Jon Aquino's Mental Garden

Engineering beautiful software jon aquino labs | personal blog

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Using grep and uniq to determine the influence of Aristotle on Aquinas

In preparing for my future goal of reading Aquinas's 3020-page Summa Theologiae, I wanted to know which works of Aristotle to tackle as background reading. Aristotle was a major influence on Aquinas's work – but which books of Aristotle's?

I did some rudimentary parsing of the Summa, basically looking for the following pattern: "Philosopher...([name of book]...)" (Aquinas refers to Aristotle as the Philosopher), and came up with the following data:

Approximate number of references to Aristotle's works, in the Summa Theologiae
Nicomachean Ethics91653%10*18**
On the Soul1599%7*10**
Generation of Animals402%1**
On the Heavens211%1*10**
On Memory141%
On Interpretation131%2*3**
Posterior Analytics131%7*1**
On Sleep111%2**
History of Animals60%
Parts of Animals40%
Sophistical Refutations20%1**
Movement of Animals20%1**
De Causis20%
Great Ethics10%
On Virtues and Vices10%
On Breath10%
On Generation and Corruption10%3**
Prior Analytics10%1*
Eudemian Ethics30%1*1**
*Number of index references in The Cambridge Companion to Aquinas
**Number of index references in Summa Theologiae: A Concise Translation (McDermott), which also lists one reference for each of the following works of Plato: Alcibiades, Phaedo, Phaedrus, Timaeus

So it would seem that for someone interested in reading the Summa, it would be beneficial to first read Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, and perhaps also On The Soul, Metaphysics, Rhetoric, Physics, and Politics. Note that some of these also have recommended prerequisites, as detailed in this helpful Amazon review.


  • The Summa Theologiae has only a handful of references to titles of Plato's works: Parmenides, Timaeus, Meno, Phaedo, Philebus.

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 4/08/2009 7:09 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home