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BASTA 2022

The Bay Area Saint Thomas Aquinas Association (BASTA) 2022 event at the University of San Francisco was an exploration of the topic "Gender & The Nature Of The Human Soul." The discussion was led by two distinguished scholars, Dr. Marcus Otte (University of Dallas) and Dr. Anne Carpenter (Danforth Chair of Theological Studies, St Louis University), each presenting perspectives grounded in different streams of Thomist Philosophy.

Dr. Marcus Otte opened the session, drawing from the philosophy of Edith Stein. He proposed a view of gender as an integral part of our individual and collective identities, a dimension of the soul shaped by our interactions with the world. His argument invited the audience to view gender as a tangible manifestation of the soul's interaction with reality.

Instead of treating the problem of the soul and gender directly, Carpenter relied on the philosopher Bernard Lonergan to ask about the principles that the problem rests on as a foundation. With Lonergan, she argued that the order of creation is prior to the things of creation. God does not first create stomachs, and then food, after all. He creates wholes. Rather than thinking first of persons and natures, divine wisdom begins with the order of the universe that brings about persons and natures. In that sense, the question of gender has been confused by our reluctance to think first about the order of the universe. When asking questions, like this one about gender, we must be mindful not to imply the sorts of contingent necessity we experience inside of creation where there is none in an absolute sense.

After their presentations, a lively discussion ensued, with Carpenter and Otte engaging in a respectful and insightful conversation. The audience joined in during the Q and A, their questions reflecting the depth of thought provoked by the presentations.

As the night proceeded the conversation continued over dinner, with the speakers and audience further exploring the nature of gender and the human soul. The event was a testament to the power of philosophical inquiry in the Thomistic tradition to illuminate the complexities of human existence, a communal journey of understanding that transcends individual perspectives.


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