A Shorter Summa: The Essential Philosophical Passages of Saint Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica by Peter Kreeft

The Essential Philosophical Passages of St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica

(San Francisco: Ignatius, 1993), 162

I could't make any judgment on the Summa, except to say this: I read it every night before I go to bed. If my mother were to come in during the process and say, "Turn off that light. It's late," I with lifted finger and broad bland beatific expression, would reply, "On the contrary, I answer that the light, being eternal and limitless, cannot be turned off. Shut your eyes," or some such thing. In any case I feel I can personally guarantee that St. Thomas loved God because for the life of me I cannot help loving St. Thomas.
Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being (quoted in A Shorter Summa by Peter Kreeft, 13)



  • Kreeft says Thomas is the greatest philosopher who ever lived for 8 reasons:
    • Truth: "The study of philosophy is not the study of what men have opined, but of what is the truth." (13)
    • Common sense
    • Practicality
    • Simplicity and Clarity
    • Profundity
    • Orthodoxy
    • Medieval: marriage of faith and reason, revalation and philosophy, Biblical and classical
    • Modern: his truths are timeless
  • "there is no better bottom story of our edificie of thought" than Thomas (16)
  • "He believed not only that there was truth Somewhere but also that there was some truth everywhere" (17)
  • His mental clarity rubs off on you: "I noticed a remarkable improvement in my mental sharpness and order after doing long and slow readings of St. Thomas." (23)

Whether in Holy Scripture a word may have several senses?

  • footnote: signs in nature coming from God..."This sacramental view of nature has been abandoned correctly in modern science (for methodological purposes), unnecessarily in modern philosophy, and disatrously in modern consciousness." (42)
  • footnote: Exodus story as allegory for salvation history (43-44)
  • on literal vs. allegorical senses of scripture: "Nothing of Holy Scripture perishes on account of this, since nothing necessary to faith is contained under the spirtual sense which is not elsewhere put forward by the Scripture in its literal sense" (44)

Whether it can be demonstrated that God exists?

  • "There is nothing to prevent a man, who cannot grasp a proof, accepting, as a matter of faith, something which in itself is capable of being scientifically known and demonstrated." (52)
  • footnote: Thomas found only two arguments that object to the existence of God, the primary of which being the Problem of Evil...see Lewis' The Problem of Pain (53)

Whether God exists?

  • see 56 for a summary of the history of arguments of the existence of God

Whether the human soul is incorruptible?

  • footnote: bodies could have evolved, but not souls (101)

Whether the will is a higher power than the intellect?

  • "Wherefore the love of God is better than the knowledge of God; but on the contrary, the knowledge of corporeal things is better than the loe thereof." (109)

Whether man's happiness consists in wealth?

  • "...it cannot be man's last end, rather is it ordained to man as to its end" --> right ordering (133)
  • footnote: "God is to be adored, man loved, and things used. Two of the commonest and deadliest errors are to adore man, or to use man and love things." (133)

Whether man's happiness consists in honors?

  • footnote: sex and money: they are far less desirable once attained than when unattained and desired (135)
  • footnote: St. Thomas and other pre-moderns considered the capitalist idea that money can reproduce itself as unnatural --> learn more about this?

Whether man's happiness consists in fame or glory?

  • glory is of man's knowledge, not God's knowledge

Whether man's happiness consists in power?

  • power can be used for good or for evil

Whether man's happiness consists in pleasure?

  • "every delight is a proper accident resulting from happiness" (145)

Whether goodness...

  • footnote: only three reasons we should do something: it is morally virtuous, practially necessary, or fun...Thomas is great at simplifying our lives (150)

Whether there is in us a natural law?

  • "The light of Thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us"..."the natural law is nothing else than an imprint on us of the Divine light" (158)

Created: 2019-01-10
Updated: 2022-03-21-Mon