Saturday, September 4, 2010

St. Thomas Aquinas by G.K. Chesterton

I enjoy the occasional well-written biography and I am devoted to Chesterton, so when my roommate's father handed me this book, I was pretty excited to read it. Perhaps the biography of Paul Revere that I read earlier this year is not fairly to be compared because Revere was a different sort of man than Thomas Aquinas, but I still found the latter to be a far more interesting character.

Chesterton admits in the beginning that there is not much known about the life of one of the greatest Christian philosophers (I draw no distinction between Catholic or Protestant here), so there alone is my complaint with the book. He mentions at one point that Aquinas was a man who "strangely" reserved his poetry for poems and at all other points strove for clarity and the laboriously exacting presentation of his philosophy, avoiding the sacrifice of accuracy for the sake of art. However, there were times when Chesterton himself waxed poetic in the description of events in Aquinas's life which did not deserve the additional and unknown information. In Chesterton's defense, they were significant events, and if his intention was only to highlight that significance, well, I suppose that's acceptable. It was more of an impression anyway (I have apparently bought into the late Augustinian and Lutheran emphasis on suggestion over Aquinian reason).

As for the rest, because so little was or is known about Aquinas's life, Chesterton elaborates on his philosophy, both the origins and the lowest levels of his assault on what Chesterton calls the "House of Man." However, his intention was to write a short book that gave little more than a foretaste of all that is St. Thomas, perhaps so that we may know the man and so better comprehend his philosophy. As such, the nuances of the lower echelons and the great majority of the higher of both St. Thomas's philosophy and his theology are not even hinted at in Chesterton's brief biography.


Christopher said...

This sounds super interesting.

Christy said...

It's Chesterton. Do you really need anything more to go on? :)