• Aquinas: Bolinda Beginner Guides

  • By: Edward Feser
  • Narrated by: Adrian Mulraney
  • Length: 7 hrs and 35 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (143 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

One of the most influential philosophers and theologians in the history of Western thought, St. Thomas Aquinas established the foundations for much of modern philosophy of religion, and is famous for his arguments for the existence of God. In this cogent and multifaceted introduction to the great saint's work, Edward Feser argues that one 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 an indispensable resource for students, experts, or the general reader.

©2009 Edward Feser (P)2012 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

What listeners say about Aquinas: Bolinda Beginner Guides

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Excellent book marred by faulty pronunciation

Throughout this book, I never ceased to be dazzled by Feser's explication of Aquinas's thought. With lucid prose, he manages to present Aquinas's philosophy in a way that I think can be grasped by general readers, without diminishing the rigor or force of the arguments. The book sticks to Aquinas's philosophy, without covering his theology based on revelation.

After a brief survey of Thomas's life, Feser covers: Aristotelian metaphysics, natural theology (a brilliant presentation of the five ways of proving God's existence), philosophy of mind, and ethics. He shows how all of these positions are as valid now as ever and can be defended without recourse to divine revelation, if we keep in mind the context of Thomas's metaphysics as a whole.

The only drawback to this audiobook is the narration. The pace of reading is fine, and Mulraney's voice is not unpleasant in itself. But he mispronounces so many words: Aristotelian, Averroes, Leibniz, and many others. I found this pretty disturbing, as some of these words recur frequently.

Bottom line: it's a great book and well worth the download, but don't teach yourself pronunciation from this reader. Hopefully we will see more of Feser on Audible. He's really that good.

8 people found this helpful

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Good intro to Aquinas

I enjoyed the content. It's a good primer for those not familiar with Aquinas but want to get into his works.

However, little things about the narration, mostly the performer's pronunciation of Aristotelian (Aristotle-ian), kind of annoyed me.

2 people found this helpful

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A lot of merit, but bad as introduction to Thomism

This audiobook is being sold as “Beginners Guide”, and it is therefore being assessed as such. If not for the unfortunate decision of the editors to direct to be marketed in that way, I would rate it better. Such poor judgment will certainly influence my willingness to acquire other titles marketed by Bolinda. How can a work that barely mentions Summa Theologica and the concept of natural law be considered a minimally decent introduction to Thomism?

The author defends his points intelligently and elegantly, though not always in completely convincing or fallacy free manner. While I disagree with most of its conclusions, hearing it made me reexamine my beliefs in a way they now lay on more solid basis. I see no way to acquire any depth in philosophy (or in any other complex matters) other than allowing your thoughts to be challenged by people that think differently than you.

But I perceive this audiobook as completely unsuited for beginners, for following reasons:
- There is no intention here to offer a comprehensive general overview of the Thomist ideas, situate them in the cultural context, examine the influences in and out of it and point their place in the history of the western thought. For such things that are generally important for beginners, you must look elsewhere. This is just an in-depth discussion of cherry picked philosophical concepts which are relevant to the authors religious agenda. All that is completely legitimate aim for a book, but not for a beginners guide to Aquinas.
- Though the author exposes it's arguments in clear words and in logical order, what you will find there an unbroken sequence of concatenated arguments, with no quarter for those which do not have their attention 100% committed to the hearing. And if you wish to do the hearing in a reflective and critical way, which is the only way that makes the endeavor worth, you will often find yourself pausing and retroceding. In my opinion, if you are not already deep into philosophy, this title is much better suited to reading that to hearing. I believe most of the beginners will find it very dry.
- This is a defense of the Thomism by a staunch believer, with both feet stuck in the 13th century. Any opposing view to Thomism is exposed only insofar as to be most easily refuted. I think the beginners would benefit from a more critical and balanced point of view.
- The author deals with Aristotelian/Thomist thought mostly as a single block, and you may finish the book without an idea on distinctive contribution of St. Thomas built on top of its Aristotelian basis.

The author pursues two objectives. The first is to show that the Thomist conceptual bases are still an acceptable point of departure, undefeated by the passing of time. The second,is to show that the Thomist ideas, and in particular its proofs of God existence and of different aspects of the divine nature, form a body with perfect internal coherence, and with many advantages over the “mechanicist” view of the nature.

As for the first objective, the author missed the point of his foes: Aristotelian assumptions were abandoned by most of the modern scholars not because they are incoherent, but because its bloated ontology it is not necessary to account for the phenomena – it does not pass the Occam’s razor. And also because the “mechanicism” is able to obtain progress where Aristotelian/Thomist alternative strikes a dead end. As for the second objective I believe he does much better, though not perfect, job in showing the internal coherence than the advantages.

