In this chapter I propose to deal directly with some of the contested passages and argue that their meaning is not always what it seems to be at first sight: their textual and theoretical context, developments in Aquinas’s thought and the historical background offer clues for alternative readings.
Narratives of resistance: arguments against the mendicants in the works of Matthew Paris and William of Saint-Amour
The rise of the new mendicant orders, foremost the Franciscans and Dominicans, is one of the great success stories of thirteenth-century Europe. Combining apostolic poverty with sophisticated organization and university learning, they brought much needed improvements to pastoral care in the growing cities.
For some 50 years now, I have been studying the texts of St. Thomas on cognition. Over the years periods of intensive study of the texts have alternated with periods of reflection without reference to concrete texts and long periods in which the topic lay fallow, because I was occupied with other concerns.
Aquinas’s First Way of arguing for the existence of God famously rests on the Aristotelian premise that “whatever is in motion is moved by another.” Let us call this the “principle of motion.” Newton’s First Law states that “every body continues in its state of rest or of uniform motion in a straight line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.” Call this the “principle of inertia.
Civic and Religious Understanding of the Mentally Ill, Incompetent, and Disabled of Medieval England
This brief summary covered the fourth paper given at KZOO’s Mental Health in Non-medical Terms. It covered ways in which theologians, like Thomas Aquinas, tried to categorize mental disability. Aquinas also tried to prove that the mentally impaired were able to receive sacraments depending their lucidity and where they fit in his four categories. It was an interesting and enjoyable paper.
Let me begin my own discussion of Aquinas by saying that it seems to me that Cohen adequately proved that it was a mistake to view the sensible form as existing in the soul rather than the organ, and that Aquinas is not denying to the sensible form as received by the sensor a place in the physical world, or indeed physical existence, when he says it exists immaterially or spiritually.