Commentary on the First Question of the Summa Theologiae
This is an outline format / translation of the first question from St. Thomas’ Summa Theologiae. I have outlined the questions to show the structural logic of how each of the syllogisms build upon one another. I then offer a commentary on the first question, which reads Aquinas as an analyst of situation.
Whether besides natural science, a sacred science is necessary?
1.1 It seems that besides natural science, no other science is necessary.
Because it dangerous to seek what is above human reason and what cannot be proven to immediate experience (Ecclesiastes 3:22).
But whatever is within human reason and can be proven to immediate experience is fully treated of in natural science.
Therefore, any science besides natural science is superfluous.
1.2 Further, natural science can only be concerned with being.
For nothing can be known except what is true.
And all that is, is true.
But everything that is true, is treated of in natural science, even God Himself; there is even a part of natural science called divine science or theology (Metaphysics VI).
Therefore, besides natural science, there is no need for a sacred science.
1.3 On the contrary, sacred Revelation inspired of God is no part of natural science, which has been built up by human reason. (2 Timothy 3:16)
Therefore, it is useful that besides natural science, there should be another science, inspired by God.
I respond that, it was necessary for man’s salvation that there should be a sacred science Revealed by God, besides the natural science that is merely built up by human reason;
Firstly, because man is directed to an end that is above reason, God. (Isaiah 66:4)
But this end that is above reason must be first known by men who are to direct their thoughts and actions to that end.
Hence it is necessary for the salvation of man that certain truths above human reason should be made known to man.
These truths above reason are made known by Revelation or sacred science.
Even as regards the properties of God that human reason could have discovered, it was necessary that man be taught by Revelation or sacred science;
Because the properties of God that human reason could discover would be known only by the few most intelligent people, and only after a long time, and with admixture of many errors.
Whereas the salvation of the whole of mankind from the most intelligent to the least intelligent, which is in God, depends upon Revelation.
Therefore, in order that the salvation of men is brought about more harmoniously among people of all capacities, it was necessary that man should be taught the properties of God through the sacred science of Revelation.
It was therefore necessary, that besides natural science built by human reason, there should be a sacred science of Revelation.
1.4 Reply to 1.1: Although those things which are above human reason may not be sought through human reason or natural science, nevertheless, human reason can seek cooperation with God in sacred science.
And if human reason seeks to cooperate with God in sacred science, God may choose to Reveal things that are above human reason.
Once things above human reason are decisively Revealed by God, they must be accepted as the axioms of Faith;
Because axioms of Faith are what grounds human reason; just as greater intelligence naturally has authority over lesser intelligence, and lesser intelligence naturally has obedience to greater intelligence.
Hence, God necessarily Reveals things that are above human reason. (Ecclesiastes 3:25) And in this, the sacred science consists.
1.5 Reply to 1.2: Sciences, whether natural or sacred, are differentiated according to the various means by which the knowledge is attained.
For the astronomer and the physicist may prove the same conclusion: for instance, that the earth is round.
The astronomer does so by means of mathematical abstraction,
The physicist does so by experimental observation.
Hence, there is no reason why things that can be learned from natural science, so far as they are known by natural reason, may not also be taught us by sacred science, guided by God’s Revelation.
Hence, theological sacred science differs in kind from theology that is part of natural science.
Aquinas structures all of his articles in three parts: a.) objections, b.) answers, and c.) replies to objections. These may be better considered as: a.) common opinions, b.) response, and c.) objections to common opinion. Because Thomas’ goal in the Summa Theologica is to describe the analogical method of sacra scientia, that is, sacred science. This sacred science is both divine and human. And thus, it is both fully metaphysical and fully geometrical. This is revealed by breaking down Thomas’ syllogisms into geometrical form. The Summa is not an abstract or theoretical work, it is eminently pragmatic and empirical. The Summa describes the metageometrical method to freely handle any possible situation, in such as way that choice has the greatest benefit to all possible beings. Thus, it accurately describes the metageometrical structure of situation, as such.
The sacred science is the science of situation as such. This is why Thomas says in the second question of the treatise, “…this sacred science deals with individual facts.” By individual facts he means particular circumstances and situations, like those individual situations of the prophets and Apostles. And this is also why he says, in the question of whether God is the same as His essence or nature,
“…humanity connotes all that is included in the definition of man… this particular flesh… [is] not included in the definition of man. Therefore, this flesh… and the accidental qualities distinguishing this particular matter, are not included in humanity; and yet they are included in the thing which is man. Hence the thing which is a man has something more in it than has humanity. Consequently humanity and man are not wholly identical; but humanity is taken to mean [the form] of man.”
