Hot Best Seller

St Thomas Aquinas: 'The Dumb Ox', a Biography of the Christian Divine (Aziloth Books)

Availability: Ready to download

The scion of a noble Italian family, Tommaso of Aquino turned his back on privilege and - to the consternation of his family - took the strict vows of a Dominican friar. G. K. Chesterton's biography views the life of this saint through the glass of the historical and revolutionary changes he brought about as one of the most influential thinkers of his day. Chesterton explo The scion of a noble Italian family, Tommaso of Aquino turned his back on privilege and - to the consternation of his family - took the strict vows of a Dominican friar. G. K. Chesterton's biography views the life of this saint through the glass of the historical and revolutionary changes he brought about as one of the most influential thinkers of his day. Chesterton explores the nature of the Gothic revolution and Aquinas' place in it, contrasting him with St Francis of Assisi - a near contemporary - and finding their differences 'complementary'. St. Dominic, Albertus Magnus and St. Bonaventure all figure in the tale, with Chesterton's famed wordplay and sense of fun giving a light touch to a work that has been described by Aquinas scholar Etienne Gilson as "without comparison the best book ever written on St Thomas. Nothing short of genius can account for such an achievement."


Compare

The scion of a noble Italian family, Tommaso of Aquino turned his back on privilege and - to the consternation of his family - took the strict vows of a Dominican friar. G. K. Chesterton's biography views the life of this saint through the glass of the historical and revolutionary changes he brought about as one of the most influential thinkers of his day. Chesterton explo The scion of a noble Italian family, Tommaso of Aquino turned his back on privilege and - to the consternation of his family - took the strict vows of a Dominican friar. G. K. Chesterton's biography views the life of this saint through the glass of the historical and revolutionary changes he brought about as one of the most influential thinkers of his day. Chesterton explores the nature of the Gothic revolution and Aquinas' place in it, contrasting him with St Francis of Assisi - a near contemporary - and finding their differences 'complementary'. St. Dominic, Albertus Magnus and St. Bonaventure all figure in the tale, with Chesterton's famed wordplay and sense of fun giving a light touch to a work that has been described by Aquinas scholar Etienne Gilson as "without comparison the best book ever written on St Thomas. Nothing short of genius can account for such an achievement."

30 review for St Thomas Aquinas: 'The Dumb Ox', a Biography of the Christian Divine (Aziloth Books)

  1. 4 out of 5

    booklady

    This is my second complete read of G.K.Chesterton’s classic treatment of the “Angelic Doctor” – as St. Thomas is sometimes referred to – and I do not plan on it being the last. In fact, I suspect subsequent reads to be even more fruitful than this one which was a significant improvement on my introduction to the work back in the 1990’s. As St. Thomas is considered one of the greatest minds to have ever lived and his biographer, Chesterton, not a slacker himself when he puts pen to paper, the re This is my second complete read of G.K.Chesterton’s classic treatment of the “Angelic Doctor” – as St. Thomas is sometimes referred to – and I do not plan on it being the last. In fact, I suspect subsequent reads to be even more fruitful than this one which was a significant improvement on my introduction to the work back in the 1990’s. As St. Thomas is considered one of the greatest minds to have ever lived and his biographer, Chesterton, not a slacker himself when he puts pen to paper, the reader can expect to work for everything gleaned from this excellent biography—however much the author downplays the difficulty in all Thomistic writings and emphasizes the inadequacy of his own treatment. Even so, the book is a pleasure to read from start to finish, chock full of interesting tidbits on the saint, philosophy, religion, science, and a myriad of other subjects which Chesterton brings to bear on the reality of reason and fidelity of faithfulness. Étienne Gilson, the leading Thomistic scholar of the twentieth century (and someone I am struggling to even to begin to understand!) called it ‘as being without possible comparison the best book ever written on St. Thomas’. To that I can only add, it is also the most enjoyable to read and/or listen to. My husband and I were listening to the Blackstone Audio version of it and chuckling at the subtle (and sometimes not-so subtle) Chestertonian witticisms which are packed into the text like an overripe fruitcake. Pure delight! ‘Trace even the Puritan mother back through history and she represents a rebellion against the Cavalier laxity of the English Church, which was at first a rebel against the Catholic civilisation, which had been a rebel against the Pagan civilisation.  Nobody but a lunatic could pretend that these things were a progress; for they obviously go first one way and then the other.  But whichever is right, one thing is certainly wrong; and that is the modern habit of looking at them only from the modern end.  For that is only to see the end of the tale; they rebel against they know not what, because it arose they know not when; intent only on its ending, they are ignorant of its beginning; and therefore of its very being.’

