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Good and the Object of Natural Inclinations in St. Thomas Aquinas
Jenkins, John I.
Medieval Philosophy and Theology, vol. 3 (1993)
What is the relationship between what we, in our most reflective and circumspect moments, desire or approve of and what is our good? In this essay I will explore the views of St. Thomas Aquinas on this issue. I will develop my interpretation of Aquinas dialectically by considering and criticizing aspects of the influential interpretations of Germain Grisez and John Finnish on one hand, and Ralph Mclnerny, on the other. These interpretations, I will argue, founder because of improper analyses and common misunderstandings of key terms in Aquinas.
Once we have a proper grasp of Aquinas’s position, we can better appreciate it as the interesting and subtle ethical theory that it is. Although the Grisez-Finnis interpretation differs from Mclnerny’s on several points, two issues are central. Both of these issues have to do with the putative distinction between facts about our natural inclinations and our good, and one difficulty in adjudicating this debate is that the disputants fail to distinguish clearly between these distinct issues.