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Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox Paperback – Unabridged, January 15, 1974

4.1 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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." --Doug Thorpe


''I consider it as being without possible exception the best book ever written on Saint Thomas. Nothing short of genius can account for such an achievement.'' Étienne Gilson, philosopher and historian --Étienne Gilson, philosopher and historian --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Image Classics
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Image; Reissue edition (February 15, 1974)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385090021
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385090025
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #507,790 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I read this book as a sophomore at Georgetown in a class on St. Thomas taught by Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. (whose own books are well worth reading). The power of Chesterton's words overwhelmed me--here was a delightful man who was so connected to rock-bottom reality that he could shape metaphors whose insights dazzled and multiplied for page upon page.
Two or three times Chesterton penned a sentence in this book that literally made me wince in pain; not because I disliked what he wrote, but because the sentence overwhelmed me with the truth it conveyed so powerfully (and perhaps also because I knew I would never in my life write such a magnificent sentence).
A Southern Baptist by upbringing, I had long before college decided that Christianity was useful in keeping the stupid masses in line, but we smart folks had science and didn't need such myths. After two years of reading in the "Great Books" at college, this arrogance had faded, and I began to toy with the idea that Christianity was far more reasonable and even noble than I had thought. But I wasn't sure whether it was in fact true.
Then in this book Chesterton reiterated Aristotle's classic philosophical argument that reason tells us there must be a First Mover which set the world in motion. Chesterton added that it is reasonable to deduce that a First Mover must have willed to make that first move, and a being with a will is a person; so the First Mover is a personal God.
That logical point hit me hard, and changed my life. After a few more years of intense reading (and almost as intense procrastinating), I was received into the Roman Catholic Church--the same Church into which Chesterton's prodigious, joyful intellect impelled him. (He had been raised in the Church of England.
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By A Customer on September 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
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 (in his own autobiography, which has much the same candid dearth of dates and details, he commented that if he had denied such careful treatment to St. Thomas and St. Francis how could he justify it for himself?).
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. Anyone who has read his book of literary criticism on Dickens will understand what I mean: 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.
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Format: Paperback
Reading Chesterton is a little like learning a foreign language - persistence is the key. At first he's difficult to understand, but for the reader that continues, eventually the light goes on and everything makes sense.
It's amazing that Chesterton was able to pack so much into so little of a book. This brilliant introduction to Aquinas should be required reading on all college campuses.
Chesterton admits that the book is a biography. His hope is that it will introduce readers to Aquinas' philosophy and therefore lead them into his theology. The theology, Chesterton also admits, is the one thing that he has left out of the book.
Instead, Chesterton spends a great deal of time comparing Aquinas to St. Francis of Assisi - a comparison which at first might seem quite odd. In classic Chesterton style, he demonstrates that the two friars were perhaps more similar than they were different.
Each generation, Chesterton writes, is converted by the saint who contradicts it most. Therefore, argues Chesterton, the 20th century is clutching at Thomism because it has neglected reason.
"...as the eighteenth century thought itself the age of reason, and the nineteenth century thought itself the age of common sense, the twentieth century cannot as yet even manage to think itself anything but the age of uncommon nonsense," writes G.K.
I was particularly intrigued by Chesterton's introduction of Martin Luther late in the book and his argument that the quarrel between the Augustinians and the Dominicans led, in part, to the Protestant Reformation.
The brilliance of this book is both its simplicity and the Chestertonian gems discovered within. Modern readers, familiar with Pope John Paul II's "Theology of the Body", will note the connections between Aquinas' Incarnational theology, Chesterton's common sense, and the work of John Paul II.
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