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Ecstatic Morality and Sexual Politics

A Catholic and Antitotalitarian Theory of the Body

Graham McAleer

Publication Year: 2005

This first book-length treatment of Thomas Aquinas'stheory of the body presents a Catholic understandingof the body and its implications for social and politicalphilosophy. Making a fundamental contribution toantitotalitarian theory, McAleer argues that a sexual politicsreliant upon Aquinas's theory of the body is better (becauseless violent) than other commonly available theories.He contrasts this theory with those of four other groupsof thinkers: the continental tradition represented by Kant,Schopenhauer, Merleau-Ponty, Nancy, Levinas, and Deleuze;feminism, in the work of Donna Haraway; an alternativeCatholic theory to be found in Karl Rahner; and theRadical Orthodoxyof John Milbank.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Ecstatic Morality and Sexual Politics

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pp. vii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xvii

This book is all about a restoration that is supposedly absurd to attempt. Yet, if philosophy is still about argument, I see no reason why someone might not hope to make a return to Aquinas; to write the kind of engaged Thomism that once defined leading Catholic institutions, like the School of Philosophy at Louvain. ...

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Chapter 1: Desire and Violence

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pp. 1-12

Thomas’s analysis of the body rests on a peculiar metaphysical claim, and some might think this claim alone makes any putative restoration absurd; yet, I do not think this ought to be conceded directly. From Aristotle, Aquinas draws the idea that matter desires form...

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Chapter 2: Ecstatic Being

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pp. 13-33

All creatures desire the divine likeness and in so doing desire their own perfection. This is possible, for all being in Thomas’s conception is ecstatic. Through examining this idea in the present chapter, it will be possible to see that the metaphysics of ecstatic being in the Summa contra gentiles...

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Chapter 3: The Politics of the Flesh

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pp. 34-60

The Summa contra gentiles (III, c. 63, para. 1–8) describes a four-part movement of human desire. It is clear from these paragraphs that human desire is naturally other-directed and in an increasingly ecstatic way as one moves through this fourfold hierarchy. ...

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Chapter 4: The Law of the Flesh

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pp. 61-73

It has been a source of some concern for a long while now how exactly to ground Thomas’s natural law theory most effectively.2 It is commonly thought that once Thomas’s biological teleology, inherited from Aristotle, became nothing short of an embarrassment, his natural law...

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Chapter 5: The Body as Cross

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pp. 74-93

In previous chapters, Thomas’s conception of the other-directedness of desire has been described. I have shown that this conception allows Thomas to build a philosophical anthropology in which the desires of the human can be placed in a moral hierarchy. ...

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Chapter 6: The Politics of the Flesh Revisited

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pp. 94-114

Sometime around 1567, the Spanish Jesuit Francisco Toletus wrote his commentary, Enarratio in summam theologiae Sancti Thomae Aquinatis.1 In 1986, the American feminist Donna Haraway wrote Simians, Cyborgs, and Women.2 Oddly, both works contain fundamentally...

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Chapter 7: Is Contraception a Human Right?

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pp. 115-136

According to Martha Nussbaum, any religious leader who uses religious speech in public to criticize contraception, ‘‘should be strongly criticized as a subverter of the constitution.’’1 I am no religious leader, and given the kind of world Martha Nussbaum is trying to create, it is just as well.2 ...

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Chapter 8: The Wedding Feast of the Lamb

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pp. 137-155

Humanae Vitae is best understood as a complex argument drawing upon phenomenology, metaphysics, natural law, speculative theology, biblical witness, and political philosophy (cf. TB, 398–9). Commentary on the text typically supposes that natural law reasoning is front and center...

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Chapter 9: The Politics of the Cross

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pp. 156-179

A Jesuit author has recently argued that Catholic moral formation helped National Socialism to identify its enemies and helps explain ‘‘the savagery of its violence’’ toward those enemies. In his argument, Catholic moral theology set the framework for the 1935 Nuremberg Laws...

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Concluding Remarks

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pp. 181-187

‘‘Privilege:’’ There is no dirtier word, right?1 Perhaps. When I went to the lectures of Gerry Cohen as an undergraduate you would have described him as a dyed-in-the-wool Communist. But that was in the mid-eighties and a lot has happened since then: and Gerry Cohen has been thinking a lot. ...


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pp. 189-221


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pp. 223-233


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pp. 235-237

E-ISBN-13: 9780823247769
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823224562
Print-ISBN-10: 0823224562

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2005

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Subject Headings

  • Thomas, Aquinas, Saint, 1225?-1274.
  • John Paul II, Pope, 1920-2005.
  • Human body -- Religious aspects -- Catholic Church.
  • Kolnai, Aurel.
  • Christian sociology -- Catholic Church.
  • Sex -- Religious aspects -- Catholic Church.
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