What is one evident similarity and one marked difference between the ethical theories of Augustine and Aquinas? With which of these thinkers do you most agree (or disagree), and why? Cite your sources and page number
One evident similarity between the ethical theories of Augustine and Aquinas is their reliance on natural law as a foundation for moral thinking. Both theologians believe that moral laws are derived from the nature of things as created by God. They argue that human beings have a natural inclination to pursue the good and avoid evil, and this innate moral sense is rooted in the ordering of the universe.
Augustine, in his work “On Free Choice of the Will,” posits that the highest good is God and that all other goods are derived from and point towards God. He argues that all humans have an innate desire for happiness, which can only be fully satisfied by the ultimate good in union with God. Augustine further asserts that moral reasoning should be guided by divine revelation and the teachings of the Church. According to him, the moral law is absolute and unchanging, originating from God’s eternal nature.
Aquinas, in his influential work “Summa Theologica,” also grounds his ethical theory in natural law. He believes that God, as the intelligent designer of the universe, has ordered the world according to a rational plan. Aquinas argues that human beings possess an innate inclination to preserve their own existence and seek what is good for them. This inclination is based on the rationality that God has bestowed upon us. Aquinas asserts that reason can discern the natural law by reflecting on the purpose and design of human nature.
On the other hand, there is a marked difference between Augustine and Aquinas regarding their views on the relationship between reason and faith. Augustine, heavily influenced by Neoplatonic philosophy, emphasizes the role of divine illumination in the pursuit of moral knowledge. He argues that reason alone is not sufficient for attaining moral understanding, as it is prone to error and distortion. Augustine believes that divine grace is necessary to overcome the limitations of human reason. Hence, faith and revelation are vital in guiding ethical decision-making.
In contrast, Aquinas places a stronger emphasis on the compatibility of reason and faith. He argues that rationality and faith are not in conflict but rather complement each other. Aquinas posits that reason can independently grasp certain moral principles through natural law, while faith provides additional insights beyond the capacities of reason alone. For him, reason and faith work harmoniously to understand and apply moral truths.
Regarding my agreement or disagreement with these thinkers, I find myself aligning more closely with Aquinas. I appreciate his view of the compatibility of reason and faith in ethical thinking. Aquinas’s emphasis on the rationality of the natural law and the ability of reason to discern moral principles resonates with my own understanding of morality.
Moreover, I find Augustine’s heavy reliance on faith and revelation as sources of moral knowledge to be less persuasive. While I acknowledge the importance of religious beliefs in shaping one’s ethical framework, I believe that reason and rationality play a crucial role in moral decision-making. Reason allows for universal moral principles accessible to all, irrespective of religious convictions.
In conclusion, Augustine and Aquinas share a similarity in their reliance on natural law as the basis of ethical theories. However, they differ significantly in their views on the relationship between reason and faith. While Augustine emphasizes the necessity of divine revelation, Aquinas argues for the compatibility of reason and faith. Overall, I find myself more aligned with Aquinas’s perspective, as it places a greater emphasis on reason in ethical thinking.