One Body

An Essay in Christian Sexual Ethics

Alexander R. Pruss

Notre Dame Studies in Ethics and Culture

This important philosophical reflection on love and sexuality from a broadly Christian perspective is aimed at philosophers, theologians, and educated Christian readers. Alexander R. Pruss focuses on foundational questions on the nature of romantic love and on controversial questions in sexual ethics on the basis of the fundamental idea that romantic love pursues union of two persons as one body.

One Body begins with an account, inspired by St. Thomas Aquinas, of the general nature of love as constituted by components of goodwill, appreciation, and unitiveness. Different forms of love, such as parental, collegial, filial, friendly, fraternal, or romantic, Pruss argues, differ primarily not in terms of goodwill or appreciation but in terms of the kind of union that is sought. Pruss examines romantic love as distinguished from other kinds of love by a focus on a particular kind of union, a deep union as one body achieved through the joint biological striving of the sort involved in reproduction. Taking the account of the union that romantic love seeks as a foundation, the book considers the nature of marriage and applies its account to controversial ethical questions, such as the connection between love, sex, and commitment and the moral issues involving contraception, same-sex activity, and reproductive technology. With philosophical rigor and sophistication, Pruss provides carefully argued answers to controversial questions in Christian sexual ethics.

Alexander R. Pruss is associate professor of philosophy at Baylor University. He is the author and co-editor of a number of books, including The Principle of Sufficient Reason: A Reassessment.

“This is a terrific—really quite extraordinary—work of scholarship. It is quite simply the best work on Christian sexual ethics that I have seen. It will become the text that anyone who ventures into the field will have to grapple with—a kind of touchstone. Moreover, it is filled with arguments with which even secular writers on sexual morality will have to engage and come to terms.” — Robert P. George, Princeton University

“One Body is an excellent piece of philosophical-theological reflection on the nature of sexuality and marriage. This book has the potential to become a standard go-to text for professors and students working on sex ethics issues, whether in philosophy or theology, both for the richness of its arguments, and the scope of its coverage of cases.” — Christopher Tollefsen, University of South Carolina

“Alexander Pruss here develops sound and humane answers to the whole range of main questions about human sexual and reproductive choices. His principal argument for the key answers is very different from the one I have articulated over the past fifteen years. But his argumentation is at every point attractively direct, careful, energetic in framing and responding to objections, and admirably attentive to realities and the human goods at stake.” — John Finnis, University of Oxford


“With great clarity and without recourse to religious argument, Pruss gives the reader an extensive philosophical reflection on love and sexuality. . . . The author examines reproductive technology and concludes that it is only morally permissible when helping coition to be fruitful, so that the child always remains a fruit of the marital act. Pruss has presented us with a substantial apologia on Catholic teaching on human sexuality.” — Catholic Medical Quarterly

“Professor Pruss has thought as deeply and rigorously about the meaning and moral significance of human sexuality, and about the norms by which sexual choices should be guided and sexual conduct governed, as anyone of whom I am aware writing today.” —

“Pruss does not hesitate to deal with all aspects of human sexuality in an open and honest manner, recognizing and responding to objections from the secular world as well as from more liberal Christian writers. His arguments are sensitive to the realities of modern life, but unyielding in adherence to traditional doctrine. . . . College and professional libraries would benefit from having such an articulate and thorough treatment of Christian sexual ethics.” — Catholic Library World