Journal of Religious Ethics, Inc

Thomas Aquinas on Sexual Pleasure Author(s): John Giles Milhaven Reviewed work(s): Source: The Journal of Religious Ethics, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Fall, 1977), pp. 157-181 Published by: on behalf of Journal of Religious Ethics, Inc Stable URL: . Accessed: 12/04/2012 01:23
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ABSTRACT A key to understanding the sexual ethics of Thomas Aquinas is his position that spouses sin whenever their purpose in having intercourse is the pleasure of it. The pleasure itself, Thomas declares, is not sinful, but necessary, natural and good. Nevertheless, it cannot be rational man's intended end. Other sense pleasures can be, inasmuch as they are pleasures of knowing something, e.g., a beautiful color. Sexual pleasure is a pleasure of knowing, too, but the kind of knowing is so minimal and negligible that it is not worthy of being an end intended by rational man. In modern critical dialogue one can ask: Is Thomas' ethical thinking radically handicapped by a model of knowledge that is valid, but unrealistically exclusive?

The moral appraisal Thomas makes of sexual pleasure is central to his whole sexual ethics. Like the rest of his special ethics, his sexual ethics is framed in terms of virtues and vices.1 The basic virtues and vices pertinent to sexual ethics- temperantia, intemperantia, castitas, luxuria, virginitas- are defined in terms of their relation to sexual pleasure. Thomas does not define them, as one might expect him to do, in terms of their relation to the right kind of sexual activity or to the proper end of sexual activity. He speaks often enough of right and wrong kinds of sexual activity and of the proper end to be sought in sexual activity. But the basic virtues and vices pertaining to human sexuality consist formally in the right and wrong dispositions towards sexual pleasure.2 Even sympatheticmodern commentators havejudged (Fuchs, 1944:24-26, 55-56, 60, 66-71, 219, 226-27, 273; Doherty, 1966:278-79;Noonan, 1965:29395; Van der Marck, 1967:105) that the various statements Thomas makes about sexual pleasure do not form a coherent, consistent whole. In certain
JRE 5/2 (1977), 157-181

is not sinful. is that Thomas sees conjugal sexual pleasure as corrupting moral wisdom. Although conjugal sex. Why does he not discuss the possibility that this kind of love might also make some positive contribution to the higher activities of man. be contrary to good morals for close relatives to be united.3 1 The present essay centers on the only sexual pleasurethat Thomas did not consider to be necessarilysinful. It would. They are not permitted on holy days when one should devote oneself to prayer and spiritual matters (Suppl. 80. Their sexual relations render inappropriate the reception of the Eucharist on the following day (STIII. however. the soul would be necessarily more overcome by the pleasure. 41. On the other hand.4 In another passage. Now such pleasure is increased by the love of the persons in the union. irresistibly distracts it from spiritual realities. I will. limited one that invites the critical dialogue of the contemporary Christian ethicist. On the one hand. an unequivocally positive one. but. is contrary to good morals.. 5). try to show that Thomas' total view of sexual pleasure is a remarkablycoherent and consistent one. expressed in the passagejust cited. the consequences of its pleasure make it unfitting for times given to spiritual activity. Thomas evinces a strongly negative evaluation of sexual pleasure. Thomas does appear to be inconsistent in his different comments on this pleasure. Thomas premises that sexual pleasure has considerable disvalue because of its effects on the mind of the spouse. And. .e. generally speaking. because in their case the love that comes from common origin and sustenance would be added to the love of concupiscence. sexual pleasure is not submissive to reason. he prohibits or discourages sexual intercourse at certain times in the lives of the Christian spouses. 64. These stricturescoincide in part and differ in part in what is discouraged or forbidden. powerfully absorbing the mind. Suppl 64. 3). The pleasure of sexual intercourse "seriously corrupts the judgment of moral wisdom. therefore. At first glance. he seems to have an extremely low opinion of their sexual pleasure." To multiply such pleasure. therefore. 1). as in the stricturespreviously considered. He is advancing an argument why close relatives should not marry. the love being multiplied. In man's fallen state resulting from original sin. is curious. I will eventually suggest that his view is a remarkably narrow. Adducing the nature of sexual pleasure. other passages. Here.158 MILHAVEN passages. 7. the sexual pleasure of marriedpeople. including his moral wisdom?6What is to our present point. But Thomas' reason for each stricture is the same: the nature of sexual pleasure. i.5 Thomas' view of natural human love. when he lays down certain moral rules for marriedChristians. They are not appropriate during times set aside for religious meditation or religious services or liturgy (Suppl. Thomas darkens further the picture of sexual pleasure.

the premise for Thomas' argumentation is not the deleterious effects of sexual pleasure. i. the state he enjoyed before the fall. Thomas' moral appraisal of fallen man's appetite for sexual pleasure is a relatively positive one in comparison with that of other medieval theologians and later theologians of the Reform. the virtue of chastity requires this natural sense appetite. for the married person. but also of promotion of sexual activity. at least venially. Instead. Deficiency in this particular sense appetite. Chastity entails. therefore. He rejects the widespread medieval position that this appetite (concupiscentia) is essentially sinful.. for he pronounces on all and any conjugal intercourse. In its natural state."The total subjection of man's lower forces to his reason. he sins. This activity properly proceeds from two appetites:the sex appetite of man. of Thomas' whole sexual ethics.The virtue of chastity can coexist with this penalty (poena) of original sin. i. but to the "originaljustice given him over and above his nature by divine liberality. a certain insensibility to sexual pleasure. and .THOMAS AQUINAS ON SEXUAL PLEASURE 159 Other passages convey a yet more negative view of conjugal sexual pleasure. therefore. and can be governed by reason only to a limited extent. Some of this intercourse is necessary for procreation and this presumably justifies any bad consequences.that this appetite constitutes a flaw or perversionof human nature. He sins. not because of what he does or because of the results of what he does.e.8 Indeed. the sexual activity that fulfills the goal of marriage:procreation. sexual pleasure. was due not to his nature.e. 2 In apparent conflict with the negative statementsjust considered." Christian virtue need not and cannot regain this "supernatural"dominion over man's lower nature.7 This condemnation of the desire for pleasure as motive for conjugal intercoursehas drawn criticism from modern readers of Thomas. But this spontaneous tendency is the "state befitting man according to his natural principles. But whenever it is the appetite for sexual pleasure (concupiscentia) that moves the husband to intercourse with his wife. He sins because he is acting "out of" (ex) his appetite or desire for sexual pleasure.. In these texts. but because of what moves him to do it. He also denies . which is one of his sense appetites. but. it seems to contradict positive utterances of Thomas which we are about to consider. constitutes one of the vices opposed to the mean of chastity. reveals the coherent rationale of Thomas' systematic treatment of sexual pleasure and. concupiscentia is no longer completely subject to reason. it tends simply into its own object. However. Moreover.and is the first medieval theologian to do so . Original sin has "corrupted"the appetite only in reducingit to its natural state. the burden of our argument will be that this condemnation is no inconsistency.9 Chastity is a virtue not merely of restraint. with the purely natural reality of its sex appetite. rightly understood.

It is contrary to virtue to refrain from intercourse now in order to enjoy it more later. the individual's sexual passions.12 Thomas clarifies the principle in a furtherapplication of it. just as it is better that a man both will the good and do it in an external act. without the concurrence of reason. He acts virtuously if the appetite does this under reason's governance. he is not chaste. however. as we saw earlier. Thomas does not contradict his assertion of the moral necessity and value of the sensual desire for sexual pleasure. so. itself. The spouse sins if his sexual appetite on its own. It is equally essential. In this context. i. therefore. which is his will. which Pieper ignores. . It is essential to virtue not merely that reason approve the exercise of the spouse's sexual appetite.11 The virtue of chastity requires. The impulse that is sinful is one lacking any such approval. the spouse sins if concupiscentia moves him to conjugal intercourse. too.10 A morally good bodily act calls for the contribution of a sense appetite as well as of the rational appetite. necessarily seeks its pleasure. The sexual appetite. Has Thomas contradicted himself? Concupiscentia is not sinful. . reason cannot have as its motive the motive of the sexual appetite. He is only insisting on the even greater moral necessity and value that reason.13 . however. Consequently. The impulse of concupiscentia required by the virtue of chastity is one approved by man's reason. On the other hand. be in command. He would be seeking the pleasure for its own sake (propter seipsum). In approving the exercise of the sexual appetite. seeing reality lucidly. it belongs to the perfection of a moral good that the man be moved to the good not only by his will. . As Joseph Pieper (1965:153-75) points out. says Thomas. The contradiction.. He is not chaste even if his rational appetite is well developed enough to withstand the passions and govern his sexual behavior so that he acts in an exemplary way. In condemning pleasure as motive for conjugal intercourse. the impulse given by concupiscentia is understood differently in the two statements. that that exercise never be "for the sake of pleasure alone" (propter solam delectationem). It is fully natural and should move the chaste spouse to conjugal intercourse. It is not a flaw or perversion of human nature. Consequently. Reason can never approve such a purpose. But pleasure is not the end {finis) ordained by nature for sexual activity. If the sense appetite. Thomas insists also on something else.e. is only apparent. being a sense appetite. The rational agent would be "intending"the pleasure as at least part of one's end in view (Jinem). therefore. is not habituallydisposed and ordered in this way. the virtuous sexual activity of the spouse must be ordered by reason to some other end. the virtue of chastity disposes and orders both these appetites to the appropriate activity. but also by his sense appetite. Reason cannot do this. that the appetite for sexual pleasure move the chaste spouse to intercourse.160 MILHAVEN the generalrational appetite of man. as it moves the spouse to engage in intercourse. moves him to intercourse.

etc. God will make the body totally subject to the rational soul. Thomas tells us. 18He affirms that. sexual pleasure may not be sought for its own sake. "this sense pleasure . But might he not hold. Thomas denies flatly that sexual pleasure is a moral evil. This is neglected by excellent commentators such as Bailey (1959:134-38." Thomas condemns any instance when the spouses have sexual pleasure as the purpose of their intercourse because that is a purpose reason can never approve. of the individual will be rendered perfectly submissive to the soul. No "abundance"or "superabundance"or "extreme intensity" of pleasure in conjugal intercourse offends chastity or makes the intercourse sinful.14And yet the argument that the blest should enjoy sexual pleasure"lest any pleasure be lacking in their ultimate reward"is rejected by Thomas. not based exclusively on the power this pleasure has. They can have no harmfulconsequences in man's spirituallife." His ground is not any intrinsic evil in the desire nor any harmful consequences of the intercourse. the virtue of chastity does not restrictthe amount of sexual pleasure permitted the spouse in intercourse. Even though it would have no harmful effects on man's spiritual activity. but positivelygood. passions. A more fundamental negativity of sexual pleasure is seen by Thomas even when the pleasure is totally subordinated to man's reason and higher life and man's intellectual contemplation goes on undisturbed. therefore. is not just not evil. Will the blest then engage in sexual activity?In that beatitude. had there been no Fall. therefore. should enjoy the pleasureof intercourse. In condemning marital intercourse "out of sexual desire. Nor is Thomas simply condemning those instances when reason does not endorse the satisfaction of the desire.17 Thomas even implies that sexual pleasure. The central question of the chapter concerns the afterlife of the blest once they have been reunited with their bodies. and even implies that it is morally good.16Moreover. movements. This is reflected in Thomas' teaching that virtue need not restrain the amount of sexual pleasure the spouse permits himself in intercourse. to move man out of the control of his reason and thus to disturb his higher life. that sexual pleasure itself is intrinsically evil? This would explain why it could not be the intended purpose of man acting rationally. however. All bodily appetites. They will. In opposition to earliertheologians. in itself. the mean chastity observes lies between the vices of license (luxuria) and insensibility. sinless and essential to virtue and to the perfection of moral good.THOMAS AQUINAS ON SEXUAL PLEASURE 161 We see here why Thomas condemns marital intercourse had "out of sexual desire. see something morally evil in sexual pleasure? He has affirmed that the sense appetite for sexual pleasure is perfectly natural. It is the principal subject of the present essay. in no way be able to impede the higher life of the blest. Virtue lies in keeping the mean. This is confirmed by the larger context of the chapter of the Summa Contra Gentileswe have been examining. actions. 243).15 Thomas' negative judgment on sexual pleasure is. therefore. The mean of virtue is not a quantitative one determining an amount of sexual pleasure that is neither too much nor too little. therefore. The chaste spouse. as a result of Original Sin. Does Thomas. at the same time.

The sex appetite. 2. Conservation of the species is not perceptible or imaginable by the senses. in reality. Sense appetites simply follow on sense perception and sense perception does not attain reality or what is. Neither is any spiritual activity of man.162 MILHAVEN would be so much the greateras human nature would be finer (purior) and the body more sensitive (sensibile)" (STI. no sense appetite can seek these goals. i. and if God has made the pleasure such as it is so that men may desire it. the spiritual activity by which they have their beatitude with God. Fuchs. The conservation of the species. therefore. But man's rational appetite . though the sense sex appetite seeks sexual pleasure as its end. 1949:26-27). Thomas makes his more positive statements about sexual pleasure when he is considering the sense appetite by itself. one can say that the sexual appetite properly seeks pleasure as its end (finis) and moves the person to act for the sake of sexual pleasure (propter delectationem). cf. This is God's and nature's intent. The end God and nature have in view is the conservation of the human species through procreation. It is therefore quite consistent to hold that the real end of the sex appetite is different from the end it seeks. 19If virtue obliges the spouse to enjoy his sexual pleasure and if a superior human naturewould have even greater sexual pleasure than man can have now. The real end of the sex appetite is what God and nature have in view in affixing pleasure to the appetite as an inducement for the appetite to move. By its nature. God endowed sexual activity with its pleasure in order to motivate men to this activity essential for the continuation of the human species. The key is to distinguish all along the line between man's sense appetite based on sensation and his rational judgment based on reality. as it seeks its pleasure as its end. therefore. of the virtuous spouse should seek its pleasure for the sake of its pleasure.e. that pleasure is not its end. the sense appetite seeks only one good: sense pleasure.21 Nevertheless. The senses can know nothing of ends like these. Moreover. 98. For nature and God and. then. In this sense. Consequently. in turn. is it wrong for man acting rationally to seek it for its own sake? Why cannot human reason approve conjugal intercourse for the purpose of this pleasure?20 3 The statements of Thomas that we have been examining fit together when located in the general framework of his complex but coherent anthropology. How. but only an "instrument"to lead it to attain its true end: procreation. The sex appetite thus contributes to its true end unknowingly. He makes his more negative statements when he is concerned about the judgment of reason and the full reality on which it must be based. has as its ultimate end the ultimate end of the members of the species. the pleasure this sense appetite seeks is not its end.. it must be good in some real sense of the word. pleasure. This pleasure is a real good and it is good and necessary that the appetite seek it.

