Symposium Introduction


Xavier M. Montecel
John Berkman
Craig Ford
Angela Knoebel
Stephen D. Long




In this book, Stewart Clem develops an account of truthfulness that is grounded in the Thomistic virtue of veracitas. Unlike most contemporary Christian ethicists, who narrowly focus on the permissibility of lying, he turns to the virtue of truthfulness and illuminates its close relationship to the virtue of justice. This approach generates a more precise taxonomy of speech acts and shows how they are grounded in specific virtues and vices. Clem’s study also contributes to the contemporary literature on Aquinas, who is often classified alongside Augustine and Kant as holding a rigorist position on lying. Meticulously researched, this volume clarifies what set Aquinas’s view apart in his own day and how it is relevant to our own. Clem demonstrates that Aquinas’s account provides a genuine alternative to rigorist and consequentialist approaches. His analysis also reveals the perennial relevance of Aquinas’s thought by bringing it to bear on contemporary social and ethical issues.


Reviews and Endorsements


‘Stewart Clem has written the most exegetically faithful and conceptually sophisticated treatment of Aquinas’s account of lying and truthfulness that we have. Equal parts historical reconstruction and constructive rehabilitation, Clem shows us why truthfulness is a virtue annexed to justice, why even beneficent lies are venial sins, and why Aquinas’s efforts matter. In an age of deliberate fakes and structural indifference to truth, of disregard for truthfulness, Clem has given us an important and timely book.’–John R. Bowlin – Princeton Theological Seminary; author of Tolerance among the Virtues

‘In this meticulously researched work, the author presents the case for rehabilitating a Thomistic perspective on lying that counters standard interpretations of Aquinas’s position. In recovering these Thomistic insights Clem makes an important and significant contribution to scholarship, both as a secondary work dedicated to understanding Aquinas more clearly, but also through a novel contribution to moral theology by bringing Thomistic insights into fruitful and creative dialogue with contemporary political and social issues of our time.’–Celia Deane-Drummond – University of Oxford; director of the Laudato Si’ Research Institute

‘This book marks a breakthrough. Pushing past the inadequate alternatives on offer today with respect to the ethics of lying, Stewart Clem grasps the neglected point that Aquinas discusses lying within the context of the virtue of truthfulness. From this perspective, the untapped richness of Aquinas’s perspective – which developed markedly over the course of his career and which is quite different from other medieval viewpoints – becomes apparent. Clem provides a profound, balanced Aristotelian and Christian way forward out of the morass of indifference to truth. A tour de force!’–Matthew Levering – Mundelein Seminary; author of Aquinas’s Eschatological Ethics and the Virtue of Temperance

‘With Lying and Truthfulness, Clem joins the ranks of scholars such as Williams, Griffiths, and Tollefsen who have penned outstanding recent monographs devoted to moral analysis of lying. Akin to Griffiths’s book on Augustine, Clem has written what is now the go-to book on Aquinas on lying and truthfulness. Clem presents Aquinas’s thought both in historical context, and as a resource for contemporary issues, well-trodden perennial questions (e.g., the Gestapo dilemma), and more recent topics (e.g., ‘bullshit’) alike. Clem’s innovation is a treatment of lying primarily within the context of the virtue of truthfulness, though he does this with careful attention to action theory, a combination too rare in moral scholarship today.’–William C. Mattison III – University of Notre Dame; author of The Sermon on the Mount and Moral Theology: A Virtue Perspective

‘Honesty and truthfulness have been surprisingly neglected by scholars for many years. In his important book, Lying and Truthfulness, Stewart Clem skillfully addresses a number of central issues related to lying, truth, speech, equivocation, and deception. His book should be of great interest to Aquinas scholars as well as contemporary moral philosophers and theologians. Highly recommended!’–Christian B. Miller – Wake Forest University; director of the Honesty Project

‘Stewart Clem’s Lying and Truthfulness is a deeply impressive first book which reflects both a mastery of Aquinas’s thought and a command of contemporary literature on the ethics of lying. As Clem shows, Aquinas’s analysis of truthfulness and lying was innovative in his own time and is surprisingly relevant to contemporary discussions of the topic. This book breaks new ground in our understanding of Aquinas, and at the same time, it offers an original contribution to contemporary philosophical and theological ethics. This is an indispensable book for anyone who wants to understand either the history or the potential future of truthfulness as a moral and social ideal.’–Jean Porter – University of Notre Dame; author of Nature as Reason: A Thomistic Theory of the Natural Law

‘Stewart Clem’s book offers a rich and historically informed discussion of the vexed topic of the moral appropriateness of lying. Taking Aquinas’s view as exemplary of the Christian tradition, Clem explores the notion of truthfulness in Aquinas’s ethics; in the process, he illuminates Aquinas’s entire ethical theory and its nuanced approach to the complexities of human life. On this basis, Clem constructs his own account of the virtue of truthfulness and shows its ability to handle tough cases commonly discussed both in the Christian tradition and in contemporary times. All those interested in the overarching theme of the virtue of truthfulness and its place in Christian ethics will want to read this book.’–Eleonore Stump – Saint Louis University, author of Aquinas

‘It is a joy to encounter a book which both explains virtue and provides the opportunity for the reader to become more virtuous herself.’–Elisabeth Rain Kincaid Source: Theological Studies

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