St Thomas Aquinas [NOOK Book]


This book makes no pretence to be anything but a popular sketch
of a great historical character who ought to be more popular.
Its aim will be achieved, if it leads those who have hardly even
heard of St....
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St Thomas Aquinas

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This book makes no pretence to be anything but a popular sketch
of a great historical character who ought to be more popular.
Its aim will be achieved, if it leads those who have hardly even
heard of St. Thomas Aquinas to read about him in better books.
But from this necessary limitation certain consequences follow,
which should perhaps be allowed for from the start.

First, it follows that the tale is told very largely to those who are
not of the communion of St. Thomas; and who may be interested in him
as I might be in Confucius or Mahomet. Yet, on the other hand,
the very need of presenting a clean-cut outline involved its cutting
into other outlines of thought, among those who may think differently.
If I write a sketch of Nelson mainly for foreigners, I may have to explain
elaborately many things that all Englishmen know, and possibly cut out,
for brevity, many details that many Englishmen would like to know.
But, on the other side, it would be difficult to write a very vivid
and moving narrative of Nelson, while entirely concealing the fact
that he fought with the French. It would be futile to make a sketch
of St. Thomas and conceal the fact that he fought with heretics; and yet
the fact itself may embarrass the very purpose for which it is employed.
I can only express the hope, and indeed the confidence, that those
who regard me as the heretic will hardly blame me for expressing my
own convictions, and certainly not for expressing my hero's convictions.
There is only one point upon which such a question concerns this very
simple narrative. It is the conviction, which I have expressed once
or twice in the course of it, that the sixteenth-century schism was really
a belated revolt of the thirteenth-century pessimists. It was a back-wash
of the old Augustinian Puritanism against the Aristotelian liberality.
Without that, I could not place my historical figure in history.
But the whole is meant only for a rough sketch of a figure in a landscape
and not of a landscape with figures.

Second, it follows that in any such simplification I can hardly say
much of the philosopher beyond showing that he had a philosophy.
I have only, so to speak, given samples of that philosophy.
Lastly, it follows that it is practically impossible to deal
adequately with the theology. A lady I know picked up a book
of selections from St. Thomas with a commentary; and began hopefully
to read a section with the innocent heading, "The Simplicity
of God." She then laid down the book with a sigh and said,
"Well, if that's His simplicity, I wonder what His complexity is like."
With all respect to that excellent Thomistic commentary,
I have no desire to have this book laid down, at the very first glance,
with a similar sigh. I have taken the view that the biography
is an introduction to the philosophy, and that the philosophy
is an introduction to the theology; and that I can only carry
the reader just beyond the first stage of the story.

Third, I have not thought it necessary to notice those critics who,
from time to time, desperately play to the gallery by reprinting
paragraphs of medieval demonology in the hope of horrifying
the modern public merely by an unfamiliar language.
I have taken it for granted that educated men know that Aquinas
and all his contemporaries, and all his opponents for centuries after,
did believe in demons, and similar facts, but I have not
thought them worth mentioning here, for the simple reason
that they do not help to detach or distinguish the portrait.
In all that, there was no disagreement between Protestant
or Catholic theologians, for all the hundreds of years during
which there was any theology; and St. Thomas is not notable
as holding such views, except in holding them rather mildly.
I have not discussed such matters, not because I have any reason
to conceal them, but because they do not in any way personally
concern the one person whom it is here my business to reveal.
There is hardly room, even as it is, for such a figure in
such a frame.
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940013709089
  • Publisher: WDS Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/22/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 135 KB

Customer Reviews

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( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    A delightful book!

    I first read this book 5 years ago when taking an undergraduate course in mediaeval philosophy. At that time I was only passingly familiar with Chesterton and, despite faithful attendence in class, only noddingly familiar with Aquinas. Since that time I have come to understand both men in more depth, and since that time this little book has grown and shimmered until, much to my surprise, it has became one of my favourite books of all.

    All of the usual caveats about Chesterton's writing apply here: he cannot resist a digression, he cannot resist an alliterative allusion, he cannot resist a pun. He is so full of life that he is constantly threatening to spin out of control. He is not a scholar, he is not writing a sober appraisal, he is probably not sure of most of the biographical details of his subject (and he candidly admits to this dearth of dates and details).

    In spite of these defects, the book is a triumph. Toast it with your best wine. Chesterton, for me, is the embodiment of "A Man in Full"; he is the polar opposite of C.S. Lewis' "Men without Chests". He is so full of good sense, penetrating insight, sound moral judgement, and the joy of life that it is all spilling out in every direction. This is criticism in an old key; it is appreciative criticism; it is an encounter with a writer by an entire man, and not just by a theory. It is wonderfully refreshing. I don't know of anyone writing today in a similar vein.

    He brings all of his larger-than-life presence to bear on this account of the life (sort of) and thought of one of history's great minds. And on just what aspect of Thomas' thought does he focus? In one diabolically politically incorrect section near the end of the book he bellows out that "on a map like the mind of Aquinas the mind of Luther was barely a speck", and I'm sure that he would hasten to add that his little book suffers the same ignoble comparison. There is a great deal to Thomas that he, of necessity, leaves out. But what he does include is very astutely chosen, for he understands the basic structure of Thomas' thought and emphasizes the essentials. Thus there is a chapter on Thomas' argument with the Manicheans and his affirmation of the goodness of the world. He treats with great aplomb Thomas' notion of "being" and its relation to God. He does great honor to Thomas' mode of argumentation, to his sober balance and fair treatment of opponents. He is appreciative of the devotional side of Thomas, which does not come through explicitly in his philosophical writings but is important for an understanding of the man.

    I suppose it must be granted that the book is as much about Chesterton as it is about Aquinas. Those wanting a more straight-forward treatment should seek out one of Josef Pieper's books on Aquinas. But if you have any adventurous spirit, by all means read this book. It is written by a man who loves and understands his subject in his very bones, and who brings his subject to life in a way that is most uncanny. Five stars.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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