is diametrically opposed to Thomas' evaluation of man's sexual experience in particularand its pleasure. STI-II. an end of man. there will be no sexual pleasurein the afterlife. He loves his senses for (propter) the sense knowledge they give.. itself. i.23Sense knowledge is. Rational man knows this. The same opposition is reflected also in Thomas' conception of the afterlife. 6. 3 and 4. and man rationally acts for the sake of it. Instead. and by virtue of his reason. 83. All anthropologies are inevitably dualistic or pluralistic. Unlike the brutes. it follows that the same is true of the pleasure man takes in his sense knowledge. itself. mainly. All man's rational knowledge must take its beginning from sense knowledge. Sense knowledge is. seems to suggest an underlying dualism whereby man's sense life would have no value except in serving his spiritual life. too. an end of man. But the senses are also given man for the sake of sense knowledge itself (STI. a good {quoddam bonum) for man. therefore. But man's senses have another purpose. The senses have been given man also for the knowledge they yield. food. 91. as seen thus far. drink and sex. no one finds the human person to be a perfectly simple being of one piece. still all the bodily senses of the blest will be active and give man knowledge and pleasure (SuppL.22 4 At issue therefore is not so much Thomas' consistency as his dualism. The knowledge to which the human senses are ordered is primarily the rational knowledge they make possible. The beatitude of the blest does not consist formally in any bodily good and. is. 3. one would expect Thomas to reply negatively to these questions. Moreover. All the senses that men have they have in common with brute animals. realized in procreation. Thomas gives an unequivocally affirmativeanswer.THOMAS AQUINAS ON SEXUAL PLEASURE 163 may seek knowingly only the true end of sexual intercourse. as we saw. Although. both in the sensible objects known and in the act itself of knowing. 3). not shared by any brute animal. That pleasure. .e. Man rationally endorses this end and acts for the sake of it. In Thomas' ethical anthropology. Is not the body with its sense appetites more than a mere instrument of the rational soul? Does not reason know that the rich sense life of man is worth seeking for itself and not solely to make possible his spiritual activities? Does not the Christian belief in the resurrection of the body require that the real ends of human activity and the proper purposes of rational man include the sensual bodily as well as the spiritual?In the light of Thomas' teaching on sexual pleasure seen thus far. one purpose of man's senses is the same as that of the brutes':to help acquire the necessities of life for the individual and the species. unique to him. This is difficult to defend in terms of either ordinary human experience or traditionalChristiandogma. 82.3). he takes pleasure in his sense knowledge.24 This evaluation of sense knowledge in general and man's pleasure in it. in itself. But Thomas' treatment of sexual pleasure.

6). it is worth noting that sex is not the only sense activity different in this regardfrom sense activity in general. Thomas clearly considers both positions essential to his ethics. 3. 83. 82. Eating and drinking receivethe same negativejudgments as sex. Thomas is aware of the contrast between the two positions. Man does not act rationally for the sake of the sense pleasure of sex. its basic appetite desires (appetit) and wants (vellet) that the body share its enjoyment (fruit id) of God (SCG IV. 4). Human beatitude is essentially the immediate intellectual vision of the uncreated good. 4. as we saw. 5. IV. the natural appetite of the soul for its full perfection and happiness (naturale hominis desiderium ad f elicitatem) is not completely at rest. not in this sense knowledge and pleasure. Thomas puts the same reasoning in yet another form that brings out sharply the opposition between his appraisal of sense activity in general and his appraisal of the sense activity of sex.27. in the state of beatitude human nature will have the greatest perfection (in maxima perfectione) and this perfection necessarily includes the appropriate activity and pleasure of the senses (SCG IV. CT 1. 83). 97. Each is maintained on a good number of occasions and in different contexts. purely spiritual. 5TI. ST I-II. And yet as we saw. the rational soul has no appetite for the sense activity and pleasure of sex for their own sake. Thomas takes two contrasting positions on sense pleasure. has a general appetite for sense activity and pleasure for their own sake. 3 and 8). 2. Another argument of Thomas illustrates the same contrast. SuppL 8 1. He argues that the blest will have full sense activity and pleasure because their body and senses must also have their eternal reward (SuppL. 3). therefore. It is wrong to eat or drink for the pleasure of it. SuppL. 5 In sum. in fact. This is exactly the same reasoning which. 79. Until the bodies rise from the earth at the last judgment and join their souls in beatitude.164 MILHAVEN therefore. Thomas rejected when applied to the sense activity and pleasure of sex. In general. 86. 83. man no longer needs sense knowledge to make possible any of his intellectual he did in his terrestiallife (STI-II. The pleasure of sex is essentially different in its moral goodness from most of the pleasures that the senses yield man. 5. he will not engage in eating or drinkingor have their pleasures (SCG II1. Since the soul is by its nature form of the body.25 Consequently. 4. In man's beatific life with God after death. 4. it is not an end for his rational appetite. man rationally acts for the sake of sense pleasure. it is an end for his rational appetite. The question is: What is the difference? To understand the difference. the pleasure of eating and drinking is not an end for human activity. Essential human beatitude is. 151). Moreover. Nevertheless. . 82. it is contrary to virtue to abstain from eating and drinking at a given time in order to enjoy it more later (SCG IV. he underlines it. in the beatific state. therefore. The rational soul.

Thomas has told us that the pleasures of sex. the goods in which the pleasure of sex. those giving the pleasure of touch basic to sex. man calls "beautiful"are those which are "the most knowing. distinguishing them from the other sense pleasures. as we saw.26Their purpose is directly to serve nature. The sense of touch when it gives rise to the pleasures of sex. food and drink are the lowest (infima) (STI-II. NE III.28Since."31The senses whose object sight. food and drink come from the knowledge by the sense of touch that the appetite now possesses its object. i.e. one is not surprised to hear that the goods in which the pleasures of sex. the intrinsic moral goodness of a pleasure is determined by the good (bonum) which gives the pleasure. 5. The pleasures of sex. This last assertion of Thomas suggests an avenue for exploring further our present question. 60.. of the goods (bond) sought by man's different sense appetites and passions. The question is: What is the difference.27 Finally. food and drink. 10. food and drink are taken are of the lowest sort. in turn. hearing. i.e.33 . As a result.e. Cf. these pleasures have been made so powerfully attractive that in man they need a special virtue to govern them. food and drink are peculiar pleasures of the sense of touch. essentially inferior to all other sense pleasures. food and drink as. to incite the appetites of the animal (whether brute or human) to seek activities which can preservethe individual and the species. The sole function of the cardinal virtue of moderation (temperantia) is to govern the desires and pleasures of touch connected with sex." i. then. food and drink are taken are of the lowest sort (infima).so little knowing that the knowledge it gives has no intrinsic goodness worth the consideration of rational man. sense knowledge is the good in which man takes pleasure. But no text of Thomas to my knowledge affirms that this particular sense knowledge is to any degree good in itself or that man takes any pleasure in it as knowledge. They have certain characteristics in common.THOMAS AQUINAS ON SEXUAL PLEASURE 165 That the pleasures of food and drink receive from Thomas the same moral treatment as the pleasures of sex is no accident. in intrinsic moral goodness. food and drink must be. rated as more or less good according to the degree of knowledge they give.29 An internal sense is superior to an external sense because its object "is known more. food and drink have beenjudged inferior to the generality of sense pleasures.. in use Thomas' quantitative terminology . 17* 23-18* 8). sight and If. The different kinds of sense knowledge are. by the particulargood in which pleasure is taken.. But what makes them the lowest? In the other sense pleasures.32 therefore. the pleasures of sex."30 The external sense which man values most for itself is the sense of for this external sense is "more knowing. One understands then why he rates the pleasures of sex. between the sense pleasure of sex (and we now add: food and drink) and the general pleasure that the senses give man? Why does Thomas rate the latter essentially superior to the former? In principle. any sense knowledge contained therein must be of a minimal degree of knowledge.