The most relevant issue with the “mechanicism” would be that the Thomist scholasticism allegedly allows to grasp the ultimate causes (God) while “mechanicism” does not. Here, the author does the same thing he sometimes accuses his opponent of doing: lists as shortcoming something that is indeed out of scope. “Mechanicism” does leave the place of the last cause vacant, and it will always be possible to fit God there. Indeed, the philosophers that brought the dominion of scholasticism to the end were mostly deeply religious people, such as Descartes and Leibniz.

One of such assumptions is the alleged impossibility of the infinite regress. There is nothing indisputable in it, and many modern scientist do indeed postulate a cyclic nature of the universe. The possibility of infinite regress does indeed nicely cohere with what we know. The author further argues for the necessity of a finite chain of necessarily simultaneous causal events, which would always begin, of course, with a divinity which sustain the functioning of the universe. For that to work, he would need to rule out one of the basic facts of our experience: that the thing that happen in past and the present have causal bearings on future.

The author goes so far in order to save the Aquinas arguments as to modify them when he notices they will not withstand the criticism as they are. The most obvious example is the proof of the existence of God from degrees of perfection. There, the author is forced to sacrifice the generality of the Aquinas’ claim to restrict it only to God’s transcendental perfections, turning it effectively in Feserian, and not Thomist, thesis. But a lot of things still remain unexplained. Why some properties require the reference to the superlative perfection and other not? Why we could not use as reference of perfection the most perfect thing we know from our immediate experience? And finally, how we can establish as reference the divine perfection our mind is not even able to grasp?

My general impression is that author, as Aquinas himself, picks the base assumptions that will allow for the pretended final conclusion. And it all becomes circularly referenced: the author departs from the final cause, which, the author admits that (at least in case of inanimate substances) must be lent by God, to prove the God as existing. And it is a large detour to come to a rather obvious conclusion: that God is able to plug all the gaps in knowledge.

For me, the existence of God is still a matter of personal belief. And maybe it is meant to be like that. If we were supposed to reach such knowledge rationally, God would have no problems in providing easily accessible evidences for it. Where the atheist may see just the lack of evidences, the Christians may see a God that values faith above everything. And faith may only exist if there is space left for doubt.

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Excellent introduction

Aquinas has always seemed hopelessly dense to me, but Professor Fraser’s introduction placed him within the Aristotelian framework in which he operated. I’ll probably have to revisit the book several times to get everything, but it did more for my understanding of Aquinas than anything I’ve ever read before.

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helpful summary of aquinas

Edward Feser writes clearly about the main points of Aquinas' thought. I can better appreciate the great writings of Aquinas as I read them.

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Aquinas certainly deserves more attention!

And Feser presents him with that value right up front. His writing is clear, concise and relatable. I loved this book! In fact, I've listened to it twice now.

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for me, too wonky too quickly

for me, too wonky too quickly. found myself needing to focus and concentrate and or rewind / re-listen too often

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Love the narrator, great voice

This book is technically dense however don't let that deter you from listening, when absorbed in tiny chunks it becomes approachable. Actually I put this on at bedtime and continually play to it over and over, for a good month now. The male narrator, a Brit has an absolutely wonderful voice, calm and measured, I find it lulls me into a fantastic sleep and I don't mean that as a negative comment. Digest this in pieces, empty your brain and pack more in a little at a time. Quite worth it.

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Great book

Really explains Aquinas 5 ways they way they are supposed to be understood and in a way that can be understood by those of us lacking in our philosophical knowledge

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Loved it ...very insightful..Mr Mulraney reading w

loved it...insightful...Mr. Mulraney reading was superb...I wish I had him as a teacher in school...in St.Thomas or any subject...I must purchase other works with/ Mulraney as narrator...thx very much!

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  • John
  • 05-23-16

Clear explanation

This book is primarily about metaphysics - which was great for me; after being taught metaphysics for a year and not making much progress this book really brought me on. The book shows how metaphysics underpins a lot of Aquinas work. The book is around undergraduate in complexity

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-12-21

Get a narrator who can pronounce the words

Is it really so hard to get a narrator who can pronounce words like "Aristotelian" properly? This is a really fascinating book which gives an in-depth introduction to Thomistic thought, and Feser is always worth reading. Unfortunately, the audiobook is completely ruined by the shoddy pronunciation of the narrator who clearly didn't do his homework. I have given an Overall rating of 4 stars based solely on the excellent content by Feser and an ability to be able to grit one's teeth at the lack of professionalism of the narrator.

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  • rezonville
  • 09-06-20

Excellent narration

Whereas I cannot claim to have understood everything which I have heard, the task of listening was made very satisfying by the truly superb narration. The author has been very well served indeed by the narrator.