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Extra info for Aquinas's Philosophy of Religion
Writing in Spain, his main work is the Dux Dubitorum, or Guide for the Perplexed, which is best known for a resolutely negative approach to God. Maimonides denies that anything positive can be attributed to God, but we can go a long way using the method of negation. While Aquinas ultimately rejected the strict line advocated by Maimonides, there is a strong apophatic dimension to Aquinas’s work – he consistently notes that our knowledge is limited and defective. 3 His family was noble, and at an early age Aquinas was sent to the nearby Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino for education.
However, there was also a great intellectual crisis taking place in the university. The rise of Radical Aristotelianism had provoked a strong reaction in the Theology faculty. Aristotle was regarded with deep suspicion. Moves were even afoot to ban the use of Aristotle in the university, and Aquinas engaged in defending the use of Aristotle. He fought on two fronts. Against the radical Aristotelians he presented what he regarded as a correct interpretation of Aristotle. Against the conservative theologians he defended what he regarded as the truth and validity of the Aristotelian approach.
By the eleventh century, a number of changes were in evidence. With the growth of cities, society was beginning to change. Often a city would develop around an ecclesiastical centre – particularly one where there was a powerful or influential bishop. Schools, built up to service the cathedrals, were an educational innovation. The liberal arts (rhetoric, grammar, logic, astronomy, geometry, arithmetic and music) were taught as the basis for further studies in theology. The court of Charlemagne (742–810) had begun to foster this kind of education in the ninth century.