Why a Fetus is a Human Person from the Moment of Conception: A Revisionist Interpretation of Thomas Aquinas’ Treatise on Human Nature

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This work discusses Thomistic anthropology and natural law ethics, in relation to contemporary scientific knowledge. It presents the argument that human-ness and even personhood begins at conception. The ethical implications of this view are also considered.


“The most important questions are these: Who and what are we and can we know it? Dr. Payne has written a magnificent defense of the best answer to these questions, an answer that many of us believe is the last best hope for our civilization.” — Prof. Francis J. Beckwith, Baylor University

“The book not only offers a compelling defense of attributing personhood to every human being from conception to bodily death, but also delivers a rigorous critique of the work of various contemporary philosophers who want to claim the mantle of Aquinas . . .” — Fr. Prof. Joseph W. Koterski, Fordham University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Francis J. Beckwith
Introduction: Aquinas, Hominization, and Personhood
1. Anthropology and Ethics
2. Central Questions
3. Previous Accounts
4. Further Defense: The Purpose of This Work
Chapter 1: The Eternal Return of Natural Law
1. A Thomistic Account of Natural Law
(1) God and the Natural Law
(2) Aquinas's Aristotelianism
2. The Objective Nature of Natural Law
(1) The Objectivity of Some Moral Rules
(2) Jean Porter and the Question of Objectivity Natural Law and the Human Person
3. The Non-Sectarian Nature of Natural Law
4. Human Flourishing and the Human Telos
5. Thomistic Anthropology and Human Standards
Chapter 2: An Account of Thomistic Anthropology
1. Definitions of Terms
(1) What Is Meant by "Thomistic"?
(2) What Is Meant by "Thomistic Anthropology"?
2. Aquinas' s View of Human Nature
(1) The Composite Human Being
(2) The Soul and Its Nature (ST 1.75)
(3) The Union of the Soul and Body (ST 1.76, 91118)
(4) The Soul's Powers (ST 1.77-81)
(5) Freedom of the Will (ST 1.82-83)
(6) The Mode and Content of the Soul's Knowledge (ST 1.84-89)
3. A Summary of Aquinas's Anthropology
4. Thomistic Anthropology and Modern Science
(1) Scientific Determinism
(2) Evolution and Natural Law
5. Adopting a Thomistic Anthropology
Chapter 3: Human Reason, Original Sin, and Beatitude
1. Our "Unnatural" Nature
2. "Total Depravity" and the Noetic Consequences of Sin
(1) Original Sin
(2) Karl Barth and Natural Law
(3) John Calvin and Guido de Bres
3. "Sin Does Not Diminish Nature": A Thomistic Defense of the Natural Law
4. Dante's Thomistic Vision and the Human Beatific End
Chapter 4: What Is a Human Person?
1. Aquinas on Personhood
2. Three Criteria for Human-ness
(1) Human" Plus" Something Else
Natural Law and the Human Person
(2) Two Corporeal Criteria and One Non-Corporeal
(3) The Composite Nature Re-Visited
3. The Non-Corporeal Criterion for Human-ness
(1) Do We Have Non-Corporeal Souls? An Argument in Favor
(2) Do We Have Non-Corporeal Souls? A Second Argument in Favor
(3) Do We Have Non-Corporeal Souls? A Third Argument in Favor
(4) A Summary of This Section
4. What Is a Human Person? A Proposed Definition
Chapter 5: Some Other Thomistic Accounts of Hominization
1. Aquinas's Principles Applied to Current Science
(1) "Animation" and the Embryo
(2) Modern Embryology and the Human Form
2. Pasnau and the Question of Immediate Hominization
3. Pasnau and the Question of Immortality
4. Dombrowski, Deltete, and the Question of Animation
(1) The Homunculi and Preformationist Theories
(2) "Development" vs. "Construction"
(3) A Summary of This Section
Chapter 6: Concluding Thoughts Regarding Personhood
1. Human Persons and Conception
2. In Conclusion
Works Cited

Other Philosophy-Aquinas/Thomism Books