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


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Aquinas says that motives are responsible for the specification of human action. ‘Motive’ can generally refer to any principle of movement, but two meanings are especially significant in the context of the voluntary. First, one sees ‘motive’ referring to what attracts a person to action. In this context, Aquinas calls motives ‘proper objects of the will’ and insists that they specify as ‘ends’ of human action. Second, one sees motives referring to causes related to appetite. For example, Aquinas differentiates gluttony into five species (named by circumstances) because each species is associated with a distinctive motive, as when rapid digestion (motive) incites concupiscence and defines the species of gluttony called ‘too soon’. Since Aquinas holds that a passion is morally relevant only to the extent that it is voluntary, motives regarding appetite must be willed somehow for them to determine a species of sin.

Keywords: appetite; circumstance; end; final cause; gluttony; human action; motive; move; species; specification

Chapter.  7582 words. 

Subjects: Christian Theology

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