St. Thomas of Aquinas

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St. Thomas of Aquinas 

(c. 1225 - March 7, 1294) 



Depiction of St. Thomas Aquinas from the Demidoff Altarpiece by Carlo Crivelli.


(Public Domain image and caption from Wikimedia Commons)

Contributions to Rhetoric


Profoundly influenced by the classic Greek philosophers, especially Aristotle,  St. Thomas modernized church doctrine and brought it to terms with some Renaissance thought.  His primary contribution to rhetoric was an earnest belief that the faithful need never fear contradiction of doctrine by science or the proper exercise of the intellect.  His belief was that if such contradictions seemed to arise, they could always be resolved by improving our understanding of the faith.


As a consequence, scholarship was encouraged and even church doctrine was open to examination.  While his perspective was not shared universally in the Catholic Church, its influence on the Dominican order endured.  While St. Thomas contributed very little to rhetoric directly, his approach to considering knowledge was very Socratic and dialectical, and his approach to epistemology was very Aristotelian and represented a virtual reversal of post-Augustinian/Platonic thought that had dominated the church for over 700 years.  For these reasons, the influence of St. Thomas on Western thought cannot be overstated.