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BOOK REVIEWS Ideas in God according to Saint Thomas Aquinas: Sources and Synthesis. By VIVIAN BOLAND, 0.P. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996. Pp. 353. $128.50 (cloth). ISBN 90-04-10392-9. In this remarkably wide-ranging book, Fr. Boland has presented scholars of medieval philosophy with a compact history of the doctrine of divine ideas in Western philosophy, as well as a study of the scope of that doctrine in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. To accomplish both of these tasks, Boland divides his presentation into two parts, the first comprising four chapters and the second three. In the first part of the book, he is successful in setting forth the major figures and their key, historically influential theses, though some of the analyses are more protracted than would be required simply in order to provide the background to Aquinas. The second part of the book addresses Aquinas's own theory and outlines its main features by analyzing texts from various periods of Aquinas's literary career. The book opens with an introduction laying out the conflicting interpretations of divine ideas given by Thomists in the twentieth century. Such notable scholars as Gilson and Sertillanges claim that Aquinas's account of the divine nature, especially that found in Summa contra Gentiles I, does not necessitate any doctrine of divine ideas and that Thomas's emphasis on divine simplicity militates somewhat against endorsing divine ideas. According to Thomists of this outlook, Aquinas simply held on to the theory of divine ideas, historically speaking, out of respect for the theological authority of St. Augustine and not out of any theoretical commitments of his own. On the other hand, such a leading authority as Geiger maintains that the doctrine of divine ideas is integral to Aquinas's theological thinking-indeed, so integral that Thomas needs to posit divine ideas in order to sustain the divine simplicity while simultaneously allowing for God's intimate awareness of each aspect of his creation. Boland's work, through its detailed examination of the sources for Thomas's doctrine of divine ideas and the texts that present that doctrine constitutes, in effect, a response in favor of Geiger's position and opposed to the minimalist approach to divine ideas characteristic of Gilson and Sertillanges. Each of the first four chapters focuses on a different group of prominent figures. The first treats of Plato and the tradition of Academic speculation leading to and including middle Platonism. Regarding Plato himself, Boland undertakes an analysis of the Timaeus with its characteristic doctrine of the 481 482 BOOK REVIEWS Demiurge. Although he acknowledges the problematic enterprise of interpreting the professedly mythic aspects of the doctrine, Boland nonetheless presents a fairly straightforward reading of the Timaeus: the Demiurge is not the supreme principle of the Platonic universe, though it is prior to soul and the physical universe, while the Forms are prior to the Demiurge and are certainly not the thoughts of a divine mind. Observing that this way of understanding the Platonic account of creation, though perhaps justified on textual grounds, leaves Plato subject to many of the criticisms later voiced by Aristotle, Boland adds that the Timaeus so understood is open as well to two philosophical developments: (1) identifying the Demiurge with the supreme principle of the universe and (2) placing the Forms within the mind of the supreme principle as its thoughts. These two developments cannot be precisely traced historically, but clearly the second can be seen already in the works of Antiochus of Ascalon, the middle Platonist of the first century B.C., whose thought was continued and amplified by such notable figures as Albinus. The first of the developments would seem to be found in Platonic tradition prior to Antiochus, but is clearly judged to be commonplace Platonic doctrine by Roman philosophers such as Cicero and Seneca in their summary renderings of Greek philosophical teachings. A final figure of importance in the transmission ~ of early- and middle-Platonic doctrine is Philo Judaeus whose discussion of a divinely spoken Word containing an intelligible world provided much stimulation for later Christian speculation. The second of the background chapters deals with Plotinus, Augustine, and Boethius. Plotinus is seen...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 481-485
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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