Protreptic Structure

If Against the Gentiles is a protreptic, it ought to be possible to find in it the structures and devices of persuasion to an end.65 The most obvious persuasive structure is the ascent to the human good in 3.1—63. The argument rises from a general assertion of teleological order (1—16), through the thesis that God is the end of all creatures and of intellectual substances particularly (17—26), to a comparison of contemplation with all other possible claimants to human happiness (27—47). Thomas ends the sequence by representing the contemplation of God in beatitude, which is both heaven and the fulfillment of philosophic longing for unfettered contemplation (48—63; compare 41-44).

The ascent combines features from classical and Christian protreptic. One feature is the synkrisis or comparison of wisdom with alternate goods (27-36). Thomas has already remarked that philosophers must lure their hearers away from other pleasures (1.5, no. 29c). So Thomas rules out claims that happiness consists in the exercise of political virtues or liberal arts — just as Greek philosophers had to keep their hearers from succumbing to the rival pedagogies of sophists or poets. Thomas offers, in second place, a

65 This claim has already been made by Guy H. Allard, "Le 'Contra Gentiles' et le modèle rhétorique," Laval Théologique et Philosophique 30 (1974): 237—250. Allard compares the structure in Thomas with the Ciceronian paradigms for deliberative discourse. I differ from Allard both in regard to the importance of any particular rhetorical paradigm and in his emphasis on the political. But it may be that I rightly belong alongside Allard in any typology of views on the Contra gent.; see, for example, Helmut Hoping, Weisheit als Wissen des Ursprungs: Philosophie und Theologie in der "Summa contra gentiles" des Thomas von Aquin (Freiburg: Herder, 1997), pp. 45—48.

criticism of alternative descriptions of wisdom (41-44). This, too, is a kind of synkrisis, and it takes the place in Greek philosophy of the review of rival schools. Then Thomas adds, in third place, an evocation of the good to be attained in beatitude. He writes three lyrical chapters to show that the vision of God makes human beings eternal participants in divine life (61-62), even as it fulfills their every desire for knowledge, virtue, honor, fame, wealth, pleasure, immortality, and community (3.63, nos. 2,378-2,383). Thomas ends the peroration by juxtaposing Aristotelian and Scriptural praises of wisdom, so that the reader might see the one perfected in the other (3.63, no. 2,383).

Against the Gentiles 3 does not stop with that evocation - and it is important that it does not do so. Thomas turns with the briefest of connecting passages to a long consideration of providence. Teaching about providence is required to assure the reader that the distant end of contemplation, which so little resembles human life here, is within the power of the cosmic ruler. God the end is also God the "governor" or "ruler" of the means.66 God's governance is not coercive. The second thesis of the treatment of providence is that human agents are free from the coercion of celestial bodies (84-87) and separate substances (88-89); they may follow God without fearing fortune or fate (91-92). At much greater length, Thomas analyzes divine rule over intellectual creatures (111-113) in order to show the necessity for God's teaching (114-129) and the usefulness of God's counsels (130-139). The teaching on providence culminates in the argument that humans need divine grace to attain the end that has been proposed (147-163). Against the Gentiles 3 ends with a chapter on election and reprobation that emphasizes human freedom under or within God's glory. The last line of the books is a doxology from Romans 11:35-36. It seals the teaching that the human goal cannot be reached without God's help.

The evidently hortatory structure of Book 3 finds echoes both earlier and later in Against the Gentiles. At the end of the prologue to the whole work, Thomas writes that the first thing to be demonstrated is God's existence, "without which every consideration of divine things is removed" (1.9, no. 58). The last demonstrative arguments conclude that there is some being "by whose providence the world is governed" (1.13, no. 115). The existence of God is not a fact only, but a force over human life. When he turns to God's perfection, Thomas must treat again of the divine names, in order

66 Thomas says exactly this in his prologue to the exposition of Job, which is contemporary with Contra gent. 2-3; see Weisheipl, Friar Thomas, p. 368, no. 25, and Torrell, Initiation, p. 494. Thomas writes that the denial of providence is the destruction of all virtue and the fostering of vice; see Expos. Iob prol. (Leonine Opera omnia 26, ll. 41-48).

to secure resemblance between God and creatures (28-36). More specifically, he must show that his protreptic speaking about God is not "in vain" (1.36, no. 301). It is appropriate to a protreptic that it should center on God's understanding, willing, and living. God's understanding makes God the final end for intellectual creatures; God's willing grounds providence; God's life is the activity to which human beings are called. The last section of Book 1 concerns the divine life (97-102); the last chapter argues that God's beatitude exceeds every other beatitude (1.102). It rejects false happiness and adds a doxology: "To the one who is singularly blessed be honor and glory unto ages of ages" (1.102, no. 850).

