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Aquinas and Sartre

On Freedom, Personal Identity, and the Possibility of Happiness

Stephen Wang

Publication Year: 2011

Thomas Aquinas and Jean-Paul Sartre are usually identified with completely different philosophical traditions: intellectualism and voluntarism. In this original study, Stephen Wang shows, instead, that there are some profound similarities in their understanding of freedom and human identity.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-vii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xvii

There are some profound similarities in the thought of Thomas Aquinas and Jean-Paul Sartre. The purpose of this book is to show that these two thinkers, despite their many differences, have a common philosophical understanding of the nature of...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xix-xxi

A number of people read early drafts of my work, or discussed it with me, and gave me invaluable feedback. These include Margaret Atkins, Bruce Burbidge, Martin Crowley, Kevin Flannery, Thomas Flynn, Fergus Kerr, Aidan Nichols, Amanda...

Abbreviations

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pp. xxiii-xxiv

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Notes about the Text

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pp. xxv-

In order to allow the reader to refer to commonly available English editions of the main primary texts, I use the translations mentioned in the Abbreviations section. Sometimes, however, I alter a translation slightly, without comment, if I judge that it...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-19

Thomas Aquinas was born at Roccasecca, midway between Rome and Naples, probably in 1225.1 He was an oblate at the Benedictine abbey of Monte Cassino and then a student at Naples. After becoming a Dominican friar he spent the rest of his...

I. Human Being 

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pp. 21-

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1. Identity and Human Incompletion in Sartre

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pp. 23-57

Human beings do many different things. Why, then, does someone do one thing rather than another? What explains the action? Our answers to these questions will point to a great range of “causes,” “reasons,” “motives,” or “motivations”—in ordinary...

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2. Identity and Human Incompletion in Aquinas

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pp. 58-90

Thomas Aquinas grew up in a Christian culture that took for granted the doctrine of creation. Etienne Gilson wrote that in the eyes of this culture the universe is “saturated with finality.”1 Everything is becoming something and going somewhere. In...

II. Human Understanding

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pp. 91-

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3. The Subjective Nature of Objective Understanding in Sartre

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pp. 93-116

In part one we explored the way human identity is constituted by the practical choices human beings make. In part three we will look more closely at how these choices are freely made. Here in part two we need to address a question that arises from...

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4. The Subjective Nature of Objective Understanding in Aquinas

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pp. 117-151

As creatures with intellect, human beings are open to the world around them and transformed by what they understand. As creatures with will, we desire what is good and seek our own perfection. Within certain limits we can choose our goals and...

III. Human Freedom

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pp. 153-

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5. Freedom, Choice, and the Indetermination of Reason in Sartre

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pp. 155-191

Sartre and Aquinas, as we found in part one, have a shared understanding of how human identity is constituted by the free choices human beings make. We create ourselves and establish our goals through our actions, and these actions are not determined...

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6. Freedom, Choice, and the Indetermination of Reason in Aquinas

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pp. 192-239

Sartre and Aquinas agree that human actions are characterized by their end. According to Sartre, there is an insufficiency about everything we find, and we have to go beyond it and interpret it in the light of a particular chosen future. This future...

IV. Human Fulfillment

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pp. 241-

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7. The Possibility of Human Happiness in Sartre

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pp. 243-255

In the action theories of Sartre and Aquinas human beings are creatures who seek particular concrete things: food, pleasure, success, security, fame, friendship, etc. We are not disembodied creatures who have some abstract notion of human fulfillment...

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8. The Possibility of Human Happiness in Aquinas

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pp. 256-273

There are elements of Aquinas’s understanding of the human being that could lead one to conclude that human fulfillment in this life is an achievable goal. The good is not always beyond us—sometimes it is present and possessed. Intellect and will,...

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Conclusion

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pp. 275-280

There are a number of ways of characterizing the shifts in human sensibility and self-understanding that have occurred in the West in the modern period. In his much-discussed book Sources of the Self Charles Taylor argues that in our late modern or...

Bibliography

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pp. 281-291

Index

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pp. 293-298

Publication Information

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pp. 299-


E-ISBN-13: 9780813218946
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813215761

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Thomas, Aquinas, Saint, 1225?-1274.
  • Sartre, Jean-Paul, 1905-1980.
  • Liberty.
  • Identity (Psychology).
  • Happiness.
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