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FRIAR THOMAS D'AQUINO* Thomas Aquinas has certainly had his ups and downs. He himself, the order to which he belonged, the religious life his order represented, his philosophical and scholarly points of view, all were controversial during his lifetime. He was no sooner dead and in his grave (though not decayed, according to legend, and not to stay there, according to sober history) when his philosophy and theology were subject to strenuous attack, culminating in the famous Paris condemnation of 1277. Although at his canonization in the fourteenth century his doctrine was commended as much as his life, it is quite clear that the major impetus to his canonization and most of the evidence at the various canonization inquiries came from people who knew little and perhaps could understand little of his philosophy. Nevertheless, slowly but surely his doctrine became more and more influential and authoritative, particularly within the Roman Church, but not only there. For example, Hooker in the late sixteenth and Richard Holdsworth in the early seventeenth century, firm Anglicans, were much indebted to Aquinas. His influence grew, and in the decades after 1879 his thought (or what was taken to be his thought) dominated Roman Catholic theology and philosophy and had to be taken seriously by anyone with much curiosity about what intelligent and educated people could be thinking. Now he is down again. As everyone knows, after Vatican II it has become very unfashionable, even (perhaps particularly) within the Roman communion, to take Thomas very seriously as a guide to the solution of contemporary problems. Many who know about him would like to forget him; many others have forgotten him, except for recollections of certain quaint but, of course, invalid proofs of God's existence. This is a pity. Some of us are unfashionable enough to think Thomas still has much to say to philosophers and theologians. It is also a pity that the seven hundredth anniversary of his death could not have come a few years earlier. We have had a spate of words - congresses, commemorative volumes of one sort or another - to celebrate the occasion. It is all very fitting, but one suspects that the words will too often fall on deaf ears. Which is again a pity; there has been some excellent work produced in honour of the occasion. For example, a splendid Canadian contribution to the celebration is the two-volume Sf Thomas Aquinas, 1274-1974; Commemorative Studies, edited by Professor A.A. Maurer and others (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto). The book under review here, Friar Thomas D'Aquino: His Life, Thought, and Work by James A. Weisheipt OP, is another commemorative volume. I should like to say at the outset that, given the sort of book it is, it is excellent and that, regardless of fads, I hope it will have many readers. The main task for a reviewer of this book is to state clearly what sort of book it is and what sort of book it is not. There are all kinds of books that could be and have been written about a person of the historical importance of St Thomas. This truism would, of course, come as no surprise to the author, and in his preface he remarks: 'When I began writing this book, I thought of writing the kind of book that I should like to have read when I began my own Thomistic studies over thirty years ago ... However, as work progressed I had the suspicion that Iwas writing a book I should like to have on my reference shelfnot only for consultation, but also for correction...' (p ix) As we shall shortly see, the key phrase here is 'reference *James A. Weisheipl, Friar Thomas D'Aquino: His Life, Thought, and Work. New York: Doubleday 1974. Pp xii, 464. $9.95 182 JOHN TRENTMAN shelf.' The full title of the book suggests a rather ambitious program. And the author argues both that the only satisfactory way to understand Thomas and his work is to see it in its historical perspective and also that it does not follow from this that historicism is right, that none of Thomas's ideas can be true today...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 181-184
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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