Towards a Narrative Understanding of Thomistic Natural Law

Towards a Narrative Understanding of Thomistic Natural Law

Hall, Pamela M.

Medieval Philosophy and Theology, vol. 2 (1992)


I wish to discuss Thomistic ethics in this essay in a way that seeks to integrate Aquinas’s natural law teaching with his treatment of the virtues, most particularly with the virtue of prudentia or practical wisdom. Natural law’s importance in the moral philosophy of Saint Thomas has been given undue and autonomous emphasis in my view; I want to make a case that any account of natural law that neglects the role of practical wisdom—and of the other virtues as well—in the natural law’s development and application simply falls into incoherence. But there have been philosophers who have seen problems with reconciling practical wisdom and the natural law within Aquinas’s moral teaching, and I will begin with a discussion of some of the difficulties they have seen.

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