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Aug 10, 2023

In this episode I speak with Fr. Cajetan Cuddy O.P. about Thomistic Psychology: A Philosophic Analysis of the Nature of Man, by Fr. Robert Edward Brennan, O.P., edited and with an introduction by Fr. Cuddy.

 

Aristotle wrote that “to attain any assured knowledge about the soul is one of the most difficult things in the world.” We often read psychology because we want to understand ourselves and our behavior- and the behavior of others.  While we don’t normally think of St. Thomas Aquinas as a psychologist, as a serious philosopher, theologian, and student of the human person, St. Thomas gives us deep insight into human psychology — the study of the psyche or soul — our intellect, memory, will, emotions, and our embodied, embedded existence.


Fr. Brennan’s book on Thomistic Psychology provides a good accessible introduction to Aquinas’ reflections on psychology.  As. Fr. Cuddy notes, some of the science in Thomistic Psychology is a bit out of date, but the key principles and ideas are still applicable and provide an important contribution, especially in a time when so many struggle with anxiety, depression, sadness and other mental health challenges.  These have many causes to be sure, but the impact of modern theories of materialism, spiritualism and other reductionist visions of the person makes people even more confused about who they are and how to live well.

One of the ideas central to the work of St. Thomas and Fr. Brennan is the idea of truth — conforming the mind to reality — and how taking truth seriously combined with a solid, non-reductionist philosophy of the person can have practical, positive impact on our mental and psychological health. Thomistic Psychology presents an integrated vision of the person that helps us the better to understand ourselves and others, and provides clear models and practical advice on addressing our problems, how to fight bad habits and build good ones, how to address our emotions, disappointments, and successes, and a roadmap on how to live well.


St. Thomas’ philosophy and pyschology are also very important because he takes our embodiement seriously.  We are not souls in a body or driving around in our body like we drive around in a car. Nor are we simply material beings determined by our neurobiology or genetics. Rather we are embodied persons our physical, moral, spiritual, emotional, and psychological life are intertwined.  What we do and happens to us physically impacts our emotional and mental life and vice versa.  St. Thomas’ suggested remedy for sadness is a perfect of example of his taking our physical and spiritual nature seriously.

We discuss a broad range of topics including:

  • What is a person

  • Divine Persons, Angelic Persons, Embodied persons

  • What it means for human to have a nature.

  • What is a soul?

  • What is a body?

  • Why the body matters

  • Free will

  • The proper use of the powers of man

  • The remedy for saddnes

  • St. Thomas on the Senses — sight, touch, hearing etc.

  • Memory

  • Imagination

  • St. Thomas idea of self-creation

  • Human formation

  • The person as passive and active agent

  • The role of happiness

  • Evil as a privation

  • Why we need to be careful about the music we listen to, the movies we watch, what we think about 

  • Spiritual and/or Religious

  • The beginning of love according to John Paul II

  • Faith, Hope, Charity

  • How the Christian life is not to become an angel — but a human being fully integrated.

  • Liturgy

  • Fasting

  • Pray with our Bodies

Find show notes and links to books we discuss at www.themoralimagination.com


Biography:


Fr. Cajetan Cuddy, O.P., is a priest of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph. He serves as the general editor of the Thomist Tradition Series, and he is co-author of Thomas and the Thomists: The Achievement of St. Thomas Aquinas and His Interpreters. Fr. Cuddy has a B.A. from Franciscan University, a M.Div./S.T.B., The Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception, a S.T.L., The Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception and his doctorate, a S.T.D. from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.  He writes and lectures extensively on the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Thomist Tradition. Some of his selected publications can be found here.

Fr. Cuddy also lectures for the Thomistic Institute.  For an excellent introduction to the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas Aquinas I recommend the Thomistic Institutenstitute.org/ and their series Aquinas 101

The late Fr. Robert Edward Brennan, O.P. was a Dominican Friar, professor, and the author of numerous books and articles including Thomistic Psychology and The History of Psychology: A Thomistic Reading, both published recently by Cluny Media.

 

Cluny MediaCluny Media

Thomist Tradition Series

Cluny Media

 

thomisticinstitute.orgthomisticinstitute.org

Thomistic Institute

The Thomistic Institute exists to promote Catholic truth in our contemporary world by strengthening the intellectual formation of Christians at universities, in the Church, and in the wider public square.

 

aquinas101.thomisticinstitute.orgaquinas101.thomisticinstitute.org

Aquinas 101

Aquinas 101 is a video course project of the Thomistic Institute, located in Washington, DC. The Thomistic Institute exists to promote Catholic truth in our contemporary world by strengthening the intellectual formation of Christians at universities, in the Church, and in the wider public square.