Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 72:1 (Spring 2010)
Article: Reviews Of Books
Author: Anonymous


Reviews Of Books

Gregory T. Doolan, Aquinas on the Divine Ideas as Exemplar Causes. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2008. Pp. xviii + 277. 874.95, cloth.

In this volume Gregory Doolan, assistant professor of philosophy at the Catholic University of America, takes up a subject of increasing interest in recent Thomistic studies: the place of the divine ideas in Thomas Aquinas’s metaphysics. With his particular emphasis on the causal role of God’s ideas the author seeks to demonstrate that Thomas’s doctrine of divine ideas lies very near the heart of his metaphysics. Doolan largely refrains from offering evaluation respecting the theological or philosophical correctness of Thomas’s position. Rather, he is primarily concerned to offer a correct and thorough interpretation of Aquinas’s own thought. Inasmuch as Thomas’s teaching on the divine ideas is spread throughout his writings and is refined during the course of his career, this work of patient exposition is prerequisite to any critical interaction with his view. Reformed readers should be especially interested in this discussion insofar as elements of Thomas’s doctrine are frequently cited with approval in many of the standard Reformed dogmatics.

Doolan begins his study in chapter 1 with an inquiry into the meanings of the terms “exemplar” and “idea.” Broadly defined, an exemplar is a likeness of something else: “Thomas sees a dependence of an image upon its exemplar for the likeness that is present in it” (p. 2). Of course, likeness alone does not constitute something as an image. Two objects, such as two like eggs, may be alike without one being an image and the other an exemplar. Philosophically understood the exemplar is neither a member of a given series nor even the prototype of others in a given series; it is the perfect original. Following this understanding, “Thomas describes exemplars as being superior to . . . and exceeding . . . that which they exemplify” (p. 3). Furthermore, not every exemplar is perfectly imitated by its image. Thomas identifies at least three kinds of exemplars: natural exemplars (e.g., a father’s nature is the “form by which” his son bears his likeness): external exemplars (e.g., a portrait artist paints the likeness of a person based on an external model); and intellectual exemplars (which are the ideas in an artist’s mind). Any likeness or image that is produced corresponds most perfectly to the intellectual exemplar inasmuch as it is the idea of the causal agent which most properly determines the form of the image. Natural and external exemplars do not actually cause the production of their likenesses and thus are exemplars in an improper sense. Intellectual (or ideational) exemplars, on the other hand, are understood by Thomas a...

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