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71 of 72 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Study, July 31, 2001
This review is from: Guide to Thomas Aquinas (Paperback)
This book is one of the essential studies of St. Thomas's life and thought. It is especially valuable because it preserves some of the profound insights of two other Thomists whose books have either never been translated into English (Grabmann) or are, alas, out-of-print (Chenu). Pieper's treatment of St. Thomas's (and Aristotle's) use of language is absolutely essential reading for beginning students of Aquinas who have not read the more thorough treatments (by Chenu and Blanche - now largely forgotten) upon which it is based. Pieper also captures better than most biographers the importance of Thomas's decision to embrace both of the apparently opposed movements of his day, the back-to-the-Bible movement of the mendicant orders and, the modern, scientific movement of Aristotelianism.
There are a few points on which I think Pieper is wrong, most importantly on the question of Thomas's "Aristotelianism." In his justifiable attempt to show that Thomas is not an unqualified Aristotelian, Pieper goes too far the other direction and leaves the reader with the impression that Thomas was a defender of Plato. Especially troubling is Pieper's citation of passages from Thomas's Commentaries on Aristotle's De Anima and Metaphysics, which he, Pieper, claims defend Plato against Aristotle's criticisms: I cannot figure out how Pieper could construe the cited passages in such a way. Also, Pieper's criticism of the Inquistion, the Dominican order's role in it, and Thomas's defense of it seems surprisingly naive coming from an author steeped in the history of the Church. But these are relatively minor flaws in an otherwise worthy study of St. Thomas.
My rating of other books on St. Thomas: (1) Josef Pieper, The Silence of St. Thomas. ***** One of the very best books on St. Thomas Aquinas; see my ... review. (2) G.K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas: the Dumb Ox. ***** A justly acclaimed popular account of the life and work of St. Thomas; a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience for student and general reader alike. (3) Marie-Dominique Chenu O.P., Toward Understanding St. Thomas. ***** THE indispensible work for every serious student; sadly, out-of-print. (4) Ralph McInerny, St. Thomas Aquinas. **** A scholarly introduction to Thomas's philosophical thought, which emphasizes Aquinas's indebteness to Aristotle and Boethius. (5) Jean-Pierre Torrell O.P., St. Thomas Aquinas: the Person and his Work. **** Currently the standard scholarly biography.
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Initial post: Feb 20, 2012 3:21:47 AM PST
"Pieper also captures better than most biographers the importance of Thomas's decision to embrace both of the apparently opposed movements of his day, the back-to-the-Bible movement of the mendicant orders and, the modern, scientific movement of Aristotelianism."

This is so true, and thanks for pointing it out. Not until I read this book did I realize the significance of this. It's still an odd combination today - a scientific, worldly realism with a ferocious, mystical, otherworldly religion, and insisting that they both be not just compatible but actually joined together systematically.

I'm not sure many writers on Thomas know or care about this; they get how he handled Aristotle, but most introductions and overviews of Aquinas blankly mention that he joined the Dominicans - as a sort of side note, as if it's an insignificant Catholic detail, as if there's no difference between the two orders that a modern person would care about.
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