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presidential address
1. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 90
Kevin L. Flannery, S.J. Rule of Law and the Virtue of Justice: The Socrates of Plato’s and a Pair of Later Moral Issues
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The author considers, first of all, recent and fairly recent interpretations of Plato’s dialogue the Crito, arguing that the character Socrates, whose expressed ideas probably correspond in major detail to the convictions of the historical Socrates, is not saying that the laws of Athens demand unquestioning obedience. The dialogue is rather an account of the debate that goes on in Socrates’s mind itself. A strong consideration in this debate is clearly the rule of law; but equally strong is Socrates’s lifelong commitment to carry out what, in the end, he regards as the most reasonable course of action. The author then considers two contemporary ethical issues: our way of coming to know the natural law and the proper understanding of laws that allow of exceptions. Regarding the first, he argues—consistently with what we find not only in the Crito but also in Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas—that we come to know the natural law through being immersed in the laws and customs of a particular society: the more just the society, the better access to the natural law it provides. Regarding the second, he argues that an article in Aquinas is sometimes interpreted as suggesting that the realm of concrete human experience is beyond the reach of law. He argues, in the spirit of the historical Socrates, that the rule of law is equivalent to the rule of reason and that this does reach into the realm of concrete human experience, where exceptions are sometimes recognized as contained in the law.
presentation of the aquinas medal
2. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 90
Jeffrey Bloechl Life and Work of Adriaan T. Peperzak, 2016 Aquinas Medal Recipient
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aquinas medalist’s address
3. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 90
Adriaan T. Peperzak A Great Tradition
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plenary sessions
4. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 90
John O’Callaghan Mercy Beyond Justice: The Tragedy of Shylock and Antonio
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Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice provides a dramatic setting for thinking about the relationship of mercy to justice, a topic of great concern to contemporary ethical and political thought. Traditionally classified as among Shakespeare’s comedies, the play can also be analyzed as a tragedy in which Shylock is the protagonist. The tragedy is driven by the relatively weak conception of mercy in relationship to justice that informs Portia’s famous soliloquy “the quality of mercy . . . . ” The mercy she praises is closely related to the stoic conception of mercy that Seneca urges upon Nero, a mercy that is bound within the confines of justice. Examining Aquinas’ discussion of misericordia in relation to justice and forgiveness provides a more robust conception of mercy that is closely associated with friendship, particularly the friendship Aquinas argues is owed by all human beings to all human beings. This concept of mercy can rightly be said to be a mercy beyond justice, a mercy that justice strives to attain.
5. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 90
Terence Irwin Aristotle’s Second Thoughts on Justice
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The Aristotelian Corpus contains two extended treatments of justice as a virtue of character: Magna Moralia i 33 and Nicomachean Ethics Book V (or Eudemian Ethics Book IV). Differences between the two treatments include these: (1) MM denies, but EN V affirms, that natural justice is part of political justice; (2) MM denies, but EN V affirms, that general (or ‘universal’) justice is an other-directed virtue that should concern us in the treatment of justice as a virtue; (3) MM does not discuss the relation between equity (epieikeia) and justice, while EN V affirms that equity and justice do not conflict. Are these differences connected? How are they to be explained? Might they help us to answer questions about (a) the relation of MM to the other two ethical treatises, and (b) the relation of EN V to the EE and to the EN ?
6. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 90
V. Bradley Lewis Religious Liberty and the Limits of Rawlsian Justice
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Religious freedom is included among the basic liberties to which persons are entitled in John Rawls’s account of Justice as Fairness. Rawls’s revised presentation of this as a political conception of justice in Political Liberalism aims to show how it can be (along with the other parts of Justice as Fairness) the focus of an overlapping consensus of reasonable comprehensive doctrines. As an example, Rawls contends that his understanding of religious freedom is consistent with that of the Roman Catholic Church, at least since the Second Vatican Council. I argue that he was mistaken in this in so far as other aspects of his political conception, especially its characterization of citizens as normatively having the power to form their own conceptions of the good, puts it at odds with the teaching of the Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis humanae. This suggests more generally that the limits of consensus in modern pluralist societies are greater than Rawls’s theory holds.
session 1: justice in plato
7. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 90
Terence Sweeney Beginning and Ending with Hestia: Finding a Home for Justice in Plato’s Political Philosophy
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In my essay, I examine Plato’s understanding of justice and injustice within the home and the city. For Plato, the home, as private, must be suppressed to bring about a common polis. I critique Plato’s conclusions regarding the home and the city, especially his privative definition of justice, which loses the complexity of justice in-between persons, families, and communities. To critique Plato, I rely on his own doubts about his project, especially in his portrayal of the city of sows. The city of sows and the city of guardians both show that we need a politics guided by justice with prudence. The space of justice exists in the needs and obligations that lie between us, our homes, and our cities; it is in this space alone that political prudence can grow in the weaving together of oikos with oikos in the rich tapestry of the polis.
8. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 90
Justin Habash Plato’s Debt: Justice and Nature in Early Greek Philosophy
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This paper examines the relationship between justice and nature in key figures in early Greek philosophy in order to understand the idea of nature that grounds Plato’s account of justice. Tracing the idea of justice through Anaximander, Heraclitus, and Parmenides, I show that each figure uses justice in unique and innovative ways to explain different concepts of nature. Among the Presocratics then, justice is a heuristic for grasping the newly emerging and evolving concept of nature. It is in turn this evolving concept of nature that ushers in the transformation of justice from the conventional Hesiodic notion of “legal settlement” or “paying one’s debts” to Plato’s philosophical account of justice based on nature. The transformation is marked by the development of several key epistemological criteria and teleological facets in the earliest concepts of nature. As such, Plato’s account of justice in the Republic is deeply indebted to Presocratic conceptions of justice and nature.
session 2: justice in aristotle and modernity
9. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 90
Will Britt Why Friendship Justifies Becoming
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In his discussions of justice and of friendship in the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle appeals frequently—without much explanation—to temporal considerations. I take these indications as a key for sorting out the systematic significance of Aristotle’s claim that “when people are friends, there is no need for justice” (NE VIII.1.1155a26). Anaximander’s fragmentary claim that coming-to-be is itself an injustice serves as a touchstone for the analysis; I ask whether and how Aristotle might agree with such a claim. I first isolate some problems, especially those involving time, that underlie Aristotle’s various dialectical articulations of justice in NE V and show that friendship addresses them more beautifully than does justice. Then I try to establish that the ultimate work of friendship is to alter human temporality, interweaving multiple particular lives into a whole that both imitates and fits into the cosmic whole.
10. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 90
M. T. Lu The Missing Virtue: Justice in Modern Virtue Ethics
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Several commentators have noted that “justice has not fared well in the revival of virtue ethics”; it “has become damagingly marginalized” and “no longer has a starring role.” Given its traditional place among the four cardinal virtues this is a remarkable state of affairs and yet exactly this has occurred has not been adequately explored or explained. In this paper, I argue that the particular moral virtue of justice has been largely disregarded by the contemporary virtue theorists primarily because their conception of justice is so different from Aristotle’s. Accordingly, they do not need the virtue of justice to do the kind of explanatory work in their systems that it does in Aristotle’s.
session 3: justice in medieval philosophy
11. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 90
Seamus O’Neill Augustine and Aquinas on Demonic Possession: Theoria and Praxis
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Augustine asserted that demons (and angels) have material bodies, while Aquinas denied demonic corporeality, upholding that demons are separated, incorporeal, intelligible substances. Augustine’s conception of demons as composite substances possessing an immaterial soul and an aerial body is insufficient, in Thomas’s view, to account for certain empirical phenomena observed in demoniacs. However, Thomas, while providing more detailed accounts of demonic possession according to his development of Aristotelian psychology, does not avail of this demonic incorporeal eminence when analysing demonic attacks: demonic agency is still confined to the material body. Aquinas’s account of demonic possession need not, on the face of it, require an immaterial cause. In his renouncement of the strong Christian tradition affirming demonic corporeality, Aquinas either conflates the need for a demonic agent with a requirement for a super corporeal one, or subordinates his demonology and angelology to a deeper, more fundamental Dionysian metaphysical principle of creative diffusion to which these adhere in a secondary way.
12. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 90
Steven Baldner Thomas Aquinas and Francisco Suarez on the Problem of Concurrence
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Thomas and Suarez understand God’s creation and conservation in a similar way: as God’s continually giving being to all creatures. The two philosophers also try to explain the way in which creaturely, secondary causality is guaranteed, but they do so in radically different ways. Suarez’s doctrine of concurrence is not a progressive development of Thomas’s doctrine of secondary, instrumental causality, with which this Suarezian innovation is incompatible. I try to show how different concurrentism is from Thomas’s doctrine of secondary causality and to offer some criticism of the former by the latter.
session 4: contemporary justice
13. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 90
Charles D. Robertson Is Marriage a Basic Good?
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According to the New Natural Law theory, marriage is a basic good. This means that marital society is an end in itself, and that marital intercourse instantiates that end by making the married couple to be “one-flesh.” This one-flesh union finds its intrinsic fulfillment in the procreation of children, but should not be seen as a mere means to the begetting and rearing of offspring. This view of marriage represents a departure from the traditional understanding of marriage as having its ultimate raison d’être in the begetting and rearing of offspring, and has significant implications for judgments concerning the liceity of embryo adoption/rescue. This paper offers a critical appraisal of the thesis that marriage is a basic good.
14. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 90
Alexander Schimpf A Prolegomena to Gender Justice
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The paper seeks to identify some of the first principles necessary for an adequate account of gender justice. In the first section of the paper, a recent account of gender justice is analyzed in order to determine its ultimate principles. These principles include a distinction between sex and gender, absolute equality and individual freedom of choice as valuable, the just as the chosen, and gender as a restriction upon freedom. In the second section of the paper, these principles are critiqued, and alternate first principles are proposed. It is argued that an adequate account of gender justice should view sex and gender as a unity, justice as rendering what is due to the other, and gender as a teleological structure. The paper concludes with a brief consideration of what these revised first principles might mean for the question of a gendered division of societal roles.
session 5: justice in st. thomas aquinas
15. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 90
R. E. Houser Aquinas: Justice as a Cardinal Virtue
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This paper has two goals: 1) to understand justice as a cardinal virtue, according to Aquinas; and 2) to use his conception of justice as a cardinal virtue to understand how one engages in acts of “general” justice. The argument proceeds in four stages: 1) how Aquinas understands the virtues by looking to their “objects”; 2) the two distinct “modes” of the four cardinal virtues, as “general” and “specific” virtues; 3) the triangle of three kinds of justice, seen in terms of their “objects”; 4) Aquinas’s doctrine of justice as a “general” virtue (ST 2-2.58.5–6) shows that we can perform operations of “general” justice in two ways, as do the ruler and his minsters, and as ordinary folk do. Surprisingly, it is the latter mode of acting for “general” justice that is primary, not the former.
16. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 90
Brandon L. Wanless St. Thomas Aquinas on Original Justice and the Justice of Christ: A Case Study in Christological Soteriology and Catholic Moral Theology
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This paper discusses the theme of “personal justice” in the Summa theologiae, a concept inherited from the Nicomachean Ethics wherein Aristotle says that a man is just toward himself only metaphorically, insofar as the parts of man are appropriately ordered with the higher ruling the lower and the body subjugated to the soul. This paper demonstrates how Aquinas extensively utilizes this concept of metaphorical justice across the tripartite division of the Summa in his accounts of original justice in the prima pars, the humanity of Christ in the tertia pars, and justification of the sinner in the secunda pars. As a response to critiques that Thomistic moral theology is not properly centered in the person of Christ, I will show that, for Aquinas, Christ’s personal justice both fulfills the right ordering of humanity lost through sin and restores that integrity to mankind in the grace of justification—the root of the Christian’s entire moral life.
session 6: st. thomas aquinas: on particular unjust action
17. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 90
Craig Iffland Public, Private, and Extra-Judicial Killing
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Over the past decade, U.S. officials have taken steps to institutionalize the practice of targeted killing of persons outside an identifiable war zone. In the past, such a policy would have been described as extra-judicial killings. Advocates of this policy claim that the practice is permissible because the executive reviews and authorizes every targeted strike. I examine the tenability of this claim in light of Aquinas’s understanding of the natural principles of justice and their implication for our definition of murder and the duties of a sovereign judge to those subject to his judgment. I conclude that Aquinas’s understanding of murder is expansive enough to include the use of lethal force by public authorities when it proceeds from an act of judgment that disregards a presumption of innocence for the accused and her right to a fair trial.
18. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 90
John Skalko Why Did Aquinas Hold That Killing is Sometimes Just, But Never Lying?
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Aquinas held that lying is always a sin, an evil action (ST II-II, Q110, A3). In later terminology it falls under what would be called an intrinsically evil action. Under no circumstances can it be a good action. Following Augustine, Aquinas held that even if others must die, one must still never tell a lie (ST II-II, Q110, A3, ad 4, DM Q15, A1, ad 5). Yet when it comes to self-defense and capital punishment Aquinas’s reasoning seems at odds with itself. One may kill a man in self-defense (ST II-II, Q64, A7). Similarly, just as a diseased limb may be cut off for the sake of the good of the whole, so too may an evildoer who is dangerous to the community be killed for the sake of the good of the whole community (ST II-II, Q64, A2). Herein lies the tension: why does Aquinas hold that it is licit to kill in self-defense or in capital punishment on account of the common good, but that one may never tell a lie on account of the common good? I argue that Aquinas does indeed have a consistent account. Killing and lying are not analogous, despite the prima facie temptation to lump them together.
session 7: st. thomas aquinas: then and now
19. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 90
Timothy Kearns Then and Now—A Thomistic Account of History
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Thomists do not have a standard account of history as a discipline or of historical knowledge in general. Since Thomism is a tradition of thought derived in part from historical figures and their works, it is necessary for Thomists to be able to say how we know what we know about those figures and their works. In this paper, I analyze the notion of history both in its key contemporary senses and in how it was used by Aristotle and Aquinas. I show briefly how intellectual knowledge of the past is possible. Then, I argue that the Thomistic tradition implies a far wider notion of history than is generally recognized, history as study of the past in general, not a science in itself, but an aspect of other sciences. Finally, I indicate how this wider notion of history relates to the ordinary sense of history as an inquiry into the specifically human past and then how such an account fits within contemporary Thomism.
20. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 90
Peter Karl Koritansky Is Usury Still a Sin? Thomas Aquinas on the Justice and Injustice of Moneylending
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This paper examines Thomas Aquinas’s condemnation of usury. In the first section, the details of Thomas’s teaching are examined with special attention to the so-called “extrinsic titles” discussed in the Middle Ages as qualifications of the moral and legal strictures concerning moneylending. The reminder of the paper examines the particular extrinsic title of Lucrum Cessans (compensation for lost profit), which Thomas rejects, and attempts to square that rejection with other texts implying that compensation for lost profit is a requirement of justice when taken outside the context of moneylending. The paper concludes with some possible modern applications of Thomas’s position.