Sunday, 27 February 2011

Thomas' virtue ethics

Thomas' virtue ethics: just a glimpse from Ashley's notes, but quite wonderful.

Morality begins in love, works through desire, and is completed in joy.

Interestingly, Thomas gives a central place to the passions and affections in his account of the moral life. Passions empower moral growth and transformation. Becoming good is a matter of learning to love the right things in the right way.

Thomas' ethic is an ethic not of duty, or of law, but of virtue. His primary concern is not just good decisions, but good persons. Virtues are moral skills that make both actions and persons good. They are transforming activities [are virtues activities? are they not rather habits?] that sculpt us into people capable of finding bliss in God.

But Thomas also holds that virtues make us good, but not good enough. What make us 'good enough' are the gifts of the Spirit. The moral life begins with a gift and ends with a gift: it begins with the gift of God's love poured into our hearts, and ends with God's love completing our virtue with a goodness that we could never achieve by ourselves, but only receive.

I found interesting Thomas' distinction between affective (concupiscible) emotions and spirited (irascible) emotions. The affective emotions are love, desire, joy. These are  basic. The spirited emotions are hatred, aversion, sadness. They enable us to be resolute in our pursuit of the good when we face difficulty or are getting discouraged.

If the vibrant language is Ashley's, I think we have a very good article here...

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