cultural anthropologists.g. NEl." "moreknowing. 6-8). of itself. But the historian of western religious thought can also cast light.. psychosocial historians of the Middle Ages. et al.e. may be able to probe more deeplythe causes of this blind spot of Thomas' epistemology. 59. for Thomas." i. as we have seen. V. 16." "the most knowing. "the book most read and frequently commented on in the medieval cloister. Bernard of Clairvaux and Mechtilde of Magdeburg. 119-20) in which the sexual union."34 Historians of Christianity and Christian dogma. NEX. therefore. In its higher reaches. determined by a single norm of fullness or perfection. 7-8. is the least like human reason. runs counter to the familiar Biblical understanding of sexual union as profoundly interpersonal (Gen. 141. 31-33). sense knowledge and rational knowledge cannot be contrasted in simple. and.166 MILHAVEN The crux of the matter. Matt. purely subjective experience. One has noted the quantitative terminology Thomas employs in evaluating kinds of sense knowledge: "isknown more. 1. II. The sole norm. a level of being always approximates more and more to the next highest level in nature and worth. Cf. this epistemological lacuna is curious. that involved in the pleasures of sex. Subspecies of the lower level have more intrinsic value to the degree to which they are more similar to the higher level. 5. 3-6. 24. therefore. expounds his sexual ethics philosophically. see O'Brien:103-4. Sexual experience.namely. knowledge and pleasures of spouses are seen as a worthy analogate of the most intensely. the whole process of sex appetite. VI. X. For Thomas. of all human experiences.35Like any two neighboringlevels of the hierarchyof being." To be able to express relative value simply in terms of "more" or "less"presupposes a single scale of values. Even in his own historical context.. 142. profoundly and sublimely personal union. takes on some of the attributes of the knowledge of reason. X. that sexual union is. . knowledge and pleasure possible to man on his failure to accord more than a minimal. Thielicke. The corollary of this incomplete epistemology. Luke. The resultant view of conjugal sex runs counter to language frequently employed by medieval mystics (e. / Cor. blanket fashion. Mark. negligible kind of knowledge to sexual experience." A given kind of sense knowledge will be more or less knowing to the degree to which it "shares in.. It is the "furthest from reason.."36 In these pleasures. 1964:66-67). It runs counter to familiar Biblical language where "knowing"is a synonym for sexual union (Gen. that norm is "reason.. ideal. considered simply in itself. food and drink shares and resembles least the higher rational level. 75* 35-76° 3). 4. of minimal human value. Thomas' low opinion of any knowledge given by sexual experience is of a piece with his whole philosophical scale of human values. 13-20.2 ad 3. A similar high esteem of conjugal sex is implied in the allegorical interpretations of the Song of Solomon. in understanding Thomas' appraisal of sexual pleasure. "is seen least of all the brightness and beauty of reason (5711-11. Of the different kinds of sense knowledge. knowledge and pleasure. XXIV. 34. cf.. Eph. XIX. model and crown of all human values is human reason (cf. Indeed. a blind..

ideal and model of all human knowledge and thus of all human values. 7 and 8). The modern understandingof "reason"is not likely to be identical with Thomas'. Hegel and myriad others have passed this way since Thomas' time. Cf. 3. God's own knowledge.37This is the reason why. it is grounded in pure sense knowledge that has no share in reason.. 11. in understanding Thomas' appraisal of sexual pleasure is his exaltation of the rational as sole norm and model for all human values. we saw that in the afterlife. The decisive cause is not that sexual pleasure interferes most with the exercise of human reason. NEX. This fact follows. 1. Let me. from the arationality of these pleasures. To say that the knowledge had in sexual experience is most unlike the rational is to say that it is most unlike the divine. Newton. But what does Thomas mean by the "rational"? Luther.. 1.38With most of these statements of fact. of the practically complete arationality of the pleasures of sex. that of sex . 16. l.and preeminently. Rousseau. the context makes clearthat they are eo ipso judgments of value. are enjoyed by man in common with brute animals. The crucial reason for sexual pleasure'slack of intrinsic value is that it has in it nothing resembling rational knowledge. 1807. has no share in reason at all." But at times Thomas does not mention the arationality of these pleasures. In III Sent. The decisive cause why sexual pleasure is the lowest of human pleasures and lacks all intrinsic value for the human person is thus clear. Descartes. as in Thomas' hypothetical paradise without the Fall. the pleasures of sex. of all man's sense pleasures.e.. lies in its being a participation of the knowledge of the higher. Kant. however. point to one set of clues appearing in the texts dealing with the value of sexual pleasure. of the inferiority of this kind of pleasure and knowledge. unlike other human sense pleasures. purely spiritualbeings and ultimately of God (D V 15.InXEth. therefore. Nic. Thisjudgment of fact is all the more crushing a judgment of value because the value of reason. God could eliminate the interference and sexual pleasure would still lack all intrinsic value. 35.4. food and drink and the knowledge involved therein. i. i. Indeed. In II Sent.THOMAS AQUINAS ON SEXUAL PLEASURE 167 unlike other sensory processes. food and drink on the basis of the fact that they. in turn. It does so interfere in man's purely natural state but the cause lies deeper. 4. He . Galileo. food and drink. Unlike higher sense pleasures. 2110. since man is "the rational animal. 6 The crux of the matter.e. therefore. the participation in which gives all meaning and worth to human life. but is totally sense. Frequently Thomas asserts the inferiority of the pleasures of sex. VI.most immerse man in the sensible and draw him away from intelligible reality.. of course. is the ultimately determining norm. There is no place left in the present essay to undertake to trace out what Thomas means by his all-holy reason.

