Aristotle in Aquinas’s Moral Theory: Reason, Virtue, and Emotion

Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 87:167-182 (2013)
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Abstract

Eleonore Stump has recently argued that the Aristotelian foundations of Aquinas’s virtue theory have not only been exaggerated but are mistaken. She does not dispute Aquinas’s familiarity with and dependence on Aristotle’s moral theory. Instead, she argues that Aquinas’s ethics must be seen as essentially second-personal, where the central relationship is between the moral agent and the Holy Spirit, specifically the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the theological virtues. Her argument for displacing Aristotle, however, advances on at least two questionable fronts. On the one hand, she claims that the acquired, Aristotelian moral virtues are, for Aquinas, not real virtues at all. Only the infused moral virtues are real. On the other hand, she argues that the pro-Aristotelian character of many descriptions of Aquinas’s moral theory over-emphasizes the role of reason in Aquinas’s ethics. Against this prevailing view, Stump contends that Aquinas is, in a limited way, closer to Hume in privileging the passions over reason. I challenge Stump’s attempted displacement of Aristotle by questioning her on both of these fronts.

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