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The Silence of St. Thomas: Three Essays [Paperback]

By Josef Pieper (Author), John Murray (Translator) & Daniel O'Connor (Translator)
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Item description for The Silence of St. Thomas: Three Essays by Josef Pieper, John Murray & Daniel O'Connor...

A single theme runs through the three essays on St. Thomas gathered in this book. It is the theme of mystery or, more exactly, the response of the searching human intellect to the fact of mystery. Both the fact and the response are suggested in a short biography of Aquinas that forms the first essay and are then sketched out in detail by a presentation of the "negative element" in his philosophy. The third essay shows that contemporary Existentialism is in basic agreement with the philosophia perennis on this fundamental element of philosophical thinking.

Publishers Description
A single theme runs through the three essays on St. Thomas gather in this book. It is the theme of mystery or, more exactly, the response of the searching human intellect to the fact of mystery. Both the fact and the response are suggested in a short biography of St. Thomas that forms the first essay and are then sketched out in detail by a presentation of the "negative element" in his philosophy. The third essay shows that contemporary Existentialism is in basic agreement with the philosophia perennis on this fundamental element of philosophical thinking.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: St. Augustine's Press
Pages   122
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.4" Width: 5.4" Height: 0.38"
Weight:   0.4 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 1, 1999
Publisher   St. Augustine's Press
Edition  Revised  
ISBN  1890318787  
ISBN13  9781890318789  

Availability  6 units.
Availability accurate as of Sep 22, 2017 01:18.
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More About Josef Pieper, John Murray & Daniel O'Connor

Josef Pieper 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.

Josef Pieper was born in 1904 and died in 1997.

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Product Categories

1Books > Special Features > New & Used Textbooks > Humanities > Philosophy > History & Surveys
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > General
3Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Medieval Thought
4Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Movements > Existentialism
5Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Religious

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Silence of St. Thomas: Three Essays?

What Could Silence St. Thomas?  Dec 31, 2004
If you want to find a succinct compendium of Thomistic Epistemology then this is a must read. While some of other reviews do a good job describing the details of the book, I will focus on what I believe to be Pieper's true intent. The book should be read once to grow in knowledge and another time as spiritual reading.
Pieper begins with an overview of Thomistic realism and shows the link between anthropology and cosmology and faith and reason. For St. Thomas, human beings are created to love and know the creator. Creation is capable of being known through reason, and leads one to knowledge of the Creator. But, here lies the paradox as it pertains to silence. Pieper shows that while Thomas believes that the human mind can grasp the existence of many things, and since they have an existence they must also possess an essence, the essence of things in themselves cannot be known. Creation is a gift from God, yet, in itself remains a mystery. Why? Because even though the human mind can know a great deal about nature, it seems to know even less about creation. How much more does the mind fail to grasp the utter incomprehensibility of God? Reason is speechless before the infinite gap between God and the human mind. In the silence, Pieper shows that God allows us to gaze into the depth of the mystery of creation and divinity. God creates or speaks creation into being, and it is this Word that holds creation in existence. Via reason, the mind "knows" through a participation in the Word, Jesus. Per St. Thomas, Pieper demonstrates the necessity of faith to truly gaze and contemplate God, a place where reason alone cannot go.
In the second essay, Pieper again refers to the theme of creation. He shows the necessary correlation between existence and truth because if a thing exists, it exists first as an idea in the mind of God. Contra Kant, the mind does not form nature, but is instead informed because nature illumines the mind because God holds it in being. Truth and existence reside primarily in God, but are not separated out but continually in creation. For St. Thomas, creation and nature are divine gifts, which are knowable yet, unknowable. Again, divine speech and silence are shown to be part of the mystery of God and creation.
In the last section, Pieper speaks to the timeliness or untimliness of Thomism. Thomism is timely because of its ability to be placed within a tradition and be adapted. Is this true? Yes! One can look at some of the forms of Thomism: Lublin, Analytic, Existential, and see how they have aided and aid the Church in spreading the Gospel. Because of this, Thomism is timely and untimely. The early Wittgenstein stated, "That what cannot be said should be passed over in silence." Pieper shows in the thought of St. Thomas one should not be silent because one cannot speak, but one does not have much to say when he ponders God and creation. I think it is ironic that Pieper does not mention Thomas' vision of Christ at the end of his life. Tradition teaches that Jesus appeared to Thomas near the end of his life and told him, "Thomas, you have written well of me." In fact, Thomas wrote more than several million words on the topic. After the vision, Thomas stopped writing except when told to do so by his superiors. When asked by a fellow Dominican brother why he stopped writing Thomas responded, "What I have written seems much like straw to what I have seen." The vision forced him to near silence in his writing. If you read Pieper's book, it will give you the reasons why Thomas was so silent.
The spirit and life of Aquinas  Mar 25, 2002
Pieper, in these three essays, describes what we have to learn from the works and life of Aquinas. The essays detail the scholastic arguements of the day and how Thomas, in the true spirit of open mindedness (his life and method are the definition of this oft abused term) brought some peace ond understanding to the various sides, a very serious matter in his day. The book explains how much of an Aristotilian Aquinas was, and more importantly how much he was not. Mainly by showing how the charactoristics of the Latin Averroists have been unjustly attributed to Aquinas by his detractors - the Latin Averoists (Averoes was an Arab) were whole hearted Aristotilians.

This book is an excellent addition to reading Etienne Gilson's "Unity of the Philosophical Experience" as Pieper gives further explanantions as to the behavior of the Augastinians and Latin Averroists. It could explain also why modern Muslims are so singularly textually dogmatic - it is in reaction to Averroist's attempting to rid religion of faith altogether - and thus the violent reaction in nixing reason and rationalism. It tells how Aquinas circumvented this problem. The last essay also compliments Gilson's book in that it shows what Existentialism has in common with Aquinas, some interesting things, despite some gapping fundimental differences at their very root and conclusion.

The first essay vividly descibes what an attitude of accademic pursuit and teaching should look like. Too many teachers are dogmatic and are only interested in pursuing and supporting an idea that is presently clear in their minds and propogating it, rather than treating the moment as an active pursuit of truth. Thomas was a model teacher and the book is an active discripition of his method.

The book also argues, with supporting evidence and reason, that Thomas' main work The "Summa Theologica" was intentionally left unfinished. Why it was left unfinished is at the root of what Aquinas was all about concerning philosophy and metaphysics - it is a process not a conclusion. Gilson's book describes what a conclusion is, as sometimes philosophers have rejected the idea that they have reached a conclusion, when in fact they have. Gilson effectively defines what a conclusion looks like.

Both are highly recommended books for Teachers, Historians, and Philosophers.

Great supplemental reading  Aug 19, 2001
St. Thomas Aquinas, needless to say, is not easy to understand. In this little guide, which makes nice supplemental reading to get a look "behind the scenes" of the saint's philosophy, Josef Pieper first sketches a biographical outlines of Thomas' life and then delves into the negative element in his philosophy and concludes with the "timelessness" of Thomism, which makes it a perennial philosophy.

This book is primarily concerned with St. Thomas' epistemological assumptions (which were taken for granted, hence the "silence"), what knowledge meant for the saint, and how and to what extent it can be achieved. Pieper tackles Thomas' seemingly paradoxical stance on essences, and whether or not they can be known, for Thomas maintains both that we cannot know God in His essence and that God's essence is His existence.

Pieper shows St. Thomas' beautiful conviction that "it is part of the very nature of things that their knowability cannot be wholy exhausted by any finite intellect, because these things are creatures, which means that the very element which makes them capable of being known must necessarily be at the same time the reason why things are unfathomable" (p.60).

All in all, this book is a fine look at Thomas' profound epistemology, so rarely discussed in philosophical courses today. If you have an interest in the philosophy of St. Thomas, don't pass this one up!

Illuminating  Jul 31, 2001
The unifying theme of the three essays composing this book is the paradox that the intelligibilty of things and their incomprehensibility both derive from their being creatures, that is, from their possessing natures that are communications of the ideas in the mind of God. Things can be known only because they are created, but at the same time, things are unfathomable because they are created: "one and the same factor explains both why things cannot be entirely grasped and why they can be known" (pp.95-6). Why is this so? I'll not deprive the reader of the pleasure of reading Pieper's book to find out.

For me, this book ended a long struggle to discover what St. Thomas Aquinas really taught about our knowledge of things. Pieper succeeds in reconciling Thomas's frequent statements that we cannot know the essence of any created thing with his repeated claims elsewhere that our minds are receptive of the forms (i.e., essences) of things.

While my attitude toward Pieper's understanding of St. Thomas's thought is not uncritical, I must concede that he is one of the best and most original (the two are not the same) of twentieth century Thomist philosophers. Unfortunately, he is sometimes (unjustly) put down by scholars as a mere popularizer. Let them read this book and be disabused; Pieper has much to teach them.

My ratings of other books by Josef Pieper: Guide to Thomas Aquinas ****; Leisure the Basis of Culture *****; Scholasticism *****


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