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Course Number: PHTH 711
Course Title: Thomas Aquinas
Term: Fall 2014


Dr. Donald Demarco,


1. Course Overview

St. Thomas Aquinas is the most important of all Catholic philosophers and theologians. This course emphasizes his contribution as a philosopher. In this regard, we can say that Aquinas is a philosopher who happened to be a Catholic.

The term “Thomism” refers primarily to the thought of Thomas Aquinas. Because his thought is not limited to his age, but transcends both time and place, it endures and has application even to the present culture. Looking at his philosophy in particular, Thomism also refers to the many philosophers of various ages who have adopted, extended, or modified his thought. Aquinas’ philosophy fits into what is traditionally referred to as philosophia perennis (perennial or eternal philosophy). It is a living, dynamic philosophy.

This course introduces the student to the life and times of St. Thomas Aquinas, his philosophy, as well as a number of important Thomistic philosophers who have adopted and extended his thought. It also examines his relevance for today’s culture.

Aquinas’ philosophy is both encyclopedic and systematic. His writings are voluminous. Since this course is introductory, it is essential to make it manageable for the student. To this end, we will emphasize but two of his works, his Summa Theologica and his Summa Contra Gentiles.

We will approach the philosophy of Aquinas via a number of themes, including the following: 1) God; 2) Man (anthropology); 3) Natural Law; 4) Morality; 5) Epistemology (how we know); 6) Law and Politics; 7) Art; 8) Wisdom.

The Thomistic philosophers that are emphasized are Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Jacques Maritain, Etienne Gilson, Josef Pieper, Walter Farrell, G.K. Chesterton, and Peter Kreeft.

2. Course Schedule

Week 1:

  • Read The Introductory Course in Thomism.pdf
  • Read About Thomas Aquinas
  • Post Weekly Report

Week 2:

  • Read God Philosophical Theme.pdf
  • Post Weekly Report

Week 3:

  • Read: Man Philosophical Theme.pdf
  • Post Weekly Report

Week 4:

  • Read: Natural Law Philosophical Theme.pdf
  • Post Weekly Report

Week 5: 1st Writing Assignment Due

  • Read Morality Philosophical Theme.pdf 
  • Post Weekly Report

Week 6:

  • Read: Epistemology Philosophical Theme.pdf 
  • Post Weekly Report

Week 7:

  • Read: Law Philosophical Theme.pdf
  • Post Weekly Report

Week 8:

  • Read: Art Philosophical Theme.pdf 
  • Post Weekly Report

Week 9:

  • Read: Wisdom Philosophical Theme.pdf 
  • Post Weekly Report

Week 10: 2nd Writing Assignment Due

  • Read: Thomistic Philosophers.pdf 
  • Post Weekly Report

Week 11:

  • Review: Thomistic Philosophers.pdf
  • Post Weekly Report

Week 12:

  • Review: Thomistic Philosophers.pdf
  • Post Weekly Report

Week 13:

  • Review: Thomistic Philosophers.pdf
  • Work on 3rd writing assignment

Week 14:

  • Review: Thomistic Philosophers.pdf
  • Work on 3rd writing assignment

Week 15: Submit 3rd Writing Assignment

3. Course Assignments

Three Papers: 85% of Grade

There will be no final exam in this course, but the student is required to write 3 essays, each 7-9 pages (double-space, font 12). The first essay is a coherent presentation of one of the 8 themes mentioned above. The second essay is a profile of any of the Thomistic philosophers listed above (or a different Thomistic philosopher subject to the approval of the teacher). The third essay is more creative and invites the student to apply the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas to today’s culture. 

Assignment Due Dates:

These essays are due, one at a time, at the end of weeks 5, 10, and 15 of the course. Please email them to me at 

Weekly Statements: 15% of Grade

In addition to your three essays, and in the interest of establishing a learning community, we ask you to share the fruits of your reading and research with others in the class.  In this way, the class becomes more interactive and each student stands to benefit through a kind of cross-fertilization of ideas from the various ideas posted by all your colleagues.  Your weekly report, posted on the discussion board, may be as brief as a single short paragraph.  These reports consist of 6 original statements and 6 responses to any of the statements posted.  Your 12 statements altogether should be posted on a weekly basis.

     The following questions provide a springboard for your statements:

  1. What is the relationship between democracy and virtue?
  1. Is moral virtue optional?
  2. Is moral virtue necessary?
  3. Is intellectual virtue more important than moral virtue?
  1.  What is the relationship between education and democracy?
  1. Can education be based on a relativistic philosophy?
  2. Can a healthy skepticism be of value?
  3. How does education help to harmonize liberty and equality?
  1. What is the role, in a good society, of:
  1. Truth?
  2. Justice?
  3. Goodness?

4. Course Reading Materials

The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. Free at this link thanks to New Advent.

The Summa Contra Gentiles of St. Thomas Aquinas. Free at this link thanks to the Dominicans.

It is suggested that the student spend the first half of the semester studying the 8 philosophical themes, one per week, and the second half of the semester studying the commentaries of at least 3 or 4 of the Thomistic philosophers.  This time can be used to think about how the thought of Aquinas, aided by his Thomistic commentators, has application to the modern world. This timeline, of course, is a suggestion and not a requirement. But it does offer a study plan for the course so that the student will have a better idea of how to allocate study time.

