Aesthetics Of Thomas Aquinas / Edition 1

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Overview

The well-known Italian semiotician and novelist Umberto Eco discloses for the first time to English-speaking readers the unsuspected richness, breadth, complexity, and originality of the aesthetic theories advanced by the influential medieval thinker Thomas Aquinas, heretofore known principally as a scholastic theologian. Inheriting his basic ideas and conceptions of art and beauty from the classical world, Aquinas transformed or modified these ideas in the light of Christian theology and of developments in metaphysics and optics during the thirteenth century.

Setting the stage with an account of the vivid aesthetic and artistic sensibility that flourished in medieval times, Eco examines Aquinas's conception of transcendental beauty, his theory of aesthetic perception or visio, and his account of the three conditions of beauty--integrity, proportion, and clarity--that, centuries later, emerged again in the writings of the young James Joyce. He examines the concrete application of these theories in Aquinas's reflections on God, mankind, music, poetry, and scripture. He discusses Aquinas's views on art and compares his poetics with Dante's. In a final chapter added to the second Italian edition, Eco examines how Aquinas's aesthetics came to be absorbed and superseded in late medieval times and draws instructive parallels between Thomistic methodology and contemporary structuralism. As the only book-length treatment of Aquinas's aesthetics available in English, this volume should interest philosophers, medievalists, historians, critics, and anyone involved in poetics, aesthetics, or the history of ideas.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
St. Thomas Aquinas is best known as one of the foremost theologians of the Catholic Church. Until recently, however, little attention was paid to his aesthetics, despite its connections with his theology and ethics. In this translation of a revised edition of a work first published in 1956, Italian semiotician Eco examines Aquinas's aesthetics in light not only of his other writings but of other medieval theories of beauty. Eco shows how Aquinas's three conditions of beautyintegrity, proportion, and clarityappear in his reflections on such subjects as music, the Scriptures, and God. Though intended for, and best read by, scholars familiar with medieval philosophy and aesthetics, this intriguing work will also interest those who love the beauty of the spiritual. Terry Skeats, Bishop's Univ., Lennoxville, Quebec
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674006768
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/1988
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 300
  • Product dimensions: 0.67 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 8.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Umberto Eco
Umberto Eco is Professor Emeritus at the University of Bologna and is the author of many books, including Foucault's Pendulum.

Biography

Back in the 1970s, long before the cyberpunk era or the Internet boom, an Italian academic was dissecting the elements of codes, information exchange and mass communication. Umberto Eco, chair of semiotics at the University of Bologna, developed a widely influential theory that continues to inform studies in linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, cultural studies and critical theory.

Most readers, however, had never heard of him before the 1980 publication of The Name of the Rose, a mystery novel set in medieval Italy. Dense with historical and literary allusions, the book was a surprise international hit, selling millions of copies in dozens of languages. Its popularity got an additional boost when it was made into a Hollywood movie starring Sean Connery. Eco followed his first bestseller with another, Foucault's Pendulum, an intellectual thriller that interweaves semiotic theory with a twisty tale of occult texts and world conspiracy.

Since then, Eco has shifted topics and genres with protean agility, producing fiction, academic texts, criticism, humor columns and children's books. As a culture critic, his interests encompass everything from comic books to computer operating systems, and he punctures avant-garde elitism and mass-media vacuity with equal glee.

More recently, Eco has ventured into a new field: ethics. Belief or Nonbelief? is a thoughtful exchange of letters on religion and ethics between Eco and Carlo Maria Martini, the Roman Catholic cardinal of Milan; Five Moral Pieces is a timely exploration of the concept of justice in an increasingly borderless world.

Eco also continues to write books on language, literature and semiotics for both popular and academic audiences. His efforts have netted him a pile of honorary degrees, the French Legion of Honor, and a place among the most widely read and discussed thinkers of our time.

Good To Know

Eco is a professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna, though in 2002 he was at Oxford University as a visiting lecturer. He has also taught at several top universities in the U.S., including Columbia, Harvard, Yale, and Northwestern.

Pressured by his father to become a lawyer, Eco studied law at the University of Turn before abandoning that course (against his father's wishes) and pursuing medieval philosophy and literature.

His studies led naturally to the setting of The Name of the Rose in the medieval period. The original tentative title was Murder in the Abbey.

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    1. Hometown:
      Bologna, Italy
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 5, 1932
    2. Place of Birth:
      Alessandria, Italy
    1. Education:
      Ph.D., University of Turin, 1954

Table of Contents

Preface

Translator's Note

Aesthetics in Medieval Culture

Historiography

The Medieval Aesthetic Sensibility

Thomas Aquinas

The Possibility of Aesthetic Pleasure

Plan of the Research

Beauty as a Transcendental

The Problem

The Aesthetic Vision of Things

Aquinas's Texts

Modern Interpretations

Beauty as a Transcendental in Thirteenth-Century Philosophy

The Function and Nature of the Aesthetic Visio

The Problem

Medieval Texts

Aquinas's Texts

The Aesthetic Visio

Intellectual Intuition in Aquinas

The Formal Criteria of Beauty

The Texts

The Concept of Form

Proportion: The Historical Data

The Concept of Proportion in Aquinas

Integritas

Claritas: The Historical Data

Claritas in Aquinas

Concrete Problems and Applications

The Beauty of the Son of God

The Beauty of Mankind

The Beauty of Music

Play and Playful Verse

The Symbolical Attitude

Universal Allegory

Scriptural and Poetic Allegory

Aquinas's Theory of Allegory

Didactic Parabolism

A Thomist Poetics

Aquinas and Dante

The Theory of Art

Art and Invention

The Ontology of Artistic Form

Artistic Form and the Aesthetic

On the Possible Autonomy of the Fine Arts

The Ambiguity of Art's Autonomy

Judgment and the Aesthetic Visio

The Function of the Aesthetic Visio

The Nature of the Aesthetic Visio

Conclusion

The Central Aporia in Aquinas's Aesthetics

The Dissolution of the Concept of Form in Post-Thomistic Scholasticism

Aesthetic Categories and Medieval Society

Thomistic Methodology and Structuralist Methodology

Notes

Bibliography

Glossary

Index

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