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: AP9121C (Approved)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Elective

Unit discipline: Philosophy

Proposing College: Catholic Theological College

Show when this unit is running

Learning outcomes


Explain and critically interpret the core theories of Aquinas taught in the unit; for example, the metaphysics of esse, virtue theory and natural law theory


Critically compare and contrast the position of Aquinas (and the various interpretations of Aquinas) from the positions of later Thomists on metaphysics and ethics


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


Appraise Aquinas’ positions on metaphysics and ethics in their medieval context, and their place in Aquinas’ thought as a whole;


Assess the degree to which the metaphysics and ethics of Aquinas have continuing validity and viability as a contemporary system of thought;


Define, plan and undertake a topic of research in a critically rigorous, sustained and self-directed manner


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.
  • 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.
  • McCool, Gerald. A. From Unity to Pluralism: The Internal Evolution of Thomism. New York: Fordham University Press, 1989.
  • 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 (%)

Option 2: 4,000-word essay 50%
1,000-word skeleton argument 10% 2-hour written exam (2,000 words) 40% Essay: week 14, 15 or 16, as set at start of semester by lecturer & published in unit outline. Skeleton argument: week 13.

OR Option 1 or 3

7000 100.0

Option 3: 4,000-word essay 50% 1,000-word skeleton argument 10%
2,000-word essay 40% Essay: week 14, 15 or 16, as set at start of semester by lecturer & published in unit outline. Skeleton argument: week 13

OR Option 1 or 2

7000 100.0

Option 1: 6,000-word essay 100% Wk 16 1,000 skeleton argument 10% Wk 11

OR Option 2 or 3

7000 100.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 20 Jul, 2017

Unit record last updated: 2019-10-03 11:54:20 +1000