Aquinas promoted the idea that there are certain cardinal and theological virtues that allow people to achieve the ideal human nature. He stated, however, that humans often sin or fall short of God’s intentions because they confuse an apparent good with a real good.

  • Real good – A characteristic that will help people to become closer to the ideal human nature that God had planned for them. E.g. one could develop that virtue of ‘charity’ and helping others by being a sociable person (without chemically altering one’s personality).
  • Apparent good – A vice or sin that takes people away from the ideal human nature that God had planned for them. E.g. if someone needs to take drugs or alcohol in order to become more sociable and to develop the virtue of ‘charity’, then this is wrong.

Aquinas believed that human nature was essentially good, and that no one intentionally pursues evil, but rather their use of reason is misguided. He recognised that not everyone clearly perceives what is good, e.g. some people do not have a guilty conscience about stealing. This is because their desires and emotions override their rational sense of right and wrong and their ability to think virtuously. They fail to pay attention to what their ability to reason would tell them is virtuous behaviour.