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Love of Self and Love of God in Thirteenth-Century Ethics

Love of Self and Love of God in Thirteenth-Century Ethics

Thomas M. Osborne, Jr.

“Twenty-first-century readers are likely to be more interested in the love of self than the love of God. They may be surprised to find how much the understanding of each of these loves can teach us about the other. Thomas Osborne’s excellent book makes thirteenth-century ethics highly relevant to twenty-first-century readers.” —Alasdair MacIntyre, University of Notre Dame

“This book is a model of clarity. It introduces readers to views on Christian love that range from the Golden Age of the patristic period to the beginning of the fourteenth century, and will occupy an important place in the reconstruction of the debates between realists and conceptualists that have dominated the Christian appropriation of classical pagan ethics.” —Romanus Cessario, O.P., Saint John’s Seminary

“This book is solidly historical, its feet firmly planted in the relevant medieval texts. And yet its arguments could not be more relevant to contemporary Christian theology, so marked as it is by the debate over the natural desire for beatitude.” —Kevin L. Flannery, S.J., Pontifical Gregorian University

In this book, Thomas M. Osborne, Jr. covers an important, but often neglected, aspect of medieval ethics, namely the controversy over whether or not it is possible to love God more than oneself through natural powers alone. In debating this topic, thirteenth-century philosophers and theologians introduced a high level of sophistication to the study of how one’s own good is achieved through virtuous action.

The central issue for medieval scholars was how to adapt Aristotle’s philosophical insights to a Christian framework. For Christians, loving God above all else was their central ethical duty. Most ancient and medieval Christians were also committed to eudaimonism, or the view that one’s good is always maximized through virtuous action. The tension between these two aspects of Christian ethics reached its highest point in philosophical discussions about whether God can be naturally loved more than oneself. Osborne provides a history of these debates, based on a close analysis of primary texts, clarifies the concepts that are most important for understanding eudaimonism, and argues that the central difference between the ethical theories of such great thinkers as Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus is not about morality and self-interest, but rather about the relationship between ethics and natural inclination.

The arguments raised by the thirteenth-century philosophers and texts discussed in this book have important implications for natural law theories and virtue ethics and are essential for understanding the shift to modern moral theories. Love of Self and Love of God in Thirteenth-Century Ethics will be invaluable to philosophers and theologians, particularly those concerned with medieval philosophy, moral psychology, the history of ideas, and ethics.

ISBN: 978-0-268-03723-9
336 pages
Publication Year: 2005

Thomas M. Osborne, Jr. is an assistant professor at the Center for Thomistic Studies, University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas.

“The book aims to treat the ‘thirteenth-century debate concerning the natural love of God over self with an eye to how the thinkers of this period saw the connections between one’s own good and the aims of virtuous action’. . . This is a complex volume, based on close textual analysis and intricate tracing of intellectual relationships and developments.” — The Heythrop Journal

“Thomas Osborne’s study is doubly successful—first as a careful account of the historical sources and multiple layers of concerns shaping thirteenth-century debates about whether God can be naturally loved more than oneself. Second, it is also an excellent articulation of the metaphysical and conceptual gaps between ancient and medieval eudaimonistic ethical theories and contemporary morality.” — Journal of the History of Philosophy

“Thomas M. Osborne’s study of the development of thirteenth-century ethics focuses on a thematic that has not received the attention it deserves: the relationship of love of self to love of God. . . . This is an extremely good introduction to the ethical debates of the thirteenth century, providing a wealth of textual and bibliographical resources.” — The Thomist

“Osborne provides a dense read of an important topic, the natural love of God over self. . . . He explores in what way Aquinas and Scotus are alike and different in explaining that we ought to love God more than ourselves and that in doing so we find our happiness.” — Theological Studies

“The self seeks its own completion; yet paradoxically this self-completion, properly understood, requires self-abandonment. Thomas Osborne’s book is devoted to this paradox, which it approaches from the point of view of the tension between Aristotelian eudaemonism and the Christian commandment to love God above all else, including oneself.” — Speculum

“The theme of this book is the medieval discussion of the question whether one can naturally love God more than one can love oneself. . . . Those who have an interest in medieval moral theory will gain from this book a greater knowledge of important themes in the writings of medieval thinkers in the thirteenth century.” — The Review of Metaphysics

“_Love of Self and Love of God in the Thirteenth-Century Ethics_ is an excellent book, representing a most ambitious project . . . [it] remains an excellent resource for experts and for scholars with broad research interests and integrative approaches. It is also well suited to serve as a graduate level textbook. Osborne’s erudition is vast and his general analysis, accurate.” — American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

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Lambert of Auxerre;
Translated with notes and introduction by Thomas S. Maloney

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Abelard in Four Dimensions

A Twelfth-Century Philosopher in His Context and Ours

John Marenbon

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Bitter Knowledge

Learning Socratic Lessons of Disillusion and Renewal

Thomas D. Eisele

Love of Self and Love of God in Thirteenth-Century Ethics

Thomas M. Osborne, Jr.

