Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Saint Thomas Aquinas, aka Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis or Doctor Universalis

Italian Dominican Priest of the Roman Church, Philosopher and Theologian in the tradition of scholasticism

"A thing is known according to the state of consciousness of the knower."

"Everything naturally loves itself, the result being that everything naturally keeps itself in being, and resists corruption as far as it can. Wherefore suicide is contrary to the inclination of nature, and to charity whereby every man should love himself."

"All things, by desiring their own perfection, desire God Himself; inasmuch as the perfection of all things are so many similitudes of the divine essence."

"Every prudent man tolerates a lesser evil for fear of preventing a greater good."

"Human law has the true nature of law only in so far as it corresponds to the right reason, and therefore is derived from the eternal law. In so far as it falls short of right reason, a law is said to be a wicked law; and so, lacking the true nature of law, it is rather a kind of violence."

"The chief aim of this science is to impart a knowledge of God, not only as existing in Himself, but also as the origin and end of all things, and especially of rational creatures."

"No man truly has joy unless he lives in love."

"Reward is what you receive, merit is what you do."

"We cannot grasp what God is, but only what he is not, and how other things are related to him."

"Of all human pursuits the pursuit of wisdom is the most perfect, the most sublime, the most profitable, the most delightful."

"That God exists can be proved in five Ways: The first and most evident Way is the argument from Motion… The second Way is from consideration of efficient Causes… The third Way is taken from consideration of the possible and the necessary… The fourth Way is the consideration of the grades of stages which are found in all things… The fifth Way is the consideration of the government of things."

"Things reduced to act in time, are known by us successively in time, but by God are known in eternity, which is above time. Whence to us they cannot be certain, forasmuch as we know future contingent things as such; but they are certain to God alone, whose understanding is in eternity above time."

"O saving Victim, opening wide The gate of heaven to man below, Our foes press on from every side, Thine aid supply, Thy strength bestow. Thus Angels' Bread is made The Bread of man today: The Living Bread from Heaven With figures doth away: O wondrous gift indeed! The poor and lowly may Upon their Lord and Master feed. "

"Down in adoration falling, Lo! the sacred Host we hail; Lo! o'er ancient forms departing, Newer rites of grace prevail; Faith for all defects supplying, Where the feeble senses fail. "

"A man should remind himself that an object of faith is not scientifically demonstrable, lest presuming to demonstrate what is of faith, he should produce inconclusive reasons and offer occasion for unbelievers to scoff at a faith based on such ground."

"A man has free choice to the extent that he is rational."

"A song is the exultation of the mind dwelling on eternal things, bursting forth in the voice."

"Abuse does not rule out use."

"According to established popular usage, which the Philosopher considers should be our guide in the naming of things, they are called 'wise' who put things in their right* order and control them well. Now, in all things that are to be controlled and put in order to an end, the measure of control and order must be taken from the end in view; and the proper end of everything is something good. Hence we see in the arts that art A governs and, as it were, lords it over art B, when the proper end of art B belongs to A. Thus the art of medicine lords it over the art of the apothecary, because health, the object of medicine, is the end of all drugs that the apothecary's art compounds. These arts that lord it over others are called 'master-building,' or 'masterful arts'; and the 'master-builders' who practice them arrogate to themselves the name of 'wise men.' But because these persons deal with the ends in view of certain particular things, without attaining to the general end of all things, they are called 'wise in this or that particular thing,' as it is said, 'As a wise architect I have laid the foundation' while the name of 'wise' without qualification is reserved for him alone who deals with the last end of the universe, which is also the first beginning of the order of the universe. Hence, according to the Philosopher, it is proper to the wise man to consider the highest causes."

"Action should be something added to the life of prayer, not something taken away from it. [Paraphrase]"

"All of the moral precepts belong to the law of nature."

