Phil 43148:  Aquinas on Virtue and Law


Malloy 304


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Purpose----Texts----Requirements---- Syllabus----Online Handouts-----Paper Assignments

Purpose of Course:  A part-lecture/part-seminar course for majors, the purpose of which is to provide the student with an opportunity (a) to see in some depth the relation among the main elements of St. Thomas's general moral theory as laid out in the First Part of the Second Part (Prima Secundae) of the Summa Theologiae, viz., the treatises on happiness, action, passion, habit, virtue, sin, law, and grace, and (b) to explore in great detail the twin realities of virtue and law as complementary (rather than, as some would have it, fundamentally opposed or at least wholly independent) influences on morally upright human action.  We will pay special attention to the ways in which Catholic faith and practice lead St. Thomas to appropriate, correct, and transform classical moral theories.

Requirements for the course include active class participation, a daily question/comment, and three 6-7 page papers.

  • Note on reading assignments:  The only assignments from St. Thomas's text for which you are responsible are those listed at the beginning of entries in the syllabus below. I will, however, be talking about other parts of the Prima Secundae as well, specifically the treatises on beatitude, action, passion, habit, sin, and grace.  I have assigned my own notes, found on the handout page, for those classes, but in many ways these are a poor substitute for the real thing.

  • Class Participation (25% of course grade): 

    • Daily Question/Comment:  You must submit to me by email, before 10:00AM on each class day, a question/comment based on the readings assigned for that day. (When we are spending more than one day on a given topic, I will give more specific instructions about which texts are relevant for a given class.) I expect the questions/comments to be well thought out and well articulated, but not particularly long. They will serve as the starting point for my class comments on the day in question. (I pay close attention to the quality of these questions in determining the participation component of the grade.) (15% of course grade)

    • Seminar Participation: Active and intelligent participation in seminar discussions. In general, student initiative and signs of self-motivation will be rewarded in this course. (10% of course grade)
  • Papers (75% of course grade): You are required to write three 6-7 page papers, worth 75% of the course grade. These will be due on 10/1, 11/5, and 12/10. The topics are assigned and are found below.

  • Before the course begins, you are required to read my classnotes on Aristotle and Faith and Reason and God and Human Nature from Phil 30301, Ancient and Medieval Philosophy. The last of these is the section of 30301 I hardly ever get to. So read it especially carefully even if you have had 30301 with me.

Tentative Syllabus:

I.  An Introduction to the Prima Secundae:  Beatitude, Action, and Passion
  • 8/27 and 9/1 and 9/3 and 9/8:  Lectures on, and discussion of, qq. 1-5, the Treatise on Beatitude.  Topics:  the structure of the Prima Secundae; Aristotle on beatitude; Aquinas on beatitude; Aquinas' distinction between complete (perfect) and incomplete (imperfect) beatitude; two forms of incomplete beatitude (?); the objections to Aristotle on beatitude: motivated by narrow self-interest?; too dependent on moral luck?; the alleged insufficiency of the desire for beatitude as a moral motive and the alleged need for some basic desire other than the desire for beatitude as a moral motive, along with brief discussion of Plato, Duns Scotus, Hobbes, Hume, and Kant. (Reading: Notes on treatise on beatitude and Servais Pinckaers, OP, "The Place of Philosophy in Moral Theology".) (Questions: 8/27, q. 1-2; 9/1, q. 3; 9/3, q. 4, 9/8, q. 5 and Pinckaers.)
  • 9/10 and 9/15:  Lectures on, and discussion of, qq. 6-21, the Treatise on Action.  Topics:  voluntariness; the interplay between intellect and will in the structure of human action; the specification of human actions; the moral evaluation of human actions. (Reading: Notes on treatise on action.) (Questions:  9/10, qq. 6-17; 9/15, qq. 18-21)
  • 9/17 and 9/24:  Lectures on, and discussion of, qq. 22-48, the Treatise on Passion.  Topics:  the nature of passion or emotion;  lower and higher emotions; the distinction betwenn the concupiscible and irascible appetites; the distinction between love of concupisence (amor concupiscentiae) and love of friendship (amor amicitiae); St. Thomas's taxonomy of eleven basic passions; love and aversion as basic passions. (Reading: Notes on treatise on the passions.) (Questions: 9/17, qq. 22-39; 9/24: qq. 40-48)

  • NOTE: NO CLASS ON 9/22
II.  Virtue
  • 9/29:  Lecture on, and discussion of, qq. 49-54, the Treatise on Habit.  Topics:  the nature and causes of habits; the intensification and remission of habits; different ways to divide habits up; the difference between habituation and training. (Reading: Notes on treatise on habits.)
  • 10/1:  qq. 55-56 (the essence of virtue; the ontological subject of a virtue conceived of as an accidental modification, i.e., which 'part' or 'parts' of the soul have virtues?)

