The Creative Retrieval of Saint Thomas Aquinas: Essays in Thomistic Philosophy, New and Old

The Creative Retrieval of Saint Thomas Aquinas: Essays in Thomistic Philosophy, New and Old

Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 250
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  • Book Info
    The Creative Retrieval of Saint Thomas Aquinas: Essays in Thomistic Philosophy, New and Old
    Book Description:

    W. Norris Clarke has chosen the fifteen essays in this collection, five of which appear here for the first time, as the most significant of the more than seventy he has written over the course of a long career. Clarke is known for his development of a Thomistic personalism. To be a person, according to Saint Thomas, is to take conscious self-possession of one's own being, to be master of oneself. But our incarnate mode of being human involves living in a body whose life unfolds across time, and is inevitably dispersed across time. If we wish to know fully who we are, we need to assimilate and integrate this dispersal, so that our lives become a coherent story. In addition to the existentialist thought of Etienne Gilson and others, Clarke draws on the Neoplatonic dimension of participation. Existence as act and participation have been the central pillars of his metaphysical thought, especially in its unique manifestation in the human person.The essays collected here cover a wide range of philosophical, ethical, religious, and aesthetic topics. Through them sounds a very personal voice, one that has inspired generations of students and scholars.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4682-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Part I: Reprinted Articles
    • CHAPTER 1 Twenty-Fourth Award of the Aquinas Medal, by the American Catholic Philosophical Association, to W. Norris Clarke, SJ
      (pp. 3-15)

      We are conferring the Aquinas Medal tonight on one of our own members, a most faithful participant in our annual meetings and regional meetings. We all have our different memories of Norris Clarke, but there is a common ACPA memory which we all share: that of Father Clarke rising up after a paper has been delivered to compliment the author, graciously referring to the fine aspects of the paper, but then gently and critically probe the assumptions and the conclusions reached. Always a philosopher!

      Father Clarke’s students have their own individual recollections, but they all remember him as the “personal”...

    • CHAPTER 2 Interpersonal Dialogue: Key to Realism
      (pp. 16-26)

      One of the most nagging and persistent problems in the history of modern Western epistemology—principally since Descartes and, in a more sophisticated and permanently influential way, since Kant—has been the problem of whether and to what extent we know the external world, the world of the nonself, Kant’s noumenon or “thing-in-itself,” as it really is in itself. I shall not waste time in recapitulating this all-too-well-known history. Suffice it to say that for Kant—and for a large proportion of modern thinkers in the West since his time—one must indeed posit theexistenceof a real world-in-itself,...

    • CHAPTER 3 Causality and Time
      (pp. 27-38)

      It takes only a modest sampling of current writing to verify what one of the lastest books on causality calls “the bewildering confusion prevailing in contemporary philosophic and scientific literature.”¹ In this essay I would like to discuss a facet of the analysis of causality which seems to me in need of special clarification. This is the relation between causality and temporal sequence. Does the relation of cause to effect involve a temporal priority of causeas causeover its effect?² That such is the case is widely assumed or explicitly argued by many contemporary philosophers, especially philosophers of science,...

    • CHAPTER 4 System: A New Category of Being?
      (pp. 39-47)

      Since the chances are extremely high that I will never again have the opportunity to address such an influential group of my philosophical companions-in-arms with any semblance of official position or authority, I am going to take advantage of the present occasion, wrapped in the ephemeral dignity of office, to present to you one thought that has been causing me considerable philosophical concern during the last few years. I do not ask you to agree with me, but only to let my problem be a guest in your minds for a few moments and see what chords of harmony (or...

    • CHAPTER 5 A Curious Blind Spot in the Anglo-American Tradition of Antitheistic Argument
      (pp. 48-65)

      Theistic philosophers often tend to assume an inferiority complex, an attitude of defensiveness, in the face of antitheistic argument. They know that their own traditions of argumentation can easily fall into a repetitive rut by failing to incorporate the new insights or adjust to the new challenges of ongoing contemporary philosophy. But they tend to take it for granted that antitheistic argumentation will almost by definition be up-to-date, alert, freshly minted, using the best tools of the latest thought. I would like to submit that antitheistic traditions too can fall into a traditional rut of out-of-date, already discredited, or no...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Problem of the Reality and Multiplicity of Divine Ideas in Christian Neoplatonism
      (pp. 66-88)

      My purpose in this paper is to trace a chapter in the history of ideas within the broad stream of Neoplatonism as it passes into Christian thought. The theme is one that caused special difficulties to Christian thinkers as they tried to adapt the old wine of Neoplatonic metaphysics to the new wineskins of Christian theism. My intention is not to focus in detail on just what each thinker involved held, as a matter primarily of historical scholarship. My interest will rather be focused primarily on the basic philosophical problem itself, and on tracing out the generaltypesof solutions...

    • CHAPTER 7 Is the Ethical Eudaimonism of Saint Thomas Too Self-Centered?
      (pp. 89-94)

      The structure of Saint Thomas’s ethics is founded on teleology, the teleology of human nature as ordered toward its own final end, the fulfillment of its perfection, which Saint Thomas identifies under the term “happiness,” the happiness appropriate to a human being. Since our highest faculties are those of intellect and will, our happiness will consist mainly in the fulfillment of our longing for truth and goodness in all their fullness. This is fine as far as it goes, and is certainly part of the picture, certain critics of Aquinas say, but it is not the whole picture. It is...

