De Sortibus

A Letter to a Friend about the Casting of Lots

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Thomas Aquinas
Peter Carey
  • Eugene, OR: 
    Cascade Books
    , January
     108 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


This book makes De Sortibus, Thomas Aquinas's letter to a friend on the casting of lots, available in clear English for the first time. The letter was written around 1270 and was prompted by the question of whether lots could be used to seek God's will in the appointment of a bishop. We've all tossed a coin, or pulled straws to see who goes first, or opened the Bible to see if we could resolve an issue with a message from God. These are the kinds of things that Aquinas talks about to show us when casting lots is a good idea and when it's just superstition. The translation is accompanied by an introduction that sets the letter in its historical context, a brief overview of the life of Thomas Aquinas, and eight short essays that shine light from different angles onto this delightful work. This letter serves as a great gateway into the thought and method of one of the world's greatest thinkers.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Peter Carey was ordained a Dominican priest as a young man. After he left the Dominicans, he taught English as a second language and had a long career in banking in New York, before he returned to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) lived at a critical juncture of western culture when the arrival of the Aristotelian corpus in Latin translation reopened the question of the relation between faith and reason. This crisis flared up just as universities were being founded. Thomas, after early studies at Montecassino, moved on to the University of Naples, where he met members of the new Dominican Order. When he joined the Dominican Order he went north to study with Albertus Magnus, author of a paraphrase of the Aristotelian corpus. Thomas completed his studies at the University of Paris. His theological writings became regulative of the Catholic Church and his close textual commentaries on Aristotle represent a cultural resource which is now receiving increased recognition.



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