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Words of Wisdom: A Philosophical Dictionary for the Perennial Tradition

University of Nebraska Press / 2011 / Paperback

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Carlson clearly, accurately explains more than 1,000 Thomistic terms, including antecedents and successors, all carefully cross-referenced. Too, he provides expositions and discussions of perennial themes; representative quotations from all thinkers mentioned; and a comprehensive bibliography of works by Aquinas in English. 320 pages, softcover. University of Notre Dame.

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Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 320
Vendor: University of Nebraska Press
Publication Date: 2011
ISBN: 0268023700
ISBN-13: 9780268023706
Availability: In Stock

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Author/Artist Review

Author: John W Carlson
Located in: Omaha, NE
Submitted: March 24, 2012

    Tell us a little about yourself.  I am Professor of Philosophy, and former department chair, at Creighton University, a Jesuit-sponsored institution in Omaha. I earned a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame.

    What was your motivation behind this project?  In the encyclical "Fides et Ratio" (1998), Pope John Paul II called for a renewal of the "enduringly valid philosophical tradition." By this phrase he meant the tradition that began with the ancients (notably Plato and Aristotle), flowered again under religious inspiration in the middle ages (especially in the work of Thomas Aquinas) and has undergone successive renewals to the present day in light of developments--both positive and negative--in the surrounding intellectual culture. Following 20th C. Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain, among others, I refer to this long train of thought as "the perennial tradition," or the tradition of "perennial philosophy" (in Latin, "philosophia perennis"). The last dictionary of terms for this tradition was published in 1956; a new effort along this line thus seemed eminently warranted and indeed--if the late pope's vision for Christian philosophy were to come to fruition--even necessary.

    What do you hope folks will gain from this project?  There currently are in print over a dozen volumes with some such title as "dictionary of philosophy." But none of them does justice to the range of terms developed in and for the perennial tradition. Moreover, some of them offer accounts that (at least from the standpoint of this tradition) are positively wrong-headed. I hope readers interested in an accurate appreciation of perennial philosophy, as well as those elements of Christian theology that incorporate it, will find my dictionary a useful resource. The volume contains well over a thousand distinct entries, each organized according to a common pattern; it also includes an elaborate system of cross-references, as well as a comprehensive bibliography for those who wish to pursue topics in greater depth.

    How were you personally impacted by working on this project?  This project developed over a period of a dozen years. (I of course had other duties throughout this period!) During that time, I became increasingly convinced--as was John Paul II and many other Christian writers--that a precise and well considered philosophical vocabulary, suitably open to the Word of God, is necessary for genuine progress in theology, as well as for successful engagement with 21st C. intellectual culture.

    Who are your influences, sources of inspiration or favorite authors / artists?  In addition to the historical figures Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, 20th C. philosophers Jacques Maritain, Yves R. Simon, Etienne Gilson, and Josef Pieper; additionally, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, as well as recent theologians such as Avery Dulles and Aidan Nichols.

    Anything else you'd like readers / listeners to know:  As a reference work for students of philosophy and theology, as well as other interested readers, this dictionary seeks to give accurate but also accessible accounts of the various ideas it treats. The disciplines involved are difficult, but I hope my volume will come to be seen as "user-friendly."

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