About Just Thomism

Just Thomism is the personal online journal of James Chastek, a thirty– fourty-something Catholic Thomist living just outside of Rome in St. Paul, MN with my wife, Jessica, and my children James (6/24/06) Francesca Rose (1/24/08) Felicity Josephine (12/12/11) Monika Miriam (2-11-14) and Emmanuel Cosmas (9-13-15) and Charles Magnus (1/27/17).

I have a BA from Thomas Aquinas College, and and an from MA Claremont Graduate University  and a Ph. L and Ph. D from The Angelicum.

My main interest is teaching, and I’ve taught at various High Schools since 2000. Among other things, I’ve taught Physics, Chemistry, Medieval History, Greek Classics, Latin (all levels), Theology, Algebra II, and Calculus, and I’ve been a private tutor of composition, geometry, Spanish, spelling, algebra, grammar, drawing, earth science and learning shapes and colors. I am presently an instructor in Latin, Philosophy, Theology, and the science of human personality at Chesterton Academy in Edina, Minnesota.


  1. Sea of Doubt said,

    December 28, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    This is a wonderful blog — I am the person who occasionally leaves comments about Nietzsche (alas!) and other topics, but fails to return respond adequately to your own responses (for which I apologize). This is a brave move, but much to be applauded.

    I’m leaving my email address if you would like to write to me outside of this forum — I’m better at responding that way.

  2. Sea of Doubt said,

    December 28, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    By brave move I mean your decision to put your name here.

    You can see I am terrible at navigating my way around these comment boxes.

  3. eric said,

    December 28, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Hello James!

    Are you currently studying Thomistic philosophy at university, or do you study it on your own?

  4. Gagdad Bob said,

    December 29, 2008 at 8:17 am

    Wo. Check out the big brain on James.

  5. December 30, 2008 at 6:40 am

    Just recently found your blog and have instantly become a loyal reader. I am a beginning student of Thomism. Any suggestions on where to begin? I’ve read McInerny’s guide for “Peeping Thomists”.

  6. December 30, 2008 at 7:07 am

    1.) Go to the “Library” link on my blogroll and get Sertillanges, “Foundations of Philosophy…” It’s an out of print book, but still the best. It is that rare sort of book that can teach both beginners and experts a great deal about thomism.

    2.) Go to the library at a large Catholic college and make all the photocopies you can of articles from the “Laval Theologique et Philosophique” before 1980 (It’s an English-French journal). Pay particular attention to anything written by Charles DeKoninck.

    3.) Read all the articles by Duane Berquist, and everything in Peripathetikos journal

    4.) Remember, the whole goal is simply to understand St. Thomas. The secondary texts are okay, but St. Thomas is the measure of them all. All we are looking for in the texts are certain tools that help us know what to look for in St. Thomas.

    5.) Aristotle. Just let him talk. De Anima is a particularly important work, and the first two books of the Physics are irreplaceable. Glen Coughlin’s translation of the latter is the best, and his appendices and introduction help to show how Aristotelian science is a necessary compliment to the modern sciences.

    • Ray Stamper said,

      March 24, 2010 at 6:26 am

      Dear James,
      I have been exploring the wonderful world of Thomism for the last 6 months. I have just recently found your excellent blog. I discovered your detailed plan of action for new students of Thomism (comment #6) – I will be pursuing that path. So far, I have approached the enterprise haphazardly. My focus has been upon Ettiene Gilson, Norris Clarke; but primarily Jacques Maritain. I have especially enjoyed Maritain’s “Degrees of Knowledge”. Would you mind sharing your opinion of these writers as Thomists? Am I going in the wrong direction, so far as an initial grasp of Thomism is concerned, by making my first acquaintance through these authors, particularly Maritain? Any thoughts would be most appreciated.


      Ray Stamper

      • March 24, 2010 at 12:59 pm

        Work on the habit of enjoying St. Thomas. If Maritain does this best for you now, then he is the one to read. Fulton Sheen is also a particularly good Thomist. is arguments for God’s existence and nature in “Life is Worth Living” are quite solid and stong. He might not be your thing, and you might not enjoy him. In that case, skip him and move on. Joseph Pieper is also a delightful read.

        Over time, you will gradually move closer and closer to just reading St. Thomas, and you’ll get more enjoyment out of simply reading him. That’s like the moment a ballerina gets on point- all the other training leads up to that.

        Plato is very important too, and if you don’t like him you probably won’t like philosophy very much. Read Phaedo, Gorgias, Meno, at least the first two books of the Republic… It might be better to get the books on CD. Human beings didn’t evolve to learn by looking at letters, and it’s harder for us. Good reading is like a performance from a script- it is very difficult to do on a first read.

        For tis reason, you might be better off listening to the Berquist lectures on my sidebar, and the McInerny podcasts at EWTN, which will only be up for a few more days. But again, truth comes by hearing.

    • Ryan Truss said,

      March 23, 2013 at 4:36 pm

      Hello Mr. Chastek, I’m a student at Thomas Aquinas College who’s. just discovered your blog. It looks very good! Is there anyway I could have access to the articles by Duane Berquist which you reference in this post?

      • March 23, 2013 at 5:01 pm

        There are some lectures linked to on my sidebar.

        His articles are all at the website for the center for Aristotelian Studies. It looks like it is behind a paywall now, but Dr. Decaen should be able to negotiate a price for a password.

      • johnd012033 said,

        March 23, 2013 at 5:55 pm

        To Ryan Truss,
        You received this advice: ) Go to the “Library” link on my blogroll and get Sertillanges, “Foundations of Philosophy…” It’s an out of print book, but still the best.
        I have downloaded it (Scrib’d) and re-uploaded the pdf tomy webhost, FileFactory whence it can be downloaded at no charge.


        Your fellow St. Thomas student, class of 1954; I knew Duane Berquist, Marc , and Richard H. Berquist.

  7. T. Chan said,

    December 30, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    A Thomist, Pleased to make your acquaintance!

  8. T. Chan said,

    January 6, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Just a reminder that the first volume of The Writings of Charles De Koninck is out from UND Press. (The series is projected to be 3 volumes total.)

  9. January 31, 2009 at 8:46 am

    I’m borrowing the advice left for Tim and will spend a good deal of time listening to Aristotle before wading into the Summa. You recommend Coughlin’s translation of “Physics” but whose translation of De Anima would you call the best? By the way, Gagdadio sent me a link to De Konink’s “The Lifeless World of Biology” and it is magnificent.

  10. January 31, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Well, my general advice is always that to read anything of Aristotle or St. Thomas is better than nothing, so don’t ever not read while waiting for a good translation, or because you hear scholars bicker over translation (the disputes are usually overblown). When I first read Aristotle I just used the standard McKeon translators (like Ross, Jowett, etc.) All of them are on the internet. All of them can get an attentive reader a good ways into wisdom.

    Isn’t DeKoninck wonderful?!?! All of his stuff is like that! I don’t know what I would have done without him. He was an indispensible light for me to see St. Thomas.

    The dissertations that I linked to are directed by DeKoninck too, so they bear his mark and are very much worth reading.

