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About Thomas A. Cavanaugh

Professor Cavanaugh's research and teaching interests concern the conjunction of philosophical and theological ethics as found in everyday life as well as in the medical and military arenas. An allied area of research and teaching concerns his interest in the Western religious tradition of thought, with a focus on the Catholic Intellectual Tradition.
He regularly teaches Medical Ethics and Lovers of Wisdom (a course in which students read great Western intellectual seekers such as: (Plato's) Socrates, Boethius, Augustine, Aquinas, Pascal, Newman, and Simone Weil. In 2006, the Clarendon Press of Oxford University published Professor Cavanaugh's book entitled Double-Effect Reasoning: Doing Good and Avoiding Evil (Clarendon Press: Oxford) in Oxford Studies in Theological Ethics. Double-effect reasoning arises out of Western religious ethics. Specifically, it originates in the ethical thought of the medieval moral theologian Thomas Aquinas who introduces an embryonic form of double effect in response to the thought of Augustine of Hippo, another of the West's great religious moralists. To this day, thinkers rely on double-effect reasoning to evaluate actions from everyday life and the medical and military fora. They do so to distinguish consequentially similar acts with different intentional structures.
In his work, Professor Cavanaugh offers a contemporary account of double effect that responds to modern critics who claim that acts which have similar consequences are morally equivalent, regardless of the respective agents' intentions. In this book, Professor Cavanaugh argues that two consequentially similar acts shaped by different intentions can significantly differ morally. Currently, Professor Cavanaugh builds on his work found in Double-effect Reasoning in another book project. In this project, entitled Hippocrates' Oath and Asclepius' Snake, Professor Cavanaugh argues that from the time of Hippocrates (or the writer of the Hippocratic Oath) to its adoption by early Christian physicians, at the heart of this Western medical ethic one finds a profound concern to separate the role of healing from that of wounding. In this work, Professor Cavanaugh presents a contemporary articulation of the philosophical, religious and historically-grounded bases for a medical ethic which regards human life as inviolable.
Research Areas
Philosophical/Theological Ethics
Philosophical/Theological Medical Ethics
Philosophical/Theological Military Ethics
Christian-Catholic Intellectual Tradition
Philosophy of Religion: Existence of God, Immortality of the Soul, Freedom of the Will


Present Faculty Member, University of San Francisco


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Contact Information

TEL: (415) 422-6356
FAX: (415) 422-2697
OFFICE: KA 156 Philosophy


Articles (21)