Today we encountered two philosophers considering the question of how to conceptualize “science”, which we should remember, means knowledge. Both philosophers, in the medieval tradition, are concerned to fit Christianity and Philosophy - faith and reason - together. Both philosophers were trying to fit Christianity into a map of what can be known.
Augustine argued that the way to do this was to embrace and augment the philosophical tradition of Platonism. Platonism, he argued, covers the various areas we need to understand to understand the world: logic, physics, and ethics. But Platonism is also an attempt to discuss the One, Intellect and Soul, a threefold hierarchy that Christians easily identified with God. Moreover, Platonists are already committed to the immortality of the soul, and to the existence of Forms (abstract structures existing independently of what is structured). All these committments are welcome to Augustine, who concluded that Christians could adopt the philosophical methodology of the Platonists.
St. Thomas Aquinas lived after the influx of Latin translations of Aristotelian texts. His project was somewhat similar, but he was working with a more complex picture of the sciences, which we encountered in the selection from the anonymous author for this week. And Aquinas question is narrower: is theology a science? Remember, this really means, is theology the kind of knowledge we can organize, understand, and in which we can attain certainty? It might seem the answer would be no, but Aquinas rests his case on the contention that the principles of theology are God’s revelation, and the fact that God is a perfect testifier, which means that whenever God tells us something, what He says must be true. This means that theology has the most certain of all principles, since, if we have received them correctly, we know that as the revelations of a perfect being, they must be true. Not only that, but theology is aimed at our salvation, because it brings us to God. That’s why theology is at the top of knowledge, both theoretically and practically speaking.