Pasadena City College Aquinas and Augustine Philosophy Questions Use handouts for majority of the information, if external resource is needed please cite.
Pasadena City College Aquinas and Augustine Philosophy Questions Use handouts for majority of the information, if external resource is needed please cite.
I expect your final answers for the entire test to take between 2 or 3 pages, single spaced. Do not write a book! (although a book could be written about some of these issues). The goal is for you to show me that you understand the issues and the implications of these theories (I am not asking how you feel about these, I am not asking for your personal opinion or personal reaction to these issues).
1. Augustine argued that all moral behavior which is not based in the Christian religion is immoral. Explain the reasons he provided for this conclusion. (10 points)
2. Based on his understanding of God, St. Augustine argued that every single human being deserves eternal torture in hell because of something terrible. Why did Augustine think that every one of us, without exception, deserve hell? Was it because human beings were responsible for the death of Jesus? Was it because the God of Christianity is an angry god and will hurt everyone? Was it because not all human beings had converted to Christianity yet? Was it due to something that happened in human history in the past? Explain Augustine’s reasoning. (10 points)
3. One way that Augustine tried to account for the existence of evil is to claim that it is good that evil exists.
(a) Explain as clearly as you can how “it is good that evil exists” is supposed to solve the problem of the existence of unnecessary evil. Then,
(b) explain as clearly as you can one strong or important objection to that solution. (15 points)
4. One important doctrinal position held by St. Augustine is Predestination.
(1) Explain the Augustinian doctrine of Predestination, and why he thought it must be correct. (5 points)
(2) Explain two reasons why the majority of later Christian sects rejected the doctrine of Predestination. What are the unwelcome consequences (potential problems) which follow from this doctrine? (10 points)
5. St. Thomas Aquinas thought that humans could understand the structure and nature of the physical universe, even if they never read the Christian Bible. Yet Aquinas believed that the Bible is the word of God telling us things we could never know. Explain what reasons Aquinas provided to argue that we do not need the revelations of God in the Bible to understand the structure and nature of the physical universe. (10 points)
6. Aristotle had argued that all human behavior is action to achieve goals, and that eudaimonia was the chief goal, the ultimate goal. Thomas Aquinas also argued that all human behavior is action to achieve goals, and that there must be some ultimate goal, but it is not eudaimonia. In one or two sentences, what is the ultimate end or goal at which all human behavior aims, according to Aquinas? (10 points)
7. In his philosophical writings, Thomas Aquinas kept stressing the concept of “natural inclinations.”
(1) Briefly explain what Aquinas meant by natural inclinations (10 points).
(2) Briefly explain how these natural inclinations are related to ethics, according to Aquinas (5 points).
8. Aquinas made a distinction between God’s Eternal Law and what he called Natural Law.
Explain (1) what he means by Eternal Law,
explain (2) what he means by Natural Law,
explain (3) how are non-human creatures related to Natural Law,
explain (4) how are human beings related to Natural Law. (15 points) Dr. Zeuschner
Philosophy 3: Ethics
AQUINAS: MORALITY AND NATURAL LAW
ARISTOTLE, REASON, FAITH
I. There was an 800-year period between 430 CE (death of Augustine) and 1225 (birth of Aquinas).
II. The fundamental problem of the Middle Ages, of Medieval philosophy, was the problem of the
relationship between faith and reason, or, the relationship between the insights revealed to
humans by God (revelation) and the insights which human beings might achieve for themselves
using science and critical thinking (philosophy): the conflict between faith and reason; the
conflict between science and religion.
THE BACKGROUND OF MEDIEVAL CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY (Zeuschner, Classical Ethics, p.
The period between 430 CE (death of Augustine) and 1225 (birth of Aquinas).
1. After Augustine, we have the collapse of civilized conditions in Western Europe, the
Catholic philosopher Boethius (480–524) translated Aristotle’s LOGIC into usable Latin, and
wanted to translate Aristotle’s politics, ethics, rhetoric, and his Metaphysics, but was killed
before he could do so.
