Book Review #2: Saint Thomas Aquinas

  1. McInerny, Ralph, ed. 1998. Thomas Aquinas: Selected Writings. New York: Penguin Classics.
  2. Pegis, Anton C., ed. 1948. Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas. New York: Random House.

This is my second book review, and both of my book reviews so far have been about more than one book. If this trend continues, perhaps I should start calling each one a “Books Review,” hahahahae.

No, that last thing was not a typo; it was how the ancient Romans indicated laughter; seriously! Anyways…

These two books are both collections of writings by Saint Thomas Aquinas.

McInerny 1998 is one of my favorite books that I own. It has so much content in it, covering so many topics. The texts and excerpts featured in this book span much of the life of the Angelic Doctor (as Aquinas is often called), from his early days as a university student to the final years of his life.

The prefatory remarks included by the editor before each excerpt are very much needed, and at times very informative. However, there are many places where more should have been said. Furthermore, at times I wish the editor would have introduced some explanatory footnotes.

I don’t know. I guess the danger of reading St. Thomas for leisurely reading is that you sometimes find yourself spending up to five hours during your little brother’s back-to-back baseball games trying to figure out St. Thomas’ (Aristotelian) metaphysics. I have since then taken a course on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, and I remember that about once a week during that class something would click inside my head and I would suddenly understand some phrase or comment or idea of Saint Thomas.

Altogether, it has been a very enjoyable read so far, and I plan to continue reading it piecemeal for years to come.

The same is true for the other book listed above: Pegis’ Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas. It was required last year for a course in Medieval Christian Philosophy. This book only features content from the Summa Theologiae and the Summa Contra Gentiles, and seems to focus on Saint Thomas’ contributions to philosophy, while only touching upon the most basic elements of his theology.

The translation at times uses unnecessarily bizarre phrases, such as saying ‘this must needs be said’ rather than a more sensible choice like ‘this needs to be said’ or ‘this by necessity must be said.’ The first time, I though it was a typo. But then I kept noticing this peculiar phrasing like once every couple of pages. Maybe these were day-to-day English expressions that have since fallen into disuse??? I have no idea, but the point is that it can be a little confusing at times for the reader.

However, this book is still very useful if you want to study Saint Thomas Aquinas’ contributions to Medieval Christian Philosophy. Since taking the course, I have used it for a couple of research-papers in other classes.And like I alluded to earlier, this book is also one that I can see myself reading in little bits and pieces over the course of several years.

I would give McInerny 1998 a score of 8.5/10; and Pegis 1948, a score of 6.5/10.