The angelic doctor and the stagirite: Thomas Aquinas and contemporary 'aristotelian' ethics

Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 101 (1):97–128 (2001)
To what extent, if any, is the moral thought of Thomas Aquinas 'Aristotelian'? This question is not simply of historical interest, since it directs our attention to those areas of contemporary English-speaking moral philosophy where Thomas is discussed. In some quarters there is a tendency to classify Thomas as a thinker in the 'Aristotelian tradition', and his debt to Aristotle is thought to be apparent in his remarks on moral reasoning and virtue. Nowhere is this tendency more evident than in discussions of Thomas by supporters of modern virtue ethics. In this paper, I will argue that the relationship of Thomas's ethics to Aristotle is much more complicated than these discussions assume. Despite the strong and interesting affinities that exist between the practical philosophies of Thomas and Aristotle, the sum total of their common features can never disguise nor dilute the profound differences that separate them. The paper will conclude with some suggestions as to how an appreciation of these differences can enable us to cast Thomas's remarks on virtue in a different light
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