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2.8 Saint Thomas Aquinas
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 AD) took as his foundation the metaphysics of Aristotle to build a system of thought dependent on the Christian faith; according to him, if some divergence arose between philosophy and faith, we should undoubtedly consider philosophy wrong and faith right, since faith, depending more directly on God, can only be closer to truth. This is however imagined only as an exceptional case, since for him faith and reason harmonize perfectly; through reason it is possible to demonstrate the existence of God, with proofs similar to those seen in St. Anselm, while faith leads us to accept other particular truths, unattainable with the only demonstrative abilities of reason, such as the mystery of the Trinity. Recourse to reason makes it possible to identify universal truths, since anyone is naturally forced to admit what his own reason imposes on him; the use of reason makes it possible to realize the original human vocation of knowing and dominating the world; it also makes it possible to identify the “natural law” which is part of God’s plan; civil laws must be founded on natural law; if are not based on it, they cannot be considered laws. Civil laws would not be themselves necessary, since anyone can know the natural law by himself by using reason; but since there are people who are diverted, spoiled, difficult to persuade, then it is necessary to force them with force, so that they leave the others in peace and are thereby led to want the good. According to Thomas the best type of government is the monarchy, which must submit to religious power, because only the latter is able to direct people to God, something that natural law is not able to do alone.
These notes on the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas allow, among other things, to realize how it lends itself to the exercise and defense of a constituted power: the philosopher Gianni Vattimo, which we will discuss later, tried often to point out that the forms of “strong thinking” have a close connection with power. Those in power can feel authorized by this philosophy to recognize themselves as endowed with the use of reason (by this reasoning: since everyone is endowed with reason, there are no grounds why I shouldn’t think being endowed with as well) and therefore justified in imposing on others the choices that are reasonable for him. This theory on the existence of a universal reason leads everyone to believe that the other as well should see things as he sees them; if the other sees them differently, it means that one of the two is not following the universal reason, the “natural law”. Between the two, he will have grounds to consider himself closer to the reason who has chosen to adopt precisely this philosophy of universal reason; so it turns out that it is a vicious circle of self-affirmation, which however cannot be admitted as vicious by those who have chosen this philosophy, because it itself leads them to believe that theirs is not a philosophy like the others, but it is the universal reason, the natural law. St. Thomas Aquinas was so dazzled by the clarifying possibilities of his reasoning, that he did not subject it to self-criticism, something that other philosophers, such as the sophists, had already been able to do much before him; on the other hand, the philosophical age in which he lived was all imbued with Aristotelianism and therefore he was logically induced by his historical conditions to take this path.
We add a little curiosity: the Code of Canon Law, which is the current book of the laws of the Catholic Church, published in Rome on January 25, 1983, in canon 252, paragraph 3, when speaking about the instruction to be given to seminarians, recommends: “… students are to learn to penetrate more intimately the mysteries of salvation, especially with St. Thomas as a teacher”.