I am responding to your request about a source for the question about
Aquinas' view of the eternity of the world. I'm afraid I have not followed
other aspects of the discussion, and your question may have been answered.
Nevertheless, here goes.
Aquinas did not himself accept that the world was eternal, but did indeed
accept that it is possible 'philosophically' to accept the idea. He deals
with the question extensively in his 'Contra Gentiles' (Book 2, chapters
xxxi-xxxviii), where he clearly believes that the arguments in favour of the
eternity of the world are respectable but not conclusive. In strictly
philosophical terms the notion of the eternity of the world can be neither
proved nor disproved. The notion of the eternity of the world was not in
itself incompatible with the belief of God's creation of the world, since
the notion of creation is independent of the notion of 'time' - and it would
be possible to believe that the world is permanently and eternally dependent
on God's creation. He does, however, assert his own view at the end of
chapter xxxviii that believers cannot accept the essentially pagan
philosophical arguments about the eternity of the world.
There is also a more succinct discussion of the question in Aquinas' Summa
Theologica (Prima pars, q.46, art.2), where he answers the objections (1-8)
of those who claim that the doctrine that the world had a beginning is not
simply an article of faith, but can also be demonstrated through argument.
It is clear not only in his detailed reply to the objections, but also in
the first sentence of his 'Respondeo dicendum' (which is always the
substantive part of Aquinas' own argument) that it is by faith alone, and
not through demonstration, that the Christian believes that the world did
not always exist.
With best wishes,
From: Richard Landes [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: 27 December 2000 04:13
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: eternal world and aquinas
>Actually I see no intrinsic reason for religion to be concerned with
>eschatology. Eschatology necessitates a conception of time as limited; and
>it is certainly possible for one to conceive the world as eternal (this was
>St. Thomas' opinion],
are you sure? some of his contemporaries, like Siger of Brabant, were
pursued as heretics for so arguing. do you have a source for this
claim? my guess is that in his attack on Siger (contra averroistas) he
took on this issue. (anyone read it?) and he does have an extensive
discussion of eschatology in his summa theologica.
>even if our human frailty recognizes that its
>personall alotment is quite limited. Eschatology as a term taken in its
>proper sense deals with the chronology of the cosmos, not the individual.
>It seems obvious to me that the monotheistic religions are eschatological
>for a historical reason; namely that the OT and NT speak of the end of the
>world / the end of time. But not for philosophical or pyschological
the point is less that the OT and NT speak of the end (far more centrally
the NT) for whatever reasons, but why people persist in making this the
center of their concerns and imagining (so far incorrectly) that the end
(Parousia, for xns) will come in their generation. that, it seems to me,
calls for psychological reasons to explain.