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Man has been defined as a rational animal Apart from rationality, which distinguishes him from other animals, he would just be a beast in behaviour and man in physical structure. In this regard G. Buffen said that there is an infinite distance between man and animals, and the essential cause of this is that man is a being with reason and the animal is one without reason. In the same vain, Aristotle maintained that reason, which is the highest faculty of the soul is what sets man apart from sub-human nature.

The question now is why and how is man rational and in what aspects of his life is he different from other animals and what factor is behind these? It has been noticed that man is exclusively marked out from other animals as regard social, cultural and intellectual forms of behaviour. It is only man that has an articulated, speech, inventive capability, knowledge of arts, beauty, politics, religion, morality and other forms of knowledge that can be associated with reason.

So man is, as a result of this rationality marked out from other animals, it is not contestable then to associate or attribute the above enumerated characteristics to his rationality.

As this work centers on morality and reason as that which assures us of the best moral life, we shall answer such questions as: has reason any influence or part to play in morality? Or put simply, is reason necessarily required for man to be moral? If yes, should reason be the sole factor for morality? But if no, what then? It is undebatable that man solely has the knowledge of good and evil (morality) and this type of knowledge can be possessed only by rational beings. In fact, God made man rational enough to see that he (man) should do what is right.

Having known that man surpasses all the other animals by the possession of reason, and the only animal that has knowledge of morality, the question now is, is man moral because of reason or because of some other physiological factors? If it is because of the later, one can rightly pose this question: why is it that other animals are ignorant of morality or are not moral?

St. Thomas Aquinas on whom this work is based, has propounded a popular dictum regarding man and reason. It is “Bonum Omins est, secundum rationem esse”, that is, (The good of man in life according to reason)1. As we shall see, this statement does not rule out the fact that human life can be controlled by other factors like the will, habit, passions, emotion and etc, but it affirms that man has a good life according to reason. One outstanding feature about Aquinas moral theory is its intellectualism. This will be gradually unfolding as we penetrate into this work.

In this four chapter work, we are going to see how morality should be guided by reason.

Chapter one presents us with the background (introduction) and in Chapter two, we shall examine; firstly, life and works of Aquinas, and the meaning of morality by giving its definition and several conceptions of it. In the second part of Chapter two, we shall sketch the nature of morality. Chapter three unfolds a devotion to reason and morality in Thomas Aquinas philosophy, in a bid to give its meaning. In this Chapter also, we shall consider the role of reason as a guide in other aspects of man’s behaviour, then its role as a guide in morality will be taken care of. In Chapter four, we shall discuss life according to reason, prudence and right reason, as St. Thomas would call it, the second part of Chapter four work will be evaluation and conclusion.


There are certain actions which all of us will individually or collectively condemn as morally wrong and ought not to be done or performed by anybody. For instance, murder, robbery, embezzlement of public fund, bribery and corruption, and so on. On the other hand, there are certain actions like kindness, hospitality, honesty, and so on, which are consider as morally good. Again, there are certain kinds of action that do not enjoy universal consensus on their goodness or badness, rightness or wrongness because of difference in opinion, for instance abortion, contraception, euthanasia, nuclear warfare, etc.

The need now arises for us to know why in Aquinas philosophy certain actions are considered good while other are considered bad. What in Aquinas view, is the yardstick for determining good and bad action? What is the yardstick for determining good and bad actions and what is the paradigm for measuring such actions. What, within the assumptions of Aquinas, does it ever mean to say that an action is good or bad in itself? Or is it our thinking that makes any action good or bad?

Some people, like Hume opine that reasons is and ought to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them. They opined that morality is determined by sentiments.

Also, some philosophers like St. Thomas Aquinas, the Stoic Duns Scotus and so on, hold that right reason is the moral standard. Consequently, whatever is in line with right reason is morally right while what does not conform to right reason is morally wrong. But how does one know whether abortion, euthanasia, contraception etc, conforms to right reasons especially when there are many intelligent and cogent argument for or against the morality of these actions?


The main purpose of this research/work study is to critically analyze the various notion of morality and reason, in respect to “Thomas Aquinas”. It is also intended towards serving as an impetus for improving the level of understanding of morality and reason by upcoming students of Nigerian university and tertiary institutions alike.

This workstudy is also intended to throw more light on reason and moral ideas, principles and benefits.



One of the significance of this work study is that it exposes the beautification of morality and reason in general. This study will also enable us to critically differentiate between the ancient and modern concepts of morality and reason.

It will be of great benefit, if man observed, and make good use of his rationality and moral values in order to create and dwell in a better society. If this is done, man and his society will enhance thereby checkmating immorality and irrational attitude.

Another significance of this project/work study is that it seeks to expose some of the lapses that are inherent in man’s approach to morality and reason.


Thomas Aquinas interpretation of morality and reason, which is in line with the precept of human endeavour and his environment will form the basic line of concentration in this research/work study. The different notion of morality and reason will also be given pre-eminence and special attention with a view of critically assessing them.



The methodology of a work determines its specialty says Aristotle. The method shows how a thing is done. It is in the light of this fact that I have decide to adopt the massive use of historical and critical methods of philosophical enquiry. Other methodologies to be used in this research/work study include the elaborate consultation of other relevant philosophical, religious books, literatures, articles and authorities.


According to A. Fagothey in his book Right and Reason: Ethnics in Theory and Practice, morality means – “The quality in human acts by which we call them right or wrong, good or evil. It is a common term concerning the goodness or badness of a human act without specifying which of the two is meant”.1

It was the Hebrew psalmist of the ancient days of the Christian era who, in a sort of rhetorical question addressing  Man’s creator, stated as follows:

What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visited him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angles, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands: thou hast put all things under his feet.2

Here, inspite of the temptation and inclination to the contrary, the psalmist saw sufficient evidence to affirm the grand or dignity of man.

This same portrait of man in the psalmist also featured in the writing of Shakespeare in Hamlet, were the grandour and misery of man with agonizing emotional ambivalence was emphasized.

On a similar strain of thought, Blaise Pascal, in the 17th Century, expressed this problematic, paradoxical and ironical nature in the following lines:

What a moster then is man. What a novelty, what a portent, What a chaos, what a contradiction, What a prodigy! Universal judge and helpless worm: trustee of truth and sink of uncertainty and error; glory and off-scouring of the universe.3 


1.           FAGOTHEY, A.; Right and Reason (St. Louise,, The C. V. Mosby Co., 1959), p. 112.

2.           THE HOLY BIBLE: King James Version: Psalm 8 vs 4 and 5.

3.           BLAISE PASCAL: Pensees (ed) by Lous Lafuma, (U.S.A., 1973, J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd), pp. 49 – 56.

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