1. The Church condemned him to death by torture.
The Christian Emperor Justinian (483–565 CE) outlawed the teaching of philosophy and
critical thinking, asserting that the end times were near and the only things humans needed
to know were in the Christian bible, thereby hastening the slide of the Christian Roman
empire into the Dark Ages.
1. The Academy of Plato (opened 387 BCE) was closed in 529 CE, because no non-Christian
educational institutions were allowed to remain open.
2. Europe entered the Dark Ages as the reliance upon reason receded.
a. Knowledge of astronomy by Greek and Roman scholars was lost; knowledge of
anatomy and surgery was forgotten.
b. Reliance on prayer and miraculous healing was stressed.
c. Secular teachers and secular doctors were replaced by priests who used chants,
potions, horoscopes and amulets.
d. It was illegal to dissect a cadaver so those who practiced medicine were prohibited
from acquiring firsthand knowledge of the human body.
The Roman Catholic Church provided clearly defined roles (determined by God), and
guaranteed access to Salvation.
1. The cosmic order dictated that the universal hierarchy of Forms in Nature be mirrored in
the social order, in which every member of society had a designated place (the poor were
poor because God had put them into that place; the rich were rich because God had
chosen them to be elite and wealthy).
2. The Pope Boniface VIII/8 (1230–1303) wrote:
“We hereby declare state and pronounce that it is altogether necessary for salvation
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for every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”
a. That included all kings including kings of France, Sicily, Italy, England.
b. Pope Boniface was accused of heresy and sodomy, and in the Divine Comedy, Dante
(1266–1321) criticized and made fun of the Pope and placed him in the Eighth Circle of
Life and Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274 CE): Aristotle, reason, and faith.
A. Aquinas was born just before the Sixth Crusade commenced in 1228; was seventh son of the
Duke of Aquino, Italian nobility.
1. Studied philosophy at the University of Paris under Albertus Magnus (“Albert the Great”,
2. Aquinas produced a Great Compromise by uniting the two great existing systems of
wisdom in the Western world:
the school of Aristotle and Greek science (reason),
and the school of Plato and his Christian followers based on Augustine (faith).
B. Aquinas spent his life studying, writing, and teaching.
1. He was a Dominican monk in a Dominican monastery, never leaving it except by
permission, and saw his primary work as scholarship, combined with prayer for the
world and the praise of God.
2. According to those who knew him, Aquinas’s qualities were sincerity, modesty, openness,
innocence, all combined with unusual intellectual abilities.
C. Aquinas believed that the universe is intelligible and we do not need the Bible to understand
it — its structure and laws can be grasped by the finite human intellect — if human beings
expend great mental intellectual effort, they can come to UNDERSTAND the natural universe
(this is what Aristotle did with pure reason, so we do not need God’s revelation to
understand the world), we can figure out the universe that science makes clear for all of us
(but we cannot comprehend God himself).
D. Aquinas’ motto: intelligo ut credam (“I understand and that leads to belief; Belief can come
only through understanding”); reason and careful thinking leads to belief/faith.
1. Augustine’s classic statement was the reverse: “credo ut intelligam” one MUST start with
belief/faith, and only then one can understand (“I believe that I may understand” or “I
come to understanding only through belief”); Christian doctrines will seem absurd to
anyone who does not have deep faith in Christianity to begin with.
E. Aquinas argued that reason can understand the world and reason also leads us towards God,
but we need to use faith to gain the final truth about God.
1. This means that the ultimate conclusions of the Christian church MUST BE TAKEN ON
FAITH, and are not available for rational philosophical examination.
2. Therefore, the conclusions of Church authorities become UNQUESTIONED AND
UNQUESTIONABLE PREMISES about the physical world.
V. Moral philosophy of Aquinas.
A. Aquinas offers a Christian re-interpretation of Aristotle’s ethics, combined with Plato,
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Augustine, and St. Paul.
Aquinas argues that, using reason, human beings can prove that God exists.
A. Aquinas writes that it is necessary to prove that God exists, because if we cannot prove that
God exists, then we cannot rely on the Bible as the word of God or the teachings of the
church as intermediary between God and humans:
“Now among the inquiries that we must undertake concerning God in Himself, we
must set down in the beginning that whereby His Existence is demonstrated, as the
necessary foundation of the whole work. For, if we do not demonstrate that God
exists, all consideration of divine things is necessarily suppressed.”
