Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Joint attention and the second -personal foundation of Aquinas's virtue ethics
by Pinsent, Andrew Charles, Ph.D., Saint Louis University, 2009, 200; 3383304
Abstract (Summary)

While contemporary philosophers have questioned the Aristotelian interpretation of Aquinas's virtue ethics, the principles underpinning Aquinas's approach have remained obscure. In this dissertation, I propose that the key to Aquinas's virtue ethics can be found by studying the three other kinds of perfective attributes which he appends to the virtues: the Gifts, Beatitudes and Fruits. I further argue that the Gifts, which Aquinas describes as the foundation of the moral and intellectual virtues, enable a triadic person-God-object relationship analogous to the person-person-object relationship called joint attention. Just as joint attention establishes a second-personal relationship with another human person, I propose that the role of the Gifts in Aquinas's scheme is to enable a second-personal relationship with God. I also show how this second-personal principle is able to resolve a number of difficulties in understanding Aquinas's virtue ethics, such as the integration of magnanimity with humility and the characteristics of the infused virtues. Finally, I interpret the Beatitudes and Fruits as actualizations of the Gifts and virtues. I propose that the Fruits are to be understood as modes of activity in perfect harmony or resonance with the second person, bringing a sense of delight and an immediate sense of union with God. I therefore conclude that all four components of Aquinas's virtue ethics can be explained as either dispositions towards a second-personal relationship with God or the actualizations of that relationship. I suggest that Aquinas's approach, together with contemporary work in joint attention and other fields, may help to stimulate a new approach to virtue ethics in general, one in which the second-personal relationship is treated as foundational to human development and ultimate flourishing.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Stump, Eleonore
School: Saint Louis University
School Location: United States -- Missouri
Source: DAI-A 70/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy
Keywords: Fruits, Gifts, Joint attention, Second person, Thomas Aquinas, Saint, Virtue ethics
Publication Number: 3383304
ISBN: 978-1-109-45484-0
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