Case Study in Thomistic Environmental Ethics

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This work applies an environmental ethic ground in an interpretation of Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae to a particular environmental region, namely the Loess Hills of Iowa. The book begins by telling the ecological story of the Loess Hills and the proceeds to summarize the development of environmental ethics through the legacy of Henry David Thoreau, thereby revealing certain tensions that exist in contemporary environmental debates. Then, after considering the strengths and weaknesses of anthropocentric and ecocentric ethical systems, the author provides an exposition of Aquinas’s understanding of the bonum naturalis, bonum connaturalis, and the bonum supernaturalis, as these are found in the Summa Theologiae. From these a eudaimonistic ethic emerges: human communities ought to pursue flourishing only in ways that simultaneously save the contextualizing ecosystems. This ethic is then applied to the particular case of the Loess Hills, producing an eudaimonistic ecoregionalism. This study should appeal to scholars working in environmental ethics, philosophy, theology, and ecology.


“All too often books about environmental issues apply general principles to the problems that beset a particular place or apply the ethical maxims of a specific thinker or movement to the earth in general. It is rare that the required specificity is found in both approach and place. In his book, Fr. Robert Grant, Ph.D. combines specificity of perspective with particularity of place. More exactly, Fr. Grant asks how the theology and ethics of Thomas Aquinas might provide guidance for those who care about the Loess Hills of western Iowa . . . May this book spur us on to think and act for the great good of God’s shalom for all the earth.” – Steven Bouma-Prediger, Jacobson Professor of Religion, Hope College

“There is a serious need for science, conservation, philosophy and ethics to come together to give humankind a new direction for the future. Fr. Grant’s study helps us put together many parts of this complex puzzle.” – Carl Kurtz, Naturalist, Photography, and Writer

“We badly need more publications that are capable of healing the fractured human relationship with the land. I believe that Fr. Grant’s book could possibly become one such publication. Researching a far different audience than that of standard nature books, his book could help transform the mindsets of a whole new group of readers.” – Cornelia Mutel, IIHR Historian and Archivist, Department of Hydroscience and Engineering, University of Iowa

Table of Contents

Preface by Steven Bouma-Prediger
1 Loess Hills Mixed Grass Prairie
2 The Evolution of Environmental Ethics
3 Ecocentrism and Anthropocentricism
4 Nature and the Good in Thomas Aquinas
5 Rural Ecoregionalism
6 Conclusion: Eudaimonistic Ecoregionalism Extended

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