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Professor lectures on St. Thomas Aquinas

Carolynn Smith | Monday, February 1, 2010

Angela McKay Knobel, assistant professor of philosophy at Catholic University of America, discussed Aquinas’ views on marriage in a lecture called “Marriage as a Friendship of the Good” in Saint Mary’s Student Center Lounge Thursday night as a part of the 13th annual Symposium on St. Thomas Aquinas.

The lecture took place on Aquinas’ Feast Day.

“If we’re still celebrating a man who lived 800 years ago, then it stands to reason that he must have done something truly spectacular,” Knobel said.

She said Aquinas was a great thinker and saw both reason and faith. He had two main arguments about marriage and believed it should be monogamous and permanent.

“Aquinas wants to use Aristotle to argue for a conclusion that Aristotle himself never argues for, namely that men and women should enter into monogamous, indissoluble unions,” Knobel said.

Knobel explained how Aristotle’s views on friendship, more specifically friendship between a man and a woman, help to guide Aquinas’ beliefs on marriage.

Aristotle believed no one would choose to live without friends and spoke of true friendship and false friendship, she said.

According to Knobel, Aristotle believed there is a “natural friendship” between men and women. Aristotle thought men and women need each other for procreation but also to get through life, she said.

“Men and women are suited for different activities and hence naturally come together,” Knobel said of Aristotle’s views.

Aquinas expanded Aristotle’s idea of “natural friendship” to relate to marriage. Men and women share activities and responsibilities including childrearing, she said.

According to Knobel, Aquinas said that the proper education of children requires that the association so formed be indissoluble.

Therefore, she said, Aquinas believed once a couple has entered into a marriage and had children, there can be no divorce because childrearing is a life-long process that is never finished.

She said one of Aquinas’ main arguments stated marriage should be permanent for the child’s sake.

“Aquinas acknowledges that the married friendship should be a friendship that is solid and lasting, that it is the kind of friendship that cannot be shared with many people, and even that there should be equality between husband and wife,” Knobel said.

Aristotle described true friendship as lasting, solid and not shared with many people, Knobel said. Aquinas believed these same traits should be applied to marriage.