Published by the Center for the Study of The Great Ideas (founded in 1990 by Mortimer J. Adler and Max Weismann)
In association with the The Adler-Aquinas Institute and Aquinas School of Leadership
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Thursday, October 9, 2014

How to read the 'Summa Theologica'

In The Great Ideas Program (10 vol. 1959-1963) companion study guides to Great Books of the Western World (1st ed. 1952), one encounters the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas in the sixth reading of volume four, Religion and Theology, by Mortimer J. Adler and Seymour Cain. They write (p. 88),
"The form of exposition employed in the Summa, a style typical of the day, may be annoying to you at first.
[...]
"We suggest that, at first, you read each article exactly as it is written, starting with the objections and ending with the replies. It is usually easier to understand Aquinas' own argument, as well as his replies to the objections, if the latter have been read first. As you get used to Aquinas' thought and style, you may find it desirable to go immediately from the question in the title of the article to Aquinas' answer and arguments, and then take up the Objections and Replies. In any case, do not neglect what Aquinas says in the Replies. They often contain, in a sentence or a phrase, some of the most important insights."
If you want to give it a try, the readings are Part I, Q. 1, and Part II-II, QQ. 1-3.

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