Volume 88, 2014
Dispositions, Habits, and Virtues
Samuel A. Pomeroy
Accommodating Avicenna, Appropriating Augustine
Assessing the Sources for Thomas Aquinas’s Doctrine of Prophecy
In this paper I argue that Aquinas’s doctrine of prophecy develops from the early period (De uer. q. 12, a. 1, prophecy is a habit) to his more mature articulation (ST IIa-IIae q. 171, a. 2, prophecy is not a habit) as a result of his complex handling of the metaphysical thought of Avicenna. Aquinas subtly distances himself from the implication of Avicenna’s emanationist framework for prophecy, namely that prophetic knowledge is acquired through perfected natural intellectual habit. Yet at the same time he accommodates this aspect insofar as it aligns with Augustine’s biblical neo-Platonism. He does so, as I shall demonstrate, with Augustine’s notion of prayer (orandi) as a kind of inquiry (disputatio) that disposes the soul to aptly receive the prophetic light by the extension of divine grace. In this, Aquinas incorporates Avicenna’s notion of prophetic habit without committing to the emanationist model from which it arises.