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Aquinas on the Emotions

A Religious-Ethical Inquiry

Publication Year: 2009

All of us want to be happy and live well. Sometimes intense emotions affect our happinessùand, in turn, our moral lives. Our emotions can have a significant impact on our perceptions of reality, the choices we make, and the ways in which we interact with

Published by: Georgetown University Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

My first exposure to the philosophical study of emotion was long ago in a course taught by Karen J. Warren, then of St. Olaf College. She taught with such skill and passion that I continue to feel the power of her mind after all these years. Very few scholars at the time were taking the emotions seriously as a topic of philosophical study. Karen...

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pp. 1-20

All of us want to live happily and well. We want this not only for ourselves but also for others who are part of us or closely connected to us. When something happens that appears to bear notably on our own or a loved one’s well-being, a situation forms and holds our attention. We receive impressions and make judgments about what...

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Chapter One: Religious Ethics

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pp. 21-39

There are many ways to approach the study of emotion. This book takes a religious ethics approach to the study of Aquinas on emotion. There is disagreement among scholars about how to define religious ethics. Hence, it would be good to set out a working definition. It is important to indicate what I take to be...

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Chapter Two: Religious Ethics and the Study of Emotion

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pp. 40-61

A religious-ethical approach to the study of emotion recognizes that there is a complex relationship between religion and emotion. In particular, there is a relationship between a person’s religious worldview—the way in which the world appears to have a mysterious kind of depth—and the way in which a person is moved...

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Chapter Three: Approaching Aquinas on the Emotions (I)

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pp. 62-79

To explore further how ways of being religious can affect the composition of emotional states, it is necessary to delve further into the structure of emotion. Even if we are not particularly interested in the impact that religion has on people’s emotions, it is important to understand how emotions are composed if we wish...

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Chapter Four: Approaching Aquinas on the Emotions (II)

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pp. 80-102

In order to approach Aquinas’s account of emotion, we must appreciate the distinction between apprehension and appetite. “Apprehension” refers very broadly to the power (or set of powers) to acquire and process information. It includes the power to receive sensory impressions, to form and manipulate sensory images...

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Chapter Five: Approaching the Human Sensory Appetite from Below (I)

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pp. 103-128

Human beings are embodied souls. We have begun to explore some of the implications of this thesis for understanding the way in which emotions are composed. I want to step back now and put humans in some perspective. Aquinas holds that everything that exists can be characterized relative to a scale of being. The principle...

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Chapter Six: Approaching the Human Sensory Appetite from Below (II)

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pp. 129-163

In Aquinas’s view, the sensory appetite “stands midway between [the] natural appetite and the higher, rational appetite, which is called the will.”1 By virtue of the natural appetite, an entity “tends to [an] appetible thing without any apprehension of the reason for [the thing’s] appetibility; for natural appetite is nothing but...

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Chapter Seven: Approaching the Human Sensory Appetite from Above (I)

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pp. 164-190

When we approach the human sensory appetite from below, with reference to Aquinas’s scale of being, we put ourselves in a position to imagine that all existing things are marked by appetites or tendencies of one sort or another. The tending of each part toward its own being and perfection—in relation to the tending of all...

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Chapter Eight: Approaching the Human Sensory Appetite from Above (II)

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pp. 191-212

The powers of intellectual and sensory apprehension make it possible to understand and assess aspects of one’s world that bear on one’s happiness. The connection between the intellect and the cogitative power, in particular, makes it possible to judge an object, on an intellectual level, to be an object of a certain kind with...

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Chapter Nine: The Formation of Distinctively Human Emotions

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pp. 213-240

The power of intellectual apprehension (the intellect) makes it possible to apprehend the intelligible goodness of various objects—their likely contributions to one’s distinctively human happiness. The intellectual appetite (the will) makes it possible to tend toward this goodness or toward objects in respect of their intelligible goodness...

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Chapter Ten: The Religious-Ethical Study of Emotion

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pp. 241-266

Thomas Aquinas’s account of the structure of emotion is partly what Robert Roberts (in describing his own account) calls “mentalist.”1 Aquinas construes emotions as embodied states of mind or awareness, and he analyzes them from the perspective of the subjects who experience them. Yet Aquinas analyzes the structure of...

Appendix: Aquinas on the Powers or Capabilities of a Human Being (Relevant Selections)

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pp. 267-268


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pp. 269-276


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pp. 277-288

E-ISBN-13: 9781589017184
E-ISBN-10: 1589017188
Print-ISBN-13: 9781589015050
Print-ISBN-10: 1589015053

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Christian ethics -- Catholic authors.
  • Thomas, Aquinas, Saint, 1225?-1274.
  • Emotions -- Religious aspects -- Catholic Church.
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