The Human Constitution

The Human Constitution

The Human Constitution

The Human Constitution


The central positoin of St. Thomas Aquinas in the pantheon of Catholic thinkers along with St. Augustine of Hippo more than justifies ongoing attnetion to his thought and contributions to philosophy, theology, and medieval culture. This volume is an anthology of the passages of his Summa Theologia on human nature or the "human constitution."


The writings of St. Thomas deserve wide circulation for several reasons. First, they have had so much influence on other thinkers. Second, no serious student of Western thought can be considered well-educated without acquaintance with St. Thomas's grand synthesis of faith and reason. Third, St. Thomas's thought, in my opinion, has intrinsic merit and perduring relevance. Even those who do not share St. Thomas's philosophical and theological perspective should find his writings intellectually stimulating.

This volume is an anthology of St. Thomas's thought about the human constitution as expressed in the first part of the Summa theologiae: the human soul, its immortality, its union with the body, the senses, the intellect, and free will. As the selections make clear, St. Thomas generally approaches these topics about the human constitution from the perspective of human reason. Reading these selections in isolation from the rest of the Summa, however, risks misrepresenting his thought. the Summa is professedly a summary of theology, not philosophy, and St. Thomas's perspective is that of a believer seeking to understand his faith. Nonetheless, St. Thomas proposes certain propositions and analyses on the basis of reason, and it is important for believers and nonbelievers to weigh their merit precisely as rational arguments. Within that context, the anthology is selective, and informed readers can judge for themselves whether the texts selected are sufficiently representative and comprehensive.

My first purpose, then, is to make available to scholars and the general public in a single, relatively comprehensive volume the thought of St. Thomas on the human constitution. My second purpose is to provide a translation superior to previous translations.

The English Dominican Fathers' translation dates from the first third of this century. That translation is accurate and literal for the most part, but its English rendition of certain key terms is misleading, and its style is by contemporary standards, stilted. the more recent Blackfriars' translation of a quarter century ago renders key terms more accurately but translates the text very freely and sometimes misleadingly. I believe that only a painstakingly literal translation can capture the nuances of St. Thomas's thought. I aim, therefore, to provide a translation that is more . . .

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