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Italian Dominican theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas was the foremost medieval Scholasticist and father of the Thomistic school of theology.
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It governs man's sense of right and wrong. Positive law is the law of the State, or government, and should always be a manifestation of natural law. Eternal law, in the case of rational beings, depends on reason and is put into action through free will, which also works toward the accomplishment of our spiritual goals.
Combining traditional principles of theology with modern philosophic thought,
St. Thomas Aquinas' treatises touched upon the questions and struggles of medieval intellectuals, church authorities and everyday people alike. Perhaps this is precisely what marked them as unrivaled in their influence on the thinking of the times, and explains why they would continue to serve as a building block for contemporary thought, garnering responses from theologians, philosophers, critics and believers thereafter.
A prolific writer, St. Thomas Aquinas penned close to 60 known works ranging in length from short to tome-like. Handwritten copies of his works were distributed to libraries across Europe. His philosophical and theological writings spanned a wide spectrum of topics, including commentaries on the Bible and discussions of Aristotle's writings on Natural Philosophy.
While teaching at Cologne in the early 1250s, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote a lengthy commentary on scholastic theologian Peter Lombard's Four Books of Sentences, called Scriptum super libros Sententiarium, or Commentary on the Sentences. During that period, he also wrote De ente et essentia, or On Being and Essence, for the Dominican monks in Paris.
In 1256, while serving as regent master in theology at the University of Paris, Aquinas wrote Impugnantes Dei cultum et religionem, or Against Those Who Assail the Worship of God and Religion, a treatise defending mendicant orders that William of Saint-Amour had criticized.
Written from 1265 to 1274, St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica is mainly philosophical in nature, and was followed by Summa Contra Gentiles, which, while still philosophical, comes across to many critics as apologetic of the beliefs he expressed in his prior work.
St. Thomas Aquinas is also known for writing commentaries examining the principles of Natural Philosophy espoused in Aristotle's writings: On the Heavens, Meteorology, On Generation and Corruption, On the Soul, Nicomachean Ethics and Metaphysics, among others.
Shortly after his death, St. Thomas Aquinas' theological and philosophical writings rose to great public acclaim and reinforced a strong following among the Dominicans. Universities, seminaries and colleges came to replace Lombard's Four Books of Sentences with Summa Theologica as the leading theology textbook. The influence of St. Thomas Aquinas' writing has been so widespread, in fact, that somewhere in the range of 6,000 commentaries on his work exist to date.
In June of 1272, St. Thomas Aquinas agreed to go to Naples and start a theological studies program for the Dominican house neighboring the university.
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