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Ecological Ethics and the Human Soul

Ecological Ethics and the Human Soul

Aquinas, Whitehead, and the Metaphysics of Value

Francisco J. Benzoni

In Ecological Ethics and the Human Soul: Aquinas, Whitehead, and the Metaphysics of Value, Francisco J. Benzoni addresses the pervasive and destructive view that there is a moral gulf between human beings and other creatures. Thomas Aquinas, whose metaphysics entails such a moral gulf, holds that human beings are ultimately separate from nature. Alfred North Whitehead, in complete contrast, maintains that human beings are continuous with the rest of nature. These different metaphysical systems demand different ethical stances toward creation.

Benzoni analyzes and challenges Thomas’ understanding of the human soul, his primary justification for the moral separation, arguing that it is finally philosophically untenable. The author finds promising the alternative metaphysics of Whitehead, for whom human beings are a part of nature—even if the highest part; all creatures have a degree of subjectivity and creativity, and thus all have instrinsic value and moral worth, independent of subjective human valuation. Further, though there is difference, there is no moral gulf between God and the world. God is truly affected by the experience of creatures. Benzoni argues that if this vision of moral worth is articulated with sufficient force and clarity, it could help heal the human relation to our planet.

“In the introduction and conclusion, Francisco Benzoni makes clear the broader significance of this work for the field of ecological ethics and the future well-being of the human species on this earth. One can learn a great deal about the philosophy of both Aquinas and Whitehead in working through these pages.” — Joseph Bracken, Xavier University

ISBN: 978-0-268-02205-1
272 pages
Publication Year: 2008

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Francisco J. Benzoni is visiting assistant professor of business ethics at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University. He has published a number of articles and reviews on environmental ethics and Thomistic studies.

“Benzoni does an admirable job once again in managing to present very challenging and complex material in a clear and accessibly way. Benzoni’s focus on the metaphysics of the soul as the primary basis for the bifurcation of humans from non-humans is both interesting and suggestive. His critique of Aquinas should interest anyone concerned with the metaphysics of value and its history, and his sketch of a Whiteheadian alternative will also be helpful to anyone interested in rethinking our place within nature and the general scheme of things.” — Philosophy in Review

“Benzoni’s excellent and challenging work is a densely argued analysis of the metaphysical foundations of ethical systems, mainly those of Thomas Aquinas and Alfred North Whitehead, with a view to providing an adequate basis for an ethical understanding of the ecological crisis facing the world today. Highly recommended.” — Catholic Books Review

“Benzoni’s contribution to environmental ethics is to present a careful analysis of why Thomas Aquinas’ metaphysical theory is wrong, and to propose that of Alfred North Whitehead in its stead. Benzoni’s exposition is valuable in being accessible to an inquirer, and particularly to one coming from the scholastic tradition of Thomas Aquinas.” — Environmental Ethics

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Can Different Cultures Think the Same Thoughts?

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Kenneth Dorter

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Metaphysical Perspectives

Nicholas Rescher

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Analogia Entis

On the Analogy of Being, Metaphysics, and the Act of Faith

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Ecological Ethics and the Human Soul

Aquinas, Whitehead, and the Metaphysics of Value

Francisco J. Benzoni

 Ecological Ethics and the Human Soul: Aquinas, Whitehead, and the Metaphysics of Value
Paper Edition

In Ecological Ethics and the Human Soul: Aquinas, Whitehead, and the Metaphysics of Value, Francisco J. Benzoni addresses the pervasive and destructive view that there is a moral gulf between human beings and other creatures. Thomas Aquinas, whose metaphysics entails such a moral gulf, holds that human beings are ultimately separate from nature. Alfred North Whitehead, in complete contrast, maintains that human beings are continuous with the rest of nature. These different metaphysical systems demand different ethical stances toward creation.

Benzoni analyzes and challenges Thomas’ understanding of the human soul, his primary justification for the moral separation, arguing that it is finally philosophically untenable. The author finds promising the alternative metaphysics of Whitehead, for whom human beings are a part of nature—even if the highest part; all creatures have a degree of subjectivity and creativity, and thus all have instrinsic value and moral worth, independent of subjective human valuation. Further, though there is difference, there is no moral gulf between God and the world. God is truly affected by the experience of creatures. Benzoni argues that if this vision of moral worth is articulated with sufficient force and clarity, it could help heal the human relation to our planet.

“In the introduction and conclusion, Francisco Benzoni makes clear the broader significance of this work for the field of ecological ethics and the future well-being of the human species on this earth. One can learn a great deal about the philosophy of both Aquinas and Whitehead in working through these pages.” — Joseph Bracken, Xavier University

ISBN: 978-0-268-02205-1

272 pages

“Benzoni does an admirable job once again in managing to present very challenging and complex material in a clear and accessibly way. Benzoni’s focus on the metaphysics of the soul as the primary basis for the bifurcation of humans from non-humans is both interesting and suggestive. His critique of Aquinas should interest anyone concerned with the metaphysics of value and its history, and his sketch of a Whiteheadian alternative will also be helpful to anyone interested in rethinking our place within nature and the general scheme of things.” — Philosophy in Review

“Benzoni’s excellent and challenging work is a densely argued analysis of the metaphysical foundations of ethical systems, mainly those of Thomas Aquinas and Alfred North Whitehead, with a view to providing an adequate basis for an ethical understanding of the ecological crisis facing the world today. Highly recommended.” — Catholic Books Review

“Benzoni’s contribution to environmental ethics is to present a careful analysis of why Thomas Aquinas’ metaphysical theory is wrong, and to propose that of Alfred North Whitehead in its stead. Benzoni’s exposition is valuable in being accessible to an inquirer, and particularly to one coming from the scholastic tradition of Thomas Aquinas.” — Environmental Ethics