Natural Reason in the Summa contra Gentiles

Natural Reason in the Summa contra Gentiles

te Velde, Rudi A.

Medieval Philosophy and Theology, vol. 4 (1994)


A distinctive feature of Aquinas’s Summa contra Gentiles is the central role the author assigns to natural reason in his project of manifesting the truth of Christian faith. Reason is supposed to give a rational account of the truth of what faith professes about God, to arrive at a veritas demonstrative!,) which will be shown to accord with the Christian religion. It is mainly because of this emphatic and what seems to be a rather presumptuous role of natural reason that the work has occasioned so much discussion and, consequently, diversity of opinion among the interpreters of Aquinas’s thought. Is the Contra Gentiles, insofar as reason is the leading principle of the investigation, to be regarded as a kind of ‘philosophical’ summa) as it was sometimes labeled in the past? The objection immediately arises that the fourth book explicitly deals with those truths of faith which are above reason.

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