Final paper - Aquinas and Aristotle

Final paper - Aquinas and Aristotle - Mallory Carlson...

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Mallory Carlson Professor Prior PHIL 11 21 March 2006 The Existence of God: Aquinas’ reconciliation of Christian faith and Aristotelian deduction As philosophical studies progressed from those of the ancient world to those of the Middle Ages, many modifications had to be made. By the time of the Middle Ages, Jesus had already come and past, marking a distinct religious change in the world. As religion (particularly Christianity) came to dominate the post-ancient world, philosophy adhered to its ancient roots, yet changed according to a new pious establishment. Of the many philosophers from the Middle Ages, one known particularly for his attempts to reconcile ancient philosophies with the religious changes made in his time was Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas was a Dominican monk who was also an Aristotelian. Naturally, the two seem to contradict each other, as being a monk implies a certain degree of faith in God, whereas being an Aristotelian assumes that there is no such thing as faith or a personal connection to God. As can be seen, Aquinas’ problem was both historical and philosophical in nature, for his quandary was to find a way in which to reconcile Aristotle’s reasoning with the faith obtained through Christianity. This problem was initially set into motion by the rationalist, pre-Socratic philosopher Xenophanes, who formed a monotheistic critique of traditional religion by arguing that God only exists as a type of abstract intelligence of which we have no knowledge. Adding to this theory was a later philosopher named Parmenides, who believed that not only do we have no knowledge of God, but that we know nothing of our immediate reality (i.e. matter and motion do not exist as we understand them). In response to Parmenides’ argument, Aristotle set forth to prove that motion does exist, and in doing so, he
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formulated a theory proving the existence of God – the UM, or the un-moved mover. Since Aristotle’s theory of God affirmed that God is not aware of or connected to us, and many Aristotelians of the Middle Ages were Christians, this disconnected view of both God and faith posed an obvious problem. Aquinas’ solution to this problem was to bridge the gap between reason and faith so that he could distinguish what can be known through both Aristotle and the Christian doctrine, while simultaneously upholding the inherent and concrete values suggested by both reason and faith. In order to understand the reasoning behind Aquinas’ attempt to create a pseudo- philosophy in which faith and reason co-exist, it is crucial to trace the origins of this problem back to the ancient philosophers. Born in 570 B.C., Xenophanes was among the first pre- Socratic philosophers to argue for the existence of “a single non-anthropomorphic god” along with proving the distinction between true knowledge and belief (CCR 21). So, he believed in the existence of a non-material and unchanging god who had no form and who exists only as a powerful and intelligent mind. However, he knew that this belief was not true knowledge,
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Final paper - Aquinas and Aristotle - Mallory Carlson...

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