Profoundly important ethical and political controversies turn on the question of whether biological life is an essential aspect of a human person, or only an extrinsic instrument. Lee and George argue that human beings are physical, animal organisms - albeit essentially rational and free - and examine the implications of this understanding of human beings for some of the most controversial issues in contemporary ethics and politics. The authors argue that human beings are animal organisms and that their personal identity (...) across time consists in the persistence of the animal organisms they are; they also argue that human beings are essentially rational and free and that there is a radical difference between human beings and other animals; criticize hedonism and hedonistic drug-taking; present detailed defenses of the prolife positions on abortion and euthanasia; and defend the traditional moral position on marriage and sexual acts. (shrink)
D. Alan Shewmon has advanced a well-documented challenge to the widely accepted total brain death criterion for death of the human being. We show that Shewmon's argument against this criterion is unsound, though he does refute the standard argument for that criterion. We advance a distinct argument for the total brain death criterion and answer likely objections. Since human beings are rational animals – sentient organisms of a specific type – the loss of the radical capacity for sentience involves a (...) substantial change, the passing away of the human organism. In human beings total brain death involves the complete loss of the radical capacity for sentience, and so in human beings total brain death is death. (shrink)
I develop and refine an argument for the total brain death criterion of death previously advanced by Germain Grisez and me: A human being is essentially a rational animal, and so must have a radical capacity for rational operations. For rational animals, conscious sensation is a pre-requisite for rational operation. But total brain death results in the loss of the radical capacity for conscious sensation, and so also for rational operations. Hence, total brain death constitutes a substantial change—the ceasing to (...) be of the human being. Objections are considered, including the objection that total brain death need not result in the loss of capacity for sensation, and that damage to the brain less than total brain death can result in loss of capacity for rational operations. (shrink)
In various places we have defended the position that a new human organism, that is, an individual member of the human species, comes to be at fertilization, the union of the spermatozoon and the oocyte. This individual organism, during the ordinary course of embryological development, remains the same individual and does not undergo any further substantial change, unless monozygotic twinning, or some form of chimerism occurs. Recently, in this Journal Jason Morris has challenged our position, claiming that recent findings in (...) reproductive and stem cell biology have falsified our view. He objects to our claim that a discernible substantial change occurs at conception, giving rise to the existence of a new individual of the human species. In addition, he objects to our claim that the embryo is an individual, a unified whole that persists through various changes, and thus something other than a mere aggregate of cells. Morris raises a number of objections to these claims. However, we will show that his arguments overlook key data and confuse biological, metaphysical, and ethical questions. As a result, his attempts to rebut our arguments fail. (shrink)
I defend the position argued previously by Germain Grisez and me that total brain death is a valid criterion of death on the grounds that a human being is essentially a rational animal, and a brain-dead body lacks the radical capacity for rational actions. I reply to Josef Seifert’s objection that our positions rest on a reductionist view of the human person, and to other objections concerning the inter-relation between the human soul, its powers, and functions of the brain. I (...) argue that a brain-dead body lacks the material dispositions needed for having the form or soul of a human being. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
The paper by Magill and Neaves in this issue of the Journal attempts to rebut the "natural potency" position, based on recent advances in direct reprogramming of somatic cells to yield "induced pluripotent stem" (iPS) cells. As stated by the authors, the natural potency position holds that because "a human embryo directs its own integral organismic function from its beginning . . . there is a whole, albeit immature, and distinct human organism that is intrinsically valuable with the status of (...) inviolability and deserving full moral respect" (p. 26). The authors boldly assert that "The recent production of iPS . . . highlights a prima facie absurdity for the natural potentiality argument" (p. 29). Yet the argument against natural potency is both logically flawed and based on a characterization of the scientific evidence that is factually inaccurate. (shrink)
This book defends the conjugal view of marriage. Patrick Lee and Robert P. George argue that marriage is a distinctive type of community: the union of a man and a woman who have committed to sharing their lives on every level of their beings (bodily, emotionally, and spiritually) in the kind of union that would be fulfilled by conceiving and rearing children together. The comprehensive nature of this union, and its intrinsic orientation to procreation as its natural fulfillment, distinguishes (...) marriage from other types of community and provides the basis for the norms of marital exclusivity and permanence. Lee and George detail how the basic moral norms regarding sexual acts follow from the ethical requirement to respect the good of marriage and explain how the law should treat marriage, given its conjugal nature, examining both the same-sex-marriage issue and civil divorce. (shrink)
