Denys Turner on Aquinas the materialist

Yale University Press has just brought out a book by Denys Turner on Aquinas: Thomas Aquinas: A Portrait. I have profited from reading Turner in the past and look forward to dipping into this new volume. Here’s YUP’s official blurb:

Leaving so few traces of himself behind, Thomas Aquinas seems to defy the efforts of the biographer. Highly visible as a public teacher, preacher, and theologian, he nevertheless has remained nearly invisible as man and saint. What can be discovered about Thomas Aquinas as a whole? In this short, compelling portrait, Denys Turner clears away the haze of time and brings Thomas vividly to life for contemporary readers—those unfamiliar with the saint as well as those well acquainted with his teachings.

Building on the best biographical scholarship available today and reading the works of Thomas with piercing acuity, Turner seeks the point at which the man, the mind, and the soul of Thomas Aquinas intersect. Reflecting upon Thomas, a man of Christian Trinitarian faith yet one whose thought is grounded firmly in the body’s interaction with the material world, a thinker at once confident in the powers of human reason and a man of prayer, Turner provides a more detailed human portrait than ever before of one of the most influential philosophers and theologians in all of Western thought.

What may be most interesting about the book — going from the information on the YUP site — is Turner’s claim that Aquinas is a “materialist.” This comes to light in another blurb from Bernard McGinn. McGinn writes;

Denys Turner’s exciting new reading of Thomas Aquinas emphasizes what he provocatively calls Thomas’s materialism, his insistence that matter bears meaning. Thomas Aquinas is a book to be treasured by all who know and admire Thomas-and all who would like to know him.

Well, that doesn’t sound exactly like your garden variety materialism. The book’s second chapter is especially dedicated to this topic. I’m sure Turner has some thought-provoking things to say here.