1. However, this is not a problem because Aquinas believes that Aristotle already proved
that God existed.
2. Aristotle did this centuries before Christianity began, so the proof did not require one to
be a Christian or to have faith; only required one to look at nature and use reason.
B. Aquinas argues that pure reason combined with sense experience leads us towards God
because (without quoting the bible or Church authorities) three hundred years before Jesus,
Aristotle had provided the COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT.
1. Every event is caused
2. No event causes itself
3. It is impossible that there would be an infinite series of causes; they must start
somewhere [Aristotle rejected infinity].
4. Therefore, there must be an Uncaused First Cause (Unmoved Mover) which causes
everything [Aristotle’s argument for deism ended here].
5. Aquinas adds: That Uncaused First Cause is the same being that Christians call God.
6. Therefore, the single omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent Christian God exists.
C. PROBLEMS WITH AQUINAS’S ARGUMENT
1. If any premise is less than 100% certain, the argument fails because a good sound or
cogent argument requires true premises; you cannot have a certain conclusion based on
premises which are maybe true, possibly true, doubtful, or false.
a. How could it be possible for anyone to know that every event has a cause?
b. Why is an infinite series of causes impossible? This violates no laws of nature or logic.
c. If there is an “uncaused first cause,” then this contradicts the first premise, “every
event has a cause.”
d. If one asserts “every event except God has a cause” as a premise, then we are assuming
that God exists in order to prove that God exists; this is the fallacy of begging the
D. OBJECTIONS TO AQUINAS’ ARGUMENT: How does the existence of God explain the existence
of the universe, the existence of human beings, explain anything?
1. To say that the universe was created by an incomprehensible being, using
incomprehensible power or force, for incomprehensible reasons, does not seem to offer
much of an explanation.
2. The argument claims that the existence of God “explains” the existence of the universe
(incomprehensible God caused it using incomprehensible forces), but it now seems
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appropriate to ask for an explanation of God’s existence.
3. If you explain what exists by saying that God decided to create it, you still need to
explain the existence of God — also you have replaced one mystery (existence of
everything) by another (existence of a mysterious God who, by definition, can never be
4. If the Cosmological Argument were good, it supports Deism; it does not demonstrate a God
with omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence, or monotheism.
Eternal Law & Natural Law; God is the lawgiver of all laws — laws of nature, and moral
All the laws of nature (first principles, plus all those principles guiding all creatures,
animate and inanimate, living things and unmoving matter), and all the laws of morality
(and of society) are to be considered as particular cases of one single infinite divine law,
God’s Eternal Law (the source of all laws).
1. Human beings have the ability to follow God’s guiding principles, but they also have the
ability NOT to follow God’s guidance (humans have FREE WILL); non-humans simply
FOLLOW God’s plan because they do NOT have free will; they merely have instincts
(therefore non-human creatures always follow God’s plan; they cannot help it).
God imprints onto our souls natural inclinations to our proper acts and ends, and this
inclination is provided by God’s divine law.
DEFINITION: ETERNAL LAW is God’s idea and plan for an ordered universe; the Eternal Law
is “God’s plan for rationally ordered movements and actions in the created universe;” the
Eternal Law is God’s master-plan, and all other laws or rules must be derived from this Law
(but no human can understand the infinite Eternal Law or the infinite mind of God).
DEFINITION: NATURAL LAW is that aspect of the Eternal Law that is imprinted or
impressed on rational creatures to direct them to their final end, which is perfect
happiness; it is called “Natural Law” because it is grounded in nature itself, and manifests
itself through nature (instincts for animals, natural inclinations for humans).
1. Natural Law is understandable by reason (does not require faith or the Bible), and
includes Î physics and laws of nature, but also includes Ï moral laws which apply only
to humans (Do good, avoid Evil).
Thus, Aquinas has added ETERNAL LAW grounded in God’s Eternal plan onto Aristotle’s
theory of laws of nature, First Principles, or Natural Law.
