Edited by Jan Peil and Irene van Staveren
Chapter 2: Thomas Aquinas
Odd Langholm In the history of economic ideas, Thomas Aquinas (1225–74) is the foremost representative of Scholasticism, that is, the system of Christian philosophy taught in the schools of Western Europe in the Middle Ages. This assessment is usually based on Aquinas’s contribution of four articles dealing with exchange and value and with loans and usury in his Summa Theologiae (II–II, 77, 1–78, 4). However, Aquinas dealt with economic subjects elsewhere in that work and in a number of other works as well. He also belonged to a tradition that included many important contributors to scholastic economics, some before him, on whom he drew, and some after him, who further developed his ideas. What singles him out, in the eyes of both his contemporaries and his scholastic successors and from the historian’s perspective, is his powerful intellect combined with his common sense and moderation. Thomas Aquinas was the youngest son of an Italian count. He was born around 1225 at Roccasecca near Aquino, a small town between Rome and Naples. Having spent his boyhood as an oblate at the Benedictine abbey of Monte Cassino, Aquinas left without taking monastic vows and enrolled in the arts faculty of the University of Naples. While studying there he became attracted to the ideals of the mendicant friars and joined the more recently founded Dominican order. After some initial opposition from his aristocratic family he was permitted to travel to Paris where he came under the influence of Albert the Great....
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