Saturday, September 8, 2018

Exploring Aquinas with the help of Reinhard Hutter

In Dust Bound for Heaven: Explorations in the Theology of Thomas Aquinas, pp. 20-25, Reinhard Hutter provides an immensely helpful and insightful list of books for those interested in further explorations of St. Thomas Aquinas:
For those readers who come as neophytes to the thought of Thomas, the following invitation to further explorations should serve as a beginner’s guide to his philosophy and theology, a beginner’s guide that gradually progresses to some more substantive and demanding interpretations of Thomas that are most helpful. For those readers already more advanced in their encounter with Thomas’s teaching and for those who would call themselves Thomists, the more demanding among the following list of studies simply indicate among a much larger body of Aquinas scholarship those works to which I am most gratefully indebted.

The best popular introduction to Thomas’s life and work remains G. K. Chesterton, Saint Thomas Aquinas (2009) and the best recent scholarly introduction is Jean-Pierre Torrell, O.P., Saint Thomas Aquinas, Volume 1: The Person and His Work (2005). For a lovely, accessible, yet still profound paraphrase of the Summa theologiae in pocket size, the reader might turn to Walter Farrell, O.P., and Martin J. Healy, My Way of Life: Pocket Edition of St. Thomas: The Summa Simplified for Everyone (1952).

The most accessible and concise introduction to Thomas’s philosophy is Edward Feser, Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide (2009), to Thomas’s theology is Michael Dauphinais and Matthew Levering, Knowing the Love of Christ: An Introduction to the Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas (2002), to Thomas’s ethics is Paul Wadell, The Primacy of Love: An Introduction to the Ethics of Thomas Aquinas (1992), and to Thomas’s masterwork, the Summa theologiae, is Jean-Pierre Torrell, O.P., Aquinas’s Summa: Background, Structure, and Reception (2005). An exceedingly helpful resource to Thomas’s theology for beginners is Joseph P. Wawrykow, The Westminster Handbook to Thomas Aquinas (2005). Those readers who want to get an exposure to Thomas’s theology under the guidance of leading contemporary Aquinas scholars should turn to The Theology of Thomas Aquinas, edited by Rik Van Nieuwenhove and Joseph Wawrykow (2005). For a brief, concise, and lucid account of the remarkable history of reception, interpretation, defense, and application of Thomas’s thought in the course of the more than seven centuries since his death, students of Thomas should turn to Romanus Cessario, O.P., A Short History of Thomism (2005). For a useful guide into various aspects of Thomas’s philosophical thought that organizes his theology, the beginner might turn to The Cambridge Companion to Aquinas, edited by Norman Kretzmann and Eleonore Stump (1993). For a first introduction into Thomas’s metaphysics that is as accessible as it is lucid, one can hardly do better than to avail oneself of W. Norris Clarke, S.J., The One and the Many: A Contemporary Thomistic Metaphysics (2001).

For a balanced and lucid overview of and solid introduction to all topics treated in the Summa theologiae, the student of Thomas’s thought might first want to consult Brian Davies, O.P., The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (1992). However, the reader who is looking for guides to the most central treatises of Thomas’s masterpiece will find excellent guidance from the following studies, which are not listed alphabetically but along the lines of the order of teaching (ordo disciplinae) the Summa theologiae unfolds.

On the First Part of the Summa:

On the First of the Second Part of the Summa:

On the Second of the Second Part of the Summa:

On the Third Part of the Summa:

To assist the reader in grasping Aquinas' philosophy (without which his theology "cannot be adequately understood, let alone appreciated"), Hutter offers the following recommendations:

