Olver Defends Aquinas’ ‘Love of Others’ in Dissertation
Since 1908 philosophers have been puzzling over the “problem of love in Thomas Aquinas.” The problem lies in Aquinas’ thought that happiness is the reason we do all that we do. That is, loving others is really for our own sake. Yet, he still claims we can love others for their own sake.
Jordan Olver, a doctoral candidate in the University of St. Thomas Center for Thomistic Studies program in Houston, has added his voice to the conversation in his dissertation in which he argues both ideas can coexist.
Olver publicly defended his dissertation on Feb. 21 before the University community and his dissertation board. It was accepted by the Center for Thomistic Studies, and in May he will be the 24th recipient of a doctorate in philosophy from the University of St. Thomas.
In his dissertation, “Bonum Nostrum: Eudaimonism and Love of Others for Their Own Sake According to Thomas Aquinas,” Olver works to explain how to make rational sense of caring for someone else’s good, given Aquinas’ adherence to eudaimonism, happiness being the reason we do all that we do .
First Olver addressed love of God above oneself, utilizing the idea that it is natural for a part to love the whole more than itself, an idea he explained using the example of the hand’s inclination to save the whole body by sacrificing itself to block an incoming blow. Using the “part-whole relation” argument, Olver asserts it is natural to prefer God to your own good because God is “whole” you belong to.
After offering his interpretation of Aquinas’ argument for love of God above self, Olver concluded his dissertation explaining other types of love in light of the principles discovered in his treatment of love of God. Ultimately, he argues that love of others is possible when the good being sought is a common good, a good that is both yours and another’s. To conclude, he argues that to love others is to wish to share the good together with them.
“Like most philosophy, the value of doing it is that it makes things clear,” Olver said. “It is not like you see new things necessarily. It is like being in a dim lit room, you can still see everything, but when more light is cast on it, you see the same things but just in a more clear way.”
He credits his family – a wife and two children – for helping his doctoral pursuits run smoothly.
“It helped me work better,” Olver said. “When you are out of the house, you have to make sure that your time is well spent.”
Moving forward, Olver is applying to philosophy departments across the country while building on his dissertation by writing and publishing articles.
Olver’s dissertation committee included Dr. Charles Sommer, associate professor of theology; Dr. Steven Jensen, professor of philosophy; Dr. John Hittinger, professor of theology; Dr. R. Edward Houser, professor and Bishop Nold Chair in graduate philosophy; Dr. Thomas Osborne, associate professor of philosophy; and external reader Dr. David Gallagher.
The Center for Thomistic Studies at UST is the only graduate philosophy program in the United States uniquely focused on the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. CTS has 22 alumni across the globe working and teaching at institutes such as Dondak Women’s University of South Korea and Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan. For more information about the program and its graduates, visit www.stthom.edu/cts.