Well, I have a final tomorrow so I am going to organize my thoughts about it ON MY BLOG! The class is an introduction to St. Thomas (at a graduate level). Essentially, the class seems to be tying together the mission of the Order of Preachers, how Thomas Aquinas carried out that mission, and the methods appropriate to that mission.
Lemme 'splain: St. Dominic founded the Dominican order in 1216. However, he didn't simply wake up one day and go "oh! I should found an order!" No. In 1203, Don Diego, the Bishop of Osma, was sent by Alfonso IX a marriage for the king's son. St. Dominic was a prior, at the time, at a cathedral chapter and the bishop tapped Dominic for company on the mission. They travelled through Toulouse and were shocked and horrified by the Albis who weren't, y'know, the most spiritually apt peoples. They thought matter was bad and stuff. Given that the lush lives that many RC priests were living (there was much need of reform), and the lack of sound education, the Albis were growing and the RC preachers were ineffective. Don Diego's mission failed because the bride-to-be was rather rude and died en route to her new home and marriage. So, Don Diego and Dominic headed to Rome - Don Diego to ask if he could be set free from his bishopric so that he could go preach. The Pope said no and sent both Don Diego and Dominic to Languedoc to assist some Cistercians in converting the Albis. Dominic told the Cistercians to stop being silly and to lead austere lives. So the Cistercians did - and the number of Albi converts increased. Then, in 1206, he founded a house of sisters in Prouille. Then in 1215, Dominic and a group of men were canonically recognized within a diocese. But Dominic was thinking big - beyond the borders of the diocese. In 1215 there was also an ecumenical council where the Pope admonished bishops for neglecting to preach. After the conclusion of the council, Dominic asked the Pope if he could please have a new order (not confined to a diocese). The Pope said no, because it was a weird point in time and he wanted efforts to be focused on reform and preaching (or, he didn't want to embark on anything unknown when there's already huge problems at hand).Then, in 1216, Dominic said "Please, Mr. Pope, we will use the order of St. Augustine, which is already established. Ok? Ok." And so it was.
And in 1224-1226 (longest labor evar?), Thomas Aquinas was born. And blah blah blah until the year 1252 when he started studying to be a master. First, he had to go through 4 years as a bachelor: 2 years first of reading the bible and then Peter Lombard's Sentences, and then 2 years to write a commentary on the Sentences. The ratio of the actual Sentences to the commentaries, so I've heard, are about 1/10. Whew. This was to give them structure and hone their rationality and technique. The Master's job was to teach the bible. His assistant (a bachelor) would give a cursory introduction to whatever the topic was, and give sed contras and replies to the masters. See, a Master of Theology was called a Master of the Sacra Pagina: of Holy Writ. His job: to teach Sacra Doctrina from Holy Writ. The object of teaching is Sacra Doctrina via Biblical commentaries/etc.
The gospel communicates sound doctrine to us. Doctrine comes from the latin word docere, that is, to teach. The sacra bit comes in because of the Holiness of God. Now, to teach is an activity that requires both a teacher and a receiver of the teaching. The teacher, in this case, is God, who teaches on His own behalf of Himself. The receiver is the Universal Church. The medium is Holy Writ. Or, in other words, God is the teacher leading the receivers of His word to beatitude. Now, the reception of Sacra Doctrina presupposes grace which allows us to recognize God's teaching as true. We need the lumen fidei which precedes, ontologically, the reception and proclamation of the Word. You cannot say that Sacra Doctrina is theology. Theology is trying to understand Sacra Doctrina because theologians are servants of the Word, and teach on behalf of the Church.Then, it is the job of the Magisterium to determine what is an actual authentic reception of Sacra Doctrina. Hence, you cannot dissent from the Magisterium because, in so doing, you separate yourself from the receiver of the Word: the Universal Church.
Sacra Doctrina is, moreover, a sure knowledge since, by it, we participate in God's knowledge of Himself. It is, moreover, a science because there are two types of sciences: those sciences whose principles are known via our natural intelligence, and those sciences whose principles are known via some higher science (music to arithmetic is the classical example). Science is perfect knowledge, which we get to via demonstration by a cause - we show things via principles. But God's knowledge of Himself is not known by us in the same way - we have a mode of knowing. We know Him as our creator and as our end, which gives us an ontological and operational status. Christ, who shows us the way, is begotten of the Father and is sent on a mission to dwell within us. We can choose to accept Him. But it is only when we have lumen gloriae that we will be able to know Him as He is. Now, we accept on faith certain principles. These principles of faith are more fundamental than writings. These principles cannot be proven - but, against those who disagree with them, you can show either 1. that their arguments are not necessary or 2. unreasonable.
When teaching, you have to have some kind of order. So, in the summa contra gentiles, Aquinas re-structured his thought. Then, in the Summa, he gave an order: God in Himself, in His work, as our end, and how we get there. However, this is using the via iudici versus the via inventiones. That is, the order is by way of judgment, what is most abstract, rather than natural discovery.
Now, there are conceptual tools which help you understand the bible: i.e. philosophy. Philosophy is probable and extrinsic to the bible, however, and it is an uncertain method, which takes a long time, and yields few truths. Church fathers' arguments are intrinsic and probable. The bible itself, literally, is intrinsic and probable. Philosophy must be: sapiential, accepts criterion of truth, and must be open to being. There are 2 big questions in the OT: is all suffering punishment for sin? Is there personal survival after death? We can make argument within and from revelation/Scripture. That is, there are arguments about its being a holy history, for the immortality of the soul, and personal retribution. Or, you can argue from revelation to something that is not explicitly there.
There are two types of disputations: 1 to resolve doubt about whether something is the case (or refutatio - using accepted authorities), and 2 (magisterial) to lead to deeper understanding. On the first, you use authority, on the second you use reason via demonstration from cause to effect. This is still Sacra Doctrina.
Now, Aquinas did not develop a complete account of the world like Plato or Aristotle. But he did contribute when it came to logic, ethics, and metaphysics.
So, to sum up, the Dominican order was founded to preach Sacra Doctrina. Thomas Aquinas totally digged this mission and used it in his writings, understanding men as coming from God and returning to God. But, since you gotta know where you're going, God teaches us about Himself in scripture, which is received and digested by the Universal Church. Philosophy is a handy and external tool in Sacra Doctrina, but by no means sure and certain. Howevah, the theologian - servants of the Word of God - must know theology in order that they may make cogent arguments within and from revelation. And stuff.
Dum dum dum.
I want beer.