Situation is not merely particular, there is also universal situation. There is situation itself, as metageometrical object that is simultaneously particular and universal. This is a true mathematical object, as is proven in the second question, “Whether sacred teaching is a science?” The sacred science proceeds from the axioms of a higher science, the science of God. And this metageometrical object is what Thomas is truly showing to us with his sacred science of Revelation.
Situation, as such, is a metageometrical object that is composed of three parts; a.) the apparently objective structure of the external environment, b.) the individual’s interior life of actually objective acts upon that apparently objective structure of the external environment, c.) the boundary that delimits the individual’s interior life from the external environment. These correspond to the three parts of the Thomistic argument, the a.) common opinion, b.) response, c.) objections. The goal of the sacred science is to reveal the metageometrical object that is the objective structure of Perfect Existence, which is synonymous with Perfect Joy, which is the very Being of God Himself.
In this way, Thomas’ dialectical logic is an analytic geometry, as opposed to a synthetic geometry. Thomas’ analytic dialectical logic stands in contrast to Kant’s and Hegel’s synthetic dialectical logic. Hegel’s dialectical logic follows from Kant’s antinomies and from Spinoza. With Hegel’s dialectical logic, the goal is for the individual to overcome the boundary that separates the interior life and the external environment. St. Thomas’ analytic dialectical logic maintains the boundary between the interior life and the external environment, even as the interior life fully participates and is absorbed into the external environment. In Thomas’ analytic logic, the external world is the most perfect mirror of the interior life, even though they are completely separated by a firm logical boundary.
What Thomas is doing in the Summa is describing the metageometrical properties of sacra scientia, or sacred science. The sacred science is the mathematical properties of Christian Revelation. He does this through Aristotelian syllogisms.
With regard to the appearance / exoteric portion of the question is the exoteric portion. The appearance is the commonly held opinion, this is what most people think, as distinct from what the learned think. The exoteric opinion is not necessarily wrong, it is just the commonly held opinion rather than the esoteric truth of the learned. This is the same as Socrates’ dialectical logic, which always starts from the commonly held opinions and uses this as the axiomatic starting point to then reason to the higher truths which are not commonly known. The esoteric truth is related in the second section, the response. The response reveals the esoteric truth in fully metaphysical and geometrical syllogisms. Why are they to be called fully metaphysical and fully geometrical? Because in imitation of the nature of Christ, the sacred science of Thomas reveals that the metaphysical reality is also fully geometrical-logical, that is, both fully divine and fully human, as Christ Himself is consubstantial in the hypostatic union. This fully divine and fully human is fully metaphysical and fully geometrical, and thus, we will call it metageometrical. How can we justify saying that Thomas’ syllogisms are geometrical? Because they follow the most basic axiomatic structures of logic- identity and transitivity: (A = A, and A is not = not A), and (A > B > C therefore A > C). These are also known as identity and analogy. What is most essential to metageometrical hermeneutic that we are applying is that since both the metaphysical and the geometrical are present simultaneously to the highest extent, each side of the argument, the human and the divine, is raised to its highest expression.
Let us examine the first response through this hermeneutic (1.3.2). The argument has 10 steps, which we will make more concise. So the question is, is sacred science necessary? Or why is it necessary?
Sacred science is necessary. Why? Because man is necessarily directed to a purpose he doesn’t understand. This purpose must be made known to him so that he can be directed towards it. The purpose beyond his understanding is necessarily Revealed to him. How is it Revealed to him? It is Revealed by sacred science of Revelation. Even though human reason could discover properties of God on its own, these properties would only be known by a few intelligent people and after a long time, and with many errors. But the salvation of all men, the most and least intelligent alike, depends on Revelation available to everyone. The harmony of society therefore depends on the sacred science of Revelation. Sacred science of Revelation is necessary.
This very simple first question states the sociological and economic reason that sacred science is completely necessary. It is necessary in order to harmonize the different strata of people in society. Even though human reason could discover God on its own, it would only be known to the most intelligent, to the highest strata of people. But that would not harmonize the whole society of men. In fact, it would lead to its disharmony. The harmony of society depends on Revelation because it understandable to each person in the best way, corresponding to their level of understanding.
In this short first question alone, Thomas covers such a wide range of domains, with such concision and simplicity, as to demonstrate that sacred science is a comprehensive unification of all fields of knowledge.