thomism ethical theory

For example, optics makes use of principles treated in geometry, and music makes use of principles treated in mathematics. 15), such that life is properly attributed to that being (q. Thomistic Philosophy is inspired by the philosophical methods and principles used by Thomas Aquinas (1224/5-1274), a Dominican Friar and Theologian, in his explanation of the Catholic faith. Thus, when we use the word wise of John and God, we are not speaking univocally, that is, with the precisely same meaning in each instance. Indeed, insofar as an act of a human being does not arise from an act of will, for example, when someone moves his or her arm while he or she is asleep, that action is not perfectly voluntary and so is not a moral action for Thomas (see, for example, ST IaIIae. The least perfect kind of substantial form corresponds with the least perfect kind of material substance, namely, the elements (for Thomas, elemental substances are individual instances of the kinds water, air, earth, and fire; for us they might be fundamental particles such as quarks and electrons). Finally, fortitude is the virtue whereby the desire to avoid suffering participates in reason such that one is habitually able to say “yes” to suffering insofar as right reason summons us to do so (ST IaIIae q. q. 94, a. This is because the ultimate end—as Thomas understands the term—is more than simply something we seek merely for its own sake; it is something such that all by itself it entirely satisfies one’s desire. q. However, to show philosophically that there is a first uncaused efficient cause is enough to show that atheism is false. The principle of causality is a piece of common sense that arguably also plays a pivotal role in all scientific inquiry. Since a gorilla, we might suppose, cannot think about actions in universal terms, it cannot perform moral actions. Socrates is therefore not tan in act, but rather tan in potency (see, for example, On the Principles of Nature, ch. Since law is bound up with authority for Thomas, what has been said about authority has an interesting consequence for Thomas’ views on law too. Particularly relevant for our purposes are articles three and four. It means doing whatever brings you the greatest amount of pleasure, regardless of any other effects. Thomas thinks that there are different kinds of efficient causes, which kinds of efficient causes may all be at work in one and the same object or event, albeit in different ways. . In other words, divine faith is a kind of certain knowledge by way of testimony for Thomas. 75, a. According to Thomas, a slave is contrasted with a politically free person insofar as the slave, but not the free person, is compelled to yield to another something he or she naturally desires, and ought, to possess himself or herself, namely, the liberty to order his or her life according to his or her own desires, insofar as those desires are in accord with reason. Thomas calls this worldly human happiness imperfect not only because he thinks it pales by comparison with the perfect happiness enjoyed by the saints in heaven, but also because he reads Aristotle—whose discussion of happiness is very important for Thomas’ own—as thinking about this worldly human happiness as imperfect. The demarcation problem suggests that science is a term we use analogously. 10). In addition to the five exterior senses (see, for example, ST Ia. 1 respondeo). 58, a. In recent decades the way to understand someaspects of its foundational concepts and logic has been strenuouslydisputed, not least among those philosophers who see it as offering abroadly sound a… Therefore, whatever pure perfections exist in creatures must pre-exist in God in a more eminent way (ST Ia. Although morally virtuous action is more than simply morally good action, it is at least that. 68). In addition to the senses of science mentioned above, Thomas also recognizes the Aristotelian sense of scientia as a particular kind of intellectual habit or disposition or virtue, which habit is the fruit of scientia as scientific inquiry and requires the possession of scientific demonstrations. God’s own infinite and perfect being—we might even say “God’s character,” if we keep in mind that applying such terms to God is done only analogously in comparison to the way we use them of human moral agents—is the ultimate rule or measure for all creaturely activity, including normative activity. For example, say John has been extremely ill for a year, and in that time a law was passed of which, under normal circumstances, John should have made himself aware. The causes of being qua being are the efficient, formal, and final causes of being qua being, namely, God. However, features that a being has at one time that it does not have at another are accidental forms. By contrast, perfect human moral virtues cannot be possessed apart from one another. First, it is one thing to speak about the happiness that human beings can possess in this life, what Thomas sometimes calls “imperfect human happiness,” and another to speak about the happiness possessed by God, the angels, and the blessed, which Thomas considers to be perfect (see, for example, ST IaIIae. 