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Models of Thomistic Studies in Contemporary North American Higher Education
Vol. VI/2004/2, pp. 461-482
The history of the dialogue between Thomists and the modern world in the past century reveals many shifts and transformations unforeseen yet instigated by Leo XIII, in his 1879 encyclical Aeterni Patris. The evolution of "Thomism" - that Christian philosophy deriving its inspiration from the works of Thomas Aquinas - in the past 125 years has centered on the twin issues of authenticity (conservation) and enculturation (innovation), viz., "How can Thomist philosophers be authentic interpreters of Aquinas while simultaneously engaging mainstream contemporary philosophies by contributing in some meaningful way to the concrete particular concerns of the present age?" With this problematic in mind, the author traces the evolution of Thomism as practiced in North American institutions of higher learning, and discerns five 'models' or approaches of Thomistic studies, namely, exclusivist (triumphalist), formational, conservative (traditionalist), dialogical, and pluralist (inclusivist). The future prospects of Thomism are argued to rely largely on the degree of success to which Catholic educators are able to transmit Aquinas' ethics and spirituality to the postmodern mind.