Complicating Conscience, Refreshing Discontent

Paul J. Medeiros

About author

Dr. Paul J. Medeiros
Department of Philosophy
Providence College
One Cunningham Square
Providence, Ri 02918


Paul Medeiros serves in areas of Ethics with Providence College, a Roman Catholic institution located in Rhode Island, USA.


The 19th Century New England author Thoreau provides an approach to conscience and unjust laws approximating that given by St. Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologiae. But the portrait of conscience given by Thoreau in the 1848 oration “Civil Disobedience” is incomplete. Thoreau’s approach is solved by accepting insights given in Part I and Part I–II of Summa Theologiae. Allowing St. Thomas’ insights requires reform of Thoreau’s civil disobedience and conscientious objection. But Thoreau’s arguments are given new life.

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  1. Plato, The Dialogues of Plato, Vol. 1, trans. R.E. Allen, Yale University Press, New Haven 1989.
  2. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Vol. 1, trans. Fathers of the Dominican English Province, Benziger Brothers, Inc., New York, NY 1947.
  3. Philip Cafaro, Thoreau’s Living Ethics: Walden and the Pursuit of Virtue, University of Georgia Press, Athens 2004.
  4. Rick Anthony Furtak, Jonathan Ellsworth, James D. Reid (eds.), Thoreau’s Importance for Philosophy, Fordham University Press, New York, NY 2012.
  5. François Specq, Laura D. Walls, Michel Granger (eds.), Thoreauvian Modernities: Transatlantic Conversations on an American Icon, University of Athens Press, Georgia 2012.
  6. Henry D. Thoreau, „Civil Disobedience,” Cape Cod and Miscellanies, [in:] The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, Houghton Mifflin & Co, Boston, MA 1906, p. 356–387.
  7. Henry D. Thoreau, Walden, [in:] The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, Houghton Mifflin & Co, Boston, MA 1906.
  8. Robert C. Solomon, Continental Philosophy Since 1750, Oxford University Press, New York, NY 1988.


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