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Maritain and Natural Law

A Tract Book Essay


Anthony J. Fejfar, Esq., Coif

© Copyright 2007 by Anthony J. Fejfar

Previously, I have argued for the idea that Natural Law exists and is

normative for human beings. In his book, “Man and the State,”

philosopher Jaques Maritain makes a similar argument. Maritain argues that

Natural Law operates on at least five levels:

1. Ontological

2. Ideal

3. Material

4. Practical Reason

5. Human/Natural Rights

On the ontological level Natural Law means in the first instance that we

intend Being as a unrestricted Act of Understanding. As a matter of

Natural Law not only do we intend Being, but we are to Intuit Being. When

one Intuits Being, one begins to order one’s life in accordance with Natural

Law. It must be stressed, then, that Natural Law, for the most part, and for

the most significant part, is Higher Natural Law, not the instinctual law of

the jungle.

On the ideal level, we intend the Immutable Platonic Forms, or the

substantial forms, which vibrate probabilistically. When I think about a

chair, I not only have the sense impressions of the chair, not only do I have a

mundane idea of the chair, but I also intuit “chair” in the World of the

Forms. The World of the Forms guides our understanding.

On the material level, we intend the material form of the chair. This

is Natural Law in the mundane sense. Material Form manifests as the

physical, material chair itself, but also as my mundane idea of the chair

found in material intellectual sources. For example, the first chair that

some might see or experience is a picture of a chair, rather that sitting in a


Natural Law also manifests as practical reason. In Lonerganian

terms, practical reason means that I know the real through interrelated acts

of experience, understanding, judgment and reflection. Practical reason

rules supreme in every universe except that of perfect linear perfection found

in the Mind of God. Since practically every universe is probabilistic

practical reason reigns supreme.

Human Rights/Natural Rights are also grounded in Natural Law.

These rights exist as Immutable Platonic Forms and substantial forms.

Natural Law is applicable to everyone, everyplace, and everytime, because

Nature, by way of Intuition, give us Natural access to the Natural Human

Rights found in the World of the Forms.