The body and ethics in Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologiae

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

This article explores the role of the body in Thomas Aquinas’ ethical thought, focusing on the Summa Theologiae. Drawing on Thomas’ account of human nature, teleology and ethics, it traces Thomas’ account of human embodiment through his discussion of the rela- tionship between human and angelic nature, the beatific vision, law and virtue, and the active and contemplative lives. Against several re- cent accounts which have presented versions of Thomas as a thinker who is generally positive in his assessment of the human body, it argues that there is a basic tension in Thomas’ thought between the desire to locate human distinctiveness in the conjunction of body and soul and the sense that after a certain point, embodiment is pre- cisely that which obstructs progress towards God. This tension is inextricably connected to Thomas’ understanding of human calling and discipleship and poses serious challenges to any attempts to draw on Thomas’ work as an ethical resource.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Blackfriars
Volume94
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Keywords

  • Aquinas
  • embodiment
  • ethics
  • angels
  • beatific vision
  • human nature

Cite this

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title = "The body and ethics in Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologiae",
abstract = "This article explores the role of the body in Thomas Aquinas’ ethical thought, focusing on the Summa Theologiae. Drawing on Thomas’ account of human nature, teleology and ethics, it traces Thomas’ account of human embodiment through his discussion of the rela- tionship between human and angelic nature, the beatific vision, law and virtue, and the active and contemplative lives. Against several re- cent accounts which have presented versions of Thomas as a thinker who is generally positive in his assessment of the human body, it argues that there is a basic tension in Thomas’ thought between the desire to locate human distinctiveness in the conjunction of body and soul and the sense that after a certain point, embodiment is pre- cisely that which obstructs progress towards God. This tension is inextricably connected to Thomas’ understanding of human calling and discipleship and poses serious challenges to any attempts to draw on Thomas’ work as an ethical resource.",
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The body and ethics in Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologiae. / Rose, Marika.

Vol. 94, 2013.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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AB - This article explores the role of the body in Thomas Aquinas’ ethical thought, focusing on the Summa Theologiae. Drawing on Thomas’ account of human nature, teleology and ethics, it traces Thomas’ account of human embodiment through his discussion of the rela- tionship between human and angelic nature, the beatific vision, law and virtue, and the active and contemplative lives. Against several re- cent accounts which have presented versions of Thomas as a thinker who is generally positive in his assessment of the human body, it argues that there is a basic tension in Thomas’ thought between the desire to locate human distinctiveness in the conjunction of body and soul and the sense that after a certain point, embodiment is pre- cisely that which obstructs progress towards God. This tension is inextricably connected to Thomas’ understanding of human calling and discipleship and poses serious challenges to any attempts to draw on Thomas’ work as an ethical resource.

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