Tonti-Filippini’s intellectual quest undaunted by physical pain

Eureka Street asked me to write a brief obituary for the late Professor Nicholas Tonti-Filippini, the prominent and distinguished Australian Bioethicist.  I met the Professor a few times while I was working in bioethics.  He was an exemplary intellectual, and I never knew until later that he was suffering all the while with severe illness and debilitating pain.  According to a 2011 report, he was at that stage undergoing dialysis four nights per week.

Having quoted Sertillanges in the published obituary, I’ll leave you with another quotation that seemed fitting for a man who was, in addition to his intellectual virtues, a devout and faithful Catholic:

“when the thinker thinks rightly, he follows God step by step; he does not follow his own vain fancy. When he gropes and struggles in the effort of research, he is Jacob wrestling with the angel and ‘strong against God’.”

3 thoughts on “Tonti-Filippini’s intellectual quest undaunted by physical pain

  1. A great tribute, Zac.

    For me the names Tonti-Filippini and Singer were emblematic of a frustrating, getting-nowhere, cultural war. When I read that, in reality, they had a mutual respect it makes it all the more frustrating.

    The Catholic Church will continue to ‘lose’ these debates in the public square about ‘life issues’ until it actively disconnects itself to those in it’s own ranks who are not respectful of those they disagree with in the way you describe Tonti-Filippini.

    And it’s up to ‘us’, not ‘them’.

    • Thanks Faz.
      I think it’s worth bearing in mind that in terms of bioethics, Tonti-Filippini wasn’t just involved in the public culture war, but behind the scenes doing (in my opinion) difficult, tedious, fine-grain work on public policy in areas such as the treatment of people in an unresponsive state. It’s the kind of work that will most likely never come to public attention, yet had to be done, and I remember thinking at the time “thank God there are people like Nick willing to do it”.

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