Practical Reasoning

Thomas Osborne

in The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Practical Reasoning

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Aquinas argued that practical reason is distinct but not entirely insulated from speculative reason. Practical reason is distinct from speculative reason because it is ordered to some work or end. The difference between the practical and speculative intellects is that the speculative is concerned only with the truth, whereas the practical apprehends the truth for the sake of some further end. The rectitude of the speculative intellect consists solely in conformity to things. The practical intellect too must conform to the world but its rectitude consists further in an end or operation. It is not only measured by the world but also itself measures the world. Aquinas distinguished differently between the degrees of practical knowledge throughout his career. The basic problem is that practical knowledge is about something that can be done (operabile), but not everyone knows such a work with the purpose of doing it. Aquinas used the work of building a house to illustrate his point that knowledge can be divided according to the thing known, the way it is known, and the end for which it is known. Aquinas argued that speculative knowledge can also be made practical through the manner of knowing or the end such as an architectural student might also have speculative knowledge of a house as something that can be built.

Keywords: practical reason; speculative reason; practical knowledge; secundum quid; operabile

Article.  5472 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy

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