grasp of the necessary. hearing sweet melodies. is derived negatively from observation of what brute animals do as well as positively from observation of what men do and brutes cannot. Brutes. etc. singular and temporal. It stands out in sharp contrast to the childish barbarism and animality from which medieval civilization had emerged. the criterion "man as man" (or "reason") vs. is easily seen: the human being unformed by civilization. we know something of what he is thinking of. Thomas makes clear. Conversely. Thomas prizes a particular kind of human knowledge or a particularkind of human pleasure because it has a certain share in reason. universal and eternal. . One understands why the spouses having intercourse for the sake of its pleasures sin at least venially. Thomas often substitutes for. savoring sweet or combined tastes. all these characteristics suggest a hypothesis with which I would like to conclude."40 "The fool.46Nevertheless. feel and determine their actions is little different from the life of the brutes." "the boy. They are letting themselves act on the kind of motive that moves brute animals.the sense pleasures worth having for their own sake. animals do not have (SCG III. "the child. 7 What we have just touched on is. and against which the civilization continually struggled. distinctness. Parallel to and intertwined with the brute animal.g. children. which. One understandswhy Thomas treats as essentially superior to the pleasures of sex. the masses are not capable of such pleasures. uncivilized masses think. It does not compare in worth to the life of that relativelyrarehuman being. We are still just starting to explore the Thomistic concept of reason when we add other well-known traits of Thomistic reason: clarity. In his value judgments. The content of the all-determining norm. therefore.."42 "the peasant. 27 and 63)."41"the slave."in the forefront of his mind stands the ideal adult envisaged by the civilization and education of his time." The criterion he adds or substitutes is "man as man" (or "reason")vs.168 MILHAVEN adduces simply the fact that they are had in common with brute animals and this suffices to prove their inferiority and lack of intrinsic value. and the unformed masses. Behind the word "reason. children. and experiencing the general bodily pleasure had in gymnasium sports. are pleasures. reason. the uncultured. far from exhausting what Thomas means by "reason"and what he finds so valuable there. reason."44 or The way in which the unformed. "the animal. a second negative face of Thomas' supreme norm. When.45 They are the pleasures of the civilized man. recognition of order and proportion. which still infested that civilization.39 Correspondingly. smelling excellent fragrances. pleasures they are capable of cannot be really worth pursuing. in the afterlife of the bleast. the fully developed and civilized adult. or adds to. of course. food and drink the pleasures of seeing beautiful forms and beautiful colors. as opposed to the contingent."43 even "most men. e.

. . the kind Thomas did not show. Man has two. Although it does not have all the limitations Thomas attributes to sense knowledge. . it is sense knowledge. The sense most often operative is the sense of touch. elementary experience. what he has to hide precisely in carrying out his task of showing. though not with complete success. ideal and norm of human knowledge.g. is not to be evaluated exclusively according to the degree to which it approximates this single model. so far as we can judge. food and drink. even the task and the salvation. the uncivilized. Man has also a second kind of knowledge that has its own value and. is a valid model. Max Muller (1958:141-42) has remarked: Dialogue with a thinker thinks about what he shows and what he hides. It is unlike what one calls "rational" knowledge. but it is not knowledge civilization has taught him. constituting a purely negative pole. ideal and norm in its own right. . but a second positive one. e. What Thomas does not and in his time could not show is not the fact. The two ways of knowing each have their own value. and incomplete. . For example.THOMASAQUINASON SEXUALPLEASURE 169 I take it that a historian of Western religious thought may do more than record past thoughts. the "masses. . autonomous norm of values? Could one argue the following? Thomas' model of knowledge is useful. He fails thereby to recognize that this pole is not a negative one. It may well. but the autonomous value of this second kind of knowledge. The second kind of knowledge resists. not comparable. his or her personal autonomy. The hard-won rational schemata. narrowly singular. in Thomas' sense of the word. not comparable. But today it may be precisely what has to be thought about. or at least is indistinguishably interfused with sense knowledge. Suppose one wishes to compare two particular acts of knowing. true. They can distinguish some of its elements. He recognizes it and its characteristics. furthest from the single model and norm. in its fullness.have justifiably remained hidden at that time because of . A given kind of human knowledge. what was coming to light. the imminence of punishment. but not the sole one. a human being can know in two essentially different ways mothering love. a physicist's knowing physics and his knowing his wife's present . He may choose to enter into dialogue with a past thinker. but places it at the bottom of his scale of values. therefore. What does Thomas have to hide precisely in carrying out his task of showing? Might one thing be a second model of knowledge and thus a second. The two kinds of knowledge are essentially different. The second kind of knowledge." and even animals. . Reason.. but they cannot take their place. . contrary kinds of knowledge. one has to show . each valuable in its own way. each with its own internal value. concepts and words can point to and to some extent bring further into the light the original. is a model. It is like the knowledge had by children. what had to remain hidden to such a thought. immersed in time and place. perhaps. but complementary to the other. . but complementary to the other. the first kind's (reason's) efforts at clarifying and analyzing it. is had by the civilized adult. What is known in this second way is known dimly and obscurely. paradigmatically exercised in sex.

balance of the two.170 MILHAVEN feelings about him. . but in a tension. 1976 and 1974). In invoking the value of nonrational experience. rigorously coherent synthesis even as they widened its perspective. not "knowledge". interrelationship. Milhaven. with unattended confusions and strange silences. it involves this kind of knowledge. Whether it has any truth to it can be determined only by the critical discussion. I have argued elsewhere that that discussion is in disarray. though. among other reasons. At most. but "experience" or "awareness" or "openness" or "communion. in knowing that. it may give some focus to current discussion of sexual pleasure in Christian ethics. as Thomas would: in knowing this. But they are not showing it as well as he showed what he did show (cf. could be misleading since man's best knowledge is not centered at either pole. he knows more with the other kind.47 Today one might prefer to call it. contemporary Christian thinkers may well be showing something Thomas could not. Even this. I suggest all this as a hypothesis for critical discussion. one might be able to say: in knowing this. Currentethical discussion of sexual pleasurewould gain if dialogue with Thomas inspired them to emulate his lucidly probing. The pleasure of sexual love is worth seeking because. But. One cannot simply say."What is essential is that one does not understand and assess it using as sole model some kind of knowledge epitomized by one's civilization. true or not. the physicist knows more than in knowing that. he knows more with one kind of knowledge. Sexual union yields eminently this second kind of knowledge.

not as the pleasure. but as the appetite (concupiscentia or appetitus) convertible terms. Thomas expresses the object of these virtues and vices. or Christian dogmas concerning divine law.g. ST II-II. 4The broad lines of the argument and conclusions are also Aristotle's. 152. At times. 19*6-15.THOMASAQUINASON SEXUALPLEASURE NOTES 171 ]For the framework of Thomas' special ethics. etc. Nevertheless. . his argumentation is basically the same: even in permissible sexual activity. 2. not any pleasure or passion. S. NE III. The limits of space of the present essay prevent me from doing more than referringto the more evident parallels in the Nicomachean Ethics (hereafter: NE) as I proceed with analyses of the Thomistic text. 141. 5Summa Contra Gentiles (hereafter: SCG). justice and injustice concern directly. the evil of sin. This should also give matter for reflection to those who explain Thomas' view of sex by motifs from other sources: Manichaean dualism. narrow understanding of sexual pleasure appears in the Nicomachean Ethics. 12. 12. Not all virtues and vices of Thomas' special ethics are specified by particular pleasures and corresponding desires. 1. Thomas cites NE VI. III. 58. 3ThatThomas' view of sexual pleasure is the coherent. 1 and 4. 40* 10-20. His idea of spiritual activity does not include prayer. 3. D. Cf. 151. 53* 28-37. Cf. 1and 2. 142. and otherworldliness of Augustine and other Platonists. Summa Theologiae. Unless otherwise indicated. 154. the virtuous man limits the exercise of sexual activity. 1 and 3. I-II. the pleasure so absorbs the mind as to conflict with the higher activity of the soul. 154. For example. see the prologue and table of contents of his Summa Theologian II-II. the supernaturalend of man. 2 and 3. or the mysticism. 9. 125. 4. VII. or the Eucharist. 1 and 2). eschatology. limited one I claim to find in his text is further supported by comparison with a source he draws on repeatedlyfor his ethics: Aristotle. Bailey (1959:158-59) finds in this part of the Summa the fullest medieval treatment of questions of sexual morality. since Thomas defines pleasure simply as the resting of appetite in the possession of its desired good (e.. 6. as Thomas notes. This suggests that the understanding of sexual pleasure common to Thomas and Aristotle may determine Thomas' sexual ethics more than the other motifs do. Essentially the same consistent. 3 1. 1. worship. the fallen nature of man. 2STII-II. all translations are mine. the purpose of sex and marriage. Aristotle does not restrict morally permissible sex to marriage. Consequently. 153. All these are lacking in Aristotle. 3 and 4. 9). Christian and pagan. 4 and 5. but certain outward actions of man (ST II-II.

