Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York
 


James Stone


James Stone

BA, Athenaeum Regina Aposotlorum
PhL, Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum
MPH, Fordham University

The Foundation of Universal and Necessary Propositions in Select Writings of St Thomas Aquinas

Dissertation Directed by Fr Joseph Koterski, S.J., PhD.

According to St Thomas, words refer to actual things by the mediation of concepts in the intellect. This theory holds (1) that words are signs of concepts, which are likenesses of things; (2) that things themselves have an intelligible structure rooted in their fixed and constant natures; and (3) that the human intellect has the capacity to grasp this intelligible structure by observing that contingent things in the world regularly act in a determinate manner toward a determinate end.

After considering Thomas’s teaching on this matter in conjunction with his doctrine on the Divine Ideas in several of his works, this dissertation argues that since the Ideas in the divine mind are the ontological basis for the intelligible structure that is commonly observed in nature, and since the intellect has the capacity to grasp this structure in the contingent things of experience, it makes good sense to conclude that these Ideas in God’s mind constitute the ontological foundation for the validity of the types of propositions that always hold of absolute necessity with regard to the natures of contingent things.

The association between the Ideas in the divine mind and the conditions for the validity of propositions of this sort is central to the Thomas’s realist position in metaphysics, a position that holds that we are able to name things according to the way in which we know them and that we are able to know things according to the way they are in reality. According to Thomas, the basis for this claim is that world as we know it, which consists entirely of contingent beings, can only exist and can only be known by a contingent intellect if it is ultimately grounded in an ontological principle of a transcendent nature, and in Thomas’s view, the principle in question is the eternal mind of God.

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