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Metaphysics of Gender: A Thomistic Approach

Started by Geremia, October 10, 2017, 02:22:03 PM

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The Metaphysics of Gender: A Thomistic Approach

A talk by Prof. John Finley
While it is commonly accepted that Thomas Aquinas is mistaken on certain points concerning the biology of gender and the status of woman, the question remains as to what Thomistic philosophy could reveal about the metaphysical structure of gender, given current scientific knowledge. In this talk I attempt to answer that question. After outlining Thomas's own position and noting the correctives of modern biology, I propose an account of gender, articulating it with respect to soul and body, person and essence, and modes of classification. I then examine the definitions of male and female, and conclude by addressing two contemporary concerns: sex reassignment surgery and the intersex condition. While some of my positions explicitly contradict Thomas, I argue that they accord better with the principles of his metaphysical anthropology. With respect to gender, then, this account contributes to a development of Thomistic thought.


The lecturer thought equal numbers of male and female implies the man isn't the active principle, yet, e.g., St. Thomas writes in Summa Theologica III q. 31 a. 4 ad 1:
Quote from: Whether the matter of Christ's body should have been taken from a woman?The male sex is more noble [nobilior] than the female, and for this reason He took human nature in the male sex. But lest the female sex should be despised, it was fitting that He should take flesh of a woman. Hence Augustine says (De Agone Christ. xi): "Men, despise not yourselves: the Son of God became a man: despise not yourselves, women; the Son of God was born of a woman."
He also seemed to think sex ("gender") comes from the soul, yet St. Thomas explicitly denies this in Super Sent., lib. 4 d. 25 q. 2 a. 1 qc. 1 arg. 3:
QuoteSed sexus non est in anima.
St. Ambrose says the same thing in De Virginitate cap. 13 ("the sexes of our souls are not different").


Fr. Ripperger had given a recent interview with Dr. Ryan Grant where he talked about the gender issue.


Quote from: Kephapaulos on October 10, 2017, 10:18:59 PMFr. Ripperger had given a recent interview with Dr. Ryan Grant where he talked about the gender issue.
Are you referring to ?


Quote from: Neil Obstat on October 10, 2017, 07:07:57 PMphysical sexuality is not inherently part of our makeup in the resurrection as it is here on earth.
Not according to St. Thomas: Summa suppl. q. 80 a. 1 arg/ad 1:
Quote from: Whether all the members of the human body will rise again?Objection 1: It would seem that not all the members of the human body will rise again. For if the end be done away it is useless to repair the means. Now the end of each member is its act. Since then nothing useless is done in the Divine works, and since the use of certain members is not fitting to man after the resurrection, especially the use of the genital members, for then they "shall neither marry, nor be married" (Mt. 22:30), it would seem that not all the members shall rise again.
Reply to Objection 1: The members may be considered in two ways in relation to the soul: either according to the relation of matter to form, or according to the relation of instrument to agent, since "the whole body is compared to the whole soul in the same way as one part is to another" (De Anima ii, 1). If then the members be considered in the light of the first relationship, their end is not operation, but rather the perfect being of the species, and this is also required after the resurrection: but if they be considered in the light of the second relationship, then their end is operation. And yet it does not follow that when the operation fails the instrument is useless, because an instrument serves not only to accomplish the operation of the agent, but also to show its virtue. Hence it will be necessary for the virtue of the soul's powers to be shown in their bodily instruments, even though they never proceed to action, so that the wisdom of God be thereby glorified.

and Summa suppl. q. 81 a. 3 c.:
Quote from: Whether all will rise again of the male sex?I answer that, Just as, considering the nature of the individual, a different quantity is due to different men, so also, considering the nature of the individual, a different sex is due to different men. Moreover, this same diversity is becoming to the perfection of the species, the different degrees whereof are filled by this very difference of sex and quantity. Wherefore just as men will rise again of various stature, so will they rise again of different sex. And though there be difference of sex there will be no shame in seeing one another, since there will no lust to invite them to shameful deeds which are the cause of shame.

We do not become angels when we obtain our resurrected bodies; we become like the angels.
Quote from: Matt 22:30For in the resurrection they shall neither marry nor be married, but shall be as [sicut] the angels of God in heaven.


from St. John Chrysostom's De virginitate (c. 381AD):
Quote from: PDF p. 167XLVII. How woman is a helper in spiritual things. ... [A woman's] support is necessary even in spiritual matters? I certainly concur in this. I do not say she is of no help altogether in spiritual matters (indeed no!), but I do assert that she successfully accomplishes this not when she is involved with marital concerns but when she progresses to the virtue of the holy men while adhering to her feminine nature.



Also, from St. Isidore's Etymologies p. 242:
Quote from: St. Isidore17. A man (vir) is so called, because in him resides greater power (vis) than in a woman – hence also 'strength' (virtus) received its name – or else because he deals with a woman by force (vis). 18. But the word woman (mulier) comes from softness (mollities), as if mollier (cf. mollior, "softer"), after a letter has been cut and a letter changed, is now called mulier. 19. These two are differentiated by the respective strength and weakness of their bodies. But strength is greater in a man, lesser in a woman, so that she will submit to the power of the man; evidently this is so lest, if women were to resist, lust should drive men to seek out something else or throw themselves upon the male sex. 20. As I was saying, woman (mulier) is named for her feminine sex, not for a corruption of her innocence, [∵ mollities can mean self-abuse] and this is according to the word of Sacred Scripture, for Eve was called woman as soon as she was made from the side of her man, when she had not yet had any contact with a man, as is said in the Bible (cf. Gen. 2:22): "And he formed her into a woman (mulier)."

Quote from: Matt 22:30For in the resurrection they shall neither marry nor be married, but shall be as [sicut] the angels of God in heaven.
Even the first clause, "For in the resurrection they shall neither marry [γαμούσιν = "to wed (of either sex):--marry (a wife)" / nubent] nor be married [εκγαμίζονται = "to marry off a daughter:--give in marriage." / nubentur (passive)]," distinguishes sex/gender.
Quote from: St. ThomasJerome says: "Nubere is used in one way in Latin, and another in Greek, for in Latin 'to marry' [nubere] is said only of women; hence, it is not said of either in the passive voice; but in Greek men marry, that is they take wives, while women are married [passive voice], but do not marry [active voice]." Therefore, He says, They shall neither marry, referring to men, nor be married, referring to women.

So, even at the level of language in Latin and Greek, man is the active principle!

Thus a clearer translation of Mt. 22:30 could be: "For in the resurrection, men shall neither marry nor women be given in marriage..."