  2. 5 out of 5

    Graychin

    Chesterton has only a few things to say about Aquinas, really, but that’s the way it is with all his books: the ostensible subject is most of the time fondly neglected for the atmosphere surrounding it. And while from most writers behavior of this sort would be intolerable, from Chesterton, somehow, it’s better than tolerable; because almost no one else is this fun to read. Chesterton’s Aquinas is no vague hypothesizer of miniature angels traipsing about in Nana’s sewing kit, but the champion of Chesterton has only a few things to say about Aquinas, really, but that’s the way it is with all his books: the ostensible subject is most of the time fondly neglected for the atmosphere surrounding it. And while from most writers behavior of this sort would be intolerable, from Chesterton, somehow, it’s better than tolerable; because almost no one else is this fun to read. Chesterton’s Aquinas is no vague hypothesizer of miniature angels traipsing about in Nana’s sewing kit, but the champion of common sense philosophy, out to rescue medieval Christendom from the slow creep of Platonism, and to return it – with some help from Aristotle – to an affirmation of the reality and value of the material order, and a reasonable sense of our place within it. My grasp on medieval philosophy is perhaps a little rusty, but I recall enough to know that Chesterton is simplifying things. I also know that the compellingly baited hooks of our own “age of uncommon nonsense” (Chesterton’s phrase) are sometimes difficult not to swallow. Nonetheless, this is a bright, bracing book and it’s got me excited to pick up some of Chesterton’s other titles again.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Joe Dantona

    This isn't a biography; it is an adventure story! Of course, Chesterton would have scoffed at calling this small book a biography in any case. But what it severely lacks in biographical data (which, of course, was not the author's aim) it makes up for in immense creative use of certain significant events in the great saint's life. Between dinner with St. Louis and his arguments against the Augustinians, to choosing the life of a poor Dominican monk instead of following the rich life of an abbot s This isn't a biography; it is an adventure story! Of course, Chesterton would have scoffed at calling this small book a biography in any case. But what it severely lacks in biographical data (which, of course, was not the author's aim) it makes up for in immense creative use of certain significant events in the great saint's life. Between dinner with St. Louis and his arguments against the Augustinians, to choosing the life of a poor Dominican monk instead of following the rich life of an abbot supplied by his father; G.K. Chesterton gives no short supply of wonderful and exasperating examples of who this large man (who was no doubt much larger on the inside than he was on the outside) chose to be against every outside influence. In the face of the Manichees, of Plato, of all culture and irrationality and misused tradition; yes, even in the shadow of the great accidental determinist St. Augustine himself, Thomas Aquinas boldly (but always humbly, so humbly as to hardly be matched) proclaims the universality of reason, the love of God, the beauty of the cosmos, and the gorgeous but deadly free will of man. Before much time passes at all we realize that it is no longer Aquinas who stands in the shadow of Augustine, but Augustine and the whole Church who stand in the valley below the feet of the great giant, the feet of the 'Angelic' Doctor who hardly spoke of his angels, who saw something (or Someone) which made all his writings as straw. We meet a man in these pages who raised the long-dead champion of rationale, Aristotle himself, from the grave, and proceeded to baptize him into the faith. We meet a man who would stop at no boundary in his quest for truth, who would passionately defend against insane and unimaginable errors. We meet a man who contrasts so with all the saints, all the history of the Church herself, that he fills all history with his hugeness. We are introduced, as if at a quiet dinner party (perhaps, we think, the very same party with St. Louis and his French friends), to a man who could touch the stars and the moons with his very mind, and who would treat you as if you were Christ Himself, who would wash your very feet if only you would allow it. In this book, this small and inconceivable book, G.K. Chesterton reveals all this. And what he has opened is a floodgate, momentarily blockaded by a post-it nailed to a door, but unleashed again with all the fury and calm and strength of the Genesis Flood.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Chesterton has spoiled me with this enchanting story of the remarkable personality of St. Thomas Aquinas.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tom LA

    I listened to the audiobook. This was my first Chesterton, and I surely am going to read as many of his other books as i can. Such a natural gift for writing in a spontaneous colloquial tone and a cheerful, clever wit that never switches off. The book is a brief outline of St. Thomas Aquinas' life, a bit of a high-level comparison with St. Francis, and, in the last few chapters, a broad but passionate look at St Thomas' theology, its sublety, its power, and an attack on Martin Luther, who, among I listened to the audiobook. This was my first Chesterton, and I surely am going to read as many of his other books as i can. Such a natural gift for writing in a spontaneous colloquial tone and a cheerful, clever wit that never switches off. The book is a brief outline of St. Thomas Aquinas' life, a bit of a high-level comparison with St. Francis, and, in the last few chapters, a broad but passionate look at St Thomas' theology, its sublety, its power, and an attack on Martin Luther, who, among other things, burned the Summa Theologia. In the author's words, on the map of Thomas' intellect, Luther's map is so small you would struggle to see it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Barrow Wilfong

