Book Review: The Philosophy Of Thomas Aquinas: Introductory Readings

The Philosophy Of Thomas Aquinas:  Introductory Readings, edited by Christopher Martin

Thomas Aquinas is the sort of thinker it is easier to know about than it is to know, and there are a variety of reasons for that.  For one, Aquinas was a very prolific philosopher of the High Middle Ages and his work is not exactly the most accessible in translation for most people.  If he has been deeply influential, it has often been in a second-hand fashion.  I know that is the case for me, as I have found myself nodding my head in agreement at a particularly good line of logical thinking as it relates to matters of faith and reason and found that it was a Thomist line, much to my surprise.  The easiest way to deal with a problem like that, at least for me, is to become more familiar with Thomist thinking as a whole and so in the midst of my wide ranging on other subjects I thought it would be worth reading more about this sort of thinking and its influence and this book is certainly a helpful introductory guide in Thomist thinking given the large and massive body of work that it has as a whole.

This book is between 150 and 200 pages long.  The editor begins with a preface and abbreviations and a note on references.  After that there is an introduction to reading the philosophy of Aquinas (1), as well as some comments on Aquinas’ writings on logic, which include passages on predication and future contingents (2).  After this comes a discussion of Aquinas’ thinking regarding metaphysics, as well as a passages on existence, existence and substance, substance, and matter and form (3).  This is followed by some writing about Aquinas’ thinking about God including a passage regarding the arguments for the existence of God (4).  After that comes a discussion of Aquinas’ writings on truth, knowledge, and the mind, which includes passages on truth, thought and intellect, and the immortality of the soul (5).  This is followed by some writings on ethics from the writings of Thomas Aquinas, which include passages on free will and human well-being (6).  After this comes a Latin-English glossary, an English-Latin glossary, as well as some notes on the reading (that are well worth reading) and an index.  Even though this work only includes twelve passages it is still a good start on the writing and thinking of Thomas Aquinas that may inspire further reading.

This is not the last sort of work one would want to read on the subject, but as far as early books go, it is a worthwhile one [1].  The readings are definitely representative of Aquinas’ work as a whole and have a fair amount of appeal in terms of their intellectual value.  It is not as if the writing is flowery–this is philosophy written for people who take logical reasoning seriously and who have some appreciation for systematic thinking, and not everyone is going to find this to be enjoyable.  Still, if you have an interest in some of the foundational thinking of the West and want an easy enough introduction into the subject, this book offers a safe and short introduction to a large body of work that one could very well be reading for a long time if one so chose.  Whether or not one chooses to take the reading further depends on whether the short readings included here sound interesting enough to tackle in larger chunks about more obscure topics with a fair amount of material that likely goes over the same lines or that deals with for and against positions on various matters.

[1] See also:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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