©2000 NewFoundations

THE EDUCATIONAL THEORY OF THOMAS AQUINAS (1225 - 1274)

Analyst: John P. Galgonovicz

aquinas

RETURN
8/18/11

1. Theory of Value

What knowledge and skills are worthwhile learning?

Knowledge and skills worthwhile learning include the study of logic, which teaches the methods of the sciences, mathermatics, natural philosophy, moral philosophy, and divine science (Bourke, 1960, p. 44). Natural science is considered the best means of understanding man due to the method of reason. Logic is addressed first in the learning process because other sciences depend on ft. Learning is to get scientific knowledge from another. This leads to sure knowledge, which is called science. This is most evident in the mathematical sciences (Bourke, 1960, p. 40)

Mathematics is more certain than divine science because divine science studies are further from issues of sensation of which knowledge takes its origin. These objects do fall within sense experience, such as figures lines, and numbers. Mathematical thinking is considered easier and more certain than physical or theological (Bourke, 1960, p. 41). It is taken as a clear kind of knowledge which is capable of being taught to youth without great difficulty (Bourke, 1960, p.7).

Natural philosophy chiefly emphasizes the method of reasoning. The method of intellection is characteristic to divine science. The learning of metaphysics provides the opportunities for the human intellect to be used at peak capacity.

What are the goals of education?

The goals of education are to teach man issues which are worthwhile through knowledge of different subjects. The use of logic will be used to teach man scientific knowledge, mathematics, natural philosophy, and metaphysics.

The belief of religious faith is also important so that man can achieve everlasting life with God (Bourke, 1960, p.284)

2. Theory of Knowledge

What is knowledge?

Knowledge is a particular kind of being, a modification. or vital action action of the knowing subject. Knowledge does not occur simply from the thing, but rather the thing known and the person knowing cooperate in the production of the issue (DeWulf, 1959, p. 9).

There are two different types of knowledge: sense knowledge and intellectual knowledge. Sense experience is the beginning for all of man's natural knowledge. It begins in the senses, and is completed in the intellect (Bourke, 1960, p. 12). There is a dual operation to the intellect. One operation is the understanding of indivisibility, where the intellect grasps the reality of each item in itself; the other operation relates to combining and distinguishing (Bourke, 1960, p. 14). Aquinas believed that several sensations grouped together would create a memory, and that many memories grouped together equal sense experience. Sense knowledge is only understandable by the action of the intellect.

There are various types of sense knowledge: sense-memory, sense-consciousness, instinct, and imagination (DeWulf, 1959, p. 12).

Sense memory allows the individual to reproduce in one's memory an image they had seen. Sense-consciousness gives an awareness of an object through various sense perceptions. Instinct relates to a particular concrete connection such as an individual fleeing from fire. Imagination takes materials supplied through sense memory and translates them into a particular image composed of characters derived from other images.

The second type of knowledge, intellectual knowledge, is abstract and general. This knowledge is quite different from the concrete and particular of external and internal senses. This was due to the fact that abstract knowledge was attributed to intelligence or reason (DeWulf, 1959, p. 15).

The general ability to understand covers simple apprehension, judgment, and reasoning. Simple apprehension is when the mind accepts an object without affirming or denying it. The issue of judgment is the reality that two objects are in agreement or disagreement. Reasoning is the production of new judgment by means of two others (DeWulf, 1959, p. 17).

How does it differ from belief ?

Knowledge begins in sense and is completed in the intellect (Bourke, 1960, p. 12). Belief occurs through faith. A person may not be moved to accept an object as true, but by an act of will, he believes. Objects of belief deal with divine matters which exceed man's cognitive capabilities. The belief of such religious faith is necessary for all men if they are to achieve everlasting life with God (Bourke, 1960, p. 284).

What is a mistake?

A mistake occurs as a result of a judgment in the intellect. Truth and falsity are found primarily in its judgment as it associates and dissociates (Bourke, 1960, p. 13).

What is a lie

A lie is an act which falls upon improper matter because words are signs of what is understood. It is unnatural and unfitting for one to communicate by word what was not in his mind.

'A lie is of itself mean and something to be avoided, while the truth is good and praiseworthy." (Bourke, 1960, p.218)

3. Theory of Human Nature

What is a human being?

A human being is an individual substance of a rational nature. The human individual is composed of a body and soul. The body plays the part of matter and the soul acts as the substantial form (DeWulf , 1959, p. 83).

As bodily substance, man is a being subject to the same general laws explanations we have for other bodies. Since he is involved in intellection and volition, this raises his being beyond the philosophy of physical beings. Man is the most complex creature and lives on the border between brutes and angels (Bourke, 1960, p. 92).

How does it differ from the other species?

Man is composed of both body and soul. Neither the soul nor body is complete. They give themselves to each other, and form one unit. It is because of man's soul that the functions of man include the specific human powers of knowledge and will (DeWulf, 1959, p. 84). Animals perceive issues such as friendliness and hostility by natural instinct, while man compares things. Man's will is different from the sensitive appetite because it desires good in general compared to the sensitive appetite which focuses on particular objects desired by the senses (Copleston, 1962, p. 99).

Although man desires happiness, it does not mean that he is not free concerning his choices. These choices of will are thorough intellectual judgments evaluating the objects. It is in the act of decision that man is free. Even though true happiness is found in the possession of God, our intellect has not gotten the vision of God as the only source of happiness. Consequently, man may will something other than God (Copleston, 1962, p. 100).

