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Thomas Aquinas on Sexual Pleasure

John Giles Milhaven
The Journal of Religious Ethics
Vol. 5, No. 2 (Fall, 1977), pp. 157-181
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40017725
Page Count: 25
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Thomas Aquinas on Sexual Pleasure
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Abstract

A key to understanding the sexual ethics of Thomas Aquinas is his position that spouses sin whenever their purpose in having intercourse is the pleasure of it. The pleasure itself, Thomas declares, is not sinful, but necessary, natural and good. Nevertheless, it cannot be rational man's intended end. Other sense pleasures can be, inasmuch as they are pleasures of knowing something, e.g., a beautiful color. Sexual pleasure is a pleasure of knowing, too, but the kind of knowing is so minimal and negligible that it is not worthy of being an end intended by rational man. In modern critical dialogue one can ask: Is Thomas' ethical thinking radically handicapped by a model of knowledge that is valid, but unrealistically exclusive?

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