In II Eth. cf. complementary accounts of Noonan (1965:241-57. 155. where the affection spouses may have for each other is treated solely as an obstacle to perfection in the spiritual life. 65. 50* 17-23. 2.4 and 49. *DV. 1. 10. 49. 8. and ad 1. Suppl. I.. not as slaves. see the excellent. Nic. 142. ad 6. 17. 19* 1-20. 2. Nic. 1057I-II. 154. 4. ad 7. NElll. 9. 571-11. Super Primam Epistolam S. Reason rules the natural appetites. De Malo. 25. 4. "De sexto praecepto legis. De Duobus Praeceptis Caritatis et Decent Legis Praeceptis. De Virtutibus in Communi (in Quaestiones Disputatae.DV.172 MILHAVEN 6The same silence of Thomas can be observed in De Perfectione Vitae Spiritualis." Cf. Nic). 1179*3-30 or VII. but he sees the effect of the Fall verified preeminentlyin this appetite inasmuch as it is appetite for sexual pleasure. nSCG IV. 152. 5. 19* 11-20. 12. . My use of the masculine pronoun throughout this essay reflects the androcentric focus of Thomas. See ST 1. c. 21. the human sex appetite after the Fall has a certain irremovable independence of reason. the virtuous ordering by reason is not complete domination. 8. VII. 11 I-II. 5711-11. ad 9. as was noted above. We Veritate(hereafter: DV\ 25. Super Primam Epistolam 5. 7. 83. 4. l. 6. 57II-II. On Thomas' restriction of the subjective purposes permissible for conjugal intercourse. Pauli ad Corinthios Expositio. 3. 15. The sense appetite ("appetitussensitivus") differs from 57 the rationalappetite 1(''appetitusintellectivus")or will ("voluntas")in that the former is moved by what the senses perceive. the latter. c. 1389. 262. 2. ST I-II. 156. 3. 7.58. 2. 56. NE VII. Pauli ad Corinthios Expositio. 2. Pauli ad Corinthios Expositio. Cf. I. That Thomas is the first medieval theologian to consider concupiscence's independence of reason to be natural may be because he is one of the first medieval theologians to read the NE e. 630-31. 4. In Decem Libros Ethicorum Aristotelis ad Nicomachum Expositio (hereafter: In Eth. c."In II Eth. Cf. 1. Cf. Compendium Theologiae (hereafter: CT). 30. 24. X. by the intellect. but as free men.80. c. 14. 23. 9. 5711-11. 1154* 20-31. 1. 154. adl. Concupiscentia is the term Thomas uses for the general human appetite for any sense pleasure. 136. 85. 1. 7. 34. 5711-11. 6. 156. 1949:19. II). 3. Suppl 41. andtf</4. 8. ad2\ 153. 7. 14. SCG III.adl. 1. 9Thevice is a subspecies of the vice of "insensibility. 53-56. De Malo. c. 15. Since. VII. 9. 6. 5. c.4. adl. See also DV 25. 1. Fuchs. 6 and 7. ad 2. 284-95) and Fuchs (1949:208-27). Cf. STIII. 342. 3.g. Super Primam Epistolam 5.

in this hypothesis. it could only be for the pleasure of it. but even affirms that it is something good is maintained by competent modern commentators (Fuchs. 65. Itis worth noting. as these commentators do not. l9SuppL. therefore. 1. l. 83. Scriptum Super Ubros Sententiarum. 38. VII. IV. dist. 2. 18ThatThomas does not merely deny that the sexual pleasure of the marital act is evil. that no human act is morally indifferent. 1965:27.. II (hereafter:In Sent. ad 6. VII. ad 3. SCG III. III. there is no longer place for the two purposes of conjugal intercourse permissible in man's terrestial life: procreation and assistance to the spouse in avoiding sin. 14. 2.Nic. that if the blest would have sexual intercourse. 3. 8. For Aristotle. 6. 167. On the basis of this ethical principle. 8 and ad 8. . ad 1. 1. 11. for presumably the virtuous Christians would be also intending procreation in their intercourse. 152.g. 1. . ST MI.THOMAS AQUINAS ON SEXUAL PLEASURE 173 nSCG. De Virtutibus in Communi. Cf. Thomas concludes that it would be wrong to act virtuously on earth in order to have sexual pleasure in heaven. 17STII-II. 1949:219.IV. 31. 1. Thomas premises. 1. 4. 86. STI-II.) dist. 2. In II Sent. The remainder of the present article should suggest that Thomas' concept of the goodness of conjugal sexual pleasure was so restricted and refined that he may not have felt inclined to affirm it explicitly as such. 2. 34. Cf. 26. 1965:293. 6. ad 2. though one must postulate in each text at least one tacit premise. 4. adducing In Sent. l4SCG. 4. 226. Noonan. 82. ad 4.) One could cite equally well 571-11. 83. ad3. ad 1. 2. that in the cited texts.. have these pleasures somehow as their intention ("in intentione eorum .c. 630-31. . 571-11. 153. 153. In II Eth. In the state of beatitude. 126. IV. 51*22-52* 7. 1. 41. ad 6. That he makes the affirmation implicitly is a reasonable interpretation. adducing 5711-11. 20. 49. 1949:212. What is wrong is not that they would be intending sexual pleasure alone. IV. e. NElll. 3. Fuchs. ad 2. 9. 1. 49. SuppL. 15 SCG. adducing SuppL. ad 3. 150. 3. aliqualiterdelectationes praedictae") and end in view (fimeri). 19*5-8. CT. 2. 3. SuppL. ad 2. 16Sni-II.54* 17-19. 342.49. What is wrong is that they would be intending sexual pleasure at allfor its own sake (propter seipsam).21. Pieper. The virtuous Christians would. 57111. Thomas does not make the affirmation in so many words. 4. 153. 1. SCG. c. see note 20. ad 2. 2. 34. ad 1. 142.

