Friday, April 27, 2007

May Aquinas Be Our Guide


I'm taking a break from studying for this insufferable Canadian History exam...why can't my country have an interesting past? Anyways, I figure writing a blog entry would get my mind off of Confederation and Habitants and the British Monarchy for a few minutes before I jump right back into it.

What I wanted to talk about (again) is our ability to think critically about ideas and events. The man I use as my guide for this is St. Thomas Aquinas. In his Summa Theologica Aquinas asks and debates some seriously important questions about mankind, morality, existence, and God. The most striking aspect of this work is the way in which St. Thomas comes to his opinions and conclusions. He follows a simple 3 part formula when answering any question you can throw at him. This formula is as follows: Seldom affirm, never deny, always distinguish. Utter simplicity, and yet it provides the framework for any serious thought or debate about any subject you can come up with.

Seldom Affirm: Aquinas understood that very rarely was the answer to a question simply 'yes.' When the answer is yes, it is a 'qualified yes' rather than an unequivocal one. Usually it ends up being 'yes, but.' Thus, the answer to any serious question is only yes IF you have thoroughly examined and dissected it.

Never Deny: To Aquinas, nothing was as simple as saying no. 'No' ends a conversation. 'No' prevents rational thought about anything. Science often answers with a straight 'no', and that is precisely why I find it's value so questionable.

Always Distinguish: Every answer to every question requires a far more complex explanation than a yes or no answer. Here, Aquinas is explaining that in order to properly view our world, we need to see it in shades of grey, not in black and white. Even if the answer ends up being yes, one must qualify that yes. Furthermore, in qualifying a no, it ceases to be a no, and becomes something deeper.

Well, there you have it, Aquinas' (and my) guide to answering and thinking about all of life's important questions. Try this out with a few of the biggies and you'll see how useful it is. I find it an indispensable tool for examining my ideas and beliefs, and I hope you do too.

Ok, that's it for now...back to Canadian History...oh someone make it go away....

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