7) NATURAL LAW.
As indicated in the class syllabi, I teach a course in natural law every so often. I have a number of essays on this topic. The first two items in this section are short bibliographies. The next three items are essays on natural law: 1) "Eleven Books and Ten Essays on Natural Law"; 2) Schall "Essays on Natural Law"; 3) "On Being Dissatisfied with Compromises: Natural Law and Natural Rights"; 4) "The Intellectual Context of Natural Law"; 6) the final entry is a commentary on essays on natural law ("Sundry Reflections on the 'Natural Law Bibliography'") plus a bibliography of essays on natural law appearing during the past fifty or so years.
1) Heinrich Rommen, The Natural Law: A Study in Legal and Social History and Philosophy (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1946 / Reprint, Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998).
2) Yves Simon, The Tradition of Natural Law: A Philosopher's Reflections (New York: Fordham, 1965).
3) John Finnis, Natural Law and Natural Right (New York: Oxford, 1980).
4) Henry Veatch, Human Rights: Fact or Fancy? (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985).
5) Russell Hittinger, A Critique of the New Natural Law Theory (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1987)
6) J. Budziszewski, Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law (Downer's Grove, IL.: Inter Varsity Press, 1997).
7) Ellis Sandoz, A Government of Laws: Political Theory, Religion, and the American Founding (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State, 1990).
8) Hadley Arkes, Beyond the Constitution (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990).
9) Jacques Maritain, The Rights of Man and the Natural Law (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986).
10) Edward S. Corwin, The 'Higher Law' Background of American Constitutional Law (Ithaca: Cornell, 1961).
11) Charles Rice, Fifty Questions on the Natural Law: What It Is and Why We Need It (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993.
Recent books on Natural Law: 1) Robert George, In Defense of Natural Law, 2) Henrik Syse, Natural Law, Religion, and Rights (South Bend: St. Augustine’s Press, 2002), 3) Jacques Maritain, Natural Law: Reflections on Theory and Practice (South Bend: St. Augustine’s Press, 2001), 4) Common Truths: New Perspectives on Natural Law, edited by E. McLean (Wilmington: ISIBooks, 2000), 5) Benjamin Wicker, Moral Darwinism: How We Became Hedonists (Downer’s Grove, IL.: Inter-Varsity, 2002), 5) Peter Augustine Lawler, Aliens in America: The Strange Truth about Our Souls (Wilmington: ISIBooks, 2002, 6) Jennifer Roback Morse, Love and Economics (Dallas: Spence2001), 7) David Forte, Natural Law and Contemporary Public Policy (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 2000), 8) H. Rhonheimer, Natural Law and Practical Reason (New York: Fordham, 2000).
1) Ralph McInerny, "The Case for Natural Law," Modern Age, 26 (Spring, 1982), 168-74.
2) A. J. Carlyle, "The History and Significance of Natural Law," The Dublin Review, 210 (April, 1942), 124-30.
3) Morehouse F. X. Millar, "The Natural Law and Bills of Rights," The Modern Schoolman, 14 (January, 1937), 32-35.
4) Leo R. Ward, "The 'Natural Law' Rebound," Review of Politics, 21 (January, 1959), 114-30.
5) Leo Strauss, "Natural Law," International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, D. Sills, Editor (New York: Crowell, 1968), Vol. II, 137-46.
6) E. B. F. Midgley, "Natural Law and Fundamental Rights," The American Journal of Jurisprudence, 21 (1976), 144-55.
7) Raymond Dennehy, "The Ontological Basis of Human Rights," The Thomist, 42 (July, 1978), 434-63.
8) Charles E. Rice, "Some Reasons for a Restoration of Natural Law Jurisprudence," Social Justice Review, 81 (July/August, 1990), 125-41.
9) Jay Aragones, "Beyond Bork and Brennan: Should Catholic Law Schools Teach Natural Law?" Crisis, 8 (November, 1990), 20-24.
10) Ernest L. Fortin, "The New Rights Theory and the Natural Law," The Review of Politics, 44 (October, 1982), 590-612.
SCHALL ESSAYS ON NATURAL LAW.
1) "Culture and Human Rights," America, 138 (January 7, 1978), 14-17.
2) "Culture, Multiculturalism, Culture Wars, and the Universal Culture," Journal of Texas Catholic History and Culture 5 (1994), 11-24.
3) "Generalization and Concrete Activity in Natural Law Theory," Archiv fur Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie, (#2, 1959), 161-92.
4) "Human Rights as an Ideological Project," The American Journal of Jurisprudence, 32 (1987), 47-61.
5) "The Intellectual Context of Natural Law," The American Journal of Jurisprudence, 38 (1993), 85-108.
6) "Natural Law -- Aristotle," Vera Lex, VII (#1, 1987), 11-12.
7) "Natural Law and Economics," Religion & Liberty, 3 (May/June, 1993), 3-6.
8) "Natural Law and the Law of Nations: Some Theoretical Considerations," Fordham International Law Review, 15 (#4, 1991-92), 997-1030.
9) "Natural Law in the Medieval Intellectual Context," Modern Age, 28 (Spring/Summer, 1984), 228-35.
10) "On Being Dissatisfied with Compromises: Natural Law and Human Rights," The Seventh Annual Brendan Brown Lecture, Loyola Law Review, New Orleans, XXXVIII (#2, 1992), 289-309.
12) "On the Christian Statement of the Natural Law," in Christianity and Politics (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1981), pp. 213-42.
13) "Second Thoughts on Natural Rights," Faith & Reason, 1 (Winter, 1975-76), 44-59.
Series Schall on Natural Law in Veritas, Natural Law Study Center, P. O. 2276, Vienna, Virginia, 22182.
14) "King Herod as a Natural Law Thinker," Veritas, I (September/October, 1997), 7-8.
15) "The Justice that Rectifies," Veritas, II (January/February, 1998), 11-12.
16) "Habits and Nature," Veritas, II (May/June, 1998), 8-9.
17) "How Different Things Are the Same," Veritas, forthcoming.
18) "Natural Law and Civilizational Decline," Veritas, forthcoming.
19) "Why Natural Law Is Dangerous," Veritas, forthcoming.
NATURAL LAW AND HUMAN RIGHTS
"In the modern development, 'natural law' is as it were replaced by 'the rights of man,' or in other words the emphasis shifts from man's duties to his rights. Whereas pre-modern natural law was on the whole 'conservative,' modern natural law is essentially 'revolutionary.' The radical difference between modern and pre-modern natural law appears most clearly if one studies the still-remembered great modern natural law teachers rather than the university professors who as a rule rest satisfied with compromises."
Natural law and natural rights in recent years have received a certain impressive amount of academic attention. But no one could ever say that natural rights were especially in the public eye until the Hearings for the Nomination of Judge Clarence Thomas to the United States Supreme Court, though natural rights were also rumblings around the edges in critiques of Judge Robert Bork's theories. Suddenly, for a time, anyone who espoused this curious doctrine of natural law seemed either by some to be a defender of public morality against irresponsible civil legislation or, conversely, by others, he seemed to be a subversive of the public order itself for implying that even the Constitution is subject to a "higher law." Many scholars, no doubt, will recall, on hearing such words, Edward S. Corwin's little book The "Higher Law" Background of American Constitutional Law, while we might hope that everyone would have once heard in a most famous Document a phrase that refers to "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God."
Writing to this controversy, Jerome J. Shestack, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, remarked that "there may be reasons to question Judge Clarence Thomas's qualifications for the Supreme Court, but his espousal of natural rights philosophy is not one of them." Shestack pointed out that such documents as the American Declaration of Independence, from whence in fact came the phrase "The Laws of Nature and of Nature's God," the French Declaration for the Rights of Man, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights found their "moral philosophic underpinnings" in "natural rights."
What was embarrassing was thus not Judge Thomas' recalling the foundations of modern political society but the views of those who sought to reject these very foundations in the name of positive laws that might indeed violate something essential to human dignity and life. The long intellectual struggle to limit the state has invariably led minds back to considerations that must be described as natural law, that is, to a source outside the powers of the state itself to formulate entirely by itself what it was.
For Shestack, the "chief exponent of modern natural rights theory (divorced from religion) was England's great philosopher, John Locke." Clearly, for Shestack, America is founded in "modern" natural rights that are "divorced" from religion. These rights are still "inalienable" because they are the foundations of why we enter society in the first place. The Constitution incorporated a more particular statement of these natural rights into the law of the land. "First Amendment rights, due-process, and immunities" are examples of natural rights.
When natural rights came under attack from Bentham, natural rights were replaced with positive rights in which "legal authority stems solely from what the state has laid down as law." To the positivist charge that "natural law thinkers" -- notice that natural "law," not "rights," is used here -- "blurred the distinction between what law is and what it ought to be," Shestack replied that the difficulty for positivism was that "the law is not better than the source of its authority." Shestack remarked that after World War II natural rights enjoyed a revival because the Nazi experience revealed "the horrors that could emerge from the positivist system in which the individual was completely subject to the state." Even Justice Thurgood Marshall referred to "natural rights" in the famous desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education.
I have cited from this short essay of Jerome Shestack at some length because he gives a good historical summary of the case for natural rights, rather than natural law, terminology. Yet, certain aspects of this not uncommon presentation can be wondered about. Here, natural rights are treated as something specifically "modern." They are rooted in Locke, not Aristotle. Shestack noted, furthermore, that some modern philosophers base rights not on Locke but on Kant, on the notion that "rights flow from the autonomy of the individual in choosing his or her own ends." Is it possible, we might wonder, in our freedom to choose ends against nature? If this be so, the autonomy of the individual is not remarkably different from the positivist position. This position holds that whatever the state, which itself is but a collection of equally autonomous wills, establishes as law is law, with no answerability to some "higher law."
If modern natural rights, moreover, are "divorced" from religion, what are we to make of the classical position of natural law that had already made a distinction of this sort when divine and natural law were clearly distinguished from each other? Are modern natural rights designed particularly to support the autonomous individual who is responsible to no one but himself, even in his polity, as Rousseau attempted to demonstrate? Are the collective decisions of autonomous individuals the only source of law even against the individual's own autonomy? If this alternative position is the case, are natural or human rights all that defensible? Is there something about particularly "modern" natural or human rights that needs to be carefully reflected upon? Are modern human rights simply equivalent to what was historically called natural law or even classical natural right? Is there after all something "alien," to use Shestack's word, about natural rights and if so, what is it?
The most elementary statement of natural law as it exists in human beings is simply "do what is reasonable." Indeed, the statement can be made even briefer than that: "Act reasonably." Thomas Aquinas, in his extraordinary capacity to be both brief and to the point, put the principle this way: "Naturalis inclinatio inest cuilibet homini ad hoc quod agat secundum rationem." We not only do things, but we have a reason for doing them, a reason that, while it is our own reason, is not merely our own. It is a reason in its essence that seeks to conform itself with what we ought to do, with what is, not just with what we do "do". Deeds or actions in their intelligibility are open to the understanding of whatever else in the universe besides ourselves has reason. Though our thoughts and even our willed deeds may be private, they are not unintelligible. They can be explained. Indeed, their very nature is to seek explanation or intelligibility for themselves.
Perhaps I can illustrate this position in a more familiar manner. Sally and Linus are walking along a path by a stone wall. Linus is following Sally, his little sister. Linus asks her with some curiosity, "How come you didn't go to summer camp this year?" In the next scene, she stops dead by a telephone pole, turns abruptly to him with some genuine perplexity to ask a puzzled Linus, "You mean I have to have a reason?" The very humor of this scene depends on the natural law at work in all of us; it depends on the fact that yes, we do need a reason in all that we do, even when we do not go to camp this summer. Humor, as Aristotle said, is itself a sign of reason, a sign indicated by the fact that we get the point, that we can see the reason why something is funny, why a cartoon denying a reasonable action is itself suddenly a manifestation of reason.
The most philosophic issue that the experience of politics occasions, through its bewildering experience of differing actual and historic regimes, is that of the best regime. And as Aristotle pointed out in the Second Book of The Politics, we must consider not merely the variety of actual regimes but also the variety of theoretic regimes proposed by the philosophers. The best regime, as we know it from Plato, however, only existed in speech. In human history, including the history of the 20th Century, efforts actually to establish the best regime in some political entity always seemed to entail something tyrannical. St. Augustine had recognized that it was of the very essence of human nature to seek the best city, the City of God, as he called it. But St. Augustine, not unlike Plato, warned us not to look for this City in this world. The identification of the best regime with some actual regime, a problem we already seem to find in Cicero's understanding of the actual Roman Republic, displayed a profound misunderstanding of the proper location of human happiness, the happiness to which all regimes indeed pointed, as Aristotle taught in the First Book of The Ethics.
Aristotle had held, moreover, that political science was the highest of the practical sciences, but not the highest science as such. Politics existed in its own right, yet at the same time, it was the condition for something further, something more "divine," as he put it (1177b27). Politics at its best existed for the leisure in which the highest things as such could be considered and lived. The "doing" and the "making" of the life of man on earth, the "practical" life, was naturally related to the highest things as such, to what the Greeks meant by "theory" and the Romans by "contemplation." But Socrates soberly remarked in The Apology, that he, the philosopher, had to remain a private citizen in his polity of Athens, the best actual regime, lest he be killed sooner than he was by his politician accusers, by the craftsman, the lawyer, and the poet. There seemed to be some dangerous conflict between polity, poetry, and philosophy.
In his short "Preface" to The Natural Law Reader, Professor Brendan F. Brown, in whose honor this Lecture is given, wrote in 1960, that consideration of natural law was relevant not merely to professional experts in the field but to all human beings. Natural law, Brendan Brown thought, related "to the most fundamental values of every day living. It is pertinent to the choice of the best future legal and political order, and the kind of civilization which will be most conducive to man's happiness." Already here, if we reflect on it, is the question of the best regime posed as an aspect of natural law. Brown was even rather optimistic and thought that "natural law jurisprudence ... is slowly but surely winning its final battle with the force concept of law contained in positivism which makes the essence of law depend on the will of the political sovereign."
Though the intellectual discussion of natural law is currently at a high level, as I have indicated, I would not be so sanguine as Professor Brown about its chances. And yet, if we are familiar with, say, Professor Ellis' Sandoz' brilliant A Government of Law or the more Hegelian reflection of Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man or Mary Ann Glendon's Rights Talk, we will realize that the question of the best regime can be carefully re-posed either in terms of the American Founding, of the democratic-free market system, or a communitarian rights system as the best possible regime for all the world.
Hadley Arkes, in his Beyond the Constitution, speaking of the philosophical principles that lie behind any reasonable regime, including our own, remarked that we still need to appeal to "those moral understandings lying behind the text; the understandings that were never written down in the Constitution, but which must be grasped again if we are to preserve -- and perfect -- the character of a constitutional government." This approach would suggest that the distinction between good regimes and the best regimes remains crucial. We can distinguish between bad, good, and the best regimes only if we have some principle of common distinction among them.
Moreover, as St. Augustine implied, even though the question of the best regime is a legitimate one, its location can never be in this world. Thus, following this line of thought from Plato and St. Augustine, there are a number of political philosophers who hold that the effort to put the best regime in this world is in fact the origin of the totalitarian mind and system. In this sense, since no actual regime can embody the elements or items of human happiness, we must look elsewhere to complete this pursuit of happiness, or else we must despair of ever finding it. Political happiness, consequently, as Aristotle already observed in the Tenth Book of The Ethics, is a secondary form of happiness, less divine, more human. It is not to be neglected, but it is not to be confused with the best to which mankind is ordained.
What is new about this re-posing of natural law and the best regime, of course, is that it takes place in the light of the death of Marxism and those forms of ideology, left and right, that have caused such turmoil in this century. It would be comforting to see in this demise of Marxist ideology the likelihood of a return to classic natural law, but there are perhaps more ominous indications, as Paul Johnson has warned, of the continuation of the philosophic causes of ideology in a new, more subtle, ironically more "democratic" form. We should not forget, moreover, that practically every extreme ideological state in this century has been proposed as a "best" regime and usually put into effect by a politician with philosophic pretensions. On this account there are some who would erroneously conclude that reflection on the best regime is an illegitimate occupation. But the only true way to deal with a legitimate question, which the question of the best regime is, is to think about it properly, not to stop thinking about it at all.
Brendan Brown noted the influence of positivism as the alternative to natural law. Both Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin have argued that historicism and positivism, both of which result in the same position that there is no natural human order known to reason, are the dominant methods and theses in our culture. Hadley Arkes also had written that modern liberalism and conservatism are both rooted in the same general philosophic premise. This is
the displacement of natural rights, in our public philosophy, with one variety or another of "positivism" or moral relativism. Regardless of whether lawyers are liberals or conservatives, they are products of our law schools, and since the inception of law schools, their students have been tutored in the reigning orthodoxy of "legal positivism."
This suggests that, in practice, there is little real dialogue with natural law theory, however much the philosophic occasion for this dialogue might now be possible and however high might be the quality of natural law discussions in obscure areas of contemporary political philosophy.
But if the positivist side of this discussion is perhaps most prevalent in law schools, in universities it can be argued that the historicist side of modernity is most prominent. The cultural relativist or historicist or deconstrutionist thesis against natural law is that there are no universal civilizations or discussions. Whatever is done in this or that culture is a kind of absolute, not subject to any standard of philosophical analysis other than itself. This argument means that the world is strictly and in principle "pluralist," that politics has no "best regime" except that regime that accommodates opposite, even contradictory, philosophic, ideological, national, or religious systems. It means that natural law is not even "natural."
This accommodation to all cultural systems no matter how contradictory usually entails the doctrine that there is and can be no truth and that claims to truth are themselves enemies of the best regime now brought forth by modern philosophy. Thus, there can be no principle of better and worse, the very stuff of classical natural law and ethical theory. It is to be emphasized here that this cultural pluralism is a very different position from that traditionally elaborated under the heading of the legitimacy of different regimes.
Catholic social thought in particular has often stated that nations are free to choose the form of rule that is best suited to them so that a wide variety of regimes would be normal. Aristotelian theory also recognized differing forms of "good" and "possible" practical regimes. But both of these theories were grounded in a reflection on the best regime. The distinction of good, better, and best thus remained, as did the distinction between bad, worse, and worst. From the point of view of a theory of prudence, the central intellectual virtue of moral and political philosophy, it might be necessary to accept systems that were not the best. It might even be necessary to accept a bad regime in preference to the worst regime. Elements of possibility and gradualness were necessary aspects of any common sense discussion of ethics or politics. But neither considerations of possibility or gradualness meant that continued reflection on and understanding of the best regime did not remain the condition for any decisions about ordinary regimes.
No one has seen more clearly the result of this historicist position that all regimes are equal than Gertrude Himmelfarb. "The presumption against greatness goes deep," she remarked in her Jefferson Lecture.
It is, in fact, at the heart of the debate about "great books." The argument is no longer about the specific composition of the canon, the inclusion of this or that book, but about the very idea of greatness, a greatness that traditionally has been thought to transcend race, gender, and class -- and genre, too.... (The truth is) that high culture is higher, more elevating, than popular culture, and that some events in history are more momentous than others.
We do not exalt the common man by depriving him of nobility, of his formidable capacity to recognize greatness and dignity, even when he may not himself possess it.
A cartoon in The New Yorker shows a young romantic couple sitting on a bench in Central Park. We see the trees, the grass, the birds, the city buildings in the distance. The young lady has very bright eager eyes. She is holding the young man's hand and touching his shoulder reassuringly. She faces him. He in suit and tie has equally big eyes, but he seems a bit confused by it all. Behind the bench, in the air, however, we see two cupids, a Military Cupid with the traditional bow and arrow about to shoot his fatal shaft at the young man and a Legal Cupid with a piece of parchment but also with a rather angry, concerned look. The Military Cupid yells down to the Legal Cupid impatiently, so he can get on with his amorous business, "Read him his rights".
We are accustomed to finding what we call "rights" in official documents that "declare" or "hold" that we have them -- the Bill of Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man. We are perhaps vaguely aware that "rights talk" is the successor to "law talk," that the discussion of human rights is not exactly the same as the discussion of natural rights and that neither are exactly the same as discussion of natural law. Not a few have sought with some care to put all of these notions together in one coherent discourse. Jacques Maritain has sought to do so as has John Finnis in recent years.
