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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

More Agony of Aquinas in Translation

I continue to wring my hands over how best to start studying Aquinas. The approach I now have in mind is to study primarily McDermott's flowing translation of Aquinas' selected works: Aquinas: Selected Philosophical Writings. I am tempted also to get Brian Davies's highly regarded exposition of Aquinas: The Thought of Thomas Aquinas. But perhaps the McDermott will suffice for now. I also wish to conserve time and money somewhat.

I currently have Kreeft's Shorter Summa (on Kindle unfortunately), so I could keep studying that for a while. I don't have to move on to McDermott right away. As I mentioned previously, I am also enjoying Jonathan Lear's delightful Aristotle: The Desire To Understand.

I am also tempted to read W. Norris Clarke's The One And The Many, which is his take on Thomistic metaphysics – especially if it is anything as exciting as Lear's book. But while inspired by St. Thomas, it's not St. Thomas himself, and I want to learn from the master before the disciple.

If I had infinite time, I would read McDermott's SPW, Davies, Clarke, Irwin and Fine's Aristotle: Selections, and McDermott's Summa Theologiae: A Concise Translation.

But then Jeanne Follman of Aquinasblog went with Davies + McDermott's STACT: “I settled on the Brian Davies book The Thought of Thomas Aquinas. This is still the best summary I've seen, rigorous but readable, and the one that I think brings you closest to the sense of the text of the Summa itself. The Summa Theologiae, A Concise Translation, has also been a key resource, as it is the text of the Summa itself (abridged) in a somewhat perkier translation.”

But then on the other hand, Romanus Cessario's Theological Studies review of McDermott's STACT is, while positive, somewhat more measured: “When one chooses an abridgement of a classic, one does not expect to find a faithful rendition of the original. An abridgement gives us some idea about whether or not we might like eventually to pick up the unabridged version, even in translation. As an abridgement, M.'s volume deserves commendation.”

Decisions, decisions.

I guess I'll order McDermott's SPW and study that for a while; if I get bogged down, I may enlist the help of Davies. After a couple of years of this, I might check out Aristotle: Selections or The One And The Many - either of which would be a challenging but satisfying read. Or I may instead do more Aquinas, i.e., STACT.


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