Thursday, January 22, 2009

Introduction to The Summa Theologica

It was only a year ago that I first read the introduction to the Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas, but when I read it I saw expressed in it so many of my frustrations (and I assume so many other people's) with school and education in general. Because of it I have always had respect for Aquinas and his views because I think he genuinely understood learning. Even though I tend to disagree with him on many fundamental points of doctrine, I also tend to agree with his arguments on many others. I also think it is interesting that he never finished the Summa.

Below is the introduction to the Summa:

"Because the doctor of Catholic truth ought not only to teach the proficient, but also to instruct beginners (according to the Apostle: As unto little ones in Christ, I gave you milk to drink, not meat -- 1 Corinthians 3:1-2), we purpose in this book to treat of whatever belongs to the Christian religion, in such a way as may tend to the instruction of beginners. We have considered that students in this doctrine have not seldom been hampered by what they have found written by other authors, partly on account of the multiplication of useless questions, articles, and arguments, partly also because those things that are needful for them to know are not taught according to the order of the subject matter, but according as the plan of the book might require, or the occasion of the argument offer, partly, too, because frequent repetition brought weariness and confusion to the minds of readers.

Endeavouring to avoid these and other like faults, we shall try, by God's help, to set forth whatever is included in this sacred doctrine as briefly and clearly as the matter itself may allow."

As an after note, in the first sentence the word "Catholic" could also be translated as "Universal" and "doctor" as "teacher" though the translation of "doctor" is accurate and illuminating.

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