The Philosophical System of Thomas Aquinas: Plan and Method


The Philosophical System of Thomas Aquinas, by Jonathan Dolhenty

I. B. The Philosophical System of Thomas Aquinas: Plan and Method


It remains to notice the plan which we shall follow. In our survey of scholastic philosophy, we shall remain faithful to a classification which the Schoolmen themselves adopted, and which will be indicated and justified at the end of this work (XVIII). At the same time this classification will explain our own method.

The first parts will be devoted to the study of human activities — conscious and unconscious — and principally to the study of knowing & willing (II-VII). We shall then consider certain general views concerning the constitution of material things still with special reference to man (VIII-X). Another part will be devoted to the study of God (XI). This first group of doctrines corresponds to what the Schoolmen call the theoretical portion of their philosophy.

The parts on practical philosophy will treat of the fundamental doctines concerning individual morality (XII-XIV), social philosophy (XV), the logic of the sciences (XVI), and the esthetics (XVII). A general summing up will bring out the principal characteristics which belong to this doctrinal structure as a whole (XIX)

The philosophical terminology we employ in this work is that of Aquinas and his contemporaries. But we shall use it only when necessary, and we have tried throughout to give for all the technical terms, so far as posssible, a modern equivalent, or at least, to show how their usage differs from that of today. It is impossible, however, to avoid some important technical terms. Every science has its own vocabulary — chemistry, mathematics are cases in point. So it is not surprising that philosophy should have its own. I do not believe it possible to follow the advice of Locke, that philosophy, when speaking to the public, should use the language of the ordinary man. Locke himself failed to practice what he preached. All that one can require is an explanation in common terms of the technical language used.

Numbers found in brackets [10] refer to footnotes, which are at the bottom of each essay. All books cited in footnotes are by Thomas Aquinas, unless otherwise specified.


The late Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty was the Founder and President of The Center for Applied Philosophy and the Radical Academy, and is Honorary Philosophy Editor at The Moral Liberal. The Moral Liberal has adopted these projects beginning with a republishing and preserving of all of Dr. Dolhenty’s work.