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St. Aquinas and Averroes Essay

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Updated: Nov 25th, 2019


Summa Theologica, is one of greatest literature written by St. Thomas Aquinas. He focused on issues concerning philosophy and religion. Despite the fact that he cited principles from many religions, Summa Theologica is highly associated with Catholic belief. Decisive Treatise, was written by Averroes and focused on outlining Islamic laws based on philosophy.

Averroes acknowledged teachings of Aristotle, but criticized works of Plato. Notably, Decisive Treatise has been described as a commentary that is not in complete agreement with Islamic laws.

The essay will focus on comparing Summa Theologica with Decisive Treatise. Nature of doctrine, names of God and His existence are among the questions that will be analyzed in Summa Theoligica. On the other hand, Decisive treatise will attempt to answer why religious scriptures are not interpreted to majority.


According to Aquinas, sacred doctrine is essential in life of a person, since salvation is based on divine revelation. There are critics that, scriptures advice people not to worry themselves over what is beyond their reach. According to teachings by Aristotle, theology is founded on the intellectual reasoning and reflection on beings and God, the same concepts emphasized in philosophy. In this regard, there is no need for further knowledge on Philosophy.

However, Aquinas states that men are guided by God who reveals to them hidden truth. There are postulations that sacred doctrine is not a science, since it lacks material evidence. Further, it talks of individual actions like in instance of Abraham while sciences talk of general issues. Aquinas states that sacred doctrine is a science, since it presents moral principles that are practical. He talks of sacred doctrine being higher science and not guided by human reason.

Contrary to this perception, Averroes argues that religion dictates on the use of reason and intellect to study the unknowns using the known. While Aquinas argues that knowledge about God can only happen within the level of human understanding, Averroes believes that with an understanding of the existing demonstrations about God, man can acquire all knowledge about the Originator. Concept used by Aquinas and Averroes, is to make people comprehend essence of eternal life (Leaman 45).

In addition, there are postulations that sacred doctrine cannot be described as one science, since it talks of different objects that are not in same category. According to Aquinas, sacred doctrine is one science since it talks of God or objects related to Him. Aquinas states that, sacred doctrine is a practical and speculative science.

As a result, sacred doctrine is more complex than other sciences. Religious scriptures advise believers to act according to divine teachings. Notably, divine law entailed in doctrine shows that it encourages believers to be practical and not only theoretical.

Aquinas postulates that, existence of God is self evident. He provides two meanings of self evidence. First version is that we may be aware of existence of something, while on second account we may not be aware at all. In this regard, the fact that we do not acknowledge or know that God exists does not mean that He is not there. Further, Aquinas states that we can demonstrate existence of God through effects-causes mechanism.

In this regard, every situation is caused by something that cannot be infinite. We can use effects to trace causes, which cannot be infinite. He uses various ways to prove that God exists. Motion present in organisms is triggered by something that is not in a potential state. Further, he uses possibility-necessity model to prove that there can never be a time when nothing ever existed (Etienne 43). In this regard, things would not come out of nowhere and begin existing.

The two philosophers differ when it comes to the concept formation. According to Averroes, concept develops from interaction with either a particular object or its likeness. He argues that for an individual to understand about the existence of God, the concept of the artisan has to be applied at which man has to appreciate art in order to appreciate the products of art, leading to appreciation of the artisan.

He therefore argues that in intellect reasoning, man needs to have a starting point, and that is to understand other beings. His idea of concept formation believes in the presence of a known, in order to understand the unknown. However, Aquinas argues that there is no need of the known to understand more about the unknown. He argues that within human comprehension, what is known about God is the same as what is unknown, meaning that man must live within the divine truth revealed at his level of understanding.

He states that God is self evident, despite the fact that we know it or not. The fact that names of God are given based on his operations and not his nature, opinion about him can be structured by not necessarily possession of knowledge about him, but rather by nature that is made known to us.

Further, Aquinas states that we can give a name to God. Despite the fact that there are perceptions that some scriptures forbid us to give God names, words symbolize ideas. Aquinas states that, names given are likely to lack divine meaning but are based on human reasoning within their levels of understanding. Despite the fact that we fail to understand role of God, we can describe him based on nature available.

On the controversial issue of whether names given to God are substantial, Aquinas gives in depth explanation. Negative names given to God are not substantial, in that they do not degrade Him but rather show that person involved is a weak believer. Further, positive references do not necessarily describe spiritual essence of God. However, Aquinas states that despite the fact that names given are likely to underestimate spiritual essence, they display human reason of divine interpretation.

