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Aquinas Seminar Series 2017

Thursday 26th January 2017

Aquinas seminar series 2017: “Agency in Human Beings and Other Animals”

With the 2017 Aquinas Seminar Series the Institute launched its research project on “Aquinas on Nature and Human Nature”, as part of a project jointly undertaken with the Las Casas Institute on “Human Nature and Dignity: Resources for the 21st Century”. Among other issues, we want to test out the adequacy of the still widespread mechanistic view of animal and human bodies; capture more accurately the distinction between the human species and other animal species in the light of modern discoveries about human and animal consciousness, animal communication, and other aspects of animal social life; and question the tendency to correlate “personhood” with the phenomenon of self-consciousness or with similar mental abilities. This will help us assess whether the claim that the human being possesses a distinctive form of transcendence, freedom and responsibility, remains intellectually respectable in the light of contemporary science; it will lead into reflections on our vocation to moral and personal integrity, and on how that vocation is reliant on help from God and the community. Hence the Seminar Series’ overall title is “Agency in Human Beings and Other Animals.”

St Thomas Aquinas is a good “patron” for this research since he explored the unity-in-complexity of the human psyche, and recognised what we have in common with the higher animals. We are rational in an animal way, and animal in a rational way. The human psyche, though damaged by the Fall, is coherent, rather than an unnatural juxtaposition of angel-and-machine. Aquinas’ picture of humanity’s “embodied transcendence” allows us to reflect without fear on the growing scientific know­ledge about animals and humanity.

The 2017 Seminar Series was made possible by a generous donation from Prof Barbara R Walters-Doehrman and Steven R Doehrman, in memory of, and with gratitude to, the late Eugene Walters and the late Virginia and Ralph Doehrman. The Institute is very grateful for this support.

Six seminars were held in Hilary Term 2017, as usual, but two more followed in Trinity Term, owing to the scope of the subject

26 January Rev Dr Richard Conrad, OP (Director, Aquinas Institute)
                   ‘Where is the Person that Makes the Decision?’ [read more…]

2 February Dr Daniel De Haan (Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge University; member of the Institute)
                  ‘Diverse Dimensions of Animal Agency in Aquinas, Bermudez, and
[read more…]

9 February Rev Dr Peter Hunter, OP (Blackfriars, Oxford; member of the Institute’s Advisory Board)       
                  ‘Acting Willingly and Acting Freely’
[read more…]

16 February Rev Prof Michael Sherwin, OP (Faculty of Theology, University of Fribourg; member of the Institute’s Advisory Board)       
Christian Virtues as Animal Virtues?’ [read more…]

23 February Prof Thomas Pink (Department of Philosophy, King’s College London)
                   ‘What Kinds of Power Produce Human Actions?’ [read more…]

9 March     Prof John Finley (Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis; member of the Institute)
                   ‘The Unity in Human Agency’ [read more…]

11 May       Prof Janice Chik (Ave Maria University)
                   ‘Thomistic Animalism’
[read more…]

26 May       Prof Jean Porter (University of Notre Dame)
                   ‘A Matter of Taste? Thomistic and Contemporary Perspectives on
                   Temperance, Virtue, and Ideals of Consumption’
[read more…]

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