VI. Aquinas’s teleological ethics
Similar to Aristotle, as you might expect
All events occur to achieve some end.
Humans have their own natural ends and inclination.
However, humans can choose how they will fulfill a given end.
Ethics concerns what ends are worthy to pursue.
Good fulfills our natural end, evil is a deficiency or privation, something that keeps us from fulfilling our natural goal.
VII. Are all actions either good or bad?
Aquinas distinguishes between the actions of humans and human actions. The former are voluntary, the latter are involuntary.
While the latter are neither good nor bad, the former are always either good or bad.
The will naturally desire what is good, but it needs reason to tell it what is really good and the appropriate means for achieving it.
VIII. Three features of an action
The object of the action.
The end that is sought.
D. All these features of an action are necessary to evaluate the goodness of an actions.
IX. Aquinas and Oprah
Consider Oprah’s giving cars away. In itself the action seems is beneficial.
However, the act can be wrong if, for example, the cars were stolen.
If the needs of the people were trivial, but the financial burdens of here family were greater, that would affect the quality of the action.
If she was just trying to get praise (or ratings) then the motive would not be worthy.
In order for an action to be truly good, the object, circumstances, and end must all be good.
X. Where Aristotle’s Moral Theory Falls Short
Aristotle’s ethics is purely naturalistic,
He treats humans as one more species in nature. He does not believe that humans have a special relationship to God. There is no sense that what is right is commanded by God.
The final end of human life is the happiness and self-fulfillment found in the appropriate development of all categories of human excellence, especially intellectual virtue.
This moral vision is good as far as it goes, but must be supplemented and corrected by a Christian understanding.
XI. The human good for Aquinas
We desire the good in its fullest form.
Any good found in the natural realm can only be a particular and finite good.
Nature does not provide us the means to fulfill our spiritual nature, but points beyond itself to what does fulfill us.
If the purpose of life is the possession of the supreme good, this can only be found in God himself.
This is not just knowledge about God, but acquaintance with God.
Perfect knowledge of God is impossible in this life, so it must be attainable in a (heavenly) afterlife.