Aquinas & Sartre: On freedom, personal identity, and the possibility of happiness (review)

Journal of the History of Philosophy 49 (1):130-131 (2011)
Abstract
This well-written volume consists of paired chapters on human being, understanding, freedom, and happiness on Aquinas and Sartre. Stephen Wang's project is to use Sartre to reveal the more "radical" aspects of Aquinas's thought and to use Aquinas to "unlock the meaning" of Sartre's more radical claims . There is a great deal that is fresh and illuminating in this rapprochement between two thinkers most would not join together. Because the aim is to bring the thinkers into conversation, Wang avoids any temptation merely to repeat their technical language. Overall, his account is helpful as a counter to distorted readings of Aquinas that overemphasize the determination of human ends and actions by nature, as well as his intellectualism and realism. Similarly countered are extreme readings of Sartre as an irrationalist and radical voluntarist.In the account of understanding, Wang points out that Sartre eschews both idealism and realism, arguing that, on the one hand, "consciousness adds nothing to being" but, on the other, it "reveals what is there through negation" . Aquinas occupies similar ground, Wang contends, holding that reason can observe the present reality in a number of different ways, not just one . The will
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