St. Augustine of Hippo vs. St. Thomas Aquinas- Contradicting Views Tamanpreet Kaur Gill
Grand Canyon University: PHI-305
12 October 2014
St. Augustine of Hippo vs. St. Thomas Aquinas- Contradicting Views
Saint Augustine of Hippo, as he is most commonly referred, of the early fifth century and Saint Thomas Aquinas, of the thirteenth century, are considerably well-known for their philosophical and theological discoveries. Even though both are famous for venturing to integrate Christianity with their philosophical thoughts, they took completely different paths in doing so. Aquinas took an Aristotelian path, being a strong follower of Aristotle while Augustine, took a Platonic path, considering Plotinus as his mentor. Both delved deeply into the concept of ethics dichotomy, the human nature, and the human’s ability to know, and to do, the good. Christianity does hold true to the fact life after death exists. (Bray, 2003). Augustine’s view on the nature of the human beings states that each individual is “trapped by sin in immorality and untruth” (Clark & Poortenga, 2003, Pg. 39). A human being cannot access that after-life unless they devote themselves fully to God. It is only through the process of “illumination” and “divine assistance” that an individual can be truly fulfilled as a human being. Basically, only through the love of God can one reach to the ultimate truth about themselves and learn to see and do the good. “Divine assistance is necessary to rid us of vice, turn our hearts towards God and enable us to acquire virtue” (Clark & Poortenga, 2003, Pg. 42). He believed that the man’s “corrupted desire’s” to knowledge stemmed from the Garden of Eden, where man’s thirst to be “like God” led to feeling pride and then led to the fall of that individual. When an individual stirs their attention away from the realm of God is when they get plundered by temptations such as pride, power, wealth, fame, and even human love. He believed that an individual remains disordered if he places his temptations above the love of the God. “Wherever the human soul turns itself, other than to you, it is fixed in sorrows, even if it is fixed upon beautiful things external to you…” (Vaught, 2005). As a result of these disorderly desires, or “cupidity” as he called it, Augustine came to reject a “man’s desire for common knowledge” concluding that such desire drives an individual away from God. This was a complete opposite the Aristotelian belief that “all men by nature desire to know” (Aristotle, 1966). He believed that these temptations blind an individual’s ability to know and to do the good. In simple terms, “that which was spiritual was good and that which was "of the flesh" was evil” (Campolo, 2007). As an alternative, Augustine emphasized on divine illumination, conversion and faith, which were the true means of happiness and salvation. (Clark & Poortenga, 2003, Pg. 40). It is important fathom that Augustine was against specifically to the type of knowledge that enticed the “lusts of the eyes.” In compliance with the views of Plotinus, Augustine maintained that it is through God that an individual inherits true knowledge. It is imperative for the human being to become reasonable and use that knowledge in limits. It is the only method that can help them disregard the temptations and strengthen their mind for divine illumination. In his book, Confessions, Augustine states that “If we love God first, we will love the right things in the right way, our loves will be properly ordered, and we will find fulfillment” (Clark & Poortenga, 2003, Pg. 41). Aquinas on the other hand, believed that human goodness depends on the actions performed by an individual that are in agreement with our human nature, which also defines the morality of an individual. He further explains that an individual consists of a specific cognitive power, which is the “intellect” that enables us to fully comprehend the goodness of a thing. Human...
References: Aristotle. 1966. Aristotle 's Metaphysics. Grinnell, Iowa: The Peripatetic Press.
Bray, G. (2003). AUGUSTINE 'S KEY. Christian History, 22(4), 42.
Clark, K. J., & Poortenga, A. (2003). The story of ethics: Fulfilling our human nature. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Campolo, T. (2007). How Jewish was Jesus? Tikkun, 22(6), 26-28.
Vaught, C. G. (2005). Access to God in Augustine 's Confessions: Books X-XIII. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press.
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