Moral Absolutes in Aristotle and Aquinas

John Finnis

in Reason in Action

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199580057
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729379 | DOI:
Moral Absolutes in Aristotle and Aquinas

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This chapter gives a brief but fundamental discussion of the common thesis (here studied as expounded by Leo Strauss and W. F. R. Hardie) that Aristotle did not acknowledge exceptionless negative moral norms. Marshalling the evidence against this interpretation accompanies a refutation of interpretations of Aquinas that would have him, too, deny the exceptionlessness of all negative moral norms such as those excluding the intended killing of innocents, lying, or adultery. Greater or lesser evil involved in alternative choices cannot be rationally identified prior to moral judgments. Utilitarianism, including its two-level forms (Sidgwick, Hare) analogous to Strauss's ‘Averroism’, is thus not a rational alternative to an ethics which includes absolute respect for basic human goods.

Keywords: Strauss; Aristotle; Aquinas; exceptionless norms; greater and lesser evil; W. F. R. Hardie

Chapter.  5422 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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