 Love of Self and Love of God in Thirteenth-Century Ethics
Cloth Edition
Paper Edition

“Twenty-first-century readers are likely to be more interested in the love of self than the love of God. They may be surprised to find how much the understanding of each of these loves can teach us about the other. Thomas Osborne’s excellent book makes thirteenth-century ethics highly relevant to twenty-first-century readers.” —Alasdair MacIntyre, University of Notre Dame

“This book is a model of clarity. It introduces readers to views on Christian love that range from the Golden Age of the patristic period to the beginning of the fourteenth century, and will occupy an important place in the reconstruction of the debates between realists and conceptualists that have dominated the Christian appropriation of classical pagan ethics.” —Romanus Cessario, O.P., Saint John’s Seminary

“This book is solidly historical, its feet firmly planted in the relevant medieval texts. And yet its arguments could not be more relevant to contemporary Christian theology, so marked as it is by the debate over the natural desire for beatitude.” —Kevin L. Flannery, S.J., Pontifical Gregorian University

In this book, Thomas M. Osborne, Jr. covers an important, but often neglected, aspect of medieval ethics, namely the controversy over whether or not it is possible to love God more than oneself through natural powers alone. In debating this topic, thirteenth-century philosophers and theologians introduced a high level of sophistication to the study of how one’s own good is achieved through virtuous action.

The central issue for medieval scholars was how to adapt Aristotle’s philosophical insights to a Christian framework. For Christians, loving God above all else was their central ethical duty. Most ancient and medieval Christians were also committed to eudaimonism, or the view that one’s good is always maximized through virtuous action. The tension between these two aspects of Christian ethics reached its highest point in philosophical discussions about whether God can be naturally loved more than oneself. Osborne provides a history of these debates, based on a close analysis of primary texts, clarifies the concepts that are most important for understanding eudaimonism, and argues that the central difference between the ethical theories of such great thinkers as Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus is not about morality and self-interest, but rather about the relationship between ethics and natural inclination.

The arguments raised by the thirteenth-century philosophers and texts discussed in this book have important implications for natural law theories and virtue ethics and are essential for understanding the shift to modern moral theories. Love of Self and Love of God in Thirteenth-Century Ethics will be invaluable to philosophers and theologians, particularly those concerned with medieval philosophy, moral psychology, the history of ideas, and ethics.

ISBN: 978-0-268-03723-9

336 pages

“The book aims to treat the ‘thirteenth-century debate concerning the natural love of God over self with an eye to how the thinkers of this period saw the connections between one’s own good and the aims of virtuous action’. . . This is a complex volume, based on close textual analysis and intricate tracing of intellectual relationships and developments.” — The Heythrop Journal

“Thomas Osborne’s study is doubly successful—first as a careful account of the historical sources and multiple layers of concerns shaping thirteenth-century debates about whether God can be naturally loved more than oneself. Second, it is also an excellent articulation of the metaphysical and conceptual gaps between ancient and medieval eudaimonistic ethical theories and contemporary morality.” — Journal of the History of Philosophy

“Thomas M. Osborne’s study of the development of thirteenth-century ethics focuses on a thematic that has not received the attention it deserves: the relationship of love of self to love of God. . . . This is an extremely good introduction to the ethical debates of the thirteenth century, providing a wealth of textual and bibliographical resources.” — The Thomist

“Osborne provides a dense read of an important topic, the natural love of God over self. . . . He explores in what way Aquinas and Scotus are alike and different in explaining that we ought to love God more than ourselves and that in doing so we find our happiness.” — Theological Studies

“The self seeks its own completion; yet paradoxically this self-completion, properly understood, requires self-abandonment. Thomas Osborne’s book is devoted to this paradox, which it approaches from the point of view of the tension between Aristotelian eudaemonism and the Christian commandment to love God above all else, including oneself.” — Speculum

“The theme of this book is the medieval discussion of the question whether one can naturally love God more than one can love oneself. . . . Those who have an interest in medieval moral theory will gain from this book a greater knowledge of important themes in the writings of medieval thinkers in the thirteenth century.” — The Review of Metaphysics

“_Love of Self and Love of God in the Thirteenth-Century Ethics_ is an excellent book, representing a most ambitious project . . . [it] remains an excellent resource for experts and for scholars with broad research interests and integrative approaches. It is also well suited to serve as a graduate level textbook. Osborne’s erudition is vast and his general analysis, accurate.” — American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly