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After Aquinas: Version of Thomism: Versions of Thomism Paperback – 18 Sep 2002


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Product Description

Review

"Domenican scholar Kerr (Oxford and Edinburgh) has written one of the most engrossing and informative books on Thomas published in some time."
Choice <!––end––>

"This country′s outstanding philosopher–theologian."
Reviews in Religion and Theology of Fergus Kerr

"Fergus Kerr presents us with some few decades of reflection on Aquinas, canvassing much of contemporary commentary in the process. The choice of topics represents a sounding that will offer at once the flavor and a sense of the rigorous dedication to inquiry which Aquinas represents. A thoroughly contemporary presentation of the nuances of this masterful thinker by an apprentice now master himself."
Professor David Burrell, University of Notre Dame

"Fergus Kerr OP demonstrates in this book how St. Thomas Aquinas is still at the heart of things, synthesising and refining philosophical and theological speech, and even where we do not see his influence, we still feel it. There is no–one better to introduce and explain the breadth and diversity of the study of Aquinas. After Aquinas: Versions of Thomism speaks with a strong and fluent voice: it is in short a tour de force. It ought to be on every theologian′s bookshelf, and on every undergraduate reading list in Systematic Theology in Britain and America."
Laurence Paul Hemming, Heythrop College, University of London

"Kerr′s analysis presents fresh insight into Aquinas′ thought and the scholarship that has grown up around it, from Cajetan and Suarez to John Milbank and Eugene Rogers. It will be a valuable resource for all those new to Thomas as well as for those interested in exploring his thought in greater depth."
First Things

"[Kerr′s] book is fun, and a rewarding one to read."
Church Times

"...provides a very useful service to those interested in the reception, in modern theology, of one of the greatest and most influential of all Christian theologians."
Times Literary Supplement

"This represents a crucial step in moving contemporary Thomism forward; for it is only once we stop teaching, naively, nothing but our own limited interpretations of Thomas′s thought, instead attempting to present a more synthetic account, that we will enable our students to appreciate the complexity not only of Thomism, but indeed of Thomas himself."
Tijdschrift voor Filosofie

"There is often an illuminating sense of the anachronism of a modern view, the failure of an author to understand what Aquinas was concerned about or the reasons for his putting a point in a particular way."
Theology

"(I)t reviews competing interpretations of Aquinas′s theology in an undogmatic, fair–minded, and perspicuous manner; not only beginning theology students but also specialists will learn much from such an approach." The Thomist

"Fergus Kerr...has presented his readers with another theological tour de force, and again written with crystal clarity and accessibility."
Regent′s Reviews

"Kerr is astonishingly well read, and, if you want to learn something about how differently Aquinas has been understood on a wide range of issues, After Aquinas is an excellent place to start. Indeed, there is nothing in print to compare with it."
Theology Today

"Aquinas is a boom subject and Fr Kerr uses decades of stuy to put him in perspective; but he has not lost the refreshing enthusiasm that he felt in his youth for the ontology of the brilliant old thinker."
Spectator

".by focusing on the relationship between Thomas′s thought and aome of the distinctive issues of modern theology, he is able to both correct widespread misreadings of Thomas, and to show the ongoing power and ecumenical relevance of his theology."
Churchman

"The beginner will imbide not just real knowledge of Aquinas from this book, but a vibrant Catholic and Dominican culture. The more advanced reader will find dazzling insight upon which to ponder, as well as intriguing pointers to a richer future synthesis.
Catherine Pickstock, Emmanuel College Cambridge

"After Aquinas is an invaluable resource for evaluating the rival ways that Aquinas has been used in recent scholarship."
Scottish Journal of Theology

Review

"Domenican scholar Kerr (Oxford and Edinburgh) has written one of the most engrossing and informative books on Thomas published in some time."
Choice <!––end––>

"This country′s outstanding philosopher–theologian."
Reviews in Religion and Theology of Fergus Kerr

"Fergus Kerr presents us with some few decades of reflection on Aquinas, canvassing much of contemporary commentary in the process. The choice of topics represents a sounding that will offer at once the flavor and a sense of the rigorous dedication to inquiry which Aquinas represents. A thoroughly contemporary presentation of the nuances of this masterful thinker by an apprentice now master himself."
Professor David Burrell, University of Notre Dame

"Fergus Kerr OP demonstrates in this book how St. Thomas Aquinas is still at the heart of things, synthesising and refining philosophical and theological speech, and even where we do not see his influence, we still feel it. There is no–one better to introduce and explain the breadth and diversity of the study of Aquinas. After Aquinas: Versions of Thomism speaks with a strong and fluent voice: it is in short a tour de force. It ought to be on every theologian′s bookshelf, and on every undergraduate reading list in Systematic Theology in Britain and America."
Laurence Paul Hemming, Heythrop College, University of London

"Kerr′s analysis presents fresh insight into Aquinas′ thought and the scholarship that has grown up around it, from Cajetan and Suarez to John Milbank and Eugene Rogers. It will be a valuable resource for all those new to Thomas as well as for those interested in exploring his thought in greater depth."
First Things

"[Kerr′s] book is fun, and a rewarding one to read."
Church Times

"...provides a very useful service to those interested in the reception, in modern theology, of one of the greatest and most influential of all Christian theologians."
Times Literary Supplement

"This represents a crucial step in moving contemporary Thomism forward; for it is only once we stop teaching, naively, nothing but our own limited interpretations of Thomas′s thought, instead attempting to present a more synthetic account, that we will enable our students to appreciate the complexity not only of Thomism, but indeed of Thomas himself."
Tijdschrift voor Filosofie

"There is often an illuminating sense of the anachronism of a modern view, the failure of an author to understand what Aquinas was concerned about or the reasons for his putting a point in a particular way."
Theology

"(I)t reviews competing interpretations of Aquinas′s theology in an undogmatic, fair–minded, and perspicuous manner; not only beginning theology students but also specialists will learn much from such an approach." The Thomist

"Fergus Kerr...has presented his readers with another theological tour de force, and again written with crystal clarity and accessibility."
Regent′s Reviews

"Kerr is astonishingly well read, and, if you want to learn something about how differently Aquinas has been understood on a wide range of issues, After Aquinas is an excellent place to start. Indeed, there is nothing in print to compare with it."
Theology Today

"Aquinas is a boom subject and Fr Kerr uses decades of stuy to put him in perspective; but he has not lost the refreshing enthusiasm that he felt in his youth for the ontology of the brilliant old thinker."
Spectator

".by focusing on the relationship between Thomas′s thought and aome of the distinctive issues of modern theology, he is able to both correct widespread misreadings of Thomas, and to show the ongoing power and ecumenical relevance of his theology."
Churchman

"The beginner will imbide not just real knowledge of Aquinas from this book, but a vibrant Catholic and Dominican culture. The more advanced reader will find dazzling insight upon which to ponder, as well as intriguing pointers to a richer future synthesis.
Catherine Pickstock, Emmanuel College Cambridge

"After Aquinas is an invaluable resource for evaluating the rival ways that Aquinas has been used in recent scholarship."
Scottish Journal of Theology

