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AQUINAS ON THE ROLE OF EMOTION IN MORAL JUDGMENT AND ACTIVITY JUDITH BARAD Indiana State University Terre Haute, Indiana MONG PHILOSOPHERS who have discussed the role of emotion in morality there is much disagreement. At one extreme there is a tradition of ethical thinkers, represented by David Hume, who juxtapose reason and emotion and hoM that the choice of ultimate va:1ues is always made by the emotional side of our natul'e. Insisting that emotion, not reason, is the foundation of moral philosophy, Hume says "Reason is, and ought to he, the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any office other than to serve and obey them." 1 Conv:erseily, Immanuel Kant adamantly insists that reason must be the sole determinant of morality. Since morality is stricrtly a rational endeavor, the emotions (or what he more generrully called the incJinations), whethei!.' beneficent or ma1e:fiicent, should never be alilowed to intrude into our moral judgments. Each extreme claims that a part of our nature, respectiv 'e,ly reason or emotion, is not essentirul to the moral life. Hut the be1lief that we shouM sev;er any part of our nature from swch a pervasive area of our lives leads to unfortunate consequen1ces . If we base our understanding of morality on Hume's call for the slavish submission of reason, we can justify all kinds of social exploitation and sensuous indulgence. On the other hand, if we follow Kant's ideal of suppressing our emotions, then bodi1ly desires can appear ba:d to us, and we may irrationaHy disaJfow many human needs, both to ourselv;es and to others. i David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, 3, 3. 397 398 .TUDITH BARAD But on this question of the role of emotion in mol'lwl judgment , Aquinas oiooupies a position intermediate between Kant and Hume. He neither dismisses reason as a guide to practical affairs nor regards emotions as mere obstacles to be overcome in form.mating a moral judgment. For Aquinas even though e&ch of the human £acmlties has a unique role to perform, an individual £unctions in his entirety in the moral sphere. This essay will focus on how our emotions can support as well as impruir our moraJ conduct. The purpose of this study is to show thrut emotion may be either 1an impediment or a usefuJ srtimu1us to obj·ectiv;e moral decision malcing, obscuring our morrul judgments or 11einfol'lcing our commitments. Obviously, Hume's argument ·that reason cannot judge or criticize the emotions is very foreign to Aquinas's thought, and no one has yet ruttemp ;!Jed 1to subsume one •ruooount under the other. Afan Donagan , however, has clwimed that Aquinas's moll"al theory " anticipates Kant's metaphysics of morals," because of what " both ~are] found to 1say about motiViation." 2 But, contrary to Donagan 's claim, this study will make clear rlihat in the area of how emotions a:ffrect our moral life ·the two g11eat thinkers pal'lt company. To understand how emotion :liun:ctions mthe moral judgment , we must fust examine what Aquinas means by "emotion ." 3 He describes :emotion as a spontaneous .feeling consisting of both a phy;siofogical 1and an affective response to an object.4 He observes that emotion involves virtually ithe en2 Alan Donagan, " Teleology and Consistency in Theories of :Morality as Natural Law," in Georgetown Symposium on Ethics, edited by Rocco Porreca (Lanham, :Md.: University Press of America, 1984), p. 96. a Throughout this paper I will use the word "emotion " for the Latin passia, since " passion" has a more intense connotation in contemporary English than the term employed by Aquinas. "Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica, (Westminster, :Md.: Christian Classics, 1981), I-II, q.22. In the first article of this question, Aquinas says that " Passion . . . is only in respect of a bodily transmutation." Quoting Damascene in the third article, he says " Passion is a movement of the sensi· tive appetite when we think of good or evil." I have combined both passages to arrive at Aquinas's description of emotion. AQUINAS ON EMOTIONS AND MORALS 399 tire human being: intd1ect, sense cognition, spontaneous volition , and bodily changes. Aquinas bases this position on his hylomorphic...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 397-413
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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