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44. Another of the great insights of Saint Thomas was his perception of the role of the Holy Spirit in the process by which knowledge matures into wisdom. From the first pages of his Summa Theologiae,(48) Aquinas was keen to show the primacy of the wisdom which is the gift of the Holy Spirit and which opens the way to a knowledge of divine realities. His theology allows us to understand what is distinctive of wisdom in its close link with faith and knowledge of the divine. This wisdom comes to know by way of connaturality; it presupposes faith and eventually formulates its right judgement on the basis of the truth of faith itself: "The wisdom named among the gifts of the Holy Spirit is distinct from the wisdom found among the intellectual virtues. This second wisdom is acquired through study, but the first 'comes from on high', as Saint James puts it. This also distinguishes it from faith, since faith accepts divine truth as it is. But the gift of wisdom enables judgement according to divine truth".(49)

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With regard to ethics, of the three terms— and —the last has the most explicit and enduring relationship to Thomism. There ethics is seen as the philosophical study of voluntary human action, with the purpose of determining what types of activity are good, right, and to be done, or bad, wrong, and not to be done, so that human individuals might live well. As a philosophical study, ethics treats information derived from a person's natural experience of the problems of human living. The term ethics is etymologically connected with the Greek meaning customs or behavior, and is the same as moral philosophy, similarly connected with the Latin also meaning customs or behavior. It is a practical science in the sense that its objective is not simply to know, but to know which actions should be done and which should be avoided, so as properly to translate knowledge into action. Thus understood, only one thesis on ethics is listed among various theses seen as essential to Thomism. This states that humans have by nature the right to cooperate with others in society in the pursuit of personal happiness in the common good, and that this pursuit of happiness is guided by conscience, laws both natural and positive, and virtues both private and public. Briefly, Thomistic ethics is a virtue ethics that infers from nature what humans ought to do or be to achieve their proper perfection.

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99. Theological work in the Church is first of all at the service of the proclamation of the faith and of catechesis. (117) Proclamation or kerygma is a call to conversion, announcing the truth of Christ, which reaches its summit in his Paschal Mystery: for only in Christ is it possible to know the fullness of the truth which saves (cf. Acts 4:12; 1 Tm 2:4-6).

REALITY—A Synthesis Of Thomistic Thought by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O


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Albert and Thomas wrote in the medieval period of high scholasticism. Albert was the first to appreciate the importance of the newly imported Greek-Arabic learning for science and philosophy, and he set himself to making encyclopedic summaries for his students, which earned for him the title "the Great" in his own lifetime. He had many followers among German Dominicans, including Meister Eckehart (c. 1260–1327) and Theodoric of Freiberg (c. 1250–1310), the second of whom worked out the first correct theory of the rainbow. But Albert's work bore principal fruit in the monumental synthesis elaborated by his pupil Thomas. Called the "Angelic Doctor," Thomas brought natural philosophy and metaphysics into the heart of theology to develop the unique synthesis known as Thomism. Its major teachings are that first matter is pure potentiality and its first actuation is by substantial form; that the human rational soul is the unique substantial form of the human body, endowed with powers that are really distinct from it; that human knowledge originates with the senses but is capable of attaining universals; and that humans can reason to the existence of God and some of God's attributes from the visible things of the world.

Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P

In later scholasticism Thomism became the official doctrine of the Dominican Order, where it was championed by Harvey Nedellec (1250 or 60–1323), John of Naples (d. 1330), and Jean Capréolus (c. 1380–1444). The Renaissance was the period of great commentaries on Thomas known as "Second Thomism," when Dominicans exerted strong influence at Paris and Salamanca as well as northern Italy. The more famous of the figures of Second Thomism were Thomas de Vio Cajetan (1469–1534), who debated the German religious reformer Martin Luther on the Eucharist; Francisco de Vitoria (1486?–1546), who developed the theory of natural law during Spain's period of colonial expansion; and Vitoria's colleague Domingo de Soto (c. 1494–1560), whose work foreshadowed to a degree Galileo Galilei's law of falling bodies (Wallace 2004). The same period saw the foundation of the Jesuits, who were initially trained as Thomists but then developed their own versions of Thomism. Jesuits and Dominicans later entered into prolonged controversy over the efficacy of God's grace on human free will and God's foreknowledge of human free actions, and were convinced that many modern evils stem from false philosophy, to which Thomas's thought would supply a needed corrective.

Aristotelian-Thomistic Philosophy of Nature

The period from the mid-sixteenth to the late nineteenth century saw little development within Thomism. The system itself had received strong endorsement by the Council of Trent (1545–1563), and, as what may be referred to as Scholastic Thomism, it was taught in Catholic seminaries as a philosophical preparation for the study of theology. It was often seen as the "perennial philosophy," an integrated system that gave enduring answers to central questions about reality and knowledge. And it was largely unaffected by the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, which was mainly concerned with physical sciences that seemed to have little relevance to Catholic teaching.