Jacques Maritain's

St. Thomas Aquinas


Preface to the First French Edition
The Saint
The Wise Architect
The Apostle of Modern Times
The Common Doctor


A List of the Works of Saint Thomas
Testimonies of the Popes
Encyclical Letter Aeterni Patris
Motu Proprio Doctoris Angelici
Encyclical Letter Studiorum Ducem
Encyclical Letter Humani Generis
Works About Saint Thomas


Ineffable Creator, Who out of the treasures of Thy wisdom has appointed three hierarchies of Angels and set them in admirable order high above the heavens and hast disposed the divers portions of the universe in such marvellous array, Thou Who art called the True Source of Light and supereminent Principle of Wisdom, be pleased to cast a beam of Thy radiance upon the darkness of my mind and dispel from me the double darkness of sin and ignorance in which I have been born.

Thou Who makest eloquent the tongues of little children, fashion my words and pour upon my lips the grace of Thy benediction. Grant me penetration to understand, capacity to retain, method and facility in study, subtlety in interpretation and abundant grace of expression.

Order the beginning, direct the progress and perfect the achievement of my work, Thou Who art true God and true Man and livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.


The first edition of this book appeared in 1930. It was a kind of Thomist manifesto, especially directed to the French Catholic public. In those years following the First World War, a great effort -- rendered possible by the work of some eminent thinkers in the previous generation -- was undertaken by a group of philosophers and theologians to rediscover the basic insights and doctrine through which Thomas Aquinas brought perennial philosophy to a peak, and to make them emerge, from a school tradition restricted to the intellectual preparation of clerics, into the open and global compass of contemporary thought; in other words, to make them enter the general realm of culture. I do not say to make them re-enter this realm, for, to tell the truth, the decadent Middle Ages were unable to be true to the greatest medieval Doctor; and Thomas Aquinas' thought, while illumining the Church, had no opportunity, either in the last medieval centuries or in the baroque age, to manifest its potentialities in the general movement of culture. If it is to do so in our time, this, far from being a return to the past, will be a great historic novelty, and a genuinely modern achievement. Hence the urgency with which, in those years when it was a question of removing powerful obstacles that blocked the road, we endeavored to deliver the message of the Angelic Doctor to the modern mind.

To come back to the present book, I am aware of the fact that, by reason of my particular purpose and perspective in writing it, it departs from the general rule according to which a philosopher directs his words to any reader interested in the works of reason, and not especially to those who share in his religious faith. I am only too aware, also, of the youthful emphasis and rhetoric which I could not completely eliminate in revising my text, and which appear now and then in the expression of certain basic verities. These verities, to which I cling more than ever, and which are as valid today as they were a quarter of a century ago, are all that matters, and I hope that for their sake I shall be forgiven the defects in form and style which were just mentioned. Thus it is that when Mr. Arthur Cohen kindly proposed to reprint Saint Thomas Aquinas in Meridian Books, I was happy to avail myself of the opportunity of having a new, up-to-date edition and revised translation of Le Docteur Angelique appear. I thank him cordially, too, for the final touch he and Mrs. Tommye Murphy gave to the translation.

This new edition would not have been possible without the scholarly cooperation and the affectionate devotion of my friends the Reverend Father Peter O'Reilly and Professor Joseph W. Evans. I am deeply indebted to them both for their new translation and for their complete recasting of the Appendices. These Appendices (which are now four in number) have particular importance in the volume, on the one hand as regards the testimonials which the Popes, especially since the famous encyclical of Leo XIII, have given to the doctrine and philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, and, on the other hand, as regards the controversial question, which the labor of scholars is constantly elucidating, of the list and chronology of the works of Saint Thomas. The way in which Father O'Reilly, with the assistance of Dr. Evans, has made these Appendices complete and up-to-date, has vastly improved this new edition of my book.

As a small tribute of my gratitude I am happy to dedicate it to them.

-- JACQUES MARITAIN, Princeton, April 1958

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