Declaration of Principles and Goals
The Society for Aristotelian-Thomistic Studies is a learned society composed of individuals having a strong interest in the Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophical tradition.
The goal of the Society is to pursue philosophical studies in keeping with the method and principles of the Aristotelian tradition. It aims to assure the understanding and transmission of this tradition.
It proposes means for the encouragement and mutual support for those already working in this tradition, as well as for the formation of those who seek to enter into it.
Its study of Aristotle and of other great masters is properly philosophical, rather than purely scholarly, literary or historical. This means that without denying the value of the occasional contributions made by these disciplines to the understanding of the great philosophers, the Society insists on the priority of a properly philosophical study of their works and thus that nothing other deserves to be put in its place. Such an intention supposes that the goal of all philosophical studies is to arrive at knowledge of what things are, and not only at a knowledge of what certain thinkers have proposed about them. The Society also holds that such knowledge is possible, however fragmentary it might be, or difficult to reach.
Finally, the Society holds that the methods, the fundamental principles, and even very many of the conclusions (those derived of common experience) of this philosophical tradition are correct and applicable in all time and places, as well as apt to open the mind to new truths. Conscious of the necessity of a living tradition, it accords considerable importance to the use of these great truths to solve the problems of today, especially in the areas of methodology, science, ethics and politics.
The society intends to work within the broadest possible scope of traditional and sound philosophical thought.
All that was best in early Greek philosophy, from the Pre-Socratics up through Plato, found its accomplishment in the thought of Aristotle. ‘Aristotelian’ studies thus embrace all this early philosophy.
All that was and is good in philosophy after Aristotle also took its principles and its inspiration from his thought.
Among those philosophers who embraced Aristotelian principles and carried them to new heights, however, none went so far, nor rivaled with his master so clearly as Thomas Aquinas. For this reason, no Aristotelian should ignore his thought, nor do without the light that he shed on the works of his master. Thus the society accords a very special and privileged place to the thought of Thomas Aquinas. To be a true Thomist is to be an Aristotelian. And to be a good Aristotelian one can do no better than to follow the lead of Thomas Aquinas.
It was for these reasons that the title was chosen for the Society, ‘Aristotelian-Thomistic Studies’ naming as it does what is best in philosophy through the ages.
Finally, even those errors that have so often crept into thought throughout the ages are, for an Aristotelian passionate about dialectic, a means for discovering and seeing the truth more clearly. Thus, the Society encourages the examination of all philosophers and opinions apt to contribute to an understanding of reality. At the same time, it rejects any denial of the existence of an ultimate truth or of the ability to get to such truth in some way, for that would limit the study of opinions to pure historical scholarship.
1. Formation in the tradition at all levels, including continuing formation for professors.
2. Research aimed at a better understanding of the truths of this tradition and of how they might be applied to present-day problems.
-Publication of a Journal (Peripatetikos) and of books and monographs (Series Philosophia perennis) within the tradition
-Meetings (sometimes in conjunction with those of other societies)
WHAT IS MEANT BY “TRADITION”
Tradition is the best of the past living in the present and open to the future. Every true tradition is a living organism which grows and develops, while conserving its life-giving unity. Thus a tradition must not be studied as something dead—as an object of purely historical research—but as something eternal and living, able to give to each age, ours included, the tools and the wisdom needed to find solutions to the intellectual problems proper to its time.
THE SITUATION TODAY
The most serious problems of present-day society are of many orders, but almost all of them are rooted in false or inadequate ideas about reality and the universe in which we live, i.e., what it is, what knowledge we may have of it, and what its causes are; about human nature and the ultimate meaning of human life; and about human society.
Thus our Society will furnish a particular effort in view of examining the nature and the impact of science and technology on human thought in our times. We will also have to address the very real difficulties to be met with in the confusing areas of ethics and political ideas.
All these things will require that we clarify and solidify our understanding of what philosophy is about, how it should be pursued, and what role it should play in relation to other disciplines and human life in general.
Some have argued, no doubt rightly so, that intellectuals, and especially philosophers, will not save the world; that what the world needs is a change of heart. While in no way gainsaying this truth, we must insist that ideas (to be trite) do have consequences, and that even very well-intentioned and good-hearted people today, as well as in the past, are often wrong-headed, if right-hearted, and that their inadequate ideas do have disastrous consequences for the world.
It has been due in part to the absence of proper philosophical ideas that so much evil has befallen us from the hands of so few very bad people, with the assent of the many not-so-bad but misguided individuals who form society.
Nature abhors a vacuum, and this holds as much for the intellectual world as for the physical. Where ignorance of solid principles abounds, errors rush in. And since philosophy is concerned with the highest and most important truths that are accessible to unaided human reason, if follows that a vacuum here will have the direst consequences for humanity.