Home > Biography / Autobiography, History, Philosophy, Theology > Rewritten Theology: Aquinas After His Readers

Rewritten Theology: Aquinas After His Readers

  • Series: Challenges in Contemporary Theology
  • Author: Mark D. Jordan
  • Publisher: B~ P~ (2006)
  • Language: English
  • Pages: 224
  • ISBN-10: 1405112212
  • ISBN-13: 9781405112215
  • Format: PDF

Recent years have seen numerous appropriations of Thomas Aquinas’s work by a range of theologians, from liberal Catholics to the creators of radical orthodoxy. Responding to this upsurge of interest, this book goes straight to the heart of the contemporary debates about Thomism. Author Mark Jordan focuses on the concept of authority, both in terms of Aquinas’s own attitude to authority and how the Church authorities have used Aquinas to shore up their own position. He shows how to read Aquinas from, into and against theological authorities, and argues for future readings of Thomas which are substantially different from those which have gone before.

There is no single best edition for the works of Thomas Aquinas. When finished,the Leonine Opera omnia (so called because commissioned and funded by Pope Leo XIII) will be a superb edition of the complete works. The Leonine is likely to remain unfinished for a long time – and in two senses. First, not all of Thomas’s works have been edited for the series. Second, those works published before 1950 need to be revised in varying degrees.

The best complete edition now available is the one published by Roberto Busa as a supplement to his computer-generated lexical analysis and concordance, the Index Thomisticus. Busa’s edition contains the best available texts as of December 1971, including then unpublished Leonine versions. Many libraries lack both the Leonine and the Busa editions of the Opera omnia. Certainly many scholars do. They consult Thomas in a ragtag collection of different editions, especially those published by the Italian house of Marietti throughout the twentieth century. The Marietti editions often reproduce texts taken from earlier printed versions of Thomas, the so-called “vulgate Thomas.” They add to these not only notes of varying quality, but also an immensely useful system of paragraph or section numbers. These “Marietti numbers” are widely used for quick citation, especially for Thomas’s expositions of Aristotle.

Faced with the proliferation of printings, I cite Thomas’s works by their medieval textual divisions. These do vary occasionally from edition to edition, but they are the closest thing to a uniform system of citation. The citations are condensed. I do not specify, for example, the kind of textual division. “1.2” will mean question 1 article 2 in a series of disputed questions, but Book 1 chapter 2 in an exposition of Aristotle. A reader familiar with Thomas will know what is meant. A reader not yet familiar with him will be able to sort things out by taking the text in hand. When I refer to these medieval textual divisions, I use the conventional English terms even when these are a bit misleading. For example, in the Summa of Theology the opening arguments are conventionally called “objections” in English – as though Thomas’s position were already established. In fact, they are dialectical arguments on the way to a determination, and Thomas frequently incorporates parts of them into his own position. Since English-speakers stubbornly continue to call them “objections,” that is the word I use in order to be clear.

I give below my abbreviations for the works of Thomas that I cite. Each abbreviation is followed by the standard title as in Torrell’s catalogue. I then mention the edition(s) in which I read the text. For the so-called Contra gentiles, where the medieval divisions units are long, I supplement them with the section numbers from the edition of Pera, Marc, and Caramello. Some might have wished that I did this as well for Thomas’s expositions of Aristotle. My only plea is that the most efficient way to search for texts in Thomas is at the magnificent website directed by Enrique Alarcón from the Universidad de Nevarra. It may be found at http://www.corpusthomisticum.org.

“A small error at the beginning is great in the end, according to the Philosopher in On the Heavens and the Earth 1.” Thomas Aquinas begins his first treatise with that allusion. In a gesture typical of hasty reading, the opinion is now attributed to him. Such gestures are repeated at much larger scale. Many a fat book on Thomas is undone by hasty presuppositions about reading that occur in (or before) its opening lines.

Thomas could certainly have added a happier corollary from his own experience: a small inspiration in the beginning counts for much later on.

