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Aquinas: A Beginner's Guide

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  661 ratings  ·  77 reviews
Charting the life and thought of this hugely influential medieval thinker.

One of the most influential philosophers and theologians in the history of Western thought, St Thomas Aquinas established the foundations for much of modern philosophy of religion, and is infamous for his arguments for the existence of God. In this cogent and multifaceted introduction to the great Sa
Paperback, 205 pages
Published October 1st 2009 by Oneworld Publications (first published 2009)
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Justinian the Great
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Amazing, astounding. Soon a proper review.
Wendy Wong Schirmer
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
If one is interested in Aquinas, one has to start somewhere, and Edward Feser's Aquinas: A Beginner's Guide is an excellent place.

But it's more: Feser not only walks the reader through the basics of Aquinas's metaphysics, but also its logical conclusions for natural theology, psychology, and ethics. The overarching argument behind the book is that Thomism remains viable and that those who dismiss Aquinas misunderstand what he actually means by certain terms as well as the kinds of arguments tha
Jesse De Costa
May 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
As many of the previous reviews have already indicated, although it says it is a beginner book, I would use this more to deepen my understanding of Aquinas' basic philosophy. As an introduction, it delves deeper into certain issues than beginners may be comfortable with. I would recommend starting with Feser's "The Last Superstition," where he goes into basic Platonic and especially Aristotelian metaphysics. These set the groundwork for better understanding Aquinas' thought, and much of what is ...more
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
St. Thomas and Feser are clearly both very big brained.

Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, theology
A must-read book for those who want to understand the basics Aquinas' positions. ...more
Laurent Dv
Sep 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
All concepts explained fairly well (except qualia and the problem of intentionality that I didn't understand well). My favorite parts were his explanation of the fives ways and Aquinas' psychology (souls, relation of soul with body). ...more
Gary Sedivy
Jan 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
The only reason I gave this book four instead of five stars is because of my personal inadequacy - there were parts I had to read several times to get the gist of it. I only had one quarter of philosophy class in college (45 years ago), and it was an overview, an introduction to the subject.
The early part of this book was setting the foundations of Acquinas’s metaphysical thinking. Trying to keep ‘act’ and ‘potential’, or ‘causes’, (first, final, subsistent, accidental, etc.), separate and clea
Pater Edmund
Feb 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
This is a remarkably clear and well written introduction Aquinas's philosophy (rather than his theology). Feser gives a wonderful example of how to give a popular exposition of heavy-duty philosophical thought. He also shows how to argue when one's readers are likely to have all the prejudices of modern philosophy. I thought there were a few weaknesses--the explanation of the fourth way's premise that the first in a genus is the cause of everything else in the genus was weak--and a few things ou ...more
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Stellar introduction to the thought of Thomas Aquinas, and under 200 pages!
Jake Oliger
Omitting a star review this time because my brain is too smooth and Aquinas's is too wrinkly.

I do feel this was a helpful and more complete overview of Aquinas's metaphysics and view of God than I'd previously gotten, but it did feel rushed in certain parts (it's a short book for such a large topic). I do feel at least somewhat prepared to push further into Aquinas's own writings, but to truly get much out of them I know I'll need to do a lot more legwork. Matt Fradd's Pints with Aquinas podcast
Kelly McLane
This is a great introduction to Aquinas’ thought and general metaphysics for someone with no prior knowledge of philosophy. Feser does a wonderful job of explaining the quotes from Aquinas and also presenting the different philosophers who were/are opposed to Aquinas’ ideas. He addresses common criticisms of Aquinas’ ideas and the ways in which his thought is often misunderstood. This book opened up a new world of thought for me and is so applicable to our times!
John Ellis
Jul 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Feser not only wrote an engaging introduction to the metaphysics of Aquinas, but the book is also a compelling defense of Thomistic thought that serves as a robust and thought provoking challenge to much of post-Enlightenment thought.
Feb 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014-five-star
Jun 2014. Read again. Still excellent, and after all my Maritain reading, easier to understand.

Feb 2012: To understand I had to stop and reread regularly.
Oct 21, 2013 rated it did not like it
A disappointing text.

Perhaps my expectations were calibrated too highly. I was hoping for an introduction that would sketch both the theoretical manifold of Thomism, and its motivations. I was only satisfied with the former. The proffered justifications of Thomism seemed targeted towards New Atheists, failing to engage more sophisticated philosophical frameworks. Further, Feser motivates his account by way of spurious empirical examples that I will now proceed to debunk.

Ben Smitthimedhin
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Aquinas' thoughts seemed impenetrable at first, but Feser has allowed me to scratch the surface of Thomistic philosophy. I'm not gonna lie and say that I understood everything perfectly; at times, I've had to read and re-read passages to grasp what Feser is on about. Still, the book's structure is especially helpful—starting off with Thomistic metaphysics is the perfect antidote to misunderstanding Aquinas—and Feser's abundant examples solidify the abstract into the concrete. He also covers natu ...more
Apr 26, 2020 rated it liked it
This book covers Aquinas’s philosophy fairly well from the Catholic point of view I think. It does not really ever give me a sense of the man himself. Perhaps the point is that he was really so focused on his writing, that no one ever really understood WHO he was.
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an amazing book. Edward Feser has a knack for making ancient and medieval philosophy easy to comprehend. I used to read about Aristotle and Aquinas from very old books (sometimes in Latin), but because the writers didn't take the pains to adequately translate the old scholastic jargon into modern jargon, when I was confronted by contemporary analytic philosophy I became convinced that those two philosophers couldn't possibly have anything to contribute to the progress of the discipline. ...more
Oct 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Feser's "Aquinas: A Beginner's Guide" is one of the best, if not the best, academic introductions to the thought of St. Thomas that I have read. (Chesterton's "The Dumb Ox" still reigns supreme and even though I would never describe it as "academic" I would heartily recommend it to everyone who considers themselves an academic.) The book is a tour de force.

