Kreeft, Peter. Summa Philosophica

By Walz, Matthew | The Review of Metaphysics, September 2013 | Go to article overview

Kreeft, Peter. Summa Philosophica


Walz, Matthew, The Review of Metaphysics


KREEFT, PETER. Summa Philosophica. South Bend: St. Augustine's Press, 2012. xviii + 254pp. Cloth, $30.00--Having tried his hand at several Socratic dialogues, Peter Kreeft now turns to the form of dialogical writing employed by the Scholastics of the late Middle Ages, namely, the question-article, objection-answer-reply format that can be found in the great summae. Hence the title of the work: Summa Philosophica. Kreeft's book, however, lacks the scientific coherence of these medieval magna opera that inspire his endeavor. Instead, he opts for a more inelastic and "arbitrary" (as Kreeft himself admits) division of philosopical inquiry into ten questions with ten articles each. This fact alone may make one question the degree to which this work should be likened to the medieval summae. Given the wide range of topics that Kreeft covers and the arbitrary order in which he covers them, Summa Philosophica resembles more the quaestiones quodlibeta ("whatever questions") or perhaps the quaestiones disputatae ("disputed questions") that the medieval masters undertook during the penitential seasons of the year. In reading this book, one can easily imagine Kreeft standing before a group of undergraduates, suggesting a topic of philosophical inquiry, and then responding to his students' questions within that topic. Indeed, the colloquial mode of expression found throughout the book makes it easy to envision such a scenario, and I imagine that some readers--perhaps especially younger ones with little experience in philosophy--will find Kreeft's approach appealing.

The ten questions through which Kreeft moves correspond with what he calls the "Ten Divisions of Philosophy," which he treats in the following order: logic and methodology, metaphysics, natural theology, cosmology, philosophical anthropology, epistemology, general ethics, applied ethics, political philosophy, and aesthetics. Following these ten questions is a final question called "Sample Questions in Ten Extensions of Philosophy," which includes articles relating to philosophy of religion, philosophy of history, philosophy of science, and the like. In sum, then, the reader is treated to 110 different articles, which (Kreeft explains) "put[s] a limiting frame around a work that could easily expand indefinitely, since every great answer in philosophy tends to produce at least one more great question, and usually many more, like parents producing children." In addition, Kreeff includes a nine-page introduction ("Why This Book? …

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