    • CHAPTER 8 Conscience and the Person
      (pp. 95-108)

      Conscience and the person fit together inseparably. There is no mature person without the voice of conscience, and no conscience save in a person. Conscience is also perhaps the most distinctive expression of what it means to be a person, in the two main aspects of the person; that is to say, it is the most distinctive expression of what it means to be human, and of what it means to be me. Let us see how this is the case.

      Understanding what is called “conscience” is clearly at the heart of any adequate theory of morality.¹ Yet, as one...

    • CHAPTER 9 Democracy, Ethics, Religion: An Intrinsic Connection
      (pp. 109-116)

      During his many years of professional life as a political philosopher, Francis Canavan has worked consistently to articulate and pass on the great tradition of humanistic political philosophy, grounded in a solid philosophical anthropology, but critically rethought and adapted to our American culture and democratic way of life—a political philosophy that tries to work out a harmonious balance between individual and community, individual rights and the exigencies of the common good. I would like to add my support to his impressive work by this modest reflection on the role played by two important pieces in this synthesis, which seem...

    • CHAPTER 10 What Cannot Be Said in Saint Thomas’s Essence-Existence Doctrine
      (pp. 117-131)

      It is common knowledge that the essence-existence doctrine of Saint Thomas is the central piece in his whole metaphysical system. It is a doctrine both of creatures and of God in their mutual relations, the central vantage point from which he views all creatures as participating in limited fashion through their respective essences in the unlimited plenitude of God’s own perfection as Subsistent Act of Existence (Ipsum Esse Subsistens). Admittedly, too, this profound doctrine is a difficult one. But Saint Thomas himself expounds it with such timeless serenity and simplicity, as though it were the most natural thing in the...

    • CHAPTER 11 Living on the Edge: The Human Person as “Frontier Being” and Microcosm
      (pp. 132-151)

      The aim of this paper is to propose a creative “retrieval” of an interconnected pair of very ancient—but I still think very rich and seminal—ideas of what it means to be a human being and have a place in the cosmos. These ideas have nourished reflective human thought for centuries in the past, but like so many such ideas they seem to have dropped out of focal awareness in our own day, partly because of the collapse of all utopian visions of the human race, owing to our twentieth-century experiences of irrational violence, and partly because the predominance...

    • CHAPTER 12 The Metaphysics of Religious Art: Reflections on a Text of Saint Thomas
      (pp. 152-170)

      This title may seem at first to be a strange one. Granted, the making or appreciating of a work of art is not itself a work of metaphysics, nor of any philosophical discipline at all. Yet it seems to me that there is a remarkable parallel between the way the religious artist achieves the objective of symbolizing the transcendent and the way the metaphysician, at least a Thomistic metaphysician, achieves the goal of a strictly intellectual ascent of the mind to God. Not that Saint Thomas himself, in the text I am going to examine or anywhere else, as far...

  5. Part II: New Articles
    • CHAPTER 13 The Immediate Creation of the Human Soul by God and Some Contemporary Challenges
      (pp. 173-190)

      I have picked out this topic for presentation to you today for a special reason, extending beyond merely philosophical concern. In the last few years this topic has become a new and hotly debated one of serious theological and not merely philosophical concern, a test case of traditional Christian, or at least Catholic, thought and, in addition, a direct challenge to the position of Saint Thomas Aquinas, which for a long time has also been the unquestioned position of traditional Catholic thought in both philosophy and theology. Hence I would like to present to you again this old problem in...

    • CHAPTER 14 The Creative Imagination: Unique Expression of Our Soul-Body Unity
      (pp. 191-208)

      My aim in this essay is to engage in a philosophical exploration of the creative imagination in human beings, seeking to discern its basic structure and its significance for our understanding of what it means to be human. For it is unique in the universe, so far as we know it, to human beings: God and angels are certainly creative, but by pure intelligence, without images; animals have imagination, but principally reproductive, to conserve images of past experience, not creative, save to a very limited degree, always tied down to present particular experiences and concrete problems. Humans, on the other...

    • CHAPTER 15 The Creative Imagination as Treated in Western Thought
      (pp. 209-225)

      The companion article on this topic (see chapter 14) has treated the nature and role of the creative imagination in Thomistic anthropology. But this balanced synthesis has by no means been the dominant theme in the actual history of how this topic has been treated in the history of Western thought. There it has undergone a fascinating and unpredictable history of ups and downs in diverse evaluations from one extreme to another. We present here the main phases of this development.

      The common note of this period is the firm subordination of the creative imagination to the rule of reason....

    • CHAPTER 16 The Integration of Personalism and Thomistic Metaphysics in Twenty-First-Century Thomism
      (pp. 226-232)

      My aim in this chapter is to lay out the main steps in what I consider the most creative and fruitful development in Thomism today. It is the carrying out of the central philosophical project of Karol Wojtyla, the late Pope John Paul II: namely, the integration of personalism and metaphysics in twentieth-century Thomism. Our aim in what follows is to reconstruct the various steps in the carrying out of this project.

      The fundamental insight of the Lublin School was the need to complete and enrich the irreplaceable foundational treasure of traditional Thomistic existential metaphysics with the rich, new contribution...

  6. NOTES
    (pp. 233-260)
    (pp. 261-266)
    (pp. 267-272)