Die wetsidee as sleutel tot die filosofie van die Katolieke “doctor communis”
The doctor communis, Thomas Aquinas’ (1224/25-1274), philosophy has already been interpreted and reinterpreted in the past in many different ways by both Catholics and Protestants. The present effort is aware of the danger of trying to explain a philosopher’s or theologian’s conception from one single or leading idea, and to reduce the rest of his/her thinking to such a central motive. I am, however, of the opinion that one’s idea about law and normativity does play an important role in her/his whole system of thought. Therefore this essay (following a previous, introductory one on the basic religious direction of Aquinas’ philosophy in this journal) investigates Aquinas’ view of law as a kind of steel structure which keep together, determines and explains other aspects of his philosophy and theology in his Summa Contra Gentiles. With this “key” the rest of his complicated thought may be “unlocked”. In summary his idea of law boils down to the following: The laws exist (1) prior to creation (as archetypes) in the mind of God, (2) they were created by God into the cosmos, and (3) the human mind can contain them after abstracting them from creation.
The investigation develops as follows: (1) It first explains how the law exists (as essence – or pure form) in God since He is his essence or law, He is the absolute truth. (2) Secondly, it is indicated how also the law and the cosmos are not clearly distinguished but confused in Aquinas’ thinking. The law (viewed as a “thing”) is “cosmologised”. This is evident from Aquinas’ use of concepts like exemplar, similitude, ratio and verbum. (3) Thirdly, his hierarchical view of the cosmos, derived from Aristotle, is also based on a pyramidal view of law. (4) The conclusion explains the writer’s own philosophical point of departure. In the place of Aquinas’ hierarchical ontology, implying only a relative difference between God, his law and his creation, and as a consequence a primarily ontic relationship between God and creation, the writer proposes a radical ontic distinction between them, as well as a close religious relationship.
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