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June 8, 2018
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v2.1 Reference


A Thomistic Psychology

If the human soul is made for good, then how do we choose evil? On the other hand, perhaps the human soul is not made for good. Perhaps the magnitude of human depravity reveals that the human soul may directly choose evil. Notably, Thomas Aquinas rejects this explanation for the prevalence of human sin. He insists that in all our desires we seek what is good. How, then, do we choose evil? Only by mistaking evil for good. This solution to the difficulty, however, leads Aquinas into another conundrum. How can we be held responsible for sins committed under a misunderstanding of the good? The sinner, it seems, has simply made an intellectual blunder. Sin has become an intellectual defect rather than a depravity of will and desire. Sin: A Thomistic Psychology grapples with these difficulties. A solution to the problem must address a host of issues. Does the ultimate good after which we all strive have unity, or is it simply a collection of basic goods? What is venial sin? What momentous choice must a child make in his first moral act? In what way do passion, a habitually evil will, and ignorance cause human beings to sin? What is the first cause of moral evil? Do human beings have free will to determine themselves to particular actions? The discussion of these topics focuses upon the interplay of reason, will, and the emotions, examining the inner workings of our moral deliberations. Ultimately, the book reveals how the failure to maintain balance in our deliberations subverts our fidelity to the one true good.


"This volume contributes significantly to the rich and varied corpus of literature on Thomas Aquinas's philosophical and theological commentaries on sin. In 15 thematic chapters, he carries out an extensive and careful study of this psychology of sin not only from Aquinas's writings, but also from recent Thomistic scholarship. Jensen remains within the intellectualist tradition of the understanding of sin, but also makes a coherent case for differing voluntarist views. He illustrates his carefully constructed arguments with many helpful and clarifying examples. The book is valuable for scholars engaged not only with Aquinas's views on sin, but also with the nature and scope of human action that is needed to understand and explain sin and moral evil."—CHOICE

"Jensen helps us to get the root of sin and its causes - ignorance, passion, and an evil will - as well as to understand how our lives should be ordered to God."—Denver Catholic

"Jensen has established himself as an important voice among con-temporary Thomists, and this is yet another fine book of careful reasoning and engagement with a wide array of scholars. And, thinking now of this book's suitability for research and classroom use, this is the rare work of contemporary scholarship that both advances our understanding of the thinker as well as the topic at hand and holds a place in an intermediate or advanced undergraduate class. As readers of his The Good Life know, Jensen is a teacher first and foremost, and even in books like this one, where he is directly engaged with other scholars, he never loses sight of those students who are thinking on these things for the first time."—Journal of Moral Theology

"Steven Jensen is a superb, careful reader of Thomas Aquinas. He demonstrates command of the breadth of the Thomistic corpus, interprets well those texts he deploys, and is immersed in contemporary scholarship on the matters at hand. His line of argumentation is airtight. An outstanding piece of scholarship. –"—William C. Mattison III, University of Notre Dame

"Steven Jensen only chooses to write after he has worked through the various difficulties of his subject and has a commanding view of it and of his central argument. The result is an extended argument, step by step, carefully developed as the material demands. It is especially valuable for the care he takes to understand the thought of Aquinas, which he substantially delivers to us. This is an essential work for any Thomist who desires to understand Thomas's psychology of sin and to be 'up to speed' on contemporary debates on this psychology. Another tour de force from a significant contemporary Thomist! –"—Michael Torre, University of San Francisco

"This book merits careful attention from those who study Aquinas's moral thought, as well as those who want to understand human conduct within the overall context of the Christian tradition... [Jensen] has done an admirable job of collecting the major thinkers of the period who have wrestled with Aquinas's texts. He treats them courteously and at the same time critically."—The Thomist

9780813230337 : sin-jensen
Paperback / softback
336 Pages
$34.95 USD

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Knowing the Natural Law

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