Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




This dissertation explores the question of normativity in 21st century Catholic ethical reflection. While, today, the natural law tradition frames and founds the normative question in Catholic ethics in terms of the imago Dei, this project explores the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant and the challenge it presents to the natural law's claim to normativity. Specifically, this dissertation argues that in Kant's ethics, the normative question is answered in terms of the dignity of humanity, rather than the imago Dei, and that the dignity of humanity is a more relevant, shareable, and normative grounding for ethical reflection. To this end, the project begins with a systematic summary of where we find ourselves today with respect to the natural law tradition in Catholic ethics. Beginning with St. Thomas Aquinas, this summary will highlight a few of the prominent voices in contemporary Catholic ethical discourse, as well as their take on the natural law tradition. It will then interrogate Immanuel Kant’s philosophical ethics and the interpretation of Kant's project offered by Christine Korsgaard, with special attention being given to Kant’s articulation, and Korsgaard’s reading, of the ‘Formula of Humanity.’ The project will then evaluate which of the aforementioned traditions – Kantian ethics or the natural law – will serve as the most adequate framework for robust conceptualizations of dignity, humanity, and the question of normativity. The final move in this project will turn to the discourse of human rights in order to illustrate the need in Catholic ethics for a shift from the natural law to Kantian ethics. If undertaken, this shift in ethical reflection from the natural law to Kant will allow Catholic ethics to remain relevant, shareable, and normative in the 21st century.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.