World-Renowned Thomist Dewan Delivers Lecture 

January 31, 2011

Renowned Dominican priest and Thomistic philosopher, Reverend Lawrence Dewan, O.P., delivered a lecture entitled, Being a Disciple of St. Thomas Aquinas in the Pursuit of Wisdom, as the keynote speaker at Christendom College’s annual St. Thomas Aquinas Lecture  on January 28.

dewan“We humans will find ultimate satisfaction—happiness—only through intellectual appreciation of reality—knowing ‘what it’s all about,” Fr. Lawrence Dewan, O.P., told students and faculty. “Do we see ourselves as engaged in ‘the pursuit of wisdom?’”

Dewan explained that in “the pursuit of wisdom” one should be an apprentice to a particular philosopher. “I am an apprentice of St. Thomas Aquinas,” he said.

A member of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome, Dewan studied philosophy at the University of Toronto, the University of Paris, and the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. He has taught at the University of Ottawa, Saint Mary's University, the University of Toronto, Université Laval of Québec, and the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He is author of three books: Form and Being: Studies in Thomistic MetaphysicsSt. Thomas and Form as Something Divine in Things, andWisdom, Law, and Virtue: Essays in Thomistic Ethics.

In his lecture, Dewan noted that while St. Thomas wrote extensively on metaphysical topics and the great truths that one can come to through reason, one should never diminish the importance of faith.

“In our rather secularist culture, our rationalist culture, we are likely to see our faith as bearing solely upon those things that transcend reason, and see the very existence of a God as readily available to what we might call ‘our natural selves,’” he said. “Thomas explicitly speaks of the need to believe by supernatural faith the truth that God exists—this is the case until one truly understands the power of the philosophical demonstration.”

Dewan said that Aristotle and the Jewish Philosopher Moses Mamaonidies are in accord with Thomas on the difficulty of metaphysical knowledge or the philosophical knowledge that attains to some truths about God.

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The lecture drew a large number of students and faculty.

“It is the knowledge that is most difficult for the human being. It is ‘divine’ knowledge, because God alone can have it, says Aristotle, or God above all others,” he said.

Dewan explained that Thomas speaks of a spontaneous, natural reasoning to the existence of a God, something that any human being can be expected to have concluded, but Thomas finds that the reasoning alone is not enough.

“This sort of knowledge of a God [is] too easily confused or overturned. Even as to God’s very existence—besides the many odd conceptions of God’s nature that often appear at this level of human awareness,” he said. “What the faith provides is the certainty of the existence and of the goodness of God.”

A reception was held following the talk where students and faculty enjoyed discussing the topic further with Dewan.

Throughout the year, Christendom College hosts many notable speakers, providing its students with exposure to some of the great Catholic thinkers of today. This lecture can be downloaded at Christendom on iTunes U, christendom.edu/itunesu.

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