    • Dr. John L. Duffy, M.D. said,

      June 16, 2011 at 7:23 pm

      I am trying to contact James Chastek, the philosopher in St. Paul, where he teaches Latin at Chesterton. I am very neatly 80 years of age and just retired from psychiatric practice in Jan, 2011. I live on a farm in deeply rural Iowa, USA.
      I studied at St. Thomas Univ, St. Paul, MN from 1950-1955; I majored in Latin, which I tasught for a few years. I had 75 sem hours of philosophy under DeKoninck-trained men
      such as Oesterle, Roman Kocourek, Father DuLac. My closest undergrad friends were Richard Berquist, Donald F. Scholz, Marcus R Berquist.
      James Chastek’s father is a psychiatrist, as I was. He teaches in the Latin job I coveted. I had the teachers he longed for; my closest friend, Marcus Berquist, was the founder of Thomas Aquinas Univ in Ohai, CA, whence James Chastek graduated.

      I am hoping to get a reply from him, because we have so many similarities….and differences. I studied Aristotle / Thomas according to the older method of close-reading of the texts, many times in Greek/Latin. We studied John of St. Thomas and the De Anima for us was not an antique book.
      I still converse frequently with Donald F. Schoplz, PhD earned under DeKononck. He is emeritus at St. Benedict’s in Kansas. Presently I am reading by DeKoninck. I and Marcus used to enjoy Brahms together in my apartment in 1954.
      Marcus, who knew no German, passed in 2010 and now is conversing with Johannes Brahms, who knew no English.
      James, please dontact me: johnduffy (at) dybb.com; call (319) 448-4358 J. Duffy, M.D.

      • Dr. John L. Duffy, M.D. said,

        June 16, 2011 at 7:30 pm


        SCHOLZ, not Schopptz

        DeKononck, not DeKononck

        I am deading The Cosmos by DeKononck.
        I have founf the preface by Stanislas Cantin
        to his De Anima, of whick I have a copy still.

  11. February 1, 2009 at 8:35 am

    Thank you, James. No worries here. When you recommended a certain translation of “Physics” I wondered if you may have a favorite translation of De Anima as well. Sounds like I can’t go wrong. RE the Summa, there is little chance I won’t be reading it – I could tell right away as I actually stumbled upon Summa contra Gentiles first and couldn’t put it down. And then when I found out the Summa was the “mature and structured version”…well…

    RE De Koninck, since it was so fresh in my noggin then, I’ll repeat a little more of what I told Bob only a few hours sleep following a first read of “The Lifeless..” the evening he sent it to me: “I especially love De Koninck’s sense of humor too: ‘Let us interview out favorite elephant in the zoo..’ He is a raccoon of the highest order…”
    At the time it was the greatest compliment I could think of. I also mentioned how he reminds of Polanyi. In that lecture too are a number of good “case-closed” one-liners…which also reminds of Polanyi. But these are not delivered in any mean sort of way, they are matter-of-fact, but in a calm, confident way tell the listener that he was, in a sense, sort of silly for thinking otherwise. But this is based only on the one lecture…

  12. February 2, 2009 at 6:39 am

    If anyone wants a copy of CDK’s Hollow Universe (“Lifeless world of Bio” is one of the essays in it), e-mail me at parsimonious.phil@google.com and I’ll send the pdf (10 megs).

  13. February 2, 2009 at 7:57 am

    d’oh, that’s parsimonious.phil@gmail.com

  14. Desiderius said,

    February 3, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    Beautiful new layout! Very fitting of the kind of beauty to be found in the catalog of comments typically found on this blog.

    Although, I hope I am not intrusive in my asking if there had been, as with the change in design, a change as well in the ownership of the blog.

    I had initially thought (owing to my ignorance, of course, as to the seeming anonymity of the much eloquent J. Thomism meister then) that this same was actually a lady and, more specifically, a mother of one.

    My apologies for my presumption and continued appreciation for all the erudition characteristic of the posts found daily here.

  15. syzygus said,

    February 6, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Outstanding new look, and still as good a read as there is on the ‘net. Thanks for the reading recommendations, too. We autodidacts need that sort of love.

  16. berenike said,

    February 7, 2009 at 12:50 am

    Desiderius was not alone in thinking this a lady’s blog … my apologies!

  17. February 26, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Hello again.
    James, I received my copies of “De Anima” by Hicks and “Physics” by Coughlin. Would one be a better intro to Aristole than the other? Because one of them’s gonna be 🙂

  18. February 26, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    Read Books one and two of Physics first, several times slowly. Try to understand the distinction and necessity of matter and form in book 1, and the difference between the per se and the accidental; nature, chance and art; purpose and chance; fortune and chance; and the division of causes in book 2 (the last few chapters in book 2 that deal in more detail with the distinction of causes can be omitted for now. Stop after you read the proofs for why nature acts for an end)

    Then read all of De Anima a few times (it’s really a very short book)

    With Aristotle, it’s best not to write notes in the book as you read since they might hamper your understanding of the text when you come back to it by pulling your mind toward the things you thought before. I suggest taking notes separately. To understand Aristotle best, only take two kinds of notes at first “conclusion”, where you lay down something he concludes to, and “reason” where you give his reason for it. Aristotle has a habit of saying very obvious things that, later on, yield gigantic conclusions, and if you miss the obvious basis you’ll find yourself unable to see the massive, gorgeous conclusion he draws from it several pages or chapters or books later.

  19. Brodin said,

    February 28, 2009 at 6:55 am

    Hello !

  20. March 1, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Thank you, James. Unfortunately, somewhere in the smidgen between my question and your answer I made the fortunate mistake of picking up my all-so newly arrived copy of “The Mystical Thought of Meister Eckhart.”
    Oh my. Next thing I come-to and I’m 34 pages into it and up to my neck in the stuff. Thank God for chapter breaks. Mr. Aristotle will have to sit in the waiting room a little longer 😀
    However, until then, I’m printing out your answer and tucking it into my “Physics”…nice book mark to have with me through those.
    Thanks again, James.

  21. Agellius said,

    March 9, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Great blog. I have not failed to be fascinated every time I’ve visited over the past couple of weeks.

    I’m curious: How did you like Thomas Aquinas College? I’m thinking of sending my sons there but it’s not cheap. Was it worth every penny?

  22. peeping thomist said,

    March 10, 2009 at 8:11 am

    FYI, they have great financial aid–much better than most such colleges. Of course, the more you have the more they take, like all private colleges.

    “Most faithful Catholic colleges are also the most affordable, reports study”

    I know few grads who would say it wasn’t worth every penny and then some.

  23. Fred Boley said,

    April 4, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Really like it–keep up the good work

  24. Dr. Bill said,

    May 18, 2009 at 12:42 am

    Hi James!

    Great blog. I was wondering… I am an ER doc and am taking a MA course Philosophy of Nature. I want to write a paper that combines the course with the medical field. Do you have any suggestions on a topic and available resourses?


  25. May 18, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    There are several classic problems about the relation of medicine and natural philosophy:

    1.) In what sense does the doctor heal, and in what sense does the patient’s body heal itself? Will the answer be the same for setting a bone, giving a drug (there are diverse answers here too) and for surgery? If each contributes, is the contribution the same? If not, how is it different?

    2.) What kinds of causes are involved in the basic practice of medicine, both on the part of the patient, and the doctor?

    3.) How is the art of medicine different from a.) a fine art b.) a mechanical art or c.) the art of politics?

    • Dr. Bill said,

      May 27, 2009 at 4:05 pm

      Hi James,

      Thanks for your advice. I think I am going to explore a “philosophy of touch” using a Thomistic theory of knowledge and discuss its healing nature or power/force.

      Do you know where I can find a copy of Sertillanges’ Foundations of Thomistic Philosophy? I have tried Amazon, Abebooks, etc. to no avail.