On the other hand, many historians of the subject maintain that there is a radical distinction between modern and classical natural law, that the two concepts are not the same and should not be confused. "Except for the name, the medieval and the modern notions of natural law have little in common," Alexander Passerin d'Entreves wrote in a famous book. Alasdair MacIntyre would go even further:
The concept (of rights) lacks any means of expression in Hebrew, Greek, Latin or Arabic, classical or medieval, before about 1400, let alone in Old English, or in Japanese even as late as the mid-nineteenth century. From this it does not of course follow that there are no natural or human rights; it only follows that no one could have known that there were. And this at least raises certain questions. But we do not need to be distracted into answering them, for the truth is plain: there are no such rights, and belief in them is one with belief in witches and in unicorns.
"What is going on here?" we might ask ourselves. Why has so formidable a thinker as Leo Strauss pointed out that modern natural right is "revolutionary," that it is associated with modern totalitarian movements and, at the same time, we are told that rights are proposed as the way to limit absolutist states in the modern era? We are told that a new sort of "right" is invented about 1400 that seems quite different from the natural law that went before with the medievals or with the Greek notion of natural right.
The obvious culprit seems by all odds to be Hobbes, to be his peculiar way of formulating natural right as something that in itself allows no limits of nature or reason, but only a kind of instrumental reason calculated to protect and multiply one's own rights. Another cartoon in The New Yorker showed two cave men, clearly in the state of nature, both with huge rough-hewn clubs over their shoulders, both wearing the famous loin cloth invented shortly after Adam's expulsion from Eden. The cave men, obviously still in the classic State of Nature, are coming down a mountain conversing. The first cave man, with evident sincerity and perplexity, declares to the second, who listens with some sympathy, "I'd be the first to say 'Repeal the harsh old rule of tooth and claw' if someone could show me that it wasn't working." Well, Machiavelli and Hobbes developed a system of natural right that showed how it could work. Brendan Brown's insightful remark that "the essence of law (for legal positivism) depends on the will of the political sovereign" is nothing but the logical consequences of natural right doctrine as it has worked its way through modern political philosophy.
In her recent study, Mary Ann Glendon wrote of the degree to which human rights have had a destabilizing effect in public and private life. Divorced from any corresponding concept of duties and any grounding in a higher reality, they have become claims based on nothing other than themselves. "Our rights talk, in its absoluteness," Glendon has written,
promotes unrealistic expectations, heightens social conflict, and inhibits dialogue that might lead toward consensus, accommodation, or at least the discovery of common ground. In its silence concerning responsibility, it seems to condone acceptance of the benefits of living in a democratic social welfare state, without accepting a corresponding personal and civic obligation.... In its neglect of civil society, it undermines the principal seedbeds of civic and personal virtue.
Rights, which in some sense were understood as a protection from the state, have somehow become an instrument in its growth and power.
If human beings have "rights," then, for every right they do not have, they can look at themselves as "victims." The state becomes responsible for redressing every perceived violation of rights. And if there are no truth limits to rights except what is legislated or willed, then the state has practically unlimited power to define and promote "rights." A "rights" based morality is in this sense conceived in opposition to a "virtue" based morality and politics. The emphasis of the latter is mainly on the individual's own powers of self-action and initiative, on his own prudence. People can fail to do the normal things, a failure that is not the result of a lack of "rights," but a lack of energy or enterprise.
Thus far, it seems, I have suggested that there are considerable intellectual and historical problems with free use of the notion of natural or human rights. John Paul II, however, a man for whom I have the greatest admiration, seems to use the notion of human rights with great frequency and in a manner that, I think, causes some concern because of its failure to attend more specifically to the problems that arise in modern rights theory. Thus, the Holy Father seems rather less aware of this danger inherent in rights language. Times without number the Pope will say that the state is to protect and promote human rights -- civil, economic, social, and human -- and the Church should assist in this task. This sort of language causes confusion not merely because economic and social rights in particular are more like feasible legislation that will vary from country to country and time to time but because rights seem unrelated to duties and seem to have no intrinsic limits.
However, when one examines carefully what the Holy Father says, it is clear that he is aware of the sort of problem I have been suggesting. What I propose to do here, as an example of how we might best think out this problem, is to follow the Holy Father's discussion and to note how he sees rights as involving some intrinsic limit beyond the will of the individual or legislator. There are three passages in John Paul II's recent Encyclical Centesimus Annus that I think are pertinent to our consideration of natural law and human rights, passages that illustrate the problem.
The first passage has to do with a reflection on the causes for the demise of socialism, the second on a notion of democracy that is itself unlimited. "Socialism ... maintains that the good of the individual," the Pope observed,
can be realized without reference to his free choice, to the unique and exclusive responsibility which he exercises in the face of good or evil. Man is thus reduced to a series of social relationships, and the concept of the person as an autonomous subject of moral choice disappears (#13).
Notice that socialism is criticized in its philosophic import not because it is immoral with no concern for good and evil in human affairs, which concern is the basic issue of moral philosophy, as Aristotle said.
Rather socialism is criticized because it improperly located the place where this decision about good and evil should be made, that is, in the individual himself. The person not the state is the subject of moral choice. The state is not a substance or thing. It exists only in the relation of its members to each other. But once this capacity to choose is established or identified, it is to be made for truth, not merely for itself. The fact that a person is a subject of moral choice still does not indicate how he will choose. And ultimately, it is this latter decision that makes the essential difference among human beings.
If "the good of the individual" cannot be achieved without reference to his "free choice," this freedom must be itself a constitutive part of what it is to be a human being. The alternative that human beings are determined either by a fatalistic nature or by social institutions outside their control is the line that must be taken if we deny this intrinsic freedom and the drama of life that goes with it. On the other hand, once we admit this freedom, we can say that it is "right" that we have such a capacity that defines our very uniqueness in the universe. But the exercise of this freedom that is our right itself must direct itself to reality, to what is. In this sense, the object of our freedom is not itself -- we do not choose just to choose. Rather we choose the good that we must know as true if this freedom is to be properly used.
Thus, the Holy Father in the same Document will add, "... Total recognition must be given to the rights of human conscience, which is bound only to the truth, both natural and revealed. The recognition of these rights represents the primary foundation of every authentically free political order" (#29). If there is any theoretic point at which the Pope distinguishes himself most clearly from modern autonomous natural rights theory, without foregoing its confusing terminology, it is here where he insists on using the language of natural rights. I want to take some care with this argument because I think its language is the source of enormous confusion and because I think we need to form some coherent reasoning by which if we must use the natural rights language, it is not rooted simply in will or in the abstract capacity to choose with no attention given to the choosing of what. "Freedom" as such is quite impossible without carefully indicating its object, its choosing what? Freedom always exists in the context of an object, of a choosing something.
Thus, we speak of human conscience. It is that last act of the reason by which we judge in our own souls the moral and ontological status of an act we are about to put into the world, an act we know can be otherwise. We judge this act in light not of itself but of its truth or goodness. From this background, we can see that the Pope is insisting, by his use of the term "rights of human conscience," on a criterion that the conscience discovers but does not make for itself. This is why the Pope says that we are bound only to the "truth either natural or revealed," as if to say that any other claim to bind us must first justify itself before this source outside of itself and of ourselves.
The very existence of this objective criterion is, therefore, why we are ultimately free even in the worst regime or situation. We are not speaking here of things like "honest" error or invincible ignorance, though these two must at some point be subject to the test of truth. We are rather trying to understand that the word "right," however confusing it might be, can and should mean that a being who can know the truth should choose the truth and not merely itself.
When the Holy Father maintains that the recognition of these rights of conscience is the foundation of every "free political order," consequently, he is giving us a theory of the limitation of the state as such. He is denying any theory of "right" that would have will and not truth as the highest obligation or purpose in freedom. This is not a theory that denigrates freedom but one which saves it so that it can be what it is intended to be. The Pope affirms here something that St. Thomas meant when he remarked that the civil law, that is, the positive law that men ought to enact for their common good, cannot reach directly to our inner intentions and souls from which all law and action proceeds.
This concern for the limits of law and polity is why John Paul II included both "natural and divine truth" in his description of the proper object of the free will. It is true that neither nature or revelation needed to exist in the first place. In this sense, creation is filled with contingency, with the freedom of its possible non-existence, or, to put it the other way around, it is filled with the glory of God in the existence of what is not God. We often think, perhaps unmindful of the essence of the account of The Fall in Genesis, that the danger of freedom is an act of self-choice in which we choose our truth over the truth of what is.
We find ourselves maintaining, in this understanding of freedom, that the very definition of good and evil depends only on our own will. The fact is that if the only truth we can discover is itself dependent solely on our own wills, we cannot avoid knowing that it is not the truth. We know that we did make ourselves to be human beings or to be at all for that matter. The truth of our being is already contained in the truth of what we are from nature. Yet we still have both to discover and to choose this truth which is why it may not come into existence, as it need not, since its effective existence depends on our freedom.
A final consideration about the Pope's understanding of the notion of rights needs to be made if we are to think our way through the complexity of this term as it refers to political philosophy and natural law. If "rights" depend merely on will, then we automatically have a "right" to do whatever we choose to do individually or politically. This position grounds those accusations against the Pope to the effect that he is not consistent in his "rights" usage.
Modern society, in its own understanding of itself, has in fact developed a number of what it calls "rights" -- abortion, I suppose, is the prime example -- that the Holy Father strongly and rightly objects to on the grounds that they violate human rights. If one's theory of rights is based on will, however, then the content of rights is found to be whatever is willed. In political or sociological terms, we find out what rights we possess by measuring what "rights" are in usage. If we find that certain practices or institutions are in fact popularly willed, then they are called "rights" because this is what, in such a theory, causes rights to be rights.
"Even the law is trying to get by more and more without the concept of guilt," Josef Ratzinger wrote in a passage that gets to the core of the problem:
It prefers to make use of sociological language, which turns the concept of good and evil into statistics and in its place distinguishes between normative and non-normative behavior. Implicit here is the possibility that the statistical proportions will themselves change: what is presently non-normative could one day become the rule; indeed, perhaps one should even strive to make the non-normative normal. In such an atmosphere of quantification, the whole idea of the moral law has accordingly been generally abandoned. This is a logical development if it is true that there is no standard for human beings to use as a model -- something not discovered by us but coming from the inner goodness of creation.
This description is, no doubt, the accurate analysis of what has taken the place of any source of intelligence in nature and reason. "Will" description is merely what we do. The distinction between good and bad is itself based, in this position, on what men "do" do, not on what they ought to do, to recall a famous passage in Machiavelli's Prince (XV).
A natural rights legislation based on modern natural rights, whether interpreted positively or historically, will invariably yield this theoretic result in which what is "right" is decided by what is done for the most part. This practice becomes the norm in lieu of any other source but will. There is thus a form of natural rights theory combined with democratic theory that would propose itself as the embodiment of human civilization and dignity. Indeed, the very notion of a classic natural law or revelation is seen, rightly, as an attack on this understanding of modern humanism. The suggestion that revelation or reason an correct what is chosen or what is done is considered to be anti-democratic and even fanatical, which, of course, it is granted these philosophic foundations of a theory of law based on will and a theory of democracy based on statistics of what is done.
John Paul II shows that he understands the issue as formulated. He wrote, also in Centesimus Annus:
Nowadays there is a tendency to claim that agnosticism and skeptical relativism are the philosophy and the basic attitude which correspond to democratic forms of political rule. Those who are convinced that they know the truth and firmly adhere to it are considered unreliable from a democratic point of view, since they do not accept that truth is determined by the majority, or that it is subjected to variation according to different political trends. It must be observed in this regard that if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism (#34).
No doubt, this is an accurate description of much modern political and legal philosophy. It is also shows a correct understanding of why, on the basis of this skeptical position, natural law must be looked upon as "anti-democratic." The Pope gives both an historical and philosophical argument about the validity of this position. This historical argument is that positivist theories did lead to totalitarianism. The philosophic argument is that truth must be grounded outside the will by some truth beyond politics, a truth to which every will is ordained through a reason open to truth as such, even from revelation.
From these considerations, I would conclude that the widespread use of the term "natural rights" by our Founding Fathers and even by the contemporary Papacy, needs a rather more careful attention than it has received. The fact is that "natural rights" can found diametrically opposite systems and lead to quite opposed results both in the individual soul and in society. The struggle for control of civilization is being fought out in many ways over the meaning of "natural rights." We should not be surprised that it is, in many ways, a very bitter fight, because it involves nothing less than a proper understanding of man's full reality as a being endowed with a rational faculty open to and capable of knowing and acting on truth.
One final cartoon shows two New York businessmen at a party. Both have a drink amidst palm decor, paintings, other casual but well-appointed guests. The larger gentleman, with hand in pocket, quite angrily is telling the smaller moustached, bespectacled men, who listens with some astonishment, "I may not know much about the Constitution, but I certainly know what I like." We should indeed know what we like and like what we know. The Constitution was founded in a kind of knowing, no doubt, a knowing that what we liked, our self-interest, needed various kinds of checks. What if that which checks both our likes and our Constitution is best described by something called our natural rights? But these rights need themselves to be ordained to a freedom oriented to truth, a truth we did not make but a truth we can, to some degree, discover "coming from the inner goodness of creation."
That the teaching about natural or human rights has caused considerable confusion even when pursued with the best of intention is the foundation of what I have wanted to address myself to here. Ernest Fortin, in this same regard, has asked simply "whether the modern rights theory that lies at the root of so much of what our church leaders have been saying lately is compatible with the stress on duties or virtue that is typical of the older approach to these matters." Fortin is quite dubious that these enterprises are compatible as the terms are used in modern political language and thought. I would not deny that in many sectors of religion, knowingly or unknowingly, "modern" rights language and thought have in fact been accepted with all the consequences that go with them. On the other hand, I would suggest that the Holy Father himself, who seems often to be most guilty of using "rights talk" with unqualified enthusiasm, in fact has in his actual discussions recognized the basis of the problem in a theory of rights based on will alone as its origin and justification.
I do not want altogether to abandon the language of rights, though I am willing to acknowledge that more often than not is in fact used to promote positions that are not grounded in any understanding of what the classic natural law was about or intended. When Leo Strauss remarked that university professors in these discussions of natural right were often "satisfied with compromises," he put his finger on the real problem. As Strauss noted, there is a shift in modernity from duties to rights and this shift is not merely one of stress or emphasis.
The "revolutionary" nature of modern natural rights theory that Strauss also noticed is possible not because it is interpreted against a standard of reason, itself found in nature by a mind capable of understanding itself and the order of things, but because it is understood against a theory of rights based on will. If we are to be "dissatisfied with compromises" about human rights and natural law, we must, I think, clearly understand that "rights" easily lend themselves to these two radically different interpretations.
The problem is not so great if we take the trouble to understand exactly what is meant by the differing usages. Furthermore, there is a perfectly valid use of the word "right" or "jus" in classical natural law theory. It refers not to what is willed to be the form of action or regime but to that intelligible rightness that exists in every human action by which it is either good or bad, either this action or that. We may indeed not know much about the Constitution but know quite clearly what we like. What virtue ethics and politics ask is whether what we like is itself in conformity with what is.
One notion of human perfection is whether we put into being what we want. The other asks whether what we want is itself in conformity with what ought to be, itself based on the reality of our being and on the order in the cosmos. The division between these two approaches at bottom is St. Augustine's difference between either creating our own world or discovering that of God as it is reflected in our own nature. The passion generated over the claim about whether there is a "natural law" or only modern "natural rights" is rooted in this ultimate problem, the problem of pride, the problem of whether we create in our ethics or in our polity our own world and consider ourselves to be only happy when we exclude any judgement from it that we did not put there ourselves.
In his comment on the legal theories of Giorgio del Vecchio, Brendan Brown wrote that "the most basic elements in the positive legal order are rights and duties, not merely interests, and that some of these rights are inalienable and exist prior to the state, even to custom." Professor Brown was correct to imply that we cannot talk of "rights" unless we talk of "duties." He also implied that some "rights" are more important than others and that their inalienability does not derive from man himself either by law or custom. In the literally dozens of "rights" that John Paul II spoke of in Centesimus Annus, there is one sentence, itself a quotation from Vatican II (Gaudium et Spes, #24), that serves more than any other, I think, to sum up what I have been arguing here. "It is through a free gift of self that one truly finds oneself" (#41).
In the end, this statement is not "rights talk." It is not even "duties talk." Rather it is "gift talk," that is to say, that our freedom is constituted at its highest by what we give to others. It is when we lose our lives that we find them. We might conclude by observing that even when the legal order is suffused with justice, its proper virtue, it has not yet arrived at that which is most necessary for man and his kind.
The study of rights requires us to distinguish between that view of the world that is merely an expression of our own wills and that view which asks of us to know the truth and to give of what we are. In the end, when we all have our rights, based even on truth, we will have just begun to live in a world not of rights but of gifts. As Aristotle had taught that political happiness is proper to us but it is not our highest end or goal. After we have insisted on our rights, after even we have forced others to acknowledge them, we have just begun the road to virtue, to sacrifice, to gift. This is the importance of understanding talk of natural rights properly, lest we end up with only ourselves and our polities formed only on the image and likeness of ourselves presupposed to nothing but ourselves.
When asked what was the reason she did not go to summer camp, Sally responded, "You mean I have to have a reason?" Leo Strauss suggested that when it comes to understanding natural rights properly, we should not "be satisfied with compromises." "Naturalis inclinatio inest cuilibet homini ad hoc quod agat secundum rationem." We can be grateful to Brendan Brown for encouraging us to continue to reflect on the meaning of the natural law, for this issue, more perhaps than most others in the public order, brings us to wonder about the best regime and our relation to it. "Indeed it is through the free gift of self that one truly finds oneself."
THE INTELLECTUAL CONTEXT OF NATURAL LAW
I think that legal and political philosophy are nothing else than natural law writ large.
This, gentlemen, is our birthright.... And in this matter we are in the most unyielding dilemma. For if there is no higher law, there is no basis for saying that any man-made law is unjust ...; and in such case, the ultimate reason for things, as Justice Holmes himself conceded, is force. If there is no natural law, there are no natural rights; and if there are no natural rights, the Bill of Rights is a delusion, and everything which a man possesses -- his life, his liberty and his property -- are held by sufferance of government, and in that case it is inevitable that government will some day find it expedient to take away what is held by a title such as that. And if there are no eternal truths, if everything changes, everything, then we may not complain when the standard of citizenship changes from freedom to servility and when democracy relapses into tyranny.
The subject of natural law, though one of the really fascinating subjects of our philosophic and legal tradition, is not widely considered today even in law schools or political science departments, let alone in philosophic or theological treatises, all of which actually have something to say about the subject. However, it is a perennial theme of remarkable vigor and interest to those perceptive thinkers who are brave enough to re-consider the topic.
"The first objection that the ordinary man in this country (England), at least, is inclined to make," the British historian Christopher Dawson wrote in 1946,
is that the idea of Natural Law is all very fine, but that it is an abstract ideal which does not cut much ice in the harsh world of political reality. The answer is that there has never been an idea which excited men more and produced more startling practical results than this (idea).
Almost as if to confirm the Dawson observation, when natural law does attain some public visibility, as in the Thomas and Bork nominations to the Supreme Court, natural law appears to be a rather explosive topic. We begin to suspect that the reason it is not more widely considered is because it does have something very fundamental to say about the legitimacy of the civil order and the philosophic standing of legal studies.
In order to formulate some idea of what we are talking about when we speak of natural law, however, we can try to think of things that are "fitting," things that are "appropriate," that belong together. Some things just go together, like bacon and eggs; some do not, like caviar and chitlins or black pants and brown socks. This fittingness suggests that there is a certain correspondence in things, something that we just find to be there. There are some things that we just do not "do" for aesthetical if not for moral reasons.
Everything has its own "natural law," in a way, its own "normalcy of functioning," as Jacques Maritain once called it in an essay no student of the law should miss reading sometime. Thus, we expect dogs to act in dog ways. We do not expect them to quack like a duck or swim like a bass. We expect human beings to act in human ways, something that is confirmed by our judgment and criticism of one another when we do not. Even though we might, say, swat flies with the flat side of a wood saw, still the saw's "natural law," its normal functioning, its intrinsic purpose built into it, is to cut wood. This embodied purpose is what it is, what it does when it does that for which it is made.
