Human Freedom and Agency

Thomas Williams

in The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195326093
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Human Freedom and Agency

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Aquinas argued that every human action is for the sake of some end. Aquinas distinguished between a human action (actus humanus) and an action of a human being (action hominis). Human actions are those that proceed from human beings in virtue of their distinguishing power, which is to be in control of their own actions (dominus suorum actuum) through reason and will. Anything else that a human being does can be called the action of a human being, but not a human action. Human actions are those that are willed on the basis of rational deliberation. Aquinas argued that at any given time, a human being can have only one ultimate end. This single ultimate end can be an aggregate of goods that the agent regards as collectively constituting his perfection. This ultimate end, whether unitary or aggregate, must be (Aquinas argued) the ultimate explanation for all of a given person's actions. All human beings have the same ultimate end, for all human beings desire their own perfection, though different people will have different ideas about what perfection consists in. Consilium is an investigation of the means by which the intended end may be attained or realized. Consilium terminates with an act of iudicium, the intellect's judgment that one of the means that have received the will's consent is the best, all things considered.

Keywords: human action; actus humanus; dominus suorum actuum; action hominis

Article.  5286 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics

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