Against the Gentiles 2 aids the protreptic by establishing God's causality over creation and humankind's indispensable place in the hierarchy of intelligences. The preface promises as much. Thomas supplies four arguments to justify considering creatures within Christian wisdom: creatures imitate divine wisdom and so produce wonder and reflection (2.2, no. 859). Studying them leads to fear of God and reverence (2.2, no. 860). It kindles divine love (2.2, no. 861). Indeed, meditating on creatures produces a likeness of divine wisdom (2.2, no. 862). Knowing creatures also helps destroy errors that prevent contemplative ascent to God - by deifying matter, by exaggerating creatures, by exalting necessity, by debasing human teleology (2.3, nos. 865-868). Each of these four reasons is directly connected to the pro-treptic. Each supposes that Against the Gentiles means to bring right order to active pursuit of the divine. The considerations proposed hasten pursuit; the errors rejected would prevent it. The protreptic purpose is confirmed in the part's last section, which offers another doxology to the divine mind (2.101, no. 1,860). In the parts leading up to the third, then, Thomas frequently describes persuasion towards the highest good as a gracious gift from its possessor.

The order of Against the Gentiles 4 is often set out rather prosaically: the Trinity (2-26), the Incarnation (27-55), the sacraments (56-78), and the final resurrection together with the last judgment (79-97). Notice these structural peculiarities. The Trinity is introduced under the rubric of "generation" in God. Thomas shows how far God's life can be compared to that of other living things (4.2, no. 3,354c; compare 4.26, no. 3,629, "in living things"). The passage ends by reiterating the likeness of human thought to the Trinitarian processions (4.26, nos. 3,631-3,632). The treatment of the Incarnation ends with the question of its appropriateness or convenientia (4.53-55).67 The positive arguments assert that God's incarnation is the most effective help

67 See the opposite order in Summa theol. 3, where the treatment of convenientia (q. 1) precedes the treatment of the manner of the Incarnation (qq. 2-19).

towards beatitude (beginning in 4.54, no. 3,923). The sacraments appear as applications and manifestations of Christ's role in human healing (4.56, no. 3,962). The final sacrament to be treated is matrimony, which extends through time the human search for the good (4.78, nos. 4,119, 3,124). The resurrection and the last judgment are concerned quite literally with the end of human life — indeed, of human history. Although such topics frequently appear at the end of comprehensive theological works, Thomas here not only designates human life after resurrection, he describes it (82—88). Some of his hypotheses may seem extraordinary, but they aim to convince the reader that human desire will be satisfied in the city of glory (see especially 4.86). The last chapter of the entire work begins with these words, "Thus when the last judgment has taken place, human nature will be constituted completely in its end" (4.97, no. 4,285). Against the Gentiles ends with the divine proclamation of eternal joy and exultation (4.97, no. 4,292).

It would be possible — indeed, necessary for a satisfying argument — to consider Thomas's rhetorical structure in greater detail and to show how far other reasons, such as traditional arrangement, might account for some of these features. Let me enunciate that large task and then suggest how a reader could begin to discover the protreptic character of Against the Gentiles at closer range, in its details — for example, in locutions that introduce authorities, in arrangements of multiple arguments for a single point, and in choices about which topics will be treated at length.

Thomas's phrases or locutions for introducing Scriptural authorities were mentioned by Mulard in the debate over De Broglie. Mulard's point was that they separated philosophical argument from theological authority.68 The locutions are actually more complicated, at least before the fourth part, where they begin to sound more like rubrics for proof texts in doctrinal controversy. In the first three Books, the locutions clearly do not introduce Scriptural texts as syllogistic premises for philosophic demonstration. Their steady repetition of "also" shows that the citations they introduce are supplements to the arguments.69 More interesting are the verbs: the authority of Scripture or of the faith is said to "confirm," "give testimony," "agree" or "harmonize," "profess," "confess," "commemorate," "attest," "show," "proffer," and "protest."70 The

69 See 1.14 (no. 119), 39 (323), 44 (380), 50 (428), 67 (566).

70 In Book 1, for confirmation, see 14 (no. 199), 39 (323), 47 (402), 60 (505), 65 (539), 68 (574), 75 (646), 78 (666), 91 (764), 97 (815); for testimony, 15 (126), 43 (370), 55 (464), 57 (484), 66 (554); for agreement, 20 (188); for harmony, 58 (493), 70 (610); for profession, 22 (212); for confession, 44 (380), 72 (626); for teaching, 50 (428); for commemoration, 29 (271), 91 (765); for attestation, 49 (417); for showing, 67 (566); for proffering, 82 (698); and for protesting, 100 (835).

verbs suggest that citations add both evidence and emphasis. They add more evidence, because the Scripture already counts as true for the Christian reader. They supply emphasis, because the Scripture is supremely authoritative and beautifully moving. The most interesting locutions imply a causal connection: Scripture says something or faith holds something because of the reasons enunciated in the chapter.71 Here the reader can see the protreptic connection between rational and authoritative persuasion. She has been led through a series of arguments; she has also been reminded that the same doctrine is found in the authorities of her faith. The complete persuasion to wisdom is accomplished when the reader grasps that the intelligibility of argument leads into the intelligibility of Scripture. The reasons of rational pedagogy pass over into the motives of Scripture.

A reader can see protreptic detail as well in the sequence of arguments. Against the Gentiles is remarkable for not conforming to the patterns of an academic dispute or commentary. In some sections, especially technical ones, Thomas falls back on the devices of the quaestio.72 Much more rarely does he carry out a proper lectio (as in 2.61, 2.78). The typical chapter in Against the Gentiles has a short introduction or enunciation followed by a series of arguments that ends with confirming authorities or historical specifications or both. The multiple arguments are not interdependent. They can be grouped around certain basic premises, but they are better grasped as steps towards a cumulative persuasive effect. To show that the same conclusion can be derived from diverse premises makes it more plausible. Again, readers who are not convinced by one argument may be convinced by another. Thomas sometimes varies his starting points in the hope of casting a wider argumentative net. Finally, the last arguments in a chapter are sometimes more comprehensive or penetrating than the first.

A single passage can illustrate these persuasive structures. In 2.16, Thomas offers 12 arguments for creation ex nihilo, from no pre-existing matter. The first argument depends on a rule against regression in natural causes (no. 933); the second through the fifth invoke some principle of universality in effect and cause (nos. 934-937); the sixth through the ninth stress disanalogies or disproportions between matter and divine creation (nos. 938-941); the tenth

71 "Et inde est quod . . ." (1.29, no. 271); "hinc est quod . . ."(1.37, no. 308; 40, no. 328; 41, no. 334; 56, no. 472; 61, no. 514; 99, no. 827); "propter quod dicitur . .." (1.38, no. 315).

72 See especially 1.10-11, 2.61/69, 2.74-75, 2.80-81, 2.88-89, 3.5-6, 3.8-9, 3.54, 3.68, 3.108-109, 3.131/134, 3.132/135, 3.136-137, 4.4.9, 4.10, 4.16/23, 4.25, 4.40/49, 4.51-52, 4.53-55, 4.62-68, 4.80-81. Note the preponderance of such sections in the fourth Book. This is due to the procedural limitation of answering objections against the mysteries of faith, as in 1.9, no. 56.

and eleventh argue from God as first being (nos. 942-943). One might also say that the principles are: no regression (no. 933), universality of causation (nos. 934-935), peculiarities in the causation of being (nos. 936-937), peculiarities in the reception of effects by matter (nos. 938-940), and asymmetrical relationships (nos. 941-943). On either account, there is a movement in the chapter from physical causality through its expansions and distensions to basic ontological relations. Note too that the arguments are designed to address readers of the Physics, the Metaphysics of both Aristotle and Avicenna, and the Book of Causes.

The third and last detail in which a reader can recognize protreptic structure is the selection of topics for fuller treatment. Principles of selection appear on the surface of Thomas's other works. In the Scriptum on the Sentences, selection is determined remotely by the Lombard's text and directly by the tradition of commentary on it. In the large Summa, by contrast, Thomas announces that the principle of selection is pedagogical concern for beginners. What is the equivalent principle of economy in Against the Gentiles? The missionary hypothesis would explain its selection of topics by pointing to the confrontation with Islam. Gorce would explain it as a reaction to the "Latin Averroists." In fact, the selection is motivated by the aim of persuasion to the practice of Christian wisdom. The topics that are treated extensively and technically bear directly on persuasion to the highest good.

Thomas evidently chooses to concentrate in Against the Gentiles 2 on refuting false views about the human intellect (for example, 2.59-62, 73-78). Thomas treats these views extensively not out of a technician's delight in detail, or from love of contention, but because human participation in the highest good depends on the individuality of intellects. A fashionable denial of individuality requires extensive correction if readers are not to be prevented in advance from accepting protreptic persuasion. The conclusion of the arguments against separation or unity of intellects serves as a premise in the first, syllogistic proof for human immortality (2.70, no. 1,598). A similar reading can be given to the technical analysis of the beatific vision (3.51-60). Coming at the end of the ascent to the highest good, these chapters carry great weight. They must show that God can be contemplated directly, but only by divine gift - otherwise the rest of Book 3 will be beside the point. If there is no direct contemplation, Thomas's pro-treptic has no end. If there is no need for grace, the protreptic is in no way Christian. Similar reasoning directs Thomas's technical emphasis on divine cognition of singulars (1.63-71), on human freedom from creaturely determination (3.84-88), and so on.

In three kinds of detail, then, Against the Gentiles shows protreptic moti vation. It uses authorities, arranges arguments, and chooses technical disputes in order to persuade readers towards full Christian wisdom. This wisdom requires the exercise of Christian virtues, both acquired and infused. Persuasion to the practice of a virtue will be sterile unless it can offer some opportunity for enacting it. For Aristotle, famously, virtues, including intellectual ones, are acquired by practice. The best Aristotelian protreptic would not only exhort, but engage; it would speak about the virtues to be acquired while it provided exemplary occasions on which to imitate them. Here, too, Thomas succeeds in constructing Against the Gentiles. The work presents the virtues of Christian wisdom above all by requiring that its readers practice them - in following its structures, learning its locutions, discovering the order of its arguments, and understanding its technical digressions. Perhaps most helpfully, Against the Gentiles applies in hundreds of particular arguments drawn from dozens of predecessor texts the intelligible principles that are the seeds of speculative virtue. Its protrep-tic structure is not only an exordium to wisdom, but a school for its practice - not least in the proper handling of authorities.

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