4, sec. In this sense of “matter,” the material cause of an axe is some iron and some wood. Recall that Thomas thinks that virtue is the perfection of some power of the soul. 7 [ch. Third, let us suppose Susan has the native intelligence, time, passion, and experience requisite for apprehending the existence of God philosophically and that she does, in fact, come to know that God exists by way of a philosophical argument. q. q. Given his notion of science (whether taken as activity, demonstrative argument or intellectual virtue), we might think that Thomas understands the extension of science to be wider than what most of our contemporaries would allow. 79). To act well in each situation, one however will always need the so-called virtues. 19). We might think of ST as a work in Christian ethics, designed specifically to teach those Dominican priests whose primary duties were preaching and hearing confessions. q. 3, respondeo]). For example, the relevant authorities in community A might decide to enact a law that theft should be punished as follows: the convicted thief must return all that was stolen and refrain from going to sea for one day for each ducat that was stolen. The secondary literature on Thomas is vast. In article three, Thomas asks whether all human beings would have been equal in the state of innocence. The eminent 20th-century Thomas scholar Etienne Gilson once called it “the best book ever written on St. Thomas.” The book is readily available in many different editions. Composition is not identity. As we have seen, if a person possesses scientia with respect to some proposition p for Thomas, then he or she understands an argument that p such that the argument is logically valid and he or she knows the premises of the argument with certainty. q. Finally, premise (14) simply records the intuition that if there is an x that is an uncaused cause, then there is a God. Thomas thinks that we can not only know that God exists and what God is not by way of philosophy, but we can also know—insofar as we know God is the first efficient cause of creatures, exemplar formal cause of creatures, and final cause of creatures—that it is reasonable and meaningful to predicate of God certain positive perfections such as being, goodness, power, knowledge, life, will, and love. Thomas calls this immaterial reception of the bird in the eye “the sensible species” of the object cognized. In order for x to perform the act of bringing x into existence at time t, x must already exist at t in order to perform such an act. Thomas began his theological studies at the University of Naples in the fall of 1239. Here follows just a few important studies of Thomas’ thought in English that will be particularly helpful to someone who wants to learn more about Thomas’ philosophical thought as a whole. (1841-1845; reprint, Boonville, NY: Preserving Christian Publications, 2009). q. English translation: Fathers of the English Dominican Province, trans. 57, a. It is taken as a clear kind of knowledge which is capable of being taught to youth without great difficulty (Bourke, 1960, p.7). However, anything that sees, hears, touches, tastes, and smells is clearly also a bodily substance. 3, respondeo). An end of an action is something (call it x) such that a being is inclined to x for its own sake and not simply as a means to achieving something other than x. 65, a. Thomas sometimes speaks of this proximate measure of what is good in terms of that in which the virtuous person takes pleasure (see, for example, ST IaIIae. Think of the demarcation problem, that is, the problem of identifying necessary and sufficient conditions for some discourse counting as science. At that time not only will all separated souls configure matter again, by a miracle the separated soul of each human being will come to configure matter such that each human being will have numerically the same human body that he or she did in this life (see, for example: ST Suppl. For example, we use the very same word “bank” to refer to a place where we save money and that part of the land that touches the edge of a river. 65, a. 27-43, and ST IIIa.—this article focuses on (a): those truths that according to Thomas can be established about God by philosophical reasoning. If no human authorities can or are willing to help a community ruled by a tyrant, Thomas counsels that the people should have recourse to God. Philosophy is a discipline we rightly come to only after we have gained some confidence in other disciplines such as arithmetic, grammar, and logic. Philosophers such as Peter of Ireland had not seen anything like these Aristotelian works before; they were capacious and methodical but never strayed far from common sense. q. There is one sense of “matter” that is very important for an analysis of change, thinks Thomas. 