Sunday, May 9, 2010


As I finally approach the end of St Bonaventure's Sentences commentary I'm thinking about what to do next (besides all the other projects currently on the table!). First in line, of course, are to finish the Ordinatio, continue with Faber and my Petrus Thomae project, and start thinking about how best to cannibalize my dissertation for future publications. But then what to do with my down time?

One thing I'm considering is to go back to St Thomas and read the Aristotelian commentaries I never got to. The ones that have been waiting for me on my shelf for some years now are the "little physics" and "little soul" treatises, De caelo et mundo, De generatione et corruptione, Metorologicorum, De sensu et sensato, De memoria et reminiscentia. None of these are terribly long, compared for instance with the much longer and more significant ones that I've already read, but together they add up quite a project. I don't think I've read the Aristotelian treatises themselves since my undergraduate days, so no doubt it's time to visit them again.

I was poking around my library tonight and in the introduction to the Marietti edition of St Thomas' commentary on the Physics the editors say, Sublimitas doctrinae et coarctatior stylus opera Aristotelis fere impervia discipulis faciebant; unde iam ab antiquo explanationibus seu commentariis exornata sunt; their sublimity of doctrine and their cramped style have rendered the works of Aristotle almost impervious to students; whence from antiquity they have been adorned with explanations and commentaries. The first part is certainly true: Aristotle is neither easy nor fun to read, unlike Plato, who is nearly always a delight, even if you're not sure you're completely understanding him. As I've said many times before, St Thomas' commentaries on Aristotle's major works did more to introduce me to good philosophy at a tender age than anything else, with the possible of exception of his Summa contra gentiles, which was like a revelation to me. No doubt I would enjoy returning to the format after a long absence. The last time I read one was quite a few years ago now, when I was about to take a graduate course on the Physics. The summer before classes started I reread St Thomas' commentary, which struck me later as very nearly a bad idea, at least to the extent that it rendered the course very dull, since I learned far more from Thomas directly!

One other project I've been considering is to give a careful study to St Thomas' and Bl Scotus' commentaries on the Metaphysics simultaneously, taking them book by book. I'm pretty familiar with both works, having read Thomas' commentary several times (in translation and long ago) and Scotus' straight through once, while studying parts of it in serious depth (book IX was heavily featured in another graduate course and I wrote my MA thesis on two questions out of book VII). But I have no doubt there's a great deal still to be learned from each, and I'm sure comparing them side by side would be fascinating. It'll have to wait, though, since Faber will never let me hear the end of it until I've finished the Ordinatio.


Brandon said...

I think the De Caelo and De memoria commentaries definitely repay reading; although the former is also fairly difficult. But the simultaneous reading of Aquinas and Scotus on the Metaphysics would be just plain cool.

Matt said...

In the Renaissance at least, St. Thomas was frequently called "The Expositor." It was an important way of thinking about him found among non-Dominicans and non-Thomists, who were often lay natural philosophers. I'm sure your readers would love to hear your ongoing thoughts about both the "what" and the "how" of Thomas Aquinas as Aristotelian commentator. Great news!