Thomas Aquinas: Contemporary Philosophical Perspectives

By Brian Davies | Go to book overview

Introduction

I

Thomas Aquinas was the greatest European philosopher of the thirteenth century. Many would say that he was the greatest of all medieval thinkers. Yet his appeal and reputation have waxed and waned. In the period immediately following his death he had relatively few admirers willing to promulgate his teachings. And there were many anxious to censure it. In 1277 ideas thought to be his were ecclesiastically condemned in Paris and Oxford. His influence increased following his canonization in 1323. But his thinking never commanded anything like universal agreement in the Middle Ages. And though his impact on Roman Catholic teaching has been strong from the fifteenth century to the present, his work was largely ignored by the best known Western philosophers from the time of Descartes (1596–1650) to the middle of the twentieth century. Descartes himself sometimes mentions Aquinas with respect. But his most famous writings show little serious debt to Aquinas's major emphases. And some notable modern philosophical figures have been positively dismissive of Aquinas. According to Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), for instance: “There is little of the true philosophical spirit in Aquinas. He does not, like the Platonic Socrates, set out to follow wherever the argument may lead… Before he begins to philosophize, he already knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith… The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading. ” 1

Russell's opinion of Aquinas is still not uncommon. But it is now fair to say that it is increasingly under attack. For in the last few decades Aquinas has been more and more studied by professional philosophers, many of whom have come to view him as one of the most perceptive thinkers of all time. Hence, for example, a 1990 editorial comment in the journal Philosophy

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Thomas Aquinas: Contemporary Philosophical Perspectives
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xi
  • Contributors xiii
  • Thomas Aquinas *
  • Introduction 3
  • Notes *
  • 1 - The Commentary of St. Thomas on the De Caelo of Aristotle 37
  • Notes *
  • 2 - Matter and Actuality in Aquinas 61
  • Notes *
  • 3 - The Logic of Being in Thomas Aquinas 77
  • Notes *
  • 4 - The Realism of Aquinas 97
  • Notes *
  • 5 - Natural Reason in the Summa Contra Gentiles 117
  • Notes *
  • 6 - The Esse/essentia Argument in Aquinas's De Ente Et Essentia 141
  • Notes *
  • 7 - The Five Ways 159
  • Notes *
  • 8 - Aquinas on What God is Not 227
  • Notes *
  • 9 - Aquinas Wittgenstein 243
  • Notes *
  • 10 - Man = Body + Soul Aquinas's Arithmetic of Human Nature 257
  • Notes *
  • 11 - Intellect and Will 275
  • Notes *
  • 12 - Being and Goodness 295
  • Notes *
  • 13 - Law and Politics 325
  • Notes 336
  • 14 - Aquinas on Good Sense 339
  • 15 - Aquinas on the Passions 353
  • Notes *
  • A Chronological List of Aquinas's Writings 385
  • Bibliography 389
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