Some friends of mine last year sent me a birthday card designed by Leigh Rubin. The scene on the card was stark. We see a very British couple still in pith helmets, their heads and shoulders sticking out of a huge pot. Under the black cauldron, in which the couple are squeezed, we see a blazing fire to boil the water for their stewing. This pot is surrounded on the ground by two parched thigh bones and a whitened skull, left overs no doubt from former British feasts. Beside the cauldron stands a small stand on which a table cloth and a bottle of wine are prepared. With the greatest of exasperation, as both are staring from the pot in utter disbelief at the bottle, the British gentleman exclaims to his wife: "Good heavens, Evelyn. These savages really are uncivilized. They're actually going to serve us with chablis."
Certain things, then, are simply not fitting, not to be approved, even among cannibals about to dine on the British colonial aristocracy. Not only is there some distinct, to say the least, impropriety about eating the British couple in the first place, even though it does seem to be a long-standing local custom of the savages, it is still more uncultured not to eat them in style. The British upper-class, at the very least, would seem to deserve a rich, red Bordeaux, a Chateau Neuf du Pape, or perhaps, a Saint-Emilion.
At the risk of belaboring this point about fitness and propriety as indicative that there is a certain expected order in things, even when it varies in application, let me recall the remarks of Peter Mayle, in his delightful book, A Year in Provençe. This English journalist was trying to learn the proper and expected habits of the locals in Provençe. He was especially perplexed by the intricacies of the French custom of kissing on the cheeks, how many times, both as to gender and to frequency. Initially, Mayle found out quickly that kissing a lady on only one cheek in greeting or departing, however fitting in England, was most inappropriate across the Channel.
"In my early days ... I would plant a single kiss," Mayle wrote frankly,
only to discover the other cheek was being proffered as I was drawing back. Only snobs kiss once, I was told, or those unfortunates who suffer from congenital froideur. I think I saw what I assumed to be the correct procedure -- the triple kiss, left-right-left, so I tried it on a Parisian friend. Wrong again. She told me that triple-kissing was a low Provençal habit, and that two kisses were enough among civilized people. The next time I saw my neighbor's wife, I kissed her twice, "Non," she said, "trois fois."
Already here, in these delightful scenes, we have themes related to classic natural law such as the relation between custom and law as well as the relation between what is fitting and what barbarian, even between what is right and what is wrong. We already notice that there are ways to do things, that the same basic natural things are done in principle, even when done differently, even when some do them once, some twice, and some trois fois.
Several months ago, I had written someplace that one of the constant obligations and burdens of a professor in a political science department is to write myriads of recommendations to law school admission offices, even, I think, to Dickenson Law School here in Carlyle. In response to this comment, a friend of mine from California wrote:
Anent writing law school recommendations (mentioned in one of your columns), do you know there are more lawyers in California than in the whole of Japan? I can't understand how eager applicants aren't put off by the glut. Of course, there are new, tempting areas for legal intrusion; an attractive friend of my daughter's told me the other day that she would be practicing "environmental law." She announced it with zeal.
The Economist of London once remarked, with regard to gluts on free markets, even of lawyers, that a perceived shortage in any commodity would produce in five years a surplus, precisely a glut.
The last remark of my friend, her catching a kind of mystical fervor in the young woman's voice, that "zeal," moreover, confirms my already aroused suspicions that the ideological left, as Paul Johnson has confirmed, has been busy, at the level of theory, passing from socialism to environmentalism to pursue the substantially same theoretic goals. Nor did my friend, I suspect, very careful writer that she is, haphazardly use the word "intrusion" of the activity of the such lawyers. The word that came instinctively to her mind on this topic of "zeal" and lawyer "glut," be it emphasized, was not something noble like "justice" but something ominous like "intrusion."
Even more importantly, I think, these remarks about societies with an abundance of zealous lawyers recall a famous comment of Plato in The Republic, in which he noted that a society filled with students of medicine and law is already a morally sick society (405a). With some professorial bemusement, I often remind the many applicants to law school of this counter-cultural Platonic utterance. The students almost invariably respond with the same "zeal" that the young environmental law student exhibited to my friend. By potential students, law is seen not as an "intrusion" but as an ennobling vocation, an ability to "do good," somehow. And since there is so much good to be done, in this logic, there is evidently no natural limit to the number of lawyers we might need. We might, however, recall with Plato that perhaps the first subject that might need to be addressed in this area is precisely that of the "good" to be done.
In the future, these young men and women, displaying perhaps too little of that healthy self-skepticism we in the religious tradition are accustomed to associate with original sin, will become, so they think, lawyers doing good untouched by corruption or ideological zealotry. They, at least, so they seem to believe about themselves, will not add to the bad name the legal profession has acquired through the politicizing and legalizing of so many modes of life, even family life. When Aristotle suggested that the young were incapable of properly studying political and legal matters, he had in mind this very lack of personal realization not merely of what others "do" do, but of what we ourselves will likely do to others, even with the best intentions, perhaps especially with the best intentions (1095a3-4). Just as there is no necessary correspondence between what we intend to do and what we do do, so there is no automatic correlation between intelligence and virtue. Indeed, to recall Plato again in his discussion of the philosopher and the tyrant, the most intelligent and the most corrupt must potentially be the same person.
On this very topic, it is well to consider what John Paul II wrote in his new social Encyclical Centesimus Annus, as it directly relates to our topic. Recalling specifically the classic teaching about "original sin" in the context of an overly legalized state, John Paul II, who himself uses the notion of natural law but little, wrote:
Not only is this doctrine (of original sin) an integral part of Christian revelation; it also has great hermeneutical value insofar as it helps one to understand human reality. The human person tends towards good, but is also capable of evil.... The social order will be all the more stable, the more it takes this fact into account and does not place in opposition personal interest and the interests of society as a whole, but rather seeks ways to bring them into fruitful harmony. In fact, where self-interest is violently suppressed, it is replaced by a burdensome system of bureaucratic control which dries up the wellsprings of initiative and creativity. When people think they possess the secret of a perfect social organization which makes evil impossible, they also think that they can use any means, including violence and deceit, in order to bring that organization into being. Politics then becomes a "secular religion" which operates under the illusion of creating paradise in this world (#25).
We can catch here some of the concern that we will see also in Solzhenitsyn about the over politicization and legalization of Western society.
In a paradoxical connection, then, the Holy Father, on the unusual grounds of original sin, actually defends private initiative against the dangers of a bureaucratic and legal claim that all evils can be eliminated. The only evils that can really be removed are those recognized and chosen by human freedom, a position that faces squarely the fact that often this very freedom will be abused so that many commonly recognized evils will in fact exist among us. In the reaches of political theory, as we will see further, the desire to remove evil is often associated with the desire to remove freedom. This latter desire in turn is associated with a form of theoretic truth that has its origin only in the human will.
The usual and cynical interpretation of the comparative paucity of lawyers in Japan, however, is that somehow the Japanese economic miracle has had something to do with the relative freedom in Japan from encumbering laws and threatening court actions that prevent experimentation, change, and productivity. The crisis of the American economy is thus said to be directly related to the multiplicity of lawyers in search of "doing good," of righting all wrongs. "Environmental law" and actions against "white collar crime" will end up, in the minds of not a few perceptive thinkers, by putting the economy in complete stagnation in the name of justice. The perfectly just society will be the society utterly incapable of doing much of anything at all because all action is circumscribed by legalized proscriptions. By becoming legally just, it will end up by becoming actually unjust. The response to this worry, from my students, however, is usually that because it lacks the same proportion of lawyers in California, Japan is somehow an unjust society, not to be envied.
To this justification of the lawyer's vocation, this pursuit of justice, that terrible and impersonal virtue, we must add the troublesome accusation of Solzhenitsyn in his famous Harvard Address of 1978, to an undergraduate audience no doubt replete with potential lawyers. I often have my students read this passage, a sobering, even withering passage in its implications. In its light, students are to assume their vocation with little illusion.
"Western society has chosen for itself the organization best suited to its purposes and one I might call legalistic," Solzenitsyn observed.
The limits of human rights and rightness are determined by a system of laws; such limits are very broad .... Every conflict is solved according to the letter of the law and this is considered to be the ultimate solution. If one is right from a legal point of view, nothing more is required, nobody may mention that one could still not be entirely right, and urge self-restraint or a renunciation of these rights, call for sacrifice and selfless risk; this would simply sound absurd .... A society with no other scale but the legal one is also less than worthy of man. A society based on the letter of the law and never reaching any higher fails to take advantage of the full range of human possibilities.
Most young potential law students, I have observed, find these forceful words most disturbing to them as they recognize in them a direct challenge to much of what they have come to assume about the justification for what they are doing with their lives. Solzhenitsyn's words that one can be "legally right" but not "entirely right" ring dauntingly in their ears.
The very notion that one can be fully legal but not right, while a commonplace in classical ethical and political philosophy and natural law theory, is unsettling and seldom reflected on at a profound level. Likewise disturbing is the notion that some things, including especially the highest things, are not legal at all or are not subject to legality. This position would imply that the highest things are not reached in the polis by its laws, however useful at some level they might be. To attempt to politicize these higher things corrupts them and makes them "unworthy of man," to use Solzhenitsyn's blunt phrase.
Things like mercy and the sacrifice of one's rights are not subject to law without the risk of their being corrupted in their very essence. The State of Maryland recently required one year of "voluntary" service for high school graduation without apparently any scruple about the effect and ill-logic of "required voluntariness." Plato's notion in the Sixth Book of The Republic that the "good" subsumes justice for justice to be wholly itself lies at the theoretic heart of this problem as does the New Testament notion that greater love involves laying down one's life for one's friend, something that justice and law cannot command, but something without which no society is safe.
Those who have the opportunity to study carefully St. Thomas and his famous "Treatise on Law" -- and no law student, I think, should fail to do this, however rarely it might formally be required of him -- will find that this danger of legalism, so chastised by Solzhenitsyn, to be given a theoretic basis in St. Thomas' emphasis on prudence, on the notion that law cannot cover everything. This affirmation that the law could only deal with certain grave crimes, not all disorders, did not mean, paradoxically, that where the positive law could not reach there was no duty, which is the fear of Solzhenitsyn about contemporary democratic society. Rather it meant that, taking law into consideration, the vital element of morality was based on our insightful judgment into each particular and actual case in so far as it did fall under one or other of the virtues. To ask the law to do more than it is capable of doing risks contempt on the part of the observers of the law and excessive use of force on the part of the enforcers of the law. This is a classic theme that harkens back to Aristotle and especially to Plato.
Our evening here together is under the auspices of that Great Lawyer, Chancellor, Philosopher, and, yes, Martyr, Sir Thomas More. I happen to have in my collection of sundry books a book of readings about Thomas More's Utopia, a book with direct, if enigmatic, relations to The Republic of Plato. In this collection is found a passage on More from C. S. Lewis' English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama. Lewis was considering the question of whether More's book is meant to be taken literally, to be put into practice as a political project, a proposition Socrates in The Republic also considered and rejected. Lewis, like Erasmus, thought that the Utopia was a comic book, a book of fun and satire, that the readers in the Sixteenth Century would understand this spirit about it. More himself in later life thought the book should be burned rather than "translated in an age prone to misconstruction."
Lewis, with his usual but often uncanny insight, speculated on just why it might be dangerous not to see the Utopia as a playful book as did More's readers in the Sixteenth Century. "It is, of course, possible that More's sixteenth-century readers, and More himself, were mistaken (about the playful nature of Utopia)," C. S. Lewis wrote.
But it is at least equally possible that the mistake lies with those modern readers who take the book au grand sérieux. There is a cause specially predisposing them to error in such a matter. They live in a revolutionary age, an age in which modern weapons and the modern revolutionary technique have made it only too easy to produce in the real world states recognizably like those we invent on paper: writing Utopias is now a serious matter.
What is to be noted in this extraordinary passage is the notion that abstract and obscure literary utopias can now, because of modern technique and weapons, be put into political being. Thinkers without prudence, in other words, have become much more dangerous.
The present question is not whether or not such imagined utopias can be put into effect, we know they can be, but whether they ought to be. And this latter question requires the sort of reflection historically associated with natural law. We need a principle that subjects such utopias to a critique not grounded in the human mind as its sole cause or origin. If all thought is equally baseless, then we can really have nothing but arbitrary objections to given proposals to reform the world. The human mind is open to understanding how utopias are formed in the first place. That is a major purpose of the human mind. But unlike the modern utopias, the classical ones as philosophic discourse were founded on what is. They were not simply products of the human mind, itself in the service of the human will. Rather they revealed a right order to the human will so that its choices were not as such purely its own.
Lewis had even further important things to say about this background. More's "utopia" has often been considered to be a kind of liberal or socialist welfare state in which all goods were common and all needs were provided in a kind of fraternal spirit. But, Lewis warned, "there is nothing liberal in Utopia. From it, as from all other imaginary states, liberty is more successfully banished than the real world, even at its worst allows." The writers of utopias put into their books exactly and only what they want. "It is not the love of liberty that makes men write Utopias," Lewis added. What is it then? Is it an effort to foresee what the natural virtues would be like if left to themselves? Would they in fact even remain "natural"? Do they lead to something higher than themselves or does man by himself actually end up in opposition to the natural virtues?
Finally cautioning us on whether utopias of any sort are, without danger, capable of being morally put into actuality, Lewis added, in a rather prophetic passage: "It is doubtful whether More would have regarded euthanasia for incurables and the assassination of hostile princes as things contained in the Law of Nature." Need I add that "euthanasia for incurables," if not "assassination of hostile princes," is something we read about in the newspapers every morning? Are we, unlike More, to hold that such things are contained in the law of nature? Or do we perhaps think that if such things are prohibited, they are forbidden not by the law of nature, but only by a positive law of the civil society we live in, a society that has no further standard but itself and therefore one that can be changed at will?
Lewis' reasoning then is pertinent to the theme of the importance of natural law that I want to develop here, a theme already touched on by my friend who noted the peculiar "zeal" in a chance law student's voice, by Plato, by Solzhenitsyn, by St. Thomas, by John Paul II, and by Harold McKinnon. Initially, I want to suggest that there is something ominous about the lack of attention to the great tradition of natural law in Western Civilization. It means that certain things that ought to be questioned and carefully considered are not reflected upon because the intellectual tools for this reflection are either unlearned or unknown -- or all too often, unchosen. This lack of attention is intelligible, however, only within terms of a political and legal philosophy unwilling to go to the roots of human action and its relation to human institutions.
Yet, in recent years, we have, in obscure journals and conferences, one of the liveliest discussions of natural law in centuries because of considerable concern about the conditions of our political and legal system. What is the intellectual context of this natural law discussion? Here, I wish to indicate several lines of argument that are found in current literature on this topic. The natural law is, after all, a consideration of ancient and distinguished lineage. Not only was it found, though often haltingly, articulated in the Greek and Latin classics, but it is found discussed in one form or another in almost every language and period. Certainly there are marked references of it in our Founding Documents and debates.
And when this natural law context is not so discussed, it means that a country or tradition has not yet been subject to or allowed itself to be subject the universal philosophy that limits all regimes by the sort of fundamental discussions that no human beings can, or more importantly, should avoid. What I wish to do here is to give enough natural law context to show that, for a serious student, there is a rational contemporary discussion of this controverted topic. At the same time, I do not pretend that everything that needs to be discussed is found in these reflections. The subject of natural law is historic, philosophic, of long and deep argument over the centuries about the meaning of man's essential existence in society and his own individual purpose. At times the topic of natural law is unnecessarily confused with the topic of the hypothetical laws of natural sciences. The scientific method, by virtue of what it is, its reduction to certain measurable criterion, does not touch the reality of the subject matter of the ethical and social sciences.
In this regard, I am not quite in the position as the witness in the following account. It seems that a prosecuting counsel was having some trouble with a quite difficult witness. The man's evasive answers exasperated the counsel. Finally, he asked the witness if he was acquainted with any member of the jury. "Yes, Sir, more than half of them," the man in the witness box replied. "Are you willing to swear that you know more than half of them?" the counsel asked. "If it comes to that, I'm willing to swear that I know more than all of 'em put together," the witness defiantly responded. I will swear to no such complete knowledge of natural law here, but hopefully we can at least touch on "half" of the main problems that natural law traditions evoke.
The controversial elements of contemporary natural law discussion have to do with the following subjects: 1) What is the relation of classic natural right to natural law? 2) Is natural law necessary to limit actual states, including democracies? 3) Is natural law kantian, that is, does it have a grounding in metaphysics or is it a logic independent of metaphysics, a postulate we need even if we cannot ground it in reality? 4) What is the relation between natural law, natural ethics, and revelation?
Let me begin this discussion, however, by simply recalling the most famous and most eloquent statement about natural law in our tradition, that of Cicero. This is a passage that I have students in classes simply stand up and slowly read aloud several times. For better than any other source, even St. Thomas, its intrinsic eloquence strikes a cord and recalls the force of the tradition. These are Cicero's moving words, ones cited again and again since his time, ones no student of the law should ever forget:
True law is Reason, right and natural, commanding people to fulfil their obligations and prohibiting and deterring them from doing wrong. Its validity is universal; it is immutable and eternal. Its commands and prohibitions apply effectively to good men, and those uninfluenced by them are bad. Any attempt to supersede this law, to repeal any part of it, is sinful; to cancel it entirely is impossible. Neither the Senate nor the Assembly can exempt us from its demands; we need no interpreter or expounder of it but ourselves. There will not be one law at Rome, one at Athens, or one now and one later, but all nations will be subject all the time to this one changeless and everlasting law (De Re Publica, III, 33).
Such powerful words from the great Cicero, himself a lawyer, recall for us that we are ultimately judged not by what our polity does, by what we propose in it, but by what is right in itself. Our own consciences are subject to a standard they know they did not create.
These words of Cicero also recall the famous charge of Socrates to the jury after his sentencing. He had been condemned to death at a trial of his peers in his city. There was nothing particularly irregular about this trial. And yet, as Socrates said to those jurors who voted to execute him, that the whole world would henceforth remember them as those who killed the philosopher. That is to say, and this is what the reading of Plato means, there is a standard of rightness that abides in all civil trials however they are decided in fact. It is in this sense that Plato is the primary natural law thinker in our tradition. He will ever be there to recount the trial both in its own light and in the light of what is. No evil, Socrates said, not even death, can hurt a good man. But the words of the philosopher abide. The trial of Socrates means, in some sense, that no unjust trial goes unpunished in the light of this law to which, as Cicero, himself a reader of Plato, wrote, all nations are subject.
The first line of consideration about natural law has been brought to our attention mainly by Leo Strauss, one of the great thinkers of our time. His famous essay on "Natural Law" is of fundamental importance to any contemporary thinking on this topic. Strauss was fully aware that the use of the term natural law was related to the notion of natural right. Arguing both in the case of Sophocles and of Aristotle, both of whom seemed at first sight to be natural law thinkers, Strauss maintained that no proper natural law concept existed in the classical tradition. Natural law was rather initially a Stoic idea but most properly it is a product of revelation. Strauss implied, contrary to the normal understanding of natural law thinkers, that to speak of natural law was to speak of revelation. To call natural law specifically a "law" there needed to be some proper origin of its promulgation, which seemed lacking in classical philosophy. Neither Aristotle's First Mover or Plato's Good, in Strauss' view, was conceived to be "personal." Consequently, the standards of rightness, while they could not exclude any possible source beyond philosophy, could not be shown to be properly a "law" but a only a "right."
Strauss's position, of course, harkens back to the controversies between the ancients and the moderns, in which controversy Strauss consciously and rightly took the side of the ancients. Modern natural right, that associated in particular with Hobbes and Locke, thus was not the same as classical natural right as found in Aristotle. The remark of A. P. d'Entreves is to the point:
The modern theory of natural law was not, properly speaking, a theory of law at all. It was a theory of rights. A momentous change has taken place under the cover of the same verbal expressions. The jus naturale of the modern political philosopher is no longer the lex naturalis of the medieval moralist nor the jus naturale of the Roman lawyer. These different conceptions have in common only the name.
For the moderns, natural right or human right was not based in anything but the human will. It has properly speaking no origin in nature, except insofar as self-sufficiency or self-interest is the only "natural law," a view already found in the first book of Plato's Republic. Classical, as opposed to modern, natural right, on the other hand, did not have its origin in the human will. The human will did not make or cause this law to come into being.
Strauss disputed St. Thomas' understanding of Aristotle because he (Strauss) understood Aristotle to allow for some possible exception to natural right in concrete, extreme circumstances. Strauss wrote:
Aristotle ... seems to imply that such things as helping fellow citizens in misfortune into which they have fallen in consequence of performing a civic duty, and worshiping the gods by sacrifices belong to natural right. If this interpretation is correct, natural right is that right which much be recognized by any political society if it is to last and which for this reason is everywhere in force. Natural right thus understood delineates the minimum conditions of political life, so much so that sound positive right occupies a higher rank than natural right.
