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Allegories and Metaphors in Early Political Thought

From Plato to Machiavelli

Kevin Dooley

Allegories and Metaphors in Early Political Thought: From Plato to Machiavelli examines allegories and metaphors that best exemplify the ideologies of Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Niccolo Machiavelli. Author Kevin Dooley’s approach allows readers to gain a greater understanding of each thinker’s ideas through the lens of metaphor, which stimulates imaginative discussions and more thoughtful reflections.

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Chapter 5: St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274): The Pilot and the Shepherd

Extract

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ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (1225–1274)

The Pilot and the Shepherd

Introduction

The inclusion of St. Thomas Aquinas in a collection of political allegories and metaphors is both necessary and ironic. It is necessary because Thomas is the most important thinker of the late Middle Ages and the person responsible for preserving, enhancing, and promoting Aristotelianism as a way of thought within the emerging European University system. It is ironic because of how metaphors were thought of during his lifetime. In the Middle Ages, academic life was structured in an intellectual hierarchy of sorts. At the top were the theological and philosophical sciences and at the bottom was poetry. Much of this curricular determination was based on the role that reason, that is, scientific inquiry, played in the understanding of the natural world. Since theology, philosophy, astronomy, and a variety of mathematics-based subjects sought precision of thought around the loftiest heights of both the physical and metaphysical worlds, they were placed at the top. Since literature and poetry utilized less scientific analysis and relied almost exclusively on metaphor and analogy, they were placed at the bottom.

This hierarchy created a dilemma for medieval theologians because the Bible, one of the most important focuses of the intellect, was replete with allegories and metaphors. From the Book of Genesis to the Book of Revelation, ← 87 | 88 → ancient writers utilized images and substances of nature to both instruct and inspire...

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