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A ThomisticTapestry: Essays in Memory of Etienne Gilson.

Edited by Peter A. Redpath Rudolpi B. V.., Amsterdam--Newyork, 2003 pp. 243, Paperback, $52 (USD)

Professor Gilson (1884-1978) was a famous historian of medieval philosophy who was invited by the Basilian Fathers at St. Michael's College in Toronto to come to Canada from France in the 1930s, and here he became the Director of the Institute of Mediaeval Studies. In 1939 the Institute was canonically erected as a Pontifical (that is, papal) Institute, no doubt chiefly became of the eminence of its Director. During Gilson's long connection with it, it produced a large number of students, especially from the United States and Canada, who were to achieve excellence in their careers, especially as professors of philosophy and authors of works about medieval philosophers.

Despite Gilson's early academic beginnings as a student of modern philosophy, he turned to the study of medieval philosophers as the originators of many doctrines hitherto falsely attributed to later thinkers. While studying the leading medieval philosophers, most of whom were also theologians, he published and lectured on several of their significant doctrines hitherto unknown or at least enshrouded in the mists of antiquity. In particular he stressed the real meaning of St. Thomas Aquinas's doctrine of being, a doctrine which influenced Aquinas's other major teachings. Gilson wrote his first account of Aquina's thought in 1919 and updated it continually until his sixth and last account in 1965. This final account, perhaps Gilson's greatest work, has recently been translated from French to English by Fathers Shook and Maurer of the Congregation of St. Basil.

The book reviewed here is the first one to be written in tribute to this outstanding scholar, writer, and lecturer, since his death, though I understand that there are some other works presently being prepared. Some of the chapters of this book deal with Gilson's effective method of writing the history of philosophy; with the Gilson-Maritain dispute concerning the nature of beauty and also concerning our assurance of the reality of the extra-mental world; with the Gilson-Gouhier discussion concerning the interpretation of Nicolas Malbranche's theory of physical causality; Gilson's fight to save both reason and faith as bearers of truth; and his activity, at the end of the Second World War, in representing France in the founding of the United Nations.

Though the book reveals by its title that it is in the memory of Gilson, its dedication shows that it is also in honour of Father Armand Maurer, c.s.b., the pupil and later the colleague of Gilson at the Pontifical Institute. Articles in the book deal with Father Maurer's teaching concerning the unity of a science; with the nature of beauty; and with the relation between the understanding of being and the division of the speculative sciences.

The praises of Father Maurer found here are frequent: "With utmost appreciation for his masterful application of the Gilsonian method"; "... expositions of Thomist realism in the humanist tradition of Etienne Gilson and his most brilliant student, Armand A. Maurer"; "His long career is replete with contributions to philosophy and theology." Though an American, Father Maurer has lived most of his life in Canada. His Basilian confreres, his former students, and his colleagues, will rejoice in joining in praise of an outstanding philosopher and a tree disciple of Aquinas and Gilson.

Since the book is, on the whole, written for philosophers, others may find it too technical. But students of Professor Gilson and Father Maurer, among whom I am happy to belong, will enjoy these articles of fellow students and fellow colleagues reminding us of the great days of glory enjoyed by philosophy at the Pontifical Institute in the twentieth century.
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Author:Kennedy, Leonard
Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Feb 1, 2004
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