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The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas: From Finite Being to Uncreated Being (Monographs of the Society for Medieval & Renaissance Philosophy) [Paperback]

John F. Wippel

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30 Sep 2000 Monographs of the Society for Medieval & Renaissance Philosophy
Written by a highly respected scholar of Thomas Aquinas's writings, this volume offers a comprehensive presentation of Aquinas's metaphysical thought. It is based on a thorough examination of his texts organized according to the philosophical order as he himself describes it rather than according to the theological order.In the introduction and opening chapter, John F. Wippel examines Aquinas's view on the nature of metaphysics as a philosophical science and the relationship of its subject to divine being. Part One is devoted to his metaphysical analysis of finite being. It considers his views on the problem of the One and the Many in the order of being, and includes his debt to Parmenides in formulating this problem and his application of analogy to finite being. Subsequent chapters are devoted to participation in being, the composition of essence and esse in finite beings, and his appeal to a kind of relative nonbeing in resolving the problem of the One and the Many. Part Two concentrates on Aquinas's views on the essential structure of finite being, and treats substance-accident composition and related issues, including, among others, the relationship between the soul and its powers and unicity of substantial form. It then considers his understanding of matter-form composition of corporeal beings and their individuation. Part Three explores Aquinas's philosophical discussion of divine being, his denial that God's existence is self-evident, and his presentation of arguments for the existence of God, first in earlier writings and then in the "Five Ways" of his Summa theologiae. A separate chapter is devoted to his views on quidditative and analogical knowledge of God. The concludingchapter revisits certain issues concerning finite being under the assumption that God's existence has now been established.


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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A useful work, but upside-down in at least one way. 6 Sep 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this work. In particular, Wippel's discussion of the three meanings of participation as found in Thomas' "Commentary on the Hebdomads of Boethius" is something which is not brought out often enough in discussions of metaphysics.

I was, however, somewhat perplexed by Wippel's insistence on delaying so long the question of God's existence. This would have made some sense if the demonstration of God's existence somehow depended upon the "logical" participation that all created beings have in "esse," namely the "esse commune" of creatures. But since that is not the case, and we could equally prove the existence of God from one creature rather than all creatures in common, why spend so much time avoiding the issue of God's existence? And since creatures have their "to be" (esse) only by analogy with God's, and this is most certainly an analogy of attribution, not the internal analogy of proper proportion between "esse" and "essentia" in creatures, does not the very "logical" community of creaturely "esse" depend upon the existence of God as the ground of that community? Perhaps I am risking misunderstanding by saying this, but it strikes me as a somewhat Heideggerian move, rather than a Thomistic one. It raises Heidegger's "Sein" to a philosophic preeminence rather than ground "Sein" by analogy in God's transcendance. There is the real risk that God will indeed simply become the Highest Being (ens), rather than "Ipsum Esse Subsistens." Surely, this is not Wippel's intention, but by putting this forward in such an order, he seems to adopt a doctrine of analogy at variance with Thomas'. Perhaps this order of exposition is one of the things the previous reviewer objected to. Gilson maintained a theological order of exposition beginning with God and descending to creatures, the very pattern of the Summa. Perhaps the order can be inverted in a purely philosophical mode, but not lightly so, nor without investigating and defending explicitly the repercussions for a doctrine of participation and analogy. Certainly, in any exposition real relations and communities must precede logical ones, and I do not see that one can posit a real community of beings when the Prime Analogate is missing, without making ens commune into another supposit.

To sum up then, this is a valuable book, but I have some reservations about the order of exposition.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Definitive Work on Aqunas's Metaphysics 21 Sep 2009
By ApologiaPhoenix - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This was one of the assigned texts for my course on Metaphysics and it is a worthwhile one. Wippel approaches every question from every angle. As others have said, it can be difficult to follow so I'd also recommend taking a course on the great Angelic Doctor and on metaphysics in general to go along with your reading of this text.

I'd also issue a caution. Unfortunately, the footnotes seem to be in Latin which is great if you're a Thomistic scholar who knows the language, but not so great if you're the average American. That says something however if that is my greatest concern. I do recommend this book.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Balanced and Insightful Scholarship 3 Mar 2010
By Jim - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read the author's classic History of Philosophy book in 1971 (published in 1969) and that's what really got me fascinated with philosophy.

This book is no different - he begins with how Aquinas lays the foundation for metaphysics thru Epistemology in answering question 5 of the commentary of Boethius on Aristotle and then moves into Parminedes question of the One and the Many that Aquinas rewrites to prove the necessity of "Being".

