Nature, Sex, And Person In Thomistic Thought


Nature, Sex, and Person in Thomistic Thought


Christendom College

Certain Catholic feminists of philosophical bent have criticized a strand of Catholic thought as positing in effect two natures of human beings. Sr. Mary Aquin O’Neill, for example, says the Catholic view of complementarity between the sexes has invented a male nature and a female nature.[1] Mary J. Buckley repeats this charge.[2] Both accuse the tradition of arriving at this error by “extrapolating meanings from the male and female bodies” and thus mistakenly attributing culturally-based gender differentiations to human nature itself. Sr. O’Neill seems to prefer an androgynous view of human capability and a biological view of what is “natural” to us. Mary Buckley demands that all talk of “constant” or “fixed” human nature be replaced by a “transformative model,” as she calls it, in which the core of humanity is sheer freedom. The aim of this paper is to show that the Thomistic account of human nature does not commit the mistake the feminist philosophers allege and avoids both of the disastrous (and conflicting) reductionisms into which they fall. Man qua man is one nature, for St. Thomas, not two; yet this one nature is neither pure biology nor pure freedom.

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Translation of The Twenty-Four Thomistic Theses


The Twenty four Thomistic Theses

Newly translated and annotated by

W. H. Marshner

Decree of the Sacred Congregation for Studies
July 27, 1914

1. Act and potency divide the set of beings in such a way that anything which “is” has to be either (1) pure act or else (2) a combination of potency and act, having these as the primordial factors within it.[1]

2. Since anything’s “act” is a completion it has, act is limited only by a potency which is the thing’s capacity for being completed.[2] Hence, in any order of being where there is a “pure act,” the pure act is unlimited and unique; but wherever an act is limited and has more than one instance, it is occurring in a genuine composition with potency.
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Addenda To “Metaphysical Personhood And The IUD”


Addenda to “Metaphysical Personhood and the IUD”

W. H. Marshner

October 3, 1974

1. Emergence

Fr. Joseph Donceel’s account of ontogeny might be read as presenting an organism which, without changing genetically, undergoes a series of holistic alterations which can best be described as “emergent shifts,” Such shifts are said to occur (by evolutionary theorists) when life, for example, “emerges” in matter previously non-living, or when sensation “emerges” in living matter previously non-sentient, or when consciousness “emerges” in animals previously non-conscious. Teilhard, indeed, seems to extend this series indefinitely, lumping such phenomena as thought, value, history, community, and even the contemporary Zeitgeist into the general category of emergent qualities. Continue reading “Addenda To “Metaphysical Personhood And The IUD””