    Chesterton is always a roller coaster ride to read. I read somewhere that he dictated all of his writing to a secretary with no revising. While this does prove what an amazing genius Chesterton is, it also helps to understand why you feel as though you are racing around inside his head, plucking one idea out of another. His turns of phrases are fantastical and are so well stated, sometimes hard to understand, but mostly proverbs that leave you thinking, "Yes! That is very true and I never thought Chesterton is always a roller coaster ride to read. I read somewhere that he dictated all of his writing to a secretary with no revising. While this does prove what an amazing genius Chesterton is, it also helps to understand why you feel as though you are racing around inside his head, plucking one idea out of another. His turns of phrases are fantastical and are so well stated, sometimes hard to understand, but mostly proverbs that leave you thinking, "Yes! That is very true and I never thought about it that way." While this is a life of Saint Thomas, an actual chronology of the saint's life is quite minimal. What the bulk of substance is about is a critical analysis of St. Thomas' theology compared and contrasted with St. Augustine's and also later Martin Luther's. Mostly, though, it is like all of Chesterton's literary essays, which are a comparative and contrast to the Spirit of the Age, which dares to call itself rational and enlightened. Chesterton is a Catholic, through and through, and while I don't hold that against him, I must confess I am more in Augustine and Luther's camp than Aquinas'. I would not mind reading another biography or at least a book about Aquinas' doctrines to get a better idea of how well supported his theses are.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    I started reading "Aquinas: A Beginner's Guide" by Edward Feser around the same time as this. Though I haven't finished Feser's book yet (I'm a little more than halfway through), I like his book much better than Chesterton's. It seems like Chesterton spends too much time talking about stuff that isn't very important to Aquinas or his philosophy or his theology. Had he spent less time going after Luther (just one of his many "rabbit trails"), he could have spent more time explaining the philosoph I started reading "Aquinas: A Beginner's Guide" by Edward Feser around the same time as this. Though I haven't finished Feser's book yet (I'm a little more than halfway through), I like his book much better than Chesterton's. It seems like Chesterton spends too much time talking about stuff that isn't very important to Aquinas or his philosophy or his theology. Had he spent less time going after Luther (just one of his many "rabbit trails"), he could have spent more time explaining the philosophy of Aquinas. Maybe so many people have given this book five stars because they haven't compared it with what a good introduction to a person's thought should look like. Comparing Chesterton's book to Feser's puts Chesterton's work in its proper light: as a sub-par introduction to the man's thought. But surely someone will find this criticism unjustified. After all, Chesterton is writing with a broader scope than simply the *thought* of Aquinas. Granted, Chesterton focuses much more on the person of Aquinas and his surrondings. Chesterton is writing more of a biography and Feser more of an introduction to his philosophy. So how can I still fault Chesterton? Because of a quote by C. F. J. Martin that Edward Feser notes in his book: "If we want to study Aquinas we should pay him the compliment of treating as important what he thought of as important. To study Aquinas as Aquinas is a poor piece of flatter, since Aquinas cared very little for Aquinas, while he did care for God and science." Martin is correct and for this reason Chesterton's biography feels lacking and subpar. Understanding Aquinas requires understanding more than simply the fantastical tales of his loins being girded by angels or of the time he levitated or what a humble and quiet man he was. If this is most of what you know about Aquinas, you don't really know much about Aquinas, at least not anything important. I doubt anyone will finish reading Chesterton's book and have a good grasp of Aquinas's worldview (unless of course they already had that understanding prior to reading Chesterton). What they will have is a lot of stories about how Aquinas was larger than life and how much Chesterton can't stand Protestants. Mostly a poor flattery.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Monica Aho

    I am a huge Chesterton fan, and I've been wanting to read more about the men and women of faith who have come before us. This seemed the perfect book to fit the bill. I WISH, however, that I was far more well-read than I am, and that I had actually read St. Thomas Aquinas' work first. I own a copy of Summa Theologica, but it's rather daunting, and I have to admit that I've never taken the time to delve into it. Chesterton assumes you already know the work - this book, although it claims to be a I am a huge Chesterton fan, and I've been wanting to read more about the men and women of faith who have come before us. This seemed the perfect book to fit the bill. I WISH, however, that I was far more well-read than I am, and that I had actually read St. Thomas Aquinas' work first. I own a copy of Summa Theologica, but it's rather daunting, and I have to admit that I've never taken the time to delve into it. Chesterton assumes you already know the work - this book, although it claims to be a biography, is more of an analysis of the man as revealed through his work. It doesn't delve deep into his philosophy or theology, but it does paint a picture of him assuming that the reader already KNOWS his philosophy and theology. And also knows alot of other things - like the writings of Aristotle, Plato, and Pliny, to name just a few. Chesterton writes for the "every man" of his day, who, I'm finding, was much more well-educated in the classics than the "every man (or woman)" of today. That said, I DO plan on going back and reading Aquinas' work. His central premise was logic and reason applied to faith, something I feel is often missing in today's Christianity.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Chesterton at his most anti-pomo. The last two or three chapters alone worth the price of admission. Devastating, absolutely devastating. They are also the chapters that do the bulk of explaining Thomistic philosophy; beyond that most of it is autobiography, but for that reason, might even be good for the high school student. That said, Chesterton gives some amazingly good descriptions of Luther the Augustinian monk; that's my guy. Of course, he's wrong, quite wrong, that Luther was against the u Chesterton at his most anti-pomo. The last two or three chapters alone worth the price of admission. Devastating, absolutely devastating. They are also the chapters that do the bulk of explaining Thomistic philosophy; beyond that most of it is autobiography, but for that reason, might even be good for the high school student. That said, Chesterton gives some amazingly good descriptions of Luther the Augustinian monk; that's my guy. Of course, he's wrong, quite wrong, that Luther was against the use of the reason or will, but a bit closer to home when he says it was a matter of emphasis in many ways. Some stereotyping and fanciful historical broadstrokes, but you need those every once in a while to be able to go beyond facts to the invisible logic that joins those facts together; it's called 'history'.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Noah

