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Aquinas and Modernity: The Lost Promise of Natural Law (Modernity and Political Thought) [Paperback]

By Shadia B. Drury (Author)
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Item description for Aquinas and Modernity: The Lost Promise of Natural Law (Modernity and Political Thought) by Shadia B. Drury...

In this startling book, Drury overturns the long-standing reputation of Thomas Aquinas as the most rational exponent of the Christian faith. She reveals that Aquinas as one of the most zealous Dominicans (Domini Canes) or Hounds of the Lord. The book contains incisive criticisms of Aquinas's reconciliation of faith and reason, his defense of papal supremacy, his justification of the Inquisition, his insistence on the persecution of Jews, and his veneration of celibacy. Far from being an antiquarian exercise, Drury shows why the study of Aquinas is relevant to the politics of the twenty-first century, where the primacy of faith over reason has experienced a revival. The current pope, Benedict XVI, relies heavily on Aquinas when prescribing cures for the ills of modernity. For Drury, religion is as incompatible with political moderation and sobriety in our time as it was in the thirteenth century. This is why she defends a secular version of Aquinas's theory of natural law_a theory that he betrayed in favor of what she calls 'the politics of salvation.'

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Pages   209
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.9" Width: 6.07" Height: 0.68"
Weight:   0.8 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   May 16, 2008
Publisher   Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
ISBN  074252258X  
ISBN13  9780742522589  

Availability  0 units.

More About Shadia B. Drury

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Shadia B. Drury is professor of philosophy and political science at the University of Regina in Canada, a Canada Research Chair in Social Justice, and director of the University of Regina Masters Program in Social and Political Thought.

Shadia B. Drury was born in 1950 and has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Calgary.

Shadia B. Drury has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Modernity and Political Thought

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Law > General
2Books > Subjects > Law > Perspectives on Law > Natural Law
3Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > General
4Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Medieval Thought
5Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Political
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Catholic

Reviews - What do customers think about Aquinas and Modernity: The Lost Promise of Natural Law (Modernity and Political Thought)?

Liberal schizophrenia  Feb 23, 2010
Professor Drury is a liberal but one who is keenly aware of the shortcomings of liberalism. She really loves pluralism, for instance, but really, really hates that it is susceptible to a relativism that eviscerates any knowable moral standard, without which society will sink into either anarchy or tyranny. Therefore, Drury is ambivalent about Aquinas. She hates him because he defended the Inquisition which savagely suppressed religious pluralism but finds his natural law theory full of promise. Unfortunately, this promise was dashed by Thomas' religious zealotry which made him think that what by Drury's lights could only be his own idiosyncratic concept of the divine law trumped all concerns for the universal natural law. Had he not been such a religiously blinkered bigot, Drury suggests he would have been the John Locke of 13th Century. But no.

Leaving aside the dubious claim that Locke's theory of natural right captures the natural law as such, I find it fascinating that a liberal wants us to think seriously about the natural law. Drury is rightly afraid of the lunacies of post-modernism and legal positivism. The former is anarchy, the latter tyranny. And Drury is right to believe that natural law, if it can be found and, more importantly, command a democratic consensus, it will provide a certain truth that will protect us against both evils. But Drury, remember, is at heart, despite all her misgivings, a liberal. In fact, a liberal in the tradition of John Stuart Mill and as such thinks the state's protection of pluralism of belief is the non-negotiable sine qua non of the entire liberal project. People must be allowed to believe what they list. Otherwise, you get an inquisition, and the liberal project goes up in flames of an auto-de-fé.

Fine. But Natural Law Theory is predicated upon an essentialist anthropology. In other words, Natural Law Theory puts forward a definite belief about man that is supposed to be true everywhere and at all times. And for Natural Law Theory to be the basis of a regime, only one such theory can be adopted. There are conflicting Natural Law Theories after all. For instance, Aristotle and Aquinas thought the Natural Law basis for property was need. Locke thought it was labor. So, which Natural Law Theory do we pick? We can't have a government picking a plurality of them because then it would be divided against itself, and that would hardly be a remedy against post-modern absurdity. Drury surely doesn't want that. But if a regime picks one theory and orders its subjects to believe it, then so much for Drury's beloved pluralism. Professor Drury is quite obviously in a dilemma.

Drury is too smart, of course, not to realize this, but her only answer is that we must know that there is a certain Natural Law simply because both post-modernism and legal positivism are just too ridiculous or frightening to be true. So, we just have to think really hard about Natural Law and have long talks about it. Fine, but we've already talked about this stuff for nearly three millennia, and there is still no agreement on what is natural for the Human Being. The post-modernist, as silly as he may be, might have at least one good point when he says that this conversation ain't never gonna end and we might as well just make fun of it. And the legal positivist, as fascist as he certainly is, recognizes at least this much, that society can't rely on an endless seminar for its rules. There will be resigned skeptics and impatient tyrants until Natural Law Theorists come up with a concept of man that is as self-evidently true as the most basic of arithmetical equations, and even then... Gödel, call your office.
Mad dog of the Lord?  Oct 3, 2009
Shadia Drury is mostly known for her books on Leo Strauss and the Straussians: "The political ideas of Leo Strauss", "Leo Strauss and the American right" and "Alexandre Kojève: The roots of postmodern politics". In her latest book, Drury takes on a very different person: Thomas Aquinas.

The 13th century Dominican friar Thomas Aquinas attempted a grand synthesis of Catholic dogma and Aristotelian philosophy. Today, his philosophy (in the form of Neo-Thomism) is the official one of the Catholic Church. Many believe that Thomas did indeed succeed in reconciling faith and reason, and also showed why faith is reasonable.

Shadia Drury disagrees. In fact, she disagrees most vehemently. Her book is a frontal assault on Thomas Aquinas. Indeed, she seems to regard him as a profoundly evil man. (Drury, while a secular liberal, isn't a moral relativist.) According to Drury, Thomas sacrificed reason to faith at every point. He supported the crusades, the inquisition, the temporal power of the papacy and the execution of heretics. Indeed, he worked at the papal court himself, and the inquisition was to a large extent a Dominican affair. Thomas also defended slavery, the persecution of Jews, and the subordination of women. Drury further argues that Thomas' philosophy taken by itself wasn't particularly rational either. Siger of Brabant had a more rational philosophy, but Thomas opposed him. Siger was later accused of heresy by the inquisition and died under mysterious circumstances. Drury believes that Thomas had to distort the true Aristotelian teaching on many points to make it compatible with Catholicism.

Drury has also included an extensive chapter on enforced celibacy, pointing out that Thomas was just as ascetic and misogynist as Augustine. She then criticizes celibacy as detrimental to morality, using the sad affair of Abelard and Heloise as an example. The book ends with a chapter where Drury defends what she calls a "minimalist" version of natural rights. Thus, Drury actually believes in a secular version of natural rights, as an alternative to the nihilism of postmodernity.

"Aquinas and Modernity" is an explicitly anti-Catholic book. Fainthearted readers should brace themselves. The author pulls no punches. At one point, she even demands that Italy occupies the Vatican! I don't agree with every comma in this book. Still, Drury's perspective is interesting. Was Thomas Aquinas really a paragon of Aristotelian reason? Or was he rather another pillar of the Dark Ages?

The question at least needs to be posed.

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