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The Specification of Human Actions in St Thomas Aquinas$
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Joseph Pilsner

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199286058

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2006

DOI: 10.1093/0199286051.001.0001

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(p.1) 1 Introduction
The Specification of Human Actions in St Thomas Aquinas

Joseph Pilsner (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

A crucial task for any moral theory is to determine what makes a human action to be of a certain kind. For instance, what makes almsgiving to be in its own species rather than in the species of theft or selling? Aquinas addresses this issue in a few of his works, most notably Commentary on the Sentences, De Malo, and the Summa Theologiae. However, a puzzle arises when his writings are examined carefully. Aquinas uses five different terms — end, object, matter, circumstance, and motive — to signify what gives species to human actions. Although similarities in meaning can be discerned among certain of these terms, it is difficult to grasp how all five could refer to what specifies human actions. In this monograph, the five terms used by Aquinas are examined and compared to propose a more comprehensive account of his teaching on specification of human action.

Keywords:   circumstance, end, human action, matter, motive, object, proximate end, remote end, species, specification

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