That there is a necessity for a polity to establish a system of positive law by the very meaning of its existence was something recognized in the Thomist tradition under the notion of Jus gentium, of the law of nations. To be virtuous required that there be some system of legal order, but this did not imply that uncritical observance of the law itself was the sole content of right acting.
At first sight, Strauss seems to argue that natural right allows for what later came to be a Machiavellian position, something Strauss himself explicitly rejected, namely, that once could positively do evil in some circumstances. "Natural right understood in terms of commutative and distributive justice is not identical with natural right as delineating the minimum conditions of political life," Strauss wrote;
the bad regimes habitually counteract the principles of distributive justice and last nevertheless. Aristotle is no longer under a compulsion to demand the dilution of natural right. He teaches that all natural right is changeable; he does not make the distinction made by Thomas Aquinas between the unchangeable principles and the changeable conclusions. This would seem to mean that sometimes (in extreme or emergency situations) it is just to deviate even from the most general principles of natural right.
If one examines both Strauss and St. Thomas closely, I think, they are not as far apart as Strauss would seen to indicate. St. Thomas's distinction and Strauss's conclusion are, however, compatible once we agree that the extreme cases are really cases under a principle. The fact that bad regimes last does not mean they are not bad regimes. The fact of a wide variability of application of principle in ethical or political life is seen to be normal but that even the most extreme application must still fall under the principle. Strauss did not teach evil, as he held Machiavelli to do.
But what seems important in this discussion of rights and natural law, as Mary Ann Glendon has argued in another recent book of considerable perception, is that "rights talk," as she calls it, has now come to undermine the higher sources of human living together. The individualist theoretical basis of modern natural rights has ended up leaving only the positive law and the struggle over rights as the core of public life. It is not merely a question of finding a place for benevolence and kindness but also of questioning the very basis on which modern rights theory was based. This questioning, in fact, was what Leo Strauss set out to do.
The second line of consideration about natural law concerns the problem, indicated in Cicero, about whether the positive law of states is subject to anything beyond itself. The most forceful modern cause of a reconsideration of natural law was the Nuremburg Trials, the question of whether the actions of the Nazi leaders, which were mostly legitimate according to the positive law of their state, could be condemned because of some higher law. This question is not merely one of international law, treaties, or customs, but, even in lieu of these formal arrangements, whether there was some basis, some promulgation of law, that would enable us to condemn certain actions no matter what the civil law might propose to the contrary.
In the light of many recent instances of governments causing civil war or famine, even to their own citizens, we can see considerable effort to define and establish a right to intervention into the internal affairs of such states. The perceptive columnist Georgie Anne Geyer thus wrote:
In 1987 the United Nations became increasingly disgusted with governments such as Ethiopia's and the Sudan's using food and medicine as weapons of civil war. Thus began this trend to establish a "right of humanitarian intervention" in and under international law. This right remains still too nebulous, but one can see its formative influence in different places.... In a world of widespread collapse of states and institutions, there will be more and more Bosnias and Somalias. The only thing these new-style gunmen, militiamen, and thugs will understand is international force -- and that must be based upon international principles. The old idea that any group that seizes power and has a spurious sovereignty must be respected by the world is no longer appropriate to a world not of governments but of individual gunmen and shifting alliances.
The "international" principles Georgie Anne Geyer speaks of cannot be merely positive law. For a country's positive law is precisely the problem. These principles must rather be based on clear insight into some abiding principles and norms about what is involved in being a human being and the responsibility we bear to humanity even in differing polities. Strauss's remark that bad regimes can survive does not mean that they ought to survive.
What is at stake here, of course, is not merely the integrity of civil societies in their diversity, but a judgment on this diversity, whether it too is limited because all civil states are designed even within their own confines a basic purpose that they cannot themselves overturn. No doubt the greatest danger in modern times is the world state devoted to evil with the power to impose its will on all lesser entitles. On the other hand, we witness civil societies lapsing into barbarism and defending their right to do so with principles of political sovereignty, principles that are products of modern natural right theory. The theoretic issue was already addressed by St. Thomas, following St. Augustine, in their position that an unjust law was not a law.
A further and related aspect to this question, which is especially obvious with the break-up of the Soviet Union, has to do with the rights of new states to be formed from older empires or large or small states. Many modern states are in fact historically groups of peoples put together for political purposes after a war or turmoil. The states of Eastern Europe and Africa too are obvious examples. If man is by nature a social and political animal, the question of what is a state suddenly becomes more directly asked. An Aristotelian argument can be made that all states should be more independent and autonomous, even smaller, without denying some kind of international market and political relationship. Obviously these sorts of questions cannot be merely questions of civil and international law but of natural law and classic natural right.
The third issue of central importance about the natural law is whether its existence is a kantian postulate, with no grounding in reality, but with some urgency in practice, or whether it has metaphysical origins? The immediate context for this question relates to two of the most remarkable books on natural law to be published in recent years -- John Finnis' Natural Law and Natural Right and Hadley Arkes, First Things: An Inquiry into the First Principles of Morals and Justice. What is at stake in these books, at first sight, will seem rather insignificant or obscure. Yet, as Aristotle already warned us, that small errors in the beginning can lead to large errors in the end. Or to put it another way, the major intellectual struggles are often ones that take place in out of the way places or in obscure journals but which when seen for what they were contain the real central issues of a philosophic or political system.
In the case of the Finnis book, a seminal book in the reappreciation of natural law thinking, there is no acknowledged kantian problem. The problem arises because of the analysis of his position in two equally perceptive books, Henry Veatch's Human Rights: Fact or Fancy? and Russell Hittinger's A Critique of the New Natural Law Theory. Henry Veatch thought that in the system of Germain Grisez and John Finnis the ends we are obliged to pursue as human beings would be pretty much the same as in Aristotle and Aquinas. But the methods and evidence would be quite radically different from "the natural law tradition." Here is how Veatch saw the exact issue:
They (Grisez and Finnis) would deny that as human moral agents our knowledge of our true ends can ever be based on nature. Rather, such ends need to be held to be self-evident to us or perhaps known to us simply by intuition. But does this not sound like Kant and modern deontologists all over again? ... I suspect that the Grisez-Finnis tactic in the matter of moral evidence will not do.... After all, a purportedly natural-law ethic, from which all appeals to nature have been excluded, is in danger of coming out looking and smelling like a very curious sort of Unding. It is neither fish nor fowl.
The issue about basing natural law on nature or on a postulate or intuition not consciously grounded on anything but the mind becomes of great significance when we want to know how the natural law is actually directed to our minds. If it is because we are existentially caused beings as such, then not only are we open to a natural law outside of our own making, but we are open to whatever in some sense caused us to be in the first place.
The crux of the problem has to do with the relation of the first principles of practical reasoning to metaphysics. That is to say, to what degree is practical reasoning from its own first principle of "do good and avoid evil" itself dependent on an order of being that is not simply arbitrary but one with its own intrinsic order given in nature, in human nature? It is the position of Veatch and Hittinger that the Finnis position does not seem to have any solid grounding other than in a kantian type postulate that would not by itself argue to any knowledge of a true natural law based in reality.
This concern for an adequate basis for natural law is likewise what is behind the following remarks of Russell Hittinger:
If it is true that the common morality, or what is left of it, is being choked from the quadrant of "alien theories," then we need to address the theories -- in particular, the belief that a coherent philosophy of nature cannot constructively be brought to bear upon ethical reasoning.... If there are no "natures," and no proper telic completions to humanity and the goods sought, then I see not compelling reason to opt for Aristotelian rather than Nietzsche."
Hittenger's point is, of course, that there should be such a "compelling reason" in what is.
The argument about a proper natural philosophy in the context of moral logic is precisely whether the order of the good and of particular goods as discovered in reason has any validity beyond itself and its proper formulation. The finality question -- "a proper telic completion to humanity" in Hittinger's words -- wants to know whether the being who thinks consistently himself has an end in nature other than just the thinking rightly. This question, no doubt, portends the relation of religion to natural law. It also, in Hittinger's reference to Alasdair MacIntyre's famous choice between Aristotle and Nietzsche, seeks a criterion of whether opposing systems of morals themselves are subject to a criterion of reality? Or are opposing systems or formulations of right order subject to the principle of contradiction, a principle grounded not merely in the mind but in reality? Only if this latter principle also holds for our moral and political systems can we avoid the dangers of the "utopias" that C. S. Lewis worried about.
Hadley Arkes' brilliantly argued book, on the other hand, is professedly kantian while at the same time it is professedly Aristotelian. One is tempted to suggest that such a position makes him practically a Thomist, but I will leave aside that argument here. Arkes' "inquiry" into the first principles of morals and justice is a systematic testing of proposed ethical and political positions from abortion to war to welfare to cultural relativism on the basis of their consistency with a logic of freedom, consent, and universality. Arkes effectively shows what positions and policies can and cannot be held in a consistent logic.
"What we recognize, though, in the first place," Arkes wrote in a passage that specifically assumes a grounding of the logic of morals in reality,
is that moral propositions are in fact distinguished quite sharply from statements of subjective, personal feelings or private, religious belief. Moral statements purport to speak about the things that are universally good or bad, right or wrong, just or unjust -- which is to say, good or bad, right or wrong, for others as well as for oneself. The differences we recognize in the conventions of our ordinary language reflect an awareness of a real difference between speaking in a manner that is wholly personal and speaking, in a universal voice, about rights and wrongs that do not depend for their validity on personal feelings.
Arkes has none of the provisoriness of Kant's ontological position. That is to say, that the logic he develops holds for the reality of the being making the argument, holds for his actions. The logic of morals is not merely a postulate of an autonomous practical reasoning but seems to be grounded in a discovered reality.
What is at issue, of course, is the ultimate problem with modern natural rights, namely, are they merely projections of a willed logic that gains a chosen end for no reason other than itself? Or are logically established rights in fact ultimately statements of a willed law that does not find its origin in the human condition itself? To be sure, what it is to be a human being can reflectively be known by humans who know they did not make themselves to be human. This is the proper sense we can speaking of "willing" our own being or law.
St. Thomas remarked that "Non enim Deus a nobis offenditur nisi ex eo quod contra nostrum bonum agimus (Contra Gentiles, III, 122). That is, "we do not offend God except insofar as we act against our own good." This position means that the good of reason, the human good, is itself something discovered and willed by man not apart from man's origin but because of it. His proper good is itself part of the order or law of things. The logic that is founded in the operative human intellect is thus itself rooted in the being of man in the first place, in the what is that is the proper object of his thinking, a reality that includes himself.
The final question about natural law concerns the question of its relation to revelation and to ethics. In a famous passage that serves in some fundamental sense as the foundation of modern political philosophy, Machiavelli, obviously referring to Plato, Aristotle, and Christianity, argued that we must deal not with these classic descriptions of how men ought to live but with the practical question of how they do live. When we make this latter principle our rule, it becomes possible to ask legitimately whether the use of means, called in the classic tradition evil, might not be useful and therefore right. The classical religious and philosophic traditions of happiness seemed to Machiavelli to be so exalted that no one could embrace them. So, Machiavelli thought, we should lower our sights to what most people could be expected to do.
As this idea worked its way out, particularly in Hobbes and Locke, we might find that the best we could do was to provide a kind of abundance and peace by prohibiting the discussion of right and good. If this lowered expectation is what we meant by happiness, then everyone could expect to be happy. This proposal was what came to be known as "the modern project." But its success would make no difference with respect to what anyone believed or held. There is a break between what our understanding of truth is and what we do. The nature of society, of the modern project, is to support whatever we do without criticizing what we do except in terms of the lowered sights that exclude a principled discussion of rightness, of natural law.
In the tradition of St. Thomas, what man could know of how he ought to act in every difficult circumstance was at best problematic. Or perhaps, it could be better described with St. Paul that we would do the correct thing but we do not. St. Thomas argued that one of the reasons for the necessity of revelation, in addition to natural reason, was precisely because of the insufficiency of natural law or reason to provide for men as they are the possibility of achieving their natural and supernatural purposes. This incompleteness of natural law did not mean that what we could know of it was wrong or even that natural law was defective in itself. Rather it meant that there were certain incomplete things that we needed to know more clearly if we were to achieve our highest ends.
Thus, as human beings, we are only able to legislate about external acts. It is sufficient that we simply observe decent laws. But all disorder in our lives and polities ultimately comes from a disorder in our thoughts and desires, in our souls, as Plato said. St. Thomas thought it was the divine law, revelation, that alone could address itself to our inner personal order from which external order proceeded. Thus, if we are internally ordered, our civil society will be well-ordered. Soulcraft and statecraft, at the most fundamental level, correspond. But it is quite possible for a civil order to be legally relatively decent but in jeopardy because of the moral and philosophic beliefs and disorders of its citizens.
St. Thomas held that there were four reasons why it might be necessary to have in addition to natural law a divine law. These four reasons were the need to order our thoughts and desires as well as our external acts, the need to be more sure what things were to be done and not to be done, the need to punish and reward things that are not in fact punished or rewarded in this life, and finally the need to know something more clearly about God than natural reason can provide. The reason these points are still necessary to emphasize is that they serve to limit the notion that the state or some other object can substitute for God.
The importance of natural law comes as something of a surprise until we begin to consider the sort of questions to which it addresses itself. In 1978, the Right Honourable Lord Hailsham of St. Marylebone gave an address entitled, "Moral Reflections on the Natural Law." Lord Hailsham observed:
May it not be that one reason at least for the decline in morality ... is the reluctance of modern society to accept not merely the objective validity of value judgments ... but the sense of personal responsibility which can only remain so long as men and women believe in the existence of free will -- a doctrine inherent in most religious creeds, but implicitly questioned or denied by a great deal of the teaching in universities about psychology and sociology?
The natural law is not conceived in opposition to freedom but as intrinsic to its meaning. The very drama of human existence is that it can choose or reject its law, its right acting. Without this freedom, there would be no meaning to a law of precisely a human and rational nature. On the other hand, a freedom with no relation to law, to a fitting order, would be merely a chaos.
Let me conclude by referring back to a brilliant young man, perhaps in his early thirties, who once in Milan taught rhetoric to young law students. He pondered his life and theirs to conclude that his teaching had no higher purpose. He went off to refashion his life, to write and preach some of the most profound things ever written by any man. I cite this passage to young law students, not so much to encourage them to look carefully at the profession they have chosen, but to remind them that considerations of the higher things, of natural law, of the way truth is addressed to each of us in our souls, do not cease to be fundamental to the very dignity of the law, to the "higher law," as Harold McKinnon called it in San Francisco.
"And it seemed good to me, as before Thee, not tumultuously to snatch away, but gently to withdraw my tongue from the talkers' trade," the young Augustine brashly wrote in his Confessions; "that the young, who thought not on Thy law, nor on Thy peace, but on mendacious follies and forensic strifes, might no longer purchase at my mouth equipments for their vehemence." That the young Augustine was not enamored by law and the lawyers, by those of the "talkers' trade," as he called it, need not, perhaps, detain us. Yet, Augustine was too philosophic a witness to let pass our consideration of what he felt and said. Augustine understood that those who studied law could seek not the peace and truth in God's order but to profit by "mendacious follies and forensic strifes."
The importance of natural law, in the end, is to remind the positive law and those who practice it, either as legislators, executives, or lawyers, that there is a standard of rightness, of purpose that, as Socrates implied at his trial, is present in every trial and in every litigation. Only when this is understood can a people be safe from the legalization and politicization, from the tyranny of a groundless law that threatens the deepest of human purposes for which they are created and "created equal," as our Declaration of Independence says. "We hold these truths to be self-evident...." In the end, the importance of natural law is to account for what this means, for why certain truths must be precisely, self-evident, and not merely made or formulated by a mind and a will, even by a legislative will, that is freed from any further grounding but in itself and its own assertions.
5) From Religion & Liberty, 3 (May/June, 1993), 3-6.
NATURAL LAW AND ECONOMICS
If we accept the fact that economics is a human discipline designed, in its original sense, to provide for the acquisition and management of household goods, we can perhaps admit that economics is not a wholly "autonomous" discipline that has no relation to other considerations about human life. The fact that economies are nation and world wide, themselves highly mathematicized, does not change the principle behind this observation.
Aristotle was quite sure that a household, as well as the polis, need a certain amount of material goods if other ends like the practice of virtue were to be achieved. Human life was not exclusively about such goods, but it still needed them and had to devote vast amounts of time and effort to produce them. On the other hand, there was a situation of too much and too little possible in household and political material goods, just like other areas. That is, any household or economic unit could make money or material goods its sole end, the result of which would be to distort or corrupt the higher ends that both material goods and the households themselves were designed to achieve.
Yet, if we were to have a sufficiency or better an abundance of material goods, they first had to come into existence and find their proper purposes in some sort of equitable exchange where by not everyone had to do everything. The principle of specialization had already existed in Plato's discussion of economics in the latter part of Book II of The Republic. This specialization meant that if everyone was to have more, everyone had to do what he was good at. Plato was very conscious of a tendency to excess here and recognized that a political judgment would somehow be necessary in order that the specialization-exchange would work for the benefit of everyone. A specialist unaware of the limits of his specialty ended up by destroying the purpose of what he was doing. Many want to see this position in Plato as a kind of grab for absolutist control of the economy, but it need not have this pejorative aspect. Plato was noticing something that was very true, that the time it takes to specialize makes one inattentive to its limits and overall purpose.
The great invention of the modern economic world, that of the free market of goods, is no doubt the grounds for the perennial hope to provide sufficient amounts of goods and services to increasing numbers of mankind. If there is some overall purpose and ethic to economics and its claims to be a legitimate "science," it is this. This market works because things are needed and wanted. This need and want, this demand, had to be translated into production and exchange. Thus, exchange, taking from someone by paying, is not an unjust taking away from someone else, but a fair transaction of things that otherwise would not have existed. This free market system has been the one of the greatest contributing factors to prosperity and optimism in the world. The collapse of marxism and the threat of those systems of rule, including the newer ones on the horizon, like those stemming from ecology, that want to substitute the state for the free market was due more than anything to evidence that this purpose could only be achieved in a certain way, with certain principles and moral habits. An individual or nation unwilling to learn them was doomed to failure, to continued poverty and usually to absolute state control.
The modern world began not with everyone rich and some becoming poor, but with almost everyone poor and rather rapidly, should the proper political, economic, and moral means be embraced, becoming rich. This sudden richness did not necessarily come at someone else's expense. Rather, it was produced because of the abundance that exists on this earth and its relation to the human creative mind. As this century has progressed, we have understood that riches and wealth are not questions of property, goods, or even land, but of developed intelligence. The rich nations are not necessarily the ones with abundant resources but those with high levels of intelligence and the enterprise to use it.
What does this have to do with natural law? The natural law, in its briefest statement, is acting reasonably, is the "normalcy of functioning" of a thing. The natural law of a market, so to speak, is its normal functioning, its ability to concentrate reason and good judgment on the production and distribution of goods. The medieval theologians talked of a "just price." At its best, the market price of a thing is the just price of a thing. This conclusion does not mean that there is no such thing as gouging or cheating or any of the other distortions we might find in an actual exchange. It means rather that we do recognize that something is wrong with the system when such things occur. Our reason, our judgment, our natural sense of equity operate in all of our exchanges if we are free to compare, to withhold our purchases, and to find alternatives.
In one sense, the fair or just price is related to the origins of Roman law. As the Empire grew, there came to Rome many sorts of products from all over the world. These products were wanted and were offered to be exchanged, but often there was no uniformity of weight, measure, money, or quality. Needless to say, this would cause a great deal of argument and injustice. The wise Romans, needing to come to terms with what at first sight appeared to be a mere civil disorder, appointed a praetor for this situation. He was to deal with the nations, with all those who did not fall under the law of the city itself.
This judge over the years was confronted with thousands of cases of justice in exchange. How does one resolve an argument about what is fair when there are conflicting standards estimations? As these judges proceeded, they would establish a certain estimate, not apart from the self-interested opinion of the parties involved, for what is just in certain kinds of cases. What the producers, sellers, buyers, and praetors were all trying to do was to establish what is reasonable in such complicated cases. Notice, that it was assumed that such exchange was in fact a good thing and that it should go on. But the confusion of language, monies, weights, and estimates made it difficult for the people themselves to come to a clear resolution about what anything might be worth.