50* 16-21. For both Fuchs and Noonan. 2. 15-18. 5. but it presses the question of interpretation: what. 34. 83. And yet not only should the man of virtue enjoy his sexual pleasure (cf. but he naturallywill and should desire it (NE 111. 4. 7. He raises the same issue as Thomas when he distinguishes: "For not everyone who does anything for the sake of pleasureis either self-indulgent or bad or incontinent. ST1. 5711-11. . VII. 9. 1.174 MILHAVEN ^This problem of interpretationposed by Thomas' text leads both Fuchs (1949:226-27) and Noonan (1965:294-95) to postulate two conflicting currents of Thomas' thought. 1. the good and proper object of a natural sense appetite. a. 48* 22-48* 5." But Aristotle himself expresses doubt about this principle (NEX. 6. VII."(NE1. 50* 16-21. In 31. 2. 51* 18-23. There are pleasurable things that are "worthy to be chosen for themselves" (NE VII. reason.VII. and every virtue we choose indeed for themselves (for if nothing resulted from them we should still choose each of them) . Underthe Pauline category of renderingthe spouse what is his or her due (/ Cor. . 4. 4. 47* 23-30. but honour. ad 2. 75a 15-22) and even affirms the contrary: ". 4. But the sexually pleasurable is not such. 4. 19*5-20. but he who does it for a disgraceful pleasure" (NE VII. adl. ST 1-11. 54* 15-18). 81. DV. 5 and 6. The man of virtue shuns this kind of pleasure while seeking the higher kind (NE VII. there is no "contradiction . 12. 2 and 3. 4. "But Thomas' statement on inducement was a departure from Aristotelian principle. note 16). 11. IV. 12. VII Eth Nic.according to which pleasure itself was always attendant upon some act: one acted for the act itself. It is no contradiction. 7. 19* 11-20. 1389. Thomas acknowledges one other legitimate purpose for conjugal relations: to aid the spouse to avoid sin. 4. it is not rightly chosen for itself (NE VII. 7. 14. 1. SCG. 21STI-II. Sexual pleasure should be enjoyed and desired.11. VII. 3. ad 2. 19*1521. 4. X. 97* 1-5). bars it from being a goal for human choice? The question is as pertinent to the Aristotelian text as to the Thomistic. 9. 74*8-12. 6. 7.. ad 4. Noonan explains. 1965:294). 6. Sexual pleasure must not be chosen for itself. 3-5). 3. Sexual pleasure can be understood to properly induce the sense appetite of the spouses and yet not be suitable to be the spouses' rational purpose. 22STI-II. Aristotelian principles pose the same dilemma of interpretation as the Thomistic. VII. Pace Fuchs and Noonan. 3. Thomas' statement that God intends sexual pleasure to be an inducement contradicts his position that to act for sexual pleasure in marriage is evil. See also texts cited in Note 19.34. . 51* 18-23).it is positively good. a. 74* 8-11). . 47* 23-30. 53* 27-37). 2. VII. ad 1. 97* 1-5). 23. . X. pleasure. the pleasure followed. 47* 31-47* 5. . 51* 18-23. He refuses to accept as . 25. 5. 31. 3. 9. 141. 2. NE111. VII. 2. 18*8-13. between the statement that God intends sexual pleasure to be an inducement and the statement that to act for sexual pleasure in marriage is evil" (Noonan. in the nature of sexual pleasure. ad 3. 3. 153.

1. CT. 17-21. 5711-11. NEIII. VII. 10-22. 34. STI-II. 51*20-23. 4. 617). cf. I.. Nic. c. X. 235TI-II. but the pleasures of satisfying hunger and thirst where taste is not important. VII.) Cf. ME III. 51* 18-23.. 141. 52* 33-53* 15. 15. 141 ff. Consequently. 9. 3. VII. 6. VII. SCG. Kovach. e. 74*4-8. man alone takes pleasure in the beauty of what he perceives with his senses. 9. Cf. 3. X. 3. 74* 4-11. 6). 10. 1949: 138. I.. 5. 47* 23-30. X. in general (though not in the case of sex) one of those pleasures to be "chosen for themselves"(NE VII. STI-U.52*3353* 15. 91.e. 33. 10. as the nouns "good" and "goods. 25. 10. 20. STI-II. 1. 14 (e. 1 and ad 1). Thus the pleasure of sense perceptions is. It does not. Thomas often echoes Metaphysics. and X.THOMASAQUINASON SEXUALPLEASURE 175 legitimate and sinless the intent of helping oneself avoid sin. and 6. one can say. 75*24-76* 3. The man excessively devoted to these pleasures is not the gourmet but the gourmand or glutton. 5. 4.74*4-8. c. 2 and 4.g. however. c. passim. so.. III. Cf. Nic. VII. 1.ATE 4. 12. 5." Pleasure. Cf. 17-19. 1. 2. Cf. 74* 15-75*2. 54* 15-20. 27. 50* 16-21. ad 3). ad 3. Cf. Cf. c. 7. 148. 7. 12. too. 1389. 5711-11. is the pleasure he takes in (propter) acquiringand possessing the good (STI-II. 3. 7V£VII. 75*2476*3. 284-92. and of getting pleasure. 26STI-II. 200-5. 5. 30-35.X.g. 31. cf. ad 3. dist. VII. X. 18*1-12. STII-II. 83. Indeed. NE III. NE III. 2. It is true that the goodness of the operation with which the pleasure is connected can also determine the moral . 26-30.2. These pleasures of eating and drinking which Thomas categorizes as pleasures of touch are not pleasuresof taste. 10-12.248-49. 6. 2. of preserving one's health. 2. 34.STII-II.although man will not have in the beatific life the pleasures of touch of sex. c. pertain to temperance to govern pleasures of touch of a higher nature and proper to man alone. 6. he will nevertheless have exquisite pleasures of touch (Suppl. 3. 74* 15-75° 2. he may have there the pleasure of taste. Noonan. 1. food and drink. 1961:232-67. In Metaphysicam Aristotelis Commentaria. MSTI-II. 47*23-30. ad 6. 3. 2. To take pleasure in something precisely as known is. 4. 31. 2. 24Inasmuch a particulargood is a. 50* VII. 10. 31. 47* 23-30. In this line of thought. X. 6. as finis for man and that for the sake of which he acts. 60. 980*22-28. The reader will hopefully pardon the solecism and see the utility in this context of rendering "bonum"and "bona"literally. 30. as was seen (note 2) is nothing but the resting of an appetite in a given good. 7. 221-27. 3. 35. Suppl 49. 14. 5. 60.4. 83. 6. 6. "Sed Contra". ad 3. by definition: to take pleasure in its beauty. 141. i. De Malo. 165. 180. NE III. and ad 6. ad 3. c. though not that of satisfying his hunger (Suppl. 1965:242. 82. 18*1-20. (STI. 5. *5SCGIV. 31. In VIIEth. ad 2). 38. the pleasures of the gymnasium (In III Eth. and Fuchs. In II Sent. c. Similarly. 73* 12-18. 27 STII-II.