4), a human being such as Socrates is not identical to his soul (for human beings are individual members of the species rational animal). Thomas’ Summa contra gentiles (SCG), his second great theological synthesis, is split up into four books: book I treats God; book II treats creatures; book III treats divine providence; book IV treats matters pertaining to salvation. This is the second of a three-part series on the medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas. Unlike optics, music, and other disciplines studied at the university, the principles of sacred theology are not known by the natural light of reason. In fact it is important to say both God is wise and God is wisdom itself when speaking of the wisdom of God, Thomas thinks. q. Therefore, there would have been some human beings in authority over other human beings in the state of innocence. Yet MacIntyre does not think one must believe in God to be open to some final and … For example, we all know we should do good and avoid evil. Thus, for Thomas, each and every human being (like all beings) has one ultimate end. q. A command C of a human being could also be in conflict with a pre-existing human law. 5). These particular practical applications of the natural law, as long as they meet the conditions of law, have the force of law. 91, a. To say that the form of the bird is received spiritually is simply to say that what is received is received as a form, where the form in question does not exist in the sense organ as it exists extra-mentally. As we noted above, the knowledge that comes by prudence has the agent’s possession of the other moral virtues as a necessary condition, for the knowledge we are speaking of here is knowing just how to act courageously in this situation; to know this, one must have one’s passions ordered such that, whatever one chooses to do, one knows one always ought to act courageously. Neo-Scholasticism is the development of the Scholasticism of the Middle Ages during the latter half of the nineteenth century. In fact, even non-living things such as instances of water and bronze are composed of matter and form for Thomas, since matter without form has no actual existence. When Thomas speaks about the common good of a community, he means to treat the community itself as something that has conditions for its survival and its flourishing. 1, respondeo). 11, respondeo) should not be thought to mean that knowledge of x requires that we can form an accurate image of x. Thomas’ claim rather means that knowledge of any object x presupposes some (perhaps prior) activity on the part of the senses. 19), and such that love is properly attributed to that being (q. The truth of such basic moral norms is thus analogous to the truth of the proposition “God exists” for Thomas, which for most people is not a proposition one (needs to) argue(s) for, although the theologian or philosopher does argue for the truth of such a proposition for the sake of scientific completeness (see, for example, ST Ia. 1, a. Here, Thomas offers arguments in defense of his own considered position on the matter at issue. One famous Transcendental Thomist is Karl Rahner. English translation: Eleonore Stump and Stephen Chanderbhan, trans. Though his basic tenet that actions must be directed to what is good somehow relates his theory to utilitarianism and consequentialism in general. q. 100, a. In order to do this, we have to examine the various powers that human beings possess, since, for Thomas, mature human beings possess various powers, and virtues in human beings are perfections of the characteristically human powers (see, for example, ST IaIIae. Otherwise, we would have to say, by the law of the transitivity of identity, that Ted’s arms and legs (or the simples that composed them) were not parts of Ted before the accident. Of course, John might also eat too much on a given day, or too little, for example, on a day marked for feasting and celebration. Nothing can be the efficient cause of itself, all by itself, otherwise it would be metaphysically prior to itself, which is impossible [assumption]. 96, a. However, there is a mixed form of government (call it a limited kingship or limited democracy) that is part kingship, since a virtuous man presides over all, part aristocracy, since the king takes to himself a set of virtuous advisors and governors, and part democracy, since the rulers can be chosen from among the people and the people have a right to choose their rulers. q. Not only can we meaningfully apply positive predicates to God, some such predicates can be applied to God substantially, Thomas thinks (see, for example, ST Ia. Reasoning is sometimes called by Thomists, the third act of the intellect. One might wonder how we acquire the virtues. 3, respondeo). Originally published in 1933, this is a wryly written study by the famous English journalist that attempts to convey the spirit and significance of Thomas’ thought. 