"A person is disposed to an act of choice by an angel ... in two ways: Sometimes, a man's understanding is enlightened by an angel to know what is good, but it is not instructed as to the reason why ... But sometimes he is instructed by angelic illumination, both that this act is good and as to the reason why it is good."

"A small error in the beginning is a great one in the end."

"Beauty adds to goodness a relation to the cognitive faculty: so that "good" means that which simply pleases the appetite; while the "beautiful" is something pleasant to apprehend."

"Beauty... consists in a certain clarity and due proportion. Now each of these has its roots in the reason, because both the light that makes beauty seen, and the establishing of due proportion among things belong to reason."

"Because of the diverse conditions of humans, it happens that some acts are virtuous to some people, as appropriate and suitable to them, while the same acts are immoral for others, as inappropriate to them."

"Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder."

"All that I have written seems like straw compared to what has now been revealed to me."

"All admit that indulgences have some value; for it would be blasphemy to say that the Church does anything in vain."

"All that is true, by whomsoever it has been said has its origin in the Spirit."

"All the efforts of the human mind cannot exhaust the essence of a single fly."

"As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active power of the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of a woman comes from defect in the active power."

"Art is simply a right method of doing things. The test of the artist does not lie in the will with which he goes to work, but in the excellence of the work he produces."

"Because we cannot know what God is, but only what He is not, we cannot consider how He is but only how He is not."

"Beware the man of one book."

"By nature all men are equal in liberty, but not in other endowments."

"Better to illuminate than merely to shine to deliver to others contemplated truths than merely to contemplate."

"But man is freer than all the animals, on account of his free-will, with which he is endowed above all other animals"

"But that predestination and election have no cause in any human merits may be shown, not only by the fact that the grace of God, an effect of predestination, is not preceded by any merits, but precedes all merit, but also by this further fact, that the divine will and providence is the first cause of all things that are made. Nothing can be cause of the will and providence of God; although of the effects of providence, and of the effects of predestination, one effect may be cause of another.* For who hath first given to him, and recompense shall be made him? For if him and by him and in him are all things: to him be glory forever, Amen."

"Conscience is the dictate of reason."

"By the one same act man both serves and worships God, for worship regards the excellence of God, to Whom reverence is due: while service regards the subjection of man who, by his condition, is under an obligation of showing reverence to God. To these two belong all acts ascribed to religion, because, by them all, man bears witness to the Divine excellence and to his own subjection to God, either by offering something to God, or by assuming something Divine."

"Concerning perfect blessedness which consists in a vision of God."

"Clearly the person who accepts the Church as an infallible guide will believe whatever the Church teaches."

"Distinctions drawn by the mind are not necessarily equivalent to distinctions in reality."

"Every judgment of conscience, be it right or wrong, be it about things evil in themselves or morally indifferent, is obligatory, in such wise that he who acts against his conscience always sins."

"Even as in the blessed in heaven there will be most perfect charity, so in the damned there will be the most perfect hate. Wherefore as the saints will rejoice in all goods, so will the damned grieve for all goods. Consequently the sight of the happiness of the saints will give them very great pain; hence it is written "Let the envious people see and be confounded, and let fire devour Thy enemies." Therefore they will wish all the good were damned."

"Everything I have written seems like straw by comparison with what I have seen and what has been revealed to me."

"Faith is God's work within us."

"Evil is the privation of good: hence the order and difference of punishments must be according to the difference and order of good things. The chief good and final end of man is happiness: the higher good for him then is that which comes nearer to this end. Coming nearest to it of all is virtue, and whatever else advances man to good acts leading to happiness: next is a due disposition of reason and of the powers subject to it: after that, soundness of bodily health, which is necessary to unfettered action: lastly, exterior goods, as accessory aids to virtue. The greatest punishment therefore for man will be exclusion from happiness: after that, the privation of virtue, and of any perfection of supernatural (supernaturalium) powers in his soul for doing well: then the disorder of the natural powers of his soul: after that, the harm of his body; and finally the taking away of exterior goods."

"Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand."