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By Knowledge and By LoveBy Knowledge and By Love

Charity and Knowledge in the Moral Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas

Michael S. Sherwin, O.P.

WINNER OF THE 2006 CHARLES CARDINAL JOURNET PRIZE awarded by The Aquinas Center for Theological Renewal at Ave Maria University

Narrated by Gregory D. Kufchak

Available from Audible

Book published by Catholic University of America Press

What is the relationship between charity and knowledge in the theology of Thomas Aquinas? Did Aquinas in his mature thought portray charity's act as antecedent to and independent of practical reasoning? Did he view charity's motion as rendering us morally good before God, apart from whether or not we do what is right in our actions? A dominant stream in contemporary Catholic ethics holds for precisely such a concept of charity, and many recent commentators on Aquinas maintain that this is his position as well. According to Michael S. Sherwin however, the contrary is in fact the case.

By Knowledge and By Love represents a major contribution to Thomistic moral theology and philosophy by providing a thoughtful examination of Aquinas' psychology of action and his theology of charity. Through a comprehensive analysis of the relation between intellect and will, knowledge and love, and charity and the infused intellectual virtues, Sherwin concludes that, far from divorcing the will from reason, Aquinas in his later works integrates reason and will more closely together.

Saint Augustine says, "No one can love what he does not know." According to Sherwin, Aquinas holds that God's grace respects and elevates this dynamic in the gift of charity, which depends on faith's knowledge, and on the knowledge provided by the other infused cognitive virtues and gifts. Charity is a virtue, and like any virtue its acts require some knowledge of their object. Sherwin argues that not only is this a faithful reading of Aquinas, it also has profound implications for any conception of moral development. The role of a mentoring community, the characteristics of friendship with God, and the specific actions required by love all play a part in Sherwin's analysis.

Michael S. Sherwin, O.P. , is Associate Professor of Fundamental Moral Theology at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.


“Michael Sherwin in this book offers an exquisite example of fruitful historical scholarship in the context of speculative argument.... The book collects a prodigious amount of scholarly consensus on Aquinas's understanding of the moral life and anthropology, especially in terms of the role of charity, organizing the material and making important clarifications and corrections.... Scholars of Aquinas, moral theologians, and theologians and philosophers interested in the will and the intellect will find this book necessary reading. ”

The Thomist

“I highly recommend this work, both for its excellent presentation of Aquinas's view of charity and for its clear and careful explanation of the way knowledge and love work together to inform moral actions at the level of both nature and grace in Aquinas's thought.... Sherwin's understanding of Aquinas on charity and the relationship between intellect and will constitutes a clear contribution to philosophical and theological scholarship.”


“What is it for the intellect to know God? What is it for the will to be moved by the love of God? Aquinas' answers to these questions presuppose a psychology of will and intellect, an analysis of practical reasoning, and a theology of faith and of charity. Sherwin has provided a wonderfully illuminating study of the development and structure of Aquinas' thought on these matters. Both as a guide to recent scholarship and as an insightful account of what is philosophically and theologically at stake this is an excellent book.”

—Alasdair MacIntyre, University of Notre Dame

“The book is a carefully composed and detailed explication of a key aspect of St. Thomas's moral thought—the precise relation between intellect and will in human action. But it is more than that. Fr. Sherwin besides giving us an accurate and comprehensive account of St. Thomas's thought on this important subject, and doing so with admirable clarity and control, accompanies that account with commentary which is richly interlaced with revealing and cogent analysis... By Knowledge and By Love is a sound and substantive book. Besides being in its own right an impressive and valuable contribution to Thomistic scholarship, by devoting attention to an important and timely aspect of St. Thomas's moral theology, it performs the very important service of correcting serious misinterpretations of the Angelic Doctor's thought.”

Homiletic and Pastoral Review

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