Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (College of Philosophy and Theology)

Schools and Centres

Philosophy and Theology

First Supervisor

Rev. Prof. Peter Black

Second Supervisor

Rev. Dr Joseph Parkinson


he Thomistic habit of synderesis innately inclines moral agents to the first principles of natural law which state that good is to be done and pursued and evil to be avoided. Serving as an ethical foundation in moral development, these primary moral principles direct practical reason to those acts that actualise the essence of human nature. Since the act of synderesis involves pre-cognitive (intuitive) and cognitive (apprehensive) processes, moral formation is necessary for the formal knowledge of the primary moral principles to inchoately foment through virtue habituation. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, virtues are habitual acts that form moral agents to become virtuous people and inform them, too, of which acts are morally apt for human flourishing. In this human process where ignorance, passion, weak will, vices, sin and concupiscence may vitiate the intended moral outcome, synderesis and moral virtues correlatively work together to set the ends to moral virtues and to determine which acts to do, pursue and avoid respectively. Specifically, the acquired moral virtue of prudence, which Aquinas considers as right reason applied to action, enables the proper discernment of the primary moral principles that temporally address the contingencies and particularity of everyday human historicity. A human faculty that assists in facilitating this discernment process is the interior sense called moral imagination (vis imaginativa). While Aquinas has considered imagination as one of the sources of human knowledge, his treatment of prudential moral inquiry, however, appears to be underdeveloped without the consideration of imagination as one of the quasi-integral parts of prudence. In view of developing the seed of insight which Aquinas has sowed into the reality of imagination, the beneficence of imaginative prudence will be argued on account of its capacity to dispose practical reason to synthetically evaluate (productive imagination) and to ingeniously explore (creative imagination) various facets of given moral situations while integrating the primary moral principles in prudential moral inquiries. Apart from considering arguments from the theological and philosophical perspectives, the Imagination Ethic Theory of Darcia Narvaez will be explored to demonstrate how modern scientific research in psychology affirms the integrity and indispensability of moral imagination in realising natural law’s ends via prudential moral inquiry.

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Philosophy Commons