The Catholic University of America Press

By Knowledge and By Love

Charity and Knowledge in the Moral Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas

Michael S. Sherwin, O.P.

Cloth 978-0-8132-1393-4 $54.95
May 2005 Out of Print
Paper 978-0-8132-1871-7 $34.95
February 2011 In Print Add to Cart
E-Book 978-0-8132-1657-7 $54.95
August 2012 In Print Add to Cart

WINNER OF THE 2006 CHARLES CARDINAL JOURNET PRIZE awarded by The Aquinas Center for Theological Renewal at Ave Maria University

What is the relationship between charity and knowledge in the theology of Thomas Aquinas? Did Aquinas in his mature thought portray charity's act as antecedent to and independent of practical reasoning? Did he view charity's motion as rendering us morally good before God, apart from whether or not we do what is right in our actions? A dominant stream in contemporary Catholic ethics holds for precisely such a concept of charity, and many recent commentators on Aquinas maintain that this is his position as well. According to Michael S. Sherwin however, the contrary is in fact the case.

By Knowledge and By Love represents a major contribution to Thomistic moral theology and philosophy by providing a thoughtful examination of Aquinas' psychology of action and his theology of charity. Through a comprehensive analysis of the relation between intellect and will, knowledge and love, and charity and the infused intellectual virtues, Sherwin concludes that, far from divorcing the will from reason, Aquinas in his later works integrates reason and will more closely together.

Saint Augustine says, "No one can love what he does not know." According to Sherwin, Aquinas holds that God's grace respects and elevates this dynamic in the gift of charity, which depends on faith's knowledge, and on the knowledge provided by the other infused cognitive virtues and gifts. Charity is a virtue, and like any virtue its acts require some knowledge of their object. Sherwin argues that not only is this a faithful reading of Aquinas, it also has profound implications for any conception of moral development. The role of a mentoring community, the characteristics of friendship with God, and the specific actions required by love all play a part in Sherwin's analysis.


Michael S. Sherwin, O.P., is Associate Professor of Fundamental Moral Theology at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.


"The book is a carefully composed and detailed explication of a key aspect of St. Thomas's moral thought--the precise relation between intellect and will in human action. But it is more than that. Fr. Sherwin besides giving us an accurate and comprehensive account of St. Thomas's thought on this important subject, and doing so with admirable clarity and control, accompanies that account with commentary which is richly interlaced with revealing and cogent analysis. . . By Knowledge and By Love is a sound and substantive book. Besides being in its own right an impressive and valuable contribution to Thomistic scholarship, by devoting attention to an important and timely aspect of St. Thomas's moral theology, it performs the very important service of correcting serious misinterpretations of the Angelic Doctor's thought."--Dennis Q. McInerny, Homiletic and Pastoral Review

"[An] informed, lucid and readable book."--Gabriele De Anna, The Medieval Review

"By Knowledge and by Love is as readable as it is learned. Serenely and evenhandedly, Michael Sherwin leads us to see how, for St. Thomas, charity is both a matter and a mover of choice; how, being free, it must be intelligible; how, enlivening the heart, it must also steer counsel and rectify conduct. There should be no more talk of a Thomas who detaches will from reason."--Stephen L. Brock, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross

"What is it for the intellect to know God? What is it for the will to be moved by the love of God? Aquinas' answers to these questions presuppose a psychology of will and intellect, an analysis of practical reasoning, and a theology of faith and of charity. Sherwin has provided a wonderfully illuminating study of the development and structure of Aquinas' thought on these matters. Both as a guide to recent scholarship and as an insightful account of what is philosophically and theologically at stake this is an excellent book."--Alasdair MacIntyre, University of Notre Dame

"Sherwin's work makes important contributions to contemporary Christian ethics. . . . He examines, in a new way, various resources throughout Thomas' corpus and presents a helpful synthesis of his considered position as expressed in the Summa theologiae."--Stephen J. Pope, Boston College

"This text reminds the reader of the continued importance of Aquinas's work for contemporary considerations of the moral life." -- Mary Jo Iozzio, Theological Studies

"Michael Sherwin in this book offers an exquisite example of fruitful historical scholarship in the context of speculative argument. . . . The book collects a prodigious amount of scholarly consensus on Aquinas's understanding of the moral life and anthropology, especially in terms of the role of charity, organizing the material and making important clarifications and corrections. . . . Scholars of Aquinas, moral theologians, and theologians and philosophers interested in the will and the intellect will find this book necessary reading." -- Michael Dauphinais, The Thomist

"By Knowledge and by Love is a notable achievement that should well establish the author in the current conversation of moral theology as well as the ongoing interpretation of Thomas Aquinas's thought. The major achievement of this book lies in its penetrating analysis and interpretation of some of the most complex aspects of Aquinas's moral theology. . . . Sherwin offers an accessible and nuanced account of the way Aquinas's thought regarding the precise interaction between intellect and will developed over the course of time into his mature position in the Prima secundae of the Summa theologiae and the De malo. . . . This book is required reading for anyone who is interested in grasping the full scope of Thomas Aquinas's moral theology, that is, the way that charity informs all aspects of the Christian life and thus perfects it. Moreover, anyone interested in the discourse of contemporary moral theology must take seriously Sherwin's incisive challenge to the theology of moral motivation. Finally, this study is highly recommended to all who are interested in the theology of love and want to entrust themselves to an able guide through the dauntingly profound yet profoundly rewarding theology of charity advanced by the doctor communis." -- Reinhard Hutter, Pro Ecclesia

"Through a comprehensive analysis of the relation between intellect and will, knowledge and love, and charity and the infused intellectual virtues, Sherwin concludes that, far from divorcing the will from reason, Aquinas in his later works integrates reason and will more closely together." -- Theology Digest

"Sherwin demonstrates convincingly that for Thomas at every stage of practical reason intellect and will work together." -- Heythrop Journal

"I highly recommend this work, both for its excellent presentation of Aquinas's view of charity and for its clear and careful explanation of the way knowledge and love work together to inform moral actions at the level of both nature and grace in Aquinas's thought. . . . Sherwin's understanding of Aquinas on charity and the relationship between intellect and will constitutes a clear contribution to philosophical and theological scholarship." -- Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, Speculum

Product Details

Pages:293 pages

Dimensions:6x9 inches


CIP Information: 2004002868/ BV4639.S523 2004/ 241'.042'092--dc22


1. Charity

2. Knowledge, Theory of

3. Love--Religious aspects--Christianity

4. Christian ethics--Catholic authors

5. Thomas Aquinas, Saint, 1225?-1274