ST and Catholica Veritas

ST is, of course, Aquinas's single greatest and most characteristic work. Like everyone else who examines Aquinas's thought, I have end p.29


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved consulted it over and over again in writing this book, and I will often refer to it explicitly. Why, then, am I focusing not on ST but on the earlier SCG? I've already given a short, preliminary answer to this question: I'm interested in a fully developed natural theology, and among Aquinas's systematic works only SCG provides an instance of it—and not merely an instance but, as I've said, the paradigm. The Scriptum, ST, and the Compendium are all contributions to theology conceived of as specifically different from philosophy, as essentially including the articles of faith among its principles. We can see most clearly just what that means in ST, where Aquinas seems most expressly concerned with the relationship between theology and philosophy, especially in the discussions with which he introduces the work.

In Aquinas's Prologue to ST, the work is presented as an innovative introductory textbook written by an educational reformer in the medieval university's faculty of theology, one who describes himself as a teacher of catholica Veritas and describes his book as intended 'to impart the things that pertain to the Christian religion in a manner suited to the teaching of beginners'—not rank beginners, of course, but graduates of the arts faculty who are beginning their training in theology, 'those who are new to this 12


12 For a different view of the beginners for whom Aquinas intended ST, see Boyle


If we take the reasonable view that the teacher's subject is the same as his book's, then the catholica Veritas Aquinas teaches is identifiable with 'the things that pertain to the Christian religion'. And since the title of ST identifies its subject in a third way as 'theology', we seem to have been provided at the outset with a complex, but unsurprising, identification of three terms: the subject of Christian theology = everything that pertains to the Christian religion = catholica Veritas.

I've been retaining the Latin for the third term because of the ambiguity of the word 'catholic', which, of course, isn't always used in its ecclesiastical sense, especially in Latin, and especially before the Reformation. In view of the readily understandable other two terms, however, it may seem pointless to hesitate between 'universal' and 'Catholic' (with a big 'C'), especially because reading 'catholica Veritas' as'universal truth' looks like smuggling a lot of theory into the characterization of ST on the basis of a single end p.30

Kretzmann, Norman , (deceased) formerly Susan Linn Sage Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Cornell University, New York

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