Aquinas’s Philosophy of Religion by Paul O’Grady (auth.)

By Paul O’Grady (auth.)

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That is, God is first established as the cause and principle of all that exists, but then shown to be utterly different to anything else that exists by negation and finally shown to exist in a perfect manner by eminence. Thus the intelligibility of God is linked to creation – humans access and think about God through creation. Given that Aquinas is not a pantheist and indeed demands the genuine distinction between God and creation, why is it not appropriate to call his views theistic? Te Velde holds that theism entails thinking of God as an entity with certain specific features and requires one to use a representational mode of thinking which accurately captures and described those features.

The path to union was through philosophy. Augustine (354–430) was introduced to the writings of Neoplatonists in Milan. His own intellectual development was complex, as he relates in the Confessions – from early lukewarm Christianity he moved to Manichaeism (a new religious movement with roots in Persia which advocated a strong dualism between body and spirit). Abandoning this, he embraced scepticism, which counselled a rejection of all such views as the path to happiness. Drawn back to Christianity, he found both intellectual and moral difficulties in accepting a Christian form of life.

Furthermore, it is clearly problematical to assimilate Aquinas’s views to that of Deism. In his system, God is not a being, not even the most powerful being. God is understood as being itself, self-subsisting being. If Heidegger contends that the history of Western philosophy has involved the forgetting of being, it is hard to square that with Aquinas’s insistence on distinguishing Being from beings. As noted above, a deeply important aspect of Aquinas’s account of God is that humans do not understand God’s essence, that there is not a ratio about God.

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