(Note to students: For your consideration when preparing to write your Week 5 assignment, notice specific reference to sections within Aquinas’ Summa Theologica and Summa Contra Gentiles in Dr. DeMarco’s Philosophical Themes commentary. 

5. Assignment Submission Policy

Acceptable File Format:

The preferred file format for your papers is Microsoft Word, but any format that will get through to Dr. Demarco is acceptable.

Assignment Feedback:

Students can expect feedback from Dr. DeMarco within a few days after submission.

Citation Style

Students can use any citation style, as long as it is clear and consistent. As a reminder, Holy Apostles College and Seminary uses the Turabian Citation Style. Please refer to the HACS Thesis Guidelines document located in Populi (starting on page 12 of the document) if you choose to utilize the Turabian format for your paper.

6. Email Policy


If you have a question related to course content, feedback from graded papers, and/or a private issue for discussion within the instructor-student relationship, email Dr. DeMarco at: (unless otherwise alerted by Dr. DeMarco to use a different email address).

Response Time

Emails sent to Dr. DeMarco will usually be answered the same day. Note: If you have not heard back from Dr. DeMarco within two business days, it is recommended that you resend the email.


Students who have difficulty with research and composition are encouraged to pursue assistance with the Online Writing Lab (available at


A 94-100; A- 90-93; B+ 87-89; B 84-86; B- 80-83; C+ 77-79; C 74-76; C- 70-73 60-69; F 59 and below


Holy Apostles College & Seminary is committed to the goal of achieving equal educational opportunities and full participation in higher education for persons with disabilities who qualify for admission to the College. Students enrolled in online courses who have documented disabilities requiring special accommodations should contact Bob Mish, the Director of Online Student Affairs, at or 860-632-3015. In all cases, reasonable accommodations will be made to ensure that all students with disabilities have access to course materials in a mode in which they can receive them. Students who have technological limitations (e.g., slow Internet connection speeds in convents) are asked to notify their instructors the first week of class for alternative means of delivery.


Students at Holy Apostles College & Seminary are expected to practice academic honesty.

Avoiding Plagiarism

In its broadest sense, plagiarism is using someone else's work or ideas, presented or claimed as your own.  At this stage in your academic career, you should be fully conscious of what it means to plagiarize. This is an inherently unethical activity because it entails the uncredited use of someone else's expression of ideas for another's personal advancement; that is, it entails the use of a person merely as a means to another person’s ends.

Students, where applicable:

  • Should identify the title, author, page number/webpage address, and publication date of works when directly quoting small portions of texts, articles, interviews, or websites.
  • Students should not copy more than two paragraphs from any source as a major component of papers or projects.
  • Should appropriately identify the source of information when paraphrasing (restating) ideas from texts, interviews, articles, or websites.
  • Should follow the Holy Apostles College & Seminary Stylesheet (available on the Online Writing Lab’s website at

Consequences of Academic Dishonesty:

Because of the nature of this class, academic dishonesty is taken very seriously.  Students participating in academic dishonesty may be removed from the course and from the program.


Even though you are not required to be logged in at any precise time or day, you are expected to login several times during each week. Because this class is being taught entirely in a technology-mediated forum, it is important to actively participate each week in the course. In a traditional classroom setting for a 3-credit course, students would be required, per the federal standards, to be in class three 50-minute sessions (or 2.5 hours a week) and prepare for class discussions six 50-minute sessions (or 5 hours) a week. Expect to devote at least nine 50-minute sessions (or 7.5 quality hours) a week to this course. A failure on the student’s part to actively participate in the life of the course may result in a reduction of the final grade.


An Incomplete is a temporary grade assigned at the discretion of the faculty member. It is typically allowed in situations in which the student has satisfactorily completed major components of the course and has the ability to finish the remaining work without re-enrolling, but has encountered extenuating circumstances, such as illness, that prevent his or her doing so prior to the last day of class.

To request an incomplete, distance-learning students must first download a copy of the Incomplete Request Form. This document is located within the Shared folder of the Files tab in Populi. Secondly, students must fill in any necessary information directly within the PDF document. Lastly, students must send their form to their professor via email for approval. “Approval” should be understood as the professor responding to the student’s email in favor of granting the “Incomplete” status of the student.

Students receiving an Incomplete must submit the missing course work by the end of the sixth week following the semester in which they were enrolled. An incomplete grade (I) automatically turns into the grade of “F” if the course work is not completed.

Students who have completed little or no work are ineligible for an incomplete. Students who feel they are in danger of failing the course due to an inability to complete course assignments should withdraw from the course.

A “W” (Withdrawal) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the first week of a semester to the end of the third week. A “WF” (Withdrawal/Fail) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the third week of a semester and on or before the Friday before the last week of the semester.


Donald DeMarco is a Senior Fellow of Human Life International. He is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario, and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut, and a regular columnist for St. Austin Review. Some of his recent writings may be found at Human Life International's Truth & Charity Forum.


(860) 632-3010