Saint Thomas


In the theology of Saint Thomas Aquinas, what is the difference between a commanded act and an elicited act?


I’m not an expert on Aquinas, but I did a quick search and found the part in the Summa Theologica where he talks about commanded and elicited acts:

The act of the will is twofold: one is its immediate act, as it were, elicited by it, namely, “to wish”; the other is an act of the will commanded by it, and put into execution by means of some other power, such as “to walk” and “to speak,” which are commanded by the will to be executed by means of the motive power.

He talks about them in regards to voluntary and involuntary human acts. Aquinas subdivides voluntary acts into two categories: elicited and commanded.

This is how I read what he is saying (and, I repeat, I’m not an expert on Aquinas):

Commanded acts are those that the will initiates, but it relies on some other power to actually accomplish the act. For example, when we walk or talk, we make that decision in our will, but ultimately, the will must rely on the body to cooperate. So the will initiates the act, but needs the body to execute it.

Elicited acts are those that the will both initiates and accomplishes by itself. The example he gives is “to wish”. When I “wish” something, the act takes place immediatley withing the will.

Does this make sense? I’m somewhat confusing myself just talking about it! :wink:


Thanks, that helps. I would still like some more clarification.


That’s about as much clarification as I think I can offer on this topic. :wink:

Hopefully someone more well versed in thomistic philosophy than I am will come and help you out! :smiley:


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