    This is certainly not a biography but more of a love letter to a revival of Thomism against modernism. Chesterton's biting sarcasm can grow tiresome, but one clearly picks up on his affection for Aquinas. The latter sections of he book are helpful for grasping the basics of Aquinas's ontology. Good introductory reading for Aquinas before digging into a monster like the Summa.

  11. 5 out of 5

    David Saxon

    I've now read Heresy, Orthodoxy, and Saint Thomas Aquinas, desperately trying to enjoy Chesterton. He is so oft-quoted and admired. His writing is witty, elegant, and powerful (rhetorically). Unfortunately, I find myself rarely agreeing with him. His Catholicism dominates his reasoning. This was especially true of Aquinas. Chesterton presents Aquinas' recovery of Aristotle as a rescue of the Incarnation and the goodness of God manifest in creation from the negativity and hyper-spirituality of Au I've now read Heresy, Orthodoxy, and Saint Thomas Aquinas, desperately trying to enjoy Chesterton. He is so oft-quoted and admired. His writing is witty, elegant, and powerful (rhetorically). Unfortunately, I find myself rarely agreeing with him. His Catholicism dominates his reasoning. This was especially true of Aquinas. Chesterton presents Aquinas' recovery of Aristotle as a rescue of the Incarnation and the goodness of God manifest in creation from the negativity and hyper-spirituality of Augustinianism. He then says Luther and the Protestant Reformation abandoned Aquinas' view and returned to Augustine's Puritanical vision of total depravity. He compared Calvinism to Manicheeism, saying that these are two major systems that make God the Author of evil by viewing the created order itself as hopelessly corrupt. I found his entire discussion fundamentally wrong-headed. While there were many brilliant insights and clever witticisms, the main point of the book was, I believe, just flat wrong.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Celia

    I did not know much about Aquinas before I read this book. I should not have started with this one. One reviewer stated this is not a typical biography. I agree. Maybe because of that and not knowing much about Aquinas, I could not really get engaged with the book. I am not going to rate it because GK Chesterton is a Catholic icon. However, if I did, I would give it 2 stars... Just OK.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Fr.Bill M

    This is one of the most "accessible" treatments of the Great Catholic theologian ever written, and Chesterton's insights into his character and his impact on the development of Christianity and Western culture are invaluable. Read this before reading anything else about Aquinas.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Taylor Marshall

    This is, hands down, the best biography of Thomas Aquinas ever written. I recommend that all students of Saint Thomas Aquinas read this bio by Chesterton!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kirk Lowery

    I must admit that I had high expectations of this book. G. K. Chesterton has a huge reputation as a writer. Since he was a devout Catholic, I expected an excellent book on Thomas. I was disappointed. First, the author does not give a coherent narrative of Thomas' life. He makes many references to events and people of the 13th century (a good thing), but he expects the reader to already know about them. You will get a great deal more out of this book if you have already read an encyclopedia articl I must admit that I had high expectations of this book. G. K. Chesterton has a huge reputation as a writer. Since he was a devout Catholic, I expected an excellent book on Thomas. I was disappointed. First, the author does not give a coherent narrative of Thomas' life. He makes many references to events and people of the 13th century (a good thing), but he expects the reader to already know about them. You will get a great deal more out of this book if you have already read an encyclopedia article on both him and the 13th century. The book is really a hagiography of Thomas, a series of meditations about the man, his life and his thought. It is uncritically complimentary of Thomas, and only filled with praise of him, even or especially when noting his flaws. The writing style, while entertaining, chases rabbits everywhere. The self-deprecating authorial voice is very loud and annoying. For a journalist and popular writer, he is remarkably unwilling to get to the point. However, the chapters "The Approach to Thomism" and "The Permanent Philosophy" are worth reading, and I thought them to be very helpful on understanding what Thomas the Philosopher is all about. In the last chapter, sadly, Chesterton descends into partisan propaganda, railing (very unfairly, in my view) against Martin Luther as the very opposite of Aquinas; he even calls Luther a barbarian, evidence of his rhetorical intent. Thomas himself would have chided Chesterton for his incivility and unfairness. If you are looking (as I was) for an entry-level introduction to Aquinas, look elsewhere. Josef Pieper's "A Guide to Thomas Aquinas" would be a good place to start.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jon Stout

