The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas by Umberto EcoThe Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas by Umberto Eco

The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas

byUmberto EcoTranslated byHugh Bredin

Paperback | October 25, 1988

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The well-known Italian semiotician and novelist Umberto Eco discloses for the first time to English-speaking readers the unsuspected richness, breadth, complexity, and originality of the aesthetic theories advanced by the influential medieval thinker Thomas Aquinas, heretofore known principally as a scholastic theologian. Inheriting his basic ideas and conceptions of art and beauty from the classical world, Aquinas transformed or modified these ideas in the light of Christian theology and of developments in metaphysics and optics during the thirteenth century.

Setting the stage with an account of the vivid aesthetic and artistic sensibility that flourished in medieval times, Eco examines Aquinas's conception of transcendental beauty, his theory of aesthetic perception or visio, and his account of the three conditions of beauty--integrity, proportion, and clarity--that, centuries later, emerged again in the writings of the young James Joyce. He examines the concrete application of these theories in Aquinas's reflections on God, mankind, music, poetry, and scripture. He discusses Aquinas's views on art and compares his poetics with Dante's. In a final chapter added to the second Italian edition, Eco examines how Aquinas's aesthetics came to be absorbed and superseded in late medieval times and draws instructive parallels between Thomistic methodology and contemporary structuralism. As the only book-length treatment of Aquinas's aesthetics available in English, this volume should interest philosophers, medievalists, historians, critics, and anyone involved in poetics, aesthetics, or the history of ideas.

Umberto Eco Professor Emeritus at the University of Bologna and is the author of many books, including Foucault’s Pendulum and Six Walks in the Fictional Woods.
Title:The Aesthetics of Thomas AquinasFormat:PaperbackDimensions:302 pages, 9 × 6 × 0 inPublished:October 25, 1988Publisher:Harvard

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0674006763

ISBN - 13:9780674006768

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Table of Contents


Translator's Note

Aesthetics in Medieval Culture

The Medieval Aesthetic Sensibility
Thomas Aquinas
The Possibility of Aesthetic Pleasure
Plan of the Research

Beauty as a Transcendental

The Problem
The Aesthetic Vision of Things
Aquinas's Texts
Modern Interpretations
Beauty as a Transcendental in Thirteenth-Century Philosophy

The Function and Nature of the Aesthetic Visio

The Problem
Medieval Texts
Aquinas's Texts
The Aesthetic Visio
Intellectual Intuition in Aquinas

The Formal Criteria of Beauty

The Texts
The Concept of Form
Proportion: The Historical Data
The Concept of Proportion in Aquinas
Claritas: The Historical Data
Claritas in Aquinas

Concrete Problems and Applications

The Beauty of the Son of God
The Beauty of Mankind
The Beauty of Music
Play and Playful Verse
The Symbolical Attitude
Universal Allegory
Scriptural and Poetic Allegory
Aquinas's Theory of Allegory
Didactic Parabolism
A Thomist Poetics
Aquinas and Dante

The Theory of Art

Art and Invention
The Ontology of Artistic Form
Artistic Form and the Aesthetic
On the Possible Autonomy of the Fine Arts
The Ambiguity of Art's Autonomy

Judgment and the Aesthetic Visio

The Function of the Aesthetic Visio
The Nature of the Aesthetic Visio


The Central Aporia in Aquinas's Aesthetics
The Dissolution of the Concept of Form in Post-Thomistic Scholasticism
Aesthetic Categories and Medieval Society
Thomistic Methodology and Structuralist Methodology