      Or could you recommend another reference Thomistic philosophy book?

      Thanks, Bill

  26. Andrew said,

    July 4, 2009 at 1:43 pm


    I am working on a paper regarding Divine Causation and contingency of the acts of man. For example, God causes me to do x, and I also freely choose to do x. How is my choice contingent if I would not have done other than what God willed…I understand that it can be *free*, but I fail to see how it can be contingent… any help? Feel free to e-mail me if you’d like…but no big worries…I am a Catholic analytic philosopher in grad school, who is an aspiring Thomist… my email is AndrewJJaeger@gmail.com Let me know if you would be interested in discussing this, if you are too busy I understand, but I would appreciate any help (be it reference to secondary sources on the topic…I have read most of the common works of Thomas on the issue: SCG, ST, On Evil, and some others). God bless.

  27. Boreas said,

    July 28, 2009 at 8:21 am

    Hello, James Chastek.

    I am writing to you as a fellow Thomist, to inquire about the relevance of the metaphysical findings of quantum theory on the validity of Thomistic metaphysics.

    I debated an atheist/naturalist, who invoked quantum theory to disprove the notion of causality. Indeed, he believed that my Thomistic metaphysics were fundamentally flawed in that they assumed causality to be real (which he believed quantum theory had disproved).

    I saw that you are both a Thomist and familiar with physics; so I was wondering if you have any response to this or can help me with understanding this?

    I welcome you to reply to email address if you know anything that could “aid” this metaphysical conflict.

    Best regards

  28. July 28, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Let me give a short response in the first paragraph, and a longer one in the last two.

    I don’t see why the absence of causes at one level proves there are no causes altogether: which is like saying that if there is an absence of heat in this room, then there is no hot place in the universe. A discussion of causality goes as far as act does, and everyone agrees that there is very little act on the quantum level. We certainly don’t have to say that there is a per se cause of every imaginable event or occurrence. Why did the earthquake happen when I stepped in the bathtub? Why do we need to invoke anything as difficult to understand as quantum theory to recognize that causality does not extend as far as any possible event? Sheer dumb luck or coincidence makes the point far more clearly.

    Cause has a journey of meanings, as opposed to having a “hog pen” full of meanings that are neatly cordoned off. The first sense of causality is for a human being or an animal to be responsible for something happening. This sense of causality can be verified by waving your hand or watching a dog chew a stick. It is uncontroversial and cannot be denied by anyone who deserves to be argued with. The idea of agent causality in inanimate things is a bit hazier and more questionable, since inanimate beings do not have the sort of self that can act. Here already we see the first problem in talking about causality in physics from a thomistic point of view: the clearest notion we have of a cause isn’t verified in the sorts of things that physics studies. Purely natural or inanimate things do not have a source of self-motion in themselves. They are all in one way or another moved by another. When your atheist friend insisted that there were no causes on the quantum level, he was saying an important truth, but he didn’t recognize the consequence of it. There are certainly no selves on the quantum level, and therefore no selves to be responsible for action.

    But there is more than one way to fail at having responsibility for an effect that might come about. Some inanimate things can take part in this responsibility even if they cannot have this responsibility themselves. Human beings can light fires to cook food; monkeys can use sticks to snag ants; birds can make twigs into nests; and trees can use light to make sugar. Fire, sticks, and light are all used by the living here, and is channeled by it as an instrument. There is also a level of existence in nature that neither has this responsibility, nor can take part in it: for example, things that happen sheerly by chance. Things that occur at the quantum level also seem to be unable to have a complete participation in the causality of others. What we have here is a level of existence, not a refutation of causality or any dramatic such thing as that.

  29. Boreas said,

    July 28, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    But doesn’t that equal to saying that Thomistic metaphysics need not apply cosmologically and microphysically, and therefore, are invalid and obsolete?

  30. July 28, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    We are not talking about all of metaphysics, but a small part of it, causality. Now the first sense of causality is responsibility for something happening. Are you saying that my argument renders the idea that one thing is responsible for another obsolete?

  31. Boreas said,

    July 28, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    I don’t know. It just sounds like you are saying: causality may exist in our human world and level, but it may not exist on the inanimate/physical level.

    Isn’t causality an important part of Thomistic metaphysics?

    Certainly it’s an important part of the Thomistic view of Gods necessary existence and Gods nature as the uncaused cause/first cause.

  32. Andrew said,

    July 28, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    If there is causality at the macroscopic level (which, as you say, is clearly the case in giving reasons for our actions), but not at the quantum level then the macroscopic level is not ontologically reducible to the quantum level.
    Is this something that most [quantum] physicists hold, namely that the macroscopic IS ontologically reducible to the quantum?

  33. July 28, 2009 at 4:57 pm


    Well, if physicists think that the macro level can be reduced to the quantum level in the sense that real agency does not exist at the macro level because it does not at the quantum level, then they are either obtuse or lying. If reduction means that on some level of analysis it is possible to show how macro level phenomena are only manifestations of quantum ones, then there is clearly a level in which the macro reduces to the quantum- one of the main reasons we look into it is to find a principle of macroscopic action. I suspect you mean reduction in the first sense, where if A reduces to B then A is merely an appearance or illusion.


    There is not always causality at the macro level either: an indefinite number of things in nature happen by sheer chance, and much in human affairs is blind luck. To say that quantum physics shows us that nothing is responsible for anything is just silly. It might show us that there is nothing responsible for some things, but we already knew this by a consideration of luck and chance.

    More later.

  34. Boreas said,

    July 28, 2009 at 5:51 pm


    I think there is a semantic issue here – you seem to be using “causality” to mean “determinacy” or “predictability”.

    But causality just means that things in the universe rely upon other things in the universe for their own existence and form of existence. And causality as a principle means that things need physically sufficient and necessary conditions to begin to exist.

    It doesn’t mean determinism – that we can determine things causes. It doesn’t imply that we can always know -determine- the causes of things. It’s a principle about the nature of reality.

    If we affirm “acausality” in nature, we are affirming the very principle that something can happen with no cause what so ever – indeed that something can happen without living up to any sufficient and necessary conditions. As opposed to merely affirming that not all causes within the universe can be determined.

    Thus, when we abandon the principle of causality (not of determinism), what is left of this fundamental part of Thomistic metaphysics? Where goes our understanding of God as the uncaused cause? Then the universe might as well be “uncaused”, and in fact, that is the very argument propagated by “the self caused universe” models of vacuum fluctuations/virtual particles in Quantum Physics (however implausible that is).

  35. Boreas said,

    July 28, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    To explain what I mean here, I think this (impeccable) article by William Lane Craig will be greatly of help:

  36. Brandon said,

    July 28, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    If we affirm “acausality” in nature, we are affirming the very principle that something can happen with no cause what so ever – indeed that something can happen without living up to any sufficient and necessary conditions.

