St. Thomas Aquinas: the Dumb Ox

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Overview

It is known that when the great Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton began his book on Saint Thomas Aquinas (who is, quite possibly, the most influential of all Christian theologians), "his research for the project consisted of a very casual perusal of a few books on his subject." To say that Chesterton was no authority is an understatement. To say further that he has written a masterpiece of elucidation may also be an understatement. Etienne Gilson, the chief scholar of Aquinas in the 20th century, said flatly "I ...
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St. Thomas Aquinas

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Overview

It is known that when the great Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton began his book on Saint Thomas Aquinas (who is, quite possibly, the most influential of all Christian theologians), "his research for the project consisted of a very casual perusal of a few books on his subject." To say that Chesterton was no authority is an understatement. To say further that he has written a masterpiece of elucidation may also be an understatement. Etienne Gilson, the chief scholar of Aquinas in the 20th century, said flatly "I consider it as being without possible comparison the best book ever written on St. Thomas. Nothing short of genius can account for such an achievement.... Chesterton was one of the deepest thinkers who ever existed; he was deep because he was right; and he could not help being right; but he could not either help being modest and charitable, so he left it to those who could understand him to know that he was right, and deep." So how has he accomplished this feat? By simplifying, as his editor says, without oversimplifying. He turns his own lack of intimate knowledge to his advantage by concentrating on the core elements of Aquinas' thinking: his affirmation of the goodness of creation; his defense of common sense; and "the primacy of the doctrine of being." In this way he grasps--and helps us grasp--the importance of Aquinas for us today. As Raymond Dennehy has written, it's as if Chesterton is saying to us "the truths [Aquinas] was getting at--the basic principles of reality and reason--are in themselves really quite simple. Your basic intuitions were right all along."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466285095
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
  • Publication date: 8/12/2011
  • Pages: 112
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.23 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274) was an Italian Dominican priest of the Catholic Church, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism. "Aquinas" is not a surname (hereditary surnames were not then in common use in Europe), but is a Latin adjective meaning "of Aquino", his place of birth. He was the foremost classical proponent of natural theology, and the father of Thomism. His influence on Western thought is considerable, and much of modern philosophy was conceived as a reaction against, or as an agreement with his ideas, particularly in the areas of ethics, natural law and political theory. Thomas is held in the Catholic Church to be the model teacher for those studying for the priesthood. The works for which he is best-known are the Summa Theologica and the Summa Contra Gentiles. As one of the 33 Doctors of the Church, he is considered the Church's greatest theologian and philosopher. Pope Benedict XV declared: "This (Dominican) Order ... acquired new luster when the Church declared the teaching of Thomas to be her own and that Doctor, honored with the special praises of the Pontiffs, the master and patron of Catholic schools."
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 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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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2013

    Amazing

    Amazing

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