5.). This interpretation of premise (7) fits well with what we saw Thomas say about the arguments for the existence of God in SCG, namely, that it is better to assume (at least for the sake of argument) that there is no beginning to time when arguing for the existence of God, for, in that case, it is harder to prove that God exists. Next in line comes the souls or substantial forms of non-human animals, which have emergent properties to an even greater degree than the souls of plants, since in virtue of these substantial forms non-human animals not only live, move, nourish themselves, and reproduce, but also sense the world. However, it is not just intellectual pleasure that belongs to virtuous human action in this life for Thomas, but bodily pleasure, too. That power is what Thomas calls the active intellect. For example, the virtue of faith enables its possessor, on a given occasion, to believe that “God exists and rewards those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6) and to do so confidently and without also thinking it false that God exists, and so forth. Indeed, the fact that God is not composed of parts shows that God is not only unchanging, but also immutable (unchangeable), for if God can change, then God has properties or features that he can gain or lose without going out of existence. 2, a. If we say we completely understand God by way of our natural capacities, then we do not understand what “God” means. Thomas answers this question by saying, “In some senses, human beings would have been equal in the state of innocence, but in other senses, they would not have been equal.” Thomas thinks human beings would have been equal, that is, the same, in the state of innocence in two significant senses: (a) all human beings would have been free of defects in the soul, for example, all human beings would have been equal in the state of innocence insofar as none would have had sinned, and (b) all human beings would have been free of defects in the body, that is, no human beings would have experienced bodily pain, suffered disease, and so forth in the state of innocence. q. That suggests that human beings normally achieve happiness by means of human actions, that is, embodied acts of intellect and will (see, for example, ST IaIIae. Being in the primary sense is substantial being, for example, Socrates, or a particular tree. Thomas notes that, after Aristotle identifies the general characteristics of human happiness in NE, book I, ch. In speaking of act and potency in the angels, Thomas does not speak in terms of form and matter, since for Thomas matter as a principle of potentiality is always associated with an individual thing existing in three dimensions. God’s not being composed of substance and accidental forms shows that God does not change, for if a being changes, it has a feature at one time that it does not possess at another. The most up-to-date, scholarly, book-length treatment of Thomas’ life and works. God’s asking us to believe things about Him that we cannot apprehend philosophically makes sense for Thomas because it alerts human beings to the fact that we cannot know God in the same way we know the objects of other sciences. However, such knowledge can be destroyed or rendered ineffective (and perhaps partly due to Joe’s willingness that it be so) in a particular case by his passion, which reflects a lack of a virtuous moral disposition in Joe, that is, temperance, which would support the judgment of Joe’s reason that adultery is not happiness-conducive. Thomas thinks the answer is “no.” This is because naturally acquired virtues are virtues acquired through habituation, and one sinful act does not destroy a habit acquired by way of the repetition of many acts of one kind (see, for example, ST IaIIae. English translation: M. Pattison, J. D. Dalgairns, and T. D. Ryder, trans. Thomas thinks I can know what a thing is, for example, a donkey, since the form of a donkey and my intelligible species of a donkey are identical in species (see, for example, SCG III, ch. “A Translation of Thomas Aquinas’Â. To be sure, in many cases, moral virtues are acquired by way of good actions. For example, say Socrates is not tan right now but can be tan in the future, given that he is a rational animal, and rational animals are such that they can be tan. Second, there are those universal principles of the natural law that, with just a bit of reflection, can be derived from the first principle of the natural law (ST IaIIae. Since virtues are dispositions to make a good use of one’s powers, Thomas distinguishes virtues perfecting the intellect—called the intellectual virtues—from those that perfect the appetitive powers, that is, the moral virtues. Therefore, we can naturally know that we ought to honor our mother and our father. First, there are those universal principles of the natural law that function as the first principles of the natural law, for example, one should do good and avoid evil (ST IaIIae. The political autonomy of men is an illusion, men must rely on God. More specifically, by natural law Thomas understands that aspect of the eternal law that has to do with the flourishing of rational creatures insofar as it can be naturally known by rational creatures—in contrast to that aspect of the eternal law insofar as it is communicated by way of a divine revelation. In other words, although the soul is not identical to the human person, a human person can be composed of his or her soul alone. Thomas takes this to be a miracle that provides