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W. Norris Clarke, S.J.

June 1, 1915-June 10, 2008

The writings of the late Father W. Norris Clarke, an appreciative and

engaging critic of Whitehead andHartshorne, has forced me to rethink my
under-standing of St. Thomas. I spoke with him briefly by phone in the early
'90s when I was working my way through David Braine's The Reality of Time
and the Existence of God, which Clarke had reviewed for The International
Philosophical Quarterly. Remembering many years later the cheerfulness
and energy with which he took that call from a stranger, I regret I did not
keep in touch. Fortunately, all of his major papers have been anthologized.
In addition to several that have meant a great deal to me, I will hunt down
and format for posting nonanthologized articles and reviews. What I have
done so far is listed below.
Anthony Flood
May 22, 2010

On Professor Niebuhrs Paper, On the Nature of Faith [1961]

On Professor Tillichs Paper, The Meaning and Justification of

Religious Symbols [1961]

On Professor Ziffs Paper, About God [1961]

Analogy and the Meaningfulness of Language about God: A Reply to

Kai Nielsen [1976]

The Problem of the Reality and Multiplicity of Divine Ideas in Christian

Neoplatonism [1982]

The Metaphysics of Religious Art: Reflections on a Text of St. Thomas

Aquinas [1983]

Charles Hartshornes Philosophy of God: A Thomistic Critique [1990]

Review of David Braine, The Reality of Time and the Existence of God:
The Project of Proving Gods Existence [1990]

The Compatibility of Receptivity and Pure Act: Reply to Steven

Long [1997]

Metaphysics as Mediator between Revelation and the Natural

Sciences [2001]

Metaphysical Difficulties in Process Theology[2007]

Clarkes Journey: In His Own Words

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 metaphy-sical structure of the real according to the
vision of St. Thomas. Also decisive was my private reading of Joseph
Marechals 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
Blondels Action (1st edition, 1893better 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 fundamen-tal 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 Thom-ism school, for various technical
reasons regarding whether and how they reached fully existential being as
the basis of metaphysics by their method.
The historically important rediscovery of the pro-foundly existential
character of St. Thomass meta-physics, 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 inte-grating insight into Aquinass 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.
The next significant phase of my philosophical development came during my
Ph.D. studies at Louvain, under the well-known Thomists Van Steen-berghen
and De Raeymaeker. Here I shared in the exciting rediscovery of the central
role of Neopla-tonic 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 aloneall this from my reading and
discussions with Geiger, Fabro, De Finance, etc. Now I came to understand
St. Thomass entire meta-physical system as an original synthesis of Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism. I wrote my thesis pre-cisely 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 Thom-istic circles.
The last key element in my philosophical forma-tion 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 selfidentity 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 phenomeno-logy. A creative
synthesis was needed. This I have tried to outline in Person and
Being (l993), now in its fifth printing, and my widely circulated article, To
Be Is to Be Substance-in-Relation (1992), which sur-prised many nonThomists.
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.