Philosophy



Aquinas on Human Ensoulment, Abortion and the Value of Life


John Haldane a1 and Patrick Lee a2
a1 University of St Andrews
a2 Franciscan University of Steubenville

Abstract

Although there is a significant number of books and essays in which Aquinas's thought is examined in some detail, there are still many aspects of his writings that remain unknown to those outside the field of Thomistic studies; or which are generally misunderstood. An example is Aquinas's account of the origins of individual human life. This is the subject of a chapter in a recent book by Robert Pasnau on Thomas Aquinas on Human Nature (Cambridge: CUP, 2001). Since there will be readers whose only knowledge of the issues in question will come from Pasnau's account, and since that account is contentious in substance, and advanced in advocacy of a particular moral interest, it is necessary to provide another, and, we believe, more credible account of the issue of when human life begins, as this may be determined on the basis of known empirical facts and Aquinas's metaphysics, and a more accurate representation of how (and how extensively) this matter has been treated hitherto. The morality of abortion turns on two important sets of issues: the first metaphysical, concerning the beginnings of human life and the specific status of the embryo; the second, ethical, having to do with the nature and scope of value and associated moral requirements. Besides engaging in exegesis we address both issues in philosophical terms.