Dr. Peter Kreeft is a prolific writer. Stunningly prolific. This is a man who has taught philosophy at Boston College since 1965, while maintaining a robust schedule as an in-demand speaker on all things Catholic—although he is invited to speak by many non-Catholic organizations, as well—writing countless articles and books, all while living his vocation as a devoted husband, father, and grandfather.
Over the years, he has written dozens of books. So many, in fact, that it is actually hard to verify the actual count. But at any rate, he is nearing 100 books, and is showing no signs of slowing down.
His books have covered a wide variety of topics. There are books on Scripture (Wisdom from the Psalms, Probes: Deep Sea Diving into Saint John’s Gospel, You Can Understand the Bible); fundamental apologetics (Handbook of Catholic Apologetics, Fundamentals of the Faith, Catholic Christianity ); the history of philosophy (Socrates’ Children: The 100 Greatest Philosophers); explications of Thomas Aquinas (A Summa of the Summa, A Shorter Summa, Practical Theology: Spiritual Direction from Saint Thomas Aquinas ); Socratic dialogues (Socrates Meets Marx, Symbol or Substance? A Dialogue on the Eucharist ); Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings (The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings, Celebrating Middle Earth); abortion (Three Approaches to Abortion, The Unaborted Socrates); the culture war (How to Win the Culture War, A Refutation of Moral Relativism ); prayer (Prayer for Beginners, Prayer: the Great Conversation) surfing (I Surf, Therefore I Am, If Einstein Had Been a Surfer); and many more.
Kreeft’s work is remarkable for its sheer volume, certainly, but also for its readability. One might expect a philosophy professor’s writing to be almost impenetrable, but he has an incredible gift for presenting even the most complex ideas in a way that they can be easily grasped by the uninitiated. His writing is conversational and informative, never condescending or pedantic, and always edifying.
Dr. Kreeft recently spoke with Catholic World Report about his writing process, and his many books.
Catholic World Report: I have seen different numbers in different places, so let’s get it from the horse’s mouth: how many books have you written?
Peter Kreeft: Somewhere between 80 and 90. I find numbers nearly meaningless. All the most important things are qualitative, not quantitative.
CWR: What does your writing process look like? Do you have a very different approach to different types of books?
Kreeft: I have no special methods, techniques, or approaches to writing. I just write what I want to write. I suspect that many times the best method is no method.
CWR: Is prayer a part of your writing process?
Kreeft: I do offer a “this is for You” prayer before writing, but claim no expertise in prayer. I have ADD and get bored very easily.
CWR: Are there any particular writers who have served as an inspiration for you?
Kreeft: Augustine and Aquinas, Chesterton and Lewis, are always somewhere in the cave of my mind, usually in the dark, unconscious places.
CWR: Do you have several books in the works at any given moment?
Kreeft: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Whatever works.
CWR: You’ve written a great number of dialogues: Socrates Meets Jesus (and many others), Symbol or Substance?, Between Heaven and Hell, among others. Do you enjoy writing in this format? Do you think this format lends itself to certain things the way regular prose does not?
Kreeft: I do think dialogs accomplish a drama and a magnetism that monolog does not, and I have never solved the problem of why more thinkers don’t use them, as Plato did. No one has ever exceeded him. Yet his books are the oldest and first in the history of philosophy. When I was in Japan, back in 1968, one of the Zen masters I interviewed said to me after a conversation, “You will never attain Zen Enlightenment because you are always dialoging with yourself. I’ll bet Socrates is your favorite philosopher.” He saw into my soul.
CWR: Are there books you’ve written that haven’t been published, or books that you’ve always wanted to write?
Kreeft: No. If I want to write a book, I do it. I write books that I wish other people would write but they don’t, so in order to read these books I have to write them first. I have shorter pieces that are unpublished but the only two book length manuscripts are my dull doctoral dissertation on wonder in Plato and Augustine and an early, too-uncritical commentary on Teilhard de Chardin’s The Divine Milieu. I like commenting on other writers’ books. Dwarves like to climb onto the heads of giants
CWR: Of your many books, which have been favorites to write? Which do you think have done the most good? Which do you want to be remembered for?
Kreeft: My one novel, An Ocean Full of Angels, was both the most fun and the most trouble. It took almost 20 years to complete for two reasons: it demanded repeated condensation and revision (my three short books on surfing and the sea were originally part of that) and I had to wait until the characters showed themselves to me rather than letting me manipulate them. I think the book that will do the most good for individuals is Jesus Shock. I think the book that will last and help students the most is my four volume history of philosophy for intelligent beginners, Socrates’ Children. The book I wrote most easily (three days to write it, three days to revise it) was Between Heaven and Hell.
CWR: Your latest from Ignatius Press is Wisdom from the Psalms. What prompted you to write this book? What sort of wisdom can be gleaned from the Psalms?
Kreeft: All my books come from some kind of love. Without love no one can do anything well. The Psalms continually reveal their depths and power to me in prayer, so I wanted to share some of the many intuitive insights they gave me.
CWR: I know you have more books coming out in the near future from Ignatius Press. Are there others in the works right now?
Kreeft: I’m now doing three volumes of homilies on all the liturgical scripture readings in the Lectionary for the three year cycle, for Bishop Barron’s “Word on Fire” organization, to be called Homily Helpers. First volume will be out in time for Advent next year. Ignatius has a few more of my books (collections of essays) blocking their pipes. Two of many words I find meaningless are “retirement” and “predictability.” Two that I find very meaningful are “oops” and “yes,” which correspond to the two requirements for salvation, repentance and faith.
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!