Warren: “The idleness of Saint Thomas”

David Warren offers an illuminating insight into Thomas Aquinas:

“In the course of my hare chase, a very simple point came home to me. I realized why Moderns, including those who appear to be trying, cannot get much thrill from “the philosophical system of Thomas Aquinas,” nor even a purchase on it. This is for a fundamental reason, which has nothing to do with the presence of Catholic doctrine, per se. The Thomist “system” is not a system. It is open-ended. From the light of what is known, it attempts to cast on what is not known; to extend knowledge. The project is to answer reasonable questions as they arise.  Nota bene: “as they arise.”

Thomas does not “solve problems.” That is what system builders do. He answers questions, which is a much different thing. The “problematic” — I think but am not sure — is an invention of the modern imagination. It presupposes a neurotic condition, on which I will comment shortly.

The Modern Mind cannot cope with open-ended things. It requires system in a formal schematic sense; “pure” theory; a consistent & undeviating method. It demands perfection — everything, or nothing. It wants watertight divisions between subjects, & cellular divisions within each. It requires jargon, & all the rest of the machinery of abstraction. This it does not find in the Summas, but instead, brilliant rambling from one question to another, & idleness of a very high order.”

Read here.


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