The End of Ethics: A Thomistic Investigation



Capitalizing on the diversity of ways in which the phrase “the end of ethics” can be interpreted, this article explores how, from a Thomistic perspective, the virtue of prudence might be considered the “end” of ethics. After bringing to light certain problematic aspects of the relationship between ethics and prudence, it is argued that Aquinas’ understanding of the intellectual virtues allows for a clear line to be drawn between the two. In this way, it is possible to say where ethics “ends” and prudence begins. This answer, however, seems to raise a further difficulty which, upon resolution, reveals a sense in which prudence is also the “end” of ethics when “end” is taken to mean its goal.