- Aquinas on Matter and Form and the Elements: A Translation and Interpretation of the De Principiis Naturae and the De Mixtione Elementorum of St. Thomas Aquinas by Joseph Bobik (review)
- The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review
- The Catholic University of America Press
- Volume 63, Number 4, October 1999
- pp. 659-662
- View Citation
- Additional Information
BOOK REVIEWS 659 Others may find reason to dissent from Brock's conclusions in other ways, but few will come to doubt the importance of his achievement. His treatment of Aquinas's account of action exhibits a rare combination of rigor and learning. It is, no doubt, the best we have. University ofTulsa Tulsa, Oklahoma JOHN R. BoWLIN Aquinas on Matter and Form and the Elements: A Translation and Interpretation of the De Principiis Naturae and the De Mixtione Elementorum of St. Thomas Aquinas. By JOSEPH BOBIK. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1998. Pp. 325 + xviii. $39.00 (cloth), $19.00 (paper). ISBN 0-268-00653-9(cloth), 0-268-02000-0 (paper). Congratulations and thanks to Joseph Bobik for having provided a translation that is both accurate and readable ofThomas'sDe principiis naturae and De mixtione elementorum. There exist in print three other English translations of the De principiis naturae (Robert Goodwin, 1965; Timothy McDermott, 1993; and Ralph Mcinerny, 1999) and one on the Internet (www.niagara.edu/-loughlin/Nature.html), butBobik's translation is excellent, and there is no other translation, of which I am aware, of the De mixtione elementorum. Bobik's work also includes two long and very helpful philosophical essays, one on the problem of how it is that elements exist in physical substances and one on the differences and similarities between Thomas's understanding and the contemporary understanding of elements. This book provides an excellent introduction to Thomistic natural philosophy, especially for undergraduates and for nonspecialists in Thomistic thought, but it will also reward the study of more advanced Thomists. The De principiisnaturae, although a short work (eight pages in the Leonine edition) is traditionally divided into six chapters, and these chapters into paragraphs. Likewise the De mixtione elementorum, an even shorter work (just two full pages), is divided into paragraphs. Bobik's commentary, accordingly, is given paragraph by paragraph, in the following manner: first he gives the Latin text, next his English translation, and last his commentary, which is usually about a page or two but is occasionally as long as eight pages. One finds here a thorough, accurate, and clear presentation of the important topics: actuality and potentiality, substance and accident, matter, prime matter, form, privation, the causes, the modes of the causes, elements, how principles and causes are predicated, how elements are present in compounds. I do, however, have three complaints about the format ofBobik's translation and commentary. First, it is better pedagogically, I believe, to present Thomas's 660 BOOK REVIEWS texts without interruption, particularly as the texts here translated are so short. Most students will skip over the Latin, but will read a little of St. Thomas and then a great deal of Professor Bobik. The reader, thus, becomes a student in Bobik's classroom -surely a profitable activity-but he does not in the first instance become a student in Thomas's classroom-arguably a more profitable activity. A second pedagogical quibble is that Bobik will occasionally discuss crucial points in Thomas's text by using untranslated Latin sentences and phrases. As I understand the audience ofBobik'swork to be primarily Thomistic beginners, who are typically without Latin, the use of untranslated Latin is a hindrance to the student. Third, there is a lack of scholarly apparatus and discussion in this work. There is no bibliography, even though a bibliography would be very useful to the more advanced student who might know some Latin and be interested in scholarship, and there is almost no discussion of contemporary scholars. John Searle, surprisingly but happily, is treated in a discussion of the relation of micro realities to the macro properties of a physical substance, and there is a refutation of C. J. F. Williams's atomistic interpretation of chemistry, but contemporary Thomists who have written much on natural philosophy (such as William Wallace, Benedict Ashley, James Weisheipl, Mario Sacchi, Leo Elders, and others) and historians (such as Anneliese Maier) are absent. The beginner should not be burdened with the details of scholarly debate, but as Bobik does give rather long commentaries and, in addition, almost two hundred pages of philosophical essays, we have a right to expect...