    Small technicality, but as stated this is not logically possible; every event has necessary and sufficient conditions, because the event itself, and collectively any components it may have, is a necessary and sufficient condition for itself. This follows from standard definitions of ‘necessary condition’ and ‘sufficient condition’. You mean, no doubt, necessary and sufficient causes; but there is no standard definitions of what those are, so it would have to be specified in the particular case. In any case, the fact that there are necessary and sufficient conditions shows that there are at least formal and material causes, so all of Thomism that deals with formal and material causes is salvageable just on the basis of that one point (and it is often forgotten that in any sort of genuine Aristotelianism formal causes are actually in some ways more central than efficient causes — our understanding of moving causes is a derivative of our understanding of formal and material causes, and efficient causation is a generalization from moving causation); and James is quite right that there is nothing impossible about something not having any proximate secondary efficient causes (a Thomist believes that anything God creates directly has no such cause, for instance). But secondary causes of any sort don’t explain existence of any sort anyway; they merely explain why something that exists changes or fails to change in this way or that. We have no notion of what a science would be that eliminated appeal to such causes completely; even quantum physics doesn’t, because it still needs to appeal to them for the macro level — there may be a quantum physical reduction of some sort possible; we don’t have it, and quantum physicists themselves are quite clear about this. Without the actual reduction, there is no way to say what a quantum-based acausalism would actually mean. Your atheist was engaging in science fiction, not philosophy (or even science). But, precisely because the physical causes we are interested in at the macro-level are not causes of existence itself, but just of change and rest of mobile material things, there’s no absolute necessity that they should be operative at the quantum level anyway, so the mere fact that we haven’t found them there isn’t a particular good reason to be an acausalist.

  37. July 28, 2009 at 8:28 pm


    Again, why is it the case if we deny some causes, that we must deny them all? I don’t see how the original objection that the atheist posed to you is anything more than this. You are conceding too much to him, like in your last paragraph, where you claim that if some things have no causes, that the universe need not have one. Isn’t this like saying that because some things are not hot, therefore fire need not be hot; or if somethings are not evil, therefore evil need not be evil?

    We are not having a semantic dispute arising from a confusion over determinism or predictably. The dispute is that I want to start with a limited but absolutely certain notion of cause where the existence of causality is evident, and you want to ascend to universal principles right away. There might be some universal sense of cause that can be verified of all things, but it is a very difficult and subtle thing that can’t simply be forced out in the open right away. Trying to lay down causal axioms is very difficult to do, and it is impossible to do in the face of a hostile audience- but you asked me to talk about causality in light of the most hostile possible audience.

    • July 28, 2009 at 8:52 pm


      The most relevant principle of causality for what you are looking for is the first axiom and its development in chapter one of the Book of Causes “”Every first cause more inflows into its effect than the second, universal cause”. St. Thomas claims that this is so for all causes in his commentary on the book. Get the atheist to concede that one, and your case is made for you. God and providence in one axiom.

  38. Boreas said,

    July 29, 2009 at 8:23 am

    I thank you for your responses. It has certainly given me some input in the matter, but I am not sure I completely understand what either of you are saying, yet. I am not a “trained” Thomist, but only really an admirer and student of Thomism (so far).

    ”Every first cause more inflows into its effect than the second, universal cause”.
    But why would he concede a first cause of anything, if indeed he believes that things could spontaneously emerge with no first cause at all? If he believes the universe is fundamentally uncaused?

    What is the relevance of this axiom exactly? It may be that I don’t understand it’s significance.

    Again, why is it the case if we deny some causes, that we must deny them all? I don’t see how the original objection that the atheist posed to you is anything more than this. You are conceding too much to him, like in your last paragraph, where you claim that if some things have no causes, that the universe need not have one. Isn’t this like saying that because some things are not hot, therefore fire need not be hot; or if somethings are not evil, therefore evil need not be evil?
    It wasn’t me who either conceded or claimed that if some things need not causes, nothing needs causes. It was rather him who invoked the Quantum Mechanical idea of a “self-caused” universe which is based on vacuum fluctuations or virtual particles arising spontaneously from the quantum vacuum, with no apparent causal explanation. This would then, in his mind, prove that the universe emerged thus spontaneously and uncaused. Some quantum physicists actually believe this proves that the universe arised like that: simply from the vacuum or void, of it’s own accord. I would think we would invoke God there, then, but then they would invoke Occams Razor: why invoke God if they claim to explain the universe as spontaneously emerging with no God “in the equation”?

    But there is an answer to that question. The answer is that the spontaneous emergence of particles from the quantum vacuum is far from uncaused; in fact, quantum mechanics _have not_ proven anything at all to be uncaused. The idea presupposes the quantum vacuum to be empty. The problem is, it is not empty: though void of matter, it is namely filled with other things, confirmed by new discoveres: “dark energy”, dark matter, gravitational fields and other entities we don’t know of. This means that at any rate, future cosmological “unitary” models will be enable us to affirm causality on the microphysical level even where quantum mechanics doesn’t affirm causality now.

    So then I ask you now – if we can show that quantum physics, in fact, haven’t proven acausality to exist at all, would that not indicate that causality _is_ universal, even if you say that is not necessary for our Thomistic principles?

    Or maybe universal causality is not specifically in favour of Thomistic principles either? Which scenario is indeed better for Thomism, if we could “choose”: acausality in the universe, or universal causality in the universe?

  39. Boreas said,

    July 29, 2009 at 8:30 am

    I suspect the distinction that you may have been hinting at, is that between “primary causes” and “secondary causes”. I am not sure I fully understand it’s significance for this debate.

  40. Ed Langley said,

    December 31, 2009 at 10:06 am

    Hey, I ran into this blog searching for an account of efficient cause and modern science… I, who am a sophomore at TAC myself, quite enjoyed the account you gave.

    • December 31, 2009 at 11:19 am

      What are you doing wasting your time here when you could be talking to John Nieto, Sean Collins, Glen Coughlin…

      • Ed Langley said,

        December 31, 2009 at 11:23 am

        I’m on Christmas break

      • December 31, 2009 at 1:22 pm

        Well, okay then.

        But next time get their e-mails. 😉

        And tell Sean Collins to post more.

  41. John said,

    January 31, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    The old ones are always the best! Many of the questions that afflicted Aristotle and Aquinas are still unresolved and this blog is a pleasant reminder of that fact. Thank you for your hard work.

  42. Maureen said,

    March 8, 2010 at 3:52 am

    Thought you might want to know that EWTN has Ralph McInerny’s Thomism series available, as a podcast, for free download during March 2010. There are 13 episodes. Scroll down to the bottom of the page:


  43. Kevin Esler said,

    May 13, 2010 at 5:07 am

    Ite Ad Thomam says they have misplaced the Sertillanges “Foundations” PDF and will take some time to replace it. Does anyone here have a copy they could share with me?

  44. May 20, 2010 at 2:51 am

    Hello, James!

    I’m a recent TAC grad (’09) and have my own blog just starting out now, Fides Quaerens Sanitatem, in which (so far) I’ve been doing mostly personal reflections and recently a series of posts on the Divine Comedy, my literary specialty. Glad to find a great blog by another TACer! It’s a big, scary world outside her hallowed halls. 🙂 Your blog’s been helping me a lot with classes at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology. Much obliged.

    I also have another side-project, more well known to Facebook users, apparently. I started a group called “The Catholic Church: Because the Beer is Just Better” my junior year (2007-2008), and it took off, now it has 1000+ members. They’re a great bunch of rowdy Catholic ladies and gents (plus a few very honest and wonderful Protestants) who like their Thomas and their Trappist ales. Good bunch.

    Anyhow, great to find this blog!

  45. danielj said,

    May 23, 2010 at 3:00 am

    1.) Go to the “Library” link on my blogroll and get Sertillanges, “Foundations of Philosophy…” It’s an out of print book, but still the best. It is that rare sort of book that can teach both beginners and experts a great deal about thomism.

    James, I was wondering if you had a pdf copy of this book that you might send to me.

    I can’t get a response from the Library website.

  46. Karin Susan said,

    June 25, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Hi, I really love your blog. I’m working on my M.Phil/Ph.D thesis in philosophy of mind, and I also incorporate Thomist philosophy into the project where it concerns the unified, integrated organism as a whole.
    Keep up the good writing!
    Best regards,
    Karin Susan Fester

  47. Will Knowland said,

    August 3, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    Hi James,

    You posted some brief thoughts about psychedelics:

    Contrast your reflections with what we read in this brief history of psychedelics, which notes that their use is becoming more prevalent as part of ‘New Age’ spirituality:

    ‘for two thousand years before its eradication by Christians in the fourth century A.D., the celebration of the Eleusinian Mysteries was the peak-experience of the ancient Greeks, a “holy institution,” according to religion historian Huston Smith, for regularly opening ”a space in the human psyche for God to enter.” After a half year of rites, the pilgrimage to Eleusis just west of Athens climaxed with the re-enactment of a sacred drama that was enhanced by the drinking of kykeon, a grainy beverage believed to contain barley ergot. Among notable initiates were Socrates, Plato, Sophocles, Aristotle, Aeschylus, Cicero, Pindar, and possibly Homer.’

    You are undoubtedly right in saying most drug use stems from a desire for oblivion, the use of psychedelics in pagan spirituality (from the Eleusinian mysteries to contemporary ‘New Age’/’Eco’ spirituality) clearly often stems from a desire for some form of quasi-religious experience. As a teacher who often has to talk with students about drug use, I’d be grateful if you would expand your penetrating but brief thoughts on this matter. I think the case can be developed along the following lines:

    1. To call drugs mind-expanding seems ridiculous: the lives and writings of the Beat Generation clearly evince that it is deeply pernicious and damaging.
    2. The type of ‘religious’ experiences induced by drug use lack the encounter with a ‘Thou’ characteristic of theistic experiences.
    3. Instead of bearing the fruits of peace, security and a greater openness to others like genuine theistic mystical experiences, the use of psychedelics and hallucinogens often issues in anxiety, paranoia and the inability to function healthily.
    4. It is obvious that drug use involves contracting an evil habit.

    Keep up the good work on your site.
    Best wishes,

  48. Jordan said,

    September 23, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Dear Mr. Chastek,

    I am trying to bring Scholastism, particularly Thomism into a forum where people can actively philosophize, easily. Please add my site to your blogroll.
    There are Forums, Video Chat, and the work in progress, resources.
    Thank you,

  49. Martin Snigg said,

    September 25, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Mr. Chastek,

    Thank you for your efforts and I’m very grateful for your links to Prof. Berquist. Fantastic lectures. Thank you again.

    • Martin Snigg said,

      January 16, 2011 at 4:33 pm

      P.s. I’m a high school science teacher and was wondering if you know of teaching aids (PowerPoints, webpage tutorials etc) that present high school science from an Aristotelian emphasis?

  50. A Young Visitor said,

    October 5, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Mr. Chastek,

    It is great to see that there is in fact something decent on the internet, especially this decent. When I see the name St. Thomas Aquinas, I do not know whether someone will slam him, or misquote a proof of God. This, however, looks like the real deal. I have only been able to take a brief look.
    I attend a funky little Catholic school in Cleveland called The Lyceum, both successive headmasters of which have been T A C graduates. They have persuaded me to attend, which I shall do, I hope, in a year. Their names are Mr. Mark Langley, and Mr. Luke Macik. You may very much want to take a look at it some time. We never seem to have enough teachers after the school’s peculiar heart.
    I found this website pokeing around the web for Mr. D. Berquist, whom Mr. Langley calls the wisest man in the world. He seems to be all over this site, and justly so.
    The one peice of advice I would give on the site is to watch the grammar with a sharp eye. Prepositions are slightly funny things to end sentences with. And they are what make it harder to take you seriously.
    God Bless,

    Andrew, Cleveland.
    Vivat Videre Antiquo Oculo.

  51. January 21, 2011 at 7:37 am

    FYI, I’m blogging again:


    You might want to re-link the Word Press URL.


  52. medicalmatins said,

    March 19, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    TAC senior here. I just found this blog on one of the campus computers. Terrific! I’m graduating this May and am looking forward to quietly continuing with St. Thomas at my own pace–this blog looks like it will be a help. Thanks for all you do.

  53. Kathleen Hubert said,

    May 12, 2011 at 5:50 pm


    I was wondering if you accept guest post for your blog. If you do, I would like to submit a few. I’m a recent college graduate, with an English major, looking to build out my portfolio. I can write on a wide variety of topics and am sure you would be happy with the quality. Please email me back if you are interested. Thank you for your time.

    – Kathleen Hubert

  54. Kevin Smith said,

    June 22, 2011 at 3:52 am

    Hi there,
    do you have any recommendations for an MA in Thomistic philosophy? Thanks

    • Robert King said,

      July 24, 2011 at 6:03 am

      Might I be so bold as to suggest the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology (http://www.dspt.edu/)? They have a very solid teaching faculty, mostly Dominicans, and access to some excellent libraries. They may not be on the bleeding edge of Thomistic research, but they are eager to give students the ability to understand Thomas, and to use his approach in engaging contemporary questions.

  55. Ray Stamper said,

    August 12, 2011 at 4:36 am

    Hi James,

    Could you recommend any works by modern Thomists (or anything you have written) which interact with the philosophy of W.V. Quine. Also, I am interested in any modern Thomistic critiques of what is widely termed the “linguistic turn”. I find that many modern philosophers are heavily influenced by both, and seem to think that one way or another; Quine’s empiricism (?) and epistemic insights, as well as the general philosophical contours of the “linguistic turn” simply render obsolete the entire Aristotelian-Thomistic program. I have studied critiques by Gilson, Maritain and others of medieval nominalism (I especially liked Gilson’s “Unity of Philosophical Experience” which seemed to do a good job of showing some unavoidable philosophical incoherence resulting from the denial of universals). I have also studied Aristotelian-Thomistic critiques of Hume and Kant. Nonetheless, I am often told that there is something about recent work by Quine, as well as insights related to the “linguistic turn” which render the A-T epistemic/ontic framework untenable – Thomists being those who cling to a naïve, outdated position which ignores “crucial” developments in philosophy over the last 60 (or so) years.

    I have spent most of my time in ancient and medieval philosophy with the idea of making a deep study of the fundamental-perennial, philosophic disputes. And, of course, there is quite a bit of literature by Thomists interacting with continental philosophers of the last several hundred years – interactions which have generally left me convinced of the soundness of the broad A-T philosophic framework. But I have yet to deeply study the maze of philosophical output within the analytic tradition over the last 100 years. The volume of work is so vast; I am hoping that some A-T philosophers have already attempted to wade through the morass (so to speak), in order to confront the alleged knockout punches to A-T realism, supposedly delivered by recent developments in the analytic tradition. I am trying to determine if the work of someone like Quine, or the work of those who champion the “linguistic turn”, have really turned up some new fundamental challenges to the A-T tradition, or whether, under all the sophisticated jargon, the alleged insights really amount to the same age disputes of ancient and medieval philosophy.

    Thank you in advance for any help you can offer,


  56. Benton Boggs said,

    September 23, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    Convert here, though not (directly)through STA but the American writer and physician Walker Percy who uses a term, “orexia” as an aspect of STA’s epistemology. But in his essay there is no notation as to the source of this ‘tool” or concept. Help!! Anyone. I am writing about Percy and don’t want to mess this up…thanks in advance for any guidance..BB….great site btw…..been here before and always learn something although most of it is way over my pointy little head.

  57. Benton Boggs said,

    September 23, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    correction: orexis, not orexia

  58. elliotbee said,

    October 27, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    I second Mr. Stamper’s desire to see Thomistic works engaging Quine.

  59. Dr. John L. Duffy, M.D. said,

    October 28, 2011 at 5:58 am

    I am Dr. John Duffy, M.D. I left a reply in June, 2011 for our mentor, Chastek, as i had felt I was vrhe last of the Mohicans. I knew Macus Berquist as undergraduate as well as his 2 brothers, Richard H & Duwayne. I also knew & still communicare with DeKoninck-trained
    Berquist-cousin Don Scholz, who taught at St. Benadict in kansas.
    I say last od the Mohicans because Marcus is dead now and dick and Don are emeritus and the “Scholastic” Philodophy we all enjoyed at the feet of Laval scholar, DeKoninck, is dead swith them, except for Thomas Aquinas in Ojai, CA. Gone are the likes of Henri DuLac, John Oesterle, Fred Flynn, Pabst, and belovèd Rpman A. Kocourek.
    The movement was there, just for us very few (chosen) students and now it is all but gone, except in Ojai.
    I had sent “Niggardly Phil” a request for “Hollow Universe” that he had offered to send if requested from his e-mail address which is no longer active (weep!) <>. Here is my note to him that was returned as undeliverable:
    Dear Phil,
    Send me a copy!
    CDK’s “Hollow Universe”.

    John L. Duffy, M.D.
    3211 Nolen Ave P.O. Box 261
    Walker, Iowa 52352-0261
    (319) 448-4358

    •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• ••
    The Cosmos (1936) by Charles De Koninck.zip
    Download now!

    Dr. Donald F.Scholz,Ph.D (Laval) \\/ from Kansas,USA.zip
    Download now!

    Rationalization in Mathematics (1946) Written for Cha’s DeKonick)
    (Dr. Roman A. Kocourek, PhD from Laval).zip
    Download now!

    Feuerbach & the Formation of the Marx Revolutionary Idea.zip
    Download no

    In-class of Natural Philosophy
    by Jno of St. Tho’s = JOANNIS Á St. THOMA
    Download now!

    • October 28, 2011 at 11:02 pm

      John: Thank you! I went to dear old Thomas Aquinas College, and these will be much perused.

  60. John said,

    October 29, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Thomism 2.0 = HBD Thomism

    Check out:


    This will be the next great synthesis

  61. Dr. John L. Duffy, M.D. said,

    October 30, 2011 at 6:48 am

    Dear John (comment of 10-29-11)
    Can you vouchsafe a wee clarification about:
    “Thomism Nº2” being a ‘human biodiversity’ Thomism?
    Just in the name of promulgating your view a bit or for
    the purpose of promoting an HBD Weltgeist, try expatiating,
    fleshing out, and expanding, rather than just assigning a long
    reading list that you know no one is going to pursue.
    HELP US! John Duffy in IOWA, USA

  62. Michael Baldwin said,

    December 3, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Excellent blog you have here!
    I’m a philosophy undergrad and am interested in reading an introductory but comprehensive and in-depth defense of an A-T approach to ethics. Which books (or preferably one book) in particular would you recommend as the best?
    I have to read on all sorts of topics so I don’t have the time to do a massive in-depth study in this area but would like a good, solid intro.

    • December 3, 2011 at 12:36 pm

      Servais Pinckaers On the Sources of Christian Ethics. Unequalled.

      Henri Grenier’s book on Ethics is the simplest faithful course, but all of these things are just guides to the main work, sc. the second part of the Summa and the third book of Contra Gentiles.

  63. Doug McCauley said,

    December 6, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    James, I just found this blog. Have you written your thoughts on predestination? I’m writing my thesis now (coming on two years late) and am looking at SCG and ST — specifically reconciling that God elects man and in so doing assures that he will have the grace necessary for salvation, with SCG III.159: “And since this ability to impede or not to impede the reception of divine grace is within the scope of free choice, not undeservedly is responsibility for the fault imputed to him who offers an impediment to the reception of grace. In fact, as far as He is concerned, God is ready to give grace to all; “indeed He wills all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” as is said in 1 Timothy (2:4).But those alone are deprived of grace who offer an obstacle within themselves to grace.” ST also briefly mentions 1 Tim 2:4 in ST Q.23, A.4, ad 3, in which he distinguishes between antecedent and consequent will.

    From Garrigou-Lagrange, the argument that you need God’s grace to receive God’s grace seems inevitable, but this little line from SCG and from 1 Tim gives pause. Does it reduce to Pelagianism to suggest that God made us, as rational creatures, as adequate to impede his grace, thereby keeping the initiation of salvation with God, but giving man more of a role than is commonly understood when secondary causality is invoked? I keep finding myself skirting around the camps of Pelagius and foreknowledge. And I’ve been told to read Molina and Suarez, but I don’t know where to start there, it all seems to be secondary texts.

    Your archives are deep, so any direction to something you may have written would be appreciated very much.

    Thank you,

    • December 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm

      There are two questions here: what do I think the authorities would say about the question and what would I say about it. The Catholic authorities divide between Pelagius and Augustine on the one hand and Thomas and Molina on the other. The first is a division between heresy and orthodoxy, the second is not. Augustine’s main wedge against Pelagius is that he simply did not understand that nature is corrupted (though I imagine that Augustine himself would draw more attention to the idea that Pelagius makes the sacrifice of Christ vain) and to take into account the corruption of human nature by sin vitiates most of P’s arguments. The Thomist account of the dispute between Thomism and Molinism is put forth in a pretty powerful way in Mac Arthur’s dissertation.

      For my own part, I think the dispute is rooted in the difficulty we have in understanding God as a cause of being as such, even if it is being that arises from luck/chance or freedom, that is, from either negative or positive indetermination. How can my winning the lottery be a necessary part of the divine providence? How can God’s intentional action with respect to being be harmonized with the real indetermination we find in being itself? If chance events have no cause, then what sense can we make of saying that they are also intended qua beings? How can intention give rise to real indetermination? The simplest answer is to divide the various orders of being, but here things become difficult: if the chance event is “really” indeterminate in one order (say, the order of nature) and really intended and instrumental in another (say, in the order of divine causality) then which order is the “real” order? Is it even meaningful to speak of a “real” order? If not, why not?

      Relate the problem of freedom to the problem of chance, since both are problems of indetermination. How can my free actions be the necessary instruments of a higher cause any more than a chance event? Is God the cause of my salvation in a comparable way to the way he is the cause of an earthquake happening when I step in the bathtub? What sense can I make of there being a “cause” of such a conjuction at all? In the case of freedom, the problem is to see how something can cause itself and yet, in precisely the same formality, also be being caused; and in another sense (chance) the problem is how there is really a cause and really no cause; that is, how can there be a divine intention that gives rise to something truly non-intentional and somehow not from another?

      Is this really a problem with articulating creation? How can God give rise to something different from himself? How can being (say, my free choice, or a chance event) be from him and not of him?

    • Chris Burgwald said,

      December 10, 2011 at 10:03 am

      (Interjecting, but hopefully not rudely…)

      On a contemporary Thomistic account of presdestination, I’d recommend Matthew Levering’s recently published _Predestination: Biblical and Theological Paths_. It might prove helpful.

  64. Vato said,

    December 10, 2011 at 11:43 am

    “”From Garrigou-Lagrange””

    Now, there’s a Thomist—the Ueber-Thomist (pro-Vichy, and…rumors are one of the bishops who consecrated Dachau)

  65. DJ said,

    December 12, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    First time on your blog and I thoroughly enjoyed your dialogue on Truth. Will be back!

  66. Martin S. said,

    December 23, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Sertillanges’ ‘Foundations of Thomistic Philosophy’ uploaded to Scribd.com. Divided the book into two halves – scanned pdf’s ~ 80 MB each

  67. Syphax said,

    January 7, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Hi James, I am not a philosopher, just a research psychologist-in-training. I recently did a post on Aquinas and psychology that I’d like a Thomist to look at. If you have the time, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it: http://valueofsaintliness.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/book-review-aquinas-a-beginners-guide-by-edward-feser/

  68. January 8, 2012 at 4:51 am

    I am 80 years of age, a retired psychiatrist, whose mentor is OTTO KERNBERG.(psychoanalyst) I live on an Iowa farm, not too far from
    the Ames-Boone area where my father’s farm was. I went to St. Thomas University, St. Paul, MN 1949-1955 and had accumulated about 76 semester hours in Aristotle/Scholasticism. My major was the LATIN language, which I taught before entering medical school; I took my M.D. degree from U.of WI, Madison, in 1964. My career was in the St. Paul area, form 1965 to 1993. I was eclectic, and prescribed psychotropics and even gave shock treatments; but patients displaying borderline personality organization are best treated with a Kohut-Kernberg type of analytic intervention that I practiced from 1973-1993.

    More to the point, the article you furnished says precious little about Aquinas. The bulk of the article enunciates your theoretical preferences
    of how your science should be conceived. I find, for instance, no mention of philosophical psychology, emanating from the DE ANIMA/ Peri Psyche. My education was pretty strictly in tune with that orthodoxy
    prevalent at LAVAL Univ, Québec or Louvain, Belgium. My teachers were: Henri DuLac, John Oesterle, Roman Kocourek. My classmate and dearest friend was the late Marcus Berquist, the founder of THOMAS AQUINAS UNIV. in Ojai, CA, which now has become the scholastic fountainhead since the death of Dr. Charles DeKoninck (1965). Marcus’ older brother, Richard Berquist, just retired from his post as the last remaining Thomistic philosopher on the St. Thomas University staff… He authored a translation of the Aquinas commentary on the Posterior Analytics… Don Scholz, my closest friend, taught at St. Benedict’s College in Kansas. He was Berquist’s cousin. Except for the activity in Ojai, the future of Thomism on the North American continent, is bleak, in my opinion.

    I would refer you to CDK’s 2-volume set of writings still available from AMAZON, in particular, the portion (1936 essay) called “The Cosmos”.
    Also, I have been uploading de temp à temps some of my old school papers.

    •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• ••
    The Cosmos (1936) by Charles De Koninck.zip
    Download now!

    Dr. Donald F.Scholz,Ph.D (Laval) \\/ from Kansas,USA.zip
    Download now!

    Rationalization in Mathematics (1946) Written for Cha’s DeKonick)
    (Dr. Roman A. Kocourek, PhD from Laval).zip
    http://www.filefactory.com/file/cc2b048/n/Rationalization in Mathematics(Kocourek,Laval).zip
    Download now!

    Feuerbach & the Formation of the Marx Revolutionary Idea.zip
    Download no

    In-class of Natural Philosophy
    by Jno of St. Tho’s = JOANNIS Á St. THOMA
    Download now!

    John L. Duffy, M.D.
    3211 Nolen Ave P.O. Box 261
    Walker, Iowa 52352-0261
    (319) 448-4358

  69. Mr B said,

    January 17, 2012 at 12:38 am

    Note: Lectures “on Logic” jumps from #5 to #7 -???
    Noticed someone mentioning the “Psychedelic” and thought this might prove interesting “Psychedelic Information Theory: Shamanism in the Age of Reason”, by James Kent
    http://psychedelic-information-theory.com/pdf/PIT-Print-Web.pdf -some might find this interesting
    I cannot locate “McInerny podcasts at EWTN (13 episodes)”, not even for purchase – maybe someway can post them?

    • January 17, 2012 at 9:34 am

      I know that EWTN only put up those McInerny lectures after his death, and they said they were only leaving them up for a limited time.

    • RP said,

      January 17, 2012 at 1:43 pm

      Mr B,

      I’ll email them to you if you want them Send me an email. Mine is:

  70. Thomas said,

    February 22, 2012 at 10:43 am

    The next great synthesis in Christianity will result in HBD Christianity:


  71. Gustave Dedronez said,

    February 25, 2012 at 1:17 am

    Please to prove the existence of God Who is a Person by reason both as existing and as being personal. This would be much appreciated!

  72. John said,

    August 26, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Mr. Chastek,
    I’m a graduate student in physics and I have a few questions related to the philosophy of nature (I guess you might call it) especially from a Thomist perspective that I haven’t been able to make much headway on in what I’ve read. I was wondering: would you would be willing to give me a little bit of help on them, or just a pointer on where to go to find more information on them? If you are, then please send me an email. Many thanks for your consideration.

  73. Michael said,

    August 27, 2012 at 11:12 am


  74. APC said,

    September 10, 2012 at 5:08 am

    Hi. Wondering if you or any other thomists know more about why St. Thomas was so intent on maintaining the “tradition” that Adam knew about the Incarnation before the fall. He mentions the tradition at least twice in his Summa (Summa II-II, Q.2, art.7 – “I answer that..”; Summa III, Q.1, art.3 – Objection 5) and I’m curious as to why the Angelic Doctor did not question the tradition itself, but maintained it as is. For him it would seem to have been Sacred Tradition because he felt the need to defend his position from this “tradition” and did not dare to question or challenge the “tradition” itself.

    I found mention of it in St. Jerome and Tertullian, but that does not seem sufficient for saying “deposit of the Faith.”

    • September 10, 2012 at 12:06 pm

      This is a fascinating pair of arguments. I’ve just put up a short response.

  75. camcintosh said,

    October 3, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    James, I noticed you removed the analytic philosopher on the Trinity post. May I ask what happened?

    • October 4, 2012 at 6:50 am

      It’s saved as a draft. There are things I liked about it and things I didn’t,and if there is anything left after I pull the two apart, then I’ll put it up again.

  76. alfredwclark said,

    January 31, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Here’s a new blog: Occam’s Razor


    It has multiple bloggers and will include topics: religion, philosophy, HBD, politics, history and economics, immigration, etc.

    We are still working on blogroll. If we do not have you added, please add us, leave comment or email, and we’ll add you.


  77. Ray Stamper said,

    February 10, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Hi James,

    When I click on the Berquist Logic audio link on the sidebar, I notice that there is no lectrure “6”. Is that intentional?



  78. Fr. O'Brien said,

    February 11, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Here’s an interesting list someone forwarded me.

    Reading List: Pro-Western Christianity:


  79. Jimi said,

    April 21, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    Hi there, my name is Jim Taddeo and your website REALLY fascinates me. I’m doing some independent research on Aquinas and the relationship between Science, Philosophy, and Religion and I’d really love if I could ask you a couple of questions in that field that you seem really informed in? My email is james_taddeo@yahoo.com, feel free to contact me obviously if you’re busy I understand. For the record, I’m not the James Taddeo with a controversial webblog. I’m searching for geniune answers from well scholars like yourself.

  80. Ryan J Brady said,

    April 23, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Great blog! I noticed before that you have some of the classes of Dr. Berquist (at least BosMutus did). Here is the link to my dropbox account that contains about 2000 of the same classes, but including some on De Anima, Metaphysics (“Wisdom”), and Theology: t.co/5ZaeOtQdzY
    If you want to put them on the sidebar, then great.

  81. May 19, 2013 at 5:39 am

    […] Chastek of Just Thomism has recently posted a personal reflection, from a Roman Catholic perspective, on contraception: A […]

  82. C. C. said,

    August 31, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    Mr. Chastek, first, I would like to say that I really like this blog and have found it to be very helpful. However, I had one quick question for you regarding the lectures on the sidebar. I would like to be able to cite these lectures in my papers, and I have been unable to uncover any information about them (date, place, etc.), which makes it very difficult to give credit where credit is due. Is there any way for me to obtain this information? Thank you so much for this, and for all you do.

    • September 1, 2013 at 10:45 am

      Longish answer, but it’s relevant to your question:

      The lecturer, Duane Berquist, is of the Laval School of Thomism, which is notorious for its authors quoting each other without attribution, not publishing outside their own unknown trade journals, and generally leaving nothing behind that can be cited. They just don’t do bibliography. I was trained in this school (and I suspect you’re more than familiar with it) and, trust me, you’re just supposed to take an idea and talk about it as though you came up with it yourself. I can take whole articles and dissertations from Laval school Thomists and show you how everything from the thesis statement, the supporting proofs and even the rhetorical style are borrowed whole cloth from other Laval Thomists (read: Charles de Koninck and Maurice Dionne) without citation. In fact, Charles De Koninck was more prolific than any other Thomist in history, but most of his work was this sort of direct-quotation-without-attribution from his doctoral thesis students, and his disciples who set up Thomas Aquinas College.

      Plagiarism, you say? Not exactly. They want you to talk like you came up with it yourself, and they intentionally disseminate their ideas in a way that ensures this. It’s a more-or-less entirely oral tradition of thomism – there is even a myth among the Laval School Thomists that Charles de Koninck wandered around Europe until he found a school of Thomists – a secret, unpublished school, of course – that could trace their doctrine all the way back to St. Thomas himself. Seriously. The crucial premise they are working from is this: that all their ideas as entirely transparent accounts of straightforward readings of St. Thomas, and so there is no point to attributing any other author – after all, all these ideas are just directly read off of St. Thomas. The professors at TAC, for example, are called “tutors” and not professors, since the mythos is that they are simply pointing out ideas that are present in a straightforward way in the texts which are read – of which the principal texts are those of St. Thomas.

      So that’s the basic problem – the people you want to cite don’t want you to give them any credit, and they are disseminating ideas in a way that ensures this. You can’t even be sure which ideas they are just citing from Dionne or de Koninck. The closest thing to a citation would be “Duane Berquist, Unpublished Lecture” with the web link.

      • C. C. said,

        September 1, 2013 at 11:58 am

        That makes sense: thank you very much for your prompt response. I was afraid of something like that–but it is indeed true that much of what I found without citation in Berquist’s lectures, I later came across in Aquinas’s own writings, and I imagine I would also find the same thing if I leafed through Msgr. Dionne or De Koninck’s works. (That being said, even if I simply have to cite an unpublished lecture, I would still like to give credit to Duane Berquist.) Thanks again; I really appreciate it!

      • Harrison said,

        March 9, 2016 at 5:49 pm

        Are you sneering at them, or what?

  83. sancrucensis said,

    November 15, 2013 at 1:18 am

    Here are some more Duane Berquist lectures:

    Ethics: https://archive.org/details/duaneberquistonethics

    Love and Friendship: https://archive.org/details/berquistlovefriendship

  84. jonh303 said,

    November 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm


    I am a recent MA phil grad from Steubenville (classics undergrad) and seem to be on a similar trajectory as you as far as interests. I am also interested in your perspective on which philosophy programs are worth pursuing in Europe (thomistic) and few other items. I would appreciate if you could send me an email at discemus@gmail.com.

  85. December 2, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    Mr. Chastek,

    Thank you for your contributions to Thomism!

    We reprint a number of scholarly editions of Thomistic texts, and were wondering if you might be interested in posting about them. If so, we can provide one review copy from among everything we print. Our website is http://www.criticalreprints.com and our email address is info@criticalreprints.com.

    Thank you for your consideration.


    Critical Reprints

  86. February 27, 2014 at 10:01 am

    […] – James Chastek […]

  87. June 9, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    […] and colleagues. Laval School Thomists have a somewhat ambivalent attitude toward writing and publishing. In the spirit of Socrates’s critique of writing in the Phaedrus,1 they are wary of the ways […]

  88. June 23, 2014 at 3:49 am

    […] James Chastek over at Just Thomism has an interesting short post on Peirce’s argument against Nominalism ‘in favor of forms that are both common and existing in things apart from the consideration of mind’. […]

  89. February 2, 2015 at 10:06 am

    Hi there James!

    I’m a self-taught student of aristotelian-thomism. I have an objection to the existence of change that seemingly no one has been able to answer directly. I would like to hear your thoughts. Can I reach you privately?

    Pedro Lopes

    • February 2, 2015 at 11:23 am

      Send it to jamesmchastek at the gee-mail dot com domain.

  90. Kurniawan Tjandra said,

    March 7, 2015 at 2:29 am

    Hi, im starting to learn about Thomism (on my own) and i have no teacher whatsoever, and im not in the university yet, im still 19 yo.
    I never had any intro to Thomism whatsoever and i feel the need to understand the basic concepts first before i delve deeper into Thomism.
    Since youre an expert on the subject can you give me an outline,

    of Act and Potency
    of Essence/Quiddity and Existence/Esse
    of Material and Form

    I understand that because God is a Pure Act his essence and existence is one and the same and he has no form nor material(im not sure abt the last part). or simply because he is pure act, he is metaphysically simple? Can you give me the mechanism of why the first thesis leads to the conclusion that his essence is his existence?
    And Intelligences/angels are composed of both act and potency, hence essence is distinct from its existence, but they are pure forms no material? how does act&potency relate with essence and existence?
    And all material being has act&potency hence essence&existence, form and material? how can essence affect material and form?

    Basically can you give me an outline and how each level relate to the other levels (sorry if my jargon is not precise)

    Please reply by email f.kurniawan.tjandra@gmail.com

  91. theofloinn said,

    January 26, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    I tried to send an email, but my infernal device refused to do so. I have a question about the source of a quote from St. Basil, and I thought you might have an idea.

    St. Basil is credited all over the internets with this saying:

    “The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry. The cloak in your wardrobe belongs to the naked. The shoes you allow to rot belong to the barefoot. The money in your vaults belongs to the destitute. You do injustice to every man whom you could help but do not.”

    Would you know off the top of your head where he said this?

    Mike Flynn
    theofloinn at aol dot com

  92. Samuel Sammy said,

    November 11, 2016 at 9:18 am


  93. Michael the curious said,

    May 20, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    You did mention a lot of times in this blog that Thomism shouldn’t be taught to beginners by manuals. How, then, should Thomism or Theology in general be taught? What is the necessary intellectual preparation for reading the Angelic Doctor and/or Theology?

    Thank you and God Bless! Sincerely wish to hear from you.

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