By Paul O'Grady
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Additional info for Aquinas's Philosophy of Religion
The other idea played an important structural role on Aquinas’s thought – how to name God. Denys emphasized the way in which God transcends our cognitive capacities. He elaborated a triple way (triplex via) of having knowledge of God. Firstly, one affirms God as cause – this is the basic relation of God to creation (the way of causation via causationis). Then one shows the difference between God and everything else, denying many features of creation in God (the way of negation, via negationis).
He had set up the University of Naples, and the Arts Faculty there was strongly influenced by Averroistic readings of Aristotle. One characteristic of such an approach was that it was very much text based, and so provided students with a very detailed knowledge of Aristotle’s works. Whilst in Naples, Aquinas came in contact with the newly founded Dominican order. It had been established in 1216 in the south of France as a group of itinerant preachers, and like its contemporary organization, the Franciscans, proved very successful.
While he argues that no concept captures God’s essence, this is compatible with using concepts to indirectly approach God’s essence, as in the triplex via. So concepts are of use in indirectly allowing reference to God. It seems that Te Velde thinks of ‘description’ and ‘representation’ as involving full and complete grasp of the object of thought, which is what he objects to. Yet, for example, the description ‘the proof reader of this book’ picks out and refers to an individual under a description, but 22 Aquinas’s Philosophy of Religion leaves much more besides opaque.