to us in the Scriptures. Just as it would be folly for the peasant to consider the theories of a philosopher false because he cannot understand them, so it is foolish for man to reject God's revelation on the ground that it seems at some points to contradict man's natural knowledge. We may be confident that if our knowledge were complete there would be no contradiction between revelation and philosophy. It is wrong to say that a proposition can be false in philosophy and true in faith; all truth comes from God and is one. Nevertheless it is desirable to distinguish what we understand through reason and what we believe by faith;74 the fields of philosophy and ideology are distinct. It is permissible for scholars to discuss among themselves objections to the faith, but "it is not expedient for simple people to hear what unbelievers have to say against the faith," for simple minds are not equipped to answer.75 Scholars and philosophers, as well as peasants, must bow to the decisions of the Church; "we must be directed by her in all things";76 for she is the divinely appointed repository of divine wisdom. To the pope belongs the "authority to decide matters of faith finally, so that they may be held by all with unshaken belief." 77 The alternative is intellectual, moral, and social chaos.

2. Metaphysics

The metaphysics of Thomas is a complex of difficult definitions and subtle distinctions, on which his theology is to rest.

1.  In created things essence and existence are different. Essence is that which is necessary to the conception of a thing; existence is the act of being. The essence of a triangle—that it is three straight lines enclosing a space—is the same whether the triangle exists or is merely conceived. But in God essence and existence are one; for His essence is that He is the First Cause, the underlying power (or, as Spinoza would say, sub-stantia) of all things; by definition He must exist in order that anything else should be.

2.  God exists in reality; He is the Being of all beings, their upholding cause. All other beings exist by analogy, by limited participation in the reality of God.

3.  All created beings are both active and passive—i.e., they act and are acted upon. Also, they are a mixture of being and becoming: they possess certain qualities, and may lose some of these and acquire others—water may be warmed. Thomas denotes this susceptibility to external action or internal change by the term potentia—possibility. God alone has no potentia or possibility; He cannot be acted upon, cannot change; He is actus purus, pure activity; pure actuality; He is already everything that He can be. Below God all entities can be ranged in a descending scale according to their greater "possibility" of being acted upon and determined from without. So man is superior to woman because "the father is the active principle, while the mother is a passive and material principle; she supplies the formless matter of the body, which receives its form through the formative power that is in the semen of the father." 78

4.  All corporeal beings are composed of matter and form; but here (as in Aristotle) form means not figure but inherent energizing, characterizing principle. When a form or vital principle constitutes the essence of a being, it is a substantial or essential form; so the rational soul—i.e., a life-giving force capable of thought-is the substantial form of the human body, and God is the substantial form of the world.

5.  All realities are either substance or accident: either they are separate entities, like a stone or a man; or they exist only as qualities in something else, like whiteness or density. God is pure substance, as the only completely self-existent reality.

6.  All substances are individuals; nothing but individuals exists except in idea; the notion that individuality is a delusion is a delusion.

7.  In beings composed of matter and form, the principle or source of individu-ation—i.e., of the multiplicity of individuals in a species or class—is matter.

Throughout the species the form or vital principle is essentially the same; in each individual this principle uses, appropriates, gives shape to, a certain quantity and figure of matter; and this materia signata quantitate, or matter marked off by quantity, is the principle of individuation—not of individuality but of separate identity.

3. Theology

God, not man, is the center and theme of Thomas' philosophy. "The highest knowledge we can have of God in this life," he writes, "is to know that He is above all that we can think concerning Him." 79 He rejects Anselm's ontological argument,80 but he comes close to it in identifying God's existence with His essence. God is Being itself: "I am Who am."

His existence, says Thomas, can be proved by natural reason. (i) All motions are caused by previous motions, and so on either to a Prime Mover unmoved, or to an "infinite regress," which is inconceivable. (2) The series of causes likewise requires a First Cause. (3) The contingent, which may but need not be, depends upon the necessary, which must be; the possible depends upon the actual; this series drives us back to a necessary being who is pure actuality. (4) Things are good, true, noble in various degrees; there must be a perfectly good, true, and noble source and norm of these imperfect virtues. (5) There are thousands of evidences of order in the world; even inanimate objects move in an orderly way; how could this be unless some intelligent power exists who created them? * 81

Aside from the existence of God, Thomas is almost an agnostic in natural theology. "We cannot know what God is, but only what He is not" 82—not movable, multiple, mutable, temporal. Why should infinitesimal minds expect to know more about the Infinite? It is hard for us to conceive an immaterial spirit, said Thomas (anticipating Bergson), because the intellect is dependent upon the senses, and all our external experience is of material things; consequently "incorporeal things, of which there are no images, are known to us by comparison with sensible bodies, of which there are images." 83 We can know God (as Maimonides taught) only by analogy, reasoning from ourselves and our experience to Him; so if there is in men goodness, love, truth, intelligence, power, freedom, or any other excellence, these must be also in man's Creator, and in such greater degree in Him as corresponds to the proportion between infinity and ourselves. We apply the masculine pronouns to God, but only for convenience; in God and the angels there is no sex. God is one because by definition He is existence itself, and the unified operation of the world reveals one mind and law. That there are three Persons in this divine unity is a mystery beyond reason, to be held in trusting faith.

