In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that most deaths are contemptible and offer no opportunity for the exercise of virtue. Thomas Aquinas, on the other hand, considers the publicly shameful death of the martyr to be not only the highest exemplification of the virtue of courage, but also the greatest proof of moral perfection more generally. What accounts for this substantial divergence from Aristotle on the possibilities of virtuous action in death? This dissertation inquires into this question by examining and contrasting the noble death tradition of classical antiquity with Thomas Aquinas’ account of courage and its exemplary act of martyrdom. It investigates the theologically informed metaphysical and anthropological framework within which Aquinas situates his claims, and then explores the implications of these claims for his broader ethical appropriation of Aristotelian virtue theory. This project ultimately intends to show the extent to which Aquinas’ conception of virtue depends upon a theological, and specifically Christological, understanding of the relation between death and human perfection.
|Author||Patrick Mahaney Clark|
|Contributor||Jennifer Herdt, Committee Member|
|Contributor||Gerald McKenny, Committee Member|
|Contributor||Jean Porter, Committee Chair|
|Contributor||John Cavadini, Committee Member|
|Degree Level||Doctoral Dissertation|
|Departments and Units|