November 16, 2018
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v2.1 Reference

The Metaphysical Foundations of Love

Aquinas on Participation, Unity, and Union

The Metaphysical Foundations of Love: Aquinas on Participation, Unity, and Union offers a systematic treatment of St. Thomas Aquinas's account of the metaphysical relations of unity-to-union and unity-to-participation in God as the key structuring elements to the nature of love and friendship. In general, Aquinas identifies love as the source and summit of the life of each human being. Everything in the created realm issues forth from God's creative love, and the ultimate end of all human persons is the greatest possible union with God. Aquinas contends that the love of friendship allows for the greatest union between two persons; thus, the greatest union with God takes the form of friendship with him.

In addition to the grand metaphysical bookends of human existence, love also serves as the structuring notion of Aquinas's anthropology and practical philosophy. He characterizes much of human life in terms of three basic love relations: love of God, love of self, and love of neighbor. Love of self derives from personal substantial unity. It is logically prior to love of neighbor and serves as a template for the latter. If a person loves himself rightly, he will love others rightly. On the other hand, if he relates to himself through a disordered love, he neither can relate to others rightly nor enter into a deep union with them. Moreover, due to a person's metaphysical participation in God, a person loves himself properly only when he loves God more than himself. Thus, failing to love God appropriately entails an inability to relate to others with a fully developed love. Conversely, the love of God positions a person to relate to others with an authentic love and enter into the union of friendship with them. The volume concludes with a look at personal subjectivity in light of the previous analyses.

About the Author

Anthony T. Flood is associate professor of philosophy at North Dakota State University and author of The Root of Friendship: Self-Love and Self-Governance in Aquinas (CUA Press).


"Scholars working in the field of Thomistic studies, philosophers outside the tradition who wish to learn about Aquinas, theologians searching for the philosophical bases of Aquinas's approach and those interested in contemporary analytic philosophy of religion will find this book valuable."—Michael V. Dougherty, Ohio Dominican University

"This book provides the first complete account of Thomas's understanding of the metaphysical basis of love and its importance for Thomas's moral philosophy and psychology. Flood sheds special light on the importance of married love and the way in which sin conflicts with the love of God. Moreover, he shows that for Thomas a properly ordered love is necessarily part of happiness, and that there is no conflict between self-love and the love of others. It should be read by all those who are interested in Thomas's moral theory and its metaphysical underpinnings, and more generally by anyone who wishes to understand the relationship between loving oneself, loving another, and loving God. –"—Thomas M. Osborne, author of Human Action in Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham (CUA Press)

"Flood treats big themes in a small space—with particular clarity to boot. This is no small achievement, and it speaks to the maturity of his understanding. Thinking of love and self-love in terms of their ontological foundations richly illuminates them. Being both rich and clear, this book is likely to prompt an abundance of further reflection in its readers."—Review of Metaphysics

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176 Pages
$65.00 USD

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