The Roman law, in its codification, sought to establish a criterion and a procedure whereby disputes about what is or is not fair could be resolved. This process seems to suggest not that the best form of justice is what the civil judges decide, but rather that the freely coming into existence of goods and their exchange require some institutional structure whereby disputes can be resolved so that the market can be what it is. The judges were to stand for what was fair, which is really what the sellers and buyers wanted. The market itself could resolve this by itself were there adequate communication and were human virtue held to some minimum standard. The free market is that market that least needs judges, that is, the one that is already by its normal functioning arriving at a fair price in exchange.
Thus, should we say that natural law has nothing to do with economics? We might reply rather that it has everything to do with economics, with the production, exchange, and use of those goods that need not exist but are brought into being by human specialization and enterprise. The market is trying to provide some service or goods in a peaceful way, a way that would include the judgment of justice as reflected in the price provided nothing untoward interfered with it.
How many shoes are worth a haircut? This is not at first sight an easy question to answer. Yet, when the market works this relationship out, it will only approach a more or less exact fairness. The equitable price will constantly vary, of course, because in some societies no one wears shoes and in others no one cuts his hair. But there is a kind of reasonable input and equilibrium in most free societies that understands and judges that the relation between the haircut and the shoes is measured by the price that each is willing to pay for the other's specialization. There is an effort to judge the relative worth of a thing. Both shoes and haircuts are needed and it is well that the world is improved by their mutual coming to be. Of course, if for religious or philosophical reasons, we decide always to go barefoot, two industries will disappear. But should this happen, then, like the Sikhs, it will be good for the bandanna on the head industry and presumably good for the podiatrist who deals with cut and bruised feet.
These are homey remarks, no doubt, but let us see what we have established. First, some things that do not exist can come into existence because the earth is open to the work of man's hand and labor. Moreover, certain things are needed and wanted for human purposes. The improved things that do come into existence can be made available to someone other than the person who made or transformed the earth into a particular object of use so that someone would want it or demand it. By the principle of specialization, various other things come into existence and are exchanged. There is some effort to decide what is the relative worth of a thing, how many of this equals how many of that.
For everyone to attempt to do everything, moreover, becomes a formula for abiding poverty. A general agreement about this relative worth is measured by a price. Where there are disputes among buyers, makers, and sellers, these disputes can be resolved more or less. The assurance that a mechanism exists whereby disputes can be resolved is one of the primary factors contributing to the willingness of men to produce anything at all. It is also a cause for a sense of fairness in the relations existing among people who have entered into exchange relationships with each other.
But not only are there honest disputes about the relative worth of things, there are also crimes over goods. Robberies and petty theft and fraud exist in all times and places, evidently because there is something disordered in human nature in every economy. The free economy as such neither causes nor cures these things, though it can suggest their dangers. For example, when most stores experience a steady two percent rate of thievery of their goods, this loss is reflected in a two percent increase in the average cost of merchandise the public buys. But some mechanism must account for graver disorders and provide against them. This is the normal function of the civil power. There are indeed certain conditions of a moral nature that ought to be considered before an exchange is legitimate in any free market. The human race is now generally agreed that goods ought not to be produced by slaves, for example, though the topic of the economic effect of Soviet Gulag slave labor did come up not too long ago.
Indeed, the great Aristotle had already remarked that if someone could invent moving statues that could automatically weave cloth, much of slavery would not be necessary. In some way, the industrial revolution in all its phases from steam to the computer is contained in this shrewd observation. The natural law would suggest that in order for the free market to work some order of polity and court system should itself be set up to provide that the normal workings of the market be not interfered with by the human tendencies to injustice and fraud. In this sense, polity need not be opposed to economy. When the polity reaches out for more than is natural to its own propose, it also makes the economy unworkable. When the free markets finds no limits, no place to resolve its disputes, no outside judgment on what is bought or sold -- say, slaves or fetuses, opium or prescription drugs -- it undermines the purpose for which it exists, it becomes, as it were, unnatural.
Implicit in the discussion of the fair or just price is the unjust price. On the other hand, a high price is not necessarily an unjust price and a low price is not necessarily an unfair price. Things that no one wants gradually become unwanted, that is, they become free. Things that attract a high price incite others to imitate them and offer them for a lesser price or a better quality. Moreover, we are familiar with the notions of "underground" economies or "black markets." Often, these markets are signs of a kind of compensatory natural law at work against an over-regulated or inefficient economy. They are testimonies to the fact that there is a right order of production and distribution that is not working properly, either on the moral side of things, that some things ought not to be bought or sold or on the economic side when markets are not working freely or efficiently.
The natural law, to conclude, is the insistence that everything in exchange, polity, and life stands under the test of a reason grounded in what is. Thus, it is a guarantee that a free market not only has its proper place but it itself, when it does what it should do, is a place where natural reasoning works itself out. This working out must reach to the particulars of what is needed, wanted, and hoped for, of what is right, in the production, distribution, and rewarding of goods and services. Natural law guarantees that something is good and legitimate by providing for a check and a reasoning about what is not. In this sense, in both politics and economics it allows each to be what it ought to be when it is left free to act as it should to its own proper end and purpose.
6) First of a new series, Schall on Natural Law, Veritas, Journal of Natural Law Studies Center, I (September/October, 1997), 7-8 (PO 2276, Vienna, VA., 22183-2276).
KING HEROD AS A NATURAL LAW THINKER
The "natural law" of this column, as it unfolds, will, unlike the natural law itself, restrict its author to no single topic, reasonable or unreasonable, though hopefully each installment will touch on what is understood in the tradition to be a natural law consideration. Plato, I believe, thought it was a good thing to know much about evil, though he did not think that acquiring such knowledge should be garnered from doing evil. Most controverted natural law questions and issues will have something to do with knowing what is or is not evil, or better, what is or is not good.
The briefest definition of natural law is that of Maritain, to wit: "the normalcy of a thing's functioning." Thus, we would be surprised to hear a cat quack. We do not use a hammer for a toothpick. This analogy implies that man has a normalcy of functioning, even when he is functioning improperly. That is, any rational being caught doing something evil will not hesitate to give reasons why what he did was all right. And, be it noted, it will be "all right" under some aspect; he will have a "reason." Nothing is ever completely wrong under every and all circumstances. We cannot do evil without at the same time doing it within something good. This is pure Aristotle and St. Thomas.
On the Feast of John the Baptist, we find an account of his famous death at the unwilling hands of Herod Antipas. Though Scripture is not a formal text on natural law, it often contains incidents that illustrate what it is all about. In general, as unprincipled tyrants go, King Herod was not such a bad guy. Unfortunately, in a move he probably often regretted, he married his brother's wife, a move that John the Baptist did not approve of on the grounds of degrees of kindred. But John did not make Herod angry because of this criticism of marital legalities. Indeed, Herod was rather afraid of him and fascinated by him. But John's words did infuriate Herod's wife, Herodias.
When Herod's niece, Herodias's daughter by her earlier marriage, called Salome in the tradition, danced so sublimely before Herod -- in a scene made famous in opera -- Herod is quite delighted. He promises the girl up to half his kingdom. We figure he must have been a bit tipsy to have made this rash promise before his buddies. But he did promise, only to find that his wife, who may have staged the whole thing, wants him to get rid of John. He is shamed into the terrible beheading at supper time. The scene is, of course, graphic and memorable.
But what I want to point out here, with regard to what might be understood as natural law or natural reasoning, is Herod's dilemma. Evidently, had Salome in fact asked for half the kingdom, assuming it was his private property, she would have gotten it. Why? because of Herod's promise. What is the principle? To use the famous Latin phrase -- pacta sunt servanda. That is, treaties and promises solemnly made are to be kept. Herod, however, had given Salome a choice -- whatever she wants, even if half the kingdom. After all, the girl might have wanted a new horse or a trip to Rome. On consulting with her mother -- another implicit admonition of natural law -- Salome returns with her motherly inspired request for the head of John on a platter.
At this point, we are told that Herod was dismayed, an honorable reaction. But what is interesting in his view of his own natural obligations is that he thinks that it a worse alternative to break his solemn promise to Salome and the court than to dispatch John in jail. Most of us would think, of course, that he had it wrong about the greater and lesser evil. He should have broken his promise rather than get rid of John. Indeed, we would say that such a promise, if it included killing an innocent man, was not a true promise in the first place. This is Augustine's "an unjust law or promise is no law." All promises and compacts presuppose right order for them to be valid promises.
While we do not exactly have to admire old Herod for keeping his promise in spite of the embarrassment of it all, we do have to admit that he did recognize what he took to be a solemn obligation into which he voluntarily entered. In breaking one element of natural law, the killing of John, he kept another element, the principle that we should keep our promises -- though perhaps not rash ones.
What does King Herod as a natural law thinker teach us? That voluntary promises, solemnly pronounced, have a naturally binding force. This is the truth of his actions and the cause of his dilemma before his friends and Salome, even before Herodias who must have known this rather stalwart side of Herod. Looking at this case, we see that it does not contain any definite revelational principles. The issue is one that could happen in any court, any place. John was invoking a marital law (Leviticus) that Herod did not dispute. He did not suggest to John, for example, that there is nothing wrong with marrying one's brother's widow, if she was a widow. (It seems that Herodias had not been married to Philip, as St. Mark said but, to another brother. Philip, Herod's brother, seems to have been in fact married to Salome, his niece.)
The issue is about promises and oaths and whether they should be kept. We need not expect Herod to have straightened out the subtleties out, but we do think that he, or anyone doing the same, acted on the wrong principle in the case. He was rightly dismayed that he was required to kill John. Instead of assuming that this was a higher responsibility, he reasoned on the basis of his understanding of the obligation of promises. In natural law, he had two other alternatives: a) he could have reasoned on the higher principle that innocent men are not to be killed (he had no doubt of John's innocence) or b) that rash or unjust promises do not bind. Herod Antipas, as a natural law thinker, can at least provide us with some occasion to sort out the relevant principles of our acting.
7) From Schall on Natural Law, Veritas, II (January/February, 1998), 11-12.
THE JUSTICE THAT RECTIFIES
In his, Aristotle wrote that "justice is the virtue through which everyone enjoys his own possessions in accordance with the law; its opposite is injustice, through which men enjoy the possessions of others, in defiance of the laws" (1366b9-10). Justice is a habit by which, when an occasion arises for doing an act of justice, of returning what is due, we first recognize the fact that it is a just situation confronting us; and secondly, we actually do the just or right thing toward someone to whom we owe something.
The classic definition of justice is simply to render to another what is due. In natural law theory, this rightness of a relationship involving others is said to be commanded by reason. Here, I want to say something about the most basic form of justice, what is called variously "commutative" or "rectificatory" justice. Potentially, we can be related to anyone in the world in terms of justice. That is, we may be in Tokyo where we order a supper. We then pay for it. That is, we return to the restaurant owner what is due to him because of what we ate. We restore. We make right. We are both better off because of the exchange measured in terms of dollars and yen.
Let me give a Schall example. On the Feast of St. Jerome, I took a walk down across the Canal to the Potomac, by Georgetown Harbor, back up Rock Creek, then up by the Four Seasons to where Pennsylvania and "M" Streets meet. On leaving my room, I thought that I would by a cappuccino at some coffee bar on the way back, an anticipated pleasure, as Aristotle would say. So I put in my pocket a ten dollar bill and what I thought to be four pennies, two dimes, and three nickels. The reason for the four pennies was that I thought I would probably buy the small cappuccino at Dean and DeLucca's Deli where I had indeed had one about a week previously, a very good one. There, it had cost exactly $1.85, plus the steep District sales tax of nineteen cents, so $2.04.
As I came back "M" Street after 31st Street, however, I came by a coffee bar I had never been in before, called, "The Coffee Beanery." It seemed like a nice place. I went in. I really did not look much at the man who waited on me. I was sort of looking at the place. He told me that the cappuccino cost $2.09. Naturally, this distracted me. I put the ten dollars on the counter by the cash register. I pulled out my change and found that I had only three pennies, not four, as I thought. So I picked up the three pennies that I had put down and replaced them another nickel with the first one plus the ten dollars. There was a tip jar for the extra penny, big spender, I.
The clerk made the cappuccino. I picked it up and looked around for the sugar. He pointed to a counter in back of me. I put the sugar in, picked up a napkin and stirring stick, went over and sat down at a table facing the street to drink it. I was still wondering why the same drink was a nickel cheaper at Dean and DeLucca's; and, as I tasted it, it was not as good either. Anyhow, it cooled down. It was not too bad and tasted good after the walk. I had worn a green sweatshirt that, by the Canal, I had taken off as it was hot. So I finished the cappuccino, picked up the sweatshirt, and and left.
When I crossed "M" Street at Wisconsin and started down the other side by Uno's Chicago Pizzeria, by chance I looked in my pocket for the eight dollars that I should have received in return for my ten dollars. All I could find was the small change. This puzzled me for a bit. But reflecting back on the experience, I realize that I had not received the money back from the waiter.
Now here is where the justice analysis comes in. Obviously, the waiter knew that I, distracted by the metaphysics of the price differential, had not picked up the eight dollars change. It sounds silly, I know. I used to have a cappuccino in my Roman days so that also distracted me by comparison as I drank the cappuccino at "The Coffee Beanery." Clearly, what happened is that the clerk simply watched me. No one was in the shop but me and another girl clerk, who went outside. He did not bother to come over with the eight dollars. So I just went out distractedly.
Probably, I could have gone back to ask for the money, but I decided to let it be a lesson to me. Caveat emptor, or something like that. The clerk let a minor injustice be done. He pocketed my eight bucks. Right order was not restored. By this act, a man, whom I will never see again, revealed his order of soul to me by not being just in a minor thing, a venial sin, as they say.
The natural law, as Cicero tells us, is based on the assumption of human cooperation, on the assumption that we would want others to do rightly unto us in the similar situation. That is, if I were the clerk, and the clerk were me the customer, he would want the money returned. It was the customer's money, just as the $2.09 was the shop's money because of the exchange.
So a slight disorder of character is revealed in an action involving an objective just relation that ought to have existed. I would no longer trust "The Coffee Deanery" on "M" Street. I would tell my friends, "avoid the place." There is a Starbucks a couple of doors down and Dean and DeLucca's is a nickel cheaper and better. Stick with them.
Now I recognize that we should not deliberately tempt people to be unjust. So there was an involuntary negligence or distraction on my part in not immediately asking for the eight dollars back. I simply forgot. This occasion gave the clerk a problem. Should he come over and tell me or not? He chose not to.
Now, I suppose, in some realm of feasibility, I could imagine that the eight dollars is still there waiting for me to return. I am not going to go back to find out, nor am I going to bet on it. But, human nature being what it is, I will be morally sure that my analysis is correct. The man did not tell the forgetful gentleman with the green sweatshirt on St. Jerome's Day that he foolishly forgot his eight dollars.
One could imagine too that the clerk, though employed, had starving children at home and this was a boon for them. It was like Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to give to the poor. But of course, this was merely a normal event of daily commerce. The trust that folks will be fair and honest with one another is simply there and anticipated. Society depends on it. It is the foundation of the justice that potentially exists among all people. When it is violated -- Schall is a believer in original sin and its consequences, so no real surprise -- the structure of a just society is lessened. What belongs to another, an unknown other, is not returned in a given instant.
The bottom line is that there is a clerk who is enjoying my eight dollars. The whole of the justice that rectifies is contained in this ten dollar and nine cents cappuccino on "M" Street in Georgetown.
8) From Schall on Natural Law, Veritas, II (May/June, 1998), 8-9.
HABITS AND NATURES
I had a Keystone, Easy-Shot Automatic Camera. It worked fine for five years, maybe more. Then somehow, the shutter cover, which is opened and closed by hand, refused to work. That camera which I bought for about fifteen dollars is probably repairable if I could find out who could do the work. I decided instead about a hear ago to purchase another camera, a Canon, of almost the same type as the one whose cover would not work.
One slight difference between these two cameras concerned its operating procedure. In the former camera, when the roll of 24 or 36 was finished, if the batteries were still good, it would rewind automatically. All that was necessary was to open the back of the camera, remove the used roll, and replace the film. In the new camera, however, this operation, probably for safety reasons, was not automatic. A little button on the bottom of the camera was necessary to push for it to rewind when the roll was used. It all worked splendidly. I felt something like a mechanical genius every time I pushed the little button in and it buzzed while rewinding.
The other day, however, I had one shot of a twenty-four slide film roll left in the Canon. This particular film had several shots that I particularly wanted, gorgeous Fall shots, including, among others, the ones of my two little grand-nephews over in North Potomac at Halloween. Looking out my window here at Georgetown on Dalghren Chapel and the Healy Towers, on the golden leaves of the trees below, I decided to take a final, autumn shot, which I did.
Going back to my desk, I opened a new roll of film to replace the used one. Automatically, I found the button that opened the back of the camera. To my surprise, I noticed that there was still film in the camera instead of its all being neatly rerolled into the capsule. That seemed curious to me. I knew that I had thereby lost some film to exposure, so I tried to take the roll capsule out. In some frustration, I ended up pulling out by hand the whole film, not quite realizing what I was doing. I was thoroughly annoyed at the camera for not working as it should.
After some moments, I got to thinking about this perplexing problem of the camera that suddenly did not work. On putting the new film in, it seemed to work correctly, so it was not the batteries. Then I remembered about the little rewind button, which I had used many times before. But for just a brief moment, I had forgotten about it. I had not pushed the rewind button. Naturally -- I use the word here carefully -- the film was still in the camera just as it should have been. Not only did I not remember the right procedure with the rewind button, I did not think properly about the film in the camera, most of which I could have saved if I had recognized the situation.
Let us reflect on this situation. At every instance, the camera was being what a camera is. It was following its natural law, the procedures that interrelate its parts to its purpose. The pictures were properly taken. When the cover was opened, the pictures were exposed. That is, light did what it was supposed to do on film -- ruin it. Both nature and craft were doing what they are designed to do, to be themselves.
What was functioning wrongly was Schall, the owner-operator of the camera. One small error, one small forgotten step, and the purpose of the camera, the taking of photos according to a certain procedure, is thwarted. Even forgetful Schall, in a way, was functioning normally. I had evidently thought the camera, like the former one, had rewound automatically, though I did not hear it as I usually do. I forgot that I had to make it rewind. Once this error, this lack, had been put into the camera, everything followed from there logically. Everything did what it was supposed to do. The camera back opened, no stuck button here. The light shone on the film. I pulled out the rest of the film thinking something was wrong with the camera. It came out in perfectly normal fashion. I threw away the exposed film, annoyed that I something was botched. I was momentarily innocent.
Then I reflected back on my actions. It was not the camera that was wrong. Its "nature" was perfectly normal. Had I thought to open the cover in darkness, the film would have been saved. I was acting perfectly rationally, on the assumption that I had the former camera, which I knew I did not have but did not aver to the fact. With regard to the present camera in which I had the film, I was putting a disorder into its normal function. I missed one needed step. From this missing step, certain definite consequences followed. With regard to that particular set of 24 shots, I destroyed them because I did not think properly at the right time and place. It did not matter that my act was unintended. I did not want to destroy the film. What I did intend to do, that is open the back to take out the film capsule now completed, happened.
Are there any lessons about natural law for human beings that might be contained in this account of Schall's not too felicitous forgetfulness? The first thing, I suppose, is that things, including human beings, are what they are. They are supposed to operate in a given way to complete the purpose of their existing nature. There is an order that relates this end, in this case, the finished photos, to the procedure necessary to achieve it. An error puts into the process what ought not to be there, something is lacking. What is lacking, however, begins a new process that reaches its own end, in this case, the exposed film.
Who was responsible for this exposed film? We could say that it was the camera doing what it does by its nature. All cameras when opened improperly to light will expose the film. In this case, I could not sue Canon for a defective product. The reason my previous camera did not continue to work was because of a defective cover to the lens. But that too was not caused by its Keystone makers but because I recall dropping the camera on the floor.
No, the essential moment was when I averted my attention in particular to how my camera was supposed to work, when I forgot the steps of its nature as a camera. Moreover, it was not that I did not normally know the way to rewind this film. I had done so many times. But at one particular instant, I forgot or failed to note the proper law of the camera. But instead of not proceeding further until I had remembered, I went forward on the basis of my forgetfulness.