Nor can we know whether the world was created in time, and therefore out of nothing, or whether, as Aristotle and Averroës thought, it is eternal. The arguments offered by the theologians for creation in time are weak, and should be rejected "lest the Catholic faith should seem to be founded on empty reasonings." 84 Thomas concludes that we must believe on faith in a creation in time; but he adds that the question has little meaning, since time had no existence before creation; without change, without matter in motion, there is no time. He struggles manfully to explain how God could pass from noncreation to creation without suffering change. The act of creation, he says, is eternal, but it included in its willing the determination of the time for its effect to appear 85—a nimble dodge for a heavy man.

* (1), (2), and (5.) are from Aristotle through Albert; (3) from Maimonides; (4) from Anselm.

The angels constitute the highest grade of creation. They are incorporeal intelligences, incorruptible and immortal. They serve as ministers of God in the government of the world; the heavenly bodies are moved and guided by them;88 every man has an angel appointed to guard him, and the archangels have the care of multitudes of men. Being immaterial, they can travel from one extremity of space to another without traversing the space between. Thomas writes ninety-three pages on the hierarchy, movements, love, knowledge, will, speech, and habits of the angels—the most farfetched part of his far-flung Summa, and the most irrefutable.

As there are angels, so there are demons, little devils doing Satan's will. They are no mere imaginings of the common mind; they are real, and do endless harm. They may cause impotence by arousing in a man a repulsion for a woman.87 They make possible various forms of magic; so a demon may lie under a man, receive his semen, carry it swiftly through space, cohabit with a woman, and impregnate her with the seed of the absent man.88 Demons can enable magicians to foretell such events as do not depend upon man's free will. They can communicate information to men by impressions on the imagination, or by appearing visibly or speaking audibly. Or they may co-operate with witches, and help them to hurt children through the evil eye.89

Like nearly all his contemporaries, and most of ours, Thomas allowed considerable truth to astrology.

The movements of bodies here below . .. must be referred to the movements of the heavenly bodies as their cause.... That astrologers not infrequently forecast the truth by observing the stars may be explained in two ways. First, because a great number of men follow their bodily passions, so that their actions are for the most part disposed in accordance with the inclination of the heavenly bodies; while there are few—namely, the wise alone—who moderate these inclinations by their reason. ... Secondly, because of the interference of demons.90

However, "human actions are not subject to the action of heavenly bodies save accidentally and indirectly";91 a large area is left to human freedom.

4. Psychology

Thomas considers carefully the philosophical problems of psychology, and his pages on these topics are among the best in his synthesis. He begins with an organic, as against a mechanical, conception of organisms: a machine is composed of externally added parts; an organism makes its own parts, and moves itself by its own internal force.92 This internal formative power is the soul. Thomas expresses the idea in Aristotelian terms: the soul is the "substantial form" of the body—i.e., it is the vital principle and energy that gives existence and form to an organism. "The soul is the primary principle of our nourishment, sensation, movement, and understanding." 93 There are three grades of soul: the vegetative—the power to grow; the sensitive—the power to feel; the rational—the power to reason. All life has the first, only animals and men have the second, only men have the third. But the higher organisms, in their corporeal and individual development, pass through the stages in which the lower organisms remain; "the higher a form is in the scale of being . . . the more intermediate forms must be passed through before the perfect form is reached"94—an adumbration of the nineteenth-century theory of "recapitulation," that the embryo of man passes through the stages by which the species developed.

Whereas Plato, Augustine, and the Franciscans thought of the soul as a prisoner within the body, and identified the man with the soul alone, Thomas boldly accepts the Aristotelian view, and defines man—even personality—as a composite of body and soul, matter and form.95 The soul, or life-giving, form-creating inner energy, is indivisibly in every part of the body.98 It is bound up with the body in a thousand ways. As vegetable soul it depends upon food; as sensitive soul it depends upon sensation; as rational soul it needs the images produced by, or compounded from, sensation. Even intellectual ability and moral perceptions depend upon a body reasonably sound; a thick skin usually implies an insensitive soul.97 Dreams, passions, mental diseases, temperament, have a physiological basis.98 At times Thomas speaks as if body and soul were one unified reality, the inward energy and outward form of an indivisible whole. Nevertheless it seemed obvious to him that the rational soul—abstracting, generalizing, reasoning, charting the universe—is an incorporeal reality. Try as we will, and despite our tendency to think of all things in material terms, we can find nothing material in consciousness; it is a reality all the world unlike anything physical or spatial. This rational soul must be classed as spiritual, as something infused into us by that God Who is the psychical force behind all physical phenomena. Only an immaterial power could form a universal idea, or leap backward and forward in time, or conceive with equal ease the great and the small.99 The mind can be conscious of itself; but it is impossible to conceive a material entity as conscious of itself.

