Resources on Thomism

What is Thomism?

What is a Thomist? This is a hotly debated topic, and one that is probably not helpful to put too much stress on. 

An all too easy answer to this question would be to say that Thomism is the body of doctrines espoused by St. Thomas, especially the ones that set him apart from his medieval contemporaries and defined his followers as a school. Here is a short list by way of illustration of some of Aquinas's most controversial doctrines among scholastics:

This way of defining Thomism, which was epitomized in the approval of the "24 Thomistic Theses" in 1914, is much too restrictive and somewhat circular. Thomism is definitely not a well-defined and fixed body of doctrines. It is much more like Wittgenstein's thread, where no fiber (of doctrine in this case) carries through the entire length and, yet, the thread exhibits an observable unity (PI I, 67). 

Similarly, Thomism cannot simply be defined by doctrinal proximity to Aquinas. Many Thomists, especially in modern times, are probably further from him in doctrine than, say, Albert the Great, Bonaventure, or Scotus. All these medieval thinkers thought that the basic building blocks of the sublunary realm were the four elements, that the Earth was the center of the universe, that the angels moved the celestial bodies in unchanging orbits by telekinesis, that the heart was a sense organ, and so on. Yet, it would be very strange to say that any of them was a Thomist. Ultimately, then, being a Thomist to some extent depends on considering oneself a Thomist as a necessary, but not sufficient condition. It is also important to note that the level of doctrinal agreement with Aquinas and familiarity with his work that leads one to say, that person is a Thomist, varies quite a bit between eras and, even today, within different subdisciplines or contexts.

Provisional definition: Thomism can provisionally be defined as a broad movement that embraces a host of different schools and independent thinkers since the death of St. Thomas (1225–1274) and which is broadly characterized by the Thomist's strong familiarity with the writings of St. Thomas and a belief that, in some way, these writings are normative for the Thomist's own thinking in a way that sets the Thomist off from others who are not classified as Thomists.

Context matters: Whenever we classify a thinker by putting him or her in a certain school, we do so primarily in order to distinguish him or her from other schools. Thus, classifying someone as a "Thomist" is, first and foremost, contextual. In the Middle Ages and, by extension, in the field of medieval studies and in the modern scholastic tradition, if someone is called a Thomist, it is primarily by way of contrast with a Scotist or an Ockhamist or nominalist (usually Franciscans). Sometimes it is also intended to contrast a Thomist with a Suarezian, though, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, it was more common than today to see Suarezianism as a Jesuit variety of Thomism distinct from the Dominican variety. The primary areas of dispute in these medieval or scholastic debates are (1) the unicity of the substantial form, (2) the nature of prime matter, (3) the distinction between essence and esse, (4) the analogy of being, and (5) the problem of universals.

In the context of mainstream Anglophone metaphysics, however, the theories in reference to which someone is classified a "Thomist" are not Ockhamist or Scotistic, but theories, in metaphysics, such as bundle theory, fourdimensionalism, and realism about possible worlds, or, in ethics, such as consequentialism, deontology, and emotivism. The criteria for being a Thomist in reference to such theories will, obviously, be very different from the criteria for being a Thomist in reference to Ockham or Scotus.

Some Contemporary Schools of Thomism and Paradigmatic Members

Some Contemporary Schools of Thomism and Paradigmatic Members

Below is a brief overview of the different contemporary "schools" of Thomism. The following categorization is admittedly oversimplified, but sufficiently informative nonetheless for beginners looking to figure out the general landscape of contemporary Thomism. Readers will notice that some of these schools overlap, and the fact that a thinker is in one school does not necessarily mean he or she is not in another school as well. Moreover, many thinkers (the vast majority) don't fall cleanly into any category. Those who do are normally the founders of that school. Readers should note that I've had to coin some new designations for the various schools in order to cut reality at the joints. Readers will also note that this division, while not ignoring doctrine, is primarily sociological, not doctrinal.

Analytic Thomism: This form of Thomism is characterized primarily not by any of its doctrines, but by its main interlocutors or debate partners. Analytic Thomists are engaged in dialogue with mainstream Anglophone philosophers of the last hundred or so years (loosely speaking, "analytic philosophers"). Because of its dialogue partners, analytic Thomists tend to employ the logical tools and idiom of mainstream anglophone philosophy. Just as "analytic philosophy" is used as a catch-all label for very different groups, the same goes for "analytic Thomism."

