Cover: Aquinas on the Beginning and End of Human Life, from Harvard University PressCover: Aquinas on the Beginning and End of Human Life in HARDCOVER

Aquinas on the Beginning and End of Human Life

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Product Details


$34.50 • £27.95 • €31.00

ISBN 9780674072473

Publication Date: 06/10/2013


288 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches


Erudite, thoughtful, [and] carefully translated… Amerini exposes the ‘tensions’ and ‘vacillations’ in Aquinas’s abstruse accounts of human embryogenesis. But their main point is clear: the inseminating male initiates a process that, while it leads to the conception of a pre-human uterine animal, does not actually generate another human being.—Denis J.M. Bradley, America

What makes the book, I think, a fascinating read, is Amerini’s detailed analysis of texts that Thomas wrote throughout his career, showing how his thoughts on the topic evolved and were refined. In that sense, I think anyone interested in history, especially the history of philosophy and science, would be fascinated at this look inside the world of a medieval philosopher on one very particular topic.—John Farrell, Forbes (online)

Because Aquinas’s teachings are authoritative for Catholic theology, this volume by Amerini explores Aquinas’s account of life’s beginning and end. The author notes Aquinas’s inconsistency and changing views. He argues that the Thomistic account does not allow one to claim that an embryo is a human being at the moment of conception, since Aquinas believes humans require faculties of will and reason. Still, scholars need to look at contemporary scientific accounts of growth and development to see how they may or may not harmonize with specific teachings. Students of theology and bioethics will find this study elucidating, especially since it shows the promise and pitfalls of attempting to use classical theological sources to construct positions for contemporary Christian ethics. Students interested in Thomistic thought, theological bioethics, and Catholic moral theology will find this closely argued work worthwhile and illuminating reading.—A.W. Klink, Choice

This is a first-rate treatment of a complex topic. Fabrizio Amerini carefully and clearly explains how Aquinas deals philosophically with the topic of human generation and how what he says might be connected with certain questions raised today in discussions of bioethics. His treatment of Aquinas is exhaustive and admirably documented. It should serve as an authoritative corrective to ways in which Aquinas has sometimes been invoked in arguments concerning the start of human life. It also amounts to a fine introduction to some of Aquinas’s key metaphysical ideas.—Brian Davies, Fordham University

Aquinas on the Beginning and End of Human Life shows how rigorous historical research can be useful in discussing hot topics of current bioethics. Written with great accuracy and attention to historical texts, Amerini’s book stresses the mistakes of many contemporary readings of Aquinas and clarifies implications for the current debate on abortion and euthanasia. This book is one of the best attempts to hold together the accurate historical reconstruction of one of the most influential thinkers of Western philosophy with the theoretical implications for the contemporary bioethical discussion on abortion and euthanasia.—Sergio Filippo Magni, University of Pavia

Amerini’s book is a masterful treatment of the much-discussed discrepancy between the teachings of the Catholic Church on abortion and the teachings of its leading theological champion. Combining philosophical insight with scholarly precision, Amerini carefully works through all aspects of Aquinas’s view: metaphysical, biological, and ethical. In a field where previous treatments have often been marred by bias and animus, Amerini offers a model of evenhanded analysis. Neither of the entrenched parties to this ongoing dispute will feel completely satisfied by Amerini’s conclusions, but all sides will learn a great deal from his meticulous discussion.—Robert Pasnau, University of Colorado

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