Aquinas and Anscombe on connaturality and moral knowledge

John Haldane*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The idea of ‘connatural knowledge’ is attributed to Aquinas on the basis of passages in which he distinguishes between scientific and affective experiential knowledge of religious and moral truths. In a series of encyclicals beginning with Leo XIII's Aeterni Patris, popes have celebrated and commended Aquinas as the supreme guide in philosophy and theology and in some of these cited his discovery of connatural knowledge. The course and context of his ‘elevation’ are explored before proceeding to a discussion of moral knowledge in which different forms of non-theoretical cognition are identified. This leads to an examination of work by Elizabeth Anscombe on the factuality of ethical judgement and connaturality. Aquinas and Anscombe offer important insights but more work remains to be done. Moral knowledge is a many-faceted thing. More accurately, it is not one thing but many things analogously related both by their modes and by their objects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)668-688
Number of pages21
JournalNew Blackfriars
Issue number1114
Early online date27 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2023


  • Phenomenological recognition
  • Connaturality
  • Dispositional knowledge
  • Rational apprehension
  • Virtuous knowledge


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