Analytic Thomism is also characterized, in part, by a strong interest in philosophy of religion and theology ("Analytic Theology"). See for instance, Eleonore Stump's The Image of God (2022), Atonement (2018), Wandering in Darkness (2010), Brian Davies's An Introduction to Philosophy of Religion, The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil (2006), and Tim Pawl's In Defense of Conciliar Christology, vols. 12)

Aristotelian Thomism: This broad collection of schools is characterized by seeing a very close proximity between the thought of Aquinas and of Aristotle and in emphasizing the importance of form and substance in Aquinas's thought, relative to existential Thomists. This form of Thomism is sometimes loosely associated with Laval, where Ralph McInerny studied, and which he described as teaching Aquinas's philosophy from his commentaries on Aristotle. This form of Thomism tends to be suspicious of (though not in principle opposed to) claims to development in Aquinas's thought, and it reads his works holistically as mutually clarifying.

Existential Thomism (taken very broadly): This title, while conventional is rather misleading. Aristotelian Thomists too talk about "existence." Existential Thomists are broadly characterized by seeing the act of being (actus essendi) as something distinct from merely being something—for instance, being a man or a dog. They tend to view Aquinas as a highly original thinker primarily because of what he says about "the act of being" (actus essendi / actus entis).

Transcendental Thomism: Joseph Maréchal, SJ; Karl Rahner, SJ; Bernard Lonergan, SJ (Most of the members of this school have been Jesuits. The school is loosely united by a common focus on epistemology and on a broad debt to Immanuel Kant.)

Phenomenological Thomism: Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, OCD); Karol Woltyła (John Paul II); Hans Urs von Balthasar. (This is a very loose category of Thomist, which may well overlap with the other categories. It is the best way to characterize Stein and Woltyła, who were both heavily influenced by Edmund Husserl and had a broad openness to other scholastic traditions, such as the Scotistic and Bonaventurean philosophical tradition.)

Books et al. about Thomism

What is Thomism? (Some Different Opinions)

Bonino, Serge-Thomas, OP. "The Thomist Tradition." Nova et Vetera 8, no. 4 (2010):869–81.

Cessario, Romanus, OP and Cajetan Cuddy, OP. Thomas and the Thomists: The Achievement of Thomas Aquinas and his Interpreters. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2017.

McCool, Gerald, SJ. From Unity to Pluralism: The Internal Evolution of Thomism. New York: Fordham University Press, 1989.

McInerny, Ralph. Thomism in the Age of Renewal. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1966.

Levering, Matthew and Marcus Plested, eds. The Oxford Handbook of the Reception of Aquinas. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021.

Vijgen, Jörgen. "What is a Thomist? The Contribution of John of St. Thomas."

White, Thomas Joseph, OP. "Thomism after Vatican II."

Thomistic Encyclicals / Magisterial Documents

Leo XIII, Aeterni Patris (1879) [The founding document of the (long) twentieth-century Thomistic revival]

Pius XI, Studiorum ducem (1923)

Vatican II, Gravissimum educationis (1965)

John Paul II, Fides et Ratio (1998)

Benedict XVI, General Audience on St. Thomas Aquinas (June 2, 2010)

Further reading:

"The Popes on St. Thomas" [Thomas Aquinas College].

Ramirez, Jacob, OP. "The Authority of St. Thomas Aquinas." The Thomist 15, no. 1 (1952): 1–109. [Basically a 100-page article of quotations.]

Lengthier Histories of Thomism

General Overview

Cesario, Romanus, OP. A Short History of Thomism. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2005.

Kennedy, Leonard, CSB. A Catalogue of Thomists, 1270–1900. Houston, TX: Center for Thomistic Studies, 1987.

The Medieval Thomists

Roensch, Frederick. The Early Thomistic School. Dubuque: Priory Press, 1964.

D'Ettore, Dominic. Analogy after Aquinas: Logical Problems, Thomistic Answers. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2019. [While not strictly a history, this book helps to carry forward Roensch's history to later medieval Thomists with regard to one of the key topics in Thomistic metaphysics.]

Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Thomism

Boyle, Leonard, OP. “A Remembrance of Pope Leo XIII: The Encyclical Aeterni Patris.” In One Hundred Years of Thomism, edited by Victor Brezik, 7–22. Houston: The Center for Thomistic Studies, 1981.

Carola, Joseph, SJ. Engaging the Church Fathers in Nineteenth-Century Catholic Theology: The Patristic Legacy of the Scuola Romana. Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Academic, 2023. [While not about the history of Thomism as such, this book looks at the history of the school of patristic resourcement centered at the Roman College in Rome, the end of which roughly coincided with the Leonine Thomistic revival and the Thomistic takeover of that same Jesuit university.]

