Most people admit that Newman was a theologian but few know that he was a philosopher. Newman had a philosophical mind and read widely on philosophy. At the end of 1858 he began a course of reading on metaphysics to write a book on philosophy of religionSome years later he abandoned this projected work, titled Discursive Enquiries on Metaphysical Subjects, but his notes were compiled into a book, published posthumously as his Philosophical Notebook. He had studied in detail Aristotle’s Logic, Rhetoric and Nichomachean Ethics, which had a major influence on his thinking about knowledge as a personal possession and about knowledge as the grasping of existent realities, rather than abstractions. Newman acknowledged deriving from Aristotle ideas on moral duty and φρόνησις, or the personal prudential judgment. Regarding his own doctrine of the Illative sense, he wrote: “As to the intellectual position from which I have contemplated the subject (of human knowledge), Aristotle has been my master.”1

The study of Joseph Butler’s Analogy of Religion helped him to overcome a nominalist and rationalist reading of Aristotle, predominant at Oriel College. He was influenced by Butler’s notion of probability, without accepting the way Butler left it and thus avoided the mistaken claim of falling into skepticism.

From the Alexandrian Fathers, especially Clement and Origen, he was acquainted and influenced by the Neo-Platonic philosophy about the unseen world. He greatly admired Francis Bacon and his distinction between physics and natural theology, and had studied Isaac Newton’s Principia. He read English and Scottish philosophers, in particular John Locke, whom he considered a “highly respected adversary with whom he liked to discuss (figuratively) his own ideas.”2 On the surface it would seem that Newman had a few ideas in common with Locke such as making the individual, or self, the starting point of his whole philosophy, but the self and the God of Locke were completely rationalist and alien to the thought of Newman who opposed British Empiricism of which he considered Locke to be the founder.

When as a Catholic Newman studied in Rome he was disappointed to find that Aquinas and Aristotle were both in disregard. This circumstance, however, may have actually helped Newman to further his development of a type of personalism relying at once on both Ancient and Patristic sources and on modern empirical thought, particularly on associationist theories in psychology. From Abraham Tucker and Joshua Reynolds representatives of this theory of knowledge Newman may have taken the notion of the imagination as a cognitive power capable of giving us direct apprehension of individual objects with which we come into experiential contact.3 Through the imagination particular things can absorb the attention of the knowing subject, and the cognition is a personal and living relationship between the knower and the object. Knowledge is therefore more than reasoning; rather it is a real possession of the things we know. This was a key point for Newman’s argument for the existence of God, as well as his explanation of a person’s understanding of the articles of the Creed about the Blessed Trinity. Today his philosophical approach would be described as phenomenology or more specifically Christian personalism with elements of Aristotelian philosophy of the human mind and ethics.

In 1870 Newman published An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent, a significant contribution to philosophy of religion, which he first began writing in response to the difficulties of William Froude, a Protestant friend who was losing his faith. The book was a culmination of Newman’s thinking about the philosophical nature of belief and certitude in the University Sermons.

1 John Henry Newman, An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent, University of Notre Dame Press (1979)p. 334. From here on it will be referred to as GA.

2 John Henry Newman, The Philosophical Notebook, Ed. Edward J. Sillem, Nauwelaerts Publishing House, Louvain, 1969, Vol. II, p. 203.

Ibid, p. 207.

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A Guide to John Henry Newman will interest educated readers and professors alike, and serve as a text for college seminars for the purpose of studying Newman.

Review by Catherine Maybanks
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Fr Peter Conley takes us on an exciting journey into the spirituality and inner life of Saint John Henry Newman.
 

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Endorsement by Neyra Blanco (Amazon)
I bought this book for my son and he loved it, he wrote this review and urged my to submitted: “I think this book has a very beautiful message, because it shows how the young Newman was so determined to achieve his dream of becoming a priest, but even after his dream he continued to work in the church with passion until the day he died, it’s so admirable that even Newman so old and so weak still had that urge to continued his work of being a priest. And the book is well written with words not too complicated with very enjoyable texts and well illustrated pictures. I highly recommend this book for a 5th grader.  

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What is a Classical Liberal Arts Education? Why is it so important for the development of a person?

Fr. Juan R. Vélez answers these and more questions you might have about University Education in the 21st century. This book is aimed for parents, prospective University students, and educators. It will help you discern why adding Liberal Arts electives to your education will help it form it better, and help the student learn to reason, and not just learn.

He also explains how many Universities have changed the true meaning of Liberal Arts, and the subjects, and gives advise on how to choose College Campus, Subjects, and Teachers.

A wonderful book that every parent should also read way before your children are College bound. A Liberal Arts education can start earlier in life, even from home.

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Endorsement by Christopher Moellering (Goodreads, September 14, 2019)
In Passion for Truth Fr. Vélez gave us an outstanding biography of Cardinal Newman. In this work, he provides a concise overview of his thought and his devotion. This is a great work for someone who, perhaps hearing of Newman for the first time because of his beatification 13 October, 2019, wants to know more about this English saint.Vélez is a wonderful writer in his own right, and the frequent quotations from Newman round out the work nicely. I especially appreciated the frequent citing of Newman’s Meditations and Devotions, which show a different side of his spirituality than his more well-known works, Development of Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Assent.

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Take Five: Meditations with John Henry Newman, endorsement by Illow M. Roque (Amazon, September 3, 2010)
“There is a time to put direct inquiry on hold and give ourselves to prayer and practical duties.” Sound advice from one of the earlier, thought-provoking reminders in this sparkling gem of a book: Take Five | Meditations with John Henry Newman, written by Mike Aquilina and Fr. Juan R. Vélez and published by Our Sunday Visitor. This particular paragraph, referenced above, which begins with a direct quote from soon-to-be canonized priest, cardinal and poet, John Henry Newman: “Study is good, but it gets us only so far . . .” is actually the 15th in a series of 76 concise, logically organized meditations moving from the elementary to the sublime. Each meditation–one per page–is built upon the great man’s writings and remarkably rich spirituality. Whether taken whole in one reading or in part page-by-page over a course of weeks and months, these wonderfully insightful meditations will open up, even to the busiest reader in the midst of the world, a unique pathway into prayer and contemplation. My advice to spiritual inquirers at all levels, from the novice to the spiritually adept, is to follow the authors’ recommendation to use this book as a guide for daily prayer and meditation. The structure of the book itself is ideal: first, the authors introduce us to Cardinal Newman, the man, where we are given the opportunity to get to know him through a brief sketch of his life and spirituality at the beginning of the book. This is something readers will likely find themselves referring to again and again, prompting many, I suspect, to even wider explorations of this most gifted Christian leader. Then comes the meditations, consisting of a short summary of Newman’s thoughts on subjects taken, as the authors explain, from various salient points for which Newman is justly remembered: The pursuit of objective religious truth; Teaching on the Virtues; Defense of the Catholic Church; A devout spiritual and moral life; and Generosity and loyalty in his friendships, which sets the topic and tone for each meditation to follow. Each meditation consists of an excerpt taken from Newman’s thirty-plus volumes of writings and diaries. Next comes three brief and extremely useful sections entitled: “Think About It,” which establishes a prayerfully resonant tone throughout the book; “Just Imagine,” which provides a vivid, prayerful experience of the Scriptures that tie in, and finally, “Remember,” a pithy summation which the authors suggest may be used as a daily aspiration. Each meditation is given its own page, which makes it ideal for daily reflection for readers on the go. This book is a must have for every serious Catholic who wants to take their faith to the next level, which is to respond appropriately to the universal call to holiness and seek interior union with God.
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