St. Thomas Aquinas: Natural Law and Virtue Ethics

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What is the foundation of St. Thomas Aquinas' explanation of virtue ethics?

Natural Law

What is the source of the natural law according to St. Thomas Aquinas?

Within us

What is the characteristic of rational creatures in relation to natural law?

They can understand and analyze moral requirements

What is the difference between rational and irrational creatures in relation to natural law?

Rational creatures can respond to moral requirements, while irrational creatures cannot

What is God's role in relation to eternal law?

God establishes eternal law

What is the purpose of natural law according to St. Thomas Aquinas?

To express moral requirements

What is the condition for rational creatures to adhere to natural law?

They must share in the divine providence

How do irrational creatures relate to natural law?

Their actuations are governed by natural law

What is the natural law, according to the text?

A law that is discoverable by any rational creatures and unknowable for irrational ones

What is the narrow sense of natural law, according to Glenn?

A law that is already present in us who are rational beings

What is participation, according to the text?

The act of recognizing oneself as a creature of God and participating in the divine life

What is the ultimate good for man, according to the text?

To fulfill his nature as being God's creature

What is the virtue of prudence, according to the text?

The exercise of understanding that helps us know the best means in solving moral problems

What is the virtue of justice, according to the text?

The exercise of the will to give or render things

What is the virtue of temperance, according to the text?

The exercise of control in the midst of strong attraction to pleasures

What is the key word in the virtue of temperance, according to the text?

Moderation

Study Notes

Natural Law and Virtue Ethics

  • St. Thomas Aquinas grounds his explanation of virtue ethics in natural law, linking it to eternal law, which has theological underpinnings rooted in theism (belief in God as the highest being and good).
  • Natural law expresses moral requirements, containing rules, commands, and action-guiding requirements that can be found within humans as rational creatures, sharing in divine providence.
  • There are two groups of adherents to natural law: rational creatures (humans with rationality and freedom) and irrational creatures (animals, plants, and non-living beings without rationality and freedom).

Eternal Law and Natural Law

  • God, the highest good and being, establishes eternal law, which includes his divine plan for his creatures.
  • Eternal law is categorized into natural law, discoverable by rational creatures and unknowable for irrational ones.

Natural Law in a Broad and Narrow Sense

  • Natural law can be understood in a broad sense (applying to all creatures) and a narrow sense (specific to rational creatures, where it is already present within them).
  • Rational creatures need to recognize their status as God's creatures, called to participate in the divine life, and realign their moral life, thinking, and being with God's.

Cardinal Virtues

  • The four cardinal virtues are: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.
  • Prudence: exercise of understanding to know the best means in solving moral problems.
  • Justice: habit of rendering things (intellectual or material) to their rightful owners.
  • Fortitude: habit of courage to face dangers without fear.
  • Temperance: habit of control in the midst of strong attractions to pleasures, with moderation as the key.

Ultimate Good

  • The ultimate good for humans is to fulfill their nature.
  • Human nature is to live as God's creature, in accordance with God's purpose and divine plan, and to act in a way that does not hinder future union with God in heaven.

Explore St. Thomas Aquinas' concept of natural law and its relation to virtue ethics, grounded in eternal law and theistic philosophy.

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