This page contains a list of the five best books on or by Saint Thomas Aquinas. Finding good introductory philosophy books can be difficult for two reasons. First, searching google for recommendations usually doesn’t bring up anything useful. Second, phrases like “best books on Aquinas” are ambiguous. One person may be looking for a short, beginner friendly introduction, someone else may want a comprehensive academic overview, a third person may be looking for classic works by Aquinas. This list tries to account for this ambiguity by recommending different types of books on Aquinas. Here are the best books on or by Aquinas in no particular order:
Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide – Edward Feser
One of the most influential philosophers and theologians in history, St. Thomas Aquinas was the father of modern philosophy of religion, and is infamous for his “proofs” for God’s existence. In this cogent introduction to the great Saint’s work, Edward Feser argues that you cannot fully understand Aquinas’ philosophy without his theology and vice versa. Covering his thoughts on the soul, natural law, metaphysics, and the interaction of faith and reason, this will prove indispensable for students, experts or the general reader.
The Thought of Thomas Aquinas – Brian Davies
The works of Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest Western philosophers as well as theologians of the Christian Church, are not only illuminating (for his questions as much as his answers) but surprisingly relevant to our concerns today. This book represents a long overdue modern comprehensive presentation of the total thought of Aquinas. While traditional studies of Aquinas invariably deal with either his philosophy or his theology, Davies introduces the full range of Aquinas’s thinking, relating it to writers earlier and later than Aquinas himself. The book will be of considerable interest to professional theologians and philosophers, as well as to those with particular interest in medieval thinking. It is designed to be accessible to the general reader who has no specialist knowledge of medieval thought or professional training in philosophy or theology.
Aquinas (1224-74) lived at a time when the Christian West was opening up to a wealth of Greek and Islamic philosophical speculation. An embodiment of the thirteenth-century ideal of a unified interpretation of reality (in which philosophy and theology work together in harmony), Aquinas was remarkable for the way in which he used and developed this legacy of ancient thought—an achievement which led his contemporaries to regard him as an advanced thinker.
Father Copleston’s lucid and stimulating book examines this extraordinary man—whose influence is perhaps greater today than in his own lifetime—and his trought, relating his ideas wherever possible to problems as they are discussed today.
The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas – Brian Davies & Eleonore Stump
Thomas Aquinas (1224/6-1274) lived an active, demanding academic and ecclesiastical life that ended while he was still comparatively young. He nonetheless produced many works, varying in length from a few pages to a few volumes.
The present book is an introduction to this influential author and a guide to his thought on almost all the major topics on which he wrote. The book begins with an account of Aquinas’s life and works. The next section contains a series of essays that set Aquinas in his intellectual context. They focus on the philosophical sources that are likely to have influenced his thinking, the most prominent of which were certain Greek philosophers (chiefly Aristotle), Latin Christian writers (such as Augustine), and Jewish and Islamic authors (such as Maimonides and Avicenna). The subsequent sections of the book address topics that Aquinas himself discussed. These include metaphysics, the existence and nature of God, ethics and action theory, epistemology, philosophy of mind and human nature, the nature of language, and an array of theological topics, including Trinity, Incarnation, sacraments, resurrection, and the problem of evil, among others. These sections include more than thirty contributions on topics central to Aquinas’s own worldview. The final sections of the volume address the development of Aquinas’s thought and its historical influence.
Thomas Aquinas: Selected Writings – Thomas Aquinas
In his reflections on Christianity, Saint Thomas Aquinas forged a unique synthesis of ancient philosophy and medieval theology. Preoccupied with the relationship between faith and reason, he was influenced both by Aristotle’s rational world view and by the powerful belief that wisdom and truth can ultimately only be reached through divine revelation. Thomas’s writings, which contain highly influential statements of fundamental Christian doctrine, as well as observations on topics as diverse as political science, anti-Semitism and heresy, demonstrate the great range of his intellect and place him firmly among the greatest medieval philosophers.
This list was created by following a method that I’ve found to be useful when searching for introductory philosophy books. It involves:
- browsing required reading lists on university course syllabi
- searching for books using the Open Syllabus Project
- browsing the bibliographies of articles on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- searching for recommendations on philosophy forums
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
- Bibliography for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Saint Thomas Aquinas
- Bibliography for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Thomas Aquinas
If you’d like to learn more about Aquinas, check out:
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