Goodness and Rightness Ten Years Later

In 1992, James Keenan put forward a renewed interpretation of the development of Aquinas’s thought to the effect that he shifted from an intellectual determinism in his early works, to an understanding of the autonomy of the will in the Prima Secundae of the Summa theologiae; this autonomy is the ground for Keenan’s (and others’) distinction between moral goodness and moral rightness. The present essay analyzes Keenan’s interpretation in terms of the body of criticism that it has generated over the past ten years. In particular, it highlights five important implications that Keenan draws from his theory of the will’s autonomy: the separation of volition from knowledge in the dynamic of freedom, the virtue of charity as formal and non-specific, the moral neutrality of the acquired virtues, the two measures of moral action, and sin as moral “badness.”
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