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see Thomas Aquinas, SaintThomas Aquinas, Saint
[Lat.,=from Aquino], 1225–74, Italian philosopher and theologian, Doctor of the Church, known as the Angelic Doctor, b. Rocca Secca (near Naples).
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a Catholic school of philosophy based on the teachings of Thomas Aquinas and representing a modern stage in the development of Thomism. The Vatican officially endorsed neo-Thomism in 1879. The school has adherents in Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), the USA, and the countries of Latin America. Its most famous representatives are E. Gilson, J. Maritain, and A. D. Sertillanges (France); W. Brugger, A. Dempf, J. B. Lotz, M. Grab-mann, and J. de Vries (FRG); A. Dondeyne, L. de Raeymaeker, and F. van Steenberghen (Belgium); and U. A. Padovani, F. Olgiati, and C. Fabro (Italy).

Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Aeterni patris (Aug. 4, 1879), in which the principles for the revival of Thomism were defined, provided the decisive impetus for the development of neo-Thomism. During the first period of its development the efforts of its followers were directed chiefly at a systematic presentation of the doctrine. Centers for elaborating and propagandizing neo-Thomism were established, including the Higher Institute of Philosophy of the University of Louvain (Belgium), the Roman Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Vatican), the Catholic Institute of Paris, and Catholic University in Milan. During the 1920’s and 1930’s the neo-Thomists focused on problems in metaphysics, epistemology, and natural philosophy. After World War II, neo-Thomism became one of the most influential currents in modern bourgeois philosophy, with many institutes, publishing houses, and journals at its disposal. New centers of neo-Thomism were established in the FRG, the USA, and Canada.

Neo-Thomism is strongly opposed to both materialism and subjective idealism. It lays claim to universalism—the uniting of faith and reason, speculation and empiricism, contemplativeness and practicality, and individualism and “collectivity” in an integral synthesis. This unity is established on a rigid dogma determined by the indisputability and obligatoriness of divine revelation for philosophy. Neo-Thomist philosophy is the “servant of theology.” Its chief task is considered to be the rational disclosure and justification of the truths of theology. Consequently, neo-Thomism views the world as a creation of god that is hierarchically divided into a series of levels whose interrelation is described on the basis of Aristotelian models, as modified by Thomas Aquinas.

In the Thomist classification of forms of knowledge, metaphysics is singled out and viewed as the “primary philosophy.” According to the neo-Thomists, its object and fundamental principle is pure being, or the fundamental act of being (esse), which is distinguished from being (ens). Metaphysics deals with infinite, transcendent, mentally comprehensible being, which is free of all the attributes of finite objects knowable through experience.

The neo-Thomists recognize that it is not possible to deduce any concrete concept of being and its laws from the idea of pure being and that metaphysics must close the gap between the finite and the infinite, between immanent and transcendent being, and, in the final analysis, between god and the world created by him. They try to find a way out of this contradiction by postulating “transcendental” concepts, such as “unity,” “truth,” “happiness,” and “beauty.” Like being, these concepts are assumed; unlike categorical definitions, they are not associated with experience. Another means of eliminating the basic contradiction in neo-Thomism is the doctrine of the “analogy of that which is” (or the “analogy of being”), which validates the possibility of knowing the existence of god by analogy from the existence of the world, despite the difference, in principle, between their natures.

The basis of neo-Thomist ontology is the doctrine of potency and act, according to which “emergence” of various objects or phenomena is interpreted as the realization, or actualization, of potencies. Insofar as potency is viewed as a purely abstract possibility, from the standpoint of neo-Thomism the existence of any finite object may only be understood as “participation” in the infinite existence of god, who is the actual source of all being.

The object of neo-Thomist natural philosophy is the corporeal world—sensory and changeable existence. The foundation of neo-Thomist natural philosophy is hylomorphism, a teaching on matter and form that dates to Aristotelianism. According to hylomorphism, matter is a purely passive element and acquires a specific appearance owing to nonmaterial form. Forms that actualize inert matter create the entire diversity of the material means and types of being, from the nonorganic world to the highest stage of natural being—man, whose nonmaterial and, therefore, immortal soul is his form and essence. According to neo-Thomism, the highest form (the form of forms) is not associated with matter, although it creates both “primary matter” and all forms in their diversity. This highest form is god.

Classifying being as natural, intentional, or ideal (logical) being, the neo-Thomists assert that substance, or universal being, has a rational nature and may be comprehended by reason. The meaning and function of human cognition is to discover the transcendent in that which is perceived by the senses. Unlike essence, existence is always individual and therefore cannot be an object of logical, rational cognition. Neo-Thomism asserts that scientific cognition cannot deal with questions of the “essence of being,” which are the province of philosophy and theology. Science comprehends “secondary causes” and discloses only the sequence and external links of events. The “finite causes” of all that exists relate to the supernatural order of being —that is, to god. In order to be real, human intellect must conform with divine intellect.

In neo-Thomism the individual is a stable, independent spiritual substance. However, the attributes of the individual—freedom, self-consciousness, the capacity to manifest itself in a spiritual act, and creative potency—receive their valuational confirmation only in conformity with god.

In neo-Thomism’s sociopolitical philosophy human society is understood as “natural society.” Its basic forms are the family, the community, the professions, the native land, and the state. Private property is equated with property in general—that is, with the appropriation by man of the objects of nature. The difference between classes is inferred from the division of labor and is represented chiefly by differences between the professions. According to neo-Thomism, the relationship of the individual to society may take any of three different forms, all of which are associated with social organization: individualism, collectivism, and solidarism. Rejecting individualism and collectivism as false extremes, neo-Thomism propagandizes solidarism, which is based on the principle of “Christian love for one’s neighbor.” In practice, this takes the form of the prophecy of “social peace” between classes.

The neo-Thomists actively oppose dialectical and historical materialism. They publish many “critical” works and engage in polemics against Marxist philosophy. Special handbooks for the “refutation” of dialectical materialism have been issued. Neo-Thomist “research” centers for the struggle against Marxist philosophy include the so-called Russian Institute in the Vatican and the Institute for East European Studies in Fribourg (Switzerland), which publishes the special quarterly journal Studies in Soviet Thought.

Since Vatican Council II (1962–65), which reorganized (“modernized”) the Catholic Church, neo-Thomism has been increasingly subject to the influence of phenomenology, existentialism, personalism, and the evolutionary spiritualistic teachings of Teilhard de Chardin (France).


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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In his review of Maritain's Three Reformers, Eliot observes "The influence of neo-Thomism has reached many persons who have probably never read a word of St.
In particular, Birzer advances the available scholarship on Dawson by placing the historian and critic in two broad fields of disagreement: 1) the Catholic neo-Augustinian reaction to the more prevalent Catholic neo-Thomism, a reaction typically associated with the French ressourcement of Maurice Blondel, Henri de Lubac, and Charles Peguy; and 2) conservative social criticism opposed to the Bloomsbury Group with its radical sexual experimentation, as well as to a liberalism that assumed the purity of mass capitalism and of the planed society.
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