The Thoughtful Heart: The Metaphysics of John Henry Newman. With a Fully Annotated Reader’s Text of Newman’s Discursive Enquiries on Metaphysical Subjects by William F. Myers (review)
- Newman Studies Journal
- The Catholic University of America Press
- Volume 12, Number 1, Spring 2015
- pp. 70-71
- Additional Information
NEWMAN STUDIES JOURNAL 70 1 Edward J. Sillem, ed., The Philosophical Notebook by John Henry Newman, 2 vols (Louvain: Nauwelaerts, 1969), 203. Hereafter cited: Sillem, Notebook. 2 Sillem, Notebook, vol. 1, ix. 3 Myers, The Thoughtful Heart, 9. 4 Ibid., 9. BOOK REVIEWS The Thoughtful Heart: The Metaphysics of John Henry Newman. With a Fully Annotated Reader’s Text of Newman’s Discursive Enquiries on Metaphysical Subjects. By William F. Myers. Marquette Studies in Philosophy no. 85. Milwaukee,WI: Marquette University Press, 2013. Pages: 331. Paperback, $29.00. ISBN: 9781626006003. William Myers’s new book takes an important step in the development of Newman studies. It is devoted to one of the most important of Newman’s books for philosophers (besides the Grammar of Assent and The Oxford University Sermons), published posthumously under the title The Philosophical Notebook1 —a collection of Newman’s notes on metaphysical and ontological matters. The previous (and heretofore only) edition of this work, now very rare, contains a detailed record of the manuscript (Volume Two) and a comprehensive introduction by Edward Sillem (Volume One). The Thoughtful Heart is in fact the second critical edition of The Philosophical Notebook, which Newman had planned to entitle Discursive Enquires on Metaphysical Subjects. It is, however, very difficult to read Myers’s book without frequent comparisons to Sillem’s two-volume edition. Therefore, this review is accompanied by a comparison to the classic edition of The Philosophical Notebook (1969–70).It underlines questions of originality and authorship regarding this study of the manuscript, because while Sillem tried to accurately copy the form in which Newman left his sketch, Myers tries rather to recreate the very idea of the Cardinal’s book. Myers opens his book with a brief preface, immediately moving on to his own critical edition of Newman’s Notebook (“Part One”). Sillem’s version has more historical and scholarly value, given that it “reproduces exactly this philosophical notebook,”2 while Myers’s edition aims to popularize Newman’s unfinished book in the philosophical community. It explicitly intends to “organis[e] the material in a manner that enables the reader to make sense of Newman’s thoughts for his projected book in relatively straightforward manner,”3 and this goal—while “no more than a hypothetical one”—has been achieved.4 The second part of The Thoughtful Heart contains four chapters that are loosely connected with the previous part of the book. The first is entitled “The Incidental Philosopher” and broadly contextualizes the Notebook within Newman’s life and work.It may be a very helpful introduction for novice Newman scholars,as it is shorter and more general than the first volume of Sillem’s edition.The second chapter tries to identify possible roots of Newman’s ontology,as well as its main opponents.Extensive commentary on the text of the Notebook constitutes the third chapter,and in my view it is the most valuable part of Myers’s book because it supplements the volume published in 1969,in which Sillem has not executed a detailed analysis of Newman’s 71 notes.The last essay is an attempt to locate Discursive Enquiries on Metaphysical Subjects in the contemporary philosophical debate on artificial intelligence and the mind-body problem.Both the second and fourth chapters are rather loosely connected with the previous part of the book and display Myers’s personal philosophical interests, which may not be very interesting for the average reader. The value of William Myers’s publication is clear.It takes up a long-forgotten topic that was raised more than forty years ago in the painstaking work of Edward Sillem. Myers not only provides a new edition of Newman’s document to a wide range of philosophers and Newman scholars, but also elaborates new ways of understanding Newman’s unfinished book. He thus situates himself among scholars that include the late lamented Sillem and Henry Tristram and Adrian J. Boekraad, authors of the critical edition of Newman’s “The Proof of Theism”—an important part of Discursive Enquires on Metaphysical Subjects.5 I hope that The Thoughtful Heart will renew studies on Newman’s ontology, which is primarily contained in his unfinished book. This review would...