Joseph Pilsner

in The Specification of Human Actions in St Thomas Aquinas

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780199286058
Published online May 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191603808 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Theological Monographs


Show Summary Details


Aquinas asserts on many occasions that human actions are specified by their objects. Two meanings he gives to the term ‘object’ are particularly significant. On some occasions, he uses ‘object’ to mean a thing in so far as it possesses a formal quality by which it defines a related action, habit, or power. To illustrate, as the colour of something (not its smell or taste) defines sight, so distinctive differences in what is willed determines whether human actions are morally good, evil, or indifferent, and whether they belong to more particular moral species such as almsgiving or adultery. On other occasions, Aquinas has a second meaning for ‘object’, namely, a proximate end. In this case, when he says an object specifies, he means that a proximate end (such as ‘taking an innocent life’) determines a moral species (such as ‘murder’), and that no further end an agent may pursue (such as wealth) is necessary to make this determination.

Keywords: formal aspect; good; human action; mean; object; proximate end; ratio; right reason; species; specification

Chapter.  33983 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Christian Theology

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.