There is only a minimal treatment of Aquinas himself in the book, which is understandable since Thomas fades from view in his writings, the m
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Feser does a good job of giving a high level overview of Aquinas’ thought. However, once one reads past the chapter and section headings, they will quickly find themselves immersed in a conversation about the difference between Aquinas and Contemporary and Modern philosophers and how most people misunderstand Aquinas and read him through the bias of contemporary philosophy.

This is great if your a seasoned philosopher looking to expand your horizons about the the thought of Medieval thinkers. Ho
Oct 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, theology
Discovered this book through Edward Feser's blog and it has been a worthy purchase.

This book is a fantastic exposition and introduction the the philosophy of St Thomas Aquinas. Many of the criticisms directed towards the famous "Five Ways" have resulted from a misunderstanding (or complete ignorance) of the metaphysical Aristotelian principles that St Aquinas relies on; namely the appreciation of change, the role of final causality, the essence/extinction distinction, the doctrine of hylemorphis
Trae Johnson
Jun 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
As mentioned in the other reviews, this is one of the more accessible and clear introductions to Aquinas. "Beginners" may have difficulty with some of the philosophical terms and ideas, but Feser does a great job in explaining through providing clear examples and by his interactions with historical and contemporary Thomistic opponents. I would be hard-pressed to recall a better explanation of final causality. ...more
Sep 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a very nicely conceived, lucid and concise introduction to Aquinas' thought - the prose is (mercifully) unfussy and clear, the arguments well-motivated and the book (as a whole) is closely engaged with many of the potential objections to his philosophy (indeed, it anticipated many of my own initial objections). It's a relief to find someone who not only has a sophisticated understanding of the philosophy they're writing about, but is also committed to dealing with these complex issues as ...more
Gui Freitas
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Really helpful introduction to Aquinas - Feser categorises each of Aquinas's different views from metaphysics through to ethics in a cogent and coherent way. He is also very faithful to Aquinas in starting with metaphysics, what Aquinas and other Thomists see as the true starting point of philosophy, and then from that he branches out into the famous 'Five Ways', Psychology, Ethics, etc - to a certain extent these other fields being unintelligible without metaphysics.

The subject-matter is dense
Jonah Bennett
Nov 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This slim introduction to Aquinas is one of my favorite philosophy books because Edward Feser is an incredibly talented writer (crisp, clean, tight, very tight) and a clear thinker. But this isn't a work of intellectual history, and it's not a biography of Aquinas. Rather, it's a rehabilitation of Aquinas' thought in a way that's much more accessible to modern, analytic philosophers, who in evaluating Aquinas' arguments for the existence of God, have mistakenly done so without understanding Aqui ...more
Daniel Millard
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this introductory volume on Thomistic philosophy per recommendation by my spiritual director after expressing an interest to better understand philosophy. Ed Feser offers a brief overview of Aquinas' Five Ways, how they are thought of by various modern philosophers, and how modern rationalism has more or less dismissed Aristotelian metaphysics without so much as an explanation for its presuppositions about the world.

In it, Feser argues that, far from outmoded, Thomism is invincible before
Jordan Carl
Apr 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Philosophy is hard. I was tangentially familiar with some of Aquinas’ metaphysics prior to reading this book. Feser does a wonderful job opening up Aristotelian and Thomistic metaphysics, ethics, and philosophy of the mind. The golden nuggets here are chapters 2 as and 5. In chapter 2, Feser cogently lays day Thomistic metaphysical terminology and vernacular on which all of Thomas’ theology and philosophy are predicated. This chapter along is worth the read. Chapter 3 is helpful as Feser lays ou ...more
May 18, 2020 rated it liked it
This is probably a really good book for many, but not for me. I had expected a more basic introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas. I have never taken a philosophy or psychology course, and much of this book was over my head. In fact, it was deeper than I really even care to think. I am more of a yes or no person, so when it gets deep into philosophy where there really is no "right" answer, I kind of stop there.

Not knowing much about philosophy, I didn't expect the defensive approach to Aquinas. Much
Luke Daghir
Apr 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
The author, Feser, does an astounding job of teaching as an elementary teacher teaches- the understanding that everything must be explained step by step.

The biggest take-away for me in reading this book was that I have a glimpse of knowledge on Aquinas' teachings. Each major area, Feser explains and gives a foundation for the reader to build off of.

This book is a great read, because the next book I read on St. Thomas Aquinas', or in reading Aquinas' writings, I will more greatly be able to und
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
By no measure a light read, Feser outlines how so many have looked at Aquinas' 5 proofs and not understood the arguments Aquinas was making because rather than looking at the proofs through the lens Aquinas used they look at the proofs with modern lens that Aquinas would not have used and make little sense of the arguments he was making.

I've found many of the ideas presented in this small book have gone right over my head and am now rereading to try to get a better understanding of what Feser an
Gil Michelini
Good Intro to Who Is St. Thomas But....

In the first chapter, the author gives a good overview of who was Saint Thomas but the deeper I got into the books, the less it seemed to by an beginners guide and move like a philosopher talking to a philosopher.
It is not so much the concepts that are confusing but the language. I would guess that if I could read Thomas in Latin, it would make more sense.
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Edward Feser is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California. He has been a Visiting Assistant Professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and a Visiting Scholar at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California at Santa Barbara, an M ...more

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