Regret: A Thomistic Account
We feel regret and talk of it often – it is the second most common emotion mentioned in ordinary conversation – but we rarely reflect upon it. Regret casts a wide net: we regret our own actions, actions of our group, unforeseeable consequences of our actions, outright accidents, anticipated events, even acting virtuously in regrettable situations. But is regret bad? Is it potentially good? How do we feel the right regret, on the right occasions, toward the right objects, for the right reasons? Can we harness regret to promote our flourishing? I approach these questions Thomistically by synthesizing studies in psychology, moral philosophy, and theology with the help of Aquinas’ moral categories. This study contributes to a stream of thought that retrieves Aquinas’ neglected insights on the passions as elemental forces that make or break our happiness.
Sheryl Overmyer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Catholic Studies at DePaul University. She is trained in philosophy and moral theology, but her scholarly interests remain multi-disciplinary. In her writing she attempts to make a fresh approach to perennial moral issues by drawing upon the insights of systematic theology, sacramental theology, and literature. She recently finished a manuscript on medieval theology and poetry in late medieval England. Her current work on emotion organizes and integrates the insights of philosophy and psychology into a capacious Thomistic framework. Her writing appears in The Heythrop Journal and The International Journal for Systematic Theology and is forthcoming in The Journal of Religious Ethics and New Blackfriars.