The "Being" Aquinas comes up with though isn't Parminedes unchanging material universe but pure spirit (GOD)that creates "intelligences" (angels) that are potency and form and then composite substances like man who are form and matter.
11 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A historical presentation of Thomas Aquinas' exposition of the science of metaphysics 23 Jun 2008
By Eric M. Brown - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Finally some one did what Pope Leo XIII wanted when in his encyclical Aeterni Patris(1879) he restored scholasticism and made the Thomistic exposition of philosophy and theology the norm of these same studies in the Catholic Church: A historically correct presentation of Thomas's exposition of philosophy in its highest branch which is the science of metaphysics. Professor Wippel proves historically that there is a historically correct presentation of the Thomistic exposition of metaphysics by following the historical chronology that medieval scholars have acquired pertaining to the works of Thomas Aquinas. The historical proof of the conclusion that we can know exactly what Thomas Aquinas' exposition of metaphysics consist in is proven by the very reality of Professor Wippel's work itself. Therefore this historically proves the falsehood of Joseph Owens and Gerald McCool's contention that it is not possible to know historically, with correct historical interpretations, what Thomas's exposition of metaphysics consist in. Now the reaction to this great work, a work so very much needed, is very informative. The Gilsonists fideists have come out and criticized and disputed Professor Wippel's following of the philosophical order articulated by Aquinas in the Summa Contra Gentiles I. By that very text Aquinas states philosophy must follow the philosophical order(from finite being to the first principle of finite being in the case of metaphysics) and in sacred theology the theological order(from God the creator to creatures) without using these same exact words. In the Summa Theologiae, a theological work (which in scholasticism presupposes philosophy) that includes philosophy as a preliminary to Thomas' exposition of theological conclusions, there is followed the theological order. The same is to be said for the Summa Contra Gentiles; it is a theological work which necessary includes philosophy as a preliminary. Consequently, the Summa Contra Gentiles follows the theological order also. The only difference, insofar as both are theological works, between the Summa Theologiae and the Summa Contra Gentiles is the apologetical orientation of the latter Thomistic work. Therefore in order to write a historically correct presentation of the Thomistic exposition of philosophy, according to his own words, such a presentation must follow the philosophical order. Consequently, the extensive exposition of philosophy exposited in the Thomistic theological works must be extracted from both their theological context and the theological order of those works in order to historically present the Thomistic exposition of philosophy in a purely philosophical work. In many ways this is the necessary effect of the generic distinction advocated by Aquinas between first philosophy(metaphysics) and sacred theology(the theology in sacra doctrina) in Summa Theologiae I.q.1,a.1. Now Wippel's book "The Metaphysical Thought..." does this for metaphysics. Therefore the Gilsonist fideist criticism of this work and of following the philosophical order in philosophy is historically false. Now why would people such as Norris Clarke and Etienne Gilson and Joseph Owens, who claim to be Thomists, make such serious historical errors in their attempted Thomistic presentations? The answer is that they did such on purpose for religious motives and cultural motives and therefore are not Thomists but are pseudo-Thomists. Starting with Etienne Gilson, Gilson confused the supernatural order with the natural order and thereby agreed with the heresy of Henri de Lubac magisterially condemned in 1950 by Pope Pius XII's magisterial document Humani Generis.That this is true is proven by the letters between Gilson and De Lubac thar are translated and published in English by Ignatius Press. This is the Gilsonist fideist' original religious motive for these historically erroneous interpretations(exemplified by Gilson's notion of "Christian philosophy"). Secondly, and this is why the Gilsonist fideist interpretation appeals to modern people, Thomas Aquinas does not fit into the box of modern academia and the modern mind. For he is not only a religious intellectual but a rigorous philosopher with an extensive use of applied logic(logica utens as St. Albert the Great called it) who assented and defended an "orthodox" religious system such as Catholic Christianity. Such a person is not comprehensible if one starts with the premises of modern academia and the modern mind. Therefore, in order to make sense of Aquinas, people who interpret Aquinas presupposing this modern framework, whether they recognize these presuppositions or not, have to interpret Aquinas fideistically. A great example of this is the fideist Mark Jordan. What Wippel has done(and so have I) is break through this barrier set up by modernity in order to acquire a historically accurate presentation of the Thomistic exposition of metaphysics throughout all of the pertinent Thomistic works according to their chronological order. Further, the means by which he and I have done this are a strict fidelity to history and historical truth whereas the Gilsonist interpretation is dependent on sources extraneous to history and historical truth as has been previously stated. What can be done for metaphysics can be done for the other branches of philosophy and also for theology, and I will do it. This was the original mission of Pope Leo XIII as stated in Aeterni Patris(1879) and yet to this day it has not been accomplished as is the same for almost all the rest of the Leonine academic mission. Wippel's work starts this aspect of the Leonine mission in so far as it pertains to the supreme science