I'm so glad that Brian Davies has written this wonderful guide and commentary for first time readers. Unlike so many existing commentaries, this is acI'm so glad that Brian Davies has written this wonderful guide and commentary for first time readers. Unlike so many existing commentaries, this is accessible to the non-specialist, and even to the student who is not well versed in Aristotle. Highly recommended to those who want to learn Aquinas but are too daunted by the task!...more
I learned more from the God than the Action parts of this book. For me, this book lost steam once he started talking about the concept actus, becauseI learned more from the God than the Action parts of this book. For me, this book lost steam once he started talking about the concept actus, because at that point the author of the book seemed to have lost his ability to make Aquinas's project compelling.
But I really did appreciate his attempts, in the first half of the book, to explain his claim (which is certainly true) that Aquinas is not trying to lay out a doctrine or theory of God. Instead, he argues that what Aquinas is up to in the questions where he treats of God's simpleness, perfection, limitlessness, unchangeableness, and oneness, is that "he is engaged in the metalinguistic project of mapping out the grammar appropriate in divinis." (p. 17) He also notes that the reasons he offers are never ones internal to Christian faith or revelation. "Rather, Aquinas is uniquely concerned with showing 'whatever must belong to the first cause of all things which is beyond all that is caused.' Such a task does not involve settling upon certain empirical generalizations and finding a theory to unify them. It is solely a matter of logical analysis, or as Aquinas understood it, of philosophical grammar."
It is find to call this sort of "philosophical grammar" of the divine metaphysics, so long as we remain content in our low expectations of what we can expect from metaphysics in this domain. Because of the completely transcendent nature of God, saying that we can apply certain predicates of him is not to assume that we know what they mean, when applied in such a context. And here he sounds every bit like a follower of McCabe: "God escapes our grasp because every bit of knowledge we possess is knowledge about something. Yet such a statement already violates the divine mode of being. It does so precisely because God's way of being is not a mode of being, but being itself. And we have no way of formulating that since all our expresssions are articulated to fit modalities."(p. 18)
I also think Burrell does an admirable showing demonstrating what can be made intelligible about God, given what we can say he is not. From the fact that He is not complex, we can know that he does not have a form nor any potentiality; and from this we can infer that he does not have a body; and from this we can infer that God is to be identified with his own essence and nature, and so on.
This is a difficult book, but well worth the effort. I suspect that I shall be returning to it again and again if I am lucky enough to continue to teaThis is a difficult book, but well worth the effort. I suspect that I shall be returning to it again and again if I am lucky enough to continue to teach the Quinque Viae to undergraduates. If nothing else, it has forced me to return to Thomas's De Ente et Essentia, and finally given me the push I needed to read some of the more explicitly theological texts of Herbert McCabe. ...more
Fr. Brock is an Aquinas scholar in Rome who is also well steeped in analytic philosophy of action. If anyone in analytic philosophy is even remotely iFr. Brock is an Aquinas scholar in Rome who is also well steeped in analytic philosophy of action. If anyone in analytic philosophy is even remotely interested in what Aquinas has to teach us on this topic, this is the book to read (it's more serious than MacInerny's book, and more difficult, but well worth the effort)....more
This book is a great resource for scholars; the footnotes are simply amazing, as is the bibliography. The author does a better job of setting up the pThis book is a great resource for scholars; the footnotes are simply amazing, as is the bibliography. The author does a better job of setting up the problems that Aquinas is trying to solve than showing how he actually solved them, and at several points it is really unclear what the solution is supposed to amount to. The main problem addressed here, however, is the essential one for action theory: how we specify what is essential and what is accidental to the species of a human act. I would have enjoyed the book much more if the author had engaged more with contemporary literature, though to do so would have resulted in an entirely different book--one that would be far more relevant to contemporary philosophy than this one manages to be. ...more
McCabe is very much of the generation of Anscombe, Geach, and Kenny, and it shows (this is, of course, a compliment). He possesses that altogether rarMcCabe is very much of the generation of Anscombe, Geach, and Kenny, and it shows (this is, of course, a compliment). He possesses that altogether rare ability to say brilliant and true things in an utterly unpretentious and downright conversational style. It is clear that he has so thoroughly assimilated the thought of Aristotle, Aquinas, and Wittgenstein that he can discuss their essential insights without so much as referring to any text or historical problematic; he simply speaks about the issues in a way that immediately grips your attention and helps you to see how a certain tradition of thought has responded to them.
I had never heard of McCabe until this year, when I was at a conference on Alasdair MacIntyre. I wish I had discovered him sooner. ...more
This book begins by attacking my own Medieval training (in the Kretzmann school), and I couldn't agree more with Aertsen's critique. He also attacks GThis book begins by attacking my own Medieval training (in the Kretzmann school), and I couldn't agree more with Aertsen's critique. He also attacks Gilson, but in a way that manages to respect his deserved eminence. His main thesis is that the true spirit of Medieval philosophy is not that it is Christian but that it is a transcendental philosophy. Aertsen goes to great lengths to distinguish Medieval transcendental philosophy from its Kantian counterpart, and for me these passages were some of the most interesting in the book. I find his thesis (which is obviously provocative) incredibly illuminating, but I am too far from my days of serious Medieval scholarship to say anything particularly interesting about it one way or another.
For a Medieval geek like me, this book was pure joy. If only I had read this book ten years ago I'd probably be writing amore interesting dissertation than I am currently. It is a long slog, but well worth it, especially if one is interested in the question of being qua being, and also the extent to which Kant destroyed true philosophy. ...more