Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Dumb Ox Commentary Series

Recently there was great interest on this site to the announcement that the 60+ volume Latin-English edition of the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas had been put back into print by Cambridge University Press, due to popular demand.

Further to that interest, it seemed to be worthwhile to mention another series that might not be known to the less specialist or less philosophy-oriented devotees of Aquinas, and which is available from Dumb Ox Books.

This particular series, distributed by St. Augustine's Press in North America, has put back into print hard and softcover editions of St. Thomas' Aristotelian commentaries.

One might wonder why these would be of interest to a more general or theological oriented readership -- by which I mean a readership who has some interest in philosophy and is at least somewhat accustomed to reading Aquinas. Those familiar with St. Thomas and Aristotle will of course be aware of the profound relationship between the two, and the very Aristotelian basis of much of St. Thomas' own thought. Indeed, the common sentiment is that Aquinas "baptized" Aristotle.

Aquinas' commentaries on Aristotle can give a greater insight into Aquinas' own work, and also the work of one of the greatest classical thinkers. Speaking as a philosophy major by degree, Aristotle and Aquinas are fundamental in our approach to Western theological teaching, and in particular moral teaching.

Seven books exist in the Aquinas commentary series published by Dumb Ox Books, one of which is fairly recent, being rather a biblical commentary of Aquinas on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Of ths series, four in particular stand out for their importance and relevance in this writers opinion. First and foremost, in my opinion, would be Aquinas's Commentary on Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics which includes a foreword by Dr. Ralph McInerny. Those familiar with Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics will recognize some familiar theme's found in Catholic moral teaching, such as ascertaining "the good", or in the speech of St. Thomas, the "summum bonum" -- or highest good, which is God. Other themes will prove familiar and relevant as well, and if one had to choose a single book from this series, this would be it in my opinion.

The Commentaries on the Physics, the Metaphysics and De Anima would also prove relevant for those wishing a deeper insight into Aquinas's cosmology and teleology, These works form the core of Aristotle's teaching and as well as touches upon the most fundamental and well known of Aquinas' own argumentation.

The series is nicely put out, and for the scholars in the field, Bekker numbers are provided for the Aristotelian text.

These texts are (or ought to be) standard works of reference for any library of Catholic or mediaeval thought, and are a worthwhile reference for any philosopher, theologian or thoughtful Catholic for a lifetime.

I cannot but recommend this series, and these four volumes in particular.

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