Peter Abelard and St. Thomas Aquinas

How was education in the medieval ages effected by Peter Abelard and St. Thomas Aquinas?

The two main leaders of the medieval time that contributed to the expansion of education were Peter Abelard and St. Thomas Aquinas.  Peter Abelard developed the dialectical method of thought process that would influence western education greatly.  Throughout most of his life, he had a great many enemies due to his high level of understanding and accomplishments he had made for himself.  Abelard sought in his book, Sic et Non, the argument of both sides to some 150 theological questions.  In Abelard’s Historia Calamitatum, he explains his life and what lead him to develop such a book as to be condemned by the church.  “I devoted myself to analyzing the basis of out faith through illustrations based on human understanding, and I wrote for my students a certain tract on the unity and trinity of God.  This I did because they were always seeking for rational and philosophical explanations.”  Unfortunately, he made enemies with people that had close connections with the legate who condemned his book and made him throw it into the flames.  The main contribution of Abelard’s in the medieval period of time was his reasoning and skills to argue for both sides.  His dialectical method of approach is still used to this day and has had a major impact on current educational understanding.

St. Thomas Aquinas contributed more to the concept of Scholastic philosophy as Abelard did.  He based everything back to church and religion and used his technique to explain with conviction about God and the universe generating support for the Christian beliefs.  His most important work was the Summa Theologica, which was supposed to provide a look into Christian theology and the universe from a nonreligious viewpoint, even though it was never finished.  In the Summa Theologica Aquinas argued whether or not God exists giving reasons for objection and proving that in fact God does exist in five ways.  It was supposed to absolve any objections to his theories so that there would be less than no room for dispute.

Two other works, the Summation of the Catholic Faith and the Summation of Knowledge, are also works done by Aquinas and express reasons theologically about certain issues.  In the Summation of the Catholic Faith Aquinas talks about the difference between humans being able to disconcert from mortal reason and divine reason.  Aquinas states that there is an inability for humans to attain some information that only God can understand, “Some truths about God exceed all the ability of the human reason.  Such is the truth the God is triune.  But there are some truths which the natural reason is able to reach.  Such are that God exists.”  Human do not have a high enough level of comprehension as Aquinas compares that an uneducated farm worker would not understand the vast philosophical intellect of a scholar.

In the Summation of Knowledge Aquinas theorizes on an array of everyday fundamental things such as the sins related with trade; for example, of cheating which is committed when you buy or sell something or the sin of usury.  Aquinas would present a topic, give objections to it, and then refute those objections.  For the topic of the cheating which is committed when someone buys or sells something, Aquinas goes on to say that one objection would be that “it would seem lawful to sell something for more than it is worth.”  However, he later refutes this point by saying that no man should sell something for more than it is worth because they would not want to buy something that was sold to them for more than it was worth.  Aquinas continues to go and make further objection while later contradicting them.

Aquinas’s work went on to inspire such great thinkers as St. Bonaventure who continued on with Aquinas’s theories and wanted to help humans be able to understand the existence of God and the universe around them using the new type of theological questioning.

Both of these men dedicated their lives to education and furthering it to new levels of philosophical understanding.  They both contributed to the development of a better learning system and establishment of a better learning institution.

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~ by wolfangel87 on February 1, 2011.

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