McCool, Gerald, SJ. The Neo-Thomists. Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1994.

McCool, Gerald, SJ. From Unity to Pluralism: The Internal Evolution of Thomism. New York: Fordham University Press, 1989.

Owens, Joseph, CSsR. St. Thomas and the Future of Metaphysics. The Aquinas Lecture, 1957. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1973.

Short Chronology of Thomists w/ Links to Biographies & Bibliographies

Purpose and Methodology

This chronology is not a scientific or anywhere near an exhaustive list of authors writing in the Thomistic tradition. The dates have not been collected in a scholarly fashion, but from here and there on the internet, including Wikipedia or other reference sources. I have even simplified some of the dates for the sake of making the page more readable. This chronology is merely meant to serve as a helpful devise for visualizing and becoming familiar with some of the prominent names associated with the Thomistic "school," their relative times in history, and their affiliation with various religious orders (e.g., the Dominicans [OP], the Jesuits [SJ], and so on). I have limited this list to authors who are deceased.

For a much longer and more detailed list of Thomists, see:

Kennedy, Leonard, C.S.B. A Catalogue of Thomists, 1270–1900. Houston, TX: Center for Thomistic Studies, 1987.[For the most part, for authors coverd in this Kennedy's catalogue, I have followed his dating even though, in some cases, more accurate dates can now be given.]

What I present below is a tiny fraction of the authors listed in that work (plus authors from the twentieth century). Apart from the more well-known authors today, I have picked other ones (not entirely) at random in order to give a slight indication of the variety of the authors unknown and little studied today. Often I chose lesser known authors because of some aspect of their work or locale that stood out from Kennedy's list.

For the twentieth-century thomists, I am working on collecting links to bibliographies, biographies, and collected / complete works projects for the different authors.

Chronology of Thomists 1274–Today

Thirteenth and Fourteenth Century

Peter of Tarentasia, OP (d. 1276)

Reginald of Piperno, OP (d. 1280)

Peter of Auvergne (d. 1304)

John of Erfurt, OFM (fl. 1305)

Peter Calo, OP (d. 1310)

Bencius of Alexandria, OP (fl. 1310)

Thomas of Sutton, OP (d. 1315)

Hervaeus Natalis, OP (d. 1323)

William of Tocco, OP (d. 1323)

Conrad of Prussia (fl. 1323)

John of Parma, OP (fl. 1324)

Bartholemew of Lucca, OP (1245?–1327)

Philip of Ferrara, OP (fl. 1330)

Benedict de Asignano, OP (fl. 1339)

Gregory Akindynos (fl. 1340)

John of Naples, OP (d. 1350?)

John of Bischofsdorf, OP (fl. 1350)

Peter Roger, OSB (Clement VI) (1291–1352)

Fifteenth Century

Vincent Ferrer, OP (d. 1419)

Dominic of Flanders, OP (d. 1422)

James Arigonus, OP (d. 1435)

Louis of Valladolid, OP (d. 1436)

John Capreolus, OP (d. 1444)

John de Torquemada, OP (1388–1468)

Henry Nolt, OFM (d. 1474)

Leonard of Ragusa, OP (d. 1480)

Gerard de Monte (d. 1480)

Clement of Zoutelande, OP (fl. 1485)

John Argyropoulos (1415–1487)

Casper Grunewald, OP (fl. 1490)

Paul Soncinas, OP (d. 1494/5)

Girolamo Savonarola, OP (1452–1498)

Sixteenth Century

John of Werd, OP (d. 1510)

Francis Silvestro de Ferrara, OP (1474–1528)

Thomas de Vio Cajetan, OP (1469–1534)

Chrysostom Javellus, OP (fl. 1538)

Anothony Beccaria, OP (d. 1534)

Paul of Cremona, OP (d. 1545)

Francis of Vitoria, OP (c. 1480?–1546)

Melchor Cano, OP (1505?–1560)

Henry Benedictus, OCD (fl. 1590)

Seventeenth Century

Dominigo Báñez, OP (1528–1604)

Francisco Suárez, SJ (1548–1617)

Peter Girardel, OP (1575?–1633)

John Testafort, OP (1575?–1644)

John of St. Thomas, OP (1589–1644)

Dominic Dunant, OP (1593?–1646)

Francis Deurwerders, OP (1616?–1666)

John Baptist Verjuys, OP (fl. 1667)

