February 2000By David Arias Jr.

The Failure of Modernism: The Cartesian Legacy and Contemporary Pluralism.  Edited by Brendan Sweetman. American Maritain Association. 269 pages. $15.

Rene Descartes (1596-1650), the “father of modern philosophy,” initiated an intellectual movement characterized by skepticism and anti-realism in epistemology and by relativism in ethics and politics. This ethos, which is the heart of “modernism,” is judged by the contributors to this work to be philosophically bankrupt. Instead of following Descartes’s lead, these authors are disciples of Aristotle, St. Thomas, Jacques Maritain, Etienne Gilson, Yves Simon, and others. These authors show that the traditional metaphysical, epistemological, anthropological, ethical, and political alternatives to modernism are more rational and more human than Cartesianism.

Thomas Aquinas: Selected Writings.  Edited and translated by Ralph McInerny. Penguin Books. 841 pages. $14.95.

This one-volume work is an extraordinary collection of some of the Angelic Doctor’s greatest texts. Some are taken from works that are hard to find in English, such as St. Thomas’s inaugural sermons, his Commentary on the “Sentences,” Exposition of the “Book of Causes,” Exposition of “On Interpretation,” and others. The book includes some of St. Thomas’s classic works (On the Principles of Nature, On Being and Essence, On the Eternity of the World) as well as many selections from the Summa Theologiae and On Truth. McInerny introduces each selection with a brief essay that provides a historical and philosophical context.

At the Threshold of the Third Millennium. Volume XXX of the Villanova University Theology Institute.  Edited by Francis A. Eigo, O.S.A. The Villanova University Press. 202 pages. No price given..

This work, from the Theology Institute of Villanova University, is a collection of essays on the current state of theology. The six essays describe the past and present directions of modern systematic, biblical, christological, liturgical, ethical, and feminist theological studies. This volume may be of interest to those who — while not pleased with the current state of academic theology — want a quick summary of how we got where we are and what the current state of affairs is in most departments of theology.

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