Lecture Eight: Two Senses of Autonomy


Study Questions

1. What is the difference between the meanings of the term “autonomy” when it is used (1) to designate the right to determine what the principles of morality are and (2) to name the state of moral maturity achieved when a person has sufficient self-mastery so as to respect the God-given principles of morality?

2. In any sound presentation of the natural moral law, why is there such great stress on the ability of “reason” to discover the God-given laws of morality within human nature? 

3. What special difficulties are presented by the fact that human nature as we find it in the human beings of our experience is a nature wounded by original sin (and not the “pure nature” of beings untouched by sin)?  How can one compensate for the woundedness of human nature when attempting to discover the natural moral law in human nature?


Suggestions for further reading:

Russell Hittinger, The First Grace: Rediscovering the Natural Law in a Post-Christian World. Wilmington DE: ISI Books, 2003.

Joseph W. Koterski, S.J. “Why Authority is Such a Troubling Idea” in A Moral Enterprise: Politics, Reason, and the Human Good: Essays in Honor of Francis Canavan, ed. by Robert P. Hunt and Kenneth Grasso. Wilmington: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2002, pp. 107-25.

Servais Pinckaers, O.P. “Aquinas and Agency: Beyond Autonomy and Heteronomy?” in Pinckaers Reader: Renewing Thomistic Moral Theology, edited by John Berkman and Craig Steven Titus, translated by Mary Thomas Noble. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2005, pp. 167-84.