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date: 04 April 2020

Aquinas, Thomaslocked

  • Edward Booth
  • , revised by Sean Gallagher


(b Roccasecca, 1226; d Fossanova, March 7, 1274). Italian Dominican priest and theologian. He was described as ‘Doctor Angelicus’. He led a life of intense study, lecturing and writing at Cologne, Paris and Naples. His works form the most profound, comprehensive and ordered scholastic synthesis of the scriptures, patristic teaching and philosophy; his philosophical work consists primarily of a judicious interpretation of Aristotle and his Greek and Arab commentators, integrated with an often neglected element of Platonist thought (mostly derived through St Augustine and neo-Platonist intermediaries). He was canonized in 1323.

Although Aquinas wrote no treatise specifically on music (the Ars musica is spurious), there are passages scattered throughout his works that suggest a musical aesthetic consistent with his whole system and predicated on his broader definitions of both the essence and the effects of beauty. This musical aesthetic, though, is austere in its Aristotelian terms of expression, but reveals nevertheless an awareness of the affective power of music. In devotional contexts this could manifest itself both positively and negatively. Thus he could approve of singing, so long as it was not done merely to provoke pleasure, since ‘vocal praise arouses the interior affection of the one praising and prompts others to praise God’ (...

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Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart
Journal of the American Musicological Society