Aquinas talks of names given to God as failing to apply to Him in literal sense. Despite the fact that names give to God result from relationship between him and creatures, God is perfect while creatures are imperfect. Further, names given to God come from nature which means that they cannot apply to him literally.

Notably, names given by creatures to Creator are based on their reasoning capacity and fit God more than they can describe them. In this regard, names given to God can be referred to as belonging to him but failing to literally apply to him. He states that names given to God are not synonymous, since they are formed based on human reasoning (Etienne 24). Divine knowledge is less known by humans, which means that they are not in a position to come up with names that could be used in place of spiritual ones.

Aquinas rules out the possibility of equity between God and man. The issue is presented by concerns in certain citations from scriptures. For example, the fact that man is made of God’s image makes him similar to him. Aquinas, states that God cannot be univocal to creatures.

Despite the fact that names used to refer to him are used in praising human beings, He can never be equal to them. It should be noted that, names used by creatures are limited to power of reason. In this regard, the word wise could be used to show interpretation based on human essence and not divine knowledge (Etienne 29).

Averroes refers to Islamic law as being a doctrine that teaches true practice and true science. In this regard, he agrees with Aquinas who describes sacred doctrine as being a science that is speculative and practical. True science is described as knowledge of eternal happiness and sorrow.

He talks of Islamic law being a practical science, which can involve body activities or soul issues like honesty. In this regard, the law is practical since it either bans or upholds practices of believers. Both philosophers concur on the ability to have scientific interpretation of theology in order to have a better understanding of God (Leaman 64).

According to Averroes, divine law is based on demonstrative, rhetorical and dialect arguments. Notably, Aquinas acknowledges that sacred doctrine is a matter of argument.

According to him, different sciences adopt different principles in explanation of their theory, Aquinas states that, argumentative nature of sacred doctrine is meant to explain occurrence of other sciences that are limited to human reason. Averroes uses two approaches in teaching of divine law.

The use of dialogue in Aquinas reasoning takes the form of argumentation, at which he presents some objections in figurative form, and later developing responses to each of the objections in a series of proofs.

This approach makes it easier for Aquinas to explain meaning of scriptures and the existence of God. Notably, dialogue mechanism used by Averroes can be compared with issue of names given to God in Summa Theologica. For instance, concept and concurrence of argumentative reasoning are crucial in determining names given to God.

Averroes acknowledges the fact that demonstration is essential in divine law. Notably, Aquinas states that we can be able to demonstrate that God exists. According to Averroes, interpretations of scriptures should not be done to majority since not all possess rhetoric, demonstrative and dialectal skills (Leaman 67).

Despite the fact that divine law should be taught to all, caution should be taken to ensure that the chosen few are not compromised. Since majority lack possession of three main ways of argument interpretations, teaching is done in a way that both concept and concurrence are maximized.

According to Averroes, dialect and rhetorical approaches are widely used in divine laws, since they have highest level of concept formation and concurrence. Focus is on real objects, as opposed to images and interpretation of scriptures is highly discouraged. In fact, those who interpret such scriptures are regarded as unbelievers, since conclusions are drawn on issues that are accepted.

In all methods of law applied, those who interpret scriptures are minority since they possess demonstrative skills. In this regard, majority are expected to take teachings as presented by minority. There is a significant inconsistency between the arguments presented by the two philosophers. While Averroes justifies scriptural interpretations on pure intellect, Aquinas cites God’s intervention in theological scientific interpretations, since humans cannot exceed their reasoning capacities.


Summa Theologica and Decisive Treatise, acknowledge essence of divine law in science of philosophy. There are instances where there are similarities, while in others there are differences. Despite the different religions, both scholars have attempted to cite information from many religious books. Revelation or divine intervention has been found to be essential in relationship between God and his creatures.

People require understanding of divine meaning, on issues that are limited by power of reason before practice of divine law. Focus is on ensuring that concept is formed in a way that will boost level of concurrence. In fact, Averroes focuses on encouraging true practice and science by ensuring that majority are taught divine law. Scripture interpretation is not given to majority, to reduce incidence of rejection. On the other hand, Aquinas advocates for necessity of divine intervention that will increase essence of salvation.

Works Cited

Etienne, Gilson. The Christian Philosophy of Saint Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theoligica, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. 1994. Print.

Leaman, Olivier. An Introduction to Classical Islamic Philosophy: Decisive Treatise, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2002. Print.

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