    G. K. Chesterton’s biography of Thomas Aquinas is so defensive and sarcastic in tone that it does not seem realistic. Chesterton’s arguments repeatedly take the form that St. Thomas was neither this extreme (Platonic, mystic, Buddhist, Hegelian) nor that extreme (Aristotelian. Manichean, Muslim, pragmatic), where the extremes range all over the board, including many never known by St. Thomas. The saint always occupies the middle ground of common sense and the essence of Christianity, according t G. K. Chesterton’s biography of Thomas Aquinas is so defensive and sarcastic in tone that it does not seem realistic. Chesterton’s arguments repeatedly take the form that St. Thomas was neither this extreme (Platonic, mystic, Buddhist, Hegelian) nor that extreme (Aristotelian. Manichean, Muslim, pragmatic), where the extremes range all over the board, including many never known by St. Thomas. The saint always occupies the middle ground of common sense and the essence of Christianity, according to Chesterton. The defensiveness is not Aquinas’s, but seems to be the result of trying to show his relevance to modern concerns. I was interested in knowing how Aquinas was influenced by the Jewish Maimonides and the Muslim Averroes, but we are only told that the saint was so good as to listen to them. The fleshing out of Thomas’s personality was enlightening to me. Characterized as the “Dumb Ox” by his classmates, Thomas came alive as a particular philosophical type, the stalwart, tenacious arguer, not unlike Socrates, but with less irony. Also there is a surprising resemblance to Martin Luther. The discussion of Dominicans and Franciscans was useful in providing a context for St. Thomas’s life. With regard to his philosophical positions, I would be more interested in learning about Aquinas on his own terms, when he is not battling 20th century preconceptions.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Rush

    I know this is a highly-respected work, and I do respect it. The union of Thomas Aquinas and G.K. Chesterton is a Dream Team-like pairing. Chesterton indeed sets out to do precisely what he aims to do: an anecdotal bird's-eye survey of key moments in Aquinas's life and thought combined with terse practical suggestions on what to do with Aquinas's philosophy. The issue, though, if such an issue exists, is Chesterton accomplishes his goal: he even admits it is not a thorough, authoritative treatme I know this is a highly-respected work, and I do respect it. The union of Thomas Aquinas and G.K. Chesterton is a Dream Team-like pairing. Chesterton indeed sets out to do precisely what he aims to do: an anecdotal bird's-eye survey of key moments in Aquinas's life and thought combined with terse practical suggestions on what to do with Aquinas's philosophy. The issue, though, if such an issue exists, is Chesterton accomplishes his goal: he even admits it is not a thorough, authoritative treatment of either Aquinas or his life. Thus, I don't fault Chesterton (certainly I have no authority to do that); I simply agree with his own appraisals of its shortcomings (though "intentional limitations" is probably more accurate). If one has never read anything by or about Aquinas, this will be an engaging (if somewhat verbose, even in its overall brevity) introduction to him, filled with eye-opening moments: his high-born status and relations, his personality, the conflicts in which he participated, and a few more I shan't spoil for you here. If you are familiar with Aquinas, this is worth reading at least once for Chesterton's philosophical appraisals. For protestants with an uninformed view of how Chesterton feels about Luther (not highly), this is also worth checking out. Plenty of reasons for anyone to read it, limitations and all.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sherwood Smith

    Chesterton is interesting even when I disagree. I picked up this book in hopes of a clearer picture of who Aquinas was. As it happens, very little is known about the details of his life, though he was related to half the big guns of the 1200s. He wanted to be a friar, rather than a monk (with an abbey and maybe higher as his assured post)--nowadays most won't discern the difference, but it seems to be akin to someone chosing to work in a soup kitchen, when the relatives want to make you the CEO Chesterton is interesting even when I disagree. I picked up this book in hopes of a clearer picture of who Aquinas was. As it happens, very little is known about the details of his life, though he was related to half the big guns of the 1200s. He wanted to be a friar, rather than a monk (with an abbey and maybe higher as his assured post)--nowadays most won't discern the difference, but it seems to be akin to someone chosing to work in a soup kitchen, when the relatives want to make you the CEO of a high profile charity organization. When I first looked at the book, Chesterton was giving a word picture of a medieval banquet in Paris, which in those days was in the midst of its Gothic building under the fervent eye of St. Louis, and on the strength of those two pages I bought the book off a used rack. Well, there is scant detail of that sort, but a great deal of fascinating insight into medieval thinking, especially about being and non-being, and how Aquinas reshaped contemporary thought. There is also a lot of comparison with St. Francis, who was briefly popular during the sixties and seventies as various media types tried to strip away his inconvenient Catholicism and remake him into a stoned and wandering flower child.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    This is a perfect book for someone like me: a lapsed but still interested Catholic who could never keep Aquinas and Augustine straight. Chesterton packs more theology and philsophy into this slim volume, and makes it much more accessible, than any massive tome on same subject. I don't think I've ever read any thing that combines brevity and challenging ideas like this book. It's confirms my belief that all such books should be written by intelligent laymen instead of academic specialists. And he This is a perfect book for someone like me: a lapsed but still interested Catholic who could never keep Aquinas and Augustine straight. Chesterton packs more theology and philsophy into this slim volume, and makes it much more accessible, than any massive tome on same subject. I don't think I've ever read any thing that combines brevity and challenging ideas like this book. It's confirms my belief that all such books should be written by intelligent laymen instead of academic specialists. And he's a marvelous stylist, to boot, with a devilish, droll wit in his voice. The best compliment is that this book has now motivated me to read the Dumb Ox himself, and I've already picked up two volumes of his works. (As a little sidenote: it makes a neat companion to Eco's The Name of the Rose. I ended up reading both together, Chesterton in the morning, Eco at night, and they dovetail in all sorts of intriguing ways, each shedding monastic light on the other. If you're looking for a fun reading project, give it a try.)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bobbi Martens

