It goes all the way back to Aristotle. Do we choose an active life or a contemplative life? The vita contemplativa or activa?

A lecture by Steve Chavura

Thomas More

Born into privilege, 7 February 1478, Thomas More had a father who was a successful lawyer; his mother died when he was a child. He studied under England’s preeminent humanist scholars, Thomas Linacre and William Grocyn. 

Renaissance Humanism

11th and 12th centuries sought to recover Aristotle: scholasticism is perceived to have degenerated into trivia, decadent and trivial. The Church was perceived as corrupt. There was a new focus on recovering the knowledge of the pre-Catholic past.

Classical humanism

  • “Man is the measure of all things” (Protagoras)
  • Near rejection of original sin; akin to the 18th century Enlightenment

Christian humanism: 

  • Attempt to recover pre-Catholic Christianity.
  • Erasmus’ Greek New Testament (1516)

Thomas More did not see his life as a series of choices. He saw it as a series of duties he had to live up to. In the end, the Chancellor was served a poisoned chalice.

Live a life of action informed by contemplation. Live a life of contemplation informed by action.

The secular power is subject to the spiritual power as the body is subject to the soul – Aquinas