Thomas Aquinas and Recent Questions about Human Dignity

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Fred Guyette


What is the status of human dignity in bioethics today? Ruth Macklin, Steven Pinker, and Peter Singer are among those who argue that “human dignity” is incoherent rhetoric, improperly smuggled into public discourse by religious people who are opposed to moral autonomy and want to block progress in cutting-edge medical research. In the moral philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, however, dignity is broader and deeper than its critics claim. It cannot simply be replaced by the concept of “autonomy.” Dignity plays a crucial role in building respect for human life. We first discover the dignity of “the other” in the context of family life, and discussion of the common good would be impoverished if we were somehow to eliminate it from our moral vocabulary. The respect we owe to human life in its embryonic stages serves as a paradigmatic case that shows the crucial importance of dignity.


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How to Cite
Guyette, F. (2013). Thomas Aquinas and Recent Questions about Human Dignity. An Online Journal of Philosophy Diametros, (38), 113-127.
Author Biography

Fred Guyette, Erskine College

Fred Guyette
Librarian for Reference and Research
Erskine College
210 South Main Street
Due West
South Carolina 29639

Fred Guyette serves as Librarian for Reference and Research at Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina (USA). He first became interested in the moral philosophy of Thomas Aquinas when he was studying at The Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.


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