When I was a junior in college, I finished reading Bernard Lonergan’s verbum articles and promptly wrote to him for advice (as undergraduates are liable to do). Lonergan wrote back a remarkably patient letter in which he explained that I should always read Thomas actively and comparatively, putting my mental habits at stake. His single letter sparked what other teachers, nearer to hand, had been saying. From them, I heard that nothing happens in the action of Platonic dialogues by accident ( Jacob Klein), that attempting to write philosophy or revelation must remain a dangerous risk (Leo Strauss), and that Aristotle’s texts, in whatever form we inherit them, present consummate acts of teaching (Robert Neidorf). In graduate school,

I heard from Louis Mackey that elaborate charts pretending to arrange all of writings’s possibilities should be painted only in sand. These inspirations helped me to read Thomas again – and better. If my style of reading still strikes many Thomists as eccentric, I would plead my genealogy not as an excuse, but as an argument. We should continue to worry about how we read Thomas not only because he is grandly canonical, but also because his practice of writing theology challenges (or rebukes) many who would write theology today.

What follows is offered as a book and not merely a collection of chapters.Though first drafts of its oldest parts were written 20 years ago, and published in earlier versions over the years, the newest parts were written in the last months. No page of the whole has escaped rewriting. The order of consideration has been changed and changed again.

Any book on Thomas must be selective in its topics, but especially in its attention to scholarly publications. Two decades back, when Clemens Vansteenkiste sacrificed himself to publishing an annotated bibliography of books and articles on Thomas, the yearly total ran well over a thousand pieces. Today the total must be higher – and the sum of originality somewhat less. Recentiores non deteriores, the philologist’s rule holds: more recent copies of a text are not necessarily worse. The rule applies to Thomistic reading as well, but only with the explicit caution also applicable to codices: more recent studies often add nothing to earlier ones. Sometimes they subtract. The latest scholarship can be astonishingly innocent of earlier discoveries.

So I try to sample various strata in the last century’s Thomistic scholarship, without pretending to be comprehensive. Those who want a bibliographic compilation, or even a recap of the last decade’s publications, should consult the databases.

It remains only to thank my colleague, Lewis Ayres, for originally proposing this venture to me; David Mellott for his help in preparing the manuscript; Blackwell Publishers for bearing with my lengthy revisions; and the many colleagues who have spent the time, in print or in person, to challenge my readings and to correct my errors. I also thank the editors or publishers of the following publications who allowed me to revise earlier versions of some of the material that follows in order to present it here:

Chapter 2: “The Competition of Authoritative Languages and Aquinas’s Theological Rhetoric.” Medieval Philosophy and Theology 4 (1994): 71–90.

Chapter 3: “Medicine and Natural Philosophy in Aquinas.” In Thomas von Aquin, ed. Albert Zimmermann, pp. 233–246. Miscellanea Mediaevalia 19. Berlin and New York:Walter de Gruyter, 1988. “De regno and the Place of Political Thinking in Thomas Aquinas.” Medioevo 18 (1992): 151–168.

Chapter 4: The Alleged Aristotelianism of Thomas Aquinas. Etienne Gilson Series 15. Toronto: PIMS, 1992. 41 pp. (published and paginated separately). “Thomas Aquinas’ Disclaimers in the Aristotelian Commentaries.” In Philosophy and the God of Abraham: Essays in Memory of James A. Weisheipl, O.P., ed. R. James Long, pp. 99–112. Toronto: PIMS, 1991. “Aquinas Reading Aristotle’s Ethics.” In Ad litteram: Authoritative Texts and Their Medieval Readers, eds. Kent Emery, Jr and Mark Jordan, pp. 229–249. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992.

Chapter 5: “The Protreptic Structure of the Contra Gentiles.” The Thomist 60 (1986): 173–209.

Chapter 6: “Aquinas’s Middle Thoughts on Theology as Science.” In Studies in Thomistic Theology, ed. Paul Lockey, 91–111. Houston: Center for Thomistic Studies, 1995 [1996]. “The Ideal of Scientia moralis and the Invention of the Summa theologiae.” In Aquinas’s Moral Theory: Essays in Honor of Norman Kretzmann, eds. Scott MacDonald and Eleonore Stump, pp. 79–97. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999. © Cornell University.

Chapter 7: “The Pars moralis of the Summa theologiae as Scientia and as Ars.” In Scientia und ars in Hoch- und Spätmittelalter, ed. Ingrid Craemer- Ruegenberg and Andreas Speer, pp. 468–481. Miscellanea Mediaevalia 22. Berlin and New York:Walter de Gruyter, 1994.

Chapter 8: “Theology and Philosophy.” In The Cambridge Companion to Aquinas, ed. N. Kretzmann and E. Stump, pp. 232–251. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993. © Cambridge University Press.

Chapter 9: “Esotericism and Accessus in Thomas Aquinas.” Philosophical Topics 20 (1992): 35–49.

Read more

Password: revelation

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: