Analytical Thomism

Analytical Thomism is a philosophical movement which promotes the interchange of ideas between the thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas (including the philosophy carried on in relation to his thinking, called 'Thomism'), and modern analytic philosophy.

Scottish philosopher John Haldane first coined the term in the early 1990s and has since been one the movement's leading proponents. According to Haldane, "analytical Thomism involves the bringing into mutual relationship of the styles and preoccupations of recent English-speaking philosophy and the ideas and concerns shared by St Thomas and his followers" (Haldane 2004, xii).


The modern revival of Aquinas's thought can be traced to the work of mid-19th Century thomists, such as Tommaso Maria Zigliara, Josef Kleutgen, Gaetano Sanseverino, and Giovanni Maria Cornoldi. This movement received an enormous impetus by Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Aeterni Patris of 1879. In the first half of the twentieth century, Edouard Hugon, Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Étienne Gilson, and Jacques Maritain, among others, carried on Leo's call for a Thomist revival (Paterson & Pugh, xiii-xxiii). Gilson and Maritain in particular taught and lectured throughout Europe and North America, influencing a generation of English-speaking Catholic philosophers. Some of the latter then began to harmonize Thomism with broader contemporary philosophical trends.

Similarly, the Kraków Circle in Poland used mathematical logic in presenting Thomism, which the Circle judged to have "a structured body of propositions connected in meaning and subject matter, and linked by logical relations of compatibility and incompatibility, entailment, etc." (Simons 2011, pp. 61-79). The Circle has been said to be "the most significant expression of Catholic thought between the two World Wars" (Kraków Philosophy, n.d.).

Recent philosophical reception of Aquinas

By the middle of the 20th century Aquinas's thought came into dialogue with the analytical tradition through the work of G. E. M. Anscombe, Peter Geach, and Anthony Kenny. Anscombe was Ludwig Wittgenstein's student, and his successor at the University of Cambridge; she was married to Geach, himself an accomplished logician and philosopher of religion. Geach had converted to Roman Catholicism while studying at Oxford, Anscombe had converted before she came up, and both were instructed in the Faith in Oxford by the Dominican Richard Kehoe, who received them both into the Church before they met one another. Kenny, an erstwhile priest and former Catholic, became a prominent philosopher at the University of Oxford and is still portrayed by some as a promoter of Aquinas (Paterson & Pugh, xiii-xxiii), though his denial of some basic Thomist doctrines (e.g. divine timelessness) casts doubt on this.

Anscombe, and others such as Alasdair MacIntyre, Philippa Foot, and John Finnis, can largely be credited with the revival of "virtue ethics" in analytic moral theory and "natural law theory" in jurisprudence. Both movements draw significantly upon Aquinas.

Notable Analytical Thomists

Philosophers working in the intersection of Thomism and Analytic Philosophy include:

  • James Madden (Benedictine College)
  • Jeffrey Brower (Purdue University)
  • Andrew Jaeger (Benedictine College)

See also


  • For an excellent overview of Analytical Thomism see the Introduction in Craig Paterson & Matthew S. Pugh (eds.) Analytical Thomism: Traditions in Dialogue (Aldershot and Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2006). Introduction.
  • F.C. Copleston, Aquinas (Penguin, 1955).
  • John Haldane (ed.), "Analytical Thomism" volume of Monist 80 (4) October, 1997.
  • John Haldane, "Thomism and the Future of Catholic Philosophy", New Blackfriars 80 (938), 1999.
  • John Haldane, Faithful Reason: essays Catholic and Philosophical (London and New York: Routledge, 2004).
  • Peter Simons, "Bocheński and Balance: System and History in Analytic Philosophy", Studies in East European Thought, 55(2003) pp. 281-297, reprinted in Edgar Morscher, Otto Neumaier, and Peter Simons (2011), Ein Philosoph mit "Bodenhaftung": Zu Leben und Werk von Joseph M. Bocheński, Sankt Augustin: Academia, pp. 61-79.
  • Kraków Philosophy, n.d.
  • Fergus Kerr, O.P., "Aquinas and Analytic Philosophy: Natural Allies?", Modern Theology 20 (1), 2004.
  • John Finnis, Aquinas: Moral, Political, and Legal Theory (Oxford, 1998).
  • Roger Pouivet, Après Wittgenstein, saint Thomas (PUF, 1997).
  • Anthony J Lisska,Aquinas's Theory of Natural Law: An Analytic Reconstruction (Oxford: New York, 1996).
  • Pérez de Laborda, Miguel, "El tomismo analítico", Philosophica: Enciclopedia filosófica on line 2007
  • Tomismo analitico (in Spanish) Article.
  • John C. Cahalan, Causal Realism: An Essay on Philosophical Method and the Foundations of Knowledge (Routledge, 1985)
  • Giovanni Ventimiglia, To be o esse? La questione dell’essere nel tomismo analitico, Carocci, Roma 2012

For somewhat dissenting voices:

  • Alfred Freddoso, Two Roles for Catholic Philosophers
  • Brian J Shanley, OP, The Thomist Tradition (Dordrecht/Boston/London: Kluwer, 2002).
  • Entries by Stephen Theron in Haldane (ed.) (1997) and Paterson & Pugh (eds.) (2006).
  • Entries by Shanley and John Knasas in Paterson & Pugh (eds.) (2006).
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