    Chesterton may not make the life of Aquinas crystal and simple like we might expect a biographer to do, but he does illuminate much about the character and the philosophy of the man and make it very graspable. At the end of this book, I am not floundering for a light switch or buried under heaps of heavy intellectual thoughts. Chesterton has made me think clearly and in a new way in more than one place, and has made me smile in dozens; and he done so while teaching me about one of the greatest m Chesterton may not make the life of Aquinas crystal and simple like we might expect a biographer to do, but he does illuminate much about the character and the philosophy of the man and make it very graspable. At the end of this book, I am not floundering for a light switch or buried under heaps of heavy intellectual thoughts. Chesterton has made me think clearly and in a new way in more than one place, and has made me smile in dozens; and he done so while teaching me about one of the greatest minds I've ever read and some others along the way. I like this little book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Sometimes very hard to follow. This was my first Chesterton book. He's incredibly smart and from what I've read about him, a very versatile and deep author. However, as much good information as he put in this book, he got very rambly and off-topic, and it took him a while to bring the topic around to being relevant to St Thomas, making it hard (for me at least) to follow. You might need to do some homework before you read this book...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rick Davis

    I like the fact that even when Chesterton gets his facts wrong (as he does often when dealing with Augustine or anything about the Reformation) his ideas are still right. This was also a great book for getting random insights into Dante, who relied heavily on St. Thomas.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Noah Goats

    Having just finished reading (and very much enjoyed) The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius, I felt ready to dig into medieval thought a little bit. G.K. Chesterton's slim biographical sketch of Thomas Aquinas, it turns out, was not quite what I was looking for. What I hoped for from this book was a succinct sketch of the saint's life and a summary of his philosophy. What Chesterton gave me was a hundred pages of unfocused wandering where Chesterton seemed to talk about whatever he wanted to Having just finished reading (and very much enjoyed) The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius, I felt ready to dig into medieval thought a little bit. G.K. Chesterton's slim biographical sketch of Thomas Aquinas, it turns out, was not quite what I was looking for. What I hoped for from this book was a succinct sketch of the saint's life and a summary of his philosophy. What Chesterton gave me was a hundred pages of unfocused wandering where Chesterton seemed to talk about whatever he wanted to while occasionally making reference to Thomas Aquinas.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sam Strickland

