Summa Theologise St Thomas Aquinas Vol. 17 (Eyre & Spottiswoode 42s.) THIS seventeenth volume of the Summa Theologiae is one of sixty volumes being produced under the general editorship of Fr. Gilby, O.P. It comprises the Prima Secundae 6-17, that is, the psychology of human acts. Fr. Thomas Gilby is himself responsible for the presentation and translation of this particular volume and he is of acknowledged competence in this field.
Comparing the presentation of this translation and its notes with that published by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province in its heyday 1914, one finds the earlier translation runs more smoothly and carried with it something of the flow of the Latin. This is largely a matter of opinion and there will be many who will prefer the somewhat crisper style in which Fr. Gilby presents the thought of St. Thomas.
The notes are good and there is a glossary which could perhaps have been larger and clearer, for the inference is that this edition is for a wider and less ecclesiastical circle of readers than the older edition. Latin and English are printed on opposite pages which makes reference to the original text easier, and probably more fruitful.
St. Thomas intended this volume to lead naturally to his study of the principles of morality in S.T.la tae 18.21, and it will be obvious to the reader that together with the previous volume on Purpose and Happiness, this is a logical sequence. Appendices have been added to explain the thought of the author and to provide a kind of diagram into which one can insert the thought of St. Thomas!
The reviewer has always wondered why the Dominicans have never rewritten the Summa in the style of other works, so that the interesting method or plan of St. Thomas was changed to a more straightforward exposure. The original plan could have been kept for the more erudite students of Theology who would naturally be satisfied with nothing less than the original text of the Angelic Doctor.
It is the particular genius of St. Thomas that he approaches the problem in view dispassionately, objectively; his perfection is that he is so evidently a humble man and therefore one can readily believe in his sanctity. He has thus been a beacon of light for many generations and no serious Theologian neglects to study him.
It would be quite wrong that a study of his works, and particularly this one, should be confined to theological stduents for it has a much wider appeal. There is no judge, lawyer or legislator, or anyone concerned with the evaluation of human activities in their personal relations, who would not be better if they understood him. He has his critics, but mostly they have either not read him or have failed to understand him.
We need a modern Vonier to present his teaching in a simple intriguing almost narrative style. An important member of the Theological Commission during Vatican II said to me : "if you quote St. Thomas, some will not listen to you, but if you put forward his teaching in your own paraphrase, they will lap it up, provided you do not mention his name"!
There is more than a modicum of truth in this statement. Much psychology and most psychiatry would cease to be unhelpfully empirical and be stiffened by a touch of scientific method if their fautors would study St. Thomas. It is the happy but unscientific mode of these empirical studies to avoid, and even not to feel the need of, preliminary definition.
A course in Thomism would be to their advantage and such a volume as this would go far, once it had been clearly understood, to import accuracy into their speculations.
Too erudite for everyone, it is a book to be studied by all those who must study human behaviour.