THE name and much of the content of Thomistic philosophy are derived from St. Thomas Aquinas. He taught seven hundred years ago in two of the first universities of Europe, Paris and Naples. Through the centuries Thomism has been developed by later thinkers but it remains in its central position much the same view of life and reality that Aquinas had. Today it is taught and written on by more than a thousand university and college instructors in the United States alone. These are very largely Catholic but noteworthy work has been done by some non-Catholic American Thomists.
In method Thomistic philosophy is both inductive and deductive. It is inductive in its initial and continued reference to the data of sensory experience. Things which exist about us are individual and are known primarily through sense perception. It is deductive in its insistence on rational demonstration of the implications of primary experience. Intellectual understanding works from and along with sensory presentation.
Three acts of understanding are distinguished: simple apprehension terminating in a single concept (tree or green); judgment terminating in the cognitive grasping of the relationship between what is known through two concepts (this tree is green); and discursive reasoning, a process of thinking through several judgments to a concluding judgment. Truth is formally known in the judgment; moreover, judgment is the act in which the existence of things is known. Correctness of reasoning is investigated in formal logic which is much the same in Thomism as in any other type of philosophy taught in America. Symbolic logic is used but some Thomists object to the reduction of universals to extensive classes. European Thomists, notably the Poles, have been in the forefront of the development of symbolic logic.
In addition to an understanding of the world of bodies, the method of Thomism is directed to the knowing of all types of