Aquinas: Action


in The Development of Ethics: Volume 1

Published in print September 2007 | ISBN: 9780198242673
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191680519 | DOI:

Series: Development of Ethics

Aquinas: Action

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Any plausible account of will and action must explain how will and passion are related in moving one to action. Thomas Aquinas has assumed that passions are not the source of ultimate ends. If Aquinas describes the relation of will and passion to action, he commits himself to a position on questions about freedom and responsibility. At first sight, he seems likely to commit himself to the denial of freedom. His account of rational agency suggests that rational agents necessarily execute their conception of the ultimate end in their actions. However, many suppose that free agents cannot be necessitated in this way. In opposition to such doubts, Aquinas argues that his views about the will and the ultimate end vindicate belief in human freedom. The chapter appreciates his argument and discusses his account of will and action before turning to his views about freedom. His account of action does not presuppose (in Aquinas' view) any specific conception about freedom, but it allows us to derive a plausible account of freedom.

Keywords: Thomas Aquinas; will; passion; action; freedom; responsibility; rational agency

Chapter.  12587 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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