Well, it’s coming up on Thanksgiving weekend and I’m guessing that Neal’s busy heading home to spend time with his family. So, I’ll be giving your philosophy challenge this week. One of the paper’s that my students have to write is a comparison between the beliefs of Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas. In short, Augustine essentially argued that, while man was created good, he was corrupted by sin and thus was thoroughly wicked. Augustine argued that the concept of goodness was embodied in a relationship with God, and that outside of this relationship there was no good. He didn’t deny the classical virtues (i.e. wisdom, temperance, justice, and courage) presented by Plato, but he did deny that these virtues were good in and of themselves. Actually, he argued that these virtues, in the absence of a relationship with God, would encourage a love of self, instead of a seeking after God, and thus that they were evil outside of such a relationship.
Aquinas, on the other hand, essentially argued that man was inherently good (actually, Aquinas argued that the natural must inherently be reasonable, and the reasonable must inherently be good, thus all things that are natural are good). Aquinas separated the concept of good into human goodness, embodied in the cardinal virtues (i.e. Plato’s classical virtues), and divine goodness, embodied in the theological virtues (faith, love, and charity). Aquinas argued that human goodness was achievable through the use of natural reason, but that divine goodness was achievable only through a relationship with God. The latter is similar to Augustine’s view. However, unlike Augustine, Aquinas did not reject the actual goodness of the cardinal/classical virtues. Instead, he argued that these virtues could provide man with a measure of satisfaction, but that the theological virtues were the only way for man to achieve perfect happiness.
So, your challenge today, should you choose to accept it (:D) is to write a story of 500 to 1000 words explaining whether you support Aquinas’ or Augustine’s view of human morality, or if you think they were both full of crap and option C (whatever that might be) is a better choice.
P.S. Augustine was also much more prone to entertain vaguely Gnostic ideas than Aquinas was. However, Aquinas generally has a more difficult time accounting for the influence of original sin.