Not either/or


Richard Powers’ latest book Orfeo, about a composer and hobbyist chemist, compares and contrasts the protagonist’s love of music and chemistry, in a seeming arts/science, heart/head square-off, though the character can see beauty in both (and talks of both in strongly transcendent terms). It’s always a temptation to put into opposite camps science and art, or reason and spirituality. St Thomas Aquinas, though known as something of a logician, to the detriment of his spiritual side (even if he applies logic to God), was not one to see the two fields as separate. To Thomas, his philosophising was a way of praying. Or grew out of prayer. At least according to some who are of late rediscovering Thomas’s more devotional side. Denys Turner comments on this in his recent, short but thorough and enlightening book on Aquinas, and Paul Murray’s new book Aquinas at Prayer is wholly devoted to the more “mystical and contemplative” side.


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