W. Norris Clarke, S.J. (1915-2008)

2008 Retrieval 1979/2007 Approaches 2001 Clarke 1994 Explorations 1993 Person and Being

Out of his books and out of over 70 articles and chapters in books, Clarke chose these as what seemed to him the most significant:

Selected Books
1. The Philosophical Approach to God: A Contemporary Neo-Thomist Perspective (Winston-Salem: Wake Forest University Publications, 1979).
2. Person and Being (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1993).
3. Explorations in Metaphysics: Being—God—Person (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994).
4. The One and the Many: A Contemporary Thomistic Metaphysics (Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 2001).

Selected Articles and Chapters in Books
1. “The Limitation of Act by Potency: Aristotelianism or Neoplatonism?” New Scholasticism, 26 (1952) 167-94; reprinted in Book no. 3 above, Chapter 4. On Thomism as creative synthesis of both sources.
2. “The Meaning of Participation in St. Thomas,” Proceedings of The American Catholic Philosophical Association 26 (1952) 147-57.
3. “What Is Really Real?” in Progress in Philosophy, ed. James McWilliams (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1955) 61-90. Radical existentialism of St. Thomas: possibles not a division of real being, as taught by later Thomists.
4. “Infinity in Plotinus,” Gregorianum, 40 (1959) 79-98.
5. “Causality and Time,” in Experience, Existence, and the Good: Essays in Honor of Paul Weiss, ed. by Irwin Lieb (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1951) 141-57. Anti-Humean interpretation of causal action and its effect as a single simultaneous event, not two events following in time.
6. “The Self in Eastern and Western Thought: The Wooster Conference,” International Philosophical Quarterly, 6 (1966) 101-9; co-authored with Beatrice Bruteau. Marks new interest in Eastern thought.
7. “The Future of Thomism,” in New Themes in Christian Philosophy, ed. Ralph McInerny (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968) 187-207.
8. ‘The Self as Source of Meaning in Metaphysics,” Review of Metaphysics, 21 (1967) 587-614.
9. “A Curious Blindspot in Anglo-American Anti-Theistic Argument,” The Monist, 54 (1970) 182-200. Challenge never answered.
10. “What Is Most and Least Relevant in St. Thomas’ Metaphysics Today,” International Philosophical Quarterly, 14 (1974) 411-34.
11. “Interpersonal Dialogue as Key to Realism, “ in Person and Community, ed. Robert Roth (New York: Fordham University Press, 1975), 141-54. Fundamental challenge to Kantian epistemology.
12. Analogy and the Meaningfulness of Language about God: Reply to Kai Nielsen, Thomist, 40 (1976) 61-95.
13. “The Natural Roots of Religious Experience,” Religious Studies, 17 (1981) 511-23.
14. “The Problem of the Reality and Multiplicity of the Divine Ideas in Christian Neoplatonism,” in Neoplatonism and Christian Thought, ed. D. O’Meara (Albany: SUNY Press, 1982) 109-27.
15. “Thomism and Contemporary Philosophical Pluralism,” Modern Schoolman, 67 (1990) 123-3.
16. “To Be Is to Be Substance-in-Relation,” (1992), reprinted in Book no. 3 above, Chapter 6.
17. “The ‘We Are’ of Interpersonal Dialogue as the Starting Point of Metaphysics,” Modern Schoolman, 69 (1992) 357-68; reprinted book no. 3 above, Chapter 2.
18. “Is a Natural Theology Still Viable Today?” (1992); reprinted in Book no. 3 above as Chapter 8.
19. “Person, Being, and St. Thomas,” Communio, 19 (1992), 601-18.
20. “Living on the Edge: The Human Person as Frontier Being and Microcosm,” International Philosophical Quarterly, 36 (1996) 183-200.
21. “Conscience and the Person,” Buddha (Manila), 1 (1997) 155-70. Now required reading for all college students in the Philippines.
22. Gerald McCool, S.J., “An Alert and Independent Thomist: William Norris Clarke, S.J.,” International Philosophical Quarterly, 26 (1986), 3-21.
23. ‘God and the Community of Existents: Whitehead and St. Thomas,” International Philosophical Quarterly, 40 (2000) 265-87.
24. “Metaphysics as Mediator between Revelation and the Natural Sciences,” Communio, 28 (2001) 465-87.
25. “Democracy, Ethics, Religion: An Intrinsic Connection,” in A Moral Enterprise: Politics, Reason, and the Human Good—Essays in Honor of Francis Canavan, ed. K. Grasso & R. Hunt (Wilmington: ISI Books, 2002) 265-74.
26. "Reflections on Caputo’s Heidegger and Aquinas," in A Passion for the Impossible: John D. Caputo in Focus, edited by Mark Dooley (Albany: SUNY Press, 2003), 51-68.
27. "Reflections on John Deely’s Four Ages of Understanding," International Philosophical Quarterly, 43 (2003), 527-38.
28. "The Integration of Person and Being in 20th Century Thomism," Communio, 31 (2004), 434-44.
29. "Freedom, Equality, Dignity of the Human Person: The Roots of Liberal Democracy," Catholic Social Science Review, 9 (2004), 61-66.

