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The Development of Ethics: Volume 1From Socrates to the Reformation$
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Terence Irwin

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780198242673

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198242673.001.0001

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Aquinas: Practical Reason and Prudence

Aquinas: Practical Reason and Prudence

(p.571) 22 Aquinas: Practical Reason and Prudence
The Development of Ethics: Volume 1


Oxford University Press

Examination of Thomas Aquinas' account of natural law brings this chapter back to some questions about practical reason. The account of virtue that accords primacy to will and practical reason fits into Aquinas' claims about the will. He argues that it is distinctive of rational agents to choose freely, by deliberation in the light of the ultimate end. Questions about the scope of prudence takes the chapter back to the discussion of Aristotle. In clarifying Aquinas' views on these questions, the chapter clarifies his views on the rational character of the will. Further, in contrast to Aristotelian and eudaemonist positions, claims about universal conscience and natural law might seem to force Aquinas in a different direction. However he argues that they do not. All reasonable claims about moral insight derived from these sources can be understood, in his view, within the deliberative account of practical reason. This deliberative account expresses Aquinas' reductive claim that there is nothing more to the understanding of morality than the understanding of rational agency.

Keywords:   Thomas Aquinas, practical reason, will, deliberation, ultimate end, prudence, universal conscience, natural law, morality, rational agency

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