Not much escapes the intellect and imagination of the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas. Whether it be love, children, education, moral reasoning, happiness or the proper dispositions for human existence, St. Thomas seems an expert in all of it. Crime and criminal conduct are no exceptions to this general tendency with him. Not only does he have much to say about it, what he relates is perpetually fresh and surely the bedrock of what is now taken for granted. In this short treatise, the focus targets St. Thomas’s criminal codification – his law of crimes.
Indeed the magnanimity of his crimes code is a subject matter not yet treated in any detail in the scholarly literature. While parts and pieces are covered in many quarters, the literature has yet to develop a systematic, codified examination of Thomistic criminal law. The essence of the endeavor is threefold: first, how does St. Thomas factor the nature of the human person into the concept of criminal culpability and personal responsibility; second, what types of criminal conduct does St. Thomas specifically delineate and define; and lastly, what is Thomas’s view of mitigation and defense, as well as the corresponding punishment meted out for criminal conduct? This short commentary zeroes in on Thomistic Criminal Law – a project which will illuminate the root, the heritage and the foundation of modern criminal codification.
Aristotle's much-translated On Poetics is the earliest and arguably the best treatment that we possess of tragedy as a literary form. Seth Benardete and Michael Davis have translated it anew with a view to rendering Aristotle’s text into English as precisely as possible. A literal translation has long been needed, for in order to excavate the argument of On Poetics one has to attend not simply to what is said on the surface but also to the various puzzles, questions, and peculiarities that emerge only on the level of how Aristotle says what he says and thereby leads one to revise and deepen one’s initial understanding of the intent of the argument. As On Poetics is about how tragedy ought to be composed, it should not be surprising that it turns out to be a rather artful piece of literature in its own right.
Benardete and Davis supplement their edition of On Poetics with extensive notes and appendices. They explain nuances of the original that elude translation, and they provide translations of passages found elsewhere in Aristotle’s works as well as in those of other ancient authors that prove useful in thinking through the argument of On Poetics both in terms of its treatment of tragedy and in terms of its broader concerns. By following the connections Aristotle plots between On Poetics and his other works, readers will be in a position to appreciate the centrality of this little book for his thought on the whole.
In an introduction that sketches the overall interpretation of On Poetics presented in his The Poetry of Philosophy (St. Augustine’s Press, 1999), Davis argues that, while On Poetics is certainly about tragedy, it has a further concern extending beyond poetry to the very structure of the human soul in its relation to what is, and that Aristotle reveals in the form of his argument the true character of human action.
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