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The Creative Retrieval of Saint Thomas Aquinas

Essays in Thomistic Philosophy, New and Old

W. Norris Clarke

Publication Year: 2009

W. Norris Clarke has chosen the fifteen essays in this collection, five of which appear here for the first time, as the most significant of the more than seventy he has written over the course of a long career. Clarke is known for his development of a Thomistic personalism. To be a person, according to Saint Thomas, is to take conscious self-possession of one's own being, to be master of oneself. But our incarnate mode of being human involves living in a body whose life unfolds across time, and is inevitably dispersed across time. If we wish to know fully who we are, we need to assimilate and integrate this dispersal, so that our lives become a coherent story. In addition to the existentialist thought of Etienne Gilson and others, Clarke draws on the Neoplatonic dimension of participation. Existence as act and participation have been the central pillars of his metaphysical thought, especially in its unique manifestation in the human person.The essays collected here cover a wide range of philosophical, ethical, religious, and aesthetic topics. Through them sounds a very personal voice, one that has inspired generations of students and scholars.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii

Part 1: Reprinted Articles

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pp. 1-170

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Chapter 1: Twenty-Fourth Award of the Aquinas Medal, by the American Catholic Philosophical Association, to W. Norris Clarke, SJ

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pp. 3-15

We are conferring the Aquinas Medal tonight on one of our own members, a most faithful participant in our annual meetings and regional meetings. We all have our different memories of Norris Clarke, but there is a common ACPA memory...

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Chapter 2: Interpersonal Dialogue: Key to Realism

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pp. 16-26

One of the most nagging and persistent problems in the history of modern Western epistemology—principally since Descartes and, in a more sophisticated and permanently influential way, since Kant—has been the problem of whether and to what extent we know the external world...

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Chapter 3: Causality and Time

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pp. 27-38

It takes only a modest sampling of current writing to verify what one of the latest books on causality calls ‘‘the bewildering confusion prevailing in contemporary philosophic and scientific literature.’’1 In this essay I would like to discuss a facet...

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Chapter 4: System: A New Category of Being?

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pp. 39-47

Since the chances are extremely high that I will never again have the opportunity to address such an influential group of my philosophical companions- in-arms with any semblance of official position or authority, I am going to take advantage...

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Chapter 5: A Curious Blind Spot in the Anglo-American Tradition of Antitheistic Argument

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pp. 48-65

Theistic philosophers often tend to assume an inferiority complex, an attitude of defensiveness, in the face of antitheistic argument. They know that their own traditions of argumentation can easily fall into a repetitive rut by failing to incorporate the new insights...

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Chapter 6: The Problem of the Reality and Multiplicity of Divine Ideas in Christian Neoplatonism

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pp. 66-88

My purpose in this paper is to trace a chapter in the history of ideas within the broad stream of Neoplatonism as it passes into Christian thought. The theme is one that caused special difficulties to Christian thinkers as they tried to adapt the old wine...

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Chapter 7: Is the Ethical Eudaimonism of Saint Thomas Too Self-Centered?

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pp. 89-94

The structure of Saint Thomas’s ethics is founded on teleology, the teleology of human nature as ordered toward its own final end, the fulfillment of its perfection, which Saint Thomas identifies under the term ‘‘happiness,’’ the happiness appropriate to a human being...

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Chapter 8: Conscience and the Person

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pp. 95-108

Conscience and the person fit together inseparably. There is no mature person without the voice of conscience, and no conscience save in a person. Conscience is also perhaps the most distinctive expression of what it means to be a person...

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Chapter 9: Democracy, Ethics, Religion: An Intrinsic Connection

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pp. 109-116

During his many years of professional life as a political philosopher, Francis Canavan has worked consistently to articulate and pass on the great tradition of humanistic political philosophy, grounded in a solid philosophical anthropology...

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Chapter 10: What Cannot Be Said in Saint Thomas’s Essence-Existence Doctrine

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pp. 117-131

It is common knowledge that the essence-existence doctrine of Saint Thomas is the central piece in his whole metaphysical system. It is a doctrine both of creatures and of God in their mutual relations, the central vantage point from which he views...

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Chapter 11: Living on the Edge: The Human Person as ‘‘Frontier Being’’ and Microcosm

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pp. 132-151

The aim of this paper is to propose a creative ‘‘retrieval’’ of an interconnected pair of very ancient—but I still think very rich and seminal—ideas of what it means to be a human being and have a place in the cosmos. These ideas have nourished...

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Chapter 12: The Metaphysics of Religious Art: Reflections on a Text of Saint Thomas

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pp. 152-170

This title may seem at first to be a strange one. Granted, the making or appreciating of a work of art is not itself a work of metaphysics, nor of any philosophical discipline at all. Yet it seems to me that there is a remarkable parallel between the way the religious...

Part II: New Articles

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pp. 171

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Chapter 13: The Immediate Creation of the Human Soul by God and Some Contemporary Challenges

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pp. 173-190

I have picked out this topic for presentation to you today for a special reason, extending beyond merely philosophical concern. In the last few years this topic has become a new and hotly debated one of serious theological and not merely philosophical...

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Chapter 14: The Creative Imagination: Unique Expression of Our Soul-Body Unity

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pp. 191-208

My aim in this essay is to engage in a philosophical exploration of the creative imagination in human beings, seeking to discern its basic structure and its significance for our understanding of what it means to be human. For it is unique in the universe...

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Chapter 15: The Creative Imagination as Treated in Western Thought

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pp. 209-225

The companion article on this topic (see chapter 14) has treated the nature and role of the creative imagination in Thomistic anthropology. But this balanced synthesis has by no means been the dominant theme in the actual history of how this topic has been treated in the history of Western...

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Chapter 16: The Integration of Personalism and Thomistic Metaphysics in Twenty-First-Century Thomism

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pp. 226-231

My aim in this chapter is to lay out the main steps in what I consider the most creative and fruitful development in Thomism today. It is the carrying out of the central philosophical project of Karol Wojtyla, the late Pope John Paul II: namely, the integration...


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pp. 233-259

Name Index

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pp. 261-266

Subject Index

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pp. 267-271

E-ISBN-13: 9780823246823
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823229284
Print-ISBN-10: 0823229289

Page Count: 250
Publication Year: 2009