Aquinas and Human Action
Following are some notes from this two-part talk (all quoted items are paraphrases, hopefully reasonably accurate):
It is taken for granted that human agents have free will or free agency – we have the experience, day to day, of being confronted with options and being able to opt between such options. This offers a truncated picture, a picture of lower appetites.
This is David Hume’s “reason,” when he wrote: “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.” It is the reason of lower appetites – if one can even call it reason.
Human beings also have higher appetites, to perceive the order of reality: reason. We have the ability to live according to the reality perceived by reason. Life goes beyond fulfilling our lower appetites; it is about living in accord with the reality of reason – integrating our passions according to reason. There is more to being human than merely fulfilling our lower appetites.
Why is this so?
Reality is a world of form and finality: entities – the things of nature – have substantial forms and final ends. We do not live in a mechanistic universe. All human action is for the sake of an end – a proximate end, but also an ultimate end. The ultimate end is happiness. (Fr. Brent will define this later)
There is an objective end for human beings as human beings. Proper reason aims toward this objective end. Without an objective end, or purpose…well, this is the world we certainly occupy today, where every behavior – including murder – is justifiable and justified.
No, reason, in any human sense, is not merely a slave to the passions.
Humans, unlike other animals, act based on intellect and will. To varying d
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