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There is little of the true philosophic spirit in Aquinas. He does not, like the Platonic Socrates, set out to follow wherever the argument may lead. He is not engaged in an inquiry, the result of which it is impossible to know in advance. Before he begins to philosophize, he already knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith. If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation.

Was Bertrand Russell Right About Thomas Aquinas? : Strange Notions

The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading. I cannot, therefore, feel that he deserves to be put on a level with the best philosophers either of Greece or of modern times. First, however, it ought to be said that Russell does not only have negative things to say about Aquinas — on the contrary, he makes a point of listing a good number of positive elements of his philosophy.

He ignores, moreover, the frequent examples of Aquinas doing what appears to be the exact opposite; namely, accepting unpalatable conclusions when the facts seem to him to suggest that he ought to. Many philosophers before him had held that it can be demonstrated, by pure reason, that the universe is not eternal this is still a position held by a good number of thinkers , and whilst it would no doubt be very convenient from a religious point of view if this were true — as it might point to a creator — Aquinas, after considering the subject in some detail, comes to the conclusion that it is not.

More fundamentally, I think that Russell's assumption that Aquinas' religious belief is independent of reason is wrong, or, at best, unevidenced. Of course, being raised Catholic, Aquinas will have been religious before he was able to give any reason to be, but this doesn't imply that his later, mature faith was not rational.

Bertrand Russell on Philosophy (1960)

As he grew older, and became capable of reasoning about religion, and the world in general, it seemed to him that evidence confirmed his beliefs, but if it had not, it seems very unlikely that he would have remained Christian. Aquinas is famous for his insistence on the importance of reason, even in the face of certain church authorities, who claimed that it ought to be subservient to faith; his reasoning was that if the Christian religion is true, and reason leads to truth, then it makes no sense for the two to be in conflict.

Was Bertrand Russell Right About Thomas Aquinas?

If he had found them to be in conflict — if, for instance, he was not convinced by his own Five Ways arguments for the existence of God , and found prayer useless, or the problem of evil irresolvable, or the Bible seriously unreliable, and so on, then there is good reason to think that he would have abandoned religion.

If this is true, then his religious belief is really, contrary to Russell, no different, and no more intellectually suspicious, than the vast majority of the beliefs held by everyone — learnt, pre-rationally, in childhood, and later confirmed or rejected on the basis of mature reflection and experience.

Main article: The Conquest of Happiness. Main article: Mortals and Others. Main article: A History of Western Philosophy. Main article: Unpopular Essays. Main article: The Impact of Science on Society. Main article: The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell. Disputed [ edit ] Not enough evidence God!

Not enough evidence! As quoted in Wesley C. May 11, by Emily Eakin: "Asked what he would say if God appeared to him after his death and demanded to know why he had failed to believe, the British philosopher and staunch evidentialist Bertrand Russell replied that he would say, 'Not enough evidence, God!

Not enough evidence. There, Rosten writes : "Confronted with the Almighty, [Russell] would ask, ' Sir, why did you not give me better evidence? This has often been published as a quotation of Russell, when an author is given e. In all affairs — love, religion, politics, or business — it's a healthy idea, now and then, to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.

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As quoted in The Reader's Digest , Vol. If there were in the world today any large number of people who desired their own happiness more than they desired the unhappiness of others, we could have a paradise in a few years. As quoted in Think , Vol. After all, I may be wrong. When asked asked if he was willing to die for his beliefs. The Times book of quotations , p.

I believe in my outrage knowing people are living in boxes on the street. I believe in honesty. I believe in a good time. I believe in good food. I believe in sex.


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No known source; also attributed to Susan Sarandon.