The return of the manuals?

I review two recent books over at Thomistica, with some comments regarding philosophical pedagogy. An excerpt:

The above two books by Prof. Houser and Fr. Dodds are recent entries in what could be an unofficial series answering to Msgr. Sokolowski’s call for “textbooks” that aid students and teachers, especially those in undergraduate programs that are small or burdened with too many of the ill-effects that attend modern curricula in the multiversity. Others could be added. For instance, in philosophy of the human person, one thinks of Steven Jensen’s recent (and excellent) The Human Person: A Beginner’s Thomistic Psychology. Jensen addresses in greater breadth areas that Jim Madden’s Mind, Matter, and Nature considers in a bit more depth. Richard Berquist’s recent book on the natural law is a promising entry in that area. Feser’s Scholastic Metaphysics and his Five Proofs are also used in my courses, alongside excerpts from Fr. Clarke’s The One and the Many. I also assign parts of Reinhard Hütter’s John Henry Newman On Truth and Its Counterfeits when we read Newman’s Grammar in my epistemology course (see the Thomistica review of Hütter’s book here).

If there is to be a “new manualism,” then I hope to see more of these sorts of books.

Read the whole review here.

2 thoughts on “The return of the manuals?

  1. I’m a big fan of these recent books, just as you are (and have also used them successfully in teaching), but it seems to me that what made manualism was not the existence of manuals. Intro textbooks will always be with us, from the Summa Theologiae itself to Jensen, and while they might not all be on the level of the Summa Theologiae, most of the manuals weren’t half bad. What made manualism wasn’t the use of textbooks in intro classes, but rather the comparative lack of interest in taking students beyond introductory textbooks. Jensen expects his students to go on to read the Summa, maybe not cover to cover, but not just in small excerpts either. My broad discussion with seminarians in the immediately pre-Vatican II period, both in the US and in Europe, suggests that their education did not encourage this. There were basically no advanced/elective classes working through primary sources, and the Roman system obviously focuses on oral exams rather than independent research papers which involve more primary texts. If primary texts weren’t taught in introductory courses, they basically weren’t taught at all. That’s manualism, and I hope it stays gone. But to the extent that recent introductory courses have lacked good texts (neither my courses at BC nor those at DHS used them; Brian Carl mostly wrote his own ‘notes’) these excellent books are a welcome development.

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