By D. J. O’Connor (auth.)
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Or is it a logical re-formulation of the essential processes of moral reasoning which purports to show how our moral judgments are to be justified? Prima facie, it seems intended as psychology. Thus for example Aquinas says: 'Reason makes use of syllogism in its acts of choice or rejection' and 'it is necessary that in any virtuous or sinful act, there should be a kind of syllogistic deduction. But it is surely false that all of us do in fact come to make every moral judgment on this pattern. It may be that some carefully deliberated decisions can plausibly be so described, but many such decisions are impulsive, habitual or, in other ways, impromptu and unconsidered.
4 In these quotations, both Hume and St. Thomas delineate the offices of reason in metaphorical terms and, at first sight, it is easier to understand Hume's meta- phor than Thomas'. But metaphors are a poor medium for philosophy. What view of the nature of reason lies behind these contrasting figures of speech? And which of them lies nearer to the truth? And how indeed are we to decide what is true or false in such a dispute? 'Reason' is one of the many words in English whose favourable emotive overtones disguise wide divergences of descriptive meaning.
13 34 (z) and (3) are tasks which even Hume agrees to assign to reason in moral questions. What of (I) and (4)? (I) When St. Thomas says that it is in virtue of reason that we appreciate that something is good, he has in mind his metaphysical doctrine that good is an end and that the end of a given thing is what is suited to its nature. If indeed we could have intuitive understanding of the essences of things, we would see also what was the appropriate perfection or fulfilment of each thing. He does not have in mind some mysterious intuition of a 'nonnatural' property of goodness such as moral philosophers of the school of G.
Aquinas and Natural Law by D. J. O’Connor (auth.)