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Aquinas and Plato: a Theoretical Comparison

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Aquinas and Plato: Of Souls and Men

Question 2

“…since the rational soul is the proper form of man, there is in every man a natural inclination to act according to reason, and this is to act according to virtue. Consequently, considered thus, all acts of virtue are prescribed by the natural law.” (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, p. 223)

a. Analyze the passage and explain the meaning of natural law according to Aquinas. b. Compare this passage to Plato’s theory of ideas.

To understand the concepts proposed in the assigned quote, this paper will first break down the quote into its individual statements. This independent analysis will then be utilized to find a core message in the quote as a whole, and ultimately to assist in understanding Thomas Aquinas’ view of natural law as a governing precept of human thought and action and in comparison to Plato’s theory of ideas.

“…The rational soul is the proper form of man…”
The first statement in the quote establishes what Aquinas sees to be as the essence of humanity. He understood the rational soul to be that aspect of the soul that creates reason. He understood reason to be the defining characteristic that separates man from other animals. Therefore, the rational soul being the mover that differentiates man, it is man’s proper form. He is making a judgment that since reason is what makes man unique it is also what man is, properly. The idea of form is important as well. Aquinas understood man to consist of matter, or the body, and form, expressed here as the rational soul. The form is the more general understanding of a being, what it shares with all others of its type. For example, the form of the pigeon outside my window is a bird, with all that entails. The matter is everything that makes that pigeon distinct from all other birds. Similarly, the form of Benjamin Netanyahu is a man, defined...

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