14. \." God (571-11. Cf. 31. 29Thomasevaluates all man's higher activities according to this norm. but as the replenishingactivity of so much of our state and nature as has remained unimpaired(NE VII. 3. 74"4-8. However. 75*36-76* 3. dist. 7. VII.In Aristotelis II Librum De Anima Commentarium. X. 75* 36-76° 3. 31.g. cited by Phipps. The Love of Learning(New York. ad 3. this latter way of determining the moral goodness of a pleasuredoes not concern us. In this latter regard. 3. Aristotle here treats only of the pleasures of sense perception and thought and evaluates these activities according to the condition of the organ and the excellence of the objects known. 3. 571. ad 1. 571. 14. 34 Jean Leclercq. II). And yet.ad3\ 571. . since we are comparing only the intrinsicmoral goodness of sense pleasures. 14.12). 5 through 9. 32. 5. 5. 53. In NE X. De Anima (in Quaestiones Disputatae. Suppl. Aris.. a.VII. 1974:87. Thomas draws a conclusion only about the internal sense of "imagination. Kovachs. 2. consists in intellectual knowledge (In III Sent."But he reasons from a universal principle bearing on all internal senses.e. 4-8). 1. the goodness of different pleasures is determined by the different activities they complete.g. a. i. 74* 15-20. IV-V. 2. 2. 5). 2 and 7. the moral goodness of a sense pleasure may come from the fact that its corresponding sense activity makes possible intellectual knowledge or the procreation of a new member of the species. DV. 4 and 5. NEX. 57II-II. and ad 1. 13. Man's ultimate end. It must. Intellect is superior to sense because it knows "more perfectly"(571-11. food and drink is In not presented as a knowing activity at all. 182. 5). 27. therefore. 1). 78. 35. 152. 31/rc IMetaphys. 5.176 MILHAVEN goodness of the pleasure (571-11. 5711-11.. the moral goodness of the pleasures inasmuch as they would be sought for their own sake. 1. 4. the pleasure-giving activity in the case of sex. e.. the pleasures of sex. 3057I-II. a. 4. c. p. 3257I-II. 73*7.c. 12. Closer Aristotelian parallels can be found outside NE. food and drink are identified by Aristotle as pleasures of the sense of touch (see note 26).ad3. 6. 106. NE WU. III. 571-11. 4. a. supremegood. The contemplative life is superior to the active life because the former. 74* 15-75"2. 35. be the best knowledge of "the best object. 4. unlike the latter. 571-11. 25. 1961:232-56. 91. cf. Song of Solomon.. 54* 15-20. 982" 3-7. c. e.. 91. But it does so either as being itself a good in which this particularpleasure is taken (cf. 27. SCG. 417. 33 NE. 6. 571-11. 1961). \. 180. 1) or as effecting some further good result. X. 4. and most perfect activity must be "thebest activity"of which man is capable (57 1-II. 4. NEX. Cf. 3. 1. 54*35-54* 2. 52*3353* 18. 3. 31. Metaphysics I. c). NE X. a.

78. and 137. 141. 53. 3. 5. 22 (19:549*). 30. 141. Swpp/. 6. ad 3). 17. 82.5. 182. of all the vices. In VII Eth. 616-17.4. 2. 37. ad 1. III. 73. 20. ad 3. 31. 79. 417).e. 571-11. 141. "reason. In VII Eth.73. 83. ac/2.THOMASAQUINAS ON SEXUALPLEASURE 177 35E. 58. In II Sent.. c. 4. Intemperance is. 9. cf. STII-II. ad 3. But he makes clear that these are really just two different aspects of the same "potentia"(e. 91. 6. NE X.andad5. The sense of touch giving these pleasures is the most common of the senses. Nic. 1." and the higher "intellect"or "intelligence"(e. SCG.. so absorbing is the sense pleasure: STI-II. Nic. 46. 1477.g. 63. 55. 2 and 3). 1. ad 3). 153. c. 2. ad 1. 18-23-26..g. 156.2. 6. III. SuppL49. 8. 8. 6. 5711-11. It is the pleasures and appetites of sex. 25. 37 STII-II. 9. ad 3. touch is the most material (maxime materialis) of all the senses. 7. ad 2. 7V£VII. 12. 17. . S71I-II. 31. 44*8-10. 2. STI-II. cf.g. 7.) Temperanceis a particularlybeautiful and worthy virtue because it moderates these pleasures "common to us and brutes"(57 II-II. 27. 57 II-II. and ad 2. 15. \. 1. 6. 2. S7II-II. In Aristotelis II Ubrum De Anima Commentarium. 9.. 1 and 2. ad 2. 3. just as ocular vision is the most spiritual and immaterial (SuppL. 5. i.. ad3\ 31. 1723. "Sed Contra". 34. ad 4. 571-11.49. 53* 28-35. Similarly. 20.g. adl\ 57II-II. c. c. arf 1. the most base because it loves as the greatest good a kind of pleasure that animals love. ad 1.STI. 11. ad 1. 5. ad 5. I and ad I. c."but meaning by the term all man's spiritual knowing powers (e. Catena Aurea.7. 4.12. 5. Nic.c. he becomes a brute animal at this moment (bestialis efficitus." (In III Eth. 1. These pleasures are to be distinguished from the pleasures of the gymnasium which are "proper to man and rationally acquired. 1 and ad 1. ad 3). ™SCGIII. 7).7>Ma/o. 10. 1. 41. 95* 19-21. 4. 1. 60. too. 4. 3657II-II. 98. 180. 6 and ad 6. 1. IV. Cf. 12. 6. 2. JV£VI. 2. 80* 10-12. it is impossible for a man to have any rational thought during intercourse. 12. In other places. 25.4. 7V£VII.. I use "reason" throughout this essay as Thomas often does. Nic. food and drink that Thomas characterizes as furthest from reason but the same would have to follow for any sense knowledge essential to the pleasures. 1389. 18*3-4. 34. ad\\ 153. 1. 142. &SCG. c.4. In Matt. 32. c. 141. 1. See texts cited in notes 5. DK 15. 7. ad 1. ad 1 and 3. not distinguishing it from "intellect. 141. SuppL. 1. 27. 3.the memory and "cogitative"faculty of man ( 125. ad 1. ^3. 4. SCG III. Cf. "/rcMatt. 57 1-II. Thomas distinguishes between the lower spiritual knowing capacity of man. /« VIII Eth. DV. DV..19. Since in the act of intercourse these pleasures completely dominate man. 8. 2. all animals have it. 571-11. ad 5). 2. 31. 9. 2 and ad 2.Cf. XXII. 5. 53. Correspondingly. 14. 7. De Malo 14." Cf. ST I-II. a favorite text of Thomas. 1. S71-II. 179. 24. I. 5. c.52* 17. NE III. c..

#£ X. 2. 30. of Chirpaz 1969 and 1970. X. X. 598. 2023-29. X.79* lOff. adl\ 5711-11. I. 53* 32-36. 9. 79. 4. ad3. 8. VII. NE II. In IAris. 12. X. I.Cf. 3.ad2\ 34. 91. 1. tfJ2. 7V£III. 43 II-II.. 9. /rc III Eth. 5. 32. "STI-II. VI. STI-II. 13. c. 72* 19-22. Metaphys. 616-17. 57 42STII-II. /n /// £//2. VII. 7V£X. tf</2. 2.31.. Nic. 20. 79* 30-35. 9. 77" 5-10. 4. 41 HI. 82. VII. ST I-II. <k/2. 2. 3234.23-26. 44* 8-10. CT I. 6. 2 and 3. . Cf. ad 3. 262 {homines ST agrestes). 6. 8.6. <k/2. 1 revise and expand the phenomenological analyses Cf. 12. 32. 2. 142. 19*33-19* 15. 11. 14. 72. Suppl. a. 53*28-35. NEUl. 2. 5-9.STl. 151. 10. 47 Milhaven. 1.178 MILHAVEN ^STI-II. In III De In Anima. 4. 18* 3-5. I. In II Eth. Cf. 6. 1976. ad 1. 20. 5. 11. 5. 2. 18* 20-21. 99« 12-15. 1. 30. X. Nic. ad 3. 165. 21. ad 2 (agricola). 46. a. 142. 7. 95* 19-21. 2. "Eg. SCG. 13. Cf. 5. adl. 3. III. 45 X Eth Nic. 152. 76*15-25. 1. 617. 7. 27. 2. III. 6. 31. 18° 25-26. 04* 23-26. Nic. 1. 124.

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