Monday, January 7, 2013

Japanese Translator: Thomas Aquinas as Bach

Edit: this is probably one of the most genius comments written this year.

Bangkok ( Ryosuke Inagaki (84) emeritus Philosophy professor of the University of Kyushu, has completed his translation of St. Thomas Aquinas' "Summa Theologica" into Japanese.  "Thomas' writing is like a piece by Bach, with a rhythm, which lightens the way.  For that reason, once I was into the translation,  it went seemingly fast,"  said Inagaki to the press service of Ucanews on Monday.  He did not find the work as an obligation.

The professor had completed the translation of  20 of the 45 volumes himself and accompanied the project till its completion at the end of September.  The "Summa" of the Dominican friar and Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas (from 1225-1274) is counted of the most important theologico-philosophical works of the Middle Ages.

Inagaki, who was himself baptized as a student, learned of the work of Thomas Aquinas, among other things, from a US Officer stationed in Japan after the Second World War.  Later he studied the concept of Thomas' natural law.  As a translation project he pushed through the eleventh volume.

His favorite edition of the "Summa theological" remained according to Ucanews, a 1952 soft cover exemplar for the general US market with the title "My Way of Life".  The title made correct statement that Thomas wanted to make an instruction manual for people "who really wanted to be truly and actually happy", said Inagaki.

There were 15 researchers participating in  the Japanese translation by the agency.  Half of them did not survive to finish the last volume.  The founder of the publishing house, in which the Japanese "Summa" appeared, died two days after the completion of the galley proof of the last volume.  A Latin-German, was begun to 34 volumes of the extant edition in 1933.  It is still not finished.


  1. This statement seems such an odd one to make regarding the Summa.: "who really wanted to be truly and actually happy".

    1. Eudaimonia is the aim of the philosopher.

    2. which is better-attained being a theologian, too

  2. You might be interested to know that this story has not appeared in any Japanese newspapers, although Japanese Wikipedia confirms that this really did happen recently, and the 80-year-old translator is Japan's foremost Aquinas scholar.

    Funny how this news stuff works.

  3. God bless him; this is awesome. He wrote a seemingly interesting article in Philosophy and science in the Middle Ages: "The study of medieval philosophy in Japan."

  4. "His favorite edition of the 'Summa theological' remained ... a 1952 soft cover exemplar ... with the title 'My Way of Life.'"

    I have that book! It was put out by the Confraternity of the Precious Blood in Brooklyn. It's quite small, palm sized, with a green cover. It's not really a translation, more a short paraphrase in modern English. But its theme is definitely "how to be happy," with "happiness" defined as union with God.