VIII. What is the CONTENT of the Natural Law?
A. Aquinas begins with Aristotle’s principle (which we cannot prove but seems obvious) that
“the good is that which all desire and seek.” or Aquinas’s FIRST INDEMONSTRABLE PRINCIPLE:
THE GOOD IS THAT WHICH ALL THINGS SEEK AFTER.
1. From Aristotle’s principle that “the good is that which all desire and seek,” we can
generate the FIRST PRINCIPLE OF THE NATURAL LAW: GOOD IS TO BE DONE AND
PROMOTED, AND EVIL IS TO BE AVOIDED.
B. MORAL LAWS CAN BE UNDERSTOOD AS FOLLOWING FROM THE FIRST PRINCIPLE OF THE
NATURAL LAW, AND USING REASON WE CAN SEE THAT THEY ARE BASED ON HUMAN
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1. Human beings and everything else in nature naturally seeks to preserve their own
existence: hence, another principle of the Natural Law is: Seek the things necessary for
the preservation of life; avoid those which destroy life; preserve life (“Thou shalt not kill
unless the Bible authorizes the killing”).
2. Because Aquinas learned from Augustine that there is one and only one purpose of sex
(children, procreation), and because we have a strong inclination to engage in sex, God
must want us to procreate as often as possible and educate offspring, so another principle
is: Foster offspring; unite with the opposite sex in a union of love; avoid anything that
would be contrary to the natural use of this power of procreation (no contraception),
avoid anything that would be contrary to the natural attraction between male and
a. Thus, Aquinas condemns masturbation, oral sex, all same-sex activity, and all sexual
activity which does not end in unprotected sexual intercourse, as immoral and against
b. Aquinas argues against non-procreative sex with this assertion: IT IS WRONG TO USE
PARTS OF ONE’S BODY FOR ANYTHING OTHER THAN THEIR NATURAL PURPOSES and
there is only one natural purpose for human body parts, including sexual organs.
c. Aquinas seems to assume that one and only ONE Natural Purpose for each body part
(consider your hands — what is their ONE natural purpose? catching, throwing,
snapping fingers, pointing, typing, punching)
3. We have a natural inclination to know the good, and God is supremely good, so that
means we have a natural inclination to communicate with God, and hence another
principle is: Reverence the Supreme Being.
C. Aquinas feels that all the various moral principles which follow from “Do good and avoid
evil” are equally self-evident; we can generate Christian morality by reasoning about our
natural inclinations to “do good and avoid evil.”
D. Aquinas argues we can figure out Christian morality independently of God’s commands; we
need to work out the details of Christian morality based upon NATURAL INCLINATIONS
imprinted on our soul by God, and not upon the divine commands of God (here Aquinas
disagrees with the Divine Command theory of St. Augustine).
E. It would follow that every human being could use reason to arrive at the morality of
Christianity; one did not have to believe in God or the Bible or know God’s commands or
know anything about Christianity, but merely reason about natural inclinations.
Aquinas analyzes a voluntary action, and adopts Aristotle’s position, which has two parts: (a)
a voluntary act is initiated by the agent; (b) it is done for a rationally ascertained end.
X. Is it possible to avoid responsibility for one’s actions by claiming ignorance? (“I didn’t know
about Christianity so you cannot send me to hell because I was ignorant”).
A. Ignorance is antecedent to the act of will when you are ignorant, and are not responsible
for that ignorance, and would have behaved differently if you knew — this does excuse
responsibility, and is involuntary.
1. You are NOT responsible; “such ignorance causes what is involuntary absolutely.”
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B. Ignorance is concomitant with the act of will when you might be ignorant, but wouldn’t
change your behavior if you knew the facts — then this is not voluntary nor involuntary
(coerced) but just non-voluntary.
1. You are NOT responsible, because “that which is unknown cannot be actually willed.”
C. Ignorance is consequent to the act of will when you CHOOSE not to know, choose to be
ignorant; or you are ignorant of what you OUGHT to know — then you are still responsible
1. Because the ignorance was willed, the acts which the ignorance causes are also willed;
you are responsible.
Relationship between conscience, consequences, and intentions.
A. If you follow your conscience, does that mean that your action is a good act? Aquinas says
B. Good and evil are determined by what the agent intends and NOT by the consequences
which the act produces.
