Summa Philosophica

No one knows what title, if any, Aquinas gave to SCG. In some of the medieval manuscripts it is entitled Liber de veritate catholicae fidei contra errores infidelium—A Book About the Truth of the Catholic Faith, Directed Against Mistakes Made by Unbelievers'. That title strikes me as coming closer to an accurate representation of the book's aim and contents than the more

pugnacious, traditional Summa contra gentiles—Summa Against Pagans',

38 On the authenticity and interpretation of these titles, see Gauthier 1961: 74-5. which became the accepted title perhaps in part because of the widespread perception of the book as a contribution to apologetics. During the nineteenth century, when ST was standardly called not Summa theologiae, the summa of theology, but Summa theologica, the theological summa, SCG was printed several times under the deliberately contrasting title Summa

philosophica, the philosophical summa.

39 See Pera, 'Introductio' to the Marietti edn. of SCG, vol. I, p. 535 n. 2.

For reasons I've offered in this chapter, I think that this contrast, although

potentially a little misleading, is broadly accurate,

40 For a sharply contrasting view see Gauthier 1961: la suprenante erreur de ceux qui ont voulu faire de la Somme contre les Gentils une "Somme de philosophie". Elle est, elle aussi, une Somme de théologie' (p. 90). 'Summa of philosophy1 certainly would be misleading, and Gauthier offers no actual example of its use, although he does cite instances oVSumma philosophica' (p. 90 n. 252). See also Jordan 1993: 248 n. 3, where the designation Summa philosophica is provided as the paradigm case of'gross re-titlings of his works'.

as may be seen in Aquinas's plan for Books I—III of SCG: 'Since we intend to pursue by way of reason the things about end p.51

God that human reason can investigate, the first consideration is of matters associated with God considered in himself [Book I]; second, of the emergence of created things from him [Book II]; third, of the ordering and directing of created things toward him as their goal [Book III]' (1.9.57). And that is what I have been thinking of as the form of the metaphysics of theism.

Just as Aquinas is a philosophical theologian, so is he a theological philosopher. When he is writing as a philosopher in SCG, not merely as a philosophical commentator and certainly not as a philosophical theologian (in the technical sense identified above), he must and cheerfully does shun 'authoritative arguments' of any sort in Books I—III, although of course he must make use of them in Book IV. His tolerance of them there along with 'probable arguments' is just what distinguishes that book from its three predecessors.

As for the arguments he considers appropriate to what I'm calling philosophy from the top down, he shows good sense in not restricting himself to proofs, or'demonstrative arguments'. They are the sort he will of course use when he thinks he has them, but, like almost all philosophers of any period, he recognizes philosophy's need for'probable arguments' as well, citing Aristotle as having 'said very well that it is a mark of an educated person to try to get only as much conviction about anything as the nature of the thing


41 Nicomachean Ethics I 1, 1094b23-5.

and noting that Boethius endorsed this view

42 De trinitate 2 (PL 64.1250A).

(1.3.13). A demonstrative argument can take as its premisses only propositions that are, or can be, unconditionally, objectively known, and so it yields a conclusion with that same impeccable epistemic status. A probable argument—the sort that has always been most prevalent in philosophy—is one based on premisses that are in fact widely accepted, or accepted by experts in the relevant field, and so it's possible for one group to be convinced by a probable argument that another group rejects. Consequently, while demonstrative arguments lead to genuine knowledge, probable arguments can at best produce more or less good reasons for accepting their


43 See e.g. Aquinas's In PA, Prooemium, and SCG 1.8.71 bis.

We've seen that Aquinas presents himself as pursuing wisdom in undertaking SCG. So it seems fitting to close this chapter in which end p.52


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved

I hope to have encouraged the reader to join me in examining what he does in SCG by quoting his own appraisal of this undertaking: 'Among all human pursuits, the pursuit of wisdom is the most excellent, the loftiest, the most beneficial, and the pleasantest' (1.2.8).

end p.53


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