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Passionalist or Rationalist? The emotions in Aquinas’ moral theology

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Abstract

Interest in the passions and their contribution to the moral life is enjoying a resurgence in the study of Thomas Aquinas. But much of that interest assumes that Aquinas’ position is simply propassion. This is certainly true of Robert Miner's exhaustive study, Thomas Aquinas on the Passions. In this essay, however, I question the adequacy of this assumption on two related grounds. First, I examine the implications for Aquinas’ account of the morality of the emotions of his use of the political analogy to account for the structural relation between passion and reason. Second, I suggest that accounts of the passions must consider the experiential differences in the passions of post-lapsarian agents. I conclude that Aquinas’ account of the role of emotion in the moral life is decidedly less positive than Miner's presentation suggests.

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