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Aquinas on
St. Thomas Aquinas 1224­1274
Joseph Butler 1692­1752
John Henry Newman 1801­1890
Sigmund Freud 1856­1939
Jean Piaget 1896-1980
Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-
Lawrence Kohlberg 1927­
1987…read more

Slide 2

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According to Aquinas:
· God gave people the ability to reason
· Reason leads us to knowledge of synderesis
SYNDERESIS - an innate knowledge of human nature and primary precepts (through
practical reason)
· Aquinas disagreed with Augustine who claimed synderesis
was faulty due to the Fall, and we should look to the Church
or Scripture.
· Aquinas claimed that conscientia (conscience) was the
`binding force'
CONSCIENTIA ­ deriving secondary precepts and applying them
· Conscience is NOT a `gut feeling' but the process of reasoning…read more

Slide 3

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Aquinas also argued that it is an evil action not to follow our
· He did not claim that conscience was always right but said
that it may be mistaken if we haven't acquired enough
PRUDENCE ­ the virtue of right-reasoning in moral matters, balancing our needs against others' needs
· A lack of prudence will lead to a breakdown in the
communication between synderesis and conscientia
Cabinet = synderesis
Key = prudence
Hands of application = conscientia
Cabinet of moral knowledge…read more

Slide 4

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Aquinas argued that a person's conscience could err (go
wrong) in two different ways:
1. INVINCIBLY ­ through no fault of their own
2. VINCIBLY ­ through their own fault
Erring Vincibly ­
If I give money to a man who is begging on the streets, I have good intentions, but my
actions are actually unhelpful. If I had considered my actions carefully, I would have
seen that I wasn't helping him to improve his situation - if anything, my actions would
keep him on the streets longer. I erred 'vincibly', as I would have done differently if
I'd thought about it.
Erring Invincibly ­
Imagine if I'd given the money instead to a homeless charity, who would be able to
help this man to find accommodation, help conquering his addictions etc. However, I
did not know that workers at this charity were abusing the homeless people in their
care. Supporting the charity was actually the wrong thing to do, but I couldn't have
known this - I erred 'invincibly' - it wasn't my fault.…read more

Slide 5

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"Every judgement of conscience, be it
right or wrong, be it about things evil
in themselves or morally indifferent, is
obligatory, in such wise that he who
acts against his conscience always
St. Thomas Aquinas…read more

Slide 6

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Strengths & Weaknesses
· Aquinas claimed that to disobey conscience is always evil, but
this can lead to contradicting Church teaching or just general
e.g. If you feel your life is not worth living, it is evil NOT to
commit suicide (according to Aquinas)
· Although Aquinas claims that the ability to reason is God-
given, he does not claim that conscience is `the voice of God'
and so his argument is less likely to be dismissed by atheists.…read more

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