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585 The Thomist 79 (2015): 585-614 THE METAPHYSICS OF GENDER: A THOMISTIC APPROACH JOHN FINLEY Kenrick-Glennon Seminary St. Louis, Missouri Y ARGUING THAT the spiritually subsistent soul is nothing less than the form of the body, Thomas Aquinas makes of the human being a microcosm of creation, constituting the embodied, knowing, and free boundary between the spiritual and corporeal realms.1 Yet precisely in light of this expansive view, which grants an esteemed status to the meaning of all things human, the Thomistic tradition’s relative lack of inquiry into the metaphysical structures, meaning, and significance of gender is notable.2 1 See Summa contra Gentiles III, c. 68; Quaestio disputata de spiritualibus creaturis, a. 2. For systematic studies, see Anton Pegis, St. Thomas and the Problem of the Soul in the Thirteenth Century (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1976); idem, At the Origins of the Thomistic Notion of Man (New York: MacMillan, 1963). Also Sophia Vanni-Rovighi, L'Antropologia filosofica di San Tommaso d'Aquino (Milan: Societa editrice vita e pensiero, 1972); Norbert Luyten, “L’homme dans la conception de S. Thomas,” in L’anthropologie de saint Thomas, ed. N. Luyten (Fribourg, 1974): 35-53; Bernardo Bazan, “The Human Soul: Form and Substance? Thomas Aquinas’s Critique of Eclectic Aristotelianism,” Archives d’histoire doctrinale et litteraire du moyen age 64 (1997); Eleonore Stump, Aquinas (London: Routledge, 2003); W. Norris Clarke, Person and Being (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1993). 2 Thomas Aquinas and his interpreters are hardly alone in this respect, as until the twentieth century human sexuality did not constitute a significant area of inquiry in Western philosophy. Still, Prudence Allen has shown that the topic has been addressed by many more thinkers than might be supposed. Her comprehensive The Concept of Woman (vol. 1, The Aristotelian Revolution 750 B.C.-A.D. 1250 [Montreal: Eden Press, 1985]; vol. 2, The Early Humanist Reformation 1250-1500 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002]) is the best treatment of gender from the point of view of the history of philosophy. B 586 JOHN FINLEY The omission might be more understandable if gender constituted simply one branch among many stemming from the trunk of philosophical anthropology, but since human nature finds its concrete manifestation within a male or a female way of being and requires these for its continuation, inquiry into gender would be a natural extension of any account of human being as a whole. Currently, the meaning of gender and especially its connection to personal identity are in question owing to increasingly powerful technologies, cultural views of gender that argue for its social construction, and widespread debates over the status of homosexuality in civic life. My immediate reason for pursuing this topic is to see better what account Thomistic anthropology gives of maleness and femaleness , but I hope thereby to come to a deeper truth about humanness, or more precisely, to follow the Delphic injunction to “know thyself.” The following analysis will offer a philosophic account of gender in its metaphysical structures, which is to say by way of limitation that it will consider neither the ethical dimension nor the question of gender identity as influenced by psychological and social factors.3 I will proceed through a dialogue with For some authors who have looked closely at Aquinas’s own views, see note 4, below. I here use the term “gender” to refer to the biological, sexual structures, and capacities in virtue of which humans have been traditionally referred to as male or female. Although the field of gender studies has often invoked the “sex/gender” distinction, I do not intend my use of the term “gender” to coincide with this distinction’s notion of gender as subjectively or culturally constituted personal identity, distinct from biological structure. For a view that supports the distinction, see Gayle Rubin, “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex,” in Linda Nicholson, ed., The Second Wave: A Reader in Feminist Theory (New York: Routledge, 1997); also Suzanne Kessler and Wendy McKenna, Gender: An Ethnomethodological Approach (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985). Judith Butler, with much of the postmodern feminist movement, opposes the validity of the distinction, arguing that the entire...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 585-614
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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