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Thomas Acquinas and His Legacy.

Gallagher, David M, ed. Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1994. xvi + 230 pp. $49.9--Perhaps the greatest challenge faced by Thomistic thinkers today is to approach the contemporary intellectual scene in a way they could anticipate their master approaching it. With the enormous growth of empirical knowledge since the thirteenth century, and the multiplication of diverse and often rival conceptual schemes to understand and explain the reality disclosed by our increasingly broad experience of the world, this is indeed a daunting task.

In the aftermath of the careful and prolonged effort at historical reconstruction of the thought of Aquinas carried out by scholars Chenu, Gilson, Weisheipl, and countless others, we are in a period when a largely adequate depiction of the thought of Aquinas is available. But any thinker worthy of the ascription "Thomist" must view the fruits of this reconstructive effort as ministerial to the more important task of philosophical and theological speculation/argumentation ad rem. Thomas would have it no other way, and it is to be regretted that the majority of time, talent, and resources of those working within the broadly Thomistic tradition seems to have been devoted to the more ancillary enterprises of Thomistic exegesis and historical interpretation. Thomism must become more dialectically engaged with contemporary thought, as philosophers in sympathy with its program such as Alasdair MacIntyre and John Haldane have justly insisted. It must take on objections of the best post-medieval and especially contemporary thinkers to central theses in the Thomistic synthesis and learn and assimilate many new truths in this process. This would be to imitate Thomas's own way of acting toward the thought of his predecessors and contemporaries.

The present volume of ten essays is drawn from the 1990 Matchette Lecture Series at The Catholic University of America School of Philosophy, and it contains a number of notable contributions to the task of Thomism's dialectical encounter with post-medieval and contemporary thought. Outstanding among these is perhaps Jorge J. E. Gracia's "Cutting the Gordian Knot of Ontology: Thomas's Solution to the Problem of Universals." This piece combines historical scholarship and hermeneutical sophistication with clear, vigorous writing and an ability to put Thomistic terms into a contemporary idiom. It represents the sort of simplification of a highly difficult subject matter of which only a mind that has thought long and hard about a topic is capable--a very useful piece for engaging Thomas in the present state of debate about universals. Helpful as a preliminary for situating Thomas in contemporary moral debate--and showing mastery also of a difficult subject matter--is David Gallagher's "Aquinas on Goodness and Moral Goodness." Gallagher's lucid precis of the often neglected metaphysical dimension of Aquinas's moral theory is complemented nicely by Gregory Reichberg's "Aquinas on Moral Responsibility in the Pursuit of Knowledge." Reichberg ably explores the issue of knowing as a moral act for Thomas: a matter much neglected in Thomistic secondary literature. In the volume's remaining essay on practical philosophy, John Hittinger lays bare the tensions in Jacques Maritain and Yves Simon's attempt to legitimate liberal democracy on Thomistic grounds. This is a thought-provoking piece for Thomistic students of contemporary political realities.

The contribution of senior Thomists William A. Wallace, Alenjandro Llano, Oliva Blanchette, and Kenneth Schmitz gives significant weight to the volume's collection. Wallace's "Aquinas's Legacy on Individuation, Cogitation, and Hominization" is a solid contribution to Thomistic thinking about the developmental ontology of the human zygote and praise-worthy for bringing the findings of contemporary science to bear on Thomistic natural philosophy/metaphysics. Llano, in a welcome engagement with contemporary and noteworthy analysts Jaakko Hintikka and Simo Knunttila, provides a thorough critique of their effort to father a deterministic "principle of plentitude" on Aquinas's metaphysical cosmology. Oliva Blanchette's "The Logic of Perfection in Aquinas" contrasts the notions of divine and cosmic perfection in the thought of Aquinas and Charles Hartshorne, and in Kenneth Schmitz's "The Root and Branch of St. Thomas's Thought" we are given a clear and balanced statement on the controversial topic of the role of esse in Aquinas's scheme of thought. Both Schmitz's and Blanchette's essays are the product of mature reflection and repay careful study.

Significantly, the volume ends with a thoughtful essay of Stephen Brown on what might be described as Henry of Ghent's own Bonaventurianesque "De reductione artium ad theologiam." Perhaps the inclusion of this essay in the collection is meant to remind Thomists of how much they also have to learn from first-hand study of those scholastic successors of Aquinas in perceived or genuine conflict with Thomas's own tenets.
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Author:D'Andrea, Thomas D.
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1996
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