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1/19/2018 3:08 am  #1

Resources for Thomistic Response to Contemporary Philosophy

Hey all!

This upcoming summer, I will be taking a guided readings course as a part of my master's degree program.  My institution spends perhaps a bit too much time on Thomas Aquinas and not enough on how Thomism can speak to contemporary philosophical debates.  What I'm wondering is if there is a list of resources which you recommend that offer a critical response to the challenges posited by contemporary debate.  Obviously, the course would involve readings directly from contemporary authors themselves but I'm trying to discern which authors I ought to focus on and works which address those authors from a Thomistic standpoint. I'm looking for both academic articles and books.

Right now, here is what I've put together:

Real Essentialism by David Oderberg
The Existentialists by James Collins
Contemporary Philosophy And Thomistic Principles
Bandas, Rudolph G.​ (Available on Amazon with TOC, I'm not allowed to post links yet, apparently)

The Bandas book is interesting because it is a bit more comprehensive and systematic whereas most of the other works I've found (there are more under consideration) are more topical.  If you happen to be aware of more works by Thomists which systematically approach contemporary philosophy then I would be most appreciative. 

Many, many thanks!


1/19/2018 11:09 am  #2

Re: Resources for Thomistic Response to Contemporary Philosophy

There is a decent amount of work by Thomists that responds to more recent philosophy.

One book that comes to mind is John O'Callaghan's Thomist Realism and the Linguistic Turn, which develops Aquinas's theory of language against the background of modern and contemporary philosophy of language. Basically, after Wittgenstein, the early modern empiricist (Locke, Berkeley, Hume) treatments of language are viewed as incredibly naive. But it's also thought that they are basically Aristotelian, since Aristotle seems to say similar things and Locke draws from him. So there's a question of whether Aristotle and Aquinas are incredibly naive too. O'Callaghan's book argues that they aren't. The book explicitly treats Hilary Putnam's "The Meaning of 'Meaning'" as well as Jerry Fodor's work--and also is framed broadly as a reply to, or at least as intigated by, an early collection of essays edited by Richard Rorty, The Linguistic Turn. (It would be useful to read some of Frege's seminal papers, like "On Sense and Reference" and "Concept and Object" and "Function and Concept," as well as Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, perhaps even Saul Kripke's Naming and Necessity, before these authors.) So that's a nice project if you're interested in the philosophy of language. If you wanted more Aquinas literature than O'Callaghan, you could perhaps take a look at John Peterson's books. I have not read him, but he seems to be responsive to philosophy of language and early analytic philosophy.

You could do a survey of the revival of virtue ethics, starting with Elizabeth Anscombe's "Modern Moral Philosophy" and drawing from other authors such as Philippa Foot (her early essay "Virtues and Vices," and perhaps "Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives," as well as later papers like "Rationality and Virtue," "Does Moral Subjectivism Rest on a Mistake?" and her culminating book Natural Goodness), Rosalind Hursthouse (her book On Virtue Ethics), Michael Thompson (various papers: "The Representation of Life," "Apprehending Human Form," "What Is it to Wrong Someone?: A Puzzle About Justice"), John McDowell (various papers on virtue), as well as lots of others. Though all of those authors are sympathetic to some degree with Aquinas, there are "virtue ethicists" also who are not Aristotelian (and hence not Thomistic). So there is a lot of material for trying to sort out Aquinas' ethics and asking how we'd respond to non-virtue ethicists, non-Aristotelian virtue ethicists, and/or Aristotelian virtue ethicists who partially agree with him.

You could perhaps have a course treating a topic like personhood. Reading some classic papers by Bernard Williams, Derek Parfit (or Part III of his book Reasons and Persons), Eric Olson's book The Human Animal. Then there is work by contemporary Thomists like Oderberg ("Johnston on Human Being," "Modal Properties, Moral Status, and Identity"), David Braine (The Human Animal: Animal and Spirit), Patrick Toner ("Hylemorphic Animalism," "On Hylemorphism and Personal Identity") responsive to such issues.

There's also Eleonore Stump's Aquinas, which is a large exposition of some aspects of Aquinas' thought for a contemporary audience. It covers a lot of topics but it might give you a sense for what is out there.

There's more work on topics like natural theology and metaphysics, of course.

Is there any topic you are particularly interested in? You probably could put together a course on any one of them.


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