Review Questions On The Summa Contra Gentiles

1. In Chapters 2 and 3 of Book 3 of the Summa, Aquinas essentially recapitulates Aristotle’s position that every agent acts for an end. When, according to Aquinas’s argument in section 7 of Chapter 3, can an intelligent agent be said to determine it’s own ends?

2. What, according to Aquinas, is the “end of every intellectual substance”? How does he think that “intellectual substances” (i.e. rational creatures like human beings) achieve this end? (Note: Aquinas uses the terms ‘end’, ‘ultimate happiness’, and ‘felicity’ to mean the same thing.)

3. What, in Aquinas’s view as he gives it in sections 9-11 of Chapter 25, is the relationship between the intellect and the appetite (or will, desire, etc.)?

4. In Chapter 26 Aquinas considers possible objections to his picture of how the intellect and the will are related. In particular, how does he answer the objection he raises in section 6 of this chapter? (This will be tough. Do the best you can.)

5. In the remainder of your reading, Aquinas eliminates a number of contenders for the position of “ultimate happiness of mankind”, including pleasure, honors, glory, riches, worldly power, and even moral virtue and art. Choose any three of these and explain why, according to Aquinas, it cannot be the ultimate happiness or final end of human beings.

6. In section 7 of Chapter 37, Aquinas says that “[I]f they are rightly considered, all human functions may be seen to subserve the contemplation of truth.” What does this statement mean, and what reasoning does he give in support of it?

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