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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.199) 8 Motive
The Specification of Human Actions in St Thomas Aquinas

Joseph Pilsner (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Aquinas says that motives are responsible for the specification of human action. ‘Motive’ can generally refer to any principle of movement, but two meanings are especially significant in the context of the voluntary. First, one sees ‘motive’ referring to what attracts a person to action. In this context, Aquinas calls motives ‘proper objects of the will’ and insists that they specify as ‘ends’ of human action. Second, one sees motives referring to causes related to appetite. For example, Aquinas differentiates gluttony into five species (named by circumstances) because each species is associated with a distinctive motive, as when rapid digestion (motive) incites concupiscence and defines the species of gluttony called ‘too soon’. Since Aquinas holds that a passion is morally relevant only to the extent that it is voluntary, motives regarding appetite must be willed somehow for them to determine a species of sin.

Keywords:   appetite, circumstance, end, final cause, gluttony, human action, motive, move, species, specification

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