Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Gilson on Aquinas on Accepting Truth Humbly

While so many men were trying to base philosophy on theological foundations, a very simple and modest man was putting everything in its place. His name was Thomas Aquinas, and he was saying things so obviously true that, from his time down to our own day, very few people have been sufficiently self-forgetful to accept them. There is an ethical problem at the root of our philosophical difficulties; for men are most anxious to find truth, but very reluctant to accept it. We do not like to be cornered by rational evidence, and even when truth is there, in its impersonal and commanding objectivity, our greatest difficulty still remains; it is for me to bow to it in spite of the fact that it is not exclusively mine, for you to accept it though it cannot be exclusively yours. In short, finding out truth is not so hard; what is hard is not to run away from truth once we have found it. When it is not a "yes but," our "yes" is often enough a "yes, and..."; it applies much less to what we have just been told than to we are about to say. The greatest among philosophers are those who do not flinch in the presence of truth, but welcome it with the simple words: yes, Amen.

St. Thomas Aquinas was one of the latter, clear-sighted enough to know truth when he saw it, humble enough to bow to it in its presence. -- Etienne Gilson, The Unity of Philosophical Experience, 49

Other recommended reading on Aquinas:

-G.K. Chesterton, St Thomas Aquinas (free online version)

-Etienne Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas (Brandon: "Still the best introduction to Aquinas you can get your hands on.")

-Brian Davies, The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Ed Feser: "Probably the best single volume in print for anyone looking for an overview of the whole range of Aquinas’s philosophical and theological thinking.")

-Edward Feser, Aquinas

For peeping Thomists like me who've just discovered the Angelic Doctor, a good place to start is:

Timothy Mcdermott, ed., Summa Theologiae: The Concise Translation

Ralph McInerny, ed, Thomas Aquinas: Selected Writings

For the full Summa, there are a few choices: hardback/paperback, Kindle, and online.

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