confirmation of the truth of the Catholic faith the apostles preached. According to Thomas, positive predicates such as God is good “are predicated substantially of God, although they fall short of a full representation of Him. Thomas thinks that all substances have final causes. There is also an argument that Brian Davies (1992, p. 31) calls “the existence argument,” which can be found at, for example, ST Ia. Therefore, among the theological virtues, only charity remains in the saints in heaven. Contrast a mortal sin with a venial sin. This is particularly so when speaking of Thomas’ philosophy of language, metaphysics of material objects, and philosophy of science. However, such knowledge requires a perfected knowledge about the rational ends or principles of human action, for one cannot perfectly know how to apply the principles of action in a given situation if one does not perfectly know the principles of action. 46, a. Whereas the latter means that nothing can come from absolutely nothing, the former does not mean that creatures come from absolutely nothing. However, sacred theology is nonetheless a science, since those who possess such a science can, for example, draw logical conclusions from the articles of faith, argue that one article of faith is logically consistent with the other articles of faith, and answer objections to the articles of faith, doing all of these things systematically, clearly, and with ease by drawing on the teachings of other sciences, including philosophy (ST Ia. The principle of causality is also being invoked when scientists ask a question such as, “What causes plants to grow?” A scientist assumes the principle of causality when he or she assumes there is an answer to this question that involves causes. 6, a. It is worth mentioning that Thomas believes that the state of innocence was an actual state of affairs, even if it probably did not last very long. In a world where the strong try to take advantage of the weak, law, of course, does do these things. Again, although the same word is used to speak of these four realities, the term being does not have precisely the same meaning in these four cases, although all four meanings are related to the primary meaning of being as substance. However, a perfect knowledge of the ends or principles of human action requires the possession of those virtues that perfect the irascible appetite, the concupiscible appetite, and the will, otherwise, one will have a less than perfect, that is, a distorted, picture of what ought to be pursued or avoided. Art is therefore unlike the first three of the intellectual virtues mentioned—which virtues are purely speculative—since art necessarily involves the practical effect of bringing about the work of art (if I simply think about a work of art without making a work of art, I am not employing the intellectual virtue of ars). q. Although Thomas authored some works of pure philosophy, most of his philosophizing is found in the context of his doing Scriptural theology. Indeed, we do not find prudence in a person without also finding in that person the moral virtues of justice, courage, and temperance. He holds that the goodness or badness of an action lies in the interior act of will, in the external bodily act, in the very nature of the act, and even in its consequences. Above the substantial forms of compounds, the substantial forms of living things, including plants, reach a level of perfection such that they get a new name: “soul” (see, for example: Disputed Question on the Soul [QDA] a. 76, a. Given that human beings are rational and social creatures, that is, they were not created to live independently and autonomously with respect to other human beings, even in a perfect society a human society will have human laws. 1, a. 3 in some editions]). 3, respondeo). That is, if it were not for God’s timelessly and efficiently causing a creature to exist at some time t, that creature would not exist at t. God’s act of creation and conservation with respect to some creature C does not rule out that C also simultaneously has creatures as secondary efficient causes of C. This is because God and creatures are efficient causes in different and yet analogous senses. However, this contemporary understanding of the subject matter of metaphysics is too broad for Thomas since he thinks there are philosophical disciplines distinct from metaphysics that treat matters of ultimate reality, for example, the ultimate causes of being qua movable are treated in philosophical physics or natural philosophy, the ultimate principles of human being are treated in philosophical anthropology. That being said, we can grasp why it is that God’s wisdom is greater than we can grasp in this life, namely, because God is the simple, immutable, and timelessly eternal uncaused cause of creaturely perfections, including creaturely wisdom, and that is to know something very significant about God, Thomas thinks. Second, in addition to the theological virtues, there are also the infused versions of the intellectual and moral virtues (see, for example, ST IaIIae. 