Item description for Guide to Thomas Aquinas by Josef Pieper...
One of the great philosophers of the 20th Century, Josef Pieper, gives a penetrating introduction and guide to the life and works of perhaps the greatest philosopher ever, St. Thomas Aquinas. Pieper provides a biography of Aquinas, an overview of the 13th century he lived in, and a wonderful synthesis of his vast writings. Pieper shows how Aquinas reconciled the pragmatic thought of Aristotle with the Church, proving that realistic knowledge need not preclude belief in the spiritual realities of religion. According to Pieper, the marriage of faith and reason proposed by Aquinas in his great synthesis of a "theologically founded worldliness" was not merely one solution among many, but the great principle expressing the essence of the Christian West. Pieper reveals his extraordinary command of original sources and excellent secondary materials as he illuminates the thought of the great intellectual Doctor of the Church.
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Josef Pieper (1904-1997) was professor of philosophical anthropology at the University of Münster/Germany; he was a member of several academies and received numerous awards and distinctions, among them the International Balzan Prize for outstanding achievements in the field of humanities.
Pieper is among the most widely read philosophers of the 20th century. The main focus of his thought is the overcoming of cultural forms of secular totalitarianism and of its philosophical foundations through a rehabilitation of the Christian concept of man that is related to experience and action. Plato and Thomas Aquinas in particular were the inspiring sources of a constructive criticism of contemporary culture.
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I finally understand something about Thomas Aquinas! Sep 23, 2006
Josef Pieper does a wonderful job of making Thomas Aquinas understandable. He does it by broadly covering several important aspects: the first is framing the time in which he lived from a historical point of view, second he presents some biographical facts about Thomas and who is was as a man, thirdly he presents the situation of the Church and the Dominicans at the time, and then he masterfully blends in the most important concepts that Thomas Aquinas contributed to the world. He doesn't go into too much depth on his theology or philosopy - this would kill the average reader like me. But his does provide enough details to start your intellect moving forward which is wonderful. It left me with the feeling I've learned a lot, yet and now thirsty for more which is very rare in a book. I would not guess this is a book for a high level theology/philosophy student unless he was in a level 101 class. That being said it's full of wonderful insights. I would say this is for an advanced lay person who is really starting to learn more about his spiritual life and also more about what has structured church thinking for centuries. A 'must have' for an advanced Catholic library in your home. Also, this is a book recommend in James Schall's "Another Sort of Learning" which is another wonderful book.
A Worthy Study Jul 31, 2001
This book is one of the essential studies of St. Thomas's life and thought. It is especially valuable because it preserves some of the profound insights of two other Thomists whose books have either never been translated into English (Grabmann) or are, alas, out-of-print (Chenu). Pieper's treatment of St. Thomas's (and Aristotle's) use of language is absolutely essential reading for beginning students of Aquinas who have not read the more thorough treatments (by Chenu and Blanche - now largely forgotten) upon which it is based. Pieper also captures better than most biographers the importance of Thomas's decision to embrace both of the apparently opposed movements of his day, the back-to-the-Bible movement of the mendicant orders and, the modern, scientific movement of Aristotelianism.
There are a few points on which I think Pieper is wrong, most importantly on the question of Thomas's "Aristotelianism." In his justifiable attempt to show that Thomas is not an unqualified Aristotelian, Pieper goes too far the other direction and leaves the reader with the impression that Thomas was a defender of Plato. Especially troubling is Pieper's citation of passages from Thomas's Commentaries on Aristotle's De Anima and Metaphysics, which he, Pieper, claims defend Plato against Aristotle's criticisms: I cannot figure out how Pieper could construe the cited passages in such a way. Also, Pieper's criticism of the Inquistion, the Dominican order's role in it, and Thomas's defense of it seems surprisingly naive coming from an author steeped in the history of the Church. But these are relatively minor flaws in an otherwise worthy study of St. Thomas.
My rating of other books on St. Thomas: (1) Josef Pieper, The Silence of St. Thomas. ***** One of the very best books on St. Thomas Aquinas; see my ... review. (2) G.K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas: the Dumb Ox. ***** A justly acclaimed popular account of the life and work of St. Thomas; a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience for student and general reader alike. (3) Marie-Dominique Chenu O.P., Toward Understanding St. Thomas. ***** THE indispensible work for every serious student; sadly, out-of-print. (4) Ralph McInerny, St. Thomas Aquinas. **** A scholarly introduction to Thomas's philosophical thought, which emphasizes Aquinas's indebteness to Aristotle and Boethius. (5) Jean-Pierre Torrell O.P., St. Thomas Aquinas: the Person and his Work. **** Currently the standard scholarly biography.
Pieper's Preface Feb 21, 2000
I have read this book twice and gained valuable information both times. After Chesterton's "Saint Thomas Aquinas," this is by far the best introduction to Thomas Aquinas. I highly recommend it.
Yet, whatever I could say about this book, Pieper himself already has said it in the preface, where he outlined the purpose and goal of his book. So, I'll let you read Pieper instead of me:
"This book is closer to the spoken than to the written language. It is based on a series of university lectures given before collective student bodies. Its purpose and scope are precisely what the title suggests: to serve as a guide and introduction. It is intended neither as a detailed biography of Thomas nor as a systematic and comprehensive interpretation of his doctrines. Not is it meant to be an original contribution to the historical study of medieval philosophy. Everyone acquainted with the field will see at once to what degree my account is based, far beyond the specific quotation, on the works of Marie-Dominique Chenu, Etienne Gilson, Fernand van Steenberghen, and others.
"The purpose of these lectures is to sketch, against the background of his times and his life, a portrait of Thomas Aquinas as he truly concerns philosophical-minded persons today, not merely as a historical personage but as a thinker who has something to say to our own era. I earnestly hope that the speculative attitude which was Thomas' most salient trait as Christianity's "universal teacher" will emerge clearly and sharply from my exposition. It is to this end alone, I repeat, that I present the following chapters, and it is this aspect for which I accept full responsibility."
Good book, a bit tough, though. Sep 12, 1999
This is a very difficult book that will help you to understand St Thomas philosophy. It turns very slow, sometimes.
A sound look at Thomas's life and cultural background. Mar 8, 1999
Pieper is an excellent writer and has done extensive research on Thomas Aquinas. Even though the book does not give an in-depth discussion of Thomas's philosophy, it does give an excellent account of Thomas's life and the cultural background of the Medieval period which Aquinas both embodied and transcended. It does, however, go over the most basic concepts of Thomas's philosophy (the five ways, for example).