What are the limits of human potential?

Man does not always will the good. He may will something other than God, or even exclude Him. Man may turn his eyes away from the truth and to sensual pleasures (Copleston, 1962, p. 100).

4. Theory of Learning

What is learning?

Learning takes place when one person teaches another, and the teacher conveys knowledge to the pupil's mind by causing him to know what he previously had the capacity to know before (Specimen Pages from the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas, p. 3).

Learning is to get scientific knowledge from another. This leads to sure knowledge, which is called science. This is most evident in the mathematical sciences (Bourke, 1960, p. 40)

How are skills and knowledge acquired?

Knowledge must result from the activity of the pupil's own mind. Along with acquiring knowledge with the aid of the teacher, he can also acquire knowledge by applying his mind by which he knows the first principles of all knowledge. The teacher often points out issues which the pupil had not thought of and shows the relationship between concepts which the pupil would not have noticed without the teacher pointing them out. Aquinas stresses

that teachers are only for helping the student know. The student must digest the knowledge. Otherwise, it is like pouring water into a sieve (Specimen Pages from the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas, p. 3).

5. Theory of Transmission

Who is to teach?

Aquinas depicts three things in the character of those who are to teach: stability, clearness, and purity of intention. With stability, the teacher may never stray from the truth; with clearness, he is to teach without obscurity, and the purity of intention, he may seek God's glory and not his own (Specimen Pages from the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas, p. 2).

By what methods?

In teaching, one should not overwhelm the student with many useless questions, but rather with ones which are primary and fundamental. Students should be given a clear knowledge of the issues. This is a general rule which should be observed in educational institutions from the university to the primary school. Failure to follow this direction results in graduates receiving a little bit of everything and knowledge of nothing (Specimen Pages from the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas, p. 2).

Knowledge can be communicated through books which should be written With consideration for clearness and perception and helpful to the memory. Also, in teaching, Thomas advocates avoiding repetitions which are unnecessary because they will cause disgust and confusion. For a young student, it may be necessary to repeat the same thing, but vie must be aware of the limits of this process (Specimen Pages from the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas, p. 2).

What will the curriculum be?

Knowledge and skills worthwhile learning include the study of logic, which teaches the methods of the sciences, mathematics, natural philosophy, moral philosophy, and divine science (Bourke, 1960, p. 44).

Mathematics is more certain than divine science because divine science studies are further from issues of sensation of which knowledge takes its origin. These objects do fall within sense experience, such as figures lines, and numbers. Mathematical thinking is considered easier and more certain than physical or theological (Bourke, 1960, p. 41). It is taken as a clear kind of knowledge which is capable of being taught to youth without great difficulty (Bourke, 1960, p.7).

Natural philosophy chiefly emphasizes the method of reasoning. The method of intellection is characteristic to divine science. The learning of metaphysics provides the opportunities for the human intellect to be used at peak capacity.

6. Theory of Society

What is society?

Society is a union of men for the purpose of accomplishing a particular objective. Society can be either public or private. A public society is one whose members associate with each other to establish a republic. A private society exists for some private business when a few men join together for the purpose of doing business (Bourke, 1960, p. 233).

Society is also classified as perpetual or temporary. Citizens joining together to live in a state is a perpetual society. Private society is related to the bond by which people are gathered such as husband and wife or master and servant (Bourke, 1960, p. 233).

What institutions are involved in the educational process?

The family is part of the educational process. The children need instruction from their parents, not as soon as they are born, but when they are able to arrive at discretion (Bourke, 1960, p. 221) Aquinas believed the main reason people got married was to have children and that husband and wife should remain together until the children were fully grown and educated. This reinforced Aquinas' arguments regarding monogamy and the indissolubility of the marriage bond (Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Volume 8,1967, p. 113).

7. Theory of Opportunity

Who is to be educated? Who is to be schooled'?

All human beings will acquire knowledge through sense perception- Their power to know things comes about through intellect and understanding (Bourke, 1960, p. 3)

8. Theory of Consensus

Why do people disagree?

Choice concerns the means to the final end of happiness, and it is possible for man to consider objects from more than one point of view (Copleston, 1962, p. 101)

How is consensus achieved?

Some may agree due to being from the same parents. Others do so based on civil agreement since they are citizens of the same state and are under the same ruler and governed by the same laws. Also, some agreement Is found in every business (Bourke, 1960, p. 258).

Whose opinion takes precedence?

There must be due harmony between the natural and supernatural end of man so that man prefers attaining the final end to anything else. If a sovereign requires him to act contrary to the final end, he must disobey him (Copleston, 1962, p. 142).



References

Bourke, V. J. (1960). The Pocket Aquinas.. New York, Simon and Schuster.

Copleston, F. (1962). A History of Philosophy. (Vols. 1-3). New York, Doubleday and Co. Inc.

DeWulf, M. (1959). The System of Thomas Aquinas. New York, Dover Publishing Co.

Encyclopedia of Philosophy (1967). Volume 8, New York, The Macmillan Company and Free Press.

"Influence of St. Thomas on Philosophy". http:/hvww.nd.edu./Departments/Maritain/etext/staamp5.htm

"Specimen Pages from the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas".

http://www.nd.edu./Departments/Maritain/etext/staamp7.htm#Hints

TO TOP