See all Product Description

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
89 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rare gem 16 Dec. 2002
By Philip Blosser - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Kerr, a Dominican, is Regent of Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford, Honorary Senior Lecturer in Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh, and editor of "New Blackfriars," the periodical of the English Dominicans. This book is one of the most fascinating and informative books on Thomas to come along in some time. Kerr focuses on the period beginning with Pope Leo XIII's endorsement of Thomism as a bulwark against post-Cartesian modernism and subjectivism, and the division of Thomism into Transcendental (essentially Kantian-informed) and Existential (anti-Kantian and anti-modern) factions. He shows how modern Thomism has been shaped by, and is thus largely a product of, reactions to modern thinkers, such as Descartes, Kant, Heidegger and other thinkers. He successfully destabilizes the conventional view of Thomas as important mainly for his theistic proofs (the "five ways") and natural law theory, not only by arguing that Thomas's arguments are essentially unintelligible apart from his larger theological purposes, but that these purposes change the way we understand even his philosophical importance. The Thomas that emerges in Kerr's account makes an interesting dialogue partner with contemporary thinkers such as Martin Heidegger and Karl Barth. Furthermore, he holds his own against Barth's misguided claims that Thomas's concept of "nature" doesn't take sin seriously, or that his notion of divine "simplicity" is idolatrous, or that his concept of "analogia entis" is the invention of Antichrist! The Thomism that emerges is strikingly at odds with that which we often encounter in the secular or Protestant "textbook traditions," where Thomas's God is a barren "First Cause" or abstract "immutable substance," for example. Once we understand what Thomas means, Kerr argues, we see that his God is so dynamic that He is more accurately defined by verbs than by nouns! Kerr offers chatty, and sometimes wickedly naughty behind-the-scene peeks into controversies that have shaped modern Thomism, such as the very personal controversy between Garrigou-Lagrange and de Lubac. He also apprears to be thoroughly conversant with recent non-Catholic theology (for example, such as the work of the Lutheran theologian, Robert Jensen, or the New Finnish interpretation of Luther's notion of justification as close to the Greek idea of "theosis"-- an idea for which Kerr finds some parallel in Thomas's view of sanctification). He is, of course, intimately familiar with the usual suspects--the Catholic standards (Gilson, Chenu, Maritain, Von Balthasar). Very highly recommended.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent overview 16 Sept. 2004
By Stephen J. Garver - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Kerr's book is, in large part, a survey of the recent revival of interest in Thomas Aquinas' thought, gathering together a wide variety of interpretations that are not all readily available in English or in any one place. In surveying these interpretations, however, Kerr produces his own, somewhat revisionist interpretation of Aquinas, one that in many ways will complement the treatment already given by others (e.g., Milbank and Pickstock), though at points indirectly contesting their account. As such, it serves as an excellent introduction to the thought of Aquinas in the context of the last century of debates on how to interpret his thought properly.

Kerr discusses an array of Thomistic topics: Aquinas in his historical context, his epistemology, his "natural theology" and the five ways, his account of metaphysics, how he thinks about natural law and ethics, the controversies surrounding Thomistic discussions of nature and grace, and finally his soteriology (particularly "deification"), christology, and his doctrine of God.

Kerr is always clear and deals with the variety of alternatives when it comes to understanding Aquinas on a particular issue. Moreover, though he is not dogmatic in his own interpretations, Kerr does provide a case for reading Aquinas along the lines of many of the major revisionists of the past century (with whom I have am generally quite sympathetic).

For instance, many people think of "natural law" when they consider Aquinas' ethics. But Kerr does a good job exploring the various ways in which Aquinas has been understood on this issue, making a good case for seeing his "natural law" approach as quite different from that of later natural law theorists (late medieval as well as modern ones, such as Hobbes or Locke). Kerr also takes care to place natural law within Aquinas' larger discussion of beatitude, participation in the mind of God, sin and grace, virtue, prudence, and charity.

Kerr makes a good case for seeing Aquinas as not really an "Aristotelian," but at least as equally indebted to the tradition of Christian neo-platonism found in Augustine and Pseudo-Dionysius (which, as a form of neo-platonism, has already been "corrected" by Aristotle's thought). Besides, there are some serious questions about what we have traditionally understood as "Aristotelian" in contrast to what Aristotle was actually saying (e.g., on the question of "substance"), as well as how he was understood by Aquinas. Later traditions and readings have often misconstrued not only Aquinas, but also Aristotle and Aquinas' interpretation of Aristotle.

While Kerr's volume is really just an introduction, it is an excellent one in both breadth and clarity-a book that I would strongly consider using if I were to teach an undergraduate course on the thought of Aquinas.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exception Survey of Modern Thomism 24 Aug. 2004
By P. Nagy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
After Aquinas: Versions of Thomism by Fergus Kerr (Blackwell Publishers) (Paperback)

Written by a leading theologian, this new account of the writings of Thomas Aquinas and their interpretation by modern commentators reflects the major revival of interest in his work.

After Aquinas makes available in one volume all the material necessary for a rounded appreciation of Aquinas's work and his enduring influence. As well as revisiting Aquinas's own work, Kerr brings together a range of views that have previously appeared in disparate places, thereby exploring alternatives to the standard understanding of Aquinas's writings. This book therefore represents a major revisionist treatment of Thomism and its significance, combining useful exposition with original, creative thinking.

After Aquinas will become essential reading for all undergraduate students and scholars interested in the work of this great theologian.

Excerpt: The hard question is to account for the rival ways of reading Thomas. The mid-nineteenth-century revival of interest, primarily in his supposedly Aristotelian philosophy, was intended to put it to use in containing and eradicating the supposedly Cartesian/Kantian subjectivist individualism by which Roman Catholic thinkers were then attracted. This use of Thomas, as we saw in chapter 2, remains effective in the context of analytic philosophy. It may, however, soon have to deal with a threat from medieval scholarship: anachronism is always a risk when one calls on earlier thinkers to refute current arguments. Anyway, the standard outsider's view of Thomas owes everything to Leonine Thomism: at worst, `arid Aristotelianism', at best a combination of natural theology and natural law ethics which satisfies some and repels others.

On the inside, so to speak, among those educated in institutions where Leonine Thomism was all but mandatory, it was being rejected by the 1920s. Initiated by such remarkable interpreters as Pierre Rousselot and Joseph Maréchal, many students of Thomas concluded that Cartesian/Kantian philosophy could not be outwitted by being regarded as a total mistake; rather, Thomas had to be reread in the light of modern philosophical considerations. The `Copernican revolution' inaugurated by Kant, in his focus on the active role of the knower and the autonomy of the moral agent, turned out, in this rereading, to be anticipated in Thomas's conception of the natural drive of the mind towards truth and being. Far from being a supposedly empiricist epistemology, with the 1 mind being conformed to things in the world, Thomas viewed every act of knowing and choosing as implicitly knowing and choosing the truth and goodness which is the mystery of the divine being. This generated transcendental Thomism.' Kant's analysis of experience is `transcendental', in the sense of getting behind actual experience to lay bare the conditions which make it possible at all. This reading of Thomas disclosed the a priori conditions that Thomas took for granted in his understanding of human experience: namely, that in every act of knowing and loving the human being is tacitly and no doubt mostly unwittingly growing closer to (or further away from) God.

In a somewhat different way, theologians of the same generation, notably Henri de Lubac, reconnected Thomas's thought with the patristic tradition: in short, as we saw in chapter 8, retrieving his under-standing of the human spirit as created in the divine image and naturally desiring the face-to-face vision of God which of course can be granted only as a gift. This puts an end to the two-storey view of grace and nature, setting the two over against each other, in favor of under-standing human life under divine grace as the perfection of human nature. Opponents of this view feared that human nature as always already graced, human reason as always already anticipating beatific vision, and human desire as always already fulfilled in charity, smoothes out the tensions and contradictions and risks allowing nature, reason and desire to collapse into grace, faith and charity - or, by naturalizing the latter, turning Christian life into a form of secular humanism.

In his book on Karl Barth, Hans Urs von Balthasar rejected `sawdust Thomism' in favour of de Lubac's retrieval of Thomas's doctrine of natural desire for God. Balthasar's main concern, however, was to put Thomas's thought back into the context of the entire Western meta-physical tradition, understanding this as repeated disclosure of the divine goodness, truth and beauty, consummated in the self-revelation of God in the Christian dispensation of grace. Above all, Balthasar sought to bring out the importance of Thomas's insistence on the distinction in creatures between their nature and their existence, or, rather, on the complete absence of any such distinction in God.

Thomas, we may agree, is a transitional figure: later than the monastic theology and sacramental sense of the world which we find still in the early thirteenth century, earlier than the fourteenth-century developments that opened tensions and contradictions between nature and grace, reason and faith, and so on, leading eventually to the rejection (in the West) of Aristotle and Christian Platonism. It is not easy, nowadays, to believe in the harmony of reason and faith for which the High Middle Ages, or at least Thomas Aquinas, were once celebrated. It remains an option, on the other hand, to take Thomas either as a key figure in the development of modern theology or as primarily a continuator of pre-modernity. He can be read as inaugurating modern philosophy of religion, but only if his conceptual apparatus, and in particular his understanding of causality and substance, are assumed to anticipate the standard modern view. If, on the other hand, he has a notion of agent causality, and of self-diffusive substance, we find ourselves on a different hermeneutic line altogether.

Similarly with his conception of moral theology as principally an ethics of divine beatitude, and with his conception of sanctification as deified creaturehood, we are once again reading Thomas in the light of theological traditions he inherited, rather than in that of modern and in particular post-Reformation problems.

Sometimes, no doubt, this or that interpretation must be regarded as simply mistaken. On the whole, however, more complex factors are at play. For those who have been trained in analytic philosophy, and are inclined to accept Frege's principle that `existence is not a predicate', Thomas's talk of `Being' will (as Anthony Kenny says) be `sophistry and illusion'. On the other hand, for those who believe Heidegger's grand

narrative about the forgetfulness of Being in the metaphysical tradition, Thomas's talk of `Being' will either be `idolatry' or (with Balthasar) the wonderful exception to Heidegger's rule. While there are recent attempts to show that analytic philosophy and hermeneutic/deconstructionist philosophies are not as radically incommensurable as they look, it seems unlikely that students of Thomas from these rival traditions will ever take each other very seriously, let alone come to any common understanding.

Perhaps we should rescue Thomas from philosophy altogether - but then, after all, he is a great philosopher, indeed that is one of the sources of the ambivalence of his thought. He is a philosopher and he is a theologian, and we are never going to agree where to put the emphasis.

In short, as some readings of his natural law theory seem to show, incommensurable yet equally plausible, Thomas's thought, perhaps over a range of issues, contains within itself the Janus-like ambiguities that generate competing interpretations which can never be reconciled. Working out a doctrine of God and of creation in conjunction with Jewish and Islamic metaphysics, a Latin theologian in the new university environment referring all the time to great monastic theologians of the Eastern Church, a Catholic theologian haunted by Catharist dualism, more concerned to protect the faith of friends in the arts faculty against Islamicized Aristotelianism than to avoid alarming his colleagues in divinity with his Aristotelian insights - all along the line Thomas's work, we may surely say, offers readers today little of the `synthesis' and `equilibrium' for which it was widely admired 50 years ago, but, on the contrary, reveals a loose-endedness in its constantly repeated discussions of finally unresolvable problems: `straw', Thomas called his work, in comparison with the knowledge of God for which he hoped and prayed; sketches, we may say, that he made in the course of his long and involved journeyings.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new Thomas 25 Dec. 2008
By Jacob - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In exploring the many varieties of Thomism, Fergus Kerr hints at a re-reading of St Thomas' thought. Instead of the stale, two-story view of St Thomas, Kerr offers a vision of Thomas that is rich and grace-oriented. He gives us a vision of ethics that posits man as a movement to God. And he gives us a God that is not the static entity of Aristotle, but the fiery dynamism of Exodus 3:14.

A few thoughts:
RE Anthropology: Kerr sees regenerate man as a divine spirit desiring face-to-face communion with God, which can only be granted by God as a gift.

RE Theosis: Kerr's Thomas sees sanctification as union with God in Christ. It is a move from God to God, from the Triune to man's bliss in God.

Conclusion:
The book was helpful in showing how the boring standard view of Thomas isn't necessarily warranted. The section on the processions in the Godhead were great. A few problems with the book: at times it seemed more like a summary of what Thomists were saying rather than what Kerr wanted to say. Also, Kerr would have scored major points if he would have showed how his view of Thomas on the processions of God was impacted by Filioquist discussions. Particularly, if it is true that St Thomas was the heir of the undivided church, then his views on God's essence/procession should not be fundamentally different from, say, St Basil in Letter 234. This is especially pertinent since Kerr made the frequent assertion that St Thomas was the heir to the undivided Church.
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