Chesterton once talked about the man who sees a chain across a road. He cries, "Down with Chains." But he has not the slightest idea why that chain is up there in the first place. Only when he understood why the chain was there could he take it down. It was there for a purpose and until we knew the purpose, it was wrong to take it down.
Human beings are like self-luminous and self-acting cameras who see and instigate every step of their action as they put it into existence. When they fail to put something in place in reality, consequences follow from the lack of what should be there. They choose to proceed before they have the full picture. They want a certain thing without putting into operation the only steps whereby they can rightly achieve it. When things go wrong, they say that they forgot, they did not pay attention, it was not their fault. They operated the procedures of their own being, their own nature, of which they are the guides and masters, without full attention because they wanted something else, by their own other way.
When this other way suddenly turns out not to work, they fail to retrace the steps that lead back to their own understanding and will that put the disorder into initial operation. Their guilt and their sin consists in their self-running what is to be a human being, what it is to be this human being, in the wrong way. Somehow they know that they failed to examine the proper steps. In the end, they either justify their error or go back to admit how it could have been done rightly. Our character is decided ultimately by which of these two ways we choose to explain why the self-acting being that is ourselves explains what it does wrongly according to its nature.
9) From Sense and Nonsense, Veritas, forthcoming.
HOW DIFFERENT THINGS ARE THE SAME
We live in an age of what is called multiculturalism. This means, roughly, that they do things differently in China, or Brazil, or wherever and, if not now, then in former times. Already in classical times, some have concluded from the diversity of customs that there was nothing that all men had in common. Plato and Aristotle dealt with this issue. Thus, wide experience of travel and of reading showed us, it was said, that because of these sorts of differences, there was no common human nature.
Hence, all we can do is to "respect" diverse cultures and customs. We cannot intimate that anything is wrong if something is at variance with what we do or with what we think to be the right way to do it. This relativist thesis is said to ground a sort of universal tolerance in which, when we find out that they do it differently in Sicily or Turkey or Kansas City, we are supposed to lapse into silence and admire the wonders of diversity. We thus, almost unnaturally, withhold any judgment of the differing ways of doing things, no matter how atrocious, because we think we have no grounds to suggest otherwise. That this mentality can lead to the most culpable silence before the most horrible atrocities in the world, goes without saying. The present silence of Christians about the wide-spread persecution of their fellow Christians in other cultures seems to be rooted in this mentality.
Today, I went to a funeral of the mother of a fellow Jesuit over in Baltimore. She was buried according to the traditional rites of the Catholic Church; that is, Mass, casket, obsequies, burial in a local cemetery. My own step-mother, when she died a couple of years ago, wanted to be cremated. Since the Church no longer worries so much about the once hostile theory that cremation was intended explicitly to deny the possibility of the Resurrection of the Body, it has removed its objection.
Today also, I received a letter from a former student of mine now working in the U.S. Consulate in what was once called Bombay, in India, but now it seems to be called "Mumbai." I was once in this "Mumbai" where a Parsee doctor I met explained that for that faith, bodies are placed in a huge enclosed tower where the vultures eat the flesh. We know too that bodies are buried in the Ganges River, as well as that bodies that are buried at sea. Plato tells of bodies burnt on pyres, a form of cremation, I suppose. I have ever heard of folks deciding to put themselves in deep freeze in the hope that someday science will rouse them again, a secular faith if there ever was one.
In any case, when we look at these and any other forms of dealing with the dead -- say, giving our parts to science -- we see that there are many different ways to dispose of human beings when they die. Surely, this is an example of cultural diversity. Usually, how a people buries its dead tells us much about what they think of life. Aborted fetuses, for instance, are either simply disposed of or, evidently, sometimes used for parts or cosmetics or experimentation, or heaven knows what. There are also cannibals. Some American Indians were said to eat the hearts of their enemies to gain their courage. We know about the Egyptian mummies. They say that there may be dead Soviet cosmonauts whirling around some orbit of earth or planet.
When we look at such things as an example of a principle, we see that there are many different ways to meet the same situation: what to do at the death of a human being. Almost always, the way chosen is designed to be also respectful or reverent, to acknowledge that is a human person that has died. But the diversity of particular ways to dispose of our dead bodies does not argue to an absolute diversity in human nature. Rather it argues to a certain basic commonness. That there are different ways of dealing with our bodies is a fact. That this diversity of ways means that we have nothing common is not a fact. It means rather that we do.
Moreover, when someone does not follow the customs of the culture or religion in reposing the dead, he is accused of disrespect or dishonor. Once we know how the dead are handled in a particular place or time, we see that there is always a certain procedure, a certain way to act and to finalize human life and their remains.
Thus, different ways of doing things need not indicate that there is no natural law that is being displayed in the diverse actions. It means rather that there is a natural law, that the dead, for instance, are not simply to be tossed away without ceremony. But the ways in which this ceremony can be met will change, though often it will remain the same within a tradition or nation. Some ways to accomplish our respect for the dead can well be criticized as barbarous or less than edifying. But that is not the same as saying that there is no effort there to fulfill what seems to be a natural obligation incumbent on us with respect to those who die.
Different things can thus be the same, not different. It may take some time and acumen to come to see what is different and what is the same. But in many instances in which it is said that there is simple cultural diversity, there is in fact an underlying commonness and natural agreement.
Are there then no diverse customs or laws that violate natural law? If abortion has now become a "custom," do we only oppose it on the grounds that sufficient time has not elapsed to make it a legal or binding custom? Cannot we say that it is "against the natural law," no matter how widely practiced. Do we not say this of, say, slavery? In other words, are customs and diversities themselves subject to any higher standard than the simple fact that "this is what we do"? Do we say of Soviet or Chinese concentration camps that this is how they punish people there, just like our jails?
Natural law, thus, proposes itself as a standard whereby we might talk of what is right and wrong, even if we find what we criticize done often or throughout history or even by ourselves. Natural law is not intended to deny that differing ways may exist for doing certain things that are open to diverse practical considerations, such as how we dispose of our dead. It does deny, however, that we live in regimes of such absolute diversity that we are to refrain from any judgment on the customs and laws of others or ourselves, no matter what they are.
10) From Schall on Natural Law, Veritas, forthcoming.
NATURAL LAW AND CIVILIZATIONAL DECLINE
A famous passage in Book Three of Augustine's City of God speaks of Scipio Africanus' final destruction of Rome's most dangerous enemy, Carthage. Instead of basking in subsequent dignity, liberty, and prosperity as a result of peace, "from that time on, the Roman republic was oppressed by burdens of evils. Indeed, the very prosperity and security of Rome's affairs led, on account of the Romans' exceedingly corrupt morals, to those burdensome evils. Thus, Carthage harmed Rome more by being so swiftly overthrown than it had previously harmed her by by being for so long her adversary" (c. 21). The thesis here, of course, is that adversity requires right living for self-defense. When this external enemy is absent, however, then nothing keeps a people, lacking inner virtue, from moral decline.
To speak of a "moral decline," however, implies something to decline from, some standard by which we could tell the difference between what is good and what is evil. The distinction between courage and cowardice exists only if there is a just cause and if this cause is worthy of defense by those responsible for its protection. In a sense, we recognize that "decline" is the opposite of "progress." We cannot progress, go any where, unless we know where we are going and the way to get there. If we want to go to Alberta in Canada but we do not know where it is, or even whether it is, we cannot seek to get there. We cannot set out in all directions at once. We can progress to Alberta only if we know what and where it is. Likewise, we can speak of "decline" only if we think something is good from which to deviate. If nothing is good or evil, it does not much matter what we do. All things are equally indifferent in this case and all distinctions arbitrary. We have no basis of complaint, whatever happens.
No doubt, America at the beginning of a new millennium seems to find itself in a situation similar to that of Rome after the destruction of Carthage. By natural law standards, measured in terms of the widespread incidence of things said in natural law to be evil, we are in decline. We deny the standards and the foundations on which they are decided. Classical moralists had long maintained that such moral decline made any political entity unable or unwilling to see itself as it was. Vice was morally blinding. The members of society are so absorbed in self-concern and pleasures that they were incapable of assessing whether the polity had external enemies and whether such enemies were dangerous. Even worse, they could not see that their greatest enemies were, ironically, themselves.
A direct relationship is said to exist between what went on in one's soul and what went on in the republic; soulcraft and statecraft were said to be intimately related. All civil corruption begins in inner, moral corruption. We are now told, at the very highest levels of our culture, that no identifiable relation exists between our private living and deeds and the public order. The absolute "separation" is not between church and state, but between our private and our public lives. This latter distinction itself, of course, is a blind act of faith, contrary to all historical precedent.
But what is new is not so much the prevalence of personal moral evils, but their being themselves defined as indifferent or as positively good. If suicide is "good," then it is a "right." If it is a right, we should all practice it, just like the ancient Stoics said, sooner if not later when we think it fitting. The same is true of same-sex relationships, of beastiality, of infidelity, of a hundred other things that we find in daily practice. If these activities can now be considered to be "reasonable," it means that no "reason" exists in nature other than human reason now defining human nature itself as malleable, capable of being whatever anyone wants, because there is nothing to prevent it. Nature has no cause, no order.
The essence of moral decline is not licentiousness as such. The essence of moral decline is to define licentiousness -- classical decadents knew what they did was wrong -- as a good, a positive good, an exercise in a new kind of "virtue." Who or what makes this definition? Surely it is not nature itself which continues to punish with untoward consequences moral disorders and aberrations, even when we do not acknowledge them as such. Jealousy does not cease on the theory that free love is the only order. Children are neglected when mothers find their primary fulfillment in occupation. When we seek to substitute for mothers, we get expensive bureaucracies and disordered children, often disordered mothers and fathers. We think it "unjust" that such consequences should result from our new natural "rights" to define ourselves. But they do.
The prohibition of the basic vices that undermine civilized living does not come primarily from revelation. It is true that revelation reinforces and enhances our perception of natural law. And it is often true that modern proponents of deeds and opinions contrary to natural law think that they are protesting primarily against revelation. But it is not so. They are, to be sure, protesting against the order of being and its cause; they are protesting against what they themselves could and should know and do. Aristotle, I believe, remarked that at the origin of all intellectual error is a moral blindness that manifests itself by diverting our attention from the truth in human things when we choose not to see it there because of what we have wilfully chosen to do. The natural law defines civilizational decline. It provides the standard against which we understand human choices directed against human nature as it exists in this world but as that human existence is itself caused by what caused the world.
11) From Schall on Natural Law, Veritas, forthcoming.
WHY NATURAL LAW IS DANGEROUS
We are apt to think that only "bad" ideas are dangerous. But what may be even more dangerous than a "bad" idea is a theory about what a bad idea might actually mean, a theory, in short, that plausibly justifies the bad idea. On the other hand, in a disordered soul or society, what may be much more dangerous than a bad idea is a good one. Let me see if I can sort out in what sense "natural law" might be a dangerous idea.
To begin with, in principle, no idea, as such, in its intelligibility, is bad. Ideas are true or false. It is a good thing to know what erroneous ideas are, to know them exactly. It is a good thing to be able to explain specifically why an idea is wrong, to know it, in other words. In a sense, our heads should be full of false or erroneous ideas. As Plato said, we should be able to say of what is that it is, and of what is not, that it is not. Our minds should be conformed to the reality of a thing. To know and affirm accurately the wrongness of an idea constitutes an activity that is the proper functioning of the mind. The mind is to illuminate things in their essential natures or realities, an illumination that will include an awareness of the wrongness or error of some idea.
Aquinas remarked that the natural law of a thing is its activity, its most distinguishing activity. Thus, he said that the natural law of a human being is to act reasonably. That is, every human being can give a "reason" for each of his acts. Even when someone does something wrong, he has a reason ready at hand to explain or justify why he did it. He acts "reasonably" in acting "unreasonably," so to speak. There is nothing particularly mysterious about this fact. A little reflection on our own deeds or observing those of others will reveal the truth of Aquinas' position. In the very act of giving a reason for something, we implicitly expose our reasoning to the test of reason itself. Does what we claim is a valid reason really prove that it is? Once we give a reason, the whole world can examine it. This is why we are potentially related to precisely everyone in our reasoning.
What I want to explain here is why ideas come to be seen as dangerous, even though as such, ideas, even erroneous ones, are good. My main point will be that ideas in themselves only become dangerous when they are perceived to praise what should be rejected, or to condemn something we want to do or live by even if wrong. In other words, I want to affirm the importance of thinking about things. Ultimately, all order and disorder in the world comes forth from our thinking in the light of what we are, in the light of what is.
It is a good idea, moreover, to know what the extremes of evil can say in their favor, to know what are the horrendous things that people do to one another. We do not understand the goodness of a thing unless we understand the badness, as it were, of the activities surrounding it. Paradoxically, it is dangerous to know what is good without knowing also what is bad, without knowing why it is bad and how its badness relates to what is good.
Now, obviously, I do not think the natural law, in its proper understanding, is "dangerous." That is, to understand something that is a valid explanation of how we act and what we are is a good thing. Such an explanation is dangerous to us primarily if we do not live according to what we are. Plato had said that the worst thing that could happen to us would be for us to have a lie in our souls, to lie to ourselves about what is the truth and about how we should live. No one would want to live with a life in his soul, yet we can blind ourselves enough to do so at times.
Thus, if we do have a lie in our soul, if we have chosen an explanation of our meaning and life that is contrary to the natural law, if we say of what is wrong, that it is right, or if we say of what is good, that it is bad, and live accordingly, then the last thing we want to hear is the truth. The truth becomes dangerous to us because we have committed our lives to a lie and from this lie in our soul, our actions follow when we act on it.
Thus, the natural law, a proper explanation things, particularly human things, will be potentially dangerous both in private and public lives. Civil societies can be and are set up so that, in this or that area, they do not permit what is true to be heard, to be presented as true. A civil society, in its choice of constitution and law, can establish what is disordered, what is unreasonable, as the norm of action. The coercive arm of the state can enforce the disorder, punish those who point the disorder out. We should not doubt this capacity for it underlies many of the greatest dramas of history, including the deaths of Socrates and Christ.
The natural law is dangerous in a disordered society to the extent that that society is itself disordered. And what we should realize in particular is that men often prefer to keep their disorder rather than to have it criticized or changed. Pride is a real force in human history. Much of the drama of what is called today "inculturation" is, unfortunately, often an effort to prevent any outside principle of universal reason to criticize what has come to be a way of life or established civil procedure. Custom or positive law replace reason as the operative norm of a life or society. Natural law is looked upon as a threat to tradition or to civil power or to entrenched habits of a people.
Thinking and thinking rightly are, therefore, not merely pleasant pastimes. While thought is intended to be for its own sake, the fact is that it frees us to look at and know what is. It may be necessary or wise at times to permit or tolerate what is wrong or erroneous. But it is, as Socrates said, never right to do wrong, never right to say of what is not, that it is, or of what is, that it is not. This is our natural law, the law of our being. It is always present, even when we seek to suppress or avoid it. It becomes operative the minute we give a reason for what we do and are. This is the great basis of our freedom, of our freedom to be what we are. This is also the great basis of opposition to natural law, the realization that, on many basic points, how we live is lived wrongly, how we legislate is legislated wrongly, against the norm of reason, the natural law.
6) From The American Journal of Jurisprudence, 40 (1995), 157-98. This entry contains an introductory essay followed by a lengthy bibliography of natural law essays written mostly in English during the past fifty or so years. It is not complete but it contains most of the major entries.
-- James V. Schall, S. J.
SUNDRY REFLECTIONS "THE NATURAL LAW BIBLIOGRAPHY"
"The story of the life and murder and resurrection of God-in-Man is not only the symbol and epitome of the relations of God and man throughout time; it is also a series of events that took place at a particular point in time. And the people of that time had not the faintest idea that it was happening.
Of all examples of the classical tragic irony in fact or fiction, this is the greatest -- the classic of classics. Beside it, the doom of Oedipus is trifling, and the nemesis of the Oresteian blood-bath a mere domestic incident. For the Christian affirmation is that a number of quite commonplace human beings, in an obscure province of the Roman Empire, killed and murdered God Almighty -- quite casually, almost as a matter of religious and political routine, and certainly with no notion that they were doing anything out of the way."
To introduce what is in effect an extended reading list on natural law by citing something from the famous British mystery-story writer and philosopher Dorothy Sayers will, of course, seem distinctly odd. So be it. During World War II, Dorothy Sayers wrote or rather refashioned the four Gospels into a radio drama for the BBC. Sayers is famous for her translation of Dante and for her philosophic analyses of the nature of drama herself, as well as for her book, The Mind of the Maker, itself a pretty good book to read for anyone interested in natural law. What most struck Miss Sayers about this endeavor of presenting the Gospels as a radio drama was how remarkably close the Gospel accounts corresponded to sound dramatic theory. She further pressed the meaning of this coincidence in her many and useful explanatory asides when she commented on the characters and movement of the drama. She discovered that ordinary people can do terrible things, in part knowingly, in part unknowingly. The very recounting of this drama in "an obscure province of the Roman Empire" makes us aware of an overriding law or principle that stands in judgment of human actions and sheds light on what they might mean, on why they might please or might shock us. The drama of the death of Christ, whether by radio on the BBC or in any other media, including the reading of the Gospels themselves, is meaningless if there is no abiding law or principle against which it stands and demands explication.
Every so often, I do a semester course on "Political Philosophy and Natural Law." Many students, especially those who anticipate being lawyers, as it seems almost all students today do so anticipate, suspect somehow, though they are not quite sure why, that they should know something about natural law. It has a kind of nice ring to it. Somehow it must be dealt with, even to reject it. Many students have still heard of the Nuremburg Trials and how natural law was a kind of last resort to judge some of the worst scoundrels of our era. Most students are likewise vaguely aware that it is quite unlikely that a course in natural law as such will be offered in any law school of their otherwise free choice. For the most part, a serious study of the natural law and its tradition must be something in the nature of a private enterprise. Many students are aware that what they are likely to be given to study in the universities on this subject is wholly inadequate to meet or to understand the great philosophical tradition of the West, and of Christian thought in particular. This is the tradition in which natural law thinking was founded and has always remained an unsettling but noble presence.
A law student recently told me that she tried to find a course on the relation of Christianity and law, but the school she was attending did not offer one. It did have a course in the "Jewish Sources of Law," however. I suspect "Islamic Sources", "Buddhist Sources", via multi-culturalism, are on the horizon. The law school in question that did not have a course in Christian sources of law was, amusingly, at a Catholic University. Fortunately, a suitable course was found in a near-by law school. The best I can do for such students is to suggest initially a reading of Harold Berman's eye-opening Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition. I also think my old mentor Heinrich Rommen's book, The Natural Law, is also worth a look. In the beginning it is crucial for students to have at least some beginning sense of the need intellectually to get outside the almost total dominance of legal positivism. Probably the most common way students will acquire this perspective is through Strauss or Voegelin or Maritain. Another way to accomplish this independence of rigid academic control is to read Plato in a serious and careful manner. John Wild's Plato's Modern Enemies and the Theory of Natural Law is still quite worth reading.
No doubt, in recent years, the best and most paradoxical thing to happen to natural law in the public forum was the Thomas Hearings. When Senator Joseph Biden, a Catholic, said, in connection with Judge Thomas's writings on natural law, that this same natural law was a dangerous doctrine, he made many wonder just why is there such opposition to it from such sources. The senator, who seemed rather innocent of the Catholic tradition on the topic, feared that the Constitution itself and all legislation under it might thereby be subject to a judgment that was not simply identical with the will of the Court, the legislature, or the people. Biden, be it noted, was on the side of the Court, the legislature, and the people as these entities have come to be defined in modern thought with no grounding or basis in principle or abiding reason that might explain how they could in fact go wrong, individually or collectively. The natural law tradition was precisely one that argued for the reasonable limits of political power from whatever source.
As if to confirm the perceived dangers of natural law in the eyes of many professional opponents to religion, who often think that a thing is wrong on no other grounds than that a religious authority thinks it right, the Holy Father devoted a large section of Veritatis Splendor to its elaboration, clarification, and representation. This presentation of the understanding of natural law is one of the clearest and most brilliant in its long literature. From now on, it must be included in every discussion of the topic. John Paul II argued that there were absolute truths and things that were intrinsically evil, no matter who did them. Any society based on pure political will that chooses in its constitution or legislation principles or fosters practices contrary to the natural law, the Holy Father suspected, will find itself in the deepest of moral and political trouble, even when it calls its resulting troubles by any other name but the truth of what they are. To name the truth of regimes and to acknowledge the real nature of our souls remain moral and political projects of the greatest difficulty when done honestly on the basis of laws we do not make for ourselves, on the basis of natural laws, that is.
