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The One and the Many: A Contemporary Thomistic Metaphysics Paperback – 31 Jan 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press (31 Jan. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0268037078
  • ISBN-13: 978-0268037079
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 15.2 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 421,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Aquinas on 22 May 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is a stunning introduction to, and completion, of St Thomas's metaphysics. It is wonderfully infused with hope, wonder and the joy of being and provides insights into why modern thinking (suffused, as it is, with subjectivism) reflects the thinking of Decartes, Kant and others, for whom beings were unknowable in their essence but who were only intelligible through the operation of a priori assumptions operating in the subject's brain. He makes great play of the intelligibility of the universe as a foundation stone of civilisation.

The book starts off exploring "existence" or "esse" and contrasts it with non-being. It then proceeds to explore what distinguises one being (say a human being) from another being (say a dog)and defines that difference by reference to "essence", essence being a kind of limitation on pure "existence". But, even though a human and a dog have different essences, they belong to the community of existents. We are all, to different extents, image of our Maker, who is pure Act.

The next question is what distinguishes this person from another person? So, Clarke digs deeper and notes that "essence" itself is made up of two metaphysical principles, namely "form" (a kind of blueprint) and "matter" (the space taken up by a being). All humans have the same human form (namely the soul) but they are each possessed of different matter (albeit plastic in nature) existing in space and time. The matter individuates the "form".

But, then how does one account for the fact that beings change? Clarke notes that being is in Act but is also in potentiality. God himself is pure Act but we are always in flux.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 17 reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Best introduction of Thomism 30 Mar. 2002
By Kindle Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the best inroductory text on Thomas's thought I have seen. Fr Clarke does a fine job of relaying difficult metaphysical concepts in an easy to understand manner without compromising their meaning.
In this book, Thomistic thought is effectively applied to modern philosophical and scientific issues. Ch 8 on the nature of identity through time via substance is especially good, as is Clarke's explanation on the distinction between the act of existence and a thing's essence.
This is the text I recommend for both beginners in Thomas' thought as well as more advanced thinkers anxious to gain an insight in applying Thomism to modern issues.
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
A Metaphysical Page-Turner. 19 Feb. 2002
By Joseph Murphy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The history of metaphysical speculation is replete with contrast and contradiction; e.g. all is change, change is illusion, or all is one, each is all. As a result of which, many have sought new starting points and invented new lanquages (Heidegger must leap to mind) in the hope of providing improved perspectives.
In "The One and the Many", Norris Clarke accepts the challenge of Western thought. He does not attempt to start anew, invent a new language or rise above the past. Rather, he builds on the core ideas that Western speculation has provided seeking the limits and assimilating the truths of each.
Patiently and clearly by assimilation and contrast, Norris Clarke provides a 21st century "Thomistic existentialist" integration while calmly addressing the challenges of modernity to its ancient and medieval roots.
Half-way through Norris Clarke's The One and the Many, I decided to review some of Heidegger's Being and Time. Fresh from Father Clarke, Heidegger seemed intelligible. For this ametuer philosopher that was startling and a testimony to the clear think Father Clarke imparts to his readers.
This book is a joy to read. Enjoy him for both method and content and revel in a philosophy text that is an easy page-turner (this doesn't happen too often!).
Peace
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
An Excellent Thomistic Metaphysics Text 5 Feb. 2002
By T. B. Vick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
W. Norris Clark has provided his reader with a very nice Thomistic metaphysics text. The text covers many of the more important areas of metaphysics such as the one and many issue, the meaning of being, act and potency, substance and accidents, causation (efficient and final), form and matter, and certain problems in metaphysics.
What the reader has here in this one text is a 'one stop' place where a thorough examination of some of the major metaphysical themes can be researched. What is more, many of these issues have been either ignored or simply disregarded in light of current analytic philosophical trends, much to the demise of modern philosophy. However, if you are wanting a good text on the classic and all important issues of metaphyics (since doing philosophy is impossible w/o doing metaphysics), then you will want to get a copy of this text.
Also, for an excellent companion to this volume see Clarke's work "Explorations in Metaphysics." Another great text for those interested in studying metaphysics.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Simply wonderful 22 May 2008
By Aquinas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is a stunning introduction to, and completion, of St Thomas's metaphysics. It is wonderfully infused with hope, wonder and the joy of being and provides insights into why modern thinking (suffused, as it is, with subjectivism) reflects the thinking of Decartes, Kant and others, for whom beings were unknowable in their essence but who were only intelligible through the operation of a priori assumptions operating in the subject's brain.

The book starts off exploring "existence" or "esse" and contrasts it with non-being. It then proceeds to explore what distinguises one being (say a human being) from another being (say a dog)and defines that difference by reference to "essence", essence being a kind of limitation on pure "existence". But, even though a human and a dog have different essences, they belong to the community of existents. We are all, to different extents, image of our Maker, who is pure Act.

The next question is what distinguishes this person from another person? So, Clarke digs deeper and notes that "essence" itself is made up of two metaphysical principles, namely "form" (a kind of blueprint) and matter (the space taken up by a being). All humans have the same human form (namely the soul) but they are each possessed of different matter (albeit plastic in nature) existing in space and time.

But, then how does one account for the fact that beings change? Clarke notes that being is in Act but is also in potentiality. God himself is pure Act but we are always in flux. Clarke explores further by noting that "matter" itself is made up of "substance" (the inner core) and "accidents" (extrinsic features such as hair colour). Clarke uses the concept of "primary matter" to allow for the fact that persons can undergo substantial change, namely persons die and break down into their constituent parts, showing the plasticity of matter,

Why is it that we do not fully know ourselves or indeed the spouse with whom we may have lived for decades? Because we are images of the infinite One, who has marked our very being with his infinite touch.

Clarke finishes beautifully with a hymn-like final chapter in praise of "being".

Thank you for Fr Clark this wonderful book.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Thomistic Metaphysics in a modern day context 18 Feb. 2002
By Plato - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent book! This book is timely because it puts Thomistic metaphysics in a modern day context. It helps you gain a better understanding of a 13th century system of metaphysics by teaching you what it is, and how other modern day systems of metaphysics compare to it.
The end of every chapter has a series of questions to help you reflect on concepts learned in the previous pages. Some training or exposure to philosophy is presupposed because the book is written as an "advanced textbook of systematic metaphysics in the Thomistic tradition." As with any other philosophical work, reading slowly and making notes in the margins will help you grasp the concepts before moving on to others.
For those who are curious about Thomistic metaphysics, or if the Thomistic philosophical tradition appeals to you, then this book should be required reading. A truly remarkable book!
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