"Thoughts on Aquinas By Catholic 'Insider'"
a review by Carroll Quigley in The Washington Sunday Star, 23 April 1967,
of two books:
THOMISM IN AN AGE OF RENEWAL,
by Ralph M. McInerny.
Doubleday: New York, 1967
Philosophy in Process. Vol. 2: 1960-1964,
by Paul Weiss
Southern Illinois University Press: Carbondale, 1967
Washington Sunday Star
April 23, 1967
"Thoughts on Aquinas By Catholic ‘Insider’"
THOMISM IN AN AGE OF RENEWAL.
By Ralph M. McInerny.
207 pages. Doubleday. $4.95.
PHILOSOPHY IN PROCESS. Vol. 2: 1960-1964.
By Paul Weiss.
Southern Illinois University Press. 731 pages. $25.
When the new, 50-volume,
bilingual, version of the works of Aquinas began to appear, The Times
Literary Supplement asked scornfully, "Who reads Aquinas?" The belief
that no one does is shared by Professor McInerny of Notre Dame, but,
unlike the anonymous reviewer, he has no scorn and has written a slim
volume to persuade philosophers to return to the "Summa Theologica." It
is doubtful that his intelligent, well-written, but parochial, little
volume will achieve its aim. It shows a deep understanding of the crisis
through which the teaching of philosophy is now passing in Roman
Catholic colleges, but it is written inside the family, will be read
only by the few already converted in that small group, and will present
many puzzling pages to outsiders.
The trouble is that McInerny, intelligent and well-read as he
certainly is, has been inside the family of American Catholic academic
philosophy too long and is too much at home in its concepts and
vocabulary to be able to communicate easily with those for whom these
modes of expression are alien.
He would like the members of this family, who are now wandering off
into the novelties of contemporary analytical, existential, or
semanticist philosophy, to return to the conceptual and verbal modes of
Thomism. He is unlikely to succeed, or even to obtain much of a hearing,
because he is not sufficiently aware of two things: (1) That Thomas'
philosophic vision of the nature of God, man, and reality must be
separated from the culturally-determined, Greek-inspired, conceptual and
verbal forms in which it was embodied; and, (2) that, once that is done,
some of the weaknesses of that vision (largely resulting from these
parochial, culture-bound forms of expression) can be remedied.
The chief of these weaknesses of form and expression are rooted in
the limitations of Greek two-valued logic, which, by excluding any
middle ground between rest and motion, made it logically impossible to
pass from one to the other and made most Classical thinkers reluctant to
deal with time, change, or other continua; this forced philosophy into
extremist poles, such as idealism vs. materialism or thought vs. action,
which gave scholastic Christian philosophy a weakness which made it
insufficiently flexible to deal with the dynamic qualities of 17th
century science, 19th century evolutionism, or 20th century social
The appeal of Teilhard de Chardin in recent years has rested
precisely on this quality: that his writings, however confused or vague,
did introduce dynamic and, above all, evolutionary elements into the
hierarchial outlook Catholics had inherited from medieval Christian
thought. If Thomism is to have any significant message for "an age of
renewal," it must seek to replace the contemporary view of reality,
which is dynamic and chaotic, by an outlook which is hierarchic and
dynamic (probably evolutionary), for the fundamentally static quality of
Thomism makes its very great merits and meaning unacceptable to an age
which is in full revolt against Greek logic and metaphysics. The value
of Thomism to an age of renewal will be demonstrated by someone who
recognizes that these Greek elements which bind Thomism to a specific
(and now obsolete) culture-context are not intrinsic to it and must be
removed to make it sufficiently general to fit the needs of philosophy
today. McInerny, with all his talent and good will, has not done this.
The second volume of "Philosophy in Process" by Prof. Weiss of Yale
consists of his random thoughts over four years. A less than complete
examination of these jottings impressed me with the idea that they were
fully contemporary, as chaotic in content as in presentation, and were
addressed very largely to a private audience made up of those who have
read his earlier book, "Modes of Being." Since I am not one of that
audience, I cannot fairly judge the content of this new volume, but it
seems to be a representative example of that growing phenomena, the
non-book, once defined as "a volume whose only unity rests in its