St. Norbert College
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“How to Kill Someone Without 'Killing' Him: Antiphon, Augustine, Aquinas on Homicide”
Date: Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Ft. Howard Theater, Bemis International Center, St. Norbert College

Dr. Joel Mann

  Joel Mann, Ph.D.
Joel Mann, Ph.D. 
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Philosophy and Classical Studies 

In a letter to Publicola, St. Augustine writes that it is not permissible to kill another in self-defense. As St. Thomas Aquinas notes in his Summa Theologica, many subsequent Christian thinkers concur with Augustine on the grounds that it is never right to commit a sin to save “the life of the body.” Aquinas, however, appears to accept this piece of doctrine only with qualification, arguing that in some cases of self-defense it is permissible to perform an act that causes another’s death.

Over the last few centuries, Catholic and secular philosophers alike have fashioned what they term “the doctrine of double effect,” which attempts to justify the decision to cause harm to others in pursuit of some good. Aquinas usually is credited with devising the doctrine, which has exerted strong influence on a range of issues in Catholic social thought. The eminent philosopher and Catholic thinker G.E. Anscombe, however, denies that the doctrine of double effect can be found in Aquinas. Indeed, recent work on the ancient Greek sophist Antiphon suggests that Aquinas does not abandon Augustinian doctrine in favor of double effect so much as attempt to put a classical Greek “twist” on a fundamental Christian principle. 

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