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Aquinas's Summa

background, structure, & reception

Jean-Pierre Torrell

Publication Year: 2012

In this concise new volume by the acclaimed author of the biography of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Jean-Pierre Torrell brings his expertise to bear on Aquinas's Summa Theologiae.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vii

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pp. ix-x

THE FAME OF CERTAIN WORKS is such that it can overshadow their authors and the rest of their writings as well. The Summa theologiae is probably the most striking example of this. It is well known that Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote the Summa theologiae and that he lived in the Middle Ages. But few readers know what...

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1 The Author and His Work

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pp. 1-16

SAINT AUGUSTINE’S Confessions are riddled with autobiographical references; the Summa is not as obliging about its author. It is not completely silent about him, but identifying whatever allusions there are requires supplemental information to help us understand...

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II The Summa

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pp. 17-36

PEOPLE HAVE OFTEN compared the structure of the medieval Summas of theology to that of the medieval cathedrals. This image is a cliché and says nothing as long as we do not understand how this architecture was laid out. This is the first thing that we have to look at. For the sake of argument, let us suppose a reader...

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III The Summa

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pp. 37-62

The third volume, also known as the Secunda Secundae, has, among its peculiarities, that of being the longest. Its author considered it important enough to preface it with a Prologue, which is also the longest of the Summa. While helpful for the reader, it also contains a subtle warning. If Master Thomas, known for his concision, takes the pains to be more explicit, we...

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IV The Literary and Doctrinal Milieu

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pp. 63-85

NOW THAT WE HAVE MET THE Summa’s author and come to know its major features as well as the essential elements of its content, there remains the task of saying something about the milieu in which it was written. While suggestive, evoking Thomas’s experience at Orvieto is too fleeting and fragmentary to be...

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V The Summa through History

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pp. 86-105

IF THOMAS’S LIFE WAS RELATIVELY EVENTFUL, the reception of his doctrine was positively tumultuous.Without reviewing here the entire history of Thomism, it is important to recall its major moments, for it is not always possible to isolate from them those things that concern the Summa in particular, and it is certain that it was around...

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VI The Summa in theTwentieth Century

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pp. 106-130

IT MAY BE SURPRISING TO SAY, but the state of Thomism at the dawn of the twenty-first century is still in part conditioned by the history of the two preceding centuries. Before laying out the current state of affairs, it will be helpful to recall briefly what happened before. It...

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pp. 131-134

ACCORDING TO THE AIMS of the French series in which this book originally appeared, my intention has been to present to the reader the Summa theologiae, its author, its content, and its fortunes through the ages. As this book was about an important work that has...

Annotated Bibliography

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pp. 135-138


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pp. 139-156

E-ISBN-13: 9780813216638
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813213989

Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1st ed.

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Subject Headings

  • Thomas, Aquinas, Saint, 1225?-1274. Summa theologica.
  • Theology, Doctrinal.
  • Catholic Church -- Doctrines.
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