of the natural order that is metaphysics. Finally there is nothing Heideggerian about this historically correct interpretation of Thomas Aquinas' expositon of philosophy and theology for Heidegger was an irrationalist existentialist unless one(as Karl Rahner did) wants to use Thomas Aquinas as a trojan horse for Martin Heidegger. This again would be tragically historically false and academically unprofessional. Read Copleston's history of philosophy books or any documented history of philosophy: Thomas Aquinas is neither Kantian nor Heideggerian nor is Immanuel Kant or Martin Heidegger Thomistic. At last this is what Norris Clarke's book "The One and the Many ..." represents a work of Trojan Horse pseduo-Thomism for the ideologies of Augustinian-Platonism in philosophical subjects,for Kantianism, and even process "philosophy". This work therefore is definitely contemporary but is neither thomistic nor scientifically metaphysical(neither historically like Wippel's "The Metaphysical Thought ... " nor logically).For a historically correct introduction to the Thomistic exposition of metaphysics the best source is Aquinas's own works as compiled by professor James Anderson in "An Introduction to the Metaphysics of Thomas Aquinas". I do not remember whether the presentation of Thomistic metaphysical texts follows the philosophical order or not but if it doesn't then a student can easily arrange their study of this book to follow the philosophical order. The book served as a good introduction to metaphysics for me even though unfortunately it has a preliminary article by Norris Clarke in the most recent publishing of this book by Regnery Press. It is true that Wippel's book is a graduate student's text in a historical presentation of metaphysics as exposited by Aquinas and thereby a beginning student should read the introduction as recommended. At last, these two books recommended by me are an aid to the historical interpretaion of the Thomistic exposition of metaphysics but if one wants to read a real treatise on the science of metaphysics with self-evident propositions, definitions, and scientific proofs(according to Aristotle's Posterior Analytics) of the metaphysical conclusions then unfortunately there is no such thing present. The best thing to do for those who wish to study metaphysics scientifically is to comprehend historically the presentation of metaphysics by Aristotle and Aquinas using Wippel's books, Anderson's(compilation of thomistic metaphysical texts)books, and most of all the primary Thomistic texts in Latin(at least if you can read Latin) along with having a comprehensive scientific knowledge of logic(in all three historical branches of logic which are Aristotelian, scholastic, and modern) in order to apply such knowledge of logic to acquiring the science of metaphysics in your mind. This is exactly what I intend to do for metaphysics and the rest of philosophy and also for sacred theology.
Further, as an intellectual historian I agree with Wippel 95% of the time in his writings on Aquinas. In fact as far as Wippel's interpretation of the thomistic exposition of philosophy I agree with Wippel on everything that I have read so far except for Aquinas' thought on the scholastic impetus theory of projectile locomotion. My main disagreement is outside of Thomistic interpretation per se but having to do with the historical sources and development of the Thomistic exposition of metaphysics. I in agreement with R.J. Henle's work "The Platonists in the Works of Thomas Aquinas"(not exact title) recognize that Aquinas rejected the fundamental theories of Augustinian-Platonism in philosophical subjects in favor of the historically contradictory or contrary theories of Aristotle's exposition of philosophy. On the other hand, Aquinas as an Aristotelian scientists(even in sacred theology) organically and logically developed the Aristotelian exposition of philosophy from within and from without that Aristotelian exposition of philosophy. He did so from without by depending historically on theories that did not historically contradict Aristotle's exposition of philosophy but that could logically fit into Aristotle's exposition of philosophy. Thomas's non-Aristotelian sources in this regard where Neoplatonism(divine ideas and evil as a privation of good are examples; logical participation is in Aristotle's Topics but I don't know for certain whether metaphysical particapation is in Aristotle's works or not. For certain the Neoplatonists held to some kind of metaphysical participation) and Stoicism(natural moral law jurisprudence and the eternal law theory). As such Aquinas was historically an organically and logically developed Aristotelian from within and without but not a Platonist or neoPlatonist because of his rejection of its fundamental theories, which were historically incompatible with Aristotle's exposition of philosophy to which Aquinas assented. Consequently, there truly is an Aristotelian-Thomist exposition of philosophy and it is contained in the works of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. From everything I have read this is the historically correct conclusion. Unfortunately, Wippel does not agree but instead most recently denies that Aquinas is to be called historically either Aristotelian or Platonist. Yet the fact that his conclusion here is unfounded is his(in a communication from him to me) rejection of R.J. Henle's great work where there is documentation of the numerous times, including in commentaries on Neoplatonists works, of Thomas' Aquinas rejection of the fundamental theories of Plato and that of the Platonists(epistemological rationalism, sense skepticism, extreme realism for the universals and the consequent objective idealism, pantheistic divine participation in some cases, extreme dualism between body and soul) as contrary to the philosophical sciences.

From a soon to be graduate philosophy student who graduated from the "Catholic University of America" in the school of philosophy with a B.A.(major in philosophy, minor in mathematics)
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