The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas

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In this final edition of his classic study of St. Thomas Aquinas, Etienne Gilson presents the sweeping range and organic unity of Thomistic philosophical thought.

Gilson demonstrates that Aquinas drew from a wide spectrum of sources in the development of his thought—from Aristotle, to the Arabic and Jewish philosophers of his time, as well as from Christian writers. What results is an insightful introduction to the thought of Aquinas and the Scholastic philosophy of the Middles Ages.

Praise for The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas

“As the only English version of any edition of Le Thomisme, and therefore for years a kind of manual for North American students approaching Aquinas, the book deserves recirculation. With it appears the masterful ‘Catalogue of St. Thomas’ works’ prepared by the Rev. I. T. Eschmann to accompany Shook's translation and available nowhere else. . . . Its overview of principles and conclusions in the history of the texts has not been surpassed.”The Philosophical Quarterly

“[This volume presents] L. K. Shook's English translation of the final version of the late Etienne Gilson's (1884-1978) classic overview of the Christian philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. . . . Gibson was one of the pioneers, in the early part of [the twentieth] century, of medieval philosophy in general and the work of Aquinas in particular. He sought to restore the study of Aquinas’ texts an historical sensitivity, thus rescuing them from the near canonical status accorded in the well-intentioned but inhabiting late nineteenth-century palpal revival of Thomistic studies and preserved in the so-called ‘manual theology’ of the seminar curriculum. . . . The endnotes are an invaluable resource, as is the still unsurpassed catalogue of Aquinas’ works compiled by Eschmann and included as an invaluable appendix here.”Theological Book Review
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About the author

Etienne Gilson was born in Paris in 1884. He became Professor of Medieval Philosophy at the Sorbonne in 1921, and from 1932 until his retirement in 1951 he held a similar char at the College de France. From 1929 until his death in 1978 he was associated with the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto.
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Random House
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Published on
May 1, 2013
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Philosophy / Reference
Philosophy / Religious
Religion / Philosophy
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Eligible for Family Library

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Foreword by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn

Darwin's theory of evolution remains controversial, even though most scientists, philosophers, and even theologians accept it, in some form, as an explanation for the variety of organisms. The controversy erupts when the theory is used to try to explain everything, including every aspect of human life, and to deny the role of a Creator or a purpose to life.

The overreaching of many scientists into matters beyond the self-imposed limits of scientific method is perhaps explained in part by the loss of two important ideas in modern thinking—final causality or purpose, and formal causality. Scientists understandably bracket the idea out of their scientific thinking because they seek explanations on the level of material and efficient causes only. Yet many of them wrongly conclude from their selective study of the world that final and formal causes do not exist at all and that they have no place in the rational study of life. Likewise, many erroneously assume that philosophy cannot draw upon scientific findings, in light of final and formal causality, to better understand the world and man.

The great philosopher and historian of philosophy, +tienne Gilson, sets out to show that final causality or purposiveness and formal causality are principles for those who think hard and carefully about the world, including the world of biology. Gilson insists that a completely rational understanding of organisms and biological systems requires the philosophical notion of teleology, the idea that certain kinds of things exist and have ends or purposes the fulfillment of which are linked to their natures—in other words, formal and final causes. His approach relies on philosophical reflection on the facts of science, not upon theology or an appeal to religious authorities such as the Church or the Bible.

"The object of the present essay is not to make of final causality a scientific notion, which it is not, but to show that it is a philosophical inevitability and, consequently, a constant of biophilosophy, or philosophy of life. It is not, then, a question of theology. If there is teleology in nature, the theologian has the right to rely on this fact in order to draw from it the consequences which, in his eyes, proceed from it concerning the existence of God. But the existence of teleology in the universe is the object of a properly philosophical reflection, which has no other goal than to confirm or invalidate the reality of it. The present work will be concerned with nothing else: reason interpreting sensible experience—does it or does it not conclude to the existence of teleology in nature?" 
Etienne Gilson

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