Raymond Mailhat, OP (1611–1693)

Eighteenth Century

Augustine Adler, OP (1643–1712)

Ambrose Peretius, OP (1671–1712)

Paul Mary Canninus, OP (d. 1716)

Thomas-Mary Ferrari, OP (1647–1716)

John Villalva, OP (1669–1722)

John Baptist Ininger, OP (d. 1730)

Beatus Amrhyn, SJ (1655–1731)

Alphonse of the Angels, OCD (1663–1737)

Alphonse Wenzl, OSB (1660–1743)

Nineteenth Century

Joseph Kleutgen, SJ (1811–1883)

Giuseppe Pecchi, SJ (1807–1890)

Tommaso Maria Zigliara, OP (1833–1893)

Twentieth Century

Reginald Beaudouin, OP (1842–1907)

Pierre Rousselot, SJ (1878–1915)

Norberto del Prado, OP (1852–1918)

Désiré-Joseph Mercier (1851–1926)

Ambrose Gardeil, OP (1859–1931)

Joseph August Gredt, OSB (1863–1940)

Benoît-Henri Merkelbach, OP (1871–1942)

Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, OCD) (1891–1942)

Joseph Maréchal, SJ (1878–1944)

Maurice de Wulf (1867–1947) [Bibl. (Van Steenberghen 1948)]

Antonin Gilbert Sertillanges, OP (1863–1948)

Gallus Manser, OP (1866–1950)

Yves Simon (1903–1961)

Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP (1877–1964) [Bibl. (Zorcolo 1965)][Bio (Peddicord 2004)]

Marie-Dominique Roland-Gosselin, OP

Charles De Koninck (1906–1965) [Bibl.] [Collected Works]

Ignatius T. Eschmann, OP (1898–1968)

Joseph Clifford Fenton (1906–1969) [Diaries]

George Klubertanz, OP (1912–1972)

Jacques Maritain (1882–1973) [Oevres complètes, 17 vols.] [English Collected Works, 20 vols.] [Bio (McInerny, 2003)]

Etienne Gilson (1884–1978) [Bibl. (McGrath 1982)] [Bibl. EPHE] [Bio (Shook 1984)]

Bernard Lonergan, SJ (1904–1984) [Collected Works, 25 vols.]

Karl Rahner, SJ (1904–1984) [Archive] [Bibl. (März 2018)] [Bibl. of English trans.] [Collected Works (Germ.)] [Abstracts of Unserialized Essays; Theol. Invest. 1–23]

Eric Voegelin (1901–1985) [Collected Works (Engl.)]

James Weisheipl, OP (1923–1985)

Louis-Marie Régis, OP (1903–1988)

Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905–1988) [Bibl. incl. translations (Capol-Müller 2005)][Engl. bibl. of books and articles by Balthasar; books / articles on Balthasar]

Michel Labourdette, OP (1908–1990)

Fernand van Steenberghen (1904–1993)

Joseph Florent Donceel, SJ (1906–1994)

Frederick Charles Copleston, SJ (1907–1994)

Józef Maria Bocheński, OP (1902–1995)

Cornelio Fabro, CSS (1911–1995) [List of bibl.] [Bibl.] [Opere Complete]

Henry Babcock Veatch (1911–1999)

Leonard Boyle, OP (1923–1999)

Joseph de Finance, SJ (1904–2000)

Mortimer Adler (1902–2001) [Guide to Papers '14–'95 (UChic.)]

Jean-Hervé Nicolas, OP (1910–2001)

Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret (G. E. M.) Anscombe (1919–2001) [Resource page] [Bibl. (Teichmann 2008)]

Joseph Owens, CSsR (1908–2005)

Karol Wojtyła (John Paul II) (1920–2005) [English bibl. (Olzer et al. 1979); Bibl. Wikipedia]

Armand Maurer, CSB (1915–2008)

Victor Brezik, CSB (1913–2009)

Joseph Bobik (1927–2009)

Ralph McInerny (1929–2010) [Autobio] [Bibl. of books (sketchy website)]

Roberto Busa, SJ (1913–2011)

Benedict Ashley, OP (1915–2013)

Peter Geach (1916–2013)

William Wallace, OP (1918–2015) [Bibl. (Dahlstrom 1991)]

Lawrence Dewan, OP (1932–2015)

Jan Aertsen (1938–2016)

James Stromberg (1926–2017)

Leo Elders, SVD (1926–2019) [Partial bibl.]

David Burrell, CSC (1933–2023)

John F. Wippel (1933–2023)