C. Thus, Aquinas seems primarily DEONTOLOGICAL in his orientation, and not as much
Some things which Aquinas thought must be added to Aristotle to complete ethics.
1. Human beings are still living in the state of Original Sin, and as a consequence, they
cannot attain even Aristotle’s goal of natural happiness (eudaimonia) here on earth,
much less the Christian goal of super-natural bliss-filled happiness in Heaven.
2. There is a supernatural happiness in addition to natural human happiness (eudaimonia);
the ultimate goal which all human action aims towards, is the “beatific [bestowing bliss]
vision of God.”
3. The Aristotelian virtues: courage, temperance, justice, prudence; Aquinas adds obedience,
faith, love of God, hope, chastity, charity.
4. Aquinas (1) modifies Aristotle’s theory of moral responsibility into a theory of free will
and (2) attributes the source and authority for these moral principles to the divine being,
to the natural laws God makes available to human beings.
5. Aristotle’s idea of natural laws [contemplation on first principles] must be supplemented
with God’s Eternal Law.
XIII. Critical Remarks.
A. Aquinas’ proof of the existence of God fails, and by his own admission, if that fails, then
there is no justification for everything else.
B. If we cannot know that God does exist, then Eternal Laws don’t work; then Natural Laws are
not based on Eternal Laws.
C. Aquinas confuses (1) prescriptive laws (have a law-giver and sanctions), and (2) descriptive
laws (human attempts to provide accurate descriptions of patterns which occur like gravity
or the way gas expands when heated; no sanctions).
D. Aquinas seems to be stretching matters in the way he works out specific moral laws from
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Philosophy 3: Ethics
CHRISTIAN ETHICS: THE ETHICS OF AUGUSTINE
Who is Augustine (354–430).
Augustine is a Saint of the Catholic church,
Christian theologian who converted Greek philosophy into meaningful Christian thought.
II. TERMINOLOGY: How many gods are there?
1. Theism: One or more gods exist, cares about us, rewards, punishes, judges, and interjects itself into
history with miracles.
2. Monotheism: one god.
3. Polytheism: many gods.
4. Pantheism: all things are gods, or all is made out of God.
5. Monism: One-ness — all is One (no separation between God and nature; maybe no God at all).
6. Atheism: no evidence to support the belief that a God exists.
7. Agnosticism: we are not entitled on the basis of evidence either to believe that God exists or to
believe that God does not exist (“I-don’t-know-ism”).
8. Deism: God creates the world and then leaves it to run by itself in isolation; God does not care
about humans, does not hear prayers or rituals, does not judge, does not perform miracles.
III. Christianity is often considered to have three main divisions:
A. Roman Catholic (Rome estimates about 1.2 billion), centered in Rome, language is Latin.
B. Eastern Orthodox, or Orthodox Catholic Church (about 230 million), centered in Constantinople/Istabul,
language is Greek, separated from Roman Catholics officially in 1054 CE.
C. Protestant (over 5000 sects, totaling about 900 million) began in the 1500s.
1. Protestantism (Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopalian/Anglican,
Congregationalists, Adventists, and many others), is identified by
(1) rejecting the religious authority of papacy;
(2) rejects claim that a priest controls the tools of salvation; instead the emphasis on individual’s
responsibility for salvation through faith (not priest).
IV. Two additional branches of Christianity.
A. Oriental Orthodox churches.
1. In 451, several groups from Persia, Armenia, Syria [Jacobites], Ethiopia, Egypt [Coptic church], and
India broke away from Constantinople — and became autonomous Christian churches.
1. Assyrians of Iraq, Iran, and Turkey.
2. Nestorian Malabar Christians in India.
V. Religions popular in the Greek/Roman world before Christianity.
A. The Persian religion of Zoroastrianism was founded by Zoroaster (Greek spelling of Zarathustra) who
lived between 1000 BCE to 500 BCE and lived in what today is eastern Iran.
1. Taught the existence of a perfectly good spirit-God and equally powerful Satan/ Devil God, also
angels and demons, heaven and hell.
2. Taught resurrectio…
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