    Chesterton’s style can be rambling, but he still gives a nice romp through Thomas’s life considering every anecdote we have about him as true. Despite his loose dealing with the historical material, there are flashes of insight throughout that are worth reading.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Gilbert Keith Chesterton—semi-officially known as “the oft-quoted G. K. Chesterton”—would have us believe this little volume is a sketch or an outline of Thomas Aquinas’ life and thought. It’s difficult for me, however, to classify this book as anything even roughly resembling a biography. Chesterton clearly places Aquinas in thirteenth-century Italy and France; otherwise, however, he mentions only one specific date or year in the entire book (and not until page 141!). There’s no real chronology Gilbert Keith Chesterton—semi-officially known as “the oft-quoted G. K. Chesterton”—would have us believe this little volume is a sketch or an outline of Thomas Aquinas’ life and thought. It’s difficult for me, however, to classify this book as anything even roughly resembling a biography. Chesterton clearly places Aquinas in thirteenth-century Italy and France; otherwise, however, he mentions only one specific date or year in the entire book (and not until page 141!). There’s no real chronology. Some friends and enemies are mentioned by name, but most are not. Nor does Chesterton provide an orderly introduction to Aquinas’ philosophy or theology, though he comes closer in the former case than in the latter. Chesterton wends his way to and fro in Aquinas’ thoughts, sometimes jumping ahead of himself, sometimes doubling back. A systematic introduction this is not. If anything, Chesterton has written an extended homily. Using Saint Thomas’ life and thoughts as his pericopal text, he seeks to outline the moral values and intellectual motifs necessary for a working, vibrant Christian theology. Chesterton repeatedly extols Thomas’ “common sense” approach to Creation as fundamental to a theology that can take hold in the popular mind. It’s only with a firm assurance in the created, objective world that chief Christian dogmas like Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection provide any real theology. Thomas’ moral virtues, especially his humility and honesty, are necessary for appraising and responding to differing opinions in a way that speaks to one’s opponents. It was Thomas’ attempts to introduce Aristotelian modes of thinking into a medieval theology dominated by various forms of Platonism that brought him to the attention of the wider church and, for good or ill, defined much of the Roman church’s theology until this very day. In broad strokes, never distracted by too much specificity, Chesterton describes Thomas’ “Baptism of Aristotle” and the conflicts it engendered within the church’s establishment. Chesterton is appropriately awed by the Saint’s desire to get at the heart of everything, but he is too quick to dismiss the critics of Thomist Scholasticism. “Of some of the [later] Scholastics we can only say that they took everything that was worst in Scholasticism and made it worse.” He implies that no one was up to the task of carrying on Thomas’ work. He never even raises the question whether the Aristotelian basis of Thomism has inherent flaws apart from its practitioners’ skills. Finally, it’s always worth noting that any of Chesterton’s writings are full of delicious, memorable turns of phrase, e.g., “As a matter of fact, it is generally the man who is not ready to argue, who is ready to sneer. That is why, in recent literature, there has been so little argument and so much sneering.” There’s good reason for Chesterton being oft-quoted.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    Chesterton's biographical sketches of people are really beyond compare. I can't imagine a better read about Aquinas. His lumbering, slow, and massive person was clearly observed juxtaposed with Chesterton's wry wit and sparkling scenes. St. Thomas's interruption of the French king's party in Paris even made me want to stop talking and stare at him in surprise (and I wasn't even talking!). I also appreciate the examination of Aristotelian thought against that of the Platonists who thrived just be Chesterton's biographical sketches of people are really beyond compare. I can't imagine a better read about Aquinas. His lumbering, slow, and massive person was clearly observed juxtaposed with Chesterton's wry wit and sparkling scenes. St. Thomas's interruption of the French king's party in Paris even made me want to stop talking and stare at him in surprise (and I wasn't even talking!). I also appreciate the examination of Aristotelian thought against that of the Platonists who thrived just before and after St. Thomas's day. I have reassessed many of my own notions regarding these philosophic ideas and, in fact, have clarified my own viewpoint concerning the role of the material world toward spiritual life. I disagreed on Chesterton on one point regarding the ancient Greek two-dimensional icon as "dried up Platonism"-it couldn't be further from the truth. This is perhaps due to the fact that we are only recently rediscovering how the early Christians encountered their art in an extremely physical manner that Aristotle and subsequently, St. Thomas, would have approved of. This was also the thought (Thomistic) that inspired Gothic architecture. I appreciated Chesterton's reinterpretation of "progress" as a succession of one generation rebelling against the thought and patterns of the one which preceded it, noting that this tendency eventually ends badly because people lose sight of what they are actually rebelling against. He writes: "That is the modern habit of of looking at them [previous ages] only from the modern end. For that is only to see the end of the tale; they rebel against they know not what, because it arose they know not when; intent only on its ending, they are ignorant of its beginning; and therefore of its very being." What he spells out is that the most recent age is really only a reaction to the previous one, eventually this causes a very serious problem when we lose sight of those things which originally informed truth. We lose the good in the attempt to replace everything with the new and novel. This St. Thomas Aquinas biography was published after another work Chesterton produced about the life of St. Francis. He often make comparisons between the Dominican Aquinas and the Franciscan St. Francis...he shows that rather than one or the other, when both traditions come together we see the fullness of faith rather than a strict adherence to the tendencies of one camp versus the other.

