University graduate delivers McMahon Aquinas Lecture at SMC
Colleen Zewe | Friday, November 4, 2016
David Schindler, a Notre Dame graduate currently at the Catholic University of America, gave the annual McMahon Aquinas Lecture on Thursday evening at Saint Mary’s.
“David Schindler is one of the brightest, most engaging and prolific young Catholic thinkers of our time,” Saint Mary’s professor Michael Waddell said. “We are very fortunate to have him speaking on a topic that is at the heart of his work and that has such broad relevance.”
The lecture, “Love and Beauty, ‘The Forgotten Transcendental,’ in Aquinas,” explored the links Thomas Aquinas makes between love and goodness.
In ancient times, love and beauty were often equated, Schindler said. By Aquinas’s time, however, he said beauty was taken out of the mix, and love was associated instead with goodness.
“In Aquinas, goodness stands alone as the cause of love,” Schindler said.
Schindler said Aquinas’s work rarely mentions beauty explicitly. He explains the importance of beauty in Aquinas’s texts by comparing it to the buildings of a brick.
“It is simply not possible, for example, to imagine Aquinas’s philosophical theology without the notion of truth,” he said. “If it was missing, the very foundation of his thought would be crumbled. On the other hand, if we got rid of the notion of beauty from his text, the building would remain standing and only lose a handful of bricks.”
The ancient notion of beauty and love still posed great influence on Aquinas’s philosophy, even though Aquinas never explicitly mentions beauty, Schindler said.
“My aim tonight is to dig out elements in Aquinas’s treatment of love that point back to this ancient tradition,” he said. “While it is the case that Aquinas on the surface replaces beauty with goodness, when we go past the surface we see a new dimension of the meaning of both beauty and love.”
Schindler began his lecture by explaining how Aquinas defines love.
“According to Aquinas’s most mature formulation, love is the primary passion of the soul,” he said. “Passion indicates being affected by something other than oneself.”
Love, as a passion, is a physical sensation, Schindler said.
“It provokes a bodily change within us,” he said. “Our heart beats faster, we feel a surge of adrenaline, and our face gets hot.”
Passion creates a movement in our appetite. According to Aquinas, Schindler says, “Appetite is a desire for a good that corresponds to our nature.” Schindler says that according to Aquinas, love is “a tendency towards something and the recognition that it will cause us goodness.”
Schindler then went on to explain how beauty plays into Aquinas’s notion of love if we look beyond the surface of Aquinas’s writings.
“The beautiful is the same as the good,” he said. “Good calms desire, while beauty calms desire by being good.”
Beauty, Schindler said, is as important as goodness to understand Aquinas’s explanation of love.
“The insights Aquinas offers into the nature of love and beauty are indispensable,” he said. “They bring out features of the middle ages that cannot be ignored.”