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
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
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.