  27. 4 out of 5

    paul

    Chesterton begins with a disclaimer that the book is a general panorama of the life, ideas, and writings of St. Thomas. He should have put the pen and paper down after the disclaimer. This book falls very very short of any hagiography and is plagued by agenda, opinion, and cheap shots at institutional threats to the Catholic Church. G.K. inserts snarky introductions and comments that characterize the tone of a hot tempered layman defending his religion, especially in chapter 7 The Permanent Phil Chesterton begins with a disclaimer that the book is a general panorama of the life, ideas, and writings of St. Thomas. He should have put the pen and paper down after the disclaimer. This book falls very very short of any hagiography and is plagued by agenda, opinion, and cheap shots at institutional threats to the Catholic Church. G.K. inserts snarky introductions and comments that characterize the tone of a hot tempered layman defending his religion, especially in chapter 7 The Permanent Philosophy. Upon reading his biography of sorts on St. Francis of Assisi, I was spurred to read his take on St. Thomas. Yes, I must recognize that I enjoyed the bits on the early life of St. Thomas, the Dumb Ox and learned how he "baptized" Aristotle into the church, simultaneously brushing me up on Aristotle and his ways of logic, realizing that the book is polluted with many general statements in dire need of specific statements– ironic. While reading I grew progressively frustrated that I was stubbornly pushing through the book. As Chesterton quotes the Dumb Ox, "it is generally the man who is not ready to argue, who is ready to sneer" I sense G.K. sneering rather than seeking a decent presentation of the saint himself rather than inserting critiques of the culture and society of his time. DOMINI CANES.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Chesterton's writing is a wonder. You can see his brilliantly intelligent mind, I mean, good grief, some of the stuff just took too much out of me to try to understand, so I'd pass through with my eyes glazed, but some of it was so crisply simple that you could tell it took someone really smart to say it that way. And FUNNY. I learned about the medieval era and mind, very nice indeed. I learned about Aquinas and I like him. I think I wondered if he were even a Christian before I read this, so I' Chesterton's writing is a wonder. You can see his brilliantly intelligent mind, I mean, good grief, some of the stuff just took too much out of me to try to understand, so I'd pass through with my eyes glazed, but some of it was so crisply simple that you could tell it took someone really smart to say it that way. And FUNNY. I learned about the medieval era and mind, very nice indeed. I learned about Aquinas and I like him. I think I wondered if he were even a Christian before I read this, so I'm so glad to get him vindicated in my own mind. Now I have respect for and am in awe of him, as I should have and be.One thing, though. Chesterton was a bit rough on poor Martin Luther, probably because he burnt Aquinas's books. It sort of glared to me that Luther had not one virtue and Aquinas had not one flaw. He said the Augustinians emphasized "the impotence of man before God, the omniscience of God about the destiny of man, the need for holy fear and the humiliation of intellectual pride, more than the opposite and corresponding truths of free will or human dignity or good works," that "emphasizing the one was to flatly contradict the other." Well! duh! For centuries the opposite and corresponding truths were the only ones emphasized! But, enough about that. I enjoyed the challenge to my own narrow Augustinian, Lutheran viewpoint.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Julie Davis

    Read this for our July book club. It did a great job of forcing me to read Chesterton's nonfiction, which has always eluded me when I've tried it before. Until the very end, when he was summing up Aquinas's philosophy I enjoyed the book a great deal. I am sure the end was praiseworthy as well, I was just not mentally prepared enough. It seems to me that Chesterton assumes a level of knowledge of Aquinas's life and work which is just not a standard in these modern times. For my own part, I know a Read this for our July book club. It did a great job of forcing me to read Chesterton's nonfiction, which has always eluded me when I've tried it before. Until the very end, when he was summing up Aquinas's philosophy I enjoyed the book a great deal. I am sure the end was praiseworthy as well, I was just not mentally prepared enough. It seems to me that Chesterton assumes a level of knowledge of Aquinas's life and work which is just not a standard in these modern times. For my own part, I know a little, but I felt it was a very little as I occasionally had to hang on for dear life, pulling meaning from context rather than facts. That is not to say that the book wasn't good, but it did mean that I will be reading another book to actually get a more linear biography of Aquinas's life. I foresee many pleasurable rereadings of this book, which I am sure will reward me increasingly each time. Also, I really appreciate this book for forcing me to come to grips with Chesterton's nonfiction, as I mentioned above. In particular, I am looking forward to reading his commentary and biographical writing about another "new" classic favorite of mine ... Charles Dickens.

  30. 5 out of 5

    T.E.

    And BAM. Chesterton writes like a waterfall or a thunderstorm; he is grand and brilliant and he doesn't take things slow. I could almost see him gesticulating as he wrote, shaking his head, waving his hands, making satirical expressions at the folly of the Materialists. He's one of the best and brightest, and he's got personality coming out of the ass. A word on the book. It's a trifle misleading--that is, it's hardly a biography. Chesterton could hardly do something confined solely to dates and f And BAM. Chesterton writes like a waterfall or a thunderstorm; he is grand and brilliant and he doesn't take things slow. I could almost see him gesticulating as he wrote, shaking his head, waving his hands, making satirical expressions at the folly of the Materialists. He's one of the best and brightest, and he's got personality coming out of the ass. A word on the book. It's a trifle misleading--that is, it's hardly a biography. Chesterton could hardly do something confined solely to dates and facts. Not that he doesn't use facts--in abundance--but I feel that merely retelling a story without any grand denunciations of this or that logical fallacy, without any passages of triumph or agony, would torment him. So this is more of an explanation of Thomas's philosophy as regards theology, highlighted with stories or sketches of his life, rather than a chronological detailing of his life. However. Don't let that put you off. It was quite honestly a joy to read, and possessed of that healthy contempt for the fallacies--not the people, but the misconceptions--of the modern world which I find very refreshing. Brilliant as usual.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.