Thursday, October 27, 2011

St. Thomas a Preformationist

From De Principiis Naturæ you can clearly tell that—contrary to many claims that St. Thomas agreed with Aristotle that a human fetus temporally first has a vegetative, sensitive, then intellectual soul—St. Thomas was a "preformationist" as opposed to an "epigeneticist" (cf. this), viz., he argues that man is a substance, a substantial whole, more than just a sum of his parts, more than a collection of accidental forms:

4. [...] matter differs from subject because the subject is that which does not have existence by reason of something which comes to it, rather it has complete existence of itself (per se); just as man does not have existence through whiteness [or through any other accidental forms that comprise man, e.g., his bones, brain, etc.].
6. [...] Generation simpliciter corresponds to the substantial form [that man is generated simpliciter corresponds to preformationism] and generation secundum quid [This is how epigeneticists think man is generated.] corresponds to the accidental form. When a substantial form is introduced we say that something comes into being simpliciter, for example we say that man comes into being or man is generated [something]. But when an accidental form is introduced, we do not say that something comes into being simpliciter, but that it comes into being as this; for example when man comes into being as white, we do not say simpliciter that man comes into being or is generated, but that he comes into being or is generated as white [somehow].

Sunday, October 23, 2011

First Meeting: reading De Principiis Naturæ

Our first meeting will be this Tuesday, October 25, at 6 PM in the San Pedro room of the Student Union (3rd floor).

St. Thomas Aquinas, founder of Thomism (vide 24 Thomistic Theses), describes in his Sententia Ethic., lib. 6 l. 7 n. 17 [1211.] which subjects and in what order boys must learn (my emphases):
[T]he proper order of learning is that boys first be instructed in things pertaining to logic because logic teaches the method of the whole of philosophy. Next, they should be instructed in mathematics, which does not need experience and does not exceed the imagination. Third, in natural sciences, which, even though not exceeding sense and imagination, nevertheless require experience. Fourth, in the moral sciences, which require experience and a soul free from passions [...]. Fifth, in the sapiential and divine sciences, which exceed imagination and require a sharp mind.
Can you believe this? If St. Thomas thinks boys (pueri in the Latin of Sententia Ethic., lib. 6 l. 7 n. 17) should learn these, a fortiori college students must.

Consequently, since we assume familiarity with logic and mathematics, at our first meeting we will begin to study St. Thomas's opusculum ("short work") entitled "De Principiis Naturæ" ("On the Principles of Nature").

Whether you know nothing about St. Thomas's philosophy, love it, or hate it, all are welcome to come learn about it, discuss it, and grapple with it.