Cicero's famous and ringing statement of the natural law somehow still sounds uncannily like John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor, almost as if there is in fact an abiding tradition and teaching, whether propounded by the ancients' most eloquent lawyer or by a brilliant modern Pope-philosopher. Cicero's classic words remain moving, even to those do not realize that they, in their own lives and principles, really do not follow any of its basic norms:
True law is Reason, right and natural, commanding people to fulfill their obligations and prohibiting and deterring them from doing wrong. Its validity is universal; it is immutable and eternal. Its commands and prohibitions apply effectively to good men, and those uninfluenced by them are bad. Any attempt to suppress this law, to repeal any part of it, is sinful; to cancel it entirely is impossible. Neither the Senate nor the Assembly can exempt us from its demands; we need no interpreter or expounder of it but ourselves. There will not be one law at Rome, one at Athens, or one now and one later, but all nations will be subject all the time to this one changeless and everlasting law (De Rei Publica, III, 33).
This passage retains its power and depth in our era just as it has claimed the attention of earlier times.
Usually, when we are studying in class Cicero and come to this passage, I have a couple of different students in turn stand and read aloud this text to the rest of the class. I ask the class just to listen. I ask the student to read very loudly and very slowly. I have observed the listening students are usually very silent. I want to be sure that once in their lives they hear Cicero, just hear him. It should be read in Latin also, and there is no reason it cannot be, after a couple of initial readings in English. I know we need, in addition, the philosophic background of Plato and Aristotle, and so many others, properly to ground this topic's place in thought. In our multi-cultural times, Cicero still explains its dangers, the dangers of having one law in Rome and another in Athens, of one now and another later, of having nothing to judge the nations except what they decide for themselves, according to nothing but their own wills. It is but a short step, I suspect, from denying the abiding validity of Cicero to the "war of all against all," another kind of natural law, to be sure.
As I began to collect this bibliography over the years, I had the intention of compiling a book of natural law readings, sort of a more complete and up-to-date version of Brendan F. Brown's still useful The Natural Law Reader. First of all, for any one who wants to read in this most fascinating area, it is difficult to gather in one place the substantial essays on natural law that have been written in the last half-century. For all the supposed death of natural law, furthermore, a look at this literature assures us that the topic is quite alive. Indeed natural law has suddenly gained a vigor and vitality that we might not have anticipated. But then I realized that the amount of good natural law reading in the periodical literature is really too much for one book or a number of books of hefty size. I did not want to abbreviate or select central passages after the model of the Brown book, though I can see now why that was almost his only alternative. What I have in mind about this Natural Law Bibliography was to provide a useful resource for those law school professors, for those curious legal students, for the active lawyer or judge, for those philosopher, theologian, political theorist, politician, economist, or journalist who recall or come to understand the vital meaning of this too much neglected, but amazingly fascinating topic.
Moreover, I was pleased to see that Charles Rice has published another kind of book on natural law that has long been needed, his Fifty Questions on the Natural Law: What It Is and Why We Need It. I will not accuse him of imitating either the Baltimore Catechism or the new General Catechism of the Catholic Church but that question and answer format allows a more systematic and articulated approach. Actually, The General Catechism is also something that should be read by anyone interested in the background to studies on natural law as the Catechism clarifies just what belongs to revelation and what is reason's relation to it in the mind of the Catholic Church.
Surely, fifty years ago, Jacques Maritain was most responsible for attention to the natural law in intellectual and political circles. Without doubt, recently the central book in this revised attention to natural law is John Finnis' Natural Law and Natural Rights. It is difficult to overestimate its influence and importance, and, yes, brilliance. When this book first appeared, however, one would hardly have expected the lively turn of controversy this study has caused. We would have expected that the main critics of the book came from opponents to any theory of natural law. Instead, the book has found its most articulate criticism from natural law thinkers within the general Thomist tradition. Both Henry Veatch's Natural Rights: Fact or Fancy and Russell Hittinger's A Critique of the New Natural Law Theory have provided, in analyzing the Finnis thesis, an examination of the whole natural law tradition and its relation to modernity. It is within this background that the Finnis book is seen to be more on the side of modernity than on that of St. Thomas. This controversy is ongoing and the literature is full of various analyses of this lively and, I must say, welcome analysis at its more profound levels.
The older (1930's-60's) natural law theorists -- Rommen, Maritain, Burke, Lottin, d'Entreves, Simon, Messner -- left a legacy that is still of the first rank and on which these more recent studies have built. But into this thinking from those with Catholic backgrounds, we must acknowledge the imposing presence of Leo Strauss' famous essay on "The Natural Law" as well as his pioneering Natural Right and History. It is Strauss, I think, who, more than anyone else, has alerted us to the very different ideas of natural right and natural law, though d'Entreves quite clearly anticipated this issue in his little book on The Natural Law. Strauss distinguished classic natural right, natural law, and modern natural right. He found modern natural right to be quite radically different from natural law or classic natural right. He held modern natural right to be at the origin of most modern moral and political disorders. Not to be aware of the difference between natural law, classic and modern natural right was a major and oft-recurring confusion.
The attempt uncritically to fuse natural law with this modern natural right theory, something that too many modern religious thinkers have tried to do under the aegis of "human rights", has, in addition, caused a serious intellectual and religious confusion and political peril. Indeed, discussion of natural or human "rights". as Maurice Cranston and Mary Ann Glendon have chronicled, has become all to uncritical so that these supposedly common notions are most dangerously used without some explicit awareness that natural or human rights can mean the very opposite of that grounded philosophical tradition that derived from human nature. Even the Pope sometimes embraces the cause of "human rights" in a way that causes him trouble when suddenly abortion or homosexuality are propounded as modern "human rights" to be promoted and protected by the state as perfectly "normal".
Heinrich Rommen, moreover, takes us back to the Seventeenth Century Suarezian tradition of natural law, a tradition that is not yet sufficiently studied with regard to the split between modern and classic natural right. Suarez has been said to have exercised the influence in Spanish speaking countries that Locke did in English speaking countries, and in the same direction. In the discussion of the origin of modern natural right, I have always considered Father Charles N. R. McCoy's discussion of Grotius' famous phrase that the natural law would be the natural law even on the supposition that God did not exist, to be crucial. If God did not exist, there would be no natural law of any sort, but as McCoy shows, with great acumen, this is a philosophical not theological statement.
Maritain and Simon have made St. Thomas available to many. Both are aware of the problems with natural or human rights and have sought to counter the dangers. Indeed, Thomas Aquinas himself is still in many ways the leading figure in natural law thinking. No study on natural law can or should avoid paying fundamental attention to Aquinas' arguments on this topic. The Straussian school has not found a natural law tradition in either Plato, Aristotle, or Sophocles. This unexpected resistance to natural law in the name of classic natural right is due in part to the relation of reason and Christian revelation in particular, a relationship that is directly related to any natural law tradition. Natural law is thus in Strauss looked upon as a product primarily of revelation. St. Paul's claim that there is such a thing as natural reasoning or law only seems to confirm this thesis. Ralph McInerny's work, I think, goes a long way to meet these problems.
The crucial question with modern, as opposed to classic, natural right is whether the former right represents a complete break with the principled classical tradition? If so, and Strauss thinks that it does, there is no real limit or norm capable of establishing anything that might be called naturally right. With no natural law, "whatever the prince wills, is the law", to recall Aquinas' third objection to the question of the basis of law in reason (I-II, 90, 1, Obj. 3). On the other hand, Strauss does not allow that classic natural right might have some philosophic origin in a lawgiver, a transcendent lawgiver. Natural right, he argues, cannot be called "law" properly speaking. I think it is possible to address Strauss' concerns. Indeed, this reflection on Strauss' view of natural right and law is one of the most stimulating and important strands of thought in recent natural law literature and is not to be missed.
One of the central problems that critics of Finnis and Grisez have found with their new version of natural law lies in its relation to Kant. It is wondered whether there is any adequate grounding of natural law in metaphysics and not just logic or consciousness. I have always found Hadley Arkes' most stimulating and perceptive book, First Things, to be the best effort I know to bridge the Aristotelian and Kantian traditions. Veatch and Hittinger have argued that there is a quasi-Kantian presence in the Finnis-Grisez position that is worrisome. The periodical literature on this controversy constitutes, along with the Straussian concerns, a major stimulus to natural law theory. Another writer who is no doubt important to this whole issue is Alasdair MacIntyre whose general works on ethics and philosophy have had great impact.
Charles N. R. McCoy was the problem of the jus gentium and the relation of this concept to international law or the law of nations. A writer who is too little known in this area is E. B. F. Midgley at the University of Aberdeen. His book The Natural Law Tradition and the Theory of International Relations is a gold mine of careful study. Further, as David Yost at the Naval Post-Graduate School has taught me, international relations are in fact a fruitful addition to the early modern notion of the law of nations, especially as seen in the pioneering work of Martin Wight.
The American Founding has also been a source of thinking in the literature abut natural law. The Declaration of Independence makes this relationship to natural law and natural right inevitable. The question is asked about whether the American Founding was strictly a modern founding? That is, was America founded in modern and therefore ungrounded natural rights, or was it ultimately traced back through Vittoria, Suarez, and Grotius, to the scholastics through them to the Roman and Greek traditions? I have found the work of my colleague George Carey to be most perceptive in this area. I think the two books most useful to make the argument that there was a consistent natural law and religious background to the American founding are Hadley Arkes' Beyond the Constitution and Ellis Sandoz' A Government of Law. The controversies on this score about the Founding between Harry Jaffa, Walter Berns, Robert Bork, Richard Stevens, and a host of others, including those who look on the cause of the South with a more sympathetic eye, are well worth studying. They do ultimately have much to do with the validity and invalidity of natural law theory as it works its way out in historical practice..
An fertile approach to natural law, taken in a rather broad sense, concerns Leon Kass' two books, Toward a More Natural Science and The Hungry Soul. Kass takes a medically informed look at the actual operations of human life and the way it is informed by soul and how intimately the body is related to it. Kass' books, I think, are pioneering and will almost do more than any others to prepare us to look at what we might mean by a natural functioning that informs our lives. Maritain's famous definition of a natural law in his Man and the State, as "the normalcy of functioning", finds much detailed support in Kass' works. They are must reading, I think.
I have also found the work of Father Stanley L. Jaki to be pertinent to the field of natural law in more than a tangential way. Jaki's studies in the history of science are especially valuable. I well recall reading his The Road of Science and the Ways to God and being struck by his discussion of the philosophical and theological origins of science -- why did it begin? where? why not elsewhere? on what principles? Jaki's argument is that science depends on a proper understanding of the relation of God and the world. A god who is purely arbitrary can have no "law". A god who is everything -- pantheism -- cannot be a god in which science can flourish. What is needed is a god who is not the world and a world that is not itself absolute. What is to be argued is a world that reveals a secondary but stable order, a contingent regularity, in other words, a law. For those interested in the science side of natural law, Jaki's works are indispensable. Likewise, I have always found J. M. Bochenski's little chapter on "Law" in his very useful book Philosophy -- an Introduction, to be the best statement of the sort of thing Jaki was trying to establish.
Moreover, as is becoming more clear every day, the main issue that natural law theory will have to face immediately is that having to do with ecology or environment. Probably in no area is there more confusion or a more aggressive attack on the priorities of natural law. Paul Johnson has noted that much totalitarian theory has reappeared in the ecology or environmental movements, among other places. I have included Julian Simon's The Ultimate Resource, both because of its pioneering work in the field of the relation of human population to human resources, but also because it restores the balance in thinking of the priority of man and nature. One of the remarkable features of the ecology movement has been the ease with which classic natural law positions have, presumably, had to yield to the very dubious terms of this new ideology. The extraordinary attention to animal, vegetation, and even rock rights reveals the degree to which which this area has come to dominate discussions of human rights. Man is more and more reduced to a function of nature, not its purpose and crown.
A crucial aspect of natural law is precisely its relation to revelation. Strauss in a famous passage did not want to consider St. Thomas' natural law as really philosophical because it is said to arise in revelation. This relationship of reason to divine and natural law is a basic philosophic issue and it quite well represented in the literature. Related to this side of the question is the extent to which we find natural law in the Protestant tradition. It is there, though in a more attenuated and nuanced fashion. No doubt it must be said, however, that one of the very best books ever written on natural law was C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. For the most part, even though natural law is older than Christianity, natural law is looked upon as a particularly Catholic preserve. This exclusivity is perhaps ironic since one of the main reasons Catholics are interested in natural law is because it is a non-religious link to non-Catholics, non-Christians, and non-theists. The Catholic tradition has taken great pains to argue on what it calls a natural law basis precisely to grant reason its objective due. Indeed, the validity of reason and its proper grounding is essential for revelation. What is perhaps perplexing about the historic interest in the natural law philosophic tradition as not having per se a religious origin is the abandonment of reason itself in some sections of modernity and what is now called post-modernity. In one sense, this turn of philosophic events has left reason more and more to the theists, perhaps even to the Catholic theists, an ironic result that is well worth pondering.
Issues of abortion, population, contraception, euthanasia, genetic engineering, gender confusion and manipulation, and in general human life, in its coming and going, are areas in which we find considerable natural law thinking and writing. The famous opposition to Paul VI's Encyclical Humanae Vitae launched a concerted attack on the version of natural law that was said to support this position. The most important and insightful book in this field is probably Janet Smith's 'Humanae Vitae': A Generation Later. What is being reluctantly admitted is that there does seem to be a certain kind of logic at work in the moral order when the naturalness of the law of life is denied. Paul VI almost seems a prophet if we look at the results in the public order of denying the intrinsic relation of love, marriage, and life. We no longer deal with questions of contraception so much as homosexuality, fetal experimentation, surrogate birthings, and a host of other practices which even though legislated as legal still appear in some objective fashion as precisely "unnatural".
A final area that needs elaboration is the relation of metaphysics and natural law. Raymond Dennehy's essay "The Ontological Basis of Human Rights" remains an excellent study of this topic. With the recent publication (Peter Lang, 1993) of Karol Wojtyla's philosophical essays from the 1950's to 70's we can likewise see that he was very perceptive about the relation between metaphysics and ethics. One of the curious thing that has happened in many academic philosophical departments, especially those in Catholic universities, is the almost total take over of the philosophical discipline by ethics and ethical questions -- not that interest in human living, as the Holy Father pointed out in one of his essays, is not itself normal and to be expected. This relative neglect of other areas related to ethics has always struck me as a fatal mistake. The intimate relation between ethics and metaphysics in Wojtyla's essays strikes a balance and depth that is rarely seen in these areas. The writings of Josef Cardinal Ratzinger are also very illuminating to natural law studies. His Inaugural Lecture to the French Academy (November 6, 1992) is well worth reading in this regard. Natural law studies, in any case, are directly related to the prior topics of ethics and metaphysics.
Looking over this bibliography of natural law writings, clearly, a number of other themes that I have not touched on recur. What I think is important is for the reader interested in natural law is some immediate awareness of the amount of very first-rate thinking that has been going on in this area. It is not always in agreement, of course, and there are some times heated disputes in the field. All this proves a thesis of mine in another context which argues that just because something is neglected in dominant institutions and media, there still can be quietly something else of great depth going on. Some few who remain independent enough and enterprising enough continue what has in fact been a perennial concern of the human mind.
I think that the two journals, The American Journal of Jurisprudence and Virginia Black's Vera Lex, have been especially important, though natural law thinking is respected in and appears with some regularity in a number of other journals, The Review of Politics and The Thomist, to mention only two. The Indices of all these journals contain much that is central to any complete consideration of natural law. When we realize the reality of correct political thinking in academia, we can hardly overestimate the value of small journals and organization who manage independently of the fads and exclusive controls of the mainline journals and organizations to keep attention focused on what are the real problems of mankind. They contribute to a development of that central line of thought about natural law that has so enhanced human worth. New journals come into existence and old and worthy ones -- I think of Thought -- sometimes die. No doubt we need to produce a Compact Disk, on which we can find all the writings on natural law, with index. It would probably take a couple of disks. We need a natural law discussion group -- there may even be one -- we can use on our computers. But these will come before we know it.
Natural law, of course, is not merely a scholarly enterprise. Indeed, if that is all it were, it would be of only passing interest. Rather, as Veritatis Splendor suggests, natural law refers to a way of life, to a quest for right living. Moreover, it claims to know in what right living consists. Natural law in a sense is a kind of moral and intellectual but private declaration of independence. We can hardly repeat today those famous words that refer to self-evident truths, to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," without pangs of conscience, as it is so evident that we have as a people distanced ourselves from this declared foundation. This awareness makes it more clear that the quiet, out-of-the-way effort to keep this tradition alive not merely as something to be studied but as something to be lived is one of the great tasks of civilization, of knowing what it is, of preserving it, of furthering it.
There should be no doubt then that natural law and civilization are intimately related. To the degree that they are not, right order of soul as well as of the city collapse. When the collapse does occur, we can only begin to think about the disorder and wonder how it occurred. When we do consider what we have brought into existence, we will find that the definitions of our disorders constitute, as in a convex mirror, the outlines of the true natural law, of how life ought to be lived without the moral and civilizational disorder that are spread before us. We ironically claim to be "autonomous". We claim to be governed by no natural law. We claim this because we think that the only thing we can know is ourselves and of ourselves, only what we will, presupposed to nothing but ourselves. C. S. Lewis rightly called this consequence "the abolition of man".
This natural law bibliography, I think, in conclusion, is still a flickering sign that the outlines of civilization, even, if you will, of the City of God, are being preserved and even fostered, at least in some modern obscure and outlying outposts of the inheritors of the old Roman Empire. We are aware that by any classic natural right or natural law understanding we witness terrible events in our times. We also know that many people also of our time "have not the faintest awareness of what is happening." This natural law bibliography, perhaps, is an indication that at least some few are aware of the paradoxes and, though worried, they are still hopeful about reason, revelation, and, yes, natural law.
(The following is an extensive but still partial listing of books and essays on the natural law written in the past fifty years. Most of these are in English or are English translations. There are some French, German, Italian, and Spanish materials. Each of these languages will have numerous books and essays on the topic).
Aartsen, Jan, and Leo J. Elder, "Lex" and "Libertas": Freedom and Law according to St. Thomas Aquinas (Vatican City: Editrice Vaticana, 1987).
Aquinas, Saint Thomas, Aquinas: Selected Political Writings, Edited with an Introduction by A. P. d'Entreves (Totowa, N. J.: Barnes & Noble, 1981).
________, On Politics and Ethics, Translated and Edited by Paul E. Sigmund (New York: Norton, 1988).
________, Saint Thomas Aquinas: On Law, Morality, and Politics, Edited by William P. Baumbarth and Richard J. Regan, (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1988).
________, St. Thomas Aquinas: On Politics and Ethics, Edited and Translated by Paul E. Sigmund (New York: Norton, 1988).
Arkes, Hadley, Beyond the Constitution (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990).
________, First Things: An Inquiry into the First Principles of Morals and Justice (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986).
Battaglia, Anthony, Towards a Reformulation of Natural Law (New York: Seabury, 1981).
Begin, R. F., Natural Law and Positive Law (Washington: Catholic University Press, 1959.
Berman, Herald J., Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983)
Bloch, Ernest, Natural Law and Human Dignity, Translated by Dennis J. Schmidt (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1986).
Bloom, Allan, Confronting the Constitution (Washington: American Enterprise Institute, 1990).
Bocklle, Franz, Das Naturrecht im Disput (Dusseldorf: Patmos-Verlag, 1966.
Brown, Brendan F., The Natural Law Reader (Docket Series, N. 13; New York, Oceana, 1960).
Brown, Leo C., "Natural Law and Economics," The New Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: Macmillan, 1967), 266-68.
Brown, Oscar J., Natural Rectitude and Divine Law in Aquinas (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1981).
Carlyle, A. J., A History of Medieval Political Theory: From the Roman Lawyers of the Second Century to the Political Writers of the Ninth (Edinburgh, Blackwood, MCMXXX). Vol. I.
________, R. W. and A. J., A History of Medieval Political Theory in the West: The Political Theory of the Roman Lawyers and Canonists, from the Tenth Century to the Thirteenth Century, Vol. II, MCMXXVIII.
Carroll, William A., "The Natural Law in the Incorporation of the First Amendment into the Due Process Clause and Fourteenth Amendment," Doctoral Dissertation, Georgetown University, 1963.