The most thorough historical-genetic treatment of Thomas’s philosophy is John F. Wippel, The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas: From Finite Being to Uncreated Being (2000). The best account to see Thomas’ metaphysics concretely at work in a conceptual reconstruction of its main moves would be Lawrence Dewan, O.P., Form and Being (2006). Eleonore Stump, Aquinas (2003), offers an excellent treatment of Thomas’s thought, primarily his philosophy, but also aspects of his theology, that is directed to a readership influenced by analytic philosophy and the natural sciences. Inspired by an Aristotelian-Thomist integration of natural philosophy and metaphysics, Benedict M. Ashley, O.P., in his opus magnum, The Way toward Wisdom: An Interdisciplinary and Intercultural Introduction to Metaphysics (2006), offers an impressive demonstration of how the pursuit of philosophical wisdom along the lines of Thomas — metaphysics as meta-science — allows a comprehensive vision of all human sciences in a coherent and expansive framework. Jacques Maritain’s earlier and in many ways unsurpassed classic, Distinguish to Unite or The Degrees of Knowledge (1995), offers an even more expansive framework of Thomist epistemology: from the knowledge conveyed by the senses to natural philosophy and natural science, from there to metaphysical knowledge and theological knowledge, and finally to mystical knowledge. And in order to find out why indeed Thomism as a coherent intellectual tradition of philosophical discourse and inquiry proves superior to modern and postmodern modes of such discourse and inquiry, one cannot do better than turn to think through the argument advanced in what has become a classic in a very brief time: Alasdair MacIntyre’s Gifford Lectures, Three Rival Versions of Moral Inquiry: Tradition, Encyclopaedia, Genealogy (1990). Another set of expanded Gifford Lectures offers a brilliant and spirited defense of Thomas’s understanding of philosophical wisdom. No other recent work will help the interested reader better to understand why natural theology was absolutely indispensable to Thomas’s overall theological project than Ralph McInerny, Praeambula Fidei: Thomism and the God of the Philosophers (2006). For a contemporary restatement of Thomas’s natural theology that addresses and rebuts the criticisms against natural theology raised by Kant and Heidegger, one best turns to the lucidly argued book by Thomas Joseph White, O.P., Wisdom in the Face of Modernity: A Study in Thomistic Natural Theology (2009).

Those who want to find out — contrary to recent rumors — why Thomas’s philosophy is far from dead but intensely engaged by contemporary analytic philosophers might want to consult John Haldane (ed.), Mind, Metaphysics, and Value in Thomistic and Analytic Traditions (2002), John P. O’Callaghan, Thomist Realism and the Linguistic Turn: Toward a More Perfect Form of Existence (2003), Craig Paterson and Matthew Pugh, Analytical Thomism (2006), and David S. Oderberg, Real Essentialism (2007). For an instructive and very broad-minded Thomist engagement of philosophy as presently practiced in America, one might turn to Thomas Hibbs, Aquinas, Ethics, and Philosophy of Religion: Metaphysics and Practice (2007), and for learning to appreciate the ongoing relevance of Thomas’s doctrine of natural law for contemporary political and legal theory and for the practice of law-making, the reader will profit immensely from Russell Hittinger, The First Grace: Rediscovering the Natural Law in a PostChristian World (2003) and from J. Budziszewski, The Line Through the Heart: Natural Law as Fact, Theory, and Sign of Contradiction (2009).

For those readers who are interested to find out how Thomas’s theology inspires and informs the work of contemporary theologians, they might want to turn to Ressourcement Thomism: Sacred Doctrine, the Sacraments, and the Moral Life, edited by Reinhard Hütter and Matthew Levering (2010) and to The Analogy of Being: Invention of the Antichrist or the Wisdom of God?, edited by Thomas Joseph White, O.P. (2011).

By the time the reader has reached this point of the introduction it might have dawned upon him or her that this kind of invitation to a deeper exploration of Thomas’s philosophical and theological thought might presuppose a more encompassing intellectual reorientation and reeducation. Such a reader is well advised to take advantage of two rather unique books, one as precious as the other: A. G. Sertillanges, O.P., The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods (1980), and Josef Pieper, Leisure — The Basis of Culture (1998).

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