chapter  7
14 Pages

AQUINAS’S CRITIQUE OF EDUCATION: AGAINST HIS OWN AGE, AGAINST OURS

Against his own age? Standard histories of medieval philosophy give so much attention to Aquinas’s thought that their readers may inadvertently conclude not only that Aquinas was an outstanding philosopher and theologian, but also that he was generally recognized as such by his contemporaries. Yet he was in important respects a marginal figure, an outsider. The ecclesiastical condemnation of 1277, three years after his death, was in part aimed at his opinions. The Franciscan theological tradition then and later viewed his writings as a source of error. In the perspective of some of the conservative Augustinians of his own time he must have seemed to be a more than usually evasive Latin Averroist. And to most of the Latin Averroists he would have appeared as someone unable to accept the full implications of Aristotelian philosophy. He had opponents even in the Dominican order and those Dominicans who after his death continued to study and teach the Summa theologiae too often understood it as a series of treatises, some more worth studying than others, so failing to grasp the overall structure and direction of Aquinas’s thought. The issues that thus divided Aquinas from so many of his contemporaries extended beyond substantive questions of philosophy and theology to matters of the curriculum. And, as the curriculum changed, during and after Aquinas’s lifetime, it was not in the direction that he would have taken it.