Preparation for the 7 June Session

Chapters VII and VIII of the Guide to St Thomas describe to us Aquinas's activity in the final years of his life, his late 40s. In addition to the content of his intellectual endeavours, pay attention to the discussion format often referred to in these two chapters: the disputatio, a method of debate which required from participants (1) a commitment to find the truth on a particular matter, (2) a thorough analysis of the opponent's argument, and (3) the advancing of one's own position based on logical and well-grounded reasoning. The second work by St Thomas that we'll start reading and discussing next month (De Veritate) will have this format.

Below are some questions as an optional help for your reading. If your time is limited choose three or four that you find more intriguing or interesting, and add others later.
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  • Who is that opponent St Thomas argues against the last five years of his life and why would others confuse St Thomas with that opponent?
  • What is, in a few words, the spirit, the essence of the disputatio and how does St Thomas practise it?
  • What were the risks of an ill-understood disputatio spirit (present even as far back as Socrates's time, and even more so during the late Middle-Ages? How does Thomas tackle this problem, for instance at the beginning of his Summa theologiae?
  • What is the role and importance of the articulus within the disputatio?
  • What was the difference between the quaestiones disputatae and the quaestiones quodlibetales and how did Thomas approach them?
  • Do you agree with the idea that the spirit of the disputatio is at the core of what a university should be about, as Thomas seems to have believed?
  • Among the many roles he had to fulfill in his life, what was the one that Thomas had most at heart up to the end?
  • What was the historic and nearly impossible task Urban IV assigned Thomas which regarded all Christendom (had you heard about it)?
  • What are the two components in the art of teaching according to St Thomas?
  • What is at the beginning of philosophising or any other kind of knowledge?
  • What kind of argumentation does Thomas use in his Summa contra gentiles?

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