Therefore it is reasonable to believe that this spiritual force in us survives the death of the body. But the soul so separated is not a personality; it cannot feel or will or think; it is a helpless ghost that cannot function without its flesh.100 Only when it is reunited, through the resurrection of the body, with the corporeal frame of which it was the inward life, will it constitute with that body an individual and deathless personality. It was because Averroës and his followers lacked faith in the resurrection of the body that they were driven to the theory that only the "active intellect," or soul of the cosmos or species, is immortal. Thomas deploys all the resources of his dialectic to refute this theory. To him this conflict with Averroës over immortality was the vital issue of the century, beside which such mere shiftings of boundaries and titles as physical battles brought were a trivial lunacy.

The soul, says Thomas, has five faculties or powers: vegetative, by which it feeds, grows, and reproduces; sensitive, by which it receives sensations from the external world; appetitive, by which it desires and wills; locomotive, by which it initiates motions; and intellectual, by which it thinks.101 All knowledge originates in the senses, but the sensations do not fall upon an empty surface or tabula rasa; they are received by a complex structure, the sensus communis, or common sensory center, which co-ordinates sensations or perceptions into ideas. Thomas agrees with Aristotle and Locke that "there is nothing in the intellect that was not first in the senses"; but he adds, like Leibniz and Kant, "except the intellect itself" —an organized capacity to organize sensations into thought, at last into those uni-versals and abstract ideas which are the tools of reason and, on this earth, the exclusive prerogative of man.

Will or appetition is the faculty by which the soul or vital force moves toward that which the intellect conceives as good. Thomas, following Aristotle, defines the good as "that which is desirable." 102 Beauty is a form of the good; it is that which pleases when seen. Why does it please? Through the proportion and harmony of parts in an organized whole. Intellect is subject to will in so far as desire can determine the direction of thought; but will is subject to the intellect in so far as our desires are determined by the way we conceive things, by the opinions we (usually imitating others) have of them; "the good as understood moves the will." Freedom lies not really in the will, which "is necessarily moved" by the understanding of the matter as presented by the intellect,108 but in the judgment (arbitrium); therefore freedom varies directly with knowledge, reason, wisdom, with the capacity of the intellect to present a true picture of the situation to the will; only the wise are really free.104 Intelligence is not only the best and highest, it is also the most powerful, of the faculties of the soul. "Of all human pursuits the pursuit of wisdom is the most perfect, the most sublime, the most profitable, the most delightful."105 "The proper operation of man is to understand." 106

5. Ethics

The proper end of man, therefore, is in this life the acquisition of truth, and in the afterlife to see this Truth in God. For assuming, with Aristotle, that what man seeks is happiness, where shall he best find it? Not in bodily pleasures, nor in honors, nor in wealth, nor in power, nor even in actions of moral virtue, though all of these may give delight. Let us grant, too, that "perfect disposition of the body is necessary ... for perfect happiness." 107 But none of these goods can compare with the quiet, pervasive, continuing happiness of understanding. Perhaps remembering Virgil's Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas—"happy he who has been able to know the causes of things"—Thomas believes that the highest achievement and satisfaction of the soul—the natural culmination of its peculiar rationality—would be this, "that on it should be inscribed the total order of the universe and its causes."108 The peace that passeth understanding comes from understanding.

But even this supreme mundane bliss would leave man not quite content, still unfulfilled. Vaguely he knows that "perfect and true happiness cannot be had in this life." There is that in him which undiscourageably longs for a happiness and an understanding that shall be secure from mortal vicissitude and change. Other appetites may find their peace in intermediate goods, but the mind of the full man will not rest except it come to that sum and summit of truth which is God.109 In God alone is the supreme good, both as the source of all other goods, and as the cause of all other causes, the truth of all truths. The final goal of man is the Beatific Vision—the vision that gives bliss.

Consequently all ethics is the art and science of preparing man to attain this culminating and everlasting happiness. Moral goodness, virtue, may be defined as conduct conducive to the true end of man, which is to see God. Man naturally inclines to the good—the desirable; but what he judges to be good is not always morally good. Through Eve's false judgment of the good, man disobeyed God, and now bears in every generation die taint of that first sin.* If at this point one asks why a God who foresees all should have created a man and a woman destined to such curiosity, and a race destined to such heritable guilt, Thomas answers that it is metaphysically impossible for any creature to be perfect, and that man's freedom to sin is the price he must pay for his freedom of choice. Without that freedom of will man would be an automaton not beyond but below good and evil, having no greater dignity than a machine.

