21 June 2006

"Aquinas Is Aristotle"

I have read Anscombe's "Modern Moral Philosophy", of course, but I took the quotation I used in yesterday's post from a footnote in Terry Irwin's essay in the Blackwell Guide to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics.

Irwin's essay is called, "Aquinas, Natural Law, and Eudaimonism". It puzzles me that it is included in a collection on Aristotle's Ethics. The bulk of the essay is an argument that Aquinas is not a 'voluntarist' in ethics but rather a 'naturalist'. Yet why include such a thing in a volume on Aristotle?

Yes, Irwin observes that Aquinas is like Aristotle in not being a voluntarist. But this is hardly BIG NEWS. (Not that there aren't a dozen interesting ways in which the two thinkers might be compared--on happiness, on goodness, on virtue, on the will, on magnanimity, on humility, on some other particular virtue, on charity.)

Moreover, if a compare-and-contrast essay were wanted, it seems arbitrary to select Aquinas. What about Aristotle and Hume on practical reason? Aristotle and Reid on the 'constitution of human nature'? Aristotle and Smith on fittingness and propriety? Aristotle and Kant on moral absolutes? Aristotle, Mill and Rawls on the common good? -- You see what I mean.

I have my thoughts about what the essay was meant to accomplish, but doesn't. I'll say more about that in a later post.

P.S. I have heard the claim, "Aquinas is Aristotle", cited as "McInerny's Thesis"--meaning Ralph McInerny at Notre Dame. I don't think that that was the rationale for Irwin's essay!