The problem of the Desiderium Naturale in the Thomistic tradition


  • Alexander S. Rosenthal Catholic University of Leuven, Institute of Philosophy, Kardinal Mercierplein 2, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium


The theory of the desiderium naturale in St. Thomas Aquinas has raised some of the most difficult questions in the history of Roman Catholic thought. At issue is whether a natural desire to see the divine essence can be reconciled with the necessarily supernatural and gratuitous manner of this desire's fulfillment. The 16th century Dominican, Cardinal Cajetan strove to mollify the problem by proposing a duplex ordo in which the hypothetical state of pure nature would have its own natural end distinct from man's supernatural end. This ostensible solution to the issue was regnant until the broad ranging criticisms of the Nouvelle Theologie in the 20th century (represented especially by Henri De Lubac). The theologies of grace, which emerged after this critique - most notably that of Karl Rahner - sought to remedy the Neoscholastic separation of nature and grace by an equally problematic integration of the two orders. We propose that the dangers inherent in both the extrinsecism of Cajetan and the immanentism of Rahner can be addressed by turning to alternative interpretations of the desiderium naturale (in particular that of Domingo Bañez), which do greater justice to the harmony and integrity of the orders of nature and grace.




How to Cite

Rosenthal, A. S. (2004). The problem of the Desiderium Naturale in the Thomistic tradition. Verbum – Analecta Neolatina, 6(2), 335–344. Retrieved from