Steeped in the doctrine of original sin, steeped in Aristotle, steeped in monastic isolation and terror of the other sex, it was almost fated that Thomas should think ill of woman, and speak of her with masculine innocence. He follows the climactic egotism of Aristotle in supposing that nature, like a medieval patriarch, always wishes to produce a male, and that woman is something defective and accidental (deficiens et occasionatum); she is a male gone awry {mas occasionatum); probably she is the result of some weakness in the father's generative power, or of some external factor, like a damp south wind.111 Relying on Aristotelian and contemporary biology, Thomas supposed that woman contributed only passive matter to the offspring, while the man contributed active form; woman is the triumph of matter over form. Consequently she is the weaker vessel in body, mind, and will. She is to man as the senses are to reason. In her the sexual appetite predominates, while man is the expression of the more stable element. Both man and woman are made in the image of God, but man more especially so. Man is the principle and end of woman, as God is the principle and end of the universe. She needs man in everything; he needs her only for procreation. Man can accomplish all tasks better than woman—even the care of the home.112 She is unfitted to fill any vital position in Church or state. She is a part of man, literally a rib.113 She should look upon man as her natural master, should accept his guidance and submit to his corrections and discipline. In this she will find her fulfillment and her happiness.

* Thomas, not foreseeing that the Church would decide in favor of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin—i.e., her freedom from the taint of original sin—thought that Mary too had been "conceived in sin"; he added, with tardy gallantry, that she was "sanctified before her birth from the womb."110

As to evil, Thomas labors to prove that metaphysically it does not exist. Malum est non ens, evil is no positive entity; every reality, as such, is good;114 evil is merely the absence or privation of some quality or power that a being ought naturally to have. So it is no evil for a man to lack wings, but an evil for him to lack hands; yet to lack hands is no evil for a bird. Everything as created by God is good, but even God could not communicate His infinite perfection to created things. God permits certain evils in order to attain good ends or to prevent greater evils, just "as human governments ... rightly tolerate certain evils"—like prostitution—"lest ... greater evils be incurred." 115

Sin is an act of free choice violating the order of reason, which is also the order of the universe. The order of reason is the proper adjustment of means to ends. In man's case it is the adjustment of conduct to win eternal happiness. God gives us the freedom to do wrong, but He also gives us, by a divine infusion, a sense of right and wrong. This innate conscience is absolute, and must be obeyed at all costs. If the Church commands something against a man's conscience he must disobey. If his conscience tells him that faith in Christ is an evil thing, he must abhor that faith.116

Normally conscience inclines us not only to the natural virtues of justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude, but also to the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. These last three constitute the distinguishing morality and glory of Christianity. Faith is a moral obligation, since human reason is limited. Man must believe on faith not only those dogmas of the Church that are above reason, but those too that can be known through reason. Since error in matters of faith may lead many to hell, tolerance should not be shown to unbelief except to avoid a greater evil; so "the Church at times has tolerated the rites even of heretics and pagans, when unbelievers were very numerous." 117 Unbelievers should never be allowed to acquire dominion or authority over believers.118 Tolerance may especially be shown to Jews, since their rites prefigured those of Christianity, and so "bear witness to the faith."119 Unbaptized Jews should never be forced to accept Christianity.120 But heretics—those who have abandoned faith in the doctrines of the Church—may properly be coerced.121 No one should be considered a heretic unless he persists in his error after it has been pointed out to him by ecclesiastical authority. Those who abjure their heresy may be admitted to penance, and even restored to their former dignities; if, however, they relapse into heresy "they are admitted to penance, but are not delivered from the pain of death."122

6. Politics

Thomas wrote thrice on political philosophy: in his commentary on Aristotle's Politics, in the Summa theologica, and in a brief treatise De regimine principum —On the Rule of Princes.* A first impression is that Thomas merely repeats Aristotle; as we read on we are astonished at the amount of original and incisive thought contained in his work.

* Of this only Book I, and Chapters 1-4 of Book II, are by Thomas; the remainder is by Ptolemy of Lucca.

Social organization is a tool that man developed as a substitute for physiological organs of acquisition and defense. Society and the state exist for the individual, not he for them. Sovereignty comes from God, but is vested in the people. The people, however, are too numerous, scattered, fickle, and uninformed to exercise this sovereign power directly or wisely; hence they delegate their sovereignty to a prince or other leader. This grant of power by the people is always revocable, and "the prince holds the power of legislating only so far as he represents the will of the people." 12S

The sovereign power of the people may be delegated to many, to a few, or to one. Democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy may all be good if the laws are good and well administered. In general a constitutional monarchy is best, as giving unity, continuity, and stability; "a multitude," as Homer said, "is better governed by one than by several." 124 The prince or king, however, should be chosen by the people from any free rank of the population.125 If the monarch becomes a tyrant he should be overthrown by the orderly action of the people.126 He must always remain the servant, not the master, of the law.

