By Jordan Apodaca
- Aquinas was a synthesizer. Ryan Smith has written“As it happens, Aristotle was the first of the Western thinkers to craft a comprehensive system of thinking out of the various philosophies that had preceded him.” So did Aquinas. Aquinas lived during the High Middle Ages, in which the various texts of Aristotle were being rediscovered, this time into a largely Christian world. And Aquinas was left with a task that he tackled: how to synthesize the various church authorities with Aristotle (not to mention his Muslim commentators which he also read very closely). As Daniel J. Kennedy writes “It is not possible to characterize the method of St. Thomas by one word, unless it can be called eclectic. It is Aristotelean, Platonic, and Socratic; it is inductive and deductive; it is analytic and synthetic. He chose the best that could he found in those who preceded him, carefully sifting the chaff from the wheat, approving what was true, rejecting the false. His powers of synthesis were extraordinary. No writer surpassed him in the faculty of expressing in a few well-chosen words the truth gathered from a multitude of varying and conflicting opinions; and in almost every instance the student sees, the truth and is perfectly satisfied with St. Thomas’s summary and statement.” (http://www3.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/etext/stthomas.htm) If any man in the history of philosophy has ever rivaled the scope of Aristotle, it was Aquinas. He, too, seemed to have a drive to arrange all knowledge very systematically. He, too wrote about plants, arguing that some are more feminine and some are more masculine. These points make me think his primary function is Te, and his auxiliary Ni.
- Aquinas, like Aristotle, writes horribly impersonally. Read some of his Summa Theologica. It is all written the same exact way, fitting every question into the same mold: he poses a question, lists answers from the past, puts forward his answer, lists possible objections, answers those objections, and moves to the next question. He does not deviate from this style once. There is no warmth to the man. It is similar to Aristotle’s style. And as you suggest that this implies inferior Fi for Aristotle, so I suggest it does for Aquinas.
- Neither Aristotle nor Aquinas would be called a skeptic by any. If anything, they were the philosophers who wanted to uphold the plain and obvious. And in both of them you see them fighting hard for commonly-held opinions that a few skeptics had tried to take down. Aquinas was thus approved by the Catholic Church for defending its ancient doctrines, for he did not attack them, but defended them. This seems to fit well with a Te-Se type.
- Why he is not INTJ: I think his breadth is too broad and his writing too impersonal for an inner-focused type like the INTJ.
- Why he is not ESTJ: A lack of Si. Ryan Smith says with Aristotle, Aquinas simply does not care about the culture he inherits; he is interested with only the facts that are passed down. He compiles arguments from the past, but for no reason but as a list of data points to interact with. As a correction to a possible misunderstanding from point 3, Aquinas did not defend tradition so much as he defended what was obvious.
I hope this encourages further thinking on the topic. But as I read both Aquinas and Aristotle, I just see remarkable similarities.