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Aquinas (A Beginner's Guide) Paperback – September 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


"A useful and easy to read introduction. Students and scholars will find [this] highly beneficial." — Fulvio di Blasi, President, Thomas International

"Lucid, cogent, and compelling. Required reading for anyone interested in Thomas Aquinas." — Christopher Kaczor, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Loyola Marymount University

"At last. A concise, accessible and compelling introduction to Aquinas's thought. Feser shows that Aquinas's philosophy is still a live option for thinkers today." — Kelly James Clark, Professor of Philosophy, Calvin College

About the Author

Edward Feser is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Pasadena City College, California. He is the author of Philosophy of Mind: A Beginner's and The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1851686908
  • ISBN-13: 978-1851686902
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,088 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

151 of 153 people found the following review helpful By Ashton Wilkins on December 5, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
E. Feser's introduction to Aquinas' thought was exactly what I was looking for: a clear, contemporary introduction (and defense!) of Aquinas' thought which interacts with modern objections. Having read introductions by Ralph McInerny, Henri Renard, F. Copleston, Jacques Maritain, and A. Sertillanges, I can say that Feser's book is better than all of them.

First of all, Feser is faithful to Aquinas' thought. In content, Feser's philosophy is aligned with something, say, Garrigou-Lagrange might write, the difference only being style. If you think Garrigou-Lagrange understood Aquinas, then you will think Feser has, too. Most of the authors I mentioned above more or less understand Aquinas adequately, so far as I can tell. Like them, Feser won't give you any surprises by departing from the tradition (like, say, E. Stump might).

Second, Feser's book is better because it is clearer. There are plenty of thinkers who understand Aquinas decently enough---one thinks of Maritain or Renard, for example. But anyone who has tried to read these thinkers is painfully aware that their prose is not always clear. Feser has given us a book which is in a class by itself for clarity. If you are puzzled by 'matter', 'form', 'act', 'potency', and so on, then this is the book for you.

Third, Feser's book is better because it understands modern thinkers and their objections to Aquinas. Feser admirably defends the existence of God, the classical attributes of God (including divine simplicity), the immortality of the soul, Aquinas' ethical theory, and so on. Not only this, but he shows why objectors to Aquinas usually have not understood him properly. He treats older objectors like Locke, but also newer ones like Dawkins (and many analytical philosophers, too).
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73 of 74 people found the following review helpful By G. Kyle Essary on May 23, 2010
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Whenever I picked up The Last Superstition by Dr. Feser, I expected a standard critique of the poor reasoning of New Atheists. It excelled in that regard, but went further and opened my eyes to a whole realm of philosophy that I had never even properly considered. Whenever you take a standard introduction to philosophy you are told that Aristotle was largely influential, but that when his understanding of physics fell apart so did his metaphysics. Things like "final causes" had been disproved by modern science.

Thus, you are required to read a passage or two, and then quickly move to more "modern" things like Descartes, Hume, Kant and of course the plethora of readings in modern analytic philosophy. It is in these modern readings that you will learn of such things as the "mind-body problem" or the "problem of induction." When studying the philosophy of mind, you will learn of the troubles of accounting for qualia or intentionality on physicalist accounts, and the "interaction problem" for dualists.

After reading Feser's book against the New Atheism, my eyes were opened. Aristotle's metaphysics were in no way disproven by modern science, nor were they even adequately argued against by modern philosophy as much as they were simply ignored as the mechanistic view of the world became standard. I learned that these "classical problems" in philosophy were not classical at all, but that they were simply the result of accepting the mechanistic paradigm and were not problems in the Aristotelean-Thomistic tradition.
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60 of 62 people found the following review helpful By J. Bourne on October 21, 2009
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This book not only clearly elucidates Aquinas' central philosophical theses, it also demonstrates that Aquinas, and indeed Aristotle, are just as relevant to our modern world as they were in their own respective times.

Beginning with Aquinas' view of reality in general, Feser provides brief but highly detailed and carefully crafted chapters that explain Aquinas' arguments for God's Existence, His divine attributes, the immortality and immateriality of the soul, and classical natural law (not to be confused with any modern version of new natural law theory). Moreover, Feser concisely critiques some of the more historically popular objections to Aquinas' arguments showing how they not only fail to forcefully counter Aquinas' claims but also how most of them do not even object to Aquinas on his own terms. In other words, most modern critics do not even properly understand what Aquinas is actually saying, and a careful analysis of the arguments is usually enough to respond to many of the objections against him.

This is a short and excellent introduction to the thought of the Angelic Doctor. I highly recommend it to all readers who are interested in philosophy and to those who think that Aquinas' philosophy is outmoded or that his arguments have long been conclusively refuted. Finally, to those who thought that Feser's previous book, The Last Superstition, was too polemical in nature, this book contains much of what is in TLS but with a much more "academic" tone.
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Stephan L. Burton on December 4, 2010
Format: Paperback
Not only is this the best introduction to the thought of Aquinas that you're ever likely to find, but it's also a superb primer on the metaphysics of Aristotle. Act & potency, form & matter, the four causes...they are all explained here about as clearly & simply as they can be.

When teaching philosophy, I prefer to use original texts. But it's not always possible - especially in introductory courses. Some of the greatest philosophers were also great communicators: Plato, Descartes, Hume, Nietzsche, & William James are among the names that spring to mind. But not all were: Aristotle, Aquinas, Spinoza, Kant & Hegel, among others, are notoriously difficult, without a Vergil to guide one from one hellacious circle to the next.

For Aristotle & Aquinas, Edward Feser here proves himself a reliable Vergil. Aspects of Aristotelian/Thomistic thought that once seemed to me like no more than antiquated curiosities suddenly come to life as real, philosophically defensible, options. In particular, Feser's defense of the A/T conceptions of efficient & final causation, as against the Humean account that has ruled the roost for the last couple of centuries, is a real eye-opener.

One word of warning: this may be, relatively speaking, a "beginner's guide" to Aquinas, but it is by no means "Aquinas for dummies." Feser frequently addresses recent literature, some of which gets a bit technical. Real "beginners" may need a lot of help from their professors to get the drift.

But, then, that's what professors are for, no?
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