  • 10/6:  qq. 57-58 (the intellectual virtues; the distinction between the intellectual virtues and the moral virtues).
  • 10/8:  qq. 59-60 (the relation of the moral virtues to the passions; the distinctions among the moral virtues).
  • 10/13:  qq. 61-62 (the cardinal virtues; the theological virtues).

  • 10/15:  qq. 63-67 (the two causes of virtue, the mean of virtue, the connectedness of the virtues, the equality of the virtues, and the duration of the virtues).

  • 10/27:  qq. 68-70 (the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, and the beatitudes) and Lecture on, and discussion of, qq. 109-114 (Treatise on Grace).  Topics:  the transformation of Aristotelian moral theory into Catholic moral theory; divine adoption; infused moral virtues. (Reading: qq. 68-70 and  Notes on treatise on grace and Servais Pinckaers, OP, "The Place of Philosophy in the Moral Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas")

  • 10/29:  Very selective lecture on, and discussion of, qq. 71-89 (Treatise on Sin) (Reading: Notes on treatise on sin and vice).
III.  Law
  • 11/3:  qq. 90-92 (the nature of law; the different kinds of law; the relation between law and virtue).

  • 11/5:  qq. 93-94 (eternal law; natural law).
  • 11/10:  qq. 95-97 (human law; the power of human law; changes in human law).

  • 11/12:  qq. 98 and 99 (the Old Law; the kinds of precepts found in the Old Law).
  • 11/17 and 11/19:  q. 100 (the relation between the natural law and the moral precepts of the Old Law; the relation between the moral precepts and the virtues, both in their mode and in their content; the enumeration of and distinction among the moral precepts; the moral precepts and dispensations; the fulfillment of the moral precepts and justification before God). (Questions: 11/17, aa. 1-7; 11/19, aa. 8-12)
  • 11/24:  qq. 101 and 104 (the ceremonial precepts in themselves; the judicial precepts in themselves).
  • 12/1:  qq. 102, 103 and 105 (overview of the reasons for the ceremonial and judicial precepts; the duration of the ceremonial precepts).
  • 12/3:  q. 106 (the nature of the New Law; the effects of the New Law, especially justification).
  • 12/8:  q. 107 (the relation between the New Law and the Old Law).
  • 12/10: q. 108 (contents of the New Law).

Paper Assignments
  1. 7-page paper due October 1:  Take one of the five passions that St. Thomas talks about at length, viz., love, pleasure (or being pleased), pain (or being saddened), fear, or anger.  Lay out in an intelligent, orderly, and concise fashion what St. Thomas has to say about this passion.

  2. 7-page paper due November 5:  Discuss intelligently Question 65, St. Thomas's account of the connectedness of the virtues, i.e., the claim that you cannot have one moral or theological virtue without having all the others or, conversely, that if you lack one of the moral or theological virtues, you lack them all.  The two virtues which turn out to be crucial here are prudence among the moral virtues and charity among the theological virtues.  Your paper should include sections on the connectedness of the moral virtues, the connectedness of the theological virtues, and the relation between the moral virtues and the theological virtues.  (In preparation for this last part, you should also look at Question 63, article 3-4 on the difference between acquired moral virtues and infused moral virtues.)

  3. 7-page paper due December 10:  In various places in the Treatise on Law St. Thomas explicitly discusses the relation between law and virtue.  See, for example, q. 94, a. 3; q. 96, aa. 2-3; q. 100, aa. 2 and 9-10.  In addition, the course has tried to show how virtue and law come together in St. Thomas's moral theory, despite the fact that these are often thought by contemporary philosophers to be competing foundational notions in moral theory.  Using the above cited articles as your starting point, paint an intelligent portrait of the relation between law and virtue in St. Thomas's moral theory.