I reply to an article in the ACPA Proceedings of 2001 by John Crosby in which he challenged the position that evil as such is a privation. Each of his arguments attempts to present a counterexample to the privation position. His first argument, claiming that annihilation is evil but not a privation, fails to consider that a privation need not be contemporaneous with the subject suffering the privation. Contrary to his second argument, I explain that the repugnance of pain is (...) consistent with its being good in the appropriate context. Against his third argument I contend that he mistakenly supposes that a choice’s being opposed to the good is incompatible with its being evil because of a disorder. I conclude by briefly reviewing one central argument for the privation position and contrast it with Crosby’s arguments, which, in addition to their other problems, fail to specify any intensional content, beyond repugnance in the case of pain, for the concept of evil. (shrink)
The present essay takes up matters discussed by Robert Pasnau in his response to our previous criticism of his account of Aquinas's view of when a foetus acquires a human soul. We are mainly concerned with metaphysical and biological issues and argue that the kind of organization required for ensoulment is that sufficient for the full development of a human being, and that this is present from conception. We contend that in his criticisms of our account Pasnau fails clearly to (...) distinguish first, between a passive potentiality and an active capacity; second, between having a power intrinsically and being an instrumental agent of that which has it intrinsically; third, between per accidens and per se causal series; and fourth, between sense cognition and conceptual thought. We conclude that philosophy and embryology support the position that human beings exist from the point of conception. (shrink)
New natural law theory holds that the basic moral principles are prescriptions to pursue the goods to which our nature orients us. Since God is the author of our nature and intelligence, these moral principles are part of his plan for creation. These principles can be known prior to knowing that God exists and prior to knowing that they are in fact directives from him. Nevertheless, since God’s plan includes our active cooperation, morally good acts cooperate with God’s providence, and (...) morally bad acts substitute one’s subjective preference for God’s truth. Thus natural law principles direct us to a unified ultimate end, namely, the fulfillment of God’s plan. Therefore God and our relationship with him have a central place in NNLT. (shrink)
The problem addressed is: whether religious belief, defined here as accepting that God has revealed and that what he has revealed is true, could ever be rational. That is, does the idea of religious belief imply that it is irrational? The author attempts to resolve this problem in favor of religious belief, and suggests how reasons can legitimately function in religious belief. The evidentialist objection to religion is answered, and it is proposed that reasons might function, not to prove that (...) God has revealed, or that what he has revealed is true, but that the choice to believe is a morally responsible one. (shrink)
In chapters 9 and 10 of their book Roman but Not Catholic, Kenneth Collins and Jerry Walls criticize the Roman Catholic positions on the Eucharist as a sacrifice and on the ministerial priesthood. I reply to their historical and theological objections, and defend the belief that the Eucharistic sacrifice, the Mass, is a re-presentation, or making present, of Jesus’s redemptive sacrifice on Calvary, and a key component in God’s incarnational strategy for redeeming us.
Reminiscent of past colonial practices, contemporary archaeological research in Africa is still often governed and carried out by foreign entities that move Africans aside from their pasts and their countries’ archaeological heritage. Oldupai Gorge, located in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area, is a flagship human evolution research site. Less recognized is that a Maasai pastoral society inhabits the region. Despite over a century of excavations in the ‘birthplace of humanity’, local Maasai and palaeoanthropologists have rarely affiliated with each other. Furthermore, a (...) lingering and erroneous characterization of the Maasai as archaic, environmentally damaging and premodern continues to guide policies that compromise Maasai pastoral livelihoods. This article utilizes actor–network theory to ethnographically and symmetrically compare the epistemic cultures of both the Maasai and palaeoanthropologists in Oldupai, and argues that while scientific and Maasai knowledge may differ in cultural content, both groups built ‘black boxes’ – such as scientific facts and oral traditions – in parallel and equally logical forms. Since there are no fundamental cognitive differences between members of each group, there are no justifiable reasons that the Maasai should continue to be excluded from research in their homeland and the myriad benefits that it can bring. (shrink)
Seifert explains here the distinctiveness of the method of phenomenology and, above all, seeks to reclaim the method from the idealists and for classical realism. The main question of the book is: "In our knowledge, do we also discover besides the appearances and constituted aspects of things, 'things themselves,' i.e., essential structures and laws, and existents, which are in no way constituted by human consciousness?".