Philosophical Journey (in his own words):
1. I started off as a convinced Thomist from my first philosophical training with the French Jesuits at Jersey, under the guidance of the brilliant young Thomistic metaphysician, Andre Marc, from whom I developed a keen appreciation of the basic metaphysical structure of the real according to the vision of St. Thomas. Also decisive was my private reading of Joseph Marechal’s whole history of Western thought, Point de depart de la metaphysique, culminating in his seminal Vol. V on Aquinas himself, in which he stressed the innate dynamism of the human intellect toward the Infinite Fullness of being as the ultimate foundation of all human inquiry; added to this was my underground reading of the then temporarily banned Blondel’s Action (1st ed. 1893—better than all the later more cautious revisions), which powerfully highlighted the complementary dynamism of the human will toward the same fullness of being as good. I have always held onto these two fundamental insights of St. Thomas as the basic for all human inquiry and search for the good, but I am not a full card-carrying member of the Transcendental Thomism school, for various technical reasons regarding whether and how they reached fully existential being as the basis of metaphysics by their method.
2. The historically important rediscovery of the profoundly existential character of St. Thomas’s metaphysics, centered on the act of existence (esse) as the fountainhead of all perfection, both in creatures and in God, diversified by various modes of limiting essence, was just getting under way when I was at Jersey (1936-39), under the dramatic leadership of Etienne Gilson in the 5th edition of Le Thomisme, but I took full explicit possession of this deeply integrating insight into Aquinas’s thought during my M.A. in philosophy at Fordham, under the direction of Anton Pegis, disciple and colleague of Gilson at Toronto. So I became what soon became known as an “existential Thomist.”
3. The next significant phase of my philosophical development came during my Ph.D. studies at Louvain, under the well-known Thomists Van Steenberghen and De Raeymaeker. Here I shared in the exciting rediscovery of the central role of Neoplatonic participation in the metaphysics of Thomas, especially as the basic structure behind the relation of creatures to God, going far beyond what he could get from Aristotle alone—all this from my reading and discussions with Geiger, Fabro, De Finance, etc. Now I came to understand St. Thomas’s entire metaphysical system as an original synthesis of Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism. I wrote my thesis precisely on the development of this synthesis in Thomas (summarized in the first, widely circulated article in my list of publications) a theme not yet widely known, it seems, in American Catholic Thomistic circles.
4. The last key element in my philosophical formation I picked up also during my doctorate at Louvain. All around me were blossoming the new movements of phenomenology, both the older more austere school of strict Husserlian phenomenology, which interested me less than the newer more existential interpersonalist phenomenologies of thinkers like Emmanuel Mounier, Martin Buber, Gabriel Marcel, Maurice Nedoncelle, John Macmurray, etc., and to a lesser extent Jean-Paul Sartre and Martin Heidegger. I plunged deeply into them for months, before returning to St. Thomas for my dissertation. I saw the need now for both these approaches as complementary to give us a more fully rounded understanding of the real. The interpersonal phenomenologies need the ontological grounding of dynamic substance or nature as a unified center for its many relations and its self-identity through time; Thomistic metaphysics needs to enrich the data it is seeking to explain by the more detailed concrete descriptions of the actual life of real persons provided so richly by phenomenology. A creative synthesis was needed. This I have tried to outline in Person and Being (1993), now in its fifth printing, and my widely circulated article, “To Be Is to Be Substance-in-Relation” (1992), which surprised many non-Thomists.
In doing this I identify myself with the growing, late 20th century movement called “Personalist Thomism.” One leading center of this has been the Lublin School of Thomism (Poland), of which the best-known representative is Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II), with his seminal book, The Acting Person and other similar writings.


Cf. "The Good as Self-Diffusive in Thomas Aquinas", Angelicum 79 (2002): 803-837; cf. also the Communio exchange.