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May 30, 2006


You may have heard me talk about the notorious "Quodlibetal Question 12.20" of St. Thomas Aquinas.  These questions were the result of live question-and-answer sessions that the Dominicans held where the people could ask a friar questions about whatever (quodlibet) they pleased, and he would try to answer.

Anyway, at one of these sessions, some wag asked St. Thomas "Which is more influential in human affairs, kings, wine, women, or the truth?"  His answer is classic (the order, in case you were wondering, from lowest to highest was wine, the king, women, the truth [the truth has to win, among other reasons, because Jesus is The Truth - see John's Gospel - and Providence is the top-level authority over human history]).  If you're curious, you might be able to find it on a philosophy humor website somewhere.  His answer was something like, "That's a silly question, and you're asking me to compare apples to oranges" only in more polite and philosophically precise language, and "nevertheless, they can in some sense be compared by considering their effects."

If people tell me it's not googleable, I might be persuaded to get the book of Quodlibetal Questions from McKeldin Library and translate it for you, but not right now, because I don't have that kind of leisure time.

Anyway, this question was not a question out of the blue - the smart-aleck no doubt had some familiarity with St. Augustine's writings, because this question is alluded to in De Civ. Dei, Book XVIII, chapter 37.

Posted by Thomas A. on May 30, 2006 at 11:04 AM | Permalink


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