THE IMPERFECTION OF WOMAN IN THOMAS'S DOCTRINE OF WOMAN (ARISTOTLE, AUGUSTINE)

RICHARD J MCGOWAN, Marquette University

Abstract

St. Thomas's doctrine of woman holds that woman is the imperfectus sexus and that woman is morally infirmior than man. Thomas maintains that a gradus inter virum et mulierem exists with regard to their being an imago Dei. Thus, Thomas's doctrine of woman differs from St. Augustine's doctrine of woman. Augustine holds that woman and man are equally an imago Dei. Augustine thinks woman is inferior to man but he confines the alleged inferiority to considerations of the body. Thomas, too, holds that woman is bodily inferior to man, but he predicates a spiritual inequality on that basis. But as Boerresen has shown, Thomas thinks that the natural inferiority of woman can be overcome in the Resurrection. Thus, Thomas's doctrine of woman differs from Aristotle's doctrine, for the latter doctrine asserts an inequality that seems impossible to overcome. Despite the differences in the doctrines, Aristotle's work is pivotal to Thomas's understanding of woman. Thomas's assertion of woman's spiritual inferiority depends precisely upon the mistaken biology of the so-called one-semen theory of reproduction. That theory is reminiscent, or perhaps repetitious, of Aristotelian reproductive biology. In that theory, woman is understood to be materially deficient relative to man. Since Thomas's philosophical anthropology holds that the quality of an individual's body bears upon the quality of that individual's soul, if woman is less perfect materially, she is less perfect spiritually. In light of modern biological data, Thomas's understanding of being human seems to leave no room for the notion that woman is the imperfectus sexus.

Recommended Citation

RICHARD J MCGOWAN, "THE IMPERFECTION OF WOMAN IN THOMAS'S DOCTRINE OF WOMAN (ARISTOTLE, AUGUSTINE)" (January 1, 1985). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI8516281.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI8516281

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