This unit explores the thought of the medieval philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225–74), with a focus on his ethics and his metaphysics. It is suitable as an introduction both to medieval philosophy and to the main elements of Thomistic thought. The unit examines selected themes in Aquinas in their medieval context, in the context of Aquinas’ own thought, and in the context of the later history of Thomism. The unit introduces some key Thomistic doctrines and the fundamental concepts of Thomistic philosophy, in addition to ‘patterns of thought’ that are distinctively Thomistic. Topics covered may include: metaphysics and the real distinction of being and esse, virtue theory, natural law, cosmology and the perfection of the universe, the human soul and immortality.

Unit code: AP2121C (Approved)

Points: 18.0

Unit level: Undergraduate Level 2

Unit discipline: Philosophy

Proposing College: Catholic Theological College

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Learning outcomes


Outline the core theories of Aquinas taught in the unit; for example, the metaphysics of esse, virtue theory, natural law theory


Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of Aquinas’ theories of metaphysics and ethics


Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of Aquinas’ theories of metaphysics and ethics


Expound a view on the degree of coherence of Aquinas’ theories in relation to the basic recurring principles in the Thomistic thought

Unit sequence

AP2210C: 30 points of philosophy at first level AP3210C: 30 points of philosophy at second level


Lectures, seminars, tutorials

Indicative Bibliography

  • Blanchette, Oliva. The Perfection of the Universe According to Aquinas: A Teleological Cosmology. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University, 1992.
  • Boyle, Leonard E. Facing History: A Different Thomas Aquinas. Louvain-La-Neuve: Federation Internationale des Instituts d'Etudes Medievales, 2000.
  • Davies, Brian. Aquinas. London: Continuum, 2002.
  • Hause, Jeffrey, and Claudia Eisen Murphy, trans. Thomas Aquinas: Disputed Questions on Virtue. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2010.
  • Jordan, Mark D. Rewritten Theology: Aquinas After his Readers. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006.
  • Kerr, Fergus. Contemplating Aquinas: On the Varieties of Interpretation. London: SCM Press, 2003.
  • Pope, Stephen J. The Ethics of Aquinas. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2002.
  • Rziha, John. Perfecting Human Actions: St. Thomas Aquinas on Human Participation in Eternal Law. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2009.
  • Te Velde, Rudi A. Participation and Substantiality in Thomas Aquinas. Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1995.
  • Wippel, John F. The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas: From Finite Being to Uncreated Being*. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2000.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)

2,000 word essay

0 50.0
Written Examination

Unit variation one: 2-hour written exam Variation 2: 3 take-home examinations comprising 2000 words total

One of the variations set out here is chosen by the lecturer/unit coordinator prior to the start of the unit, in conjunction with the Dean, and is published in the unit outline. The lecturer may choose different variations for different levels in the same unit.

0 50.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 1 Nov, 2017

Unit record last updated: 2019-02-01 08:49:22 +1100