Quotations by Thomas Aquinas


He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Italian friar, philosopher, theologian
(Attributed)
Added on 31-Jul-09 | Last updated 31-Jul-09
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If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Italian friar, philosopher, theologian
(Attributed)
Added on 15-Jul-13 | Last updated 15-Jul-13
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Now the abuse of authority can be of two kinds. First, when what is commanded by the ruler is contrary to the purpose for which the ruler was appointed: for example, if some sinful act is commanded contrary to the virtue which the ruler is ordained to foster and preserve. In this case, not only is one not bound to obey the ruler, but one is bound not to obey him, as in the case of the holy martyrs who suffered death rather than obey the ungodly commands of tyrants.

Second, when what is demanded goes beyond what the order of authority can require: if, for example, a master were to exact a payment which a servant is not bound to give, or something of the kind. In this case the subject is not bound to obey; nor, however, is he bound not to obey.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Italian friar, philosopher, theologian
Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard [Scriptum super libros Sententiarium], Book 2, dist. 44, quest. 2, art. 2 (1252-56) [tr. Dyson (2002)]
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Alt. trans. [Dawson]:
With regard to the abuse of authority, this also may come about in two ways. First, when what is ordered by an authority is opposed to the object for which that authority was constituted (if, for example, some sinful action is commanded or one which is contrary to virtue, when it is precisely for the protection and fostering of virtue that authority is instituted). In such a case, not only is there no obligation to obey the authority, but one is obliged to disobey it, as did the holy martyrs who suffered death rather than obey the impious commands of tyrants.

Secondly, when those who bear such authority command things which exceed the competence of such authority; as, for example, when a master demands payment from a servant which the latter is not bound to make, and other similar cases. In this instance the subject is free to obey or disobey.
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The truth of our faith becomes a matter of ridicule among the infidels if any Catholic, not gifted with the necessary scientific learning, presents as dogma what scientific scrutiny shows to be false.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Italian friar, philosopher, theologian
De potentia Dei [On the Power of God], 4.1
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It is better to die excommunicated than to live and violate the conscience.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Italian friar, philosopher, theologian
Disputed Questions on Truth [Questiones disputatae de veritate]
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Every judgement 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.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Italian friar, philosopher, theologian
Quodlibet III, q.27 (1270)
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Natural inclinations are present in things from God, who moves all things. So it is impossible for the natural inclinations of a species to be toward evil in itself. But there is in all perfect animals a natural inclination toward carnal union. Therefore it is impossible for carnal union to be evil in itself.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Italian friar, philosopher, theologian
Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 3, ch. 126, argument 3 [tr. Dominican (1923)]
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Alt. trans.: "Natural inclinations are put into things by God, who is the prime mover of all. Therefore it is impossible for the natural inclination of any species to be directed to an object in itself evil. But in all full-grown animals there is a natural inclination to sexual union, which union therefore cannot be in itself evil."
Added on 27-May-20 | Last updated 27-May-20
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Distinctions drawn by the mind are not necessarily equivalent to distinctions in reality.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Italian friar, philosopher, theologian
Summa Theologica, I, q.50 (1265-1274)
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But when erring reason proposes something as being commanded by God, then to scorn the dictate of reason is to scorn the commandment of God.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Italian friar, philosopher, theologian
Summa Theologica 1a-2ae, q. 19, art. 5, ad 2 (1265-1274)
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Often quoted without the first clause, which changes the meaning. Alt. trans.: "To disparage the dictate of reason is equivalent to contemning the command of God."
Added on 23-Mar-08 | Last updated 16-Jun-20
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As it is better to give than to receive, so it is better to share the fruit of one’s contemplation than merely to contemplate.

[Sicut enim maius est illuminare quam lucere solum, ita maius est contemplata aliis tradere quam solum contemplari.]

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Italian friar, philosopher, theologian
Summa Theologica, 2a-2ae, “Treatise on the States of Life,” Q.188 “Of the Different Kinds of Religious Life” (1265-1274)
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Alt. trans.:
  • "Just as it is better to illuminate than merely to shine, so to pass on what one has contemplated is better than merely to contemplate."
  • "Better to illuminate than merely to shine; to deliver to others contemplated truths than merely to contemplate."
  • "Better to light up than merely to shine, to deliver to others contemplated truths than merely to contemplate." [Source]
  • "For even as it is better to enlighten than merely to shine, so it is better to give to others the fruits of one's contemplation than merely to contemplate." [Source]
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Future contingents cannot be certain to us, because we know them as such. They can be certain only to God whose understanding is in eternity above time. Just as a man going along a road does not see those who come after him; but the man who sees the whole road from a height sees all those who are going along the road at the same time.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Italian friar, philosopher, theologian
Summa Theologica, I, q. 14, art. 13, ad 3 (1265-1274)
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Man should not strive after that which is beyond his reason.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Italian friar, philosopher, theologian
Summa Theologica, Q.1, art. 1 (1265-1274)

Aquinas proceeds with disproof for this proposition.

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