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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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 purpose of this valuable book is to consider recent cultural trends in bioethics from a Catholic perspective. Bioethics is intended for a lay audience interested in understanding bioethical issues from a Catholic perspective.
The March 2002 symposium Human Dignity and Reproductive Technology brought together philosophers, theologians, scientists, lawyers, and scholars from across the United States. The essays of this book are the contributions of the symposium's participants.
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?".
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)
Robert George of Princeton University challenges the fundamental dogma of contemporary political philosophy, namely, that it is wrong to "legislate morality." George's positive argument for morals legislation is in the tradition of Aristotle and Aquinas. "The idea that public morality is a public good, and that immoral acts--even between consenting adults--can therefore do public harm, has not been refuted by liberal critics of the central tradition". Chapter 1 defends this, arguing that a healthy political society has a moral environment or (...) "ecology" which encourages virtue and is inhospitable to such vices as pornography, prostitution, drug abuse, and so on. (shrink)