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The Saint and the Atheist

Thomas Aquinas and Jean-Paul Sartre

It is hard to think of two philosophers less alike than St. Thomas Aquinas and Jean-Paul Sartre. Aquinas, a thirteenth-century Dominican friar, and Sartre, a twentieth-century philosopher and atheist, are separated by both time and religious beliefs. Yet, for philosopher Joseph S. Catalano, the two are worth bringing together for their shared concern with a fundamental issue: the uniqueness of each individual person and how this uniqueness relates to our mutual dependence on each other. When viewed in the context of one another, Sartre broadens and deepens Aquinas’s outlook, updating it for our present planetary and social needs. Both thinkers, as Catalano shows, bring us closer to the reality that surrounds us, and both are centrally concerned with the place of the human within a temporal realm and what stance we should take on our own freedom to act and live within that realm. Catalano shows how freedom, for Sartre, is embodied, and that this freedom further illuminates Aquinas’s notion of consciousness.

Compact and open to readers of varying backgrounds, this book represents Catalano’s efforts to bring a lifetime of work on Sartre into an accessible consideration of philosophical questions by placing him in conversation with Aquinas, and it serves as a primer on key ideas of both philosophers. By bringing together these two figures, Catalano offers a fruitful space for thinking through some of the central questions about faith, conscience, freedom, and the meaning of life.

176 pages | 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 | © 2021

Philosophy: Ethics, General Philosophy, History and Classic Works

Religion: Philosophy of Religion, Theology, and Ethics


“Longtime admirers of either figure will find the author’s unique perspective enriching.”

Publishers Weekly

“In a profound effort to think with and through Sartre and Aquinas, Catalano works out an original and reconstructive reading of these odd bedfellows, one that moves us well beyond both ‘the atheist’ and ‘the saint.’ Catalano’s emphatic commitment to a corporeal understanding of the human experience is vivid throughout, and his philosophical imagination is rigorous, nuanced, and often poetic. He is, as he has always been, exceptionally good at giving the reader immediate insight into seemingly impenetrable philosophical terms, thanks not least to the power and clarity of his thinking and the inviting and open-textured quality of his writing. Among its many merits, and perhaps above all, The Saint and the Atheist asks the reader to slow down and think—to think hard about things that matter; to think with challenging figures such as Aquinas and Sartre, among many others; to think along with Catalano, too; and, most importantly, to think for oneself.”

Matthew Ally, author of Ecology and Existence: Bringing Sartre to the Water’s Edge

“This book demonstrates Catalano’s wide background and extensive life experience with both key philosophical concepts and their practical relevance as he addresses topics including good faith, the universal singular, and the pervasiveness of freedom in the actions of human beings. Catalano has created a coherent yet wide-ranging collection of ideas, presented in a way that is attractive and accessible to a broad reading public. The Saint and the Atheist is the unique product of a seasoned philosopher eager to share his philosophical reflections with an audience that extends well beyond the borders of professional philosophy.”

William McBride, author of From Yugoslav Praxis to Global Pathos: Anti-Hegemonic Post-Post-Marxist Essays

Table of Contents


1. The Cast

2. Becoming Acquainted

3. Introducing Good Faith

4. Good Faith

5. Our Twofold Birth

6. From Child to Adult

7. Sartre’s Studies of Flaubert and Genet

8. Lying to Oneself

9. On Being an Author

10. The Value of Universals in Our Lives

11. Universality and Personality

12. My Time, Your Time, the World’s Time

13. Half-Time: The Battle over the Sex of Angels

14. On Truth: A First Glance

15. Pursuing Truth

16. The Truth of Our Present History: Scarcity

17. Our World

18. Our One World

19. Influencing the World: Action and Praxis

20. Intentionality and Methodology

Conclusion: The Meaning of Life

Appendix 1. Edith Stein
Appendix 2. Hitler, the Vatican, and Donald Trump

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