Volume 93, Issue 4, Fall 2019
William Matthew Diem
Reasons for Acting and the End of Man as Naturally Known
Reconceiving Thomistic Axiology
Aquinas implies that there is a single end of man, which can be known by reason from the moment of discretion and without the aid of revelation. This raises the problems: What is this end? How is it known? And how are the several natural, human goods related to this one end? The essay argues, first, that the naturally known end of man is the operation of virtue rather than God; second, that the virtue in question is, in the first place, moral rather than intellectual; third, that the sub-rational goods, though naturally desired, are ultimately valuable as instrumental means to further goods; and finally, that there is, for Aquinas, a fundamental paradox at the heart of man’s moral experience, and that the axiology developed in the essay can help us to appreciate this paradox. It will also argue, in passing, that Aquinas’s axiology bears the clear mark of Cicero’s moderate Stoicism.