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Aquinas: De Veritate [Part I]

Quid est veritas? A question, doubtless, familiar to many: “What is truth?” Today, whether put into those exact words or others like them, we witness a similar disdain for beliefs that there exists a truth and that we may know it. Seldom, however does this scorn rise from genuine intellectual conviction in the posit of radical relativism or of an intellectual nihilism—such conviction warring against what it proposes to uphold. Rather, for many, the rejection of truth is born from despair mingled with vice: sloth, pride, and lust. Truth gives rise to norms, and accepting norms requires that we evaluate the quality of our actions.

Yet… all human beings, as Aristotle rightly tells us at the outset of his Metaphysics, desire to know. The despair over truth’s attainment, and the lostness to vice, are not insurmountable obstacles. While recovery from vice takes many acts of will—opting for the arduous good rather than the facile but shallow pleasure—we need truth to discern what goods are genuine, and which are false. Here, as in so many other places, we find Thomas Aquinas to be a guiding light.

Thomas Aquinas held his first series of “disputed questions”, De veritate, over the course of the three years of his first regency at the University of Paris, 1256-1259. He was then in his early thirties. The structure of the “disputation” – both live and in its published form – reflects the continual raising of questions and resolution of difficulties between teacher and students engaged together in common, probing inquiry.  This particular series of disputations, according to Aquinas’s biographer J.-P. Torrell, shows us “the genius of the young master… a genius in motion, perpetually in the act of discovery”.

Though we know this work as De veritate (On Truth), in fact Thomas and his students were occupied with two great themes: the true and the good. These two have a transcendental character: that is, each is a name for being itself, albeit under the aspect of a relation to mind (the true) or to appetite (the good). These two great themes yielded a total of 253 discussions (“articles”) ranged under a total of 29 areas of inquiry (“questions”). Access to the seminar, taught by Kirk Kanzelberger, PhD, begins on 1 April 2023.


Discussion Sessions

11:30am ET

(World times)
Study Topics &

Week 1: Being and the True I
Lecture: “Truth as communication of being and mind”
» De Veritate (DV) 1, aa. 1-3, 5.
Week 2: Being and the True II
Lecture: “Truth and mutability, truth and falsity”
» DV 1, aa. 6, 8-12.
Week 3: Divine Knowledge I
Lecture: “Divine knowledge as divine perfection”
» DV 2, aa. 1-5, 8, 12.
Week 4: The Idea of a UniversityNewman’s Vision of Liberal Education
Lecture: “Divine knowledge as cause of the creature”
» DV 2, aa. 13-15.
» DV 3, aa. 1-3.

Week 5: Human Cognition I
Lecture: “The understanding animal”
» DV 10, aa. 1-6.
Week 6: Human Cognition II
Lecture: “The understanding animal understanding itself”
» DV 10, aa. 8-9.
» DV 11, aa. 1-2.
Week 7: Faith
Lecture: “Knowledge beyond nature”
» DV 10, aa. 11-13.
» DV 14, aa. 1-3.
Week 8: Practical Knowledge
Lecture: “Synderesis and conscience”
» DV 16, aa. 1-3.
» DV 17, aa. 1-3.


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