Revisiting Aquinas on “Naturalism”

Abstract
This article defends as correct and as faithful to Aquinas’s thought the tenets of “descriptivism” (sometimes called “naturalism”) in the context of criticisms that Patrick Lee has made in “Is Thomas’s Natural Law Theory Naturalist?” (American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 71:4 [1997]: 567–87). “Revisiting Aquinas” argues that evaluative utterances are descriptive; so even if human goods were immediately known by practical reason (a position nonetheless rejected), their understanding would be a descriptive one, which moral objectivity requires. The arising of the prescriptivity of precepts in relation to practical reason is then treated. The descriptivism articulated in this paper supports Lee’s emphasis on the primacy of love and choice; it further stresses that submission to an understood order of objective goods is essential to willing well
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