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Saint Thomas Aquinas - 'The Dumb Ox' Paperback – April 10, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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About the Author

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874–1936) was an English writer. His prolific and diverse output included philosophy, ontology, poetry, play writing, journalism, public lecturing and debating, literary and art criticism, biography, Christian apologetics, and fiction, including fantasy and detective fiction. Chesterton has been called the "prince of paradox". Time magazine, in a review of a biography of Chesterton, observed of his writing style: "Whenever possible Chesterton made his points with popular sayings, proverbs, allegories—first carefully turning them inside out." For example, Chesterton wrote "Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it." Chesterton is well known for his reasoned apologetics and even some of those who disagree with him have recognized the universal appeal of such works as Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man. Chesterton, as a political thinker, cast aspersions on both liberalism and conservatism, saying, "The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected." Chesterton routinely referred to himself as an "orthodox" Christian, and came to identify such a position with Catholicism more and more, eventually converting to Roman Catholicism from Anglicanism. George Bernard Shaw, Chesterton's "friendly enemy" according to Time, said of him, "He was a man of colossal genius". --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 94 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; Later Edition Used edition (April 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1475167571
  • ISBN-13: 978-1475167573
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.2 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #843,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brian W. Fisher on August 29, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Chesterton writes as though everyone reading him is as educated and well read as he was, which is far better then most of the insultingly brain-dead piffle out today, but I had to spend hours researching many of his references.
I like that and I learned a great deal about one of my favorite saints.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Why the Dumb Ox?

On a personal plane, my affinity goes back to the fact that this was my introduction to both Chesterton and Aquinas. And the first is always indelible if not formative.

But it is also the best. After reading more Chesterton and studying Aquinas a little, I can say objectively that this book still rests at the top. Others agree: Peter Kreeft noted that the top 20th century Aquinas scholars have all said that The Dumb Ox is the best book on Aquinas. And Kreeft himself said it was the best, so add another top scholar to the list of endorsements.

How can this be when, as critics say, it isn’t really about Aquinas?

Going into it, you have to realize that it isn’t going to be a typical biography or even a study of Aquinas’ thought. Chesterton himself calls the book a sketch. And, like a sketch of charcoal or pen and ink, we don’t get details or even identifiable traits. We get a likeness—an adumbration—of the great figure. This limits the product to ideas, and big ones at that. Those who demand comprehensive tabulation of facts will naturally find the work lacking.

By foregoing details, however, Chesterton is able to craft the big ideas more convincingly. The overall picture is more compelling because there are no specifics bogging down the portrayal.

What is the overall picture? If one were to create a sketch of this sketch of Aquinas, it would reflect the importance of reason in life and salvation. As such, the Dumb Ox amounts to an ode to the godliness of reason.

This is ironic if we recall that Chesterton has in other works challenged the value of reason and has even suggested that logical consistency is a sign of madness rather than sound judgment.
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Numerous people who should know have claimed that this is hands down the best biography of Thomas Aquinas that exists. There's good reason for that. The book is magnificently executed with typical Chestertonian flair for metaphor and paradox. In the hands of another writer this would cover up the figure being discussed, the Chesterton it illuminates.

It is however, only a sketch of the great systematic philosopher, as Chesterton himself says at the beginning of the book. If you're looking for an introduction to Aquinas's philosophy I reccomend Peter Kreeft's excellent books for laymen. (Kreeft is one of those who should know mentioned above). If you're looking for a personal introduction to Aquinas, you can't get better than this slim volume.
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This is a very interesting simplified biography of St. Tomas Aquinas. At times, I feel as though Chesterton brings too many character into comparison, which gets too heavy. However, he focuses mainly on the similarities of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thomas Aquinas. Although from different generations, they are similar in that they focus on the practical aspects of belief rather than on transcendental aspects such as meditation and zen. St. Tomas asserts that God gives us our senses so that we may interpret matter and also gives us intelligence so that we may make practical decisions based on our God-given senses. He believe we should live in this world and not focus the information obvious from our senses and basic intelligence ather on deriving insights from mental calisthenics. Having read St. Tomas Merton, who believes the opposite, I prefer St. Tomas Aquinas' practical approach.
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Chesterton's writing is a wonder. You can see his brilliantly intelligent mind, I mean, good grief, some of the stuff just took too much out of me to try to understand, so I'd pass through with my eyes glazed, but some of it was so crisply simple that you could tell it took someone really smart to say it that way. And FUNNY.

I learned about the medieval era and mind, very nice indeed. I learned about Aquinas and I like him. I think I wondered if he were even a Christian before I read this, so I'm so glad to get him vindicated in my own mind. Now I have respect for and am in awe of him, as I should have and be.

One thing, though. He was a bit rough on poor Martin Luther, probably because he burnt Aquinas's books. It sort of glared to me that Luther had not one virtue and Aquinas had not one flaw. He said the Augustinians emphasized "the impotence of man before God, the omniscience of God about the destiny of man, the need for holy fear and the humiliation of intellectual pride, more than the opposite and corresponding truths of free will or human dignity or good works," that "emphasizing the one was to flatly contradict the other." Well! duh! For centuries the opposite and corresponding truths were the only ones emphasized! But, enough about that. I enjoyed the challenge to my own narrow Augustinian, Lutheran viewpoint.
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Chesterton is not an easy read - but this is the best way to get to the heart of St. Thomas A
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