When, in the sixth century, Dionysius the Areopagite declared Beauty to be a name for God, he gave birth to something that had long been gestating in the womb of philosophical and theological thought. In doing so, Dionysius made one of his most pivotal contributions to Christian theological discourse. This contribution was enthusiastically received by the schoolmen of the Middle Ages, and it came to permeate the thought of scholasticism in a multitude of ways. But nowhere is the Dionysian influence more pronounced than in the thought of Thomas Aquinas. The God Who is Beauty examines the historical development of beauty’s appropriation as a name for God in Dionysius and Aquinas, and what it means.
The argument that emerges from this study is that the phenomenon of Beauty as a divine name indicates the way in which beauty is conceived in the Christian theological tradition as a theological theme. The concept of beauty proved itself to be enigmatic and elusive to even the sharpest intellects in the Greek philosophical tradition. When it is absorbed within the Christian theological synthesis, however, its enigmatic content proves to be a powerful resource for theological reasoning.
1. Beauty and the Divine in Ancient Greek Philosophy: Plato and Aristotle
2. Beauty and the Divine in Neoplatonism: Plotinus and Proclus
3. The Tradition of the Divine Names
4. Beauty as a Divine Name in Dionysius the Areopagite I: Beauty as Transcendent Plenitude
5. Beauty as a Divine Name in Dionysius the Areopagite II: Beauty as a Principle of Determination
6. Beauty and the One
7. The Passage of Dionysius into the Latin West
8. The Journey of Beauty as a Divine Name: From the Sixth to the Thirteenth Century
9. Beauty as a Divine Name in Albert the Great
10. Thomas Aquinas and the Tradition of the Divine Names
11. Beauty as a Divine Name in Thomas Aquinas: In de Divinis Nominibus Expositio
12. Beauty as a Divine Name in Thomas Aquinas: Beyond the Commentary on the Divine Names
13. Conclusion: Beauty as the Between
Index of Names
Endorsements and Reviews
I warmly recommend Brendan Sammon’s impressive contribution to theological aesthetics. The work is engaging, lucid, insightful, and well laid out in fitting structure. It importantly responds to the surprising lack of full treatment of Beauty as a divine name. Informed about Greek philosophical sources, it offers a rich narration of Beauty as a divine name in the work of Dionysius and Aquinas, also impressively bringing to our attention the crucial place of Dionysius in the thought of Aquinas. The ambiguity he detects in Greek treatments as oscillating between the spiritual and material he sees as more fittingly resolved in the Christian thought of Dionysius and Aquinas where justice can be done to the truth of beauty as a middle between the spiritual and the material, a saturated between. An admirable debut by Sammon with a significant contribution to the field of theological aesthetics.
William Desmond, Villanova University, PA
This is a brilliant book on both Dionysus’s On the Divine Names and Thomas Aquinas’ commentary; it hammers in a final nail that forces modernity to re-configure its understanding of the relation between Greek and Medieval philosophy.
Patrick Madigan, in Heythrop Journal, Vol 57, Issue 2