Thomas M. Izbicki

title.none: Regan Commentary on Politics (Thomas M. Izbicki)

identifier.other: baj9928.0805.005 08.05.05

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Thomas M. Izbicki, Rutgers University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2008

identifier.citation: Regan, Ronald J., trans. Aquinas: Commentary on Aristotle's Politics. Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing, 2007. Pp. ix, 213. $55.00 (hb) 978-0-87220-870-4 (hb). ISBN: $19.95 (pb) 978-0-87220-869-8 (pb).

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 08.05.05

Regan, Ronald J., trans. Aquinas: Commentary on Aristotle's Politics. Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing, 2007. Pp. ix, 213. $55.00 (hb) 978-0-87220-870-4 (hb). ISBN: $19.95 (pb) 978-0-87220-869-8 (pb).

Reviewed by:

Thomas M. Izbicki
Rutgers University

Several English translations have been done of texts by Thomas Aquinas related to politics. Usually the focus is on the Summa theologiae and De regimine principum. These collections, however, have included only excerpts from the incomplete Commentary on the Politics. (It covers books I and II plus part of book III.) [1] A complete translation in a convenient format is a welcome addition to this body of political writings by Aquinas in English.[2] The Hackett Publishing Company, a frequent publisher of English versions of texts by Aquinas, and Richard J. Regan have provided us with this book at an affordable price.

The book is very bare bones. The Preface covers a mere two pages. The translator gives us a little information about William of Moerbeke's Latin version of Aristotle's Greek, which he also translates through book III chapter 6, and informs us that the Latin text of Aquinas employed is from volume 48 of the Leonine edition (Rome, 1971). Regan notes that Thomas' understanding of Aristotle's meaning was good but not perfect. The translator promises to explain these divergences in the notes to the text, but he offers no elucidation of Aquinas' political thought as it relates to his role as commentator. Readers desiring such an interpretation might start with the work of James Blythe.[3]

Regan's translation is formatted with the translation of the Moerbeke text followed by Aquinas' commentary. Readers who want to check Moerbeke's version against the Greek are provided the Bekker numbers, and Regan refers them to modern translations of the first four books of the Politics. The notes, as the translator warns the reader, are bare bones. Some refer to other passages in the Politics or to other works of Aristotle. Others, as promised, explain diverges between Thomas' understanding of the text and more common understandings of the Greek. No effort is made, however, to explain references by Aristotle and his commentator to figures from the ancient world. Some, like Homer, Thales of Miletus and Plato, are reasonably familiar to educated readers. Others, like the poet Amasis, who spoke about a washbasin [67, 70], could have been explained briefly.

The translation itself is clear and straight forward. Neither Aristotle nor Aquinas was striving for fine style, and clarity is a virtue in making their works accessible. All translations are subject to differences in rendering. A few choices in rendering Latin terms into English should be noted. These are legitimate translations of the Latin, but they affect how one interprets these texts. Regan renders all versions of filius, especially in the discussion of Socrates proposal that wives and offspring be held in common, as "son(s)." A rendering as "children," a legitimate and more inclusive term, might have been employed. Civitas is rendered as "political community," losing the sense that a city, not a kingdom or empire, was under discussion most often in the original text. Politia is rendered as "regime," a legitimate and useful translation. None of these choices of vocabulary impede comprehension of the translation.


[1] The most extensive excerpts are found in Ralph Lerner, ed., Medieval Political Philosophy: A Sourcebook (Toronto: Collier- Macmillan, 1963), pp. 297-334; Cary J. Nederman and Kate Langdon Forham, Medieval Political Theory A Reader: The Quest for the Body Politic, 1100-1400 (London and New York: Routledge, 1993), 136-148.

[2] An online translation is provided in Collected Works of St. Thomas Aquinas (Charlottesville, Va.: Intelex Corporation, 1993). [3] James M. Blythe, Ideal Government and the Mixed Constitution in the Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 39- 59.