Wisdom as Foundational Ethical Theory in St. Thomas Aquinas

Lawrence Dewan

in Wisdom, Law, and Virtue

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780823227969
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823237210 | DOI:

Series: Moral Philosophy and Moral Theology

Wisdom as Foundational Ethical               Theory in St. Thomas Aquinas

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One problem for the foundation of ethics is the question of the reality of nature. Is there any such thing as nature? Much prevailing scientific orthodoxy suggests that the coherence and order of reality is ultimately accidental. Another problem focuses on the move from being to goodness-for-me (from “is” to a decisive “ought”). Even given that things have natures, and that natures are interesting and beautiful, what relevance has the appeal that they make to one's appetites? This chapter argues that the sapiential response to both of these problems is to present the appetite as pertaining to the nature of the thing. The human appetite is appetite for the fullness of being proper to the intellectual nature: to be, in a way, all things. Things have more the nature of goals, just to the extent that they participate in or pertain to such fullness. The ultimate happiness must be beyond the grave, a knowledge of God, the source of being as such, beyond what is possible in the present state. In this present state of life, the contemplative operations have most of all the nature of the goal. The next highest line of operation is that which orders the will regarding the whole community, that is, governmental felicity, which brings rational order to the realm of choice. Below this are domestic and individual reasonableness. The task of wisdom is simply to present the ordered vision.

Keywords: wisdom; ethics; God; ethical theory; goodness; nature; human appetite

Chapter.  10757 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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