Aquinas's Ethics

Metaphysical Foundations, Moral Theory, and Theological Context

Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, Colleen McCluskey, and Christina Van Dyke

The purpose of Aquinas’s Ethics is to place Thomas Aquinas’s moral theory in its full philosophical and theological context and to do so in a way that makes Aquinas (1224/5-1274) readily accessible to students and interested general readers, including those encountering Aquinas for the first time. Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, Colleen McCluskey, and Christina Van Dyke begin by explaining Aquinas’s theories of the human person and human action, since these ground his moral theory. In their interpretation, Aquinas’s theological commitments crucially shape his account of the human person, human capacities for action, and human flourishing. The authors develop a comprehensive picture of Aquinas’s thought, which is designed to help students understand how his concept of happiness and the good life are part of a coherent, theologically-informed worldview.

Many studies of Aquinas naturally focus on certain areas of his thought and tend to assume a general knowledge of the whole. Aquinas’s Ethics takes the opposite approach: it intentionally links his metaphysics and anthropology to his action theory and ethics to illuminate how the moral theory is built on foundations laid elsewhere. The authors emphasize the integration of concepts of virtue, natural law, and divine grace within Aquinas’s ethics, rather than treating such topics in isolation or opposition. Their approach, presented in clear and deliberately non-specialist language, reveals the coherent nature of Aquinas’s account of the moral life and of what fulfills us as human beings. The result is a rich and engaging framework for further investigation of Aquinas’s thought and its applications.

Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung is associate professor of philosophy at Calvin College. Colleen McCluskey is associate professor of philosophy at Saint Louis University. Christina Van Dyke is assistant professor of philosophy at Calvin College.

Aquinas’s Ethics is an excellent contribution to the literature on Aquinas and ethics, providing an integrated and robust account of the relationship between a metaphysics of human nature, natural law theory, and virtue theory. Showing these inextricable connections, it is very much like the work of St. Thomas himself, and suggests why so many lesser theories of ethics are unsatisfying for their lack of depth and comprehensive reach.” —John Kavanaugh, S.J., Saint Louis University


“In this recent book, Rebecca DeYoung Konyndyk, Colleen McCluskey, and Christina Van Dyke have sought to provide a comprehensive yet manageable introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas’ moral thought. The text itself flows well and is uncluttered by notations, with a fairly extensive scholarly apparatus confined to 46 pages of endnotes at the back of the book. Overall, Aquinas’s Ethics is a very useful text that should find a wide readership.” — Dialogue

“. . . It provides a first-rate introduction for the undergraduate audience.” — Choice

“. . . This book . . . offers a holistic and theologically informed reading of Aquinas’ ethics. I highly recommend this book as a valuable introduction to the ethics of Thomas Aquinas. It is an eminently clear exposition of a complex system.” — Catholic Library World

“This is an excellent introduction not only to Aquinas’s ethics per se but also to much of medieval Scholastic thought in general. . . .Those unfamiliar with medieval philosophy in general or Aquinas’s ethics in particular will gain greatly from having read it. Even those who already have some such familiarity are sure to benefit from the particular metaphysical and integrationist frameworks this work offers.” — Speculum

“The study nicely reflects the authors’ involvement with undergraduate teaching, which affords a refreshing level of presentation, replete with examples. . . . The result is an articulate and detailed presentation of what Aquinas says, yet affording less insight into the issues he was struggling with, or of the creative ways he develops to address them.” — The Living Church

“The authors of Aquinas’s Ethics have furnished budding Thomists and curious onlookers alike with an outstanding introduction to Aquinas’ moral thought. Written for first (or perhaps second) time readers, this volume strikes just the right balance between technical argument and readability, without compromising the rich complexity of Thomas’ account of human nature and the good life.” — Scottish Journal of Theology