Saturday, July 19
Anthony J. Lisska
The role of philosophical anthropology in the moral theory of Thomas Aquinas is a hotly debated issue in contemporary Aquinas studies. Proponents of what has been called "the New Natural Law" argue that an analysis of practical reason is sufficient to develop a theory of natural law fully compatible with the insights of Aquinas. Other philosophers question this method of analysis on the texts of Aquinas.
In this paper, I wish to probe what I take to be the metaphysical underpinnings of Aquinas's moral theory. The argument is fundamentally that Aquinas's moral theory is a second order inquiry based squarely on the metaphysical foundations of his natural kind ontology. The points to be made are the following:
The argument of this paper is that, in opposition to analytic philosophers like Myles Burnyeat, one can develop a persuasive dialectic for natural kind theory based on Aquinas's analysis of form. This depends upon the necessity of synthetic a priori causal properties. Secondly, if one takes these properties as fundamentally dispositional in mode, one has a method for transcending the limits of Moore's infamous naturalistic fallacy. The important claim to be articulated is a natural kind ontology of dispositional properties.
By discussing the role of form as a necessary condition for establishing synthetic necessary properties, which are dispositional in structure, one has a way of articulating and defending ethical naturalism in the moral theory of Thomas Aquinas.