Morals Are Not "Keep Off The Grass" Notices
Morals Makyth Man. By Gerald Vann, O.P. (Longmans, 7s. 6cla Reviewed by T. G. WAYNE This account of the moral theory of St. Thomas, and its application to the problems of the contemporary world, is a theological thriller. Not that it is fantastic, for it develops according to accurately appreciated theological principles. Roughly speaking. there arc two opposing theories of why we should lead a good life; one holds that this is the only way that produces pleasure; the other that we must do right irrespective of whether it promotes human happiness or not.
It might be thought that easy-going people will be utilitarians and profess the former view, while people of starker temperament will be formalists and choose the latter. This has not always been the case, for utilitarians have been austere and unselfish, while formalists have been all sensitive and romantic.
A follower of St. Thomas considers both partially defective in their philosophical foundations, and in a beautifully sustained argument, Fr. Gerald Vann forms a synthesis which includes them both and goes beyond. He is a Dominican philosopher and theologian and he writes with humour, pungency and grace. Not the least merit of his book is to show how Christian morals are part of the human process, not just railings and notices telling us to keep off the grass, but the way itself to the whole and perfect possession of life.
For the antithesis of moral theories mentioned above has its counterpart in religion; some have held that the supernatural is destructive of the natural, or a substitute, or a short cut to integration. The truth must be more fairly and patiently established: human nature is bad grace no more than grace is good nature.
In the middle ages a student sometimes went to theology for two years, then gave it up for law and was made an archdeacon, and though the more devout questioned as to whether an archdeacon could be saved, a good many were prepared to risk it. But