Analytical Thomism

Analytical Thomism

Analytical Thomism is a philosophical movement which promotes the interchange of ideas between the thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas (including the philosophy carried on in relation to his thinking, called 'Thomism'), and modern analytic philosophy.

Scottish philosopher John Haldane first coined the term in the early 1990s, and has since been one the movement's leading proponents. According to Haldane, "analytical Thomism involves the bringing into mutual relationship of the styles and preoccupations of recent English-speaking philosophy and the ideas and concerns shared by St Thomas and his followers" (Haldane 2004, xii).


The modern revival of Aquinas's thought can be traced to Pope Leo XIII's encyclical "Aeterni Patris" of 1879. In the first half of the twentieth century, Étienne Gilson and Jacques Maritain, both French laymen, carried on Leo's call for a Thomist revival (Paterson & Pugh, xiii-xxiii). Both Gilson and Maritain taught and lectured throughout Europe and North America, particularly influencing a generation of English-speaking Catholic philosophers. Gilson's work in the history of philosophy received broad acclaim, exemplified in his 1936 William James Lectures at Harvard, which became "The Unity of Philosophical Experience" (Ignatius Press, 1999). Maritain complemented his philosophical work with practical politics; he served for a time as France's ambassador to the United Nations and he helped to draft the UN Declaration on Human Rights.

Recent philosophical reception of Aquinas

By the middle of the 20th century Aquinas's thought came into dialogue with the analytical tradition through the important work of Elizabeth Anscombe, Peter Geach, and Anthony Kenny. Anscombe was Ludwig Wittgenstein's student, and his successor at the University of Cambridge; she was married to Geach, himself an accomplished logician and philosopher of religion. Both had converted to Catholicism while studying at Oxford. Kenny, an erstwhile priest and former Catholic, became a prominent philosopher at the University of Oxford and is still portrayed by some as a promoter of Aquinas (Paterson & Pugh, xiii-xxiii), though his denial of some basic Thomist doctrines (e.g. divine timelessness) casts doubt on this.

Anscombe, and others such as Alasdair MacIntyre, Philippa Foot, and John Finnis, can largely be credited with the revival of "virtue ethics" in analytic moral theory and "natural law theory" in jurisprudence. Both movements draw significantly upon Aquinas.

In 2006 the Witherspoon Institute, a Princeton academic think tank, sponsored the first annual seminar for philosophy doctoral students, [ "Metaphysics, Ethics, and Politics in the Thomistic and Analytic Traditions"] . The seminar continues again in 2007, with the theme [ "Teleology and Goodness: Metaphysics, Mind and Action"] .

The field

Philosophers working in the intersection of Thomism and analytic philosophy include: David Braine, Brian Davies OP (Fordham), Gabriele De Anna (Udine), John Finnis (Oxford), Peter Geach, [ John Haldane (St Andrews)] , Jonathan Jacobs (Colgate), Anthony Kenny (Oxford), Fergus Kerr OP (Oxford), Gyula Klima (Fordham), Norman Kretzmann, John Lamont, Anthony J. Lisska (Denison), Alasdair MacIntyre (Notre Dame), William Marshner (Christendom), Christopher Martin (St Thomas, Houston), Cyrille Michon (Nantes, France), Mark Murphy (Georgetown), Herbert McCabe, John P. O'Callaghan (Notre Dame), Claude Panaccio (UQAM), Robert Pasnau (UC Boulder), Craig Paterson (Independent Scholar), Roger Pouivet (Nancy, France) Matthew S. Pugh (Providence College), Eleonore Stump (Saint Louis), Thomas Sullivan and Sandra Menssen (University of St. Thomas, MN), Stephen Theron, Denys Turner (Yale), Michael Thompson (Pittsburgh).


* For an excellent overview of Analytical Thomism see the "Introduction" in Craig Paterson & Matthew S. Pugh (eds.) "Analytical Thomism: Traditions in Dialogue" (Aldershot and Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2006). [ Introduction] .
* F.C. Copleston, "Aquinas" (Penguin, 1955).
* John Haldane (ed.), "Analytical Thomism" volume of "Monist" 80 (4) October, 1997.
* John Haldane, "Thomism and the Future of Catholic Philosophy", "New Blackfriars" 80 (938), 1999.
* John Haldane, "Faithful Reason: essays Catholic and Philosophical" (London and New York: Routledge, 2004).
* Fergus Kerr, O.P., "Aquinas and Analytic Philosophy: Natural Allies?", "Modern Theology" 20 (1), 2004.
* John Finnis, "Aquinas: Moral, Political, and Legal Theory" (Oxford, 1998).
* Roger Pouivet, "Après Wittgenstein, saint Thomas" (PUF, 1997).
* Anthony J Lisska,"Aquinas's Theory of Natural Law: An Analytic Reconstruction" (Oxford: New York, 1996).
* Pérez de Laborda, Miguel, "El tomismo analítico", "Philosophica: Enciclopedia filosófica on line" 2007 [ Article in Italian] .
For somewhat dissenting voices:
* Alfred Freddoso, [ Two Roles for Catholic Philosophers]
* Brian J Shanley, OP, "The Thomist Tradition" (Dordrecht/Boston/London: Kluwer, 2002).
* Entries by Stephen Theron in Haldane (ed.) (1997) and Paterson & Pugh (eds.) (2006).
* Entries by Shanley and John Knasas in Paterson & Pugh (eds.) (2006).

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