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Learning in today’s world

Learning come about by God’s creative action. And yet, creaturely causes, though all secondary causes, are genuine causes. So, there can be human teachers acting as instruments of God and being true causes as they do so. (St. Thomas Aquinas)

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, all of education is ordered to human happiness (eudaimonia). The foundation for this conception of education is twofold: first, the Aristotelian-Thomistic understanding of the arts and sciences, and second, the treatment of human happiness in the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle.

Education was for them a way of life. Education was not for the sake of making a living, but making a living was for the sake of education. Being a lifelong learner was for the sake of attaining the highest humangood, which is the perfection of reason. Nothing was more important or more crucial to one’s happiness. Happiness or eudaimonia, which for Aristotle is synonymous with the highest goods that human beings can possibly attain, is secured by perfecting the power of reason (Neumayr, 2015).

In fact, until the industrial revolution, education was thought to be coextensive with a study of philosophy as Aristotle conceived it. It is for this reason that those who were granted a terminal degree were given the title of philosophiae doctor, or doctor of philosophy, the initials of which we still retain in the conferral of the vast majority of doctoral degrees: Ph.D. In the Greek tradition of Aristotle adopted by Aquinas, therefore, the study of education necessarily requires a treatment of the philosophical disciplines (Ashley, 2006).

Now all the sciences and arts are ordered to a single thing, namely, to man’s perfection, which is happiness” (Aquinas)

First of all, the term “happiness” used in the Nicomachean Ethics does not connote what is normally meant by the term in contemporary parlance. When one hears the term, one usually thinks of an emotion of joy or a feeling of delight. If someone were to ask, “Are you happy or sad?” one would usually be inquiring about an emotion. Aristotle, however, used the term to refer to the greatest human good or the best thing that human beings can attain.

How does Aristotle  determine what happiness consists in? He asked this question:

“What is the highest of all goods achievable by action?”

He begins his answer to the question by saying that the highest of all goods that we can achieve by action cannot be something that we want for the sake of something else. For if we wanted it for “something else,” that “something else” would be more desirable than the happiness we desire. So, happiness must be desirable for itself, and not for the sake of something else.

Because the faculty of reason is the highest human faculty, it necessarily follows that the exercise of this faculty is the highest human activity. Aristotle puts it this way:

“Now if the function of man is an activity of soul in accordance with, or not without, rational principle . . . human good turns out to be activity of soul in conformity with excellence [virtue], and if there are more than one excellence [virtue], in conformity with the best and most complete”. To exercise human rationality with excellence or virtue, then, is the greatest human good in which happiness consists.

To put in simply, Aristotle’s position is that human happiness is virtuous activity.

Everyone knows that workers were involved in the construction of every existing house. Aquinas’s way of saying this is that the cause of the form of the product is exterior to the product.

Aquinas says, “the intellect of the learner is led by the hand (manuducitur) to a knowledge of the truth [previously] unknown.

Source of info above: JOSEF CHARLES FROULA

For Aquinas, God is the central aim of education and He is at once our Teacher. This does not mean that human beings cannot teach each other, but it shapes what we understand by knowledge and what we mean when we say that someone has learnt.


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