Saturday, September 4, 2010
St. Thomas Aquinas by G.K. Chesterton
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.