Cogley, John, Editor, Natural Law and Modern Society (Cleveland: World, 1962.
Corwin, Edward S., The "Higher Law" Background of American Constitutional Law (Great Seal Books; Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1961.
Cranston, Maurice, What Are Human Rights? (New York: Taplinger, 1973).
Crowe, Michael Bertram, The Changing Profile of the Natural Law (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1977).
Delhaye, Phillippe, Permanence du droit naturel (Louvain: Nauwelaerts, 1967).
DeLubac, Henri, Nature and Grace (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1984).
D'Entreves, A. P, The Natural Law: An Historical Survey (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1951).
Ellul, Jacques, The Theological Foundations of Law (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1960).
Evans, Illtud, Light on the Natural Law (Baltimore: Helicon, 1965).
Farrell, Patrick M., Sources of St. Thomas' Concept of Natural Law (Melbourne: [Reprint from The Thomist XX, 1957, 237-94], 1957).
Finnis, John, Natural Law and Natural Rights (New York: Oxford, 1980).
Fuchs, Josef, The Natural Law: A Theological Investigation (New York, 1965).
George, Robert P., Natural Law Theories: Contemporary Essays (New York: Oxford, 1992).
Glendon, Mary Ann, Rights Talk: The Impoverishment of Political Discourse (New York: The Free Press, 1991). [Schall Review, "The Wrong of 'Rights'," in Freedom Review 23 (August, 1992), 50-52).
Grisez, Germain G., Beyond the New Morality (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988.
________, Contraception and the Natural Law (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1964.
________, A Grisez Reader for Beyond the New Morality (Lanham, MD.: University Press of America, 1982.
Hegel, G. W. F., Natural Law, Translated by T. M. Know (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1975).
Hervada, Javier, Natural Right and Natural Law: A Critical Introduction (Pamplona, Spain: University of Navarra, 1987).
Hittinger, Russell, A Critique of the New Natural Law Theory (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1987).
Hogue, Arthur R., Origins of the Common Law (Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1985).
Jaffa, Harry V., Original Intentent and the Framers of the Constitution: A Disputed Question (Washington: Regnery/Gateway, 1994).
Kass, Leon, The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature (New York: The Free Press, 1994).
________, Toward a More Natural Science: Biology and Human Affairs (New York: The Free Press, 1985).
Kelly, David R., The Human Measure: Social Thought in the Western Legal Tradition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990).
Kenny, J. F., "Reflections on Human Nature and the Supernatural," Theological Studies, 14 (1952), 280-87.
Kern, F., Kingship and Law in the Middle Ages, Translated by S. B. Chrimes (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1948).
Kleinknecht, Hermann and W.Gutbrod, Law, Bible Key Words from Gerhard Kittel (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1962).
Lewis, C. S., The Abolition of Man (New York: Macmillan, 1947)
________, Mere Christianity (London, Fontana, 1961).
Lippmann, Walter, The Public Philosohy (New York: Mentor, 1944).
Maritain, Jacques, Man and the State (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952).
________, The Rights of Man and the Natural Law, Translated by Doris C4. Anson (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986).
McCoubrey, H., Development of Naturalistic Legal Theory (New York: Croom Helm, 1987).
McCoy, Charles N. R., The Structure of Political Thought (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963)
Medieval Tradition of Natural Law, Edited by Harold J. Johnson (Toronto: Medieval Institute, 1987.
Messner, Johannes, Social Ethics: Natural Law in the Western World, Translated by J. J. Doherty (St. Louis: Herder, 1974).
Midgley, E. B. F., The Natural Law Tradition and the Theory of International Politics (London: Elek, 1975).
Miller, Fred D., Jr, Nature, Justice, and Rights in Aristotle's Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996). See "Aristotle's Politics: A Symposium," The Review of Metaphysics, XLIX (June, 1996), 731-908.
Murray, John Courtney, We Hold These Truths (New York: Doubleday Image, 1956).
Newman, Jeremiah, Conscience vs. Law: Reflections on the Evolution of Natural Law (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1971).
Oakley, Francis, Natural Law, Conciliarism, and Consent in the Late Middle Ages (London: Variorum Reprints, 1984.
Pieper, Josef, Living the Truth: The Truth of All Things and Reality and the Good (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989).
Rice, Charles, Fifty Questions on the Natural Law (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993).
Rommen, Heinrich A.,The State in Catholic Thought (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1945).
________, The Natural Law, Translated by Thomas R. Hanley (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1947).
Sandoz, Ellis, A Government of Laws: Political Theory, Religion, and the American Founding (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990).
Sigmund, Paul E., Natural Law in Political Thought (Cambridge: Winthrop, 1971).
________, "Natural Law in Political Thought," The New Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: Macmillan, 1967), pp. 268-71.
Simon, Julian L., The Ultimate Resource 2 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).
Simon,Yves, The Tradition of Natural Law: A Philosopher's Reflections, Edited by Vukan Kuic (New York: Fordham University Press, 1965, [1993 edition with Introduction by Russell Hittinger]).
Smith, Janet, 'Humanae Vitae': A Generation Later (Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, 1991).
Stanlis, Peter J., Edmund Burke and the Natural Law (Ann Arbor, MI., 1958.
Strauss, Leo, Natural Right and History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953).
Thomas Aquinas, On Politics and Ethics, Translated and Edited by Paul E. Sigmund (New York: Norton, 1988).
Tuck, Richard, Natural Rights: Their Origin and Development (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).
Veatch, Henry, Human Rights: Fact or Fancy (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985).
________, Rational Man: A Modern Interpretation of Aristotelian Ethics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1962.
Voegelin, Eric, The New Science of Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952).
Wilhelmsen, Frederick D., Christianity and Political Philosophy (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1980).
Wild, John, Plato's Modern Enemies and the Theory of Natural Law (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953).
Wojtyla, Karol, Person and Community: Selected Essays, Translated by T. Sandok (New York: Peter Lang, 1993). [Reviewed by James V. Schall, in The American Journal of Jurisprudence, 39 (1994), 499-502].
Wu, John C. H., Fountain of Justice (New York: Sheed & Ward,1955.
Selected Essays on Natural Law:
[The following journals will frequently have articles dealing with natural law: The American Journal of Jurisprudence (formerly The Natural Law Forum); Vera Lex (Journal of the Natural Law Society); The Review of Politics; Thought; Modern Schoolman; New Scholasticism, The Thomist, The Catholic Lawyer, Human Rights Quarterly; check also under "Natural Law" in The Social Science Index, The Humanities Index, The British Humanities Index, The Catholic Periodical Index, and The Philosophy Index].
Abraham, M. B., "What Constitutes a Civil Right?" New York Times Magazine, June 10, 1984, 52-54.
Adams, E. M., "The Ground of Human Rights," American Philosophical Quarterly, 19 (April, 1982), 192-96.
Adams, J. L., "The Law of Nature in Graeco-Roman Thought," Journal of Religion, 25 (April, 1945), 97-118.
Alzeghy, Zoltan, "Il concetto di natura en teologia," Civiltà Cattolica, 138 (Gennaio, 1987), 115-29
Ambrosetti, G., "Christian Natural Law," American Journal of Jurisprudence, 16 (1971), 290-301.
Anan, S., "Some Trends of Legal Thought and Natural Law Study in Japan," Natural Law Forum, 7 (1962), 109-19.
Anscombe, G. E. M., "Contraception and Natural Law," New Blackfriars, 46 (June, 1965), 517-21.
Antoine, P., "Conscience et loi naturelle," Etudes, 317 (May 1963), 162-83.
Aragones, Jay J., "Beyond Bork and Brennan: Should Catholic Law Schools Teach Natural Law?" Crisis, 8 (November, 1990), 14-19.
Arkes, Hadley, "Natural Law -- Again: Remembering the Law We Used to Know," Benchmark, V (Winter, 1993), 55-58.
________, "On Natural Rights: Speaking Prose All Our Lives," The Heritage Lecture Series, (#424), Heritage Foundation, 1992.
Arntz, Joseph T. C., "Natural Law and Its History," Moral Problems and Christian Pluralism (Concilium, V. 5), (New York: Paulist, 1965), pp. 39-57.
Ashmore, R., "Aquinas and Ethical Naturalism," New Scholasticism, 49 (Winter, 1975), 76-86.
Bandry, Gerard-Henry, "Note sur les fondaments theologiques des droits de l'homme," Melanges de Science Religieuse, 44 (March,1987), 15-28.
Baum, Gregory, "Protestants and Natural Law," The Commonweal, 73 (January 20, 1961), 427-30.
Beck, A., "Natural Law and the Reformation," Clergy Review, NS 21 (April, 1941), 73-81.
Beis, R. H., "Contraception and the Logical Structure of the Thomas Natural Law Theory," Ethics, 75 (July, 1965), 277-84.
Berger, Peter, L., "Are Human Rights Universal?" Commentary, 64 (September, 1977), 60-63,
Black, Virginia, "Reflections on Natural Law: A Critical Review of the Thought of Yves Simon," Vera Lex, IX (#2, 1989), 10-13.
Blitz, Mark, "Radical Historicism and the Meaning of Natural Right," Modern Age, 28 (Spring/Summer, 1984), 243-246.
Bochenski, J. M., "Law," Philosophy -- an Introduction (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1972), pp. 9-19.
Bockmuhl, K., "Natural Law," Christianity Today, 22 (November 18, 1977), 59-60.
Boivin, M., "Natural Law and Cultural Norms," Afer, 20 (August, 1978), 230-35.
Bosc, Robert, "Natural Law and International Law in an Unstable International System," World Justice IV (#3, 1962-63), 316-30.
Bourke, Vernon J., "Synderesis and Right Reason," The Monist, 66 (January, 1982), 71-82.
________, "Is Thomas Aquinas a Natural Law Ethicist?" The Monist, 58 (January, 1974), 52-66.
________, "Natural Law, Thomism, and Professor Nielson," Natural Law Forum, 5 (1960), 112-19.
________, "Two Approaches to Natural Law," Natural Law Forum (#1, 1956), 92-96. [Also appears as "The Natural Law," The Commonweal, LXIV (September 7, 1956) 562-63].
________, "Review of John Finnis' Natural Law and Natural Rights," The American Journal of Jurisprudence, 24 (1981), 243-47.
Boyle, Joseph, "The Natural Law and the Magisterium," Proceedings of the Catholic Theological Association, 34 (1979), 185-210.
________, "Radical Moral Disagreement in Contemporary Health Care: A Roman Catholic Response," Journal of Medical Philosophy, 19 (April, 1994), 183-210.
Brady, Bernard, "An Analysis of the Use of Rights Language in Pre-Modern Catholic Social Thought," The Thomist, 57 (Manuary, 1993), 97-121.
Bradley, Gerald V. and Robert George, "The New Natural Law Theory: A Reply to Jean Porter," American Journal of Jurisprudence, 39 (1994), 303-16.
Bredvold, Louis I., "The Meaning of the Concept of Right Reason in the Natural Law Tradition," University of Detroit Law Review, 8 (December, 1959), 120-29.
Broderick, J. A., "Natural Law, St. Thomas, and Contemporary Problems," Dominicana, 45 (Fall, 1960), 216-40.
Brown, Brendan. F., "Natural Law," The New Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: Macmillan, 1967), V. 10, pp. 251-56.
________, "The Natural Law as the Moral Basis of International Justice," Loyola Law Review (New Orleans), 8 (1955-56), 59-68.
Brown, J., "H. L. A. Hart's Approach to Natural Law," Cithara, 12 (May, 1973), 3-17.
Brown, O. J. P., "Aquinas Doctrine on Slavery in Relation to Thomistic Thinking on Natural Law," Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, 53 (1979), 173- 81.
Brown, S. E., "Science, Technology, and Human Rights," Physics Today, 34 (March, 1981), 27-29.
Brown, S. M., "Inalienable Rights," Philosophical Review, 64 (April, 1955), 192-211.
Browne, M., "The Natural Law," Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 105 (May, 1965), 281-91; 104 (August-September, 1965), 108-09.
Brubaker, Stanley, "Taking Dworkin Seriously," Review of Politics, 47 (January, 1985), 45-65.
Brugger, W., "Veranderlichkeit des Naturrechts?" Stimmen der Zeit, 192 (November, 1974), 771-79.
Buckley, William F., "Human Rights and Foreign Policy," Foreign Affairs, 58 (September, 1980), 775-96.
Bunzel, John H., "The Politics of Human Rights," Current, 241 (March-April, 1982), 21-25.
Cahill, W., "Natural Law Jurisprudence in Legal Practice," Catholic Lawyer, 4 (Winter, 1958), 23-40.
Caldwell, J. L., "American Purpose and International Human Rights," Vital Speeches, 46 (February 1, 1980), 251-53.
Caldwell, G. A., "Jefferson Renounced: Natural Rights in the Old South," Yale Review, 58 (March, 1969), 388-407.
Calhoun, R. L., "Democracy and Natural Law," Natural Law Forum, 5 (1960), 31-61.
Canavan, Francis, "Conscience and Pluralism," America, 110 (April 18, 1964), 536-39.
Carlin, D. R., "Doing What Comes Naturally, The Commonweal, 121 (October 21, 1984), 8-9.
Carlyle, A. J., "The History and Significance of the Conception of the Natural Law," The Dublin Review, 210 (April, 1942), 124-30.
Carnes, J. R., "Whether There Is a Natural Law?" Ethics, 77 (January, 1967), 122-29.
Carney, F. S., "Outline of a Natural Law Procedure for Christian Ethics," Journal of Religion, 47 (January, 1967), 26-33.
Carr, A., "The Right of a Bishop to Interpret the Natural Law," Homiletic and Pastoral Review, 66 (November, 1965), 162.
Caspar, Ruth, "Natural Law: Before and Beyond Bifrucation," Thought, 60 (March, 1985), 58-72.
Cassin, R., "How the Charter on Human Rights Was Born," UNESCO Courier, 21 (January, 1968), 4-6.
Cathrein, Victor, "Right," The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: Appleton, 1912), pp. 55-57.
Chirico, Peter, "Revelation and Natural Law," Theological Studies, 52 (September, 1991), 539-40.
Chroust, Anton-Hermann, "Hugo Grotius and the Scholastic Natural Law Tradition," New Scholasticism, 17 (April, 1943), 101-33.
________, "Natural Law and 'According to Nature' in Ancient Philosophy," American Journal of Jurisprudence, 23 (1978), 73-87.
________, "A Survey of the Main Achievements of the Spanish Jurist-Theologians," American Journal of Jurisprudence, 26 (1981), 112-24.
Clark, A. I., "Human Rights," Annals of the American Academy of Political Science, 16 (September, 1900), 212-26.
Clark, Desmond M., "Natural Law and the Dynamics of the Will," Philosophical Studies, 27 (1980), 40-54.
Clement, L., "Le jus gentium," Revue Universitaire Ottawa, 10 (December, 1940), 100-24.
Cohen, L. N., "The American Revolution and Natural Law Theory," Journal of the History of Ideas, 39 (July, 1979), 491-502.
Colbert, "Euthanasia and Natural Law," Linacre Quarterly, 45 (May, 1978), 187-98.
Coleman, Gerald D., "Natural Law and the Declaration on Euthanasia," Linacre Quarterly, 48 (August, 1981), 259-64.
Connor, W. R., "Law in Thomas Aquinas," Religion in Life, 31 (Spring, 1962), 219-27.
Constable, George W., "A Criticism of 'Practical Principles, Moral Truth, and Ultimate Ends' by Grisez, Boyle, and Finnis," The American Journal of Jurisprudence, 34, 1987, 19-22.
________, "Natural Law and Moral Collisions: the Problem of Priorities among Conflicting Values," The American Journal of Jurisprudence, 41(1996), 2-3-28.
________, "The Problem of a Hierarchy of Values in Natural Law: A Response to Professor Furton," The American Journal of Jurisprudence, 41 (1996), 63-68.
________, "What Does Natural Law Jurisprudence Offer?" Catholic University Law Review, 4 (January, 1954), 1-21.
________, "What Good Is Natural Law? -- A Lawyer's Perspective," American Journal of Jurisprudence, 26 (1981), 66-79.
________, "Who Determines What the Natural Law Is?" Natural Law Forum, 7 (1962), 54-83.
Conway, J., "The Natural Law Argument," Marriage, 49 (May, 1967), 44-49.
Corley, F. J., "The American Proposition and Natural Law: Murray and Douglas," Social Justice Review, 53 (March, 1961), 375-77.
Coste, René, "Loi naturelle et loi evangelique," Nouvelle Revue Théologique, 92 (January, 1970), 76-89.
Costello, Declan, "The Natural Law and the Irish Constitution," Studies, Dublin, 45 (Winter, 1956), 403-14.
Coventry, J., "Christian Conscience," Heythrop Journal, 7 (April, 1966), 145-60.
Cranston, Maurice, "Are There Any Human Rights?" Daedalus, 112 (Fall, 1983), 1-17.
Crosson, Frederick, "Maritain and Natural Rights," Review of Metaphysics, 36 (June, 1983), 895-912.
________, "Religion and Natural Law," American Journal of Jurisprudence, 32 (1987), 1-17.
Crowe, M. B., "The Irreplaceable Natural Law," Studies, 51 (Summer, 1962), 268-85.
________, "Natural Law Before St. Thomas," Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 76 (September, 1951), 193-204.
________, "St. Thomas and the Natural Law," Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 76 (October, 1951), 293-305.
Cunningham, S. B., "Albertus Magnus on Natural Law," Journal of the History of Ideas, 28 (October, 1967), 479-502.
Cvek, Peter P., "Francisco Suarez on Natural Law," Vera Lex, IX (#2, 1989), 3-4.
D'Amato, Anthony, "Lon Fuller and Substantial Natural Law," American Journal of Jurisprudence, 26 (1981), 202-18.
Davidson, J. F., "Natural Law and International Law in Edmund Burke," Review of Politics, 21 (July, 1959), 483-94.
Dawson, Christopher, "Human Nature and the Destiny of Man," in God and the Supernatural, Edited by Father Cuthbert (London: Sheed & Ward, 1954), pp. 57-84.
de Cervera, Alejo, "Natural Law Thinking: A Rectification," Vera Lex (VIII (#1, 1988), 4-5.
Degnan, Daniel J., "Two Models of Positive Law in Aquinas: A Study of the Relationship of Positive Law and Natural Law," The Thomist, 46 (January, 1982), 1-32.
de Koninck, Charles, "General Standards and Particular Situations in Relation to the Natural Law," Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, 24 (1950), 28-32.
Delhaye, P., "Droit naturel et théologie morale," Revue Théologique de Louvain, 6 (#2, 1975), 137-64.
Delattre, Edward, "Rights, Responsibilities, and Future Persons," Ethics, 82 (April, 1972), 254-58.
Del Vecchio, Giorgio, "Change and Permanence in Law," The Jurist, 3 (June, 1958), 18-38.
________, "Natural Law as the Foundation of a Society of the Human Race," World Justice, (Louvain), 4 (March, 1963), 307-14.
________, "Natural Law in the Teachings of Pius XII," The Jurist, XX (July, 1960), 243-52.
Dennehy, Raymond, "Bodenheimer's Theory of Natural Law," U.C. Davis Law Review, 26 (Spring, 1993), 619-52.
________, "The Ontological Basis of Human Rights," The Thomist, 42 (July, 1978), 434-63.
D'Entreves, Alexander P., "The Case for Natural Law Reexamined," Natural Law Forum, 1 (1056), 5-52.
Derrick, Christoher, "What Ever Became of Natural Law?" Columbia, 69 (January, 1989), 18-19.
Desmond, Charles S., "Natural Law and the American Constitution," Fordham Law Review, XXII (December, 1953), 235-45.
Dexter, Midge, "Understanding Human Rights," Vital Speeches, 54 (December 15, 1987), 139-42.
Dietz, Godfried, "Natural Law in Modern European Constitutions," Natural Law Forum, 1 (1956), 73-91.
Diggins, J. P., "From Pragmatism to Natural Law: Walter Lippmann's Quest for the Foundations of Legitimacy," Political Theory, 19 (November, 1991), 519-31.
"Diritto naturale nella dottrine sociale della Chiesa," Civiltà Cattolica, 149 (II) (June, 1987), 521-34.
Dobbs, Darrell, "Natural Right and the Problem of Aristotle's Definition of Slavery," Journal of Politics, 56 (February, 1994), 69-94.
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