St Thomas here is not denying, what he throughout supposes, that in this life our acceptance (intentio, inhaesio, desiderium ultimi finis) of anything as our last end is a free act. He is merely quoting Aristotle as sufficient authority for his present purpose. Aristotle's words are in Eth. Nic. III, iv, 8. Cf. Aquinas Ethicus, I, pp. 51-54: Political and Moral Essays, p. 250. -- Free will goes with deliberation. We mortal men find ourselves deliberating continually about means, but very rarely about ends. Character is said to become 'formed' as time advances: that is to say, some definite view of the meaning and purpose of life comes to be finally adopted: or, in Thomistic phraseology, 'the will of the last end becomes fixed,' practically speaking, before death; and if so, he would argue, much more in death. A conversion or perversion, that is to say, a total change of front for better or worse, does not occur in mature life, except where a series of choices and preferences has for years been leading up to such a consummation. We must not look for conversions beyond the tomb, nor, happily, for perversions either.
Of God and His Creatures: 4.95