The Anomaly

The other day when I was answering a question using Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica (Notre Dame Prof. Alfred J. Freddoso's translation) I came across a new type of "Reply to Objection" in II-II q.83 a.14 called

"Reply to the argument for the contrary"

The New Advent website version is not consistent. Sometimes, the "On the contrary" is prefixed with another "Objection". For example, in Article 14, the "On the contrary" is labeled

"Objection 4. On the contrary"

and the reply is titled

"Reply to Objection 4".

But sometimes the New Advent website simply adds another "Reply to Objection" with no corresponding "Objection", since the "On the contrary" itself is the objection. For example in I-II q.26 a.3 (Notre Dame version here), we have

On the contrary


Reply to Objection 4

I found other examples in

  • I-II q.11 a.2 (Whether to enjoy belongs to the rational creature alone, or also to irrational animals?): ND website vs. New Advent
  • II-II q.136 a.5 (Is patience the same as longanimity): ND website vs. New Advent

Using Google search on the query "Reply to the argument for the contrary" site:www.nd.edu yields 9 results, but there are maybe more since this search is dependent on how uniform the labeling of the section is in Prof. Alfred J. Freddoso's translation (hosted in the ND website).

The Question

What is the meaning of this rare occurrence? Can we infer that St. Thomas does not have a definitive answer for the question? Or does it point to something else?

1 Answer 1


The "anomaly" seems to be when St. Thomas refutes or commentates on a sed contra.

In II-II q. 83 a. 14, for example, he refers to a sed contra as the fourth objection:

II-II q. 83 a. 14 s.c.:
Sed contra, videtur quod [But against (the thesis), it seems that…]…

II-II q. 83 a. 14 ad 4:
Ad quartum [i.e., "to the sed contra"] dicendum quod [roughly, "I say that…"].

Usually, sed contras are arguments from authority and he doesn't refute them.

St. Thomas doesn't number his objections in his original Latin, nor does he use the term "objection" there. The format is:

Videtur quod [It seems that] …
Præterea [furthermore], videtur quod
Præterea, …
Præterea, …

Sed contra [On the contrary], …

Ad primum [As to the first (objection)], …
Ad secundum [second] …
Ad tertium [third] …

  • So what you are saying: since usually Aquinas doesn't refute sed contra from authority, Aquinas uses the "Reply to the argument for the contrary [the sed contra]" section as a commentary instead of the usual argument against an objection? If that is so, why do you preface your answer with The "anomaly" seems to be when St. Thomas refutes a *sed contra*. Shouldn't your answer be The "anomaly" seems to be when St. Thomas **commented on** a *sed contra*. ? Feb 23, 2022 at 23:53
  • @GratefulDisciple "usually Aquinas doesn't refute sed contra from authority." I said a sed contra is usually an argument from authority. II-II q. 83 a. 14 s.c. is an argument from authority (from King David's Psalm in that case), but II-II q. 83 a. 14 ad 4 is not an argument from authority.
    – Geremia
    Feb 24, 2022 at 2:04
  • Thank you for the clarification. Adding the Latin original is very helpful. Feb 25, 2022 at 20:08
  • This is a good answer, but "ad quartum" does not mean "to the sed contra." It means, "to the fourth." Freddoso translated it as "Reply to the argument for the contrary," and Shapcote translated it as "Reply to Objection 4." Shapcote's translation is more literal. In any case, Geremia identifies the key point that Aquinas' objections are not numbered. ...The other thing to note is that "sed contra" is equivocal, and Aquinas sometimes uses it as an objection from the contrary extreme, rather than as a contrary to the primary objection.
    – zippy2006
    Feb 25, 2022 at 20:09
  • @zippy2006 "ad quartum" does not mean "to the sed contra." Not generally, but in II-II q. 83 a. 14 it does.
    – Geremia
    Feb 25, 2022 at 20:33

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