Christian Ethics (more specifically, Aquinas on altruism)


I would like to point out that I am not knowledgeable in the Christian religion (or any religion for that matter), so excuse me if I say anything that reveals my ignorance.

Of course, Nietzsche was not entirely fond of altruism. Despite this, I remember he said that the idea of altruism that is currently held is not actually a traditional Christian thing. In fact, he said that St. Thomas Aquinas would not have agreed with the current idea of altruism (i.e. that one should do something for another, without any gain to themselves). I can't remember where I read that, but if someone could let me know where that's from, then I would appreciate it. Or if anyone has any thoughts, then that would be nice too.

Nigel Redding

Posted 2012-09-22T00:43:15.593

Reputation: 41

2CC @Jon Ericson – stoicfury – 2012-09-22T02:55:03.790



You can find Nietzsche's thoughts on altruism in 'human, all too human'. For Aquinas' perspective, cf. Summa Theologica II:II. As you suspected, Aquinas does not say that there is no gain in acting altruistic:

His interpretation of the Pauline phrase is that we should seek the common good more than the private good, but this is because the common good is a more desirable good for the individual. St Thomas interprets 'You should love your neighbour as yourself' from Leviticus 19 and Matthew 22 as meaning that love for ourselves is the exemplar of love for others. However, he thinks we should love God more than ourselves and our neighbours, and more than our bodily life -- since the ultimate purpose of loving our neighbour is to share in eternal beatitude: a more desirable thing than bodily well being. (cf. WIkipedia on altruism)


Posted 2012-09-22T00:43:15.593

Reputation: 2 426

And if I am not mistaken, Nietzsche claims that eros leads to an overflowing of being such that it becomes gift to others. – danielm – 2012-10-25T15:40:08.663