Aquinas, Feminism, and the Common Good

Aquinas, Feminism, and the Common Good

Susanne M. DeCrane
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 236
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  • Book Info
    Aquinas, Feminism, and the Common Good
    Book Description:

    To dismiss the work of philosophers and theologians of the past because of their limited perceptions of the whole of humankind is tantamount to tossing the tot out with the tub water. Such is the case when feminist scholars of religion and ethics confront Thomas Aquinas, whose views of women can only be described as misogynistic. Rather than dispense with him, Susanne DeCrane seeks to engage Aquinas and reflect his otherwise compelling thought through the prism of feminist theology, hermeneutics, and ethics. Focusing on one of Aquinas's great intellectual contributions, the fundamental notion of "the common good"-in short, the human will toward peace and justice-DeCrane demonstrates the currency of that notion through a contemporary social issue: women's health care in the United States and, specifically, black women and breast cancer. In her skillful re-engagement with Aquinas, DeCrane shows that certain aspects of religious traditions heretofore understood as oppressive to women and minority groups can actually be parsed, "retrieved," and used to rectify social ills. Aquinas, Feminism, and the Common Good is a bold and intellectually rigorous feminist retrieval of an important text by a Catholic scholar seeking to remain in the tradition, while demanding that the tradition live up to its emphasis on human equity and justice.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-241-7
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    It is widely recognized that postmodernism has shaped contemporary approaches to theology and ethics.¹ Given this fact, a writer must make clear at the outset the ways in which she responds to the postmodern challenge regarding the use of classic texts and universal claims. However, the issue is not as simple as responding to a singular postmodern challenge.² Rather, the postmodern critique of modern, liberal, Enlightenment-based convictions holds within it a range of orientations toward purported universal truths. This book is a response to these postmodern positions. At the same time, it offers a constructive method for retrieving a classic...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Feminist Theological Hermeneutics
    (pp. 1-41)

    Hermeneutical theology is a distinct approach to theology. Hermeneutics itself is the science of interpretation.¹ Since Christianity is a textually based religion shaped by and oriented around a particular set of symbols, Christian theology needs to reinterpret its significant doctrines, texts,² and symbols for each new generation and within each new culture in which it emerges. Such interpretation is necessary for several reasons: on anthropological grounds, in light of the principle of analogy, because of the nature of foundational documents themselves, and, finally, in light of the hermeneutics of suspicion.³

    Anthropologically, human existence and human knowledge are closely bound to...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Common Good in the Thought of Thomas Aquinas
    (pp. 42-84)

    The process of hermeneutical retrieval presupposes that the one who is attempting the retrieval is dealing adequately and fairly with the classic text, doctrine, or principle in question. While this is obvious, it offers a challenge to the one who would engage in a process of retrieval. A worthy process of retrieval demands that the classic element be dealt with in as balanced a manner as possible, without giving up the integrity of the process by highlighting only those aspects of the classic element that one either endorses or reviles. This requires the one retrieving to be aware of her...

  7. CHAPTER 3 A Feminist Retrieval of the Principle of the Common Good
    (pp. 85-127)

    The feminist hermeneutical method proposed in the first chapter is comprehensive and ethical. It includes a consideration of the text or tradition using appropriate analytical tools, as well as the next and necessary step into praxis. When one engages in a critical assessment of significant aspects of Aquinas’s principle of the common good, such as his anthropology, one must attend to the contributions that Aquinas’s work can make to contemporary scholarship: for example, Aquinas’s conception of the person contributes to a fuller description of the human person suggested by Martha Nussbaum’s functioning capabilities. Without openness to a mutual correlation of...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Retrieved Principle of the Common Good and Health Care in the United States
    (pp. 128-154)

    Now that we have retrieved Aquinas’s principle of the common good through the proposed feminist hermeneutics, we should inquire about its significance for the community. What is this retrieved principle capable of? What does it offer the human community? On the one hand, the distinction between fundamental ethics and applied ethics ought to be left intact; certainly the two moments in ethics are distinct and should not be blurred into one another, nor should one be reduced to the other. On the other hand, from several quarters we find an expectation if not a demand that theoretical considerations be extended...

  9. Afterword
    (pp. 155-156)

    The principle of the common good holds considerable promise for improving life both in American society and globally, particularly when it is reinterpreted through the lens of women’s experience. It has become commonplace today to recognize that a significant cultural blinder in the United States is individualism, and that nation-states internationally are all too often guided by narrow national interests rather than what is best for the global community. The retrieved notion of the common good can serve as a necessary corrective, whether discussing health care policy, as this book has done, or other domestic social issues such as welfare...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 157-196)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 197-208)
  12. Index
    (pp. 209-220)