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Sources of Christian Ethics Paperback – 1 Jul 1995
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Pinckaers also goes to some lengths to contrast two concepts of freedom - the "freedom of indifference" of being able to choose whatever we want without any constraint (what corresponds to our modern notion of freedom) compared to the "freedom of excellence": the contrast between these two notions of freedoms goes a long way to explaining why we currently operate on an understanding of morality as a list of do's and don't.
Freedom of excellence, is the freedom to choose and follow our natural inclinations towards truth and goodness in a stable way, resulting in the practice and acquisition of virtues, making us truly excellent - like an expert pianist, despite his apparent lack of freedom in having to practice and submit to the rules of music playing, acquires an incomparable freedom in piano-playing, once he becomes proficient, being able to play what and how he likes. Simply choosing, for the sake of it (the freedom of indifference), has no real value, and alienates us from our true selves. PInckaers argues that we need to see freedom in terms of what we are by nature inclined to do, choosing whether or not to do it, rather than insisting on our ability to be or do anything we like. Arbitrary freedom does not really qualify as freedom, on Pinckaers view, because it doesn't address our final end - what we essentially are and can be. Freedom is the ability to become (to choose) what we are by nature inclined towards, as regulated by virtue. Freedom of indifference can only express itself in opposition to contrary choices - to rebel, or submit, to this or that. Thanks to this "wrong" concept of freedom, morality has become a case of obeying, or disobeying commandments. A true morality therefore needs to drop the understanding of freedom as a freedom of indifference, and rediscover the older notion of freedom of excellence, paying more attention to virtue, and of the aim of morality as our final happiness and fulfilment, rather than seeing it in terms of laws and prohibitions.
Overall, an excellent, clear, very readable account, by an expert in the field.
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This is a critical overview of Christian ethics, contrasting the modern ethics that emphasizes obligation and commandments to the ethical approach found in the Fathers of the Church and St. Thomas that started from the natural inclination to happiness, the importance of the Beatitudes, and the virtues.
This book is a very good - though a little repetitive at times - analysis that opens up the way toward an ethics based first of all on the Sermon on the Mount and which is based in and fulfills our natural inclinations.
The author is highly indebted to the work of St. Thomas Aquinas which is central to his understanding of ethics.
This book demands effort and concentration but it is well worth it.
I finished this book a day after finishing Pope Francis' Amoris Laetitia. Pinckaers helped me understand what is happening in the pope's apostolic exhortation.
Most fascinating is the positive approach to sexuality that both Pickaers adn Pope Francis exhibit - based, I'm guessing, on a positive reading of Thomas Aquinas on sexuality.
Servais distinguishes the nominalist concept of freedom, the freedom of indifference, which has dominated ethics and moral theology since shortly after Thomas's death, from a freedom for excellence rooted in the natural law and what constitutes and is required for human flourishing.
Together with the shorter, more accessible Morality: The Catholic View, with a preface by Alasdair MacIntyre, this book makes a profoundly important contribution to moral theology in our time.