Law is threefold: natural, as in the "natural laws" of the universe; divine, as revealed in the Bible; human or positive, as in the legislation of states. The third was made necessary by the passions of men and the development of the state. So the Fathers believed that private property was opposed to natural and divine law, and was the result of the sinfulness of man. Thomas does not admit that property is unnatural. He considers the arguments of the communists of his time, and answers like Aristotle that when everybody owns everything nobody takes care of anything.127 But private property is a public trust. "Man ought to possess external things not as his own but as common, so that he is ready to communicate them to others in their need." 128 For a man to desire or pursue wealth beyond his need for maintaining his station in life is sinful covetousness.129 "Whatever some people possess in superabundance is due by natural law to the purpose of succoring the poor"; and "if there is no other remedy it is lawful for a man to succor his own need by means of another's property, by taking it either openly or secretly." 130

Thomas was not the man to make economics a dismal science by divorcing it from morality. He believed in the right of the community to regulate agriculture, industry, and trade, to control usury, even to establish a "just price" for services and goods. He looked with suspicious eye upon the art of buying cheap and selling dear. He condemned outright all speculative trading, all attempts to make gain by skillful use of market fluctuations.131 He opposed lending at interest, but saw no sin in borrowing "for a good end" from a professional moneylender.132

He did not rise above his time on the question of slavery. Sophists, Stoics, and Roman legists had taught that by "nature" all men are free; the Church Fathers had agreed, and had explained slavery, like property, as a result of the sinfulness acquired by man through Adam's Fall. Aristotle, friend of the mighty, had justified slavery as produced by the natural inequality of men. Thomas tried to reconcile these views: in the state of innocence there was no slavery; but since the Fall it has been found useful to subject simple men to wise men; those who havestrong bodies but weak minds are intended by nature to be bondmen.138 The slave, however, belongs to his master only in body, not in soul; the slave is not obliged to give sexual intercourse to the master; and all the precepts of Christian morality must be applied in the treatment of the slave.

7. Religion

As economic and political problems are ultimately moral, it seems just to Thomas that religion should be ranked above politics and industry, and that the state should submit, in matters of morals, to supervision and guidance by the Church. Authority is nobler, the higher its end; the kings of the earth, guiding men to earthly bliss, should be subject to the pope, who guides men to everlasting happiness. The state should remain supreme in secular affairs; but even in such matters the pope has the right to intervene if rulers violate the rules of morality, or do avoidable injury to their peoples. So the pope may punish a bad king, or absolve subjects from their oath of allegiance. Moreover, the state must protect religion, support the Church, and enforce her decrees.184

The supreme function of the Church is to lead men to salvation. Man is a citizen not alone of this earthly state but of a spiritual kingdom infinitely greater than any state. The supreme facts of history are that man committed an infinite crime by disobeying God, thereby meriting infinite punishment; and that God the Son, by becoming man and suffering ignominy and death, created a redeeming store of grace by which man can be saved despite original sin. God gives of this grace to whom He will; we cannot fathom the reasons of His choice; but "nobody has been so insane as to say that merit is the cause of divine predestination." 185 The terrible doctrine of Paul and Augustine recurs in the gentle Thomas:

It is fitting that God should predestine men. For all things are subject to His Providence.... As men are ordained to eternal life through the Providence of God, it likewise is part of that Providence to permit some to fall away from that end; this is called reprobation.... As predestination includes the will to confer grace and glory, so also reprobation includes the will to permit a person to fall into sin, and to impose the punishment of damnation on account of that sin.... "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world." 186

Thomas struggles to reconcile divine predestination with human freedom, and to explain why a man whose fate is already sealed should strive to virtue, how prayer can move an unchangeable God, or what the function of the Church can be in a society whose individuals have already been sorted out into the saved and the damned. He answers that God has merely foreseen how each man would freely choose. Presumably all pagans are among the damned except possibly a few to whom God vouchsafed a special and personal revelation.* 187

* The oft-quoted passage about the blessed in heaven enhancing their bliss by observing the sufferings of the damned occurs in the Summa's Supplement (xcvii, 7), and is to be discredited not to Thomas but to Reginald of Piperno.188

The chief happiness of the saved will consist in seeing God. Not that they will understand Him; only infinity can understand infinity; nevertheless, by an infusion of divine grace, the blessed will see the essence of God.189 The whole creation, having proceeded from God, flows back to Him; the human soul, gift of His bounty, never rests until it rejoins its source. Thus the divine cycle of creation and return is completed, and Thomas' philosophy ends, as it began, with God.

8. The Reception of Thomism

It was received by most of his contemporaries as a monstrous accumulation of pagan reasonings fatal to the Christian faith. The Franciscans, who sought God by Augustine's mystic road of love, were shocked by Thomas' "intellectualism," his exaltation of intellect above will, of understanding above love. Many wondered how so coldly negative and remote a God as the Actus Purus of the Summa could be prayed to, how Jesus could be part of such an abstraction, what St. Francis would have said of—or to—such a God. To make body and soul one unity seemed to put out of court the incorruptible immortality of the soul; to make matter and form one unity was, despite Thomas' denials, to fall into the Averroistic theory of the eternity of the world; to make matter, not form, the principle of individuation seemed to leave the soul undifferentiated, and to fall into the Averroistic theory of the unity and impersonal immortality of the soul. Worst of all, the triumph of Aristotle over Augustine in the Thomist philosophy seemed to the Franciscans the victory of paganism over Christianity. Were there not already, in the University of Paris, teachers and students who put Aristotle above the Gospels?

Just as orthodox Islam, at the end of the twelfth century, denounced and banished the Aristotelian Averroës, and orthodox Judaism, at the beginning of the thirteenth century, burned the books of the Aristotelian Maimonides, so in the third quarter of that century Christian orthodoxy defended itself against the Aristotelian Thomas. In 1277, at the prompting of Pope John XXI, the bishop of Paris issued a decree branding 219 propositions as heresies. Among these were three expressly charged "against Brother Thomas": that angels have no body, and constitute each of them a separate species; that matter is the principle of individuation; and that God cannot multiply individuals in a species without matter. Anyone holding these doctrines, said the bishop, was ipso facto excommunicated. A few days after this decree Robert Kilwardby, a leading Dominican, persuaded the masters of the University of Oxford to denounce various Thomistic doctrines, including the unity of soul and body in man.

Thomas was now three years dead, and could not defend himself; but his old teacher Albert rushed from Cologne to Paris, and persuaded the Dominicans of France to stand by their fellow friar. A Franciscan, William de la Mare, joined the fray with a tract called Correctorium fratris Thomae, setting Thomas right on 118 points; and another Franciscan, John Peckham, Archbishop of Canterbury, officially condemned Thomism, and urged a return to Bonaventura and St. Francis. Dante entered the lists by making a modified Thomism the doctrinal framework of The Divine Comedy, and choosing Thomas to guide him on the stairway to the highest heaven. After half a hundred years' war the Dominicans convinced Pope John XXII that Thomas had been a saint; and his canonization (1323) gave the victory to Thomism. Thereafter the mystics found in the Summa140 the deepest and clearest exposition of the mystic-contemplative life. At the Council of Trent (1545-63) the Summa theologica was placed upon the altar together with the Bible and the Decretals.141 Ignatius Loyola imposed upon the Jesuit Order the obligation to teach Thomism. In 1879 Pope Leo XIII, and in 1921 Pope Benedict XV, while not pronouncing the works of St. Thomas free from all error, made them the official philosophy of the Catholic Church; and in all Roman Catholic colleges that philosophy is taught today. Thomism, though it has some critics among Catholic theologians, has won new defenders in our time, and now rivals Platonism and Aristotelianism as one of the most enduring and influential bodies of philosophical thought.

It is a simple matter for one who stands on the shoulders of the last 700 years to point out in the work of Aquinas those elements that have ill borne the test of time. It is both a defect and a credit that he relied so much on Aristotle: to that degree he lacked originality, and showed a courage that cleared new paths for the medieval mind. Carefully securing direct and accurate translations, Thomas knew Aristotle's philosophical (not the scientific) works more thoroughly than any other medieval thinker except Averroës. He was willing to learn from Moslems and Jews, and treated their philosophers with a self-confident respect. There is a heavy ballast of nonsense in his system, as in all philosophies that do not agree with our own; it is strange that so modest a man should have written at such length on how the angels know, and what man was before the Fall, and what the human race would have been except for Eve's intelligent curiosity. Perhaps we err in thinking of him as a philosopher; he himself honestly called his work theology; he made no pretense to follow reason wherever it should lead him; he confessed to starting with his conclusions; and though most philosophers do this, most denounce it as treason to philosophy. He covered a wider range than any thinker except Spencer has dared to do again; and to every field he brought the light of clarity, and a quiet temper that shunned exaggeration and sought a moderate mean. Sapientis est ordinare, he said—"the wise man creates order."142 He did not succeed in reconciling Aristotle and Christianity, but in the effort he won an epochal victory for reason. He had led reason as a captive into the citadel of faith; but in his triumph he had brought the Age of Faith to an end.


The historian always oversimplifies, and hastily selects a manageable minority of facts and faces out of a crowd of souls and events whose multitudinous complexity he can never quite embrace or comprehend. We must not think of Scholasticism as an abstraction purged of a thousand individual peculiarities, but as a lazy name for the hundreds of conflicting philosophical and theological theories taught in the medieval schools from Anselm in the eleventh century to Occam in the fourteenth. The historian is miserably subject to the brevity of time and human patience, and must dishonor with a line men who were immortal for a day, but now lie hidden between the peaks of history.

One of the strangest figures of the many-sided thirteenth century was Ramon Lull—Raymond Lully (1232?-1315). Born in Palma of a wealthy Catalan family, he found his way to the court of James II at Barcelona, enjoyed a riotous youth, and slowly narrowed his amours to monogamy. Suddenly, at the age of thirty, he renounced the world, the flesh, and the Devil to devote his polymorphous energy to mysticism, occultism, philanthropy, evangelism, and the pursuit of martyrdom. He studied Arabic, founded a college of Arabic studies in Majorca, and petitioned the Council of Vienne (1311) to set up schools of Oriental languages and literature to prepare men for missionary work among Saracens and Jews. The Council established five such schools—at Rome, Bologna, Paris, Oxford, and Salamanca—with chairs of Hebrew, Chaldaic, and Arabic. Perhaps Lully learned Hebrew, for he became an intimate student of the Cabala.

His 150 works defy classification. In youth he founded Catalan literature with several volumes of love poetry. He composed in Arabic, and then translated into Catalan, his Libre de contemplacio en Deu, or Book of Contemplation on God—no mere mystic revery but a million-word encyclopedia of theology (1272). Two years later, as if with another self, he wrote a manual of chivalric war—Libre del orde de cavalyeria; and almost at the same time a handbook of education—Liber doctrinae puerilis. He tried his hand at philosophical dialogue, and published three such works, presenting Moslem, Jewish, Greek Christian, Roman Christian, and Tatar points of view with astonishing tolerance, fairness, and kindliness. About 1283 he composed a long religious romance, Blanquerna, which patient experts have pronounced "one of the masterpieces of the Christian Middle Ages." 148 At Rome in 1295 he issued another encyclopedia, the Arbre de sciencia, or Tree of Science, stating 4000 questions in sixteen sciences, and giving confident replies. During a stay in Paris (1309-11) he fought the lingering Averroism there with some minor theological works, which he signed, with unwonted accuracy, Phantasticus. Throughout his long life he poured forth so many volumes on science and philosophy that even to list them would empty the pen.

Amid all these interests he was fascinated by an idea that has captured brilliant minds in our own time—that all the formulas and processes of logic could be reduced to mathematical or symbolical form. The ars magna, or "great art" of logic, said Raymond, consists in writing the basic concepts of human thought on movable squares, and then combining these in various positions not only to reduce all the ideas of philosophy to equations and diagrams, but to prove, by mathematical equivalence, the truths of Christianity. Raymond had the gentleness of some lunatics, and hoped to convert Mohammedans to Christianity by the persuasive manipulations of his ars. The Church applauded his confidence, but frowned upon his proposal to reduce all faith to reason, and to put the Trinity and the Incarnation into his logical machine.144

In 1292, resolved to balance the loss of Palestine to the Saracens by peaceably converting Moslem Africa, Raymond crossed to Tunis, and secretly organized there a tiny colony of Christians. In 1307, on one of his missionary trips to Tunisia, he was arrested and brought before the chief judge of Bougie. The judge arranged a public disputation between Raymond and some Moslem divines; Raymond, says his biographer, won the argument, and was thrown into jail. Some Christian merchants contrived his rescue, and brought him back to Europe. But in 1314, apparently longing for martyrdom, he crossed again to Bougie, preached Christianity openly, and was stoned to death by a Moslem mob (1315).

To pass from Raymond Lully to John Duns Scotus is like emerging from Carmen into the Well-Tempered Clavichord. John's middle and last names came from his birth (1266?) at Duns in Berwickshire (?). He was sent at eleven to a Franciscan monastery at Dumfries; four years later he entered the Order. He studied at Oxford and Paris, and then taught at Oxford, Paris, and Cologne. Then, still a youth of forty-two, he died (1308), leaving behind him a multiplicity of writings, chiefly on metaphysics, distinguished by such obscurity and subtlety as would hardly appear again in philosophy before the coming of another Scot. And indeed the function of Duns Scotus was very much like that of Kant five centuries later—to argue that the doctrines of religion must be defended by their practical-moral necessity rather than their logical cogency. The Franciscans, willing to jettison philosophy to save Augustine from Dominican Thomas, made their young Doctor Sub-tilis their champion, and followed his lead, alive and dead, through generations of philosophical war.

This Duns was one of the keenest minds in medieval history. Having studied mathematics and other sciences, and feeling the influence of Grosse-teste and Roger Bacon at Oxford, he formed a severe notion of what constituted proof; and applying that test to the philosophy of Thomas, he ended, almost in its honeymoon, the rash marriage of theology with philosophy. Despite his clear understanding of the inductive method, Duns argued —precisely contrary to Francis Bacon—that all inductive or a posteriori proof—from effect to cause—is uncertain; that the only real proof is deductive and a priori—to show that certain effects must follow from the essential nature of the cause. For example, to prove the existence of God, we must first study metaphysics—i.e., study "being as being," and by strict logic arrive at the essential qualities of the world. In the realm of essences there must be one which is the source of all the rest, the Primus; this First Being is God. Duns agrees with Thomas that God is Actus Purus, but he interprets the phrase not as Pure Actuality but as Pure Activity. God is primarily will rather than intellect. He is the cause of all causes, and is eternal. But that is all that we can know of Him by reason. That He is a God of Mercy, that He is Three in One, that He created the world in time, that He watches over all by Providence—these and practically all the doctrines of the Christian faith are credibilia; they should be believed on the authority of the Scriptures and the Church, but they cannot be demonstrated by reason. Indeed, the moment we begin to reason about God we run into baffling contradictions (the Kantian "antinomies of pure reason"). If God is omnipotent He is the cause of all defects, including all evil; and secondary causes, including the human will, are illusory. In view of these ruinous conclusions, and because of the necessity of religious belief for our moral life (Kant's "practical reason"), it is wiser to abandon the Thomistic attempt to prove theology by philosophy, and to accept the dogmas of the faith on the authority of the Bible and the Church.145 We cannot know God, but we can love Him, and that is better than knowing.146

In psychology Duns is a "realist" after his own subtle fashion: universals are objectively real in the sense that those identical features, which the mind abstracts from similar objects to form a general idea, must be in the objects, else how could we perceive and abstract them? He agrees with Thomas that all natural knowledge is derived from sensation. For the rest he differs from him all along the psychologic line. The principle of individuation is not matter but form, and form only in the strict sense of thisness (haecceitas)— the peculiar qualities and distinguishing marks of the individual person or thing. The faculties of the soul are not distinct from one another, nor from the soul itself. The basic faculty of the soul is not understanding but will; it is the will that determines to what sensations or purposes the intellect is to attend; only the will (voluntas), not the judgment (arbitrium), is free. Thomas' argument that our hunger for continuance and for perfect happiness proves the immortality of the soul proves too much, for it could be applied to any beast in the field. We cannot prove personal immortality; we must simply believe.147

As the Franciscans had claimed to see in Thomas the victory of Aristotle over the Gospels, so the Dominicans might have seen in Duns the triumph of Arabic over Christian philosophy: his metaphysic is Avicenna's, his cosmology is Ibn Gabirol's. But the tragic and basic fact in Scotus is his abandonment of the attempt to prove the basic Christian doctrines by reason. His followers carried the matter further, and removed one after another of the articles of faith from the sphere of reason, and so multiplied his distinctions and subtleties that in England a "Dunsman" came to mean a hairsplitting fool, a dull sophist, a dunce. Those who had learned to love philosophy refused to be subordinated to theologians who rejected philosophy; the two studies quarreled and parted; and the rejection of reason by faith issued in the rejection of faith by reason. So ended, for the Age of Faith, the brave adventure.

Scholasticism was a Greek tragedy, whose nemesis lurked in its essence. The attempt to establish the faith by reason implicitly acknowledged the authority of reason; the admission, by Duns Scotus and others, that the faith could not be established by reason shattered Scholasticism, and so weakened the faith that in the fourteenth century revolt broke out all along the doctrinal and ecclesiastical line. Aristotle's philosophy was a Greek gift to Latin Christendom, a Trojan horse concealing a thousand hostile elements. These seeds of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment were not only "the revenge of paganism" over Christianity, they were also the unwitting revenge of Islam; invaded in Palestine, and driven from nearly all of Spain, the Moslems transmitted their science and philosophy to Western Europe, and it proved to be a disintegrating force; it was Avicenna and Averroës, as well as Aristotle, who infected Christianity with the germs of rationalism.

But no perspective can dim the splendor of the Scholastic enterprise. It was an undertaking as bold and rash as youth, and had youth's faults of over-confidence and love of argument; it was the voice of a new adolescent Europe that had rediscovered the exciting game of reason. Despite heresy-hunting councils and inquisitors, Scholasticism enjoyed and displayed, during the two centuries of its exaltation, a freedom of inquiry, thought, and teaching hardly surpassed in the universities of Europe today. With the help of the jurists of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries it sharpened the Western mind by forging the tools and terms of logic, and by such subtle reasoning as nothing in pagan philosophy could excel. Certainly this facility in argument ran to excess, and generated the disputatious verbosity and "scholastic" hairsplitting against which not only Roger and Francis Bacon, but the Middle Ages themselves, rebelled.* Yet the good of the inheritance far outweighed the bad. "Logic, ethics, and metaphysics," said Condorcet, "owe to Scholasticism a precision unknown to the ancients themselves"; and "it is to the Schoolmen," said Sir William Hamilton, "that the vulgar languages are indebted for what precision and analytical subtlety they possess." 149 The peculiar quality of the French mind—its love of logic, its clarity, its finesse—was in large measure formed by the heyday of logic in the schools of medieval France.150

* Giraldus Cambrensis tells of a youth who, at his father's painful expense, studied philosophy for five years at Paris, and, returning home, proved to his father, by remorseless logic, that the six eggs on the table were twelve; whereupon the father ate the six eggs that he could see, and left the others for his son.148

Scholasticism, which in the seventeenth century was to be an obstacle to the development of the European mind, was in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries a revolutionary advance, or restoration, in human thought. "Modern" thought begins with the rationalism of Abelard, reaches its first peak in the clarity and enterprise of Thomas Aquinas, sustains a passing defeat in Duns Scotus, rises again with Occam, captures the papacy in Leo X, captures Christianity in Erasmus, laughs in Rabelais, smiles in Montaigne, runs riot in Voltaire, triumphs sardonically in Hume, and mourns its victory in Anatole France. It was the medieval dash into reason that founded that brilliant and reckless dynasty.