Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Thomas Aquinas still matters?!

Indeed! This post follows up on one from last week about the collapsing of virtue into passion. Good thoughts; be sure to read the whole post for more context.
Turning now to the modern world, we can see that the concept of love which is extolled as a virtue is in reality almost exclusively that of love as passion. Every time soap operas and sitcoms present love as constituted by physical sex (do they ever do anything else?), love as virtue is reduced to love as passion. Every time daytime talk show hosts make some declaration about morality based upon what they feel in their heart, then passion, not virtue, becomes the criterion of what is good and true. And every time an academic denies that there is an objective telos to human nature, passion masquerades as virtue and ethics is turned into aesthetics.

Perhaps this is the real issue in current debates about marriage. Robert George has pointed out that no fault divorce was the real watershed in the recent legal history of the institution. That changed marriage from a relationship of lifelong commitment to that of a temporary, dispensable, sentimental bond. Yet if we look at this through the lens of Thomas's distinctions, we can see that no fault divorce presupposes a prior definition of love as primarily passion, not virtue. Thus, it is arguably not the redefinition of marriage but the redefinition of love which is the real problem underlying society’s current moral malaise. And that redefinition has much wider and more sinister implications. Indeed, as Thomas’s taxonomy helps us to see, it strikes at the very heart of what we consider virtue to be.

<idle musing>
As I said, Indeed! And that's why the Evangelical church will lose this fight. Until Christian marriages become commitments for life instead of commitments of feel-good, there isn't a leg to stand on. Of course, with my Anabaptist leanings, I wonder about the wisdom of the fight in the first place—but that's another story for another time.
</idle musing>

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