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Stuff [Jun. 30th, 2012|08:21 pm]
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Reading alternate history is so last decade. The new thing is alternate philosophy.

S.M. Stirling can write a story about what would happen to history if a bunch of small-town Americans were mysteriously transported back to the Bronze Age? Boring! Thomas Hobbes can write a story about what would happen to political science if a bunch of hyper-individualist Englishmen were transported back to the Paleolithic!

Harry Turtledove can write several thousand pages on what would happen in a world where the South won the Civil War? Boring! Thomas Aquinas can write several thousand pages on what would happen in a world where abstract qualities are so concrete you can touch them and hold them and pile them up atop one another to form little abstract-quality-towers. And now it looks like Camels With Hammers might be writing a gritty sequel.

I would like to eventually write a rebuttal to that link, but I should examine his ideas in more detail first to make sure I'm not misunderstanding them. In the meantime, does anyone want to tell me what's up with Aquinas?

I mean, I can see many reasons to like the guy. He's very intelligent and writes well. He knows some valuable techniques, like distinguishing between two different senses of a word, much better than even many moderns. His style has a reassuring and powerful rhythm to it, even though I can't stop thinking of that passage about whether God is made of soap. He was certainly the best his own era had to offer, maybe close to the best it was possible to do in his own era.

But by modern standards, everything he says is founded either on bizarre peculiarities of the scholastic world-view, or on profound-sounding but woefully imprecise statements like "A cause must resemble its effect" or "To be immaterial is superior to being material" or stuff like that.

I know a bunch of people - including some who are not too Catholic - have a lot of respect for him, not just as good-for-his-time but as still valuable today. Would someone like to explain why, or give me a recommendation for some other material (preferably free) that explains it?

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