Date of Award

Spring 1994

Document Type




First Advisor

David Toole

Second Advisor

Valerie Gager

Third Advisor

Robert Walsh


In the spring of 1993,1 decided to write an honors thesis concerning the issues of z'« vitro fertilization (hereafter, IVF) and artificial contraception. At that point, I was sure that I, as a Catholic, would employ natural law ethics to support my arguments against IVF and artificial birth control. However, as I began my research, I discovered that friendship has played an essential role in the understanding of marriage and sexual intercourse throughout the history of the Church. An adherence to the language of 'nature' seemingly oversimplified both the role of sexual intercourse in marriage, and the problems presented by IVF and artificial contraception. As my research continued, I found that an account of friendship in marriage did not completely circumvent the problems of'nature', but at least such discourse appeared more true to the subject matter. I admit that I have not come to terms fully with 'nature' in this paper or in my own mind.

For even in my discussion of friendship, I found that to some degree I had to invoke the idea of 'nature' in order to discuss how we ought to live. In Aristotle's language, I found that talk of friendship involved words about the "proper function of man." Yet Aristotle is also the first to admit the lack of clarity that accompanies discussions of ethics and the good. He says: in a discussion of such subjects ... we must be satisfied to indicate the truth with a rough and general sketch: when the subject and basis of a discussion consists of matters that hold • good only as a general rule, but not always, the conclusion reached must be of the same order. The various points that are made must be received in the same spirit. (1094bl7-24)1 In my "rough and general sketch" of the truth, I maintain the position that I held at the beginning of this project, that is, that IVF and artificial birth control are actions against the good of humanity. However, in my attempt to follow the truth of the matter, I have found myself pondering the complexities of friendship instead of invoking laws of nature.