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By D. J. O’Connor (auth.)
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Additional info for Aquinas and Natural Law
For St. Thomas, man is a rational animal, that is, he shares his generic properties with the rest of the animal kingdom. But he is distinguished from other animals in being rational. And this rationality is a capacity that we possess in virtue of the nature of the human soul. We shall have shortly to consider in some detail what the words 'reason' and 'rational' connote for St. Thomas and for us, and how he considers reason to be connected with moral decisions. For the moment, let us confine ourselves to the question of the empirical evidence for a common human nature.
In particular, the theory of natural law can be regarded, as we shall see, as an attempt to argue from the facts of human nature to the values of morality. It does therefore take some account of the points raised at (1) and(;) above. How successful it is, we shall have to consider later. (ii) Happiness and Human Nature. To say that happiness is what everyone desires is, in one sense, a truism. For this reason, it tells us nothing of what happiness consists in. However, once we give some content to the notion of happiness, we turn what is a truism, acceptable to everyone because it is empty of debatable content, into a statement that is probably false and at least open to criticism.
Rynderesis can be weakened or lost in this way. It is moreover infallible. We can make no mistakes about the basic principles of practical reason. We may defer for a moment the question about the nature of the basic principles of the practical reason. ris is to provide these principles which serve as the major premisses of a type of argument known as the' practical syllogism'. ryllogismus operativus),39 He explains the doctrine as follows: whenever we make rational choices, we use syllogisms. 4° In general, the form of the practical syllogism is as follows: Major premiss (from synderesis): X is right (or wrong).