Plato → Aristotle → Augustine → Aquinas

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Peter Kreeft, Socrates’ Children: The 100 Greatest Philosophers, Volume II: Medieval Philosophers:

In the entire history of the world, there may have been some greater philosophical and theological mind than Augustine,

but I don’t know who that could possibly be, except Thomas Aquinas;

and there may have been a more passionate and beautiful philosophical poet,

though I don’t know who that could possibly be at all;

but there has certainly never been anyone greater than Augustine in both respects.

Kreeft offers an interesting attempt to schematize the relationship among Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas.

He writes:

Augustine and Aquinas are unquestionably the two all-time giants of Christian thought, as Plato and Aristotle are of Greek thought.

The parallels, he says, can be put in various ways:

(1)

Augustine “baptized” (Christianized) Plato

and

Aquinas “baptized” Aristotle;

or

(2)

the first half of Aristotle is Plato

and

the first half of Aquinas is Augustine;

or

(3)

as Aristotle stands on the shoulders of Plato,

Aquinas stands on the shoulders of Augustine;

or

(4)

Aristotle is a Platonist Plus

and

Aquinas is an Augustinian Plus;

or

(5)

as Aristotle was the leafy branches of the tree of Greek philosophy, Plato the trunk, and Socrates the root,

so in Christian thought Aquinas was the branches, Augustine the trunk, and Christ the root.


[If readers pick up this series from Kreeft, they will learn a lot at an introductory level. But readers should be aware that the publisher has produced books not in keeping with the quality of the content. The binding and typesetting feel self-published, and the books are littered with typos throughout.]

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