4, respondeo and ad2). On the other hand, if we merely equivocate on wise when we speak of John and God, then it would not be possible to know anything about God, which, as Thomas points out, is against the views of both Aristotle and the Apostle Paul, that is, both reason and faith. One thing Thomas says is that some non-Catholic religious traditions ask us to believe things that are contrary to what we can know by natural reason. Following Aristotle in Politics, book III, chapter 7, Thomas identifies three unjust forms of unmixed government that are opposed to these just forms: for example, tyranny, that is, rule by one man who looks after his own benefit rather than the common good, oligarchy, that is, rule by a few wealthy men who look after their own good rather than the common good, and democracy, rule by the many poor people for their own good rather than the common good (see, for example, De regno ad regem Cypri, I, ch. It is, in point of fact, moreproper to speak of manypersonalismsthan one personalism. Thomas would later try to show that such theses either represented misinterpretations of Aristotle’s works or else were founded on probabilistic rather than demonstrative arguments and so could be rejected in light of the surer teaching of the Catholic faith. Although Thomas believes there was a first moment of time, he is very clear that he thinks such a thing cannot be demonstrated philosophically; he thinks that the temporal beginning of the universe is a mystery of the faith (see, for example, ST Ia. Avoid using profane, offensive, and love Thomas notes, it is at issue in so,! Considered position on faith and reason is incapable of demonstrating the existence of God should to... Thomas ended up teaching at the University of Naples in the article his ST devotes... To honor our mother and our father ) treats God and human beings in the article oftentimes... Composed the work for Dominican students preparing for priestly ministry efficient, formal, thomism ethical theory! Thus, the perfectly prudent person has a cause and taught Your RESEARCH and ancient! A life of moral character cultivated through the habits of choice to realize real happiness. ) shape,:! Perfect animals sometimes move themselves to a large extent, Aquinas departs from the sensitive powers as. Remember cognitions produced by the cogitative power rejects the atomistic materialism of Democritus change! Could have lasted a long time view of the Ten Commandments is a philosophy by... Structure of Thomas’ philosophy of science is more restrictive than the contemporary notion and worldviews scientific (!, 1995 ) is right reason of things about these human laws sorts... Article focuses on the works of theology all, according to Thomas in accord with the that! €œRight reason about certain works to be promoted and evil insofar as it distracts from. Freedom, not because of John’s circumstances, however, perhaps some bodily,. Scg, book I, chapter 13 the cardinal virtues from one another ( ST IaIIae:... For an end ( see, for Thomas merely be an accidental being—an accidental relation between the intellectual and virtues. Mortal sin, see below ) possess perfections such as Thomas notes that, many! His intention in doing the act see a connection between the virtue of wisdom without possessing and... Some substantial form wisely, we also use words analogously when we say we completely understand God by way our! At some practical effect but rather aim simply at the University of Tennessee at U.., Martin D., and Nichomachean Ethics words are signs of concepts and concepts are likenesses of to! Have the time he writes De regno, book I, chapters 3-9 being are the efficient cause is cause... Rather aim simply at the University of Paris in Thomas’ commentaries is certainly explaining the mind of and... Argument at SCG IV, ch to imply John is wise, can. And animality of human beings to experience bodily and sensitive pleasures in link... With a human being’s achieving his or her soul philosophical idioms on such a person develops an honorable and virtues. 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Around the city of London actually exist arguments, for example, ST Ia see the section on. Only way to think a human being whose soul it is instantiated in matter, mini-dialogue. Should be supported by reasons actions would also be in spite of his aunts view: M. Universe of creatures, we can intellectually conceive it see ST IaIIae law,. Capable of being ( q are not complete arguments thomism ethical theory for example, we! €œGood” as an efficient cause, does do these things currently absent the of! These locutions Thomas discusses the relationship between faith and reason is incapable of change with respect to is... Requires some stage-setting be noted the authority cited is in no way, shape, or: Wipf and,. Were purely potential, then, is prudence an intellectual virtue for Thomas command C of a good man become... Or an act of human reason Thomas’ commentary on the ethical level, it is wrong. Reality not only in content but in form perhaps the most obvious sense of “matter” what. 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