Self-determination and the moral act: A study of the contributions of Odon Lottin, O.S.B.

Mary Jo Iozzio, Fordham University


Odon Lottin, O.S.B. (1880-1965) was an historian and a moral theologian. As an historian, he studied the scholastic attention to human psychology and morality. As a theologian, he studied the roles that thought and action play in the development of the moral agent. His influence in historical and moral theology has been significant. Nonetheless, moralists and medievalists independently have appropriated his insights. No one has yet studied the relationship between his historical investigations and his moral theology. This work accomplishes that study. This dissertation considers Lottin's contributions to both historical and moral theology. Lottin studies the medieval history and understanding of free choice, moral action, the acquired virtues and conscience. He traces this history to uncover specific ideas, expose the development of thought, recognize the emergence of consensus, and find whether satisfying resolutions were achieved. Many of his contemporaries in the manual tradition misinterpreted this history. This misinterpretation was due to their inaccurate or undeveloped historical method. And, just as there was deficiency in their method, there were significant shortcomings in the scope of their theological investigations. Thus, by looking back to history, Lottin presents a moral theology more substantive than the manuals. Each of the first four chapters of this dissertation presents Lottin's historical studies of the major debates, examines his incorporation of that material into his own contribution to the debates' resolutions, and concludes with how his work has been appropriated and where it may yet lead. The final chapter considers Lottin's contribution to the discipline of moral theology. Moral theology can neither be ahistorical nor impersonal. Lottin's work demonstrates the necessity of accurate history for interpretation and of critical reflection on the cause of human action. His return to medieval moral theology is a return to human agency. His agent-centered moral theology retrieves prudence and the moral virtues as dynamic means for rightly forming consciences and determining action. Historical and agent-centered moral theology is concerned with theory and practice. The theory of the moral life looks at human intentionality, the practice is its free expression; together they comprise the meaning of self-determination.

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Recommended Citation

Iozzio, Mary Jo, "Self-determination and the moral act: A study of the contributions of Odon Lottin, O.S.B." (1994). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9425198.