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A Collection of Critical Essays

Edited by Anthony Kenny
Format: Paperback
Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame IN, United States
Published: 30th Nov 1976
Dimensions: w 150mm h 230mm
ISBN-10: 026800580X
ISBN-13: 9780268005801
Barcode No: 9780268005801

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Kirkus US
An awkward, unappealing introduction to the "Angelic Doctor." Kenny is Master of Balliol and an expert on Thomism, but he makes crucial structural errors here. He drags out the first chapter, on Aquinas' life, with synopses of his works, and then devotes the second (of three) to a refutation of the Thomistic doctrine of being. Kenny's argument that Thomistic metaphysics is confused at its core makes sense (though it's by no means conclusive); but why give the reader, who's presumably new to all this, such a hard time by dismantling the complex system almost as soon as it's been unpacked and assembled? The high point of Thomas' ontology is undoubtedly his thesis that essence and existence are united in God, but separate in everything else - i.e., that what we are does not necessarily imply that we are, whereas for God it does. God is pure being, says Aquinas, so much so that the only thing we can say about God's essence (or nature) is that it is. But if that's the case, Kenny rejoins, then God's esse (or being) is empty; He is nothing in particular and thus, in a human sense anyway, nothing at all. Perhaps, but the time spent arguing with Aquinas might have been better employed putting his work more securely in the context of medieval philosophy and theology. Kenny's final chapter of the Thomistic theory of knowledge is his best. He makes some interesting connections between the "species-specific innate language-learning ability" which Chomsky postulates to explain why children learn to speak so quickly, and the Thomistic "agent intellect" (the ability to abstract universals from sense particulars); and in general takes a more positive, expository approach to his subject. Still, for all its solid learning, this study is pedagogically shaky. Students would be much better advised to stick to Fr. Frederick Copleston's Aquinas. (Kirkus Reviews)