Aquinas the Italian

French-speaking authors dominated the Thomism of the 20th century and, although they continue to be a major force in the first decade of the 21st century, other language and national groups are also emerging as important players.

What of these other Thomists? What are their histories and prospects? With respect to these questions it would seem quite natural to ask first about the Thomism of Aquinas’s native land. Is Italian Thomism alive and well? What do we know of its history post-13th century?

Obviously I’m not going to try to answer these huge questions in a single post. But I think they would be good questions to delve into over a series of posts. In the present remarks we might begin a little closer to our own time.

Among 20th century Italian Thomists, the Stigmatine father Cornelio Fabro was undoubtedly the most prominent. He pioneered the study of participation in Aquinas, publishing La nozione metafisica di partecipazione secondo s. Tommaso d’Aquino in 1939.


But Fabro was not only an exegete of Aquinas. He also penned numerous articles on Kierkegaard along with articles on other major philosophical figures, mostly modern, such as Hegel, Marx, Sartre, and Heidegger.

Nor was Fabro a mere historian. He pursued speculative questions too, especially metaphysical ones, and dealt with contemporary issues like atheism — indeed, as far as I know (readers, please correct me if I’m wrong), his only book translated in English is God in Exile: Modern Atheism, brought out by the Newman Press in 1968.

The Institute of the Incarnate Word has undertaken the project of publishing critical editions of Fabro’s opera omnia and generally promoting his work. They have an excellent and extensive website dedicated to Fabro. Unfortunately for non-Italophones, the site is entirely in lingua italiana.

One of the resources on the site is a collection of Fabro’s aphorisms compiled by his secretary Sr. Rosa Goglia. The first one is a gem (as I suspect are many of the others):

In fondo all’uomo c’è sempre l’Ulisse eterno che cerca nuovi approdi.

Roughly translated: “In man’s depths there is always the eternal Ulysses who seeks new shores.”