Interpreters of what Aristotle calls practical truth differ about what its bearer is or what it is properly said of. As a result, they also differ about the distinction between practical and theoretical truth. It is generally agreed that the bearer of theoretical truth is an assertion or a judgment about some matter, and that such truth consists in the judgment’s describing the matter correctly. But while some hold that the same account applies to practical truth, others hold that its bearer is an action, and that what it consists in is the action’s conformity with right desire. Thomas Aquinas thinks the bearer of practical truth is a judgment. In this paper I present his position, consider some objections on behalf of the opposing view, and suggest what he would think is at stake the issue.
Philosopher Stephen Brock gave the talk “Aquinas and the Life of the Mind” on Friday, May 12, 2017 at the University of Chicago.
Saint Thomas Aquinas regards mind, or intellect, as a form of life. It is even the most perfect form, he says, because it carries the power of free choice. Yet we may wonder how free he thinks we really are. For he insists that our mind’s life depends, intimately, on a cause outside itself. But on his view, freedom of choice would not even make sense without this cause; and our lives are fullest, and freest, when we focus more on it than on ourselves. This is to follow the mind’s deepest urge, which is toward that rather neglected virtue called wisdom.
Stephen Brock (Pontifical University of Santa Croce) is Professor of Medieval Philosophy, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome. He earned a B.A. in Philosophy at the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto. Brock writes widely on Thomas Aquinas and action theory, ethics, and metaphysics. He is the author of The Philosophy of Saint Thomas Aquinas. A Sketch (Wipf & Stock, 2015) and Action & Conduct: Thomas Aquinas and the Theory of Action (T&T Clark, 1998). Fr. Brock is the 2017 Visiting Scholar with Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.