The Perspective of the Acting Person

The Perspective of the Acting Person: essays in the renewal of thomistic moral philosophy

Martin Rhonheimer
Edited with an introduction by William F. Murphy
Copyright Date: 2008
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  • Book Info
    The Perspective of the Acting Person
    Book Description:

    The Perspective of the Acting Person introduces readers to one of the most important and provocative thinkers in contemporary moral philosophy

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1698-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Martin Rhonheimer
  6. Introduction:
    (pp. xiii-xlii)
    William F. Murphy Jr.

    Over the past few decades, Swiss philosopher Martin Rhonheimer has developed an impressive body of work ranging from the most fundamental questions of ethical theory to more applied areas including political philosophy, sexual ethics, and biomedical ethics. His work provides one of the leading contemporary examples of the ongoing fecundity of the Aristotelian-Thomistic moral tradition when placed in dialogue with present-day alternatives, and in response to current questions. Since these works have been published primarily in German, Italian, and Spanish, however, relatively few English readers have grasped either the contours or the significance of Rhonheimer’s work. Moreover, his corpus continues...

  7. 1 Is Christian Morality Reasonable? On the Difference between Secular and Christian Humanism
    (pp. 1-17)

    In his famous work “The Reasonableness of Christianity,” published in 1695,¹ the British philosopher John Locke holds that in revealed Christian morality “as delivered in the Scriptures” there is nothing that cannot be grasped by human reason alone—unassisted by faith. He adds, however, that faith in revealed morality is still, and always will be, psychologically necessary for the large majority of people since they neither have the leisure nor the ability to apply themselves to the demanding task of philosophical inquiry.

    Such a view sharply contrasts with both secular humanism and what I want to call Christian humanism. Secular...

  8. 2 Norm-Ethics, Moral Rationality, and the Virtues: What’s Wrong with Consequentialism?
    (pp. 18-36)

    According to a conviction that I share with many others, morality is accessible to a rational discourse, and offering a clear understanding of this basis is essential for both Christian ethics and moral theology. I wish to add that this is properly the task of the philosopher, whose work is presupposed by the moral theologian, and integrated into his work.

    Philosophical ethics has its proper methodology¹ and its own sources of intelligibility which are not in competition with the theologian’s work; however, it will come to results which are not accessible to an exclusively theological method. Philosophy, even if it...

  9. 3 “Intrinsically Evil Acts” and the Moral Viewpoint: Clarifying a Central Teaching of Veritatis Splendor
    (pp. 37-67)

    Many Catholic moral theologians have asserted during the last few years that to know what a person really does each time he or she is acting and, consequently, to qualify morally this concrete doing, one must take into account all the further goals for the sake of which this person chooses what he concretely does. Equally, so these theologians contend, a balance of all foreseen consequences should be established to make out whether a determinate behavior is the right or the wrong thing to choose. Therefore, according to this view it will always

    be impossible to qualify as morally evil...

  10. 4 Intentional Actions and the Meaning of Object: A Reply to Richard McCormick
    (pp. 68-94)

    In his article “Some Early Reactions to Veritatis Splendor,”¹ Richard McCormick discusses my article on Veritatis Splendor and its teaching about intrinsically evil acts.² He challenges my defense of the encyclical’s views and poses some concrete questions for me. At the same time, McCormick complains once more about what he calls the encyclical’s misrepresentation of the proportionalists’ views, as well as about a general misunderstanding on the part of critics of what proportionalism, consequentialism, and their teleological approach are really about.

    To begin with, I find it somewhat surprising that McCormick presents intentional understanding of human acts and their objects...

  11. 5 Practical Reason and the “Naturally Rational”: On the Doctrine of the Natural Law as a Principle of Praxis in Thomas Aquinas
    (pp. 95-128)

    The debate on the interpretation of the Thomistic doctrine of the lex naturalis that has been going on for the last thirty years has been driven by two things: first, a renewed interest in the specifically philosophical ethics of St. Thomas, and second, the attempt by moral theologians to make the idea of a “natural law” fruitful for understanding the autonomy of the human person as a moral subject. Despite a wide palette of interpretations, a few basic insights have become crystallized, and are approved almost without exception today by anyone familiar with the field.¹ The most important of these...

  12. 6 The Moral Significance of Pre-Rational Nature in Aquinas: A Reply to Jean Porter (and Stanley Hauerwas)
    (pp. 129-157)

    In her review¹ of my Natural Law and Practical Reason: A Thomist View of Moral Autonomy (hereafter referred to as NLPR), Jean Porter declines to offer a judgment about my “theory of natural law as a moral theory.” She doubts, however, that it is a valid reading of Aquinas. The difficulty, she says, lies in my account “of the relation between pre-rational nature and moral reason.” According to my view, which understands natural law as a law of practical reason, “pre-rational aspects of human nature, much less nature as manifested in non-rational creation, cannot have any direct moral significance. Humans...

  13. 7 The Cognitive Structure of the Natural Law and the Truth of Subjectivity
    (pp. 158-194)

    In a book bearing the title Lex naturae, which was published almost half a century ago and became before Vatican Council II an obligatory work of reference, moral theologian Josef Fuchs presented a systematic exposition of the formulations of the Magisterium of the Church on the natural moral law.¹ He thought that he had found “two series” of formulations. The first series referred to the “ontological foundation” of the natural law, the “nature of things”: these formulations identified the natural law with the “corporeal-spiritual nature of man” and thus understood it as nature, which was normative for human action. On...

  14. 8 The Perspective of the Acting Person and the Nature of Practical Reason: The “Object of the Human Act” in Thomistic Anthropology of Action
    (pp. 195-249)

    The passage in Veritatis Splendor no. 78 that clarifies the concept of the “object” of a human act is widely acknowledged as decisive for the central argument of the encyclical, which reaffirms “the universality and immutability of the moral commandments, particularly those which prohibit always and without exception intrinsically evil acts.”¹ In accordance with the tradition, but referring explicitly to St. Thomas Aquinas, the encyclical states that “the morality of the human act depends primarily and fundamentally on the “object” rationally chosen by the deliberate will.” The text adds: “In order to be able to grasp the object of an...

  15. 9 Practical Reason and the Truth of Subjectivity: The Self-Experience of the Moral Subject at the Roots of Metaphysics and Anthropology
    (pp. 250-282)

    The fundamental question of every ethics has to do with the truth of subjectivity: is what I do, and what I think to be right and just, really right and just? And my conduct in general, as based on interior conviction—is it truly right and just? In more precise terms: what must I do or not do in order to be the person I really want to be? Moral questions are questions about the rightness of our will and action. The answers to these questions are founded on principles which emerge from the self-experience of the practical reason of...

  16. 10 Review of Jean Porter’s Nature as Reason: A Thomistic Theory of the Natural Law
    (pp. 283-306)

    In her new book on natural law, which I have been invited to review,¹ Jean Porter intends to “develop a theological account of the natural law which takes its starting points and orientation from the concept of the natural law developed by Scholastic jurists and theologians in the twelfth and thirteen centuries” (5). This view, Professor Porter asserts, is an alternative to “the modern and contemporary insistence on the universality and rationally compelling force of the natural law, considered as a set of moral norms” (5). Porter recognizes in what she calls in a summary way “the Scholastics” a kind...

  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 307-316)
  